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Saturday, 23 July 2016 15:18

Most Think World More Dangerous Place

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by BJ Siekierski in Ottawa

As Donald Trump wrapped up the Republican convention Thursday evening with a speech that played to Americans’ fears about the economy, illegal immigration and national security, many wondered aloud whether Canadian politics might be susceptible to his kind of populist appeal to the disaffected.

New polling from EKOS Research suggests the answer to that question, for the time being, is no: Most Canadians have a positive outlook, aren’t concerned about their economic future and value “openness” over “order” — even if they do believe the world is a more dangerous place than it was five years ago.

Earlier this month, from July 8 to 14, EKOS surveyed a random sample of 1,003 Canadians (with a margin of error of +/- 3.1%, 19 times out of 20) on a range of subjects, recruiting them by phone to take online surveys.

They found a country that is, for the most part, seeing the glass as half-full.

Given a choice of a few adjectives to describe their current outlook on life, almost three-quarters of Canadians (73 per cent) said they were either “happy” or “hopeful”, compared to only 22 per cent who were “discouraged” and two per cent who were “angry”.

Anxiety over economy

There are certainly pockets of Canada that have seen job losses as a result of NAFTA and trade liberalization more generally — versions of Donald Trump’s “communities crushed by horrible and unfair trade deals” — but that hasn’t translated into collective anxiety about the economy.

Three in 10 Canadians do agree with the statement that they’ve lost all control over their economic future — but almost half (48 per cent) don’t, and one in five are agnostic.

“In addition to the clear lean to a positive emotional outlook, the incidence of those who feel they have lost ‘all control’ over their economic futures, although still significant, is actually lower than what we saw in the late 1990s. A sense of lost control is linked to a more negative emotional outlook and is strongly linked to the more economically vulnerable in society,” write EKOS President Frank Graves and EKOS research analyst Jeff Smith.

On one subject, however — safety — that sanguine feeling seems to disappear.

“Our convention occurs at a moment of crisis for our nation. The attacks on our police, and the terrorism in our cities, threaten our very way of life,” Trump said Thursday evening.

Risk perception

Most Canadians appear inclined to agree. Only one in 20 (5 per cent) think the world is safer than it was five years ago, compared to 60 per cent who think it’s more dangerous and 34 per cent who think it’s about the same.

“It is disturbing to see how the public are seeing the balance of danger and safety in the world,” Graves and Smith write. “A rational review of the evidence would suggest that objective risks and safety of North Americans have improved over the last decade. But the emotional response to risk perception is egregiously different.”

Those results need to be put in perspective. No more than 12 per cent of Canadians have ever felt the world is safer than it was five years ago. That said, as recently as 2012, more thought the world hadn’t become any more dangerous.

To the extent that there is a large portion of the population worried about terrorist attacks, rising crime levels and the like, the next question becomes: What are they prepared to do about it?

Is there any appetite to build walls — even metaphorical ones — and suspend immigration? Or to embrace more authoritarian “law and order” governance?

It doesn’t look like it — at least for now.

Order vs. openness

EKOS asked Canadians to choose between a set of different values in what they call “forced choice questions”: openness versus order; respect for authority versus individual freedom; good behaviour versus creativity; morality versus reason and evidence; obedience versus questioning authority.

“When we summarize the results we find that overall a clear majority of Canadians lean to openness (54 per cent) versus the not insignificant minority who favour order (33 per cent). These numbers, while rough, suggest that an authoritarian or ordered outlook is less common in Canada than the United States (according to PEW who found over half of Americans to be authoritarian),” Graves and Smith write.

If drawing concrete conclusions about Canadians’ appetite for a Trump-like figure — or at least for the values he espouses — is a pretty subjective exercise, other recent EKOS polling has gotten at the subject more directly.

In June, EKOS asked what kind of impact Canadians thought a Trump presidency would have on Canada. Only 6.8 per cent thought it would be positive.

