India

by Mourad Haroutunian for New Canadian Media

More than 100 Egyptian-Canadians flocked to the U.S. consulate in downtown Toronto on April 20 to protest the U.S. administration’s backing the “fascist brotherhood regime” in Egypt.

“We stand with you shoulder to shoulder,” Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis told the crowd, “to make sure that Mr. Morsi steps up to the plate and protects Christians, Muslims and everybody together.”

President Mohammed Morsi succeeded secular president Hosni Mubarak, a long-time U.S. ally, in a controversial June election that pitted Morsi against Mubarak’s last prime minister, Ahmed Shafik.  

Protestors chanted to the beat of ‘tabla’ drums. They repeated slogans showing solidarity between Christian and Muslim Egyptians in the fight aimed at toppling Morsi’s Islamist government.   

A five-meter-wide banner was carried by four protesters that read:  “U.S.A.! Stop supporting the fascist Brotherhood regime.”

The MP said, “No country should fundamentally do away with those three things,” citing “freedom of religion, human rights and freedom of the press.”

Karygiannis, himself an immigrant, has been elected six times since 1997, representing Scarborough and Agincourt, which are Toronto ridings heavily populated by immigrants. 

The demonstration was co-organized by activists belonging to the recently formed National Salvation Front, an umbrella Egyptian opposition group led by Nobel laureate Mohammed El Baradei, leftist activist Hamdeen Sabahi, and Amr Moussa, Mubarak’s foreign minister from 1991 to 2001.

A bunch of Egyptian-Canadian groups and organizations also took part in the gathering, including the Canadian Coptic Association, the Coptic Alliance Without Borders, the Canadian Coptic Activists Federation (CCAF), Al Ahram Elgdeed newspaper, raainews.com website and the Egyptian Canadians for Democracy, an active Facebook group that has attracted 1,164 fans from around the world.

“The protest was very successful,” Sheref El Sabawy, deputy editor of raainews.com told New Canadian Media, adding that “a U.S. Consulate staff member came out and noted down all what was written on signs.”

The Egyptian-Canadian activist said Egyptian-Canadian organizations have been strengthening coordination among themselves “to lobby the U.S. and Canadian governments to put pressure on the Egyptian government.”

El Sabawy, who ran as a Liberal Party candidate for the Mississauga riding in the 2011 elections, said he believed the Egyptian government’s practices “do not comply with human rights standards.”

The demonstration was the sixth held in Toronto since last December.  A simultaneous massive protest was staged by Montreal and Ottawa Copts outside the U.S. embassy in Ottawa, Canada’s capital, opposing Obama’s support for “the terrorist” government in Egypt. Protesters blamed Morsi for “mishandling” the most recent sectarian violence north of Cairo, when four Christians and one Muslim were killed in an exchange of fire between members of both communities. ­– New Canadian Media

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Thursday, 21 March 2013 23:03

Learning citizenship in cities

Written by

by Ranjit Bhaskar for New Canadian Media

Imagine Halifax city’s whole population of around 400,000 being denied the right to vote in its municipal election. Not very hard to picture considering that is the number of Toronto residents who pay local taxes and use city services but have no say in who represents them because they are not yet Canadian citizens.

This disenfranchisement was debated at a panel discussion on voting rights for permanent residents in municipal elections organized in Toronto on Mar. 20 by the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants and Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office.

Although not a new topic, the impetus for the discussion was a recent City of Toronto Community Development and Recreation Committee’s request to review “the opportunity” of giving permanent residents the right to vote. It is significant to note that the City of Toronto Act already says that the people who compose it are not defined by their age nor by their nationality. Rather, they are defined by residency within the city's  boundaries.  

The panelists were near unanimous in their approval of the need to extend voting rights to non-citizens. They remained united despite the moderator, Matthew Mendelsohn, Director of the Mowat Centre, trying to provoke discussion by pointing out, for instance, that it is “not hard to become a citizen of Canada”.

'Training wheels'

Jehad Aliweiwi, executive director of the Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office, said voting right could be a reward given to immigrants who have uprooted themselves to come and settle in Toronto. “That act in itself is their show of commitment to the city,” he said. “Participating in municipal elections could be akin to giving permanent residents training wheels as they negotiate the path to citizenship”.

