Arts & Culture

by Danica Samuel in Toronto 

A discussion on democratic transitions highlighted the need to include the role of women when examining how world leaders have created democratic societies around the world. 

The discussion took place at the launch of Democratic Transitions: Conversations with World Leaders, hosted on March 31 by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) at the University Club of Toronto. 

“The beauty of the book is that from nine case studies of nine countries, it addresses issues that should be looked at for future generations that get involved in these important democratic processes and transitions that take place all over the world at various times,” said IDRC President Jean Lebel. 

Between January 2012 and June 2013, co-editors Sergio Bitar and Abraham Lowenthal interviewed 13 world leaders on the processes of establishing democratic political systems during times of political upheaval and change. Former President of the Philippines, Fidel V. Ramos, former Prime Minister of Spain, Felipe González, and F.W. de Klerk, the last politician to serve as state president of South Africa during the apartheid era, were among those interviewed. 

“It’s the only book on transitions that have succeeded in four continents,” explained Bitar. “[These transitions] are described not by an academician or by a journalist, but by the leaders and presidents themselves.”  

Each chapter identifies the process and research that was conducted to address topics such as establishing trust, economic management and social mobilization. 

Single chapter on role of women

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“The fact that women are not incorporated anywhere in the world is problematic. We are still second-class citizens.”[/quote]

A popular topic of discussion among audience members at the book launch was the role of women in democratic transitioning. 

In the chapter “Women Activists in Democratic Transitions,” Georgina Waylen, professor of politics at the University of Manchester, examines how women supported and enhanced political participation by different social groups and promoted policies that strengthened women’s rights and gender equality. 

“Many women who actively sought to ensure positive gender outcomes during transitions were active in social movements, the bureaucracy and academia – not just in political parties or in the inner circles of men who became democratic presidents when elections were held,” writes Waylen. 

Professor Ana Isla of Brock University said she was confused as to why there was a separate researcher responsible for examining the role of women. 

“Why weren’t these world leaders and representatives able to answer questions when it comes to women?” asked Isla during the question-and-answer period. 

“Every aspect of society is intersected by women’s issues,” she continued. “The fact that women are not incorporated anywhere in the world is problematic. We are still second-class citizens.” 

Isla said there is already a plethora of woman making an impact.  She mentioned the uprising of women organizations and social movements in Latin America as recent examples.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“It’s the power of women that must change politics and change men.”[/quote]

“All these women initiated the transition from dictatorship to democracy,” she said. However, they are the ones who are missing in this book because instead of looking at the women or the social movements, the focus is on the [men in power] who were able to change their minds.” 

Leaders ignore role of women

The book’s introduction notes, “Unfortunately, there are no surviving women leaders of these transitions, and few of our interviewees provided much insight about women’s participation in them.”

Bitar confirmed that male leaders are very reluctant to have a conversation about women’s contributions to democratic transitions. 

“Normally, the response is, ‘These women are coming again with the same story, and we have to listen,’” Bitar said, imitating the male leaders interviewed. 

He went on to explain that the male leaders usually assume the women think they are not relevant to the process of improving democracy, or that if they become powerful, they will not allow men to act or decide on policies. 

“It’s the power of women that must change politics and change men,” said Bitar. “It takes lots of time, but we have realized that better democracies exist when there are more women participants in policies and law-making.” 

Democracy a tool, not a solution

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Democracy is only a tool … It doesn’t solve everything.”[/quote]

Bitar said he and Lowenthal learned that every leader possessed the courage to take risks during times when their families, friends and colleagues were being killed or in danger. 

“All of them had to combat fear – a very important element in the hands of any dictator,” he said. “Fighting against fear was something we found very prevalent.” 

Researchers and influencers like Lebel and Bitar, who is also president of Chile’s Foundation for Democracy, said they know that democracy isn’t the solution to problems such as gender inequality, poverty, and environmental destruction. 

“If we all took on democracy, someone naïve will say the world will be much better,” said Lebel. 

“Democracy is only a tool … it doesn’t solve everything, but it gives the opportunity to have people speaking freely, institutions that are strong and take care of problems, avoid inequity, and transform social problems.”


{module NCM Blurb} 

by Rosanna Haroutounian in Quebec City 

The 75th anniversary of the Battle of Hong Kong is being commemorated across Canada by veterans and survivors of Japanese occupation and their families. About 2,000 Canadians fought to defend Hong Kong against Japanese occupation in Canada’s first combat mission of the Second World War.

“They were relatively inexperienced. A lot of them were new recruits,” says Patrick Donovan, curator of the exhibit Hong Kong and the Home Front at the Morrin Centre in Québec City, Quebec. “A lot of them learned to fire their rifles on the boat ride over.”

The Royal Rifles of Canada, Quebec City’s main English-speaking regiment, and the Winnipeg Grenadiers were sent to Hong Kong in fall of 1941 to join a battalion of commonwealth forces totalling 14,000 troops.

On December 8, 1941, Japanese aircraft began attacking Hong Kong. A day earlier, they had attacked Pearl Harbor. The defence of Hong Kong ended almost three weeks later when Canadian and other defending troops were forced to surrender. Among Canadian troops, 290 were killed and 493 were wounded.

Hong Kong and several other countries and territories were occupied by Japan for the duration of the war. On November 4, 1948, the International Military Tribunals for the Far East found 25 Japanese military and government officials guilty of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity during the Second World War.

Personal experiences of war

“The occupation is something we never talk about,” says Sovita Chander, whose father grew up in Japanese-occupied British Malay. The former president of the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec, which runs the Morrin Centre, Chander says she learned about this period of her father’s life through his memoirs.

“I can't imagine my own children — now in university — having to go through that, and my heart goes out to my parents who were so young at that time,” says Chander.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“A lot of them learned to fire their rifles on the boat ride over.”[/quote]

Her father’s memoirs describe how at the age of six, he and his family spent a day in an underground shelter as the Japanese army passed overhead. The next day, he watched his father stay with a dying Indian soldier, who he buried the next day.

A poster recalls the Battle of Hong Kong to enlist new recruits to join the Royal Rifles of Canada, based in Quebec City. Source: Canadian Museum of History.