Published in partnership with iPolitics.ca

Wednesday, 13 July 2016 18:58

Nuanced Reporting on Canada's NATO Commitment in Latvia

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Canada's commitment to send troops to Latvia to strengthen NATO in its stance vis-à-vis Russia has reverberated in the ethnic media with at least 55 stories over the last two weeks. Most reports were in the Chinese (12) and Punjabi (9) media, which is to be expected because these language groups have numerous high-frequency media (daily papers and full-time radio stations in the language). Interest in this issue was over-proportionally high in the Tamil media (12 stories) and naturally, the Russian media (6 stories). Multiple mentions were also found in the Italian and Spanish media (3 stories each), but interest in the European media was relatively low. One news item was reported in an Urdu paper. Most reporting was neutral in tone, with a few showing a slight positive or negative slant.

- Mirems

Read more here

by Jeremy J. Nuttall in Ottawa

The federal New Democrats are demanding action from Ottawa after hearing the Chinese government is refusing to recognize Canadian citizenship when granting visas to those with roots in Hong Kong or Mainland China.

NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan said she is sending a letter to Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion after speaking to travel agents in Toronto and Vancouver who report Beijing is denying Canadian citizens of Chinese origin the right to obtain visas using their Canadian passports.

Instead, they are reportedly being issued travel documents as Chinese nationals, which means they won't have the protection of the Canadian embassy while travelling in China.

Kwan said until June 2, Canadian citizens born in Hong Kong or Mainland China could choose to travel as Chinese nationals or Canadian citizens. Now Beijing is apparently forcing them to travel as Chinese nationals.

"It's a major shift in practice from what it used to be and is of big concern to people," she said.

Even Canadian citizens born here to Chinese parents must apply for Chinese travel documents if they have not travelled to the country as Canadians before, Kwan said.

One Toronto travel agent, who spoke to The Tyee on the condition of anonymity, said his company arranges visas for visitors to Mainland China. Applications have been denied for people born in Hong Kong, Mainland China, or Taiwan, the agent said. The Beijing government has also denied visas to Canadian-born children of Chinese origin parents, he said.

The rejections have come with notes directing the applicants to go to a Chinese consulate in person to apply for travel documents.

Many people have opted to cancel their trips to China rather than travel as Chinese nationals, said the agent.

Tightening controls?

China expert Charles Burton, a professor at Brock University, said the move appears to be part of Beijing's attempt to tighten control globally to mute dissent against the ruling regime.

Burton pointed to a recent case of a Hong Kong bookseller with a Swedish passport who was arrested in Thailand and sent to China for "interrogation" as an example of Beijing's actions.

He said the reported policy would be in line with China's policy of considering anyone with Chinese heritage as subject to Beijing's authority.

"I think it does have a chilling effect on people of Chinese origin who felt that acquisition of foreign citizenship gave them a degree of protection," Burton said. "It goes against international law; it's part and parcel of China's refusal to acknowledge the authority of international regimes in general."

He said the policy could be considered discrimination because Beijing is issuing visas based solely on people's ethnicity.

Burton said Canada must raise the issue with China at the highest levels.

The revelations come four weeks after Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi had a tantrumwhen a Canadian reporter in Ottawa asked him about China's detention of Canadian citizen Kevin Garratt, aggressive moves in the South China Sea, and the disappearances of merchants in Hong Kong selling books critical of the Chinese government.

Following the outburst Ottawa faced criticism for its declaration of plans to deepen ties with China.

Global Affairs Canada said it was aware of the visa situation and intends to raise the issue with Beijing, but would not grant an interview with Dion.

** Story update, June 30: Since NDP MP Jenny Kwan's initial complaint, the Chinese embassy in Ottawa has issued a statement saying it has not changed its policy, but gives no explanation for why it was asking people to apply for Chinese travel documents.

"It should be noted that we welcome visit to China by Canadians of Hong Kong origin," read the statement. "There is no such a thing as China tightening its travel document-related policies."

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hong Lei also addressed the issue in his regular press briefing in Beijing.

Kwan released a statement in response suggesting that people who had problems apply once again and to bring the full Chinese statement from the Chinese embassy with them when they do.

Republished with permission from The Tyee. 

Wednesday, 29 June 2016 14:46

He Fought to Mainstream the Turban

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By Jagdeesh Mann in Vancouver

One of the most celebrated veterans in Canada, Retired Lieutenant Colonel Pritam Singh Jauhal, passed away peacefully this past week with his family by his side.

He was 95 years old. 

Lt. Col. Singh served in the British Indian military and lived through the 20th century's era of tremendous social and technological change. When witnessing the emergence of his native India's independence as a youth, he could not have envisioned that one day he himself would become an agent of change in post-colonial Commonwealth.