Association of voting with citizenship is more of a political view that prevents the real expression of Toronto’s diversity, Aliweiwi said. “There is nothing radical in giving non-citizens the right to vote and it is unfortunate that Toronto is not in the forefront.”

Michael Pal, a research fellow at the Mowat Centre, said votes of immigrant communities, who tend to live in urban areas, are valued less than that of long time citizens. Permanent residents should be given voting rights from a legal and moral point of view and the move should be part of a broader conversation, Pal said.

Myer Siemiatycki, professor of politics and public administration at Ryerson University, said one in six to seven Torontonians are not citizens and the pattern is repeated in the other municipalities that make up the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). There is no downside to giving non-citizens the right to vote, Siemiatycki said. “It is the right of cities not to be hostage to provincial and federal politics,” he said.

Lame objections

Nathalie Des Rosiers, general counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said disadvantages of giving non-citizens the right to vote are minimal and Toronto which is proud of its diversity should take a proactive role in ensuring that permanent residents get the chance to vote in city elections. “The reasons cited against the move echoes those made decades ago against giving women the right to vote”, Des Rosiers said.

With about 40 cities (including a few Canadian ones) extending voting rights in some way or the other to non-citizens, not allowing immigrants to vote will further reduce the already diminished status of the GTA as a preferred place to put down roots, the panelists summarized. Their message: in this age of enhanced migration and increasingly free trade of goods, voting rights should also be easily transferable.

It reinforces an ambitious 2005 study of social inclusion in Toronto that said extending the municipal franchise was essential to advancing democracy and belonging in the city. The Report of the Toronto Civic Panel of the Inclusive Cities Canada Initiative contended that in order to overcome widespread marginalization from the city’s political processes, the civic voting age should be lowered from 18 to 16, and non-Canadian permanent residents should also have the right to vote.

As Siemiatycki said in a policy paper he wrote on the subject, the time has come to go back to the future. “The western concept of citizenship began as municipal attachment to the city-state in ancient Greece. Now, with global migration increasingly creating a world of ‘transnational urbanism’, the momentum is growing to re-define cities as sites of citizenship in their own right.” - New Canadian Media

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Friday, 15 March 2013 11:43

Communicating to a new audience

Written by

by Pamela George for New Canadian Media

“Immigrants need to know the rules of this land.” “They need to know that Canadians do not tolerate violence against women.” “They need to know about hygiene.” “They need to know that you do not wear flip-flops in a land that gets 100 cms. of snow.”

These were some of the comments heard at a workshop titled “Understanding Life in Canada: Giving Newcomers the right playbook information and orientation” at the 15th Metropolis Conference themed “Building an Integrated Society,” taking place in Ottawa, March 14th to 16th, 2013.

The discussion panel included Cedric de Chardon, Manager of Information and Orientation policies for Citizenship and Immigration Canada; Dr Vicky Esses, Director of the Centre for Research on Migration and Ethnic Relations; Din Ladak, CEO of the Immigrant Services Calgary, and Loris Berrigan, Manager of Settlement Services Association of New Canadians (Newfoundland).

My interest in this workshop was more than an academic one. As a newcomer, I have relied on information available both in print and on websites to shape my decisions on life in Canada. I have felt frustrated at the shallowness of some of this well-meant advice.  

All levels of government in Canada -- federal, provincial and increasingly municipal -- are spending millions to dole out information so that newcomers have the tools to navigate life in Canada. In addition to targeting immigrants that are already here, the federal government is targeting the pre-immigrant population in their home countries with information on what to expect in Canada and the best ways to get credentials recognized and find employment.

Although reading these handouts do not readily give that impression, the government does consult immigrants on input. The panel discussed the Alberta Settlement Outcomes Survey which did a survey among 1,000 immigrants in Alberta on what they felt should be included in the handouts.  

This survey showed that the top three sources of information for immigrants are immigrant serving agency portals, government websites and other online sources. Print and library materials figured low down on the list.  The point made was that immigrants and refugees are highly knowledgeable about navigating the Web to get the information that they are looking for.

The survey also threw light on the kind of information that immigrants would like to receive before they arrived in Canada -- important documents needed, the steps they need to take after landing, where to obtain settlement information, etc.

With so much information aimed at immigrants, the most logical question to ask the panel was, “Are you employing immigrant writers and journalists to write the content? Who is better than an ethnic writer, highly fluent in one or both of the official languages, to understand the language, tone and information that other immigrants are looking for?”

