Monday, 29 December 2014 13:14

Brown Canada 2020 Summit

Written by

by Thamina Jaferi (@ThaminaJaferi

On December 10, 2014, CASSA (Council of Agencies Serving South Asians) organized a conference titled ‘Brown Canada 2020 Summit’ at York University which also coincided with International Human Rights Day.

The summit commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Komagata Maru event of 1914 which saw Canada deny entry to 376 Indians aboard the Komagata Maru ship due to the discriminatory Asian Exclusion Act.

The purpose of the summit was to highlight the gains that South Asian Canadians have made since that event, but also to identify the many current challenges that these communities continue to face in the areas of education, employment, immigration, healthcare, and the criminal justice system. Participants also helped identify the outcomes they would like see for 2020.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Although the Komagata Maru incident has been acknowledged as a condemned racist stain upon Canadian history, the reality is that the same type of discrimination and exclusion towards South Asian and other racialized Canadians exists today.[/quote]

During the summit, it was emphasized that the terms “South Asian” and “Brown” do not refer to a homogeneous identity and that in addition to being contested concepts, CASSA uses them in an inclusive manner that recognizes the rich ethnic, cultural and spiritual diversity of this community. The summit also considered the intersectionality of South Asian identities, and the layers of hierarchy that impact our understanding of these identities.

Many of the issues identified highlighted the need for South Asian communities to engage in political activism and lobbying in order to hold their elected representatives accountable in serving the needs of their diverse constituents.

Some of the main points that came out of these sessions were:

  • It’s important to have people on school boards that reflect the community’s diverse populations and interests.
  • Schools need to be true “community hubs” that bring social services to local communities, families and children.

  • Many South Asian communities have expressed concern about school curriculums being Eurocentric. There is a need to incorporate and celebrate the histories of South Asian Canadians as well as their contributions to Canadian history. Public school enrollment also seems to be declining due to the appeal of private schools which meet the cultural and faith needs of different South Asian communities.

  • There is a critical need for both students and teachers to see people that look like them in positions of power in order to foster equity and trust in the public school system. This requires examining structural and systemic barriers that prevent South Asian teachers from being hired, retained and promoted.

  • Streaming of South Asian students into career paths that do not account for their potential is unacceptable.

  • The lack of mental health supports for students is a serious concern.

  • There are very real pressures that South Asian communities face in having to “assimilate” into dominant cultures in order to succeed at school, and in the workplace instead of developing their own unique identities and defining success on their own terms.

  • People should collaborate with the labour movement in advocating for better jobs, wages, and career advancement as these issues intersect with many of the barriers South Asian communities face in the workplace. Additionally, unions need to see diversity as a business model otherwise they will not survive.

  • Foreign-born and Canadian-born racialized youth are experiencing high rates of unemployment when compared with the Canadian average, and they have inadequate career guidance which affects their career prospects.

  • Social safety nets are being eroded and the focus of equity champions should be on not losing ground but also on having a shared, collaborative vision for going forward.

Although the Komagata Maru incident has been acknowledged as a condemned racist stain upon Canadian history, the reality is that the same type of discrimination and exclusion towards South Asian and other racialized Canadians exists today. Examples of this include cuts to refugee healthcare, the introduction of highly problematic laws such as Bill S-7 or the “Zero Tolerance for BarbaricCultural Practices Act” which unjustly targets specific cultural and faith communities, and citizenship restrictions, among others.

A big takeaway of this summit was the importance of collaboration and building solidarity amongst different equity-seeking communities facing the same barriers, as there is powerful strength in unity.

Thamina Jaferi, B.A., J.D., is an Associate with Turner Consulting Group with expertise in human rights and workplace discrimination and harassment prevention. You can read Thamina's original blog article here.

Tuesday, 07 October 2014 15:31

After the splash in the US, the hard part

Written by

by Raj Chengappa 

Washington DC has the reputation of being one heck of a tough town. With heads of state visiting it frequently, America’s capital is not easily impressed. While Narendra Modi on his maiden visit as Prime Minister made a big splash, the badshahs of the Beltway — the host of think tanks that shape opinion in its power circles — are not as euphoric as some in India are.

Stephen Cohen of the Brookings Institute told me he thought that Modi’s visit had more "sizzle than steak". He added: "I give his visit a B+. There were no disasters, no big breakthroughs, but the ground for further discussion and action has been prepared." Cohen does reflect the views of a sizeable section of opinion shapers who had almost written off India before the Modi visit. Many US policy wonks were disillusioned with India’s inability to deliver on its promises. One example: India had yet to fulfil its part of the 2008 Indo-US nuclear deal to enable American companies to set up power reactors.

To Modi’s credit, at the end of his US visit he had turned the situation around and "brought India back in the game," as Ashley Tellis of Carnegie Endowment for International Peace put it. Tellis thinks the visit had "big achievements but also big incompletes". To him Modi reached out effectively to the diaspora and his Madison Square Garden rally, which 30 US Congressmen attended, showed that he had built the Indian American card into a major force of political support.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The American business community has begun to believe in the India story again.[/quote]

Despite these successes, there were many things that remained incomplete. American business is aware that for any successful transaction with India many limitations remain. While Modi is expected to keep his word and speed up the cumbersome process of clearances, US corporates are not confident he would be able to address issues such as land acquisition and infrastructure like power shortages quickly enough. Modi was able to convince another major player, American business, to revise its poor opinion about the new government, particularly after its incremental first budget, and also India’s blocking of the Trade Facilitation Agreement at the WTO recently. Tellis believes Modi’s other major achievement was that he was able to build a personal connect with the US President, best symbolised by the fact that they not only had an extended bilateral meeting but also Barack Obama broke protocol and personally took him around the Martin Luther King Memorial.