“Despite the atrocities, horror, and depravation, he held no animosity for the former occupiers,” says Chander of her father, noting that Malaya was also a British colony. “He developed an international outlook that was liberal and tolerant.”

Chander says it’s important to tell the story of the people from the Québec City region who were in Hong Kong, including some people who were involved with the Morrin Centre at the time. 

Remembering tragedy

“We tend to focus a lot on the victories of the war and it tends to glorify the whole business of war,” says Donovan of the Centre’s exhibit. “It's important to look at some of the defeats, and this story is a tragedy.”

He says the soldiers who were not killed were held in Japanese Prisoner of War camps for the duration of the War. Many prisoners died of malnutrition or diseases related to lack of food.

According to Veterans Affairs Canada, more than 550 of the almost 2,000 Canadians who went to Hong Kong never returned.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“It's important to look at some of the defeats, and this story is a tragedy.”[/quote]

“The Japanese still have not come to terms with what they did in the Second World War,” says Judy Lam Maxwell, whose mother lived under Japanese occupation in Hong Kong as a child.

“She had told me that because her father was a doctor, he could hide the kids in the hospital and they would be safe from harm,” says Lam Maxwell. “My mom, her siblings, and her mom are fortunate to have survived.” She says that her grandfather, or Goong Goong, was tortured by the Japanese, but also survived.

Commemorating the Battle

Lam Maxwell heard the stories of other survivors when she travelled to Hong Kong with ex-servicemen from Canada several years ago. She collected newspaper articles from Canada and Hong Kong that will be part of an exhibit at Centre A in Vancouver, B.C. later this year to commemorate the Battle of Hong Kong.

“Many of the Canadians and immigrants from Hong Kong living in Canada do not know this history and it’s important for museums and historians to share the significant link between Canada and Hong Kong,” says King Wan, president of the Chinese Canadian Military Museum Society.

The Chinese Canadian Military Museum in Vancouver will showcase “Force 136” on May 14 as part of Asian Heritage Month to commemorate Chinese-Canadians who joined the Special Operations Executive in East Asia during the war.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Many prisoners died of malnutrition or diseases related to lack of food.[/quote]

He notes that at the time, people of Chinese descent were prohibited from joining Canada’s armed forces. While many were rejected, recruiters who were eager to meet quotas accepted some Chinese-Canadians who enlisted.

The policy against Chinese recruitment was rescinded after the British government pressured the Canadian government to recruit Chinese-Canadians, as they could easily assimilate into East-Asian society and work for the army undercover. More than 700 Chinese-Canadians joined the Canadian army, mostly in British Columbia.

The museum will also commemorate the Battle of Hong Kong with another exhibit in the fall.

For Wan, whose family immigrated to Canada from Hong Kong, he feels these events are especially important so that we remember the service of both Chinese and Canadian soldiers who served in Asia and in the Battle of Hong Kong.

A poster recalls the Battle of Hong Kong to enlist new recruits to join the Royal Rifles of Canada, based in Quebec City. Source: Canadian Museum of History.

 {module NCM Blurb}

by Shan Qiao in Toronto 

A campaign to collect books and other resources to enhance educational opportunities for black children in Toronto is gaining support, while the Black Lives Matter Toronto continues to challenge anti-Black racism in the city. 

A book drive took place recently at A Different Booklist, an independent bookstore in Toronto. It encouraged people to purchase books and donate them to Black Lives Matter Freedom School, a summer program focused on teaching black children aged four to 10 about black liberation history. 

“[Children of African descent] do not get exposed enough, if at all, to the history of blacks in Canada or North America and around the world during the regular school year,” said Natasha Henry, an elementary school teacher and author. “The book drive is a way to engage them in their learning, contributing to the community, and really empowering them with knowledge that will help them to continue their education, whether at school or in the community.” 

Movement targets education, police 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“We’re fighting for justice, freedom and dignity for all black people.”[/quote]

LeRoi Newbold, a director of Black Lives Matter Toronto and the organizer of the book drive, said the black community should have control over what black children are learning, independently from school boards. 

“In Toronto, 40 per cent of black children did not graduate from high school,” said Newbold. While that number has decreased recently, black students still experience high suspension rates and low graduation rates. 

“It’s alarming and unacceptable,” said Newbold. “We’re not waiting for that system to change. We’re creating our own schools, our own institutions.” 

Black Lives Matter Toronto is also collecting resources for the school through an online Indiegogo fundraising campaign. To date, the campaign has raised $10,361. 

Not far from the upbeat book drive that had a few dozen people packed into the tiny single-unit bookstore, Black Lives Matter Toronto protested for the seventh day in-a-row outside Toronto Police Service headquarters to draw attention to anti-black racism in the city.

The demonstrations began in part to protest the Special Investigations Unit’s decision not to lay charges against a Toronto officer who fatally shot 45-year-old Sudanese immigrant Andrew Loku. The group also announced a lawsuit against the Toronto Police Service for allegedly raiding and searching the home of Jean Montaque, a black mother, without warrant. 

“We’re fighting for justice, freedom and dignity for all black people, and the right for black people to not experience violence [at] the hands of the police force,” Newbold said of the protest. 

Teaching the history of black activism 

[Block quote: sharing a pioneering black activist’s accomplishments and legacy show how the struggling for freedom has evolved over time.] 

Henry was one of the presenters at the book drive, held on Mar 24. She wrote Firsts and African Diaspora as part a 15-book series on black heritage in Canada and around the world. 

“Often of times, historians are very interested in the past, yet young people will say ‘What does that have to do with us today?’” Henry told the crowd. “So it’s very important that we provide the historical context, but mix it with what is going on today in our communities and around the world.” 

In Firsts, Henry focuses on many “firsts” in the African-Canadian community and other African diaspora communities. The cover features an image of Michaëlle Jean, the first black person to serve as Governor General of Canada. 

“When we’re looking at the markers of ‘the first’ African descent, it gets us to think critically about why some of these ‘firsts’ are just happening in the 21st century, despite the fact that Africans have been in Canada since the 16th century,” Henry said. She described how the stories of “firsts” began a legacy of anti-black racism and how that is manifesting itself today. 