Of course, there was no answer. -- New Canadian Media

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by Marika Washchyshyn

Even before its planned opening in 2014, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, Manitoba has had its share of critics. They insist that the museum fails to adequately address certain aspects of its avowed aim to educate, promote awareness and increase dialogue about human rights.

One of the issues raised is that the Holocaust is being given undue prominence in deference to the Aspers, a wealthy Jewish family whose late patriarch Israel [Izzy] Asper launched the CMHR in 2003 as a private initiative. In 2008, an act of Parliament made it a national museum. At the centre of this controversy are the “genocide” galleries, which include information on the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide, the Armenian massacre and the Ukrainian Holodomor famine of 1932-33 during which millions died.

A section of the Ukrainian community has been the most vocal on the issue, garnering major media attention and critical analysis of the museum’s contents. Roman Zakaluzny, chairman of the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association (UCCLA), said Canadians will not get to see a fair representation of all such atrocities in the museum despite the fact that their tax dollars are now largely funding the project. [As of December 2011, Global News reported the total budget for the building and its exhibits was $351 million, with approximately $200 million of that coming from taxpayers.]

“This isn’t a private museum. Donations shouldn’t reflect content in a national museum,” said Zakaluzny. “No one community should have pride of place over another. The museum hasn’t provided enough evidence that all genocides will be treated equally. This isn’t just about the Ukrainian community.” To emphasize this, the UCCLA launched a postcard campaign showing people of various ethnic backgrounds fleeing the museum.

‘No hierarchy of genocides’

Angela Cassie, the director of communications and external relations at the CMHR, was quick to shoot down the accusation.

“There is no hierarchy [of genocides] here, and any suggestions of that is a gross misrepresentation of our intentions at the CMHR,” Cassie said. “Those comments divide, when our goal is to bring people together to recognize the humanity in others and take action for human rights.”

Cassie stressed that human rights violations and “reliving the past” were not the focus of the museum, but that the CMHR serves as an educational vehicle to promote understanding of human rights issues and draw lessons. She also said violations are not emphasized, and the museum is not a memorial or institution for comparing genocides.

“Even in our examination of the Holocaust, we’re looking at that broader concept, at all groups who were affected by the Nazi regime,” said Cassie. “We’re looking at what we can learn from these stages of genocide, and there are some very relevant stories for us to learn.”

New Canadian experience

The museum is much more than a display of crimes against humanity, and also contains content examining the experience of New Canadians, contends Cassie. The internment of Canadians during the First World War, including the Italians, Ukrainians, Poles and the Japanese, are some of the galleries the museum is commissioning to show Canadians these black marks in their nation’s history and how far removed they are today from those shameful episodes.

Cassie also noted the museum has worked with the Ukrainian community in bringing special guest lecturers from Ukraine to the museum, resulting in a memorandum of understanding between the CMHR and Ukraine’s National Holodomor Museum in Kiev last July.

“We are moving things forward in a very positive fashion with the Ukrainian community,” she said. “It’s about working in collaboration with these communities to make sure their stories are properly represented, and to make sure they understand exactly what a human rights museum is.”

Cassie highlighted the different ways Ukrainian content was integrated into the museum, including an inaugural feature film on the Holodomor. First World War internment, an interactive study table containing primary-source information on the Holodomor, the struggle by the Ukrainian-Canadian community to gain parliamentary recognition for the mass deaths and an analysis of Stalin’s “techniques of genocide” are among at least seven other exhibits displaying Ukrainian stories.

Not just Ukrainians

The Museum’s PR offensive has borne some fruit. The Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) decided to work with the CMHR after it resolved with the museum apprehensions about how the Holodomor was going to be covered. The UCCLA, however, remains unconvinced.

Other Canadian immigrant groups are also calling for more inclusive action by the CMHR. The CBC reported on March 4 that the Palestinian-Canadian community has become the newest group to take up issue with the museum.

“This proves that it’s not just Ukrainians who are unhappy with the museum’s content and layout, but Canadians across the country,” UCCLA’s Zakaluzny said. He cited a July 2012 Nanos Research poll (paid for by Canadians for Genocide Education and UCCLA) which showed 60 per cent of the approximately 1,200 people polled were in favour of a “one exhibit/all genocides” approach versus a “one gallery highlighting a particular genocide permanently” approach.