Guarded optimism

Many like Michael Krepon of the Stimson Centre believe that Modi has a limited world view. They find it hard to swallow that India kept mum when Russia flexed its muscles against Ukraine and occupied its territory. And that India did nothing beyond expressing support for America’s renewed war on terror against the ISIS despite dangers to its own security. Krepon says, "There is guarded optimism, even skepticism, about the outcome of the Modi visit. There is a wait-and-see attitude as to how much can he translate what all he promised into reality."

To his credit Modi was able to turn around the relationship from one of despair and frustration to that of optimism and hope. Known to be a problem solver and doer, Modi is unlikely to allow the relationship to drift again and will push for rapid implementation of the summit outcomes. A first sign was that National Security Adviser Ajit Doval stayed back to engage in intensive discussions with his counterpart Susan Rice and Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"[...] Modi has already demonstrated his ability for decisive action and is expected to bring about the big changes needed to put the relationship back on track.[/quote]

From an Indian standpoint, a major achievement of the visit was the announcement that India and the US would begin "joint and concerted" efforts to dismantle safe havens for terrorists and criminal networks and disrupt all financial and technical support for them, naming the Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Dawood Ibrahim, Haqqani and Al-Qaida for specific action. In doing so, Modi achieved India’s primary goal of harnessing the US support to tackle Pakistan’s cross-border terror networks as a whole and not selectively.

Turning over a new leaf

The American business community has begun to believe in the India story again. On key American concerns like the nuclear liability issue the joint Indo-US interagency group has been set up to work out a viable solution and speed up the purchase of American nuclear power reactors. On defence, the extension of the framework agreement by 10 years and the proposal to identify technologies that India could co-develop and co-produce with the US will give it the much needed impetus.

Contentious issues like India’s approach to WTO and intellectual property rights remain but at least both sides are talking to understand each other’s point of view and work out a solution. Stung by the skepticism among US circles, an Indian official argued, "If people think of the Indian Prime Minister as one who would bring about incremental change they are on the wrong side of history. Modi has already demonstrated his ability for decisive action and is expected to bring about the big changes needed to put the relationship back on track." Now comes the hard part of delivering.

Raj Chengappa is the current Editor-in-Chief at The Tribune India and was the former Managing Editor at India Today. He has written and anchored over 150 path-breaking cover stories for India Today on a range of subjects, including foreign affairs, security, politics, defence, and many more.

This post was original published in The Tribune India and has been re-published with permission. 

by Priya Ramanujam (@SincerelyPriyain Toronto

When it comes to research pertaining to immigration and new Canadians, things are definitely picking up quickly this fall. In the second installment of Research Watch we take a look at some important research coming out of other parts of the world on migration issues, as well as the upcoming Pathways to Prosperity research conference and an exciting new research collaboration between Ryerson University and the Maytree foundation.

The Ryerson Maytree Global Diversity Exchange

As of September 15, a section of the Maytree Foundation – projects, staff and resources – will have a new home: inside the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University. Through what is shaping up to be a dynamic research collaboration that will focus on effectively bringing about increased inclusion of immigrants and racialized minorities in the Canadian business world, four specific projects will come to Ryerson with Maytree: DiverseCity onBoard, HireImmigrants, Cities of Migration and Flight and Freedom. It truly speaks to the important role immigrants play in our country’s economy, explains Wendy Cukier, founder of Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute and Vice-President of Research and Innovation.

“I think that increasingly people are recognizing equity and diversity are grounded in a commitment to human rights and that it is the right thing to do from an ethical perspective,” Cukier says. “But, increasingly, they are recognizing the business case and how addressing [diversity] issues appropriately is critical for the competitiveness of businesses, for the effectiveness of government, and, in fact, for Canada as a nation.”

According to Cukier, the new initiative’s Executive Director Ratna Omidvar, and her team, is looking forward to being able to tap into Ryerson’s faculty and students to get involved in current projects. Cukier says this partnership will bolster the expertise, contacts, networks and partners Maytree has as a leading organization in reducing poverty and inequality since 1982. It will also further expand on Ryerson’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]But increasingly they are recognizing the business case and how addressing [diversity] issues appropriately is critical for the competitiveness of businesses, for the effectiveness of government and in fact for Canada as a nation.[/quote]

Canada has a history of being a country of immigrants, and other countries are trying to catch up, Cukier explains. Leaders from countries around the world – she notes the president of Germany, Joachim Gauck, will be here later this month – come to Canada to find out how the nation has been so successful at inclusion of immigrants and racialized minorities.

At the same time, we know we can do better,” she adds. “I hope this partnership pushes that envelope.”

Misconceptions about migration to EU

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Interestingly, over 90 per cent of the children I interviewed have a family member in the U.S., with just over 50 per cent having one or both parents there.[/quote]

In recent years, the European Union (EU) has faced considerable economic turmoil. And as such, something has to be blamed. For many, that something is migration. Although political leaders once staunchly defended migration, since the 2008-09 financial crisis, defenders are few and far between. Views such as migrants-are-not-needed in the EU or migrants-take-up-all-the-jobs, run rampant. But, the Migration Policy Centre at the European University Institute challenges these notions with a new research paper: Is what we hear about migration really true? Questioning eight stereotypes, edited by researcher Phillipe Fargues. A combined effort of 10 authors and contributors, the 92-page report provides in-depth analysis that debunks eight specific stereotypes of migration in the EU.

Of the eight stereotypes, six are argued as point-blank wrong – we do not need migrant workers; migrants steal our jobs; we do not need low-skilled immigrants in the EU; migrants undermine our welfare systems; migration hampers our capacity to innovate and our southern coastline is flooded with asylum seekers. The authors counter these stereotypes with research proving otherwise; for example, an aging population and waning work force in the EU means immigrants will help stimulate the economy. The final two stereotypes – economic migrants are trying to cheat our asylum system and our children suffer from having immigrants in class are deemed complex issues that are not as cut-and-dried to easily proven or disproven.