“Whether it is over-policing, police brutality, the unemployment rate of young black people – which is much higher than the general population – student dropout rates… these are all a legacy of how black people have been marginalized,” she says. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“What happens to one group affects all of us in different ways.”[/quote]

Henry read a part from the book about Viola Desmond, who was a black businesswoman born and raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia. In the 1940s, Desmond fought for her right to sit on the main floor of a movie theatre after being told it was reserved solely for white patrons. Henry stressed that sharing a pioneering black activist’s accomplishments and legacy show how the struggle for freedom has evolved over time. 

Community’s struggles not isolated 

Another presenter, Nadia Hohn, demonstrated traditional African songs and dances during the book drive. Born to Jamaican parents, she is now an elementary school teacher and author and uses traditional music as a teaching tool for kindergarten children. 

“We want our freedom and to live in dignity,” she sang to the crowd, holding one wrist with the other hand, then taking them apart to demonstrate freedom. 

“There are many different groups in Canada that have experienced different degrees of discrimination,” Hohn said. “What happens to one group affects all of us in different ways. It might not be a direct impact, but it has ripple effects on others.” 

Similarly, improvements in one community also have a positive impact on others, she added.


{module NCM Blurb} 

by Elvira Truglia in Montreal

On one of the final stops during its two-year, cross-country “Our Canada” workshop series, the Canadian Race Relations Foundation (CRRF) held an open conversation about faith and social inclusion in Montreal last month.

According to Thomas Gallezot, francophone communities and outreach project officer for the organization, the CRRF aims to promote diversity and social inclusion through community dialogue. The objective of the workshop is to improve the ability of participants to manage workplace and community situations arising “out of conflicting religious practices and cultural values.”

While still predominantly Christian (65.8 per cent), more Montrealers now affiliate with religions other than Christianity (Islam: 9.6 per cent, Judaism: 2.4 per cent, Hinduism: 1.4 per cent, Buddhism: 2 per cent) according to the 2011 Census.

As non-Christian religions have become more visible, debates about culture, faith and values have heated up in Quebec’s public sphere. The proposed 2013 Quebec Charter of Values was an attempt to draw lines in the sand about secularism.

Most recently, a Quebec Human Rights Commission survey on diversity showed that 45 per cent of respondents had a negative view of religion. Forty-three per cent said people should be suspicious of anyone who expresses their religion openly, and 48.9 per cent said they were bothered by women wearing a veil.

Obstacles to social inclusion

A multi-faith panel, including Imam Shaykh Omar Koné, Rabbi Reuben Joshua Poupko, Father Engelbert Fotsing, Reverend Wilner Cayo, and David-Roger Gagnon, former spiritual and community animator at the English Montreal School Board (EMSB) discussed whether faith is an obstacle to social inclusion during the workshop.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Networking at an after-work “5-à-7” (Happy Hour) is a common practice in Montreal, but “to go with work colleagues is problematic when you are practising Muslim who doesn’t drink.”[/quote]

In the Muslim community, Koné said negotiating how to co-exist in a Judeo-Christian world is not always easy when your way of living is different than the majority. Networking at an after-work “5-à-7” (Happy Hour) is a common practice in Montreal, but “to go with work colleagues is problematic when you are practising Muslim who doesn’t drink,” he explained.

Optics is another challenge. “Employment, which is the first factor in integration, is problematic when we have a name that sounds Arab-Muslim,” Koné added.

Recent statistics back this up. Visible minorities make up 31 per cent of Montreal’s population, but they represent only 11 per cent of the City of Montreal’s workforce. The unemployment rate of North African immigrant women in Montreal is five times greater than women who are not visible minorities.

Poupko said recognizing different beliefs and believers is “vital to communal harmony.”

“Last year a young woman came to see me, a medical resident at the Royal Victoria Hospital. She's Jewish, but she doesn't look Jewish,” he shared.

The student told her supervisor that she was going to Jewish General Hospital on her medical rounds. Poupko said the supervisor responded, “I can't stand those people, they are so aggressive.”

The next day, the student arrived at work wearing a large Star of David. The employer was left speechless. 

“Anytime this [kind of thing] happens we’re still shocked by it,” said Poupko. “We all know this woman is going to be fine, she’s going to be a doctor … she's going to have a prosperous, secure life … no police is going to pull her over … because she looks suspicious.”

He said the doctor’s comments don’t compare to the discrimination and violence other minorities face in Quebec and across Canada.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"[I]t’s not necessarily their religion or their culture that people sometimes react to, but is the fact that they are spiritual or religious at all.”[/quote]

Gagnon wants people to understand, “that it’s not necessarily their religion or their culture that people sometimes react to, but is the fact that they are spiritual or religious at all.”

He says this has to do with Quebec’s particular history and break with the Catholic Church after the Quiet Revolution. That “left deep scars,” said Gagnon. Acknowledging this history “will help the dialogue,” he added.

Best practices

There was consensus among the panelists that schools are the best place to be pro-active.

Gagnon gave credit to Quebec’s Spiritual and Community Animation program in elementary and secondary schools. As a former spiritual and community animator at the EMSB, he said focusing on spirituality rather than religion provides “a window to talk about what we have in common.”

The program was introduced after Bill 118 (2000) deconfessionalized public school boards and introduced a mandate to promote diversity and pluralism.

“There’s always this push and pull,” said Poupko. “I think it has do with asking what’s reasonable and expecting a common sense response.”

That’s the approach Cristina Bajenaru takes as Project Coordinator at the Centre d’Encadrement pour Jeunes Femmes Immigrantes, a community organization that helps young immigrant women integrate.

Bajenaru said her clientele comes from 60 countries so she has to take a common sense approach to accommodation. If her training workshops coincide with Muslim holidays, she explained, “I can’t tell them to come, but I can’t tell them not to come either.” She said she lets them decide, and roughly half the class ends up staying home.

Through community consultations, the CRRF compiled dozens of other real scenarios that have come up in workplaces across the country. These are included in the Faith and Belonging Toolkit, a resource for workshop participants to encourage discussion and develop appropriate responses to accommodation.

Using the resource, Gagnon said he was impressed at the ability of the group to come up with solutions to complex scenarios.

“Spirituality in the public sphere, in [the] workplace, in society, when we talk about it reasonably and calmly, we find solutions,” he said.