His courage in battle would serve him well, guiding his rise from humble origins to serving honourably as an officer in several wars including World War II.

In 1993 at the age of 73, Singh inadvertently found himself in the middle of media storm when he, along with four other Sikhs, were barred from entering the Royal Canadian Legion in Newton, Surrey. The club's members opposed the men's entry on the grounds they were 'wearing hats', thus turning away the war veterans.

As a Sikh, Singh politely declined the club's demand he remove his turban, which is an indelible part of his religious identity. It was also a sanctioned part of his military uniform which he wore when fighting against Nazi Germany on behalf of the Allies.

Singh's grace through the Legion incident sharply contrasted with the ugly threats of violence that took a heavy toll on his household. Sadly, his wife passed away at that time from a cardiac arrest.

Today Canada's Defense Minister and head of our Armed Forces wears a turban. Its inclusion as part of the Canadian military uniform is now taken as self-evident - as is its place in Royal Legion Halls across Canada.

Lt. Col. Singh's dignified stand over two decades ago is one of the many quiet but indispensable victories that has made Canada a beacon for tolerance and plurality. His grace under fire would lead him to being invited for tea with Queen Elizabeth II who took it upon herself to ask Singh about the incident. Ever an officer and a gentleman, Singh stated that was sorry to have troubled her with the matter. 

In 2013, Singh published his memoir, A Soldier Remembers, in collaboration with the Centre for Indo-Canadian Studies at the University of the Fraser Valley.

The funeral will be held at Valley View Funeral Home & Cemetary -14644 72 Ave, Surrey, on Sunday, July 3, 2016 at 3PM. It will be followed by a prayer ceremony at 4:30PM at Canadian Singh Sabha Gurdwara, 8115 132 St, Surrey BC.

Jagdeesh Mann is a writer and media professional based in Vancouver. 

Republished under arrangement with the South Asian Post

by Aurora Tejeida in Vancouver, British Columbia

The University of Toronto’s International Human Rights Program is suggesting that Mexico be removed from Canada’s “safe country” list, making it easier for sexual minorities and those living with HIV to seek asylum here.

The report, published on World Refugee Day Monday, comes at an awkward time: just when Ottawa is moving to remove visa restrictions imposed on that country by the previous Harper government in 2009.

The UofT study, co-authored by Kristin Marshall and Maia Rotman, was based on in-country interviews with 50 Mexicans, including journalists, activists, members of the country’s LGBTQ+ community, health care professionals and people living with HIV. It documents the gap between laws to protect minorities in Mexico and the on-the-ground reality of discrimination and exclusion faced by vulnerable populations.

This spotlight on Mexico’s human rights comes on the heels of violent clashes between government forces and Mexico’s largest teachers’ union. The most recent conflict in Oaxaca left at least four protesters dead and hundreds of people injured, including police officers.

Mexican President Peña Nieto is visiting Ottawa next week for a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Barack Obama for the Three Amigos summit on June 29.

Canada considers Designated Countries of Origin (DCOs) (or, “safe country”) as those that “do not normally produce refugees, but do respect human rights and offer state protection.” The list includes countries like the U.S., Denmark, Finland and Germany, but also countries like Hungary, Israel and Mexico, which was added to the list only in February 2013

“I think these two countries, Mexico and Hungary, were targeted because there were such a high number of claims,” explained Marshall.

“They wanted less Mexican [refugee] claimants, and the government rhetoric at the time was about deterring bogus and unfounded claims from Mexico and Hungary, their thinking was that by giving faster timelines and no option to appeal, all of these "baseless" claims would go through the system and the people would get deported back to their countries,” added Marshall. "It sends the message 'don't bother coming' because we think Mexico is safe.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"] "On one level it looks like inclusion on the ‘safe countries’ list is a compliment to whatever state is put there."[/quote]

Fewer refugee claims

The twin measures resulted in fewer Mexicans seeking asylum, which fell to 1,199 from more than 9,000. However, the percentage of successful refugee claims remained about the same.

Marshall thinks that signalling that Mexico is “safe” could have an impact on cases that might have otherwise been successful.

However, the “safe country” designation is not imminent. All an Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) spokesperson would say is that “being listed on Canada’s designated country of origin list does not prevent individuals from seeking refugee protection in Canada.”