The misconceptions of migration are not limited to the EU, it seems. In July, The American Immigration Council released a study by researcher Elizabeth Kennedy, No Childhood Here: Why Central American Children are Fleeing Their Homes, which worked to get to the bottom of the influx of unaccompanied child migrants in the United States coming from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Perhaps, what stood out the most about Kennedy’s findings was this passage, “Interestingly over 90 per cent of the children I interviewed have a family member in the U.S., with just over 50 per cent having one or both parents there. Most referenced fear of crime and violence as the underlying motive for their decision to reunify with family now rather than two years in the past or two years in the future. Seemingly, the children and their families had decided they must leave and chose to go to where they had family, rather than choose to leave because they had family elsewhere. Essentially, if their family had been in Belize, Costa Rica, or another country, they would be going there instead.”

Through this finding, Kennedy shows that it isn’t so much about the United States and the pursuit of the American Dream that brings the children across the border, as is widely reported, but rather it is serious issues such as organized crime, gangs and violence. The report also speaks to the fact that leaving their country is often a last resort for these young people and that the children and their families often don’t trust their own national governments to help them.

P2P's second annual conference in Montreal

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]A benefit of attending this conference is to receive up-to-date information from a variety of stakeholders about the latest research being done on cutting-edge issues[/quote]

Pathways to Prosperity (P2P), which unites university, community and government partners in the work of promoting the integration of immigrants and minorities across Canada, will bring together its researchers with policy and program officials from all three levels of government, graduate students and community service providers to set research priorities for the coming year. The 2nd annual conference, being held on November 24 and 25 in Montreal, builds off of last year’s success, which conference co-chair Victoria Esses says created real connections between community partners and academics, which led to meaningful work.

“A benefit of attending this conference is to receive up to date information from a variety of stakeholders, about the latest research being done on cutting edge issues,”says Prof. Esses, who is the Director of the University of Western Ontario’s Centre for Research on Migration and Ethnic Relations.

Six main sessions are scheduled, themed around issues such as regionalization and immigration to communities outside of metropolises and changing entry pathways, including students, temporary workers and transition classes. Workshops and roundtable discussions will be held to set research priorities regionally – remote Northern communities, Quebec, Ontario, the Atlantic provinces, the Prairies and British Columbia are all focus areas, for example.

As Prof. Esses points out, not only will this conference help shape the priorities of P2P’s academic collaborators in the coming year, but it will also help finesse how projects are identified and how existing studies will be re-aligned to better suit community/government goals. The conference will also provide an excellent platform for graduate students to network and find out what’s new in the field, while they seek out possible thesis ideas or gain insight on how to narrow down broad thesis statements. Registration is now open.

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Tuesday, 15 July 2014 16:22

Filipinos in Canada: Behind the Numbers

Written by

by Noel Tarrazona in Manila

The Canadian government forecasts that there will be one million Filipino immigrants in Canada by 2025, marking a 50 per cent increase from today. If immigration to Canada is a horse race between competing nations, China, India, the Philippines and Pakistan have the inside track, with Filipinos being the current “favourites.”

New Canadian Media decided to partner with the Asian Pacific Post (APP) - Filipino Post to go behind the numbers and see how newcomer Filipinos are doing. We also spoke to three academic researchers who study migration from the Philippines to understand this movement of people and what it means for Canada. Please click on the plus (+) signs to read comments by the researchers. Our main finding based on a few random interviews: While most Filipino immigrants have stayed and embraced Canada as their new home, some of them have gone back to practice their professions.

[toggle_item title="Dr. Philip Kelly, York University" active="true"]The Philippines was the #1 source country for immigrants to Canada in 2010 and 2011, but by 2012 it had fallen back to second place behind China.

There are two reasons for the recent prominence of the Philippines. One is that the numbers arriving in the Live-In Caregiver category spiked quite dramatically around 2010 -- reflecting an expansion in demand for the program around 2007-2008 (caregivers have to spend two years as temporary foreign workers before they can apply for PR [Permanent Resident] status, hence the time lag).The other reason is that the Provincial Nominee Program has expanded hugely in recent years, mainly in Western Canada. This has been a major channel for new arrivals from the Philippines, especially to Manitoba, which has a very large Filipino community.

The other factor that might be added is that language and educational requirements have been increased, which would favour applicants from countries such as the Philippines, where English is widely spoken and tertiary education is geared towards the needs of the global labour market. That said, the expansion in Filipino migration hasn't been in the federal skilled worker category, where such factors are most important, so it's probably not the most significant explanation.  Dr. Philip Kelly, Director, York Centre for Asian Research (YCAR), Professor, Department of Geography, York University[/toggle_item]

This reverse migration is no different from trends for other nationalities, reported by StatsCan as far back as 2006.

Few case studies

Philippine dentist Mike Muin was a university dentist in the southern Philippines when he applied for a family immigrant visa. His family landed in Ontario as immigrants in 2013, but Mike’s credentials as a dentist were not recognized in Ontario unless he took a Dental Challenge Exam. For a year, he never practised dentistry and so he decided to fly back to the Philippines with their youngest son. According to Mike, he is happy working as an associate dentist in a Philippine city.

Muin told NCM-APP that he is still in a quandary whether or not to return to Ontario, where his wife, Rose, and their eldest son still reside. Rose says that for her the Philippines is still an ideal place to raise her children because parents have more time to monitor their children as they grow up. “If I were to choose between Canada and Philippines, I would still choose the Philippines to raise my children where families can spend more time together,” Rose said.

In another case, an assistant professor from the Philippines, who requested anonymity, saw Canada as a potential place for a social sciences academic. He landed as an immigrant in Vancouver in October 2011 and submitted his credentials to the University of British Columbia, Douglas College, Vancouver Community College and Simon Fraser University. Not one of the schools recognized his credentials. He was advised to take bridging courses. The graduate school professor ended up as a labourer for two months in a logistics company on Annacis Island.