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by Susan Korah in Ottawa 

“We’ve never had a wide-ranging public debate on what kind of immigrants we need in this country,” says Valerie Knowles, author of Strangers at our Gates: Canadian Immigration and Immigration Policy, 1540 to 2015. “It’s something that’s long overdue,” she adds. 

Originally published in 1988, the fourth edition of Strangers at our Gates was recently released by Dundurn Press. Knowles explains that while researching the subject of immigration, it became obvious to her that successive governments have made announcements – for example on the number of immigrants that Canada would accept - without ever engaging the public in a discussion that is so critical to the very fabric of the nation. 

“It’s an emotionally charged issue and a difficult portfolio for any [immigration] minister,” she responds, when asked why Canadian politicians and policymakers have shied away from such a public debate. 

Leading source on immigration history

Knowles’ book, however, is not a critique of any one government’s immigration policy or practices. Nor does it deal with the stories of individual immigrants or refugees, fascinating as many of them are. Nevertheless, it is a highly readable book. 

A wide-ranging survey of Canadian immigration history from a public policy perspective, it is a cross between an academic thesis and a popular narrative. Written in a reader-friendly, high-end journalistic style, its content is substantiated by an extensive bibliography, endnotes, and interviews with key policymakers and academics. 

“It’s the standard reference tool and the textbook of choice on immigration,” says Mike Molloy, President of the Canadian Immigration Historical Society. Molloy notes that the book – unlike many others on the same subject – is remarkably free from bitter arguments over minute distinctions or moral judgements taken out of historical context. 

Indeed, Knowles is as objective as possible on a subject that can be a political and emotional minefield, carefully avoiding direct criticism of any government’s policy or practices. 

Originally published in 1988 in response to a publisher’s request for a ‘survey’ history of Canadian immigration in 200 pages, the latest edition, released in 2016, is intended to cover the years since 2006 under the Conservative government of Stephen Harper. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“I will give Jason Kenney credit for making a concerted effort to woo the ethnic community.”[/quote]

Too early to assess Trudeau 

Knowles says that she failed to get an interview for the new edition with Jason Kenney, who was Immigration Minister from 2008 to 2013, despite sending him a copy of the earlier version of her book. 

Questioned about her opinion on the differences between the Conservative government and the newly elected Liberal government’s approach to immigration, she says carefully: “It’s early days and too soon to form an opinion. I’d like to have a clearer picture before I make any judgement. However, restoring health benefits to refugee claimants is a positive move.” 

“I will give Jason Kenney credit for making a concerted effort to woo the ethnic community,” she says. “Kenny embraced the portfolio with an enthusiasm that few immigration ministers ever did. It’s a difficult portfolio to fill.” 

Kenney’s successor, the “controversial” Chris Alexander was not interviewed either. 

The diversity divide 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“These trends, which have transformed Canada into a truly global village, are now too strong to turn back.”[/quote]

The last chapter of the book entitled, “Issues in the Twenty First Century,” is a balanced presentation of pro and anti-immigration advocates’ arguments. Indeed, it could be an effective launching pad for the very debate that Knowles says has been a glaring gap in Canadian public discourse. 

One myth that Knowles firmly debunks is the contention that immigrants “steal” jobs from established Canadians. 

“Research indicates that immigration does not cause unemployment, although the now-defunct Economic Council of Canada suggested that very rapid increases in immigration may lead to temporary rises in unemployment,” she writes. 

Another equally significant question she raises in the same chapter relates to how we manage diversity. 

“For the last four decades we have welcomed a steady stream of newcomers from Asia, the Middle East and Africa, most of whom have settled in Canada’s largest cities, Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. These trends, which have transformed Canada into a truly global village, are now too strong to turn back.” 

With this statement, Knowles highlights a point that is rarely discussed. She quotes Larry Bourne, a University of Toronto geographer and urban planner who observed; “We are turning a half-dozen cities into intensely multicultural and multilingual places and creating these fantastically vibrant, but under-serviced, cities while the rest of the country remains homogenous with a declining and aging population.” 

Knowles goes on to report that in Bourne’s view, these two demographic solitudes are more important than the East-West divide. 

Knowles modestly disclaims any “expertise” on the subject, pointing out that she is not an academic. Her research, however, is meticulous and her facts are well documented in her endnotes. 

Indeed, Strangers at our Gates: Canadian Immigration Policy, 1540-2015 Fourth Edition, deserves a wider audience and could serve as a useful starting point of research for all those who shape Canada’s immigration and refugee policies.


Susan Korah is a Canadian journalist and communications professional of South Asian descent with over 20 years of experience. Her work has appeared in The Toronto StarSoutham News Services, Catholic Register, Anglican Journal, The Intelligencer and The Trentonian. She has worked in communications for the Parliament of Canada, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office and for Initiatives of Change International.

{module NCM Blurb}

by Melissa Shaw in Vancouver 

The latest instalment of the Institute of Ismaili Studies’ Muslim Heritage Series aims to provide a deeper understanding of Shia Islam, the Muslim religion’s second-largest community. 

About 100 people gathered at the Ismaili Centre in Burnaby, B.C., for the launch of the series’ fourth volume, The Shi'i World: Pathways in Tradition and Modernity. 

Simon Fraser University (SFU) Department of History professor Derryl MacLean said the essay collection explores the memory of tradition, present influences, and implications for the future. 

Dr. Bashir Jiwani, honourary secretary for the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board for Canada said the book helps fill a knowledge gap. 

“[The book aims] to enliven the idea of Shia Islam in particular and the multiplicity of ways in which it is expressed,” Jiwani said. 

Reinventing old traditions 

The Shi'i World's cover features a painting depicting a music lesson from a Persian book of philosophical ethics, the Akhlaq-i Nasiri. One of the book’s co-editors, Dr. Amyn B. Sajoo, said this image was chosen because religion and culture are entwined. 

Sajoo said the observance of Ashura, a day of mourning for the murder of Prophet Muhammad's grandson Husayn during the Battle of Karbala in the seventh century, is an example of how culture can be linked to religious expression. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“[The book aims] to enliven the idea of Shia Islam in particular and the multiplicity of ways in which it is expressed.”[/quote]

Caribbean Muslims have a culture of celebration and observe Ashura through private recollection followed by a party involving Shia and Sunni Muslims, Christians and atheists. In parts of Europe and North America, Shia Muslims commemorate the martyrdom through a blood drive, he said. 