The UCCLA, in the meantime, has won another of its battles by securing a deal with the Government of Canada, Parks Canada and the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition fund for a permanent exhibit in the immediate vicinity of an internment camp for Ukrainians in Banff from 1914-1917. This recognition came after around 25 years of lobbying, when Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney acknowledged the need for restitution in 2008. - New Canadian Media

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by Ranjit Bhaskar for New Canadian Media

A leaked document outlining the Liberal party’s plan to help drum up ethnic votes for the party in British Colombia reads like a primer that many Canadian politicians would be tempted to dip into for “quick wins”.

Deeply embarrassed by the disclosure coming weeks before provincial elections, Premier Christy Clark was quick to apologize, saying in a statement that the plan crossed the line over what’s proper and was unacceptable and inappropriate. "The document did not recognize there are lines that cannot be crossed in conducting this outreach, and it is unacceptable. The language in this draft document and some of the recommendations are absolutely inappropriate," the statement read. "As a government, we have a responsibility to reach out to every community to ensure they are engaged and understand the services that are available to them." What was unsaid was the need for such short-sighted moves to engage ethnic voters.

The 17-page document prescribes apologies for historical wrongs ethnic communities as a “quick win” to “improve our chances of winning swing ridings by better engaging supporters from ethnic communities and getting them involved at the riding level”. It specifically mentioned the infamous 1914 Komagata Maru “incident”, which saw a ship carrying passengers from British India being forced to return after a two-month stand-off in Vancouver Harbour. An official federal apology had already been made for the wrong in 2008.

The very focus of political parties on involving ethnic voters at only the riding level is where the problem with regard to their engagement starts. While playing an increasingly positive role toward increasing the electability of visible minorities at the provincial and federal levels, it overlooks the need to start at the lower level of municipalities. Parties see no value in doing so as the current electoral system keeps them away from grass-root politics.

This lack of political engagement has given rise to a consistent pattern of under-representation of ethnic groups at the municipal level where most services aimed at them are delivered. Surveys with visible minority candidates point to a desire for electoral reforms along with other factors affecting their electability.

A recent University of Toronto research into the political and geographic factors contributing to the under-representation of visible minorities in Ontario municipalities suggests the need to explore involving parties among other recommendations. “However, there may be unintended consequences related to the implementation of party systems, and these need to be studied before any solid recommendation is made,” said the researchers, Matthew Smith and Alan Walks, at a panel discussion on their paper organised by Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Settlement (CERIS) that focuses on research into the resettlement and integration of immigrants and refugees in Ontario.

A number of other policy implications emerge from their findings. They include reducing the power of incumbency through term limits, some degree of public financing of candidates, expansion of tax rebates programs for donations to registered candidates, campaign training and mentoring for visible minority candidates, enhanced civic and public education, better media coverage of all candidates, allow permanent resident municipal voting rights as a majority of new immigrants to Canada are visible minorities.

The researchers did point out that “it is crucial that municipal electoral systems be free of structural institutional barriers to visible minority political candidates if Canadian democracy is to remain healthy, open, and inclusive”.  A worthy cause for political parties to take up instead of coming up with boiler-plate ideas on how to swing ethnic votes that are an insult to the very communities they target. -- New Canadian Media

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Friday, 08 February 2013 00:05

PULSE: Arab-Canadian media

Written by

By Mourad Haroutunian for New Canadian Media

The Canadian-Arab print and web media mostly earmarks less space to federal and provincial Canadian content and local Arab community news, providing more coverage of the Middle East  and  pan-Arab issues.

Canadian content here is mainly translations from English-language sources. This is why they seem to conform to Canadian mainstream norms rather than risk expressing an Arab viewpoint which might seem controversial due to cultural or political sensitivities. 

For example, Meshwar, a 40-page fortnightly newspaper based in Mississauga and owned by Palestinian journalist Nazih Khatatba, published two translated stories in its January 25th issue. One was a Canadian-specific news story and the other was a Canadian view of the Arab population. The headlines read: “Canada Seeks Evidence on Hostage Taker, Summons Algeria Envoy”, and “Canada: A Base for Islamist Militants.”