[toggle_item title=Glenda Bonifacio, Ph.D., University of Lethbridge" active="true"]
Philippines is quite complex to compare with China and India. India has historical ties with Canada as a former  British colony. China is also different as it has historical roots with racialized labour prior to the institution of the points system. Philippines is a postwar (WWII) immigrant source nation for Canada, but has historical ties to US as a former colony. Restrictions faced by those initially planning to go to the US find immigration streams to Canada favourable at some point.

Chain migration is also a feature of Filipino permanent migration in Canada. As well, Filipinos are family-oriented and sponsor family members when they can to the country. By family, it means an extended family and sponsorship implicates many things -- direct sponsorship for parents and qualified siblings, or indirect sponsorship thru offering housing arrangements for relatives and fictive relations. When the path for those extended family members are clear, then another family chain of sponsorship begins. All source countries display similar patterns of chain migration.

Aside from this, Filipinos are highly educated and highly skilled that they most often comply with the independent skilled migration to Canada. They have higher adaptability of integration into Canada since English is the language of education and business in the Philippines, with no need for them to take language classes like other immigrants in Canada. In other words, Filipinos are ready workforce upon entry into Canada. As well, Filipinos are western-oriented into democracy and shared liberal values as coming from the 'showcase' country of U.S. imperialism. In short, Filipinos have higher adaptability to western lifestyle (including shared beliefs in western Christianity, women's empowerment) that enable them to maximize the opportunities in Canada. – Glenda Lynna Anne Tibe Bonifacio, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Women and Gender Studies, Research Affiliate, Prentice Institute for Global Population and Economy, University of Lethbridge, and Collaborator, Pathways to Prosperity Partnership[/toggle_item]


Feeling demoralized, he flew back to the Philippines and went back to the university he used to teach at. He wrote scholarly publications and his internationally published publications were cited by North American university journals like the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut and other best-selling books on security. Canada would have had that honour if the professor was absorbed by one of the schools he had applied to. 

When asked if he was willing to return to Canada, the graduate school lecturer said, “Probably, if most universities will start to recognize our credentials.”

Expert advice

Vancouver-based Filipino immigration analyst Manny Noel Abuel observed that Filipino immigrants return to the Philippines when they don’t find jobs similar to work they had before moving. “You must be willing to start a new life -- like a baby -- where you need to learn how to walk your way to success no matter how challenging the road is.

“When I came to Canada in 1988, I only have $1,000 (U.S.) in my pocket, with three children, but I had to face reality and was determined to succeed in this country,” Abuel said. She also head the media bureau of the Filipino Advent Believers in British Columbia and is a practising communications consultant.

The same advice was shared by Evelyn Yadao, an immigration consultant of Grand Migration Canada. She countered that skilled Filipino immigrants who have gone back to the Philippines should consider returning to Canada because in the long run they will appreciate what this country will do for them. Yadao is also the National Convenor of PLS (Progressive Learning Space) for Kids program, a Canada-based program helping educate displaced Filipino children caught in the war in the Southern Philippines.

Immigrants who stayed

While some Filipino immigrants returned to the Philippines, most Filipino immigrants have decided to stick it out. They have embraced Canada as their new home and have decided to pledge allegiance to Canada’s citizenship once they meet their residency requirements.

Working in the Middle East for years, Filipino Edwin Nodora landed in Canada with his family in 2011 and started working as a maintenance crew in a mall in Richmond. But three years later, he now works in a job where he can use his engineering background.  In his first year, he was tempted to return to the Middle East, but he resisted and eventually got the job he wanted.

Edilberto Javier landed the same year with his family and got employed as a cleaner at Lowe’s, a hardware store, but after three years, he was promoted to Product Service Associate.

[toggle_item title="Denise L. Spitzer, Ph.D., University of Ottawa" active="true"]Labour migration has been regarded as vital to the Philippine economy for decades, relieving pressure on un- and under-employment in the country and contributing to the economy through the receipt of remittances from overseas workers. The Philippine government has developed a highly sophisticated state apparatus whose aim is to facilitate labour migration. Among its activities, state agencies engage in ongoing surveillance of the global economy to determine emerging markets and to identify the types of skills that will be in demand in order to prepare Filipino labour migrants for overseas deployment.

Furthermore, the state regulates labour recruitment agencies who “sell” Philippine labour abroad and broker employment contracts across international borders. For their part, employers may express a preference for Filipino workers because of their facility in English and their generally high level of education.Denise L. Spitzer, Ph.D., Canada Research Chair in Gender, Migration and Health, Associate Professor, University of Ottawa, and Collaborator, Pathways to Prosperity Partnership[/toggle_item]


Jeanette Co- Lim faced a tough challenge when she landed in Canada in the same year, because she could not find the job she wanted, but in her third year, she finally found the right job as an assistant accountant.

“The toughest challenge is  when employers here doubt your credentials, so we have to prove to them that we can do the job, and from there the employer will assign you the job that rightfully belongs to you,” Co-Lim said.

Top ranking

The Philippines became the largest source of immigrants in 2010 when Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) figures show 36,000 Filipino immigrants came to Canada. The next two years have brought 35,000 and 33,000, respectively.

While young Filipino immigrants are helping to replace Canada’s ageing workforce, the Philippine economy in turn also gets over $2 billion (U.S.) in remittances every year.

Further, Tagalog is the fastest growing language in Canada and is the fifth most common non-official language spoken in Canadian households. Statistics show nearly 279,000 people reported speaking Tagalog most often in 2011, up from 170,000 five years earlier.

Canada has also remitted more than $20 million (U.S.) to help rebuild two major cities in the Philippines -- Tacloban and Zamboanga – after they were devastated by a super typhoon and attacked by rebel separatists in 2013.