MacLean introduced Pomona College religious studies professor Zayn Kassam's essay, “Remembering Fatima and Zainab”, as an example of Shia identity linked to memory. 

Sajoo said after Saddam Hussein's repression in Iraq, Iraqi women in Norway, Sweden and Denmark formed mourning circles, similar to the ceremonies held during Muharram to remember the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, a relative of two female figures in Islam, Fatima and Zainab. 

“They imagine what Zainab must have felt when she lost her family at Karbala,” said Maclean. “So you are now going to empathize with her and then you will mourn what you lost in your country because of the dictator in Iraq.” 

Challenging stereotypes 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“We have to acknowledge that it's easy to box Iran as Shia and box Saudi Arabia as Sunni.”[/quote]

In The Shi'i World, University of Edinburgh Persian and Film Studies professor Nacim Pak-Shiraz analyzes how religious themes challenge society through film. 

The 2001 film Baran tells the story of a girl who dresses as a boy to work on a construction site in Tehran. 

Pak-Shiraz argues that the scene where a boy accidentally sees the girl's long hair has the spiritual meaning of unveiling and accessing the individual behind the screen. Sajoo said the film is a comment on women's roles in Iranian society. 

He said another example is the 2004 Iranian film Marmoulak, which is a comedy about a prisoner pretending to be a priest who fools the guards into listening to his fabricated sermons. 

Sajoo said the film was banned in Iran a week after its release due to its “tough social commentary,” which contributed to its popularity amongst the Muslim diaspora. 

“[Globalization is] empowering the periphery. It doesn't work anymore to say the centre is Iran and Lebanon and so on, and everybody else is out there in the margins,” Sajoo said. 

According to a 2009 study from the Pew Research Centre, 10 to 15 per cent of the world’s total Muslim population are Shia Muslims, while 87 to 90 per cent are Sunni Muslims. Over 60 per cent of the global Muslim population lives in Asia and about 20 per cent live in the Middle East and North Africa. 

SFU student Shazia Nanjijuma said events like the book launch engage with the history of Islam, addressing the knowledge gap and challenging people's assumptions and stereotypes about the faith. 

“We have to acknowledge that it's easy to box Iran as Shia and box Saudi Arabia as Sunni,” said Nanjijuma. “That makes it easy for us to kind of grapple with it, but the truth is there's so much more behind that.” 

Addressing centuries-old rifts 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Shias are a minority and should embrace “cosmopolitanism.”[/quote]

Sajoo's essay in the book discusses the creation of Aligarh Muslim University in India. He said the community criticized a Shia imam, Aga Khan III, for advocating and fundraising for the creation of a university instead of a Shia college. 

“He was arguing, ‘Why don't you make the case for respecting pluralist Muslim identity within Aligarh?’” Sajoo said, adding that the Aga Khan expressed similar thoughts during his speech to Canadian Parliament in 2014. 

“What he was saying is, you are not more or less Canadian if you are a Muslim or Shia. That your Shia identity essentially has to be part of your Canadian identity and vice-versa.” 

Sajoo adds that Shias are a minority and should embrace “cosmopolitanism.” 

“It's a genuine acceptance of other people's ways, ethical ways, of looking at the world,” he said.

Editor's Note: This is an updated version of the story as the previous one contained factual errors. NCM regrets these errors and apologizes for any inconvenience.


{module NCM Blurb}

Friday, 01 April 2016 05:14

Resettlement Woes: Men Struggle to Find Identity

Written by

 by Daniel Leon Rodriguez in Calgary 

Many immigrant men feel isolated, fearful and lost upon arrival in Canada, according to multiple researchers and social agencies in the country.

Vic Lantion, a program coordinator with the Ethno-Cultural Council of Calgary (ECCC), explains that many of his clients are men suffering from clinical depression. 

“They wake up at 3 a.m. asking themselves, ‘What I’m doing here?’” says Lantion. 

Lantion explains that these men often struggle to cope with their ethnic and cultural expectations, which are often distorted during their resettlement process. After immigrating, they and their wives often find jobs or new avenues of social expression that might not have existed in their home countries.

At the same time, however, a lack of research on how immigrant men handle these changes makes it difficult to resolve these issues.

Immigrant men hesitate to reach out

Even when they’re struggling with mental health issues, many of these men might not ask for help because their culture sees it as weakness. “Man from visible minorities have more societal pressure not to seek support,” says Lantion.

Only 25 per cent of immigrants seek support with social agencies, and most of them are women, according to Lantion. This puts male newcomers at a disadvantage because they aren’t receiving the support they need to overcome the challenges of resettlement. 

Back in their home countries, these men also enjoy a certain respect and prestige connected with their careers—one which that they might lose in Canada when forced to take other jobs, explains Lantion. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]A lack of research on how immigrant men handle these changes makes it difficult to resolve these issues.[/quote]

“If you’re highly educated, you have a hard time accepting you’re not a doctor or a lawyer anymore,” says Lantion, who adds men are psychologically affected by underemployment and the challenges of getting their credentials recognized. 

“Men are having a cultural shock in regards [to] their gender identity and values,” he says.

Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association (CIWA) CEO Beba Svigir, says men don’t seek help as often as their wives due to many reasons. 

One reason she cites is that some men don’t trust government and social agencies: “Men feel very uncomfortable because they feel the government [might] undermine their authority.”

Immigrant women are more successful than men

From his experience working with Ethiopian, Somali, Filipino and other immigrant communities in Calgary, Lantion found that men were worse off after resettling in Canada compared to women. “In the long term, immigrant women are being more successful than men,” he says.

In their traditional family roles, immigrant men are often pressured to be family providers. Meanwhile, women are expected to take care of the children. Because immigrant women tend to have more free time, they attend social programs, improving their language and their employment skills, says Lantion.  

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“In the long term, immigrant women are being more successful than men."[/quote]

“Culturally, men are supposed to be the providers,” says Priyadarshini Kharat, a counsellor at the University of Calgary, who found in her PhD research that ethnic men were afraid of being ashamed and ostracized by their communities for not fulfilling their roles as breadwinners.

Svigir agrees with Lantion that women are often more successful than men. She says men feel more “entitled” to cling to their careers than women, which creates self-esteem problems.