The paper refrained from rewriting, commenting or getting the feedback of the local Arab community on an Arab-Canadian possibly being labelled a terrorist in order to not look controversial.

Canadian content in some other cases is even presented from a neutral perspective. For instance, Al-Bilad, a 48-page monthly newspaper run by Iraqi journalists since 2002, downplayed the fact that Ontario’s premier-designate, Kathleen Wynne, would be  the first openly gay leader of a province in Canada despite mainstream Canadian media drawing attention to this facet of her personality. This London, Ontario-based paper headlined a story published in its February issue as “Kathleen Wynne First Female Premier to Govern Ontario.” 

Al Hayat Alarabiya provides yet another perspective. This 28-page weekly newspaper, also run by Iraqi journalists, uses terms such as “Zionist” and “entity” to describe citizens and the state of Israel in its January 24th issue. These terms are not used by mainstream Canadian media. The Scarborough-based paper’s story was titled “Punished, Yet Kept in Power by Zionist Voters: Netanyahu Starts Consultations to Form Government ‘of Delicate Balance.’” The introduction to the story read: “Results of the Zionist Knesset’s elections have shown that the ‘Israeli’ society punished outgoing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but kept him in power” and “Netanyahu, though weakened by the elections, is the front-running candidate to form the entity’s coming government.”  

Canadian-Arab media rarely conduct interviews or produce reports by their staff given their thin editorial budgets. In one rare occurrence, Medhat Eweeda, the managing editor of Al-Ahram Elgdeed, a 28-page fortnightly newspaper run by Egyptian Copts, conducted an interview with a local Canadian-Egyptian entrepreneur in its January 27th issue. The interviewee, Ben Shenouda, ran for office in the 2011 elections as a Progressive Conservative candidate for the Brampton-West riding.  He told the paper that he got engaged in politics “to serve the interests of his colleagues and those of the Egyptian community in Canada.” Shenouda leads a company that controls three percent of Canada’s pharmacies, the paper reported.

Local Arab community newspapers in Canada predominantly use the Arabic language with rare and often small English sections. They are printed monthly, fortnightly or weekly, and are mostly distributed free.  Advertisers are largely Arab real estate brokers, dentists, physicians, restaurants, food stores, community settlement services and Arabic television channel subscription companies. Large-size Canadian corporate advertisers are not clients of these newspapers.

In the online media world, assaha.ca, arabnews.ca and raainews.com come across as professional, publishing a large number of news and feature stories.

For instance, Assaha, run by Iraqi Arabs, allocates enough space for federal and provincial Canadian content as well as Iraqi community activities.  In this website’s most read section, local community news is showcased. Headlines such as “(Iraqi) Father Niaz Toma Delivers Lecture in Toronto,” “Iraqi Consular Mission Heads from Ottawa to Western Coast,” and “Ontario Has New Premier,” perhaps reflect reader interest in Arab community news and Canadian content, although the site, like other media sources that cater to the Arab-Canadian demographic, allocates a larger space for stories originating from the Middle East.

Arab News, originally a fortnightly newspaper established in 1974 with an Egyptian flavour, publishes the bulk of its stories focusing on the Arab Spring and its ongoing ripple effects. This Toronto-based online newspaper widely publishes Canadian content translated from English sources.

Similarly, non-Canadian content, particularly Egyptian news and views prevail, in Raai News, which is published by Canadian-Coptic activists. The website’s deputy editor is Prof. Sheref El Sabawy, who ran as a Liberal Party candidate for the Mississauga riding in the 2011 elections. That there is almost no Canadian content on this website is a stark reminder that Canadian-Arab print and online media have quite a ways to go before their content strikes a better balance between their new and old countries for their target audience – Canadians of Arab descent. - New Canadian Media

(Mourad Haroutunian is an Egyptian media professional based in Toronto, Canada. He has worked in Egypt, Dubai, Saudi Arabia and the United States for Bloomberg News, CNBC Arabiya, Alhurra TV, Forbes Arabia and Nile TV International. He holds an M.A. in journalism and mass communication from the American University in Cairo.)

By Mayank Bhatt for New Canadian Media

Immigration in Canada is an issue which everyone admits requires an urgent redress but nobody quite knows what exactly is to be done about it. Generally speaking, a majority of Canadian politicians favour immigration, which by itself is commendable considering the rising tide against immigration all across Europe. But even as it favours immigration, Canada really doesn’t have a clue what do with newcomers.