Noel T. Tarrazona is a Filipino immigrant of Vancouver and is completing his Doctor of Pubic Administration in the Philippines. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Tuesday, 01 April 2014 00:27

Montreal as a City-State

Written by

by Yasmine Hassan 

Activists have launched a new movement to turn Montreal into a “city-state,” allowing it to govern itself, and distancing itself from the series of interesting and laughable steps taken by the Parti Québécois (PQ) government in their quest to preserve and protect the French language and culture in Quebec.

Michel David, president of the Montréal: City-State Movement and co-founder of David Landry Young Consulting Group, has watched the downward spiral that Montreal has been going through and proposed the idea of turning it into a city-state. “The Quebec approach and rules are toxic to Montreal and the result is obvious, Montreal is dying. If Montreal is to live, it has to be out of the toxic Quebec rules,” he explained.

Once granted the city-state status, Montreal has the potential to be the entrepreneurial hub of Canada. “Our traditional sources of wealth have taken a real dive. So you have to replace that with something,” said David. “The only thing I can see is entrepreneurship, a bootstrap approach where you get people who have a high desire, high capacity for work, high resistance for risk, and they come and start companies.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Once granted the city-state status, Montreal has the potential to be the entrepreneurial hub of Canada.[/quote]

Immigration hub

Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver have historically attracted the most immigrants to Canada, with Montreal being the second largest immigrant city. However, since the 1980s, Vancouver eclipsed Montreal, attracted 16 to 18 per cent of immigrants while Montreal attracted between 11 to 12 per cent.

David said his ideas would help restore Montreal as a major immigrant city. “The most likely person to want to start a business is someone who comes from the other side of the world, with ten dollars in his or her pocket and the only way to go is up and they are going to do whatever it takes,” he said. “Educated immigrants are a critical variable for Montreal’s city-state success.”

While Montreal would become its own independent entity, it would still be a part of the province of Quebec and would, in turn, be of great benefit to it by becoming its economic engine. The organizers say the city of Montreal has great potential but is currently being tied down with bogus bills and laws that are written for areas in Quebec (such as language laws limiting English in certain places and the new Quebec Charter of Values that bans all ostentatious religious symbols from public service offices) that are nothing like the unique environment in Montreal. The city is at particular risk, if Quebec Premier Pauline Marois wins a majority government in the upcoming April 7 elections.

A distinct society

Montreal boasts a multicultural citizenry, a bilingual twist, along with a huge potential to become a major cosmopolitan city. Some, like David, think of it as a “distinct society” within Canada that needs to be preserved.

In recent surveys of Canadian cities, Montreal has shown lackluster performance in terms of where it could be based on its size and number of residents, considering it has 50 per cent of Quebec’s total population. A study by the Bank of Montreal and the Boston Consulting Group reported that Montreal had a higher unemployment rate than many other areas in Canada, as well as the lowest GDP when compared to other Canadian cities of comparable size.

Based on the 2011 census, the third most spoken language in Montreal is Arabic (108,000 speakers) followed by Spanish and Chinese. Bilingualism is also on the rise with over three million Quebec residents who speak both official languages.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Based on the 2011 census, the third most spoken language in Montreal is Arabic (108,000 speakers) followed by Spanish and Chinese.[/quote]

At a crossroads

Montreal is now at a crossroads, with the upcoming elections and the plans that the PQ has for it, a strategy needs to be put in place in order to turn this city around. Based on a recent survey by Montréal: City-State and IPSOS, 74 per cent of Montrealers feel that the city needs to be granted special status. Ninety per cent of Montrealers feel that Montreal is different than the rest of Quebec while 91 per cent feel that in order to stop the city from declining further, drastic measures need to be taken. As a society, Montreal’s needs differ a great deal than those of predominantly French cities and yet the PQ comes in with bills and laws that affect Montreal as well and will only cripple the city and lead to its eventual demise.

Right now, the city is far from attractive for both local and international business owners. The long list of laws and bills that you need to consider when starting your company in Montreal will turn anyone off from the idea. “A lot of people are very quietly just leaving and making alternate arrangements,” said Gary Shapiro, President of the Canadian Rights in Quebec (CRITIQ) movement, which wants to prevent government encroachment of the civil liberties of Quebec’s French and English populations. “It’s not whether they will separate or not, the fact is that no one is coming here to start businesses, to expand their business or to grow their business here, so the economy is grinding to a halt, investment grinds to a halt and the quality of life keeps deteriorating.”

Without the PQ looming over the prosperity of the city, Montreal could become a city similar to Silicon Valley, opening doors to immigrants who wish to come and start a business in Canada. “The most important source of new entrepreneurs is educated immigrants, that is the key,” explains David. “If you need entrepreneurs, you have to become a friendly environment for them.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Without the PQ looming over the prosperity of the city, Montreal could become a city similar to Silicon Valley, opening doors to immigrants who wish to come and start a business in Canada.[/quote]

The Montréal city-state movement has garnered a great deal of interest among residents looking to change the course of their city. And with the upcoming elections, what better time to discuss the idea and potentially bring it to life, for the sake of Montreal and Montrealers alike?

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Monday, 22 July 2013 13:08

Namastey Canada

Written by

by Amar Nijhawan

Women of the Indian diaspora are often portrayed as hyper-sexual and constantly rebelling against their own heritage in efforts to assimilate to Western norms.
Often, they are “rescued” by a male protagonist who inspires them to restore their Indian values. The celebrated and socially acceptable nature of Bollywood movies amongst diaspora populations makes internal criticism rare.

Increasingly, Bollywood films tend to reinforce aspects of cultural nationalism among diaspora populations, using the female protagonist to propagate not-too-subtly a highly patriarchal order. With its light-hearted plots, vivid dance sequences and aesthetically appealing actors espousing feelings of cultural nostalgia and longing, Bollywood slips these influences into our family rooms unnoticed.