Women in the workplace

Lantion says this doesn’t happen to the same extent with women, as their identities aren’t tied to their profession, but to their role as mothers: “When women move to Canada, no one can take away their identity as a mothers.”

David Este, a University of Calgary social work professor, has conducted research on immigrant male refugees over the last 16 years. He says many ethnic men see themselves as failures if their spouse has to work, which is often the case in cities like Calgary, which are expensive to live in. 

Women sometimes find work easier than men as they’re more flexible at the time of employment, says Este. “Women are more pragmatic; they need to work to survive economically.”

“Women are very resilient and they will do whatever to succeed," says Svigir, who adds that female immigrants are open to seeking help, changing careers and accepting any job for the well-being of their children.  

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Many ethnic men see themselves as failures if their spouse has to work.[/quote]

Este says men struggle more to adjust their newly necessary responsibilities. “Immigrant men in Canada are doing domestic chores they would never do in their home countries,” he states.

He adds that back in their countries, couples would get support from extended family members to raise their children—something not available in Canada.

“There is a [saying]: ‘It takes a village to raise a child,’” says Este. 

 Men traditionally ignored by the research community

“There is a humongous gap in the research about immigrant men,” says Kharat, who did her PhD research on intimate partner violence among immigrants from South Asia in Canada.

Because this demographic is often neglected by the research community, there is a lack of understanding of how the immigration process influences the well-being of men as well as their likelihood to commit domestic violence, says Kharat. 

Lantion echoes Kharat, saying there are few if any studies on how men are adapting to egalitarian values.

Last year, this gap lead to the creation of a survey by multiple Alberta social agencies, including the ECCC, to better understand the barriers immigrant men face when resettling.

Preliminary results found that 96 per cent of men said it was important to have support, but only one in four men knew of any support service for men in Canada.

This is the third part in a three-part series on changing family dynamics and what it means for women immigrants in Canada. The first part and second parts discuss how women are socially and economically empowered once they reach Canada. If you are an immigrant who has experienced significant social change in your life after arriving in Canada, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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by Tazeen Inam in Mississauga 

Pakistani women enjoy more autonomy in the home and greater overall life satisfaction in Canada compared to what they experienced back home, a new study suggests.

According to "Perceptions of Autonomy and Life Satisfaction in Pakistani Married Immigrant Women in Toronto, Canada" this greater sense of satisfaction is directly associated with these women’s sense of autonomy.

Authors Michaela Hynie, associate professor at York University, and Tahira Jibeen, assistant professor at COMSATS Institute of Technology in Lahore, explain that this freedom has many facets. For many, this includes the economic opportunities that Western societies offer women — opportunities women who come from patriarchal cultures might not have had before.

Fauzia, a resident of Mississauga who immigrated to Canada from Pakistan 14 years ago with her husband and three children, has been driving a school bus since September, 2015. She agrees with the results of the report.

“Things have changed in Pakistan, but I don’t think that still any woman would drive a school bus [as] conveniently and willfully as here,” she says.

Pursuing passions in Canada

Fauzia shares that she found her passion for driving at a very young age, before she got married. For her, driving a public transport vehicle is a decision she could only have made here in Canada.

“If I was in Pakistan, I wouldn’t think of doing something like this,” she adds. “It requires lots of guts and being too daring to break through the cultural norms.”

Hynie and Jibeen’s report highlights the importance that in-laws play in maintaining traditional family roles in Pakistani culture. It states “the goal of the study was to explore the relationship between family structures and autonomy among married immigrant Pakistani women.”

It also investigated “the role that these variables play in their evaluation of their life satisfaction prior to migration, in Pakistan, and post-migration in Canada."

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“If I was in Pakistan, I wouldn’t think of doing something like this."[/quote]

The report found that when women lived with their in-laws, even in Canada, their autonomy was more restricted than when they lived only with their husband and children.

While Fauzia has been able to pursue this opportunity now that she's away from her in-laws, she says her own family back home still makes fun of her occupation. 

“Even in Pakistan, if I tell family and friends, they look down on such a job and laugh at it. However, I tell them proudly that I am Canadian and we are proud to do whatever we feel like,” she says.

Job opportunities and education levels

Naheed, who came to Canada from the Middle East six years ago and also drives a bus, has had an experience similar to Fauzia’s. However, she says that when her in-laws resist her occupation, she is often able to convince them that this is a good opportunity.

“Education and logic plays vital part. Now its up to you [to] either convince others or get convinced, so I usually convince others with logic,” she says.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Immigrant women are more likely to have completed university than women born in Canada.[/quote]

Over the last decade, the emphasis on educational and occupational qualifications when selecting immigrants has meant that the lead applicant’s spouse (often the female) has to fulfill a certain educational criteria as well as pass a language proficiency test to be accepted.

In part as a result of this focus, immigrant women are more likely to have completed university than women born in Canada.

Even though her current job might not be considered white collar, Naheed says, “I don’t believe in class of work. It’s better to work hard and earn than to beg.”

The role of Islam

While speaking about the role of religion, both drivers, who are Muslim and wear headscarves, believe that Islam does not restrict the ability of women to work.

“Islam doesn’t restrict women to work, but what it asks is to limit yourself within Shariah,” says Fauzia.  

“Even when I used to drive a simple car in Pakistan a long time ago, it was considered odd and people used to take it as a bad thing. So it’s our cultural problem, not religious,” she states.

Support from husbands

While they’ve faced opposition from family, both Naheed and Fauzia say their husbands have supported their desire to pursue their passions and find jobs.

Because the women are employed, they can assist in financially supporting the family. Still, balancing their time is very important since they must take care of the children.

“[My] husband and kids are supportive as their only concern is my availability. My husband always asked me to look for a job that [didn’t mean you] ignore your kids and household responsibilities, as our kids are our priority,” says Fauzia.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Their husbands have supported their desire to pursue their passions and find jobs.[/quote]

Hynie and Jibeen’s report concludes that women may be happier in more egalitarian marriages, regardless of where they reside.

However, it cautions against imposing Western values and ideologies on immigrant communities. 

It suggests instead that supporting women to negotiate their own forms of autonomy in their interpersonal lives might increase women’s life satisfaction more than importing Western structures.