Two illuminating events – a lecture and a panel discussion – highlighted the indifference to newcomer integration in Canada.

At a lecture in Toronto organized by the Literary Review of Canada (LRC), Dr. Kwame McKenzie, Professor of Psychiatry at University of Toronto and Medical Director at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, observed that the Canadian approach to immigration is flawed because it focuses on workers rather than people. “Workers build an economy, people build countries,” he said. 

Selection of the right immigrant is of great significance. Using a hockey analogy, McKenzie noted that Canada’s policy on immigration should have the same philosophy as the legendary Wayne Gretzky, who planned his moves in anticipation of where the puck would be rather than where it currently is.

In his one-hour talk, which was co-produced by LRC with Big Ideas (TVO), McKenzie suggested that applicants should be evaluated for their emotional quotient in addition to their skills.

He once took a taxi whose driver was a doctor in philosophy from West Africa. When McKenzie asked the cabbie about his life in Canada as an immigrant, he answered – with the equanimity of a wizened man who had come to terms with the frustrations of life – that he had resigned to being a taxi driver, but hoped that his children would succeed. “If they don’t, I’ll come to you at the [mental health] hospital.”

McKinzie said by denying highly-qualified people their right to careers in their chosen field, Canada is actually committing two grave injustices – it is depriving developing societies of their finest talent and wasting these talents in Canada.

Deconstructing “Canadian experience”

One of the bottlenecks immigrants face is the demand from employers for “Canadian experience”. A University of Toronto project is attempting to look at the “Canadian experience” from a human rights perspective. At a seminar in January, “Beyond Canadian Experience” panelists were united in their conviction that the issue is not a human resource problem at all.

The project is a collaboration between the University of Toronto Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, the Mennonite New Life Centre, the Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter, and the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC).

The project has twin visions:

·         A Canadian labour market that prospers from the full and meaningful integration of immigrants from all regions in the world

·         A Canada that respects, values and makes use of the international education, experience, and expertise of immigrants

Izumi Sakamoto and Lin Fang, both from University of Toronto Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, are the lead investigators for the project, which proposes to “deconstruct” the notion of Canadian experience to be able to reduce barriers to immigrants’ employment.

Barbara Hall, the former mayor of Toronto and the chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, was the keynote speaker at the event. She remarked, “Traditional thinking has always approached the problem from the perspective of human resources; a growing movement suggests that it must be thought of in terms of human rights.”

The impressive panel included Claude Balthazard, Vice President of Regulatory Affairs, Human Resources Professional Association; Avvy Go, Clinic Director, Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic; Amy Casipullai, Senior Coordinator, Policy and Communications, Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI); and Gerard Keledjian, Journalist & Writer, New Voices Magazine, Mennonite New Life Centre-Toronto.

-         New Canadian Media

Tuesday, 29 January 2013 00:24

PULSE: Ukraine

Written by

by Marika Washchyshyn

Ukrainians in Canada have always been dedicated to pressuring the Canadian government to maintain strong ties with Ukraine. Several Governors General, including Ray Hnatyshyn, Adrienne Clarkson and Michaëlle Jean have made visits to the country. More recently, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has made a concerted effort to keep ties with Ukraine strong, including a visit in 2010 and the deployment of a task force of over 500 volunteers to observe last October’s parliamentary elections in Ukraine.

Another example of Ukrainian-Canadian lobbying presents itself in the construction of the Canadian Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Many professionals and scholars of Ukrainian descent have pushed the museum, with success, to set up a permanent exhibition to the Holodomor of 1932-1933, Joseph Stalin’s man-made famine that took millions of Ukrainian lives.

Ukrainian-Canadian media in the latter part of 2012 focused on a few historical anniversaries along with present-day issues, including the 79th anniversary of the Holodomor, and the highly controversial parliamentary elections in October. Typical Ukrainian-Canadian media also highlighted major news stories in Ukraine to keep immigrants up to date with news in their homeland.

In July, a Ukraine-wide vote preceded the passing of a controversial law regarding Ukraine’s official languages. Many Ukrainian-Canadians came together in peaceful protest to raise awareness of the ever-oppressive Russian presence in the country, as posted by the “Kонгрес Yкраїнців Канади” (Ukrainian Canadian Congress).