Several recent movies fit this genre, but the most vivid example that comes to mind is the 2007 film, Namastey London. The movie revolves around Jasmeet “Jazz” Malhotra, a young girl born in London who, through drinking, partying, and socializing with men, wholeheartedly rejects her Indian heritage. Her worried father arranges a trip to India to help her re-discover her roots, and in the process, covertly arranges her marriage to boy named Arjun, who lives in a village in Punjab.

Arjun attempts to extend his boundless patriotism to Jasmeet, and believes that through their marriage, he can help her appreciate her “native” culture. Jasmeet flees to England to marry her British fiancé, and Arjun follows her, attempting to win her back by pointing out the various moral degradations of Western culture and its influences.

‘I am not Indian’

Jasmeet’s character is introduced during an arranged date with a potential Indian suitor, Bobby. She enters the scene wearing a traditional Indian salwar kameez, and immediately orders multiple shots of vodka. While imbibing, she discloses to Bobby her sexual relations with various men and her parent’s desire for her to marry a “good Indian boy.” She abruptly leaves a stunned Bobby and gets into a taxi, where she discards her Indian garb and changes into a revealing black dress. When the taxi driver asks if she is from India, she quickly answers, “God no, I’m from Harris Street.” In a later scene, while eating lunch by the London Bridge, her Indian female friend questions her vehement opposition to marrying an Indian. Jasmeet replies:

“I am not Indian, I am British. I was not born in India, I never visit India, and since the age of three, I have held my hand over my heart and sung “God Save the Queen.” My attitude and thinking is completely British. How can I be Indian?”

As Jasmeet begins to describe her ideal mate, a red sports car pulls up, driven by a handsome, blonde British man who is revealed to be their boss. As Jasmeet runs to his car, her friend warns her about his notorious promiscuity and fondness for affairs with work colleagues. Jasmeet ignores her friend’s advice, and gets into his car in an act of defiance.

Jasmeet’s career-oriented mentality is characterized as overbearing and selfish, and her name change is seen as an overt assimilation into English culture. Her exaggerated dismissal of her roots is perceived as shaming her parents, who have no other option but to arrange her marriage with Arjun. Her cultural introspection and eventual repatriation to her own heritage is evoked through her romance with Arjun.

Arjun’s character acts as a “saviour” who redeems Jasmeet, rationalizing her Western mores to ignorance perpetuated by her corrupt British surroundings. The movie ends with Jasmeet and Arjun happily wed, riding through fields on his motorcycle in Punjab.

Cultural Nationalism

While Bollywood movies are received as light-hearted entertainment as opposed to in-depth social commentaries, their unspoken messages have an understated impact on the formation of women’s identities in diaspora communities. The unquestioning acceptance of these forms of popular media, coupled with the fact that they often serve as the singular cultural connection to an “imagined homeland,” reinforces its legitimacy as a source of cultural nationalism.   

 Nobody quite captures the diaspora experience as Salman Rushdie, bestselling author of Midnight's Children and The Satantic Verses: “Sometimes we feel that we straddle two cultures; at other times, that we fall between two stools.”

I generally find myself in between those two metaphoric stools, perennially balancing cultures as a second-generation Canadian Indian. I was reminded of Jasmeet’s travails during a recent summer in Delhi, which I saw as an escape from having to walk a fine line between cultures. After about a month alone in Delhi, I found myself automatically identifying with my Canadian-ness at every opportunity. And so, the classic paradox of the confused Canadian born Indian persists. According to Canadians, I am Indian. According to Indo-Canadians, I am not Indian enough. And according to Indians, I am Canadian. 

I empathize with Rushdie, who describes his position as an Indian author living in the diaspora thus: “Our identity is at once plural and partial ... if literature is in part the business of finding new angles at which to enter reality, then again our distance, our long geographical perspective, may provide us with such angles.”  -- New Canadian Media

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by Our Staff Correspondent

It’s a pass to discover Canada you get on becoming a citizen and 1,500 people did just that last year using VIA Rail’s half price fares.

The discounted train tickets are part of the Cultural Access Pass(CAP) program initiated by the Institute for Canadian Citizenship (ICC), a national, non-profit charity that promotes active citizenship.

“I cannot think of a better way to spend Canada Day than on the Canadian, travelling across Canada’s beautiful and varied landscapes on a train line steeped in Canadian history. Canada inspires and surprises and we would never have done anything like this were it not for the CAP offer,” said Andrew S as he rode VIA’s iconic Canadian with his wife on Canada Day.
Since the offer’s launch on July 1, 2012, new citizens have travelled on every main route VIA Rail offers, visiting almost all of the 450 Canadian communities aboard one of the 500 trains departing each week. Most chose to travel within the Quebec City – Windsor corridor, but many – nearly 20 per cent – chose to journey on the Canadian, an incredible voyage that runs between Toronto and Vancouver.

"VIA Rail is proud to contribute to new citizens’ discovery of our beautiful country," said Marc Laliberté, Chief Executive Officer of VIA Rail. "We are pleased with the popularity of this initiative and hope that even more new citizens will continue to take advantage of this truly Canadian experience and increase their sense of belonging to their new country."
Apart from discounted rail fares, the CAP program provides a year of free access to galleries, museums, historic sites, national and provincial parks and performing arts organizations across the country. Since its inception a mere five years ago, more than 70,000 new citizens have participated in the program.
“With more than 1,200 participating attractions across the country, collaborating with VIA Rail has helped make exploring Canada’s cultural places and spaces a real possibility for new citizens,” said Leith Bishop, ICC’s Acting Executive Director & CEO.
To learn more about CAP, its participating attractions, and VIA Rail Canada's offer, visit – New Canadian Media
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Thursday, 20 June 2013 23:05

Refugees: long treks from despair

Written by

by Ranjit Bhaskar

Hope was the operative word here. Radiating from the eager and sincere volunteers, young and old, as Toronto joined the world Thursday to mark World Refugee Day at Yonge-Dundas Square.