Naheed is happy that in her current job she still has ample opportunity to relax and spend time with her 12-year-old daughter. She also relishes the authority it gives her.

 “I feel like a king, when traffic stops all around my bus when I put up the signals,” she concludes.

This is the second part in a three-part series on changing family dynamics and what it means for women immigrants in Canada. The first part, "In Canada, South Asian Women Find Social Freedom", discusses how women are socially empowered once they reach Canada. If you are an immigrant who has experienced significant social change in your life after arriving in Canada, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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by Samaah Jaffer in Vancouver 

Near the old Jewish quarter of Baghdad, at Al Rasheed Street, there is a meandering alley named after the Iraqi poet Al Mutanabbi,” read Shawk Alani, the organizer of the ninth Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here” reading in Vancouver. 

The reading, quoting Phillip Robertson’s 2005 report, “The death of Al Mutanabbi Street,” was the first of many during an evening in commemoration of Iraqi literature. 

On Mar. 5, 2007, a car bomb devastated the famous bookselling street. Since 2007, writers, activists and artists have marked the anniversary of the attack with literary readings as part of a project called “Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here.” Spearheaded locally by the Pandora’s Collective at the invitation of founder Beau Beausoleil,  the annual event has  included readings from Vancouver writers like Bonnie Nish and Hadani Ditmars.

This year, readings were held in over 20 cities across North America, Europe and the Middle East. 

“I think the idea of Al-Mutanabbi Street ‘starting here,’ is to put context to history, and to say that these issues are not just issues that are local,” said Shawk, who prefers to be referred to using her first name. “These politics cross borders, there is relationships between what happens here and what happens in Iraq.” 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]During Saddam Hussein’s reign, writers and intellectuals were servants of the state who produced literature praising the regime, for which they were rewarded.[/quote]

Recreating Al-Mutanabbi 

The evening at Simon Fraser University’s Vancouver campus was an immersive experience, where guests were greeted with a classical Iraqi playlist as they entered and offered cardamom tea. 

Alani introduced the historical and political significance of the event, reminding the crowd of the pitfalls of the literary culture that was being celebrated. During Saddam Hussein’s reign, writers and intellectuals were servants of the state who produced literature praising the regime, for which they were rewarded. 

The readings included the original and translated works of the 10th century poet, Al-Mutanabbi, read by Wadood Hamad, adjunct professor in chemistry at the University of British Columbia. 

Hamad also read the poetry of one of Iraq’s most famous and influential poets of the 20th century, Muzaffar Al-Nawab, who wrote on the themes of love, politics, philosophy and existentialism. 

Iraqi writer Dima Yassine and Palestinian filmmaker and songwriter Sobhi Al-Zobaidi performed original works that reflected on their lived experiences and memories of their homes. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Art is an outlet; it is a place where we put our pain."[/quote]

Sara McIntyre read an excerpt from Inaam Kachachi’s American Granddaughter, a novel about a young Iraqi-American who serves as a translator during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In the passage, the protagonist must stage a raid of her own grandmother’s house, as it’s the only way she is allowed to see her. 

Alani issued a trigger warning prior to reading from journalist Anthony Shadid’s book Night Draws Near. 

The excerpt, titled “A boy who was ‘like a flower’” dealt with the funeral of two teenaged boys who were victims of an unattributed attack. The scene addressed a raw, intimate moment of sorrow, anger and frustration that was all too common during the Iraq War.           

In addition to the readings, Shawk showcased a short film by Iraqi creative director Mustafa Al-Sumaidaie, featuring the rebuilt Al-Mutanabbi street today, and played Walid Gholmieh’s Symphony No.2, “Al-Mutanabbi” B. Flat Major. 

Shawk’s grandfather collaborated with the Lebanese composer to produce the piece, which was meant to provide listeners with an auditory experience similar to that of reading Al-Mutanabbi’s poetry. 

Readings provide healing 

“I think it’s important to make spaces that are critical, events that are a bit more involved, bringing more critical thought into people’s consciousness,” said Shawk of her involvement in the initiative. 

She said that bringing the story of Al-Mutanabbi Street into consciousness and awareness was the first step, but she also felt the need to give people an opportunity to act upon this knowledge. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Doing readings by other people is kind of like sharing that thing that has been externalized, and realizing that actually there are so many ways in which we have the same experiences.”[/quote]

To inspire action, Shawk screened a video clip featuring Iraqi-born artist Wafaa Bilal: 168:01, an art installation in Windsor, Ont. that includes a 12-metre bookcase filled with 20,000 blank books. Bilal hopes to swap each of the blank books for a real book that will be donated to the University of Baghdad’s College of Fine Arts. 

Shawk said the significance of hosting this reading is about saying, “I’m here, I’m a part of this city now, and I want to bring to people’s awareness things that are happening in the other place where I also belong.” 

She indicated that for members of the Iraqi and Arab diaspora, the event also represented an opportunity for “dealing with the emotions, the crisis, the trauma, all in a way that’s productive.” 

Shawk noted that the Iraqi diaspora is quite diverse and unique in that there have been multiple conflicts over the past 50 years during which large populations emigrated, either as refugees or by choice. 

“Art is an outlet; it is a place where we put our pain. You take the pain, you externalize it in a piece of art, and then you can step back and look at it and deal with it in a different way, and you can share it with other people,” said Shawk. 

“Doing readings by other people is kind of like sharing that thing that has been externalized, and realizing that actually there are so many ways in which we have the same experiences.” 

Shawk added that “Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here,” enables Iraqis — a group that has been historically victimized and portrayed as weak, unhappy and constantly being killed — to partake in creating an alternate history for themselves. 

Reflecting on her own birth in Baghdad in the wake of the first Gulf War, Shawk explained, “You can create a space in literature where you can celebrate life, resistance, and existence.”

Publisher's Note: This report has been updated to correct the history of this initiative: this was the ninth – not the first – edition of the reading. We regret the error. 


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by Daniel Leon Rodriguez in Calgary

In 1993, when Dr. Hude Quan came to Calgary from China, he knew nothing about the city. With the support of a scholarship, he joined the University of Calgary’s PhD program in epidemiology. 

Dr. Quan recalled the struggles he overcame in his path to adaptation – from learning a new language, culture and way of thinking. “I typed every page of my thesis. One, two, three, four times, again, again, and again,” said Quan. 