Ukrainian weekly newspaper “Hовий Шлях” (New Pathway) spoke to UCC President Paul Grod about the importance of the Ukrainian voice in Canada, especially given the recent issue of marred parliamentary elections. “Гoмiн Yкраїни,” (Ukrainian Echo) another weekly paper, was also thorough in their coverage of Canadian involvement in the elections, including an interview with Member of Parliament James Bezan in which he thanked Canadian volunteers for their diligent work.

In November, weekly television program “Kонтакт” (Kontakt) aired a number of episodes pertaining to the anniversary of the famine-genocide in Ukraine, the Holodomor. Especially important to the Ukrainian-Canadian community is the dissemination of history and culture through their youth; a special segment by members of the Ukrainian-Canadian School Board was dedicated to teaching children about the Holodomor and other difficult subject matter. Newspaper “Гoмiн Yкраїни” provided a comprehensive account of the Holodomor, including a piece on the Annual Ukrainian Famine Lecture at the University of Toronto by Rutgers professor Alexander Motyl.

In keeping with the holiday spirit, new weekly television program Forum TV followed Ukrainian-Canadians during their preparations and celebrations of Christmas and New Year’s on the Julian Calendar. Many Ukrainians across the country attended New Year celebrations called “Malanka” during the month of January.

Ukrainian-Canadians are fiercely proud of their roots. This is evident especially in the most recent recipients of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. Lisa Shymko, Paul Grod, Father Roman Dusanowskyj, Dr. Borislaw Bilash, Lesia Szwaluk, Orest Steciw, Eugene Czolij, Dr. Roman Serbyn, Yurij Luhovy and Peter Kardasz are just some of the very deserving recipients of the prestigious medal for their contributions to the Ukrainian and Ukrainian-Canadian communities. Inga Bekbudova, a reporter at Kontakt, explained the importance of being recognized by the Canadian government.

“Some politicians like Ted Opitz (MP-Con), Peggy Nash (MP-NDP) and Donna Cansfield (MPP-Lib) have gotten close with Ukrainians because of all of their hard work,” Bekbudova said. “When Canadians with Ukrainian background get involved, they always draw back to their roots and use their heritage as a starting point to make changes in their field of work, which is a great way to change the future.”


(Marika Washchyshyn holds a Bachelor of Journalism from Carleton University in Ottawa. She is pursuing a career in broadcast television news, with plans to obtain a Masters of Global Affairs. Her experience includes stints in print, online and television media. She is a proud member of the Ukrainian-Canadian community in Toronto where she was born and raised.)

 

The Armenian Diaspora and Turkey’s civil society should work together to pressure the Turkish government to recognize the Armenian Genocide, a Turkish-German historian told the Armenian community in Toronto, ruling out that recognition would lead to comprehensive reparation.

“Armenia as a small nation does not have enough leverage to pressure Turkey,” said Taner Akcam, the first Turkish academic to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide. “In order to pressure Turkey there are two main mechanisms — one is the Diaspora and the second is the domestic opposition in Turkey. Unfortunately the Diaspora and the civil society in Turkey do not work together. This is the missing link.”

Up to a million and a half Armenians were massacred after 1915 as they were forced out of their homeland towards the Syrian desert during the First World War.

Akcam said he believed the Diaspora is currently putting pressure on the Turkish government in an indirect way when they urge their own governments to pressure Ankara and “mostly the U.S. and Canadian governments or other big powers use this Armenian asking for recognition for their political interests.” Akcam is a professor of Genocide Studies as well as the holder of the chair of Armenian Studies at Clark University, a private research university and liberal arts college in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Akcam made his comments at the start of a three-day event commemorating the sixth anniversary of the assassination of Turkish-Armenian journalist and human rights activist Hrant Dink. The event was jointly organized by the Toronto chapter of Hamazkayin Armenian Educational and Cultural Society and Bolsahye Cultural Association of Toronto.

Recognition of the Armenian Genocide will not eventually lead to full reparation, Ardahan-born Akcam told members of Canada’s second largest Armenian community. “You can never bring back what was lost,” he said, expressing hope a final solution would aim at creating a feeling of satisfaction among the Armenian people “at least with the majority of representatives from the state of Armenia and the Diaspora.”