Many had converged on the square after a symbolic walk in solidarity with refugees from around the globe. Refugees like Yak Deng, who graduated from the University of Toronto this month in applied microbiology. Deng is from the Jonglei in South Sudan, the youngest country in the world that was born out of war as recently as 2011.

Deng’s story is similar to those caught in the tumultuous period in Sudan between 1983 and 2005, when more than two million people died of war and war-related causes. When over four million people were internally displaced in southern Sudan and nearly two million southern Sudanese fled across borders.

Deng reminded me of Francis Odong, a fellow countryman of his whom I had met in Juba, South Sudan. I remembered Odong may be because there is nothing extraordinary about both their stories, at least by the standards of the “lost boys” of children being separated from their families because of the civil war and finding their way west via refugee camps in neighbouring countries.

I remembered Odong alongside Deng because both their stories are considered ordinary in the backdrop of the harsh reality around them. Both did not have to face the trauma of becoming a child soldier, but were forced to cross a border and live in refugee camps. Theirs is the story of lives derailed, almost at its outset.

Faith in education

Theirs is also the story of youth determined to fight their way out of predicament through education. Of a certain dignity that comes so easily to the poor; the urge for an education despite starting out late; not missing out on studies through civil wars; of studying to become a paramedic while juggling a full-time job in the case of Odong and getting a full-scholarship to study in UoFT in the case of Deng thanks to the World University Service of Canada.

They are the fortunate few among 45.2 million refugees and internally displaced people worldwide who lack basic resources after being driven from their homes due to conflict or natural disaster. Fortunate because school quickly becomes a distant memory when nations begin to self-destruct and empty themselves of people. Like in Syria at the moment, which people in Dundas Square were made aware of.

“In all the years I have worked on behalf of refugees, this is the most worrying I have ever witnessed. The needs of these people are overwhelming; their anguish is unbearable. Today, there are over 1.6 million registered Syrian refugees,” said António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees in his message for the day from Jordan.

“I have come to Jordan on this day to stand by the people of Syria in their time of acute need. I also want to salute Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and all the countries in the region for being generous havens that have saved hundreds of thousands of lives,” said Guterres. It is also a timely reminder for those in Canada who fret about the “hordes” of refugees coming to the country.

For the record, approximately 7,500 refugees are brought to Canada and assisted by the government each year and private groups such as churches welcome about 3,000. The problematic number is the 30,000 or so who arrive as refugee claimants.

It is also good to remember that every minute eight people around the world are forced to flee their homes due to war and persecution. And that no one like Deng chooses to be a refugee. His was a long trek from the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. The 24-year-old hasn’t seen his parents and siblings for the past 11 years, “because a visit is not affordable right now”. -- New Canadian Media

{webgallery title="World Refugee Day 2013"}

There are over 1.6 million registered Syrian refugees at the momentWorldwide, there are 45.2 million refugees and internally displaced people Refugees need protectionLanguage should not be a barrierMedical help across bordersCanadians have been generous hosts for thousands of refugees


by Our Toronto Correspondent
The Canadian Dream is more real than the American. This is according to a new survey that found close to half of this country’s millionaires are either immigrants or first-generation Canadians compared to new Americans accounting for only one-third of the wealthy in the U.S.
The survey from BMO Harris Private Banking found that 48 per cent of Canadians with liquid assets of $1 million or more are either immigrants (24 per cent), or first-generation Canadians (24 per cent). Within this group of new Canadians, more than two-thirds (68 per cent) reported that their wealth was self-made. Also, almost all affluent new Canadians keep the bulk of their wealth in Canada.
"For generations, many have considered Canada to be a place that provides opportunities for those who are willing to move here and contribute to the growth of the country. The findings of this study confirm this long-standing belief," said Alex Dousmanis-Curtis, Senior Vice President and Head, BMO Harris Private Banking. "Today's high-net worth Canadians, whether they were born here or have adopted Canada as their own, prove that hard work and an entrepreneurial spirit can result in prosperity and success."
The bank’s inaugural study revealed that overall the country's affluent are a diverse group of individuals and that wealth can be acquired in various ways regardless of gender or birthplace. It found that two-thirds are self-made millionaires and only one-in-five attribute at least part of their wealth to an inheritance.
The other highlights of the study are:
·         One-third of high-net worth Canadians are women, compared to 21 per cent in 2010.
·         Education Matters: 80 per cent have at least an undergraduate university degree
·         U.S. millionaires tend to be younger than Canada's
You can read more of the key findings. - New Canadian Media
Thursday, 06 June 2013 00:31

Our TV screens don't reflect us

Written by

by Our Toronto Correspondent

Film and mainstream television programming in Canada does not reflect its cultural diversity and no serious efforts are afoot to make our screens “look and sound like its audience.”

That is the stark conclusion of a recent research report initiated by Professor Charles Davis of Ryerson university’s RTA School of Media.

Co-authored by Paul de Silva, a film and TV producer and a doctoral student in the Communications and Culture Program at Ryerson and Co-director of the International Diaspora Film Festival, and Jeremy Shtern, a University of Ottawa communication professor, the report found that even in our publicly-funded and mandated broadcast industry, minority media professionals face a host of unique structural and cultural obstacles.  

These barriers ultimately affect the stories and images seen on Canadian screens and the very identity of the country, the authors said. Under threat is the integrity of a growing and powerful economic and cultural sector that shapes the aspirations of youth and newcomers, and contributes to social cohesion, says the report and action plan of the Roundtable on Cultural Diversity in the Toronto Screen Media Production Industry.