Quan shared his experience while receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Immigrant Services Calgary’s 20th annual Immigrants of Distinction Awards gala, at the Westin Hotel in downtown Calgary on Mar. 11. 

He said the award doesn’t just recognize his work, but that of all the individuals who helped him in his adaptation in Calgary. “They made me who I am,” said Quan. “Thank you for believing in us immigrants.” 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Thank you for believing in us immigrants.”[/quote]

Today, Quan is one of the most globally cited researchers, according to Thompson Reuters. He is an associate professor at the University of Calgary and the director of the Calgary World Health Organization Collaboration Centre. 

Everyone’s duty to help newcomers 

Quan isn’t the only example of how newcomers’ success relies on support from the community, social agencies and governments.   

At the awards ceremony, Immigrant Services Calgary (ISC) celebrated other distinguished immigrants who excel in business, community involvement, arts and culture, and academia, as well as organizations that support diversity. 

Under the message of “fostering a legacy of excellence,” Josephine Pon, chair of ISC’s board of directors, said the awards celebrate Calgary’s most committed and community-minded individuals in the city. 

“You’re the true superstars and you’re an inspiration to all of us,” Pon said.   

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"Our neighbour’s pain is our pain, our neighbour’s success is our success, our neighbour’s failure is our failure.”[/quote]

Senator Victor Oh said at the event that Canada is a country blessed by immigration. However, this intake of immigrants “represents a great challenge,” added the senator who emigrated to Canada from Singapore in 1978. 

“It is everyone’s duty to help newcomers feel at home,” Oh told the audience of over 500 people, which included provincial ministers, members of Parliament and diplomatic representatives. 

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi’s words resonated with Oh’s. He said that the secret of successful newcomers and communities is mutual support and understanding. 

“We’re all in it together. Our neighbour’s pain is our pain, our neighbour’s success is our success, our neighbour’s failure is our failure,” said Nenshi. 

The mayor said those nominated for the award “ask (themselves) the most Canadian and Calgarian of questions: ‘how can I help?’” 

“We celebrate 20 years of people who not only ask that question, but answer it every day,” said Nenshi. 

Multiculturalism goes two ways 

The Immigrants of Distinction Awards are the first commemoration of its kind in Canada according to Peter Wong, former chair of the board of directors at ISC. 

Wong envisioned the award in 1997 to highlight the contributions of immigrants in the community. He said that celebrating diversity in the workplace and government recognition of immigrants wasn’t popular at that time. “It wasn’t seen as a critical aspect of society.” 

However, Wong says this has changed. “What I see today is multiculturalism has become part of mainstream.” 

Honorary chair of this year’s awards, Wayne Chiu, said immigrants have to play their part in the Canadian mosaic. Newcomers have to choose how to adapt in Canada. 

They might decide to surround themselves with only people from their own ethnic culture, explained Chiu, who is the founder and CEO of Trico Home and who was recently appointed to the Order of Canada for his philanthropic and business leadership. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“We are hindering ourselves from merging into the mainstream culture of Canada.”[/quote]

“This might bring us great – but temporary – comfort and security,” said Chiu. However, he added, “We are hindering ourselves from merging into the mainstream culture of Canada.” 

Chiu added that when any immigrants feel they aren’t being accepted, not being listened to, not being understood, or not given the opportunity to excel like others, they have to ask if they have opened themselves up to the larger community. 

“One of the hardest things is to move outside from our comfort zone,” said Chiu, who moved from Hong Kong in 1976 to study engineering in Winnipeg. 

He said that connecting with people outside of the Chinese community helped him to excel. The experience taught him that effective communication, mutual respect and understanding of other people’s ideas are an “essential part of adopting into a new country.” 


A quick look at the award recipients 

Achievement Under 35 Award // Dr. Irehobhude O. Iyioha is an independent policy consultant in the field of health law and policy. She has advocated at several conferences and presentations worldwide about women health’s issues. 

Arts and Culture Award // Jose Duque through his passion for classical music empowers children. His goal is to give youth, of low income families, the opportunity to learn music through a multicultural orchestra. 

Community Service Award // Bojan Tosic has been involved in community development for years creating innovative and well-evaluated programs, enhancing cross-sector relationships and increasing access to support and services. 

Entrepreneurship and Innovation Award // With little financial backing Bob Dhillon formed one of the largest publicly held real state companies in Canada, Mainstreet Equity Corporation, of which he is CEO and president. 

Hadassah Ksienski Lifetime Achievement Award // Dr. Hude Quan is internationally known for his accomplishment and contributions in the field of health services and for his efforts to improve the health of ethno-cultural communities. // Dr. Serdar Yilmaz is the head of the transplant section of the University of Calgary’s faculty of medicine, and the leader in transplant surgery in Alberta.

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Award // Janaka Ruwanpura is the Vice-Provost (International) at University of Calgary and the Canada Research Chair in Project Management Systems. His work improved the culture of the Canadian construction industry.

Organizational Diversity Award // Calgary United Soccer Association (CUSA) gives adults an opportunity to learn and enjoy soccer in a social and recreational environment. CUSA is a founding partner of Calgary Street Soccer and KidSport Calgary.

Youth Scholarships

As a Grade 12 student Andrew Min co-founded the EquaLearn Foundation. He is also a member of the mayor’s youth council and is politically involved with the Community Outreach Committee.

Dan Yang (Lucy Ni) is a third-year biological sciences student at University of Calgary. She is a director and founding member of Outrun the Stigma and the president of the Hearth and Stroke Foundation Student’s Association.

Moiz Hafeez is in his final year of his bachelor in biological sciences at the University of Calgary. He has held executive positions at the Genetic Jungle run, Muslim Student’s Association, and the Red Cross Club.

Grade 12 student, Sophie Zhao, is founder of both the French and poetry clubs and leader of the Verbattle debate club at her school. Zhao is founder and public relations director of Wishful Thinking.

Varun Kundra is in Grade 10 where he excels in the sciences and volunteering. He scored in the 94th percentile in The College Board’s Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT) of the juniors while still in Grade 9. The University of Calgary approved his lab-assistant appointment to Dr. Minh Dang Nguyen and his team, who specialize in the discipline of transactional neuroscience.


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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