The IRCC added that it “continuously monitors all designated countries of origin to determine whether conditions remain similar to those at the time they were designated. In the event of significant changes, IRCC may undertake a review of country conditions to determine if removal from the designated country of origin list is warranted.”

The spokesperson confirmed that Canadian officials are currently working with their Mexican counterparts to lift the visa requirements.

Clearly, a “safe country” designation is a mixed blessing.

Commenting on the UofT report, Dr. Chris Erickson from the University of British Columbia’s Department of Political Science, noted, "On one level it looks like inclusion on the ‘safe countries’ list is a compliment to whatever state is put there. On the other hand, it does allow for significant abuses to be entirely whitewashed. The language itself indicates that any claim to asylum coming from someone from one of the states on the list is likely to be false.”

Not safe for minorities

In one particularly shocking section of the report, the writers describe an attack on a transgender woman in the northern state of Chihuahua. The woman was beat up and shot in the head just days before Mexico City’s 2015 Pride parade.

“The victim’s body was wrapped in a Mexican flag — apparently a protest against the Supreme Court’s June ruling allowing gay marriage,” reads the report. 

Despite enacting laws to protect LGBTQ+ rights, including a recent proposal from President Nieto legalizing same sex marriages, according to Mexico’s Human Rights Commission, the country has the second highest number of hate crimes against sexual minorities in the Americas.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“There's a great effort and determination invested to project a certain image to the world, but the will to implement laws isn't there.”[/quote]

“There's a great effort and determination invested to project a certain image to the world, but the will to implement laws isn't there,” explained Marshall. “There are also issues with resources that are unavailable, and many of the problems faced by sexual minorities also have to do with conservative values in Mexico, which means deep down there isn't a desire to see these rights protected.”

The report recommends offering assistance to Mexico to create specialized health care services for trans people and working with the government to create educational resources about sexual and reproductive health.

I don't think human rights will feature prominently in the Three Amigos summit,” said Marshall. “But I do think this is a new government [in Ottawa] and it's a new opportunity for Canada to show international leadership.


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by Janice Dickson in Ottawa, Ontario

It’s been nearly six months since the federal government began its initiative to welcome 25,000 Syrian refugees, and while finding housing presented itself as the initial challenge, a volunteer who has worked extensively with Syrians in British Columbia says once refugees leave the hotels provided by the government, they are virtually on their own.

“Once they’re out of hotels, they’ve been just left alone, so [there’s] not enough support for anyone,” Imadeddin Sawaf told the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration Tuesday morning.

Sawaf, who works for the B.C. Construction Association when he’s not assisting refugees with employment and other needs, said Syrian refugees in B.C. are “literally left alone.”

Many Syrians have to find their own housing after living in hotels for months, and once they find housing, they are left to their own devices — most cannot speak English — to figure out how to find a family doctor and how to register their children for school, Sawaf explained.

When Conservative MP Michelle Rempel asked Sawaf what he would recommend to bridge the gap and assist refugees he described as ‘alone’, Sawaf suggested the government fund a new agency or a community group — ‘people who are qualified’ – to actually help Syrians settle in the community.

Sawaf said there’s no lack of funding — the problem lies with those who are there to help refugees — they’re not qualified, he said. Sawaf mentioned that there have been a lot of problems with interpreters who work for government funded agencies who have difficulty speaking Arabic with Syrian refugees.

Sawaf’s testimony was followed by that of Eman Allhalaq, a Syrian refugee who Sawaf helped in B.C.

Allhalaq thanked Canadians for welcoming Syrians here, and “changing our lives.” Allhalaq went on to describe some very challenging experiences she’s had.

Allhalaq was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after arriving to Canada, and she’s had a lot of difficulty travelling to and from the hospital and even receiving her diagnosis because of language barriers.

She described the challenges of going to the hospital alone, without an interpreter, only to find out there is no interpreter at the hospital and having to leave and return once she has one.

“This is something we are all facing,” she said.

With Sawaf’s help, Allhalaqal found housing on her own after living in a hotel for two months.

“Basically they told us you’re on a waiting list, 40 families came to hotel, so just wait until your turn comes up. Too much waiting, I wanted to register kids at school, ” she said.


 

Republished in partnership with iPolitics.ca

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