The accurate portrayal of our increasing diverse society is critical to our sense of belonging and inclusion, said de Silva. As he put it, way before our own Marshall McLuhan pointed out the importance of the role television storytelling has in shaping both our collective and personal identity, the ancient Greek philosopher Plato had phrased it more succinctly:  “Those who control the stories, control society.”

"Currently, research shows there is less than one per cent representation of visible minorities in senior management positions involved with program decision-making at the CBC. This is particularly troubling as this lack of diversity at senior decision-making levels at one of our key cultural institutions is contrary to long-standing diversity policies in hiring at the CBC and impacts on both the content of the programming and the culture of the organization, which is mandated by the Canadian Broadcast Act to represent the multicultural reality of Canada on screen and in its employment practices, and is primarily supported by Public funds," de Silva told New Canadian Media yesterday.

Lack of ethnic diversity

Another research, co-authored by Davis with Michael Coutanche and released this month, also reveals a lack of ethnic diversity in the industry.

The 2012 Report on Canadian Screenwriters says visible minorities are under-represented.  Only 4.1 per cent of screenwriters who responded to the survey are visible minorities - about one-quarter of the representation of minorities in Canada’s overall population.  

They have less industry experience than white screenwriters and 36 per cent of them report having experienced occupational discrimination due to their ethnic or racial background, the report said.

When asked to elaborate on discrimination, one screenwriter referred to being “pigeon-holed because of my gender or ethnicity and deemed not appropriate for certain … jobs.” Another said: “I think gender and ethnicity has only helped me get jobs. I think gender can play a role once you’re in a [staff writer’s] room and I think there are a lot more barriers to overcome once you’re on the job …”

Diversity Smokescreens

The roundtable research found that the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission’s (CRTC) strategy to increase minority participation in screen media is not enough. Dr Rita Shelton Deverell, a veteran broadcaster and educator, has said that many broadcasters construct “diversity smokescreens” by organizing diversity “workshops and training initiatives”, and creating short term internships and mentorships. These are poor substitutes for more substantive steps that would create meaningful jobs for people of colour in the screen media industry, she said.

A key reason for the apathy appears to be the lack of clear and transparent requirements for the representation of cultural diversity, the research said. As a former broadcast and media fund executive explained at the roundtable, “without specific requirements and targets from the CRTC or from senior management, and no consistent measurement, monitoring and enforcement practices in place, it is left up to the goodwill and personal commitment of the commissioning executives to ensure there is cultural diversity in the programming.”

In 2002, the CRTC charged the Canadian Association of Broadcasters to conduct a Task Force on Diversity, which did not include the CBC, and examined issues dealing primarily with on screen representation.  The Task Force laudably did bring some attention to this issue and there has been an increased presence of racially diverse individuals in the television news area, particularly in Toronto.

These increased “on screen” presence however tends to provide a false image of the media’s actual diversity. It does not address the issue of employment equity in the film and television production industry or of prime time television storytelling, which is by far the most watched, and financially rewarding for its creators, as well as being the most influential genre of television in terms of messaging of identity and inclusion.

Research shows there is currently not a single person from a racially diverse background in any senior management level responsible for television production in mainstream screen based media institutions, including the CBC, or in federal funding agencies – a shocking fact in itself.

Troubling track record

This is even more troubling when it comes to the CBC, as it is primarily funded by Canadian taxpayers and has very specific mandates in this area. This has occurred in spite of several “diversity initiatives” over the past 30 years.

Along with other recommendations, the report says that an organization similar to the Cultural Diversity Network in Britain would help provide a voice to those affected by this issue and make the required changes.

Research undertaken recently in Britain has indicated that without inclusive reflection on television, immigrant communities will seek programming from their “home” countries and essentially bypass local and national media with both short and long term effects on the economy, as well as on issues of equity, inclusion, national identity and social cohesion. Several initiatives undertaken by the private broadcasting companies and the public broadcasters to address this issue have had very positive results.

Strong business case

In the U.S., where film and television programming is primarily driven by market factors, as a result of pressure from organizations such as the NAACP and various unions and advocacy groups, most U.S. television networks have appointed senior level executives with responsibilities for instituting diversity programs for both in-house and independent productions, with specific targets and goals.

In Canada itself, the example of the APTN (The Aboriginal People’s Television Network) is worth noting. The network was launched in 1999 to serve the specific needs of the First Nations communities and provide opportunities for creative artists from those communities.

A 2006 application, made by Canada One television to the CRTC for a television channel with a strong cultural diversity focus similar to APTN, was rejected. The CRTC said existing regulations would ensure that cultural diversity would be adequately reflected in Canadian television. The proposal, in which de Silva was a partner, had specified the annual independent programming budget designated for productions that would have key creative personnel from visible minority communities.

Stories by writers and producers from racially diverse communities, if given the resources to tell them in a consistent way and at a quality level now expected by the Canadian public, will undoubtedly attract audiences from these communities and also build new ones.

As the research suggests, a strong business case itself is enough for increasing the diversity of Canadian screen content. But societal goals of equity and inclusion and a sense of belonging for all Canadians regardless of race, colour or ethnicity need to be met for the benefit of society as a whole.  New Canadian Media

Editor's Note - Some of the opinions expressed in this article attributed to Paul de Silva were first published in Media Development 1/2013, the international quarterly journal of the World Association for Christian Communication (WACC).

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New Canadian Media provides nonpartisan news and views representing all Canadian immigrant communities. As part of this endeavour, we re-publish aggregated content from various ethnic media publishers in Canada in an effort to raise the profile of news and commentary from an immigrant perspective. New Canadian Media, however, does not guarantee the accuracy of or endorse the views and opinions contained in content from such other sites. The views expressed on this site are those of the individual writers and commentators, and not necessarily those of New Canadian Media. Copyright © 2019 All rights reserved