Many Armenian political organizations in the Diaspora demand a restoration of the Turkish-Armenian border as demarcated by former U.S. President Woodrow Wilson in the 1920 Treaty of Sevres, and a hefty amount of cash reparations.

“There are several ways to compensate,” he said. “Turkey, for example, can open the port of Trabzon for Armenian exports and imports without any taxation.” Port of Trabzon is located on the southeastern shores of the Black Sea, 602 kilometers from Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. Most of Armenia’s imports and exports currently pass through the Georgian Port of Poti, 559 kilometers from Yerevan.

“I wish the best solution is to make the boundaries meaningless between Turkey and Armenia and that Armenians see Ararat as their own,” said Akcam, who earlier delivered a presentation on the English edition of his “The Young Turks’ Crime Against Humanity” book, first published in Turkish in 2008.

Present at the event were Donna Quan, the director of education at the Toronto District School Board, Harout Manougian, TDSB Trustee for Ward 17 and Robert Mewhinney, TDSB Program Coordinator for Social & World Studies & Humanities.

Akcam, who was arrested in 1974 at age 21 for participating in student protests against the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, said Turkish society has remarkably changed and become open. “Turkey now is not Turkey of 2007 or that of 1991 when I published my first book,” he said, noting that several television channels are inviting him to attend live debates on the legacy of Dink. “There is another Turkey now and it’s growing.”

Saturday, 19 January 2013 22:35

"We are Canadian, too," say Somali-Canadians

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Montreal − A new study published by the Institute for Research on Public Policy challenges the perception that the Somali Canadian community has failed to integrate into the wider society. Instead, its author finds that many young Somali Canadians have a strong attachment to Canada that is often accompanied by identification with Islam and with Somalia.

In her study “I Am Canadian: Challenging Stereotypes about Young Somali Canadians,” Rima Berns-McGown also reports that her in-depth interviews with young Somali Canadians demonstrated no widespread or significant support for the al-Shabaab movement in southern Somalia or any other organization that might threaten the public safety of Canadians.

Berns-McGown, who teaches diaspora studies at the University of Toronto, highlights some of the significant roadblocks young Somali Canadians often encounter, including the trauma that they and/or their families experienced in Somalia before leaving, racism in school and on the part of the police, and negative media coverage.

According to Berns-McGown, “social cohesion would be much better served if we addressed the specific challenges Somali Canadians continue to face, rather than stigmatizing the community and contributing to the criminalization of its youth.”

To that end, the author offers a number of proposals for school boards, law enforcement agencies, federal and provincial governments, and the media, such as targeted support for Somali Canadian youth and ways to address institutional barriers and stereotyping. “These measures could enhance Somali Canadians’ inclusion in the wider society and foster a balanced approach to public safety issues,” concludes Berns-McGown.

This study challenges the perceptions that the Somali Canadian community has failed to an unusual degree to integrate into the wider society. That this is the fault of the community itself and that this supposed failure represents a threat to Canadian security because of suggestions that some Somali Canadian youth have been lured to the radical extremism of the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab movement in southern Somalia, and because some have become involved in drug trafficking and street violence.

Drawing on her previous research and some 40 in-depth interviews with young Somali Canadians, Berns-McGown finds that most of these youth self-identify as Canadian and want very much to be a part of this country, which they see as their home. They also, and not in contradiction, feel strongly Muslim and Somali. Extensive quotations from the interviews provide insights about these multiple identities. To the extent that integration involves the identification of newcomers with their adopted home, most of these young Somalis appear to be integrating well.

But integration is a two-way street: it entails the willingness of new Canadians to embrace their new home and — equally significantly — the willingness of the wider society to lower the barriers to their becoming active and productive members of their adopted home. And in that regard, many young Somali Canadians encounter significant roadblocks that are not conducive to integration or social cohesion. These include systematic, institutional racism on the part of schools, police and intelligence agencies, and the media. In light of the significant challenges the Somali Canadian community has faced, the author’s assessment is that its achievements have been quite extraordinary.

Berns-McGown found no widespread or significant support for al-Shabaab or any other organization that threatens the public safety of Canadians, and she maintains that characterizations of the community as disengaged and a security threat are unwarranted and deeply problematic.

[“I Am Canadian: Challenging Stereotypes about Young Somali Canadians” by Rima Berns-McGown can be viewed at the Institute’s Web site (www.irpp.org)]

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