Monday, 26 February 2018 14:53

India’s Double Standards Let Trudeau Down

By: Devanshu Narang in Toronto, ON

If I was Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, I would not forgive Indian politicians and the country's media for a long time. Perhaps Mr. Trudeau will forgive, but as a Canadian with Indian roots, I definitely will not. Ever.

But mark my words, Trudeau's India visit will turn out to be a long-term relationship disaster for India and not for Canada. As an honest, liberal, positive and a truly warm Canadian, the prime minister does not need to re-invent himself. On the other hand, Indians could do some re-thinking themselves. 

True, Mr. Trudeau went overboard, as he sometimes does. Those heavily embroidered and garish Indian tops called 'Kurtas' were an eyesore even to most Indians. We never wear such fancy attire, except special occasions when it is considered chic to have an "Indian look". Perhaps he was either misguided by his coterie of South Asians who love their Bollywood movies or by the huge applause he gets when he wears such costumes at cultural events in Canada. After all, it is a pleasure for the South Asians to see a white leader wear ethnic attire and dance to Indian tunes. Here in Canada it is genuinely considered a mark of respect to the community and a desire to accept their culture.

Unfortunately, India mistook this for Mr. Trudeau's weakness and showed its boorish side. 

In fact, it was evident right from the start that the Indian political elite which hates the liberal agenda and which has turned markedly right-wing and conservative in recent years would not take to the Canadian prime minister. They not only sent a junior minister to officially welcome him, but also ensured that the media coverage he received was low and negative. Slowly the plan was put into effect: his clothing became the object of derision, the motives of his trip questioned, his comments called into question, his guest lists scrutinized, and lo and behold, we had a feel-good trip turned into a PR nightmare.

Treating guests in India

I will not go into the details of how he was treated by Indian and thereafter Canadian and foreign media. How he was made to look like a fool when he was just being a warm human being. I would rather focus on what I think will happen following this trip and let Indians know about the blunder they have just committed.

Here was a guest, who in keeping with Indian traditions was to be treated like a God, who arrived in all humility – always bowing to local traditions, even dressed in their attire to please the locals, showing due respect all all the shrines and institutions revered and loved by Indians, who took his family along and persuaded them to dress the Indian way. Who could ever imagine that he would face ridicule at home, especially from the political opponents baying for blood ready to portray him as a weakling. 

But, more importantly, what is wrong with India? How many times have we had world leaders come to India and respect Indian ways? How happy you've been when they occasionally wear Indian attire for an event and grooved with you? How many times have you hoped that they genuinely like your cuisine, your culture, your music and your own self?  And when a man, a nation's leader, whole-heartedly opens up his soul and gives you a warm hug, you pull back?

So what if he went overboard. Is it wrong to try too hard? 

Canada - India relations

Mr. Trudeau will recover from all this. After all, he did nothing wrong. But chances are India will experience the famous Canadian chill for decades to come.

The relationship between Canada and India may go into cold storage. Not just Canadians, but countries the world over, especially in the Western world, would be less trusting of India, especially if their political views differ. Other world leaders will definitely be more reserved during their Indian visits and never again would any Western leader open up as much as Mr. Trudeau did to Indian traditions and culture. 

As for the invitation extended to a convicted would-be assassin for a Trudeau event, let us review the facts there too. First, the guest lists and invitees are not put together by Mr. Trudeau or any political leader himself. Second, if facts serve me right, Jaspal Atwal was convicted as a terrorist and served his sentence for close to two decades and has gone on record saying after his release saying that he regrets his action. He has already faced punishment for his crime and now walks free in Canada and has all the rights as any other Canadian.

He was visiting India because India too removed his name from the blacklist and granted him a visa. So, how long would you keep crucifying a person for an act in the past? Using the same logic, a lot of political leaders in India who were anti-state at one time should also be blacklisted for life. If anyone is to blame, it is India's double standards.

True, the "Khalistan movement" is dead in India, as it should be. It also does not ignite the minds of a majority of Indo-Canadians any more. But, the fact still remains, that a large part of the Punjabi community that resides in Canada came here in the 1980s and early 1990s after witnessing various atrocities committed to their near and dear ones at different times. The wounds have healed, but the scars still remain for children who grew up without fathers, or men and women who suffered in their youth. These can only be healed by love and acceptance and not by hate and segregation.

By turning your back on Mr. Atwal, who has already paid for his crime, you alienate many other Indo-Canadians and rub fresh salt on old wounds. Alas, one should have expected that out from a newly militant India and its biased media. 

Put this behind you

I only hope that Mr. Trudeau and the Liberal Party does not take the criticism to heart in the context of Canadian diversity. The party's welcome to immigrants, working towards enabling equality, justice and acceptance in Canadian communities, and enabling greater respect for all humans should continue. Mr. Trudeau's evident love for the Indo-Canadian community must not diminished due to unfair coverage by Indian media, which appears semi-controlled by right-wing Indian politicians.

As an Indo-Canadian, I am ashamed about the way India treated our Prime Minister. My advice: please forget this and move on. Thank you for opening your heart.

And, yes, the next time at Diwali or Gurupurb, please bring out those Bhangra dance moves again. 


Devanshu Narang is a contributor for New Canadian Media and other publications such as The Times of India. He is also a member of the NCM Collective

Published in Commentary

By: Kasi Rao in Toronto, ON

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s arrival in New Delhi on February 17 for a week-long state visit marks the 12th visit by a member of his cabinet to India, and given his position, the most important one.

The significance of Trudeau’s visit is clear — India matters to Canada, as a friend and a trading partner with still-unrealized potential at a time when Canada seeks to broaden and deepen its international markets.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"The building blocks are there. Two-way trade between Canada and India was nearly $8 billion in 2016, even though there have been setbacks and slow progress in formal trade talks."[/quote]

Canada and India have been talking for a while about reaching more comprehensive trade and investment agreements. But the real significance of this visit is already comprehensive — there’s a positive shift in our relationship that we’re ready to build on together.

The building blocks are there. Two-way trade between Canada and India was nearly $8 billion in 2016, even though there have been setbacks and slow progress in formal trade talks.

We do that amount of two-way trade with the United States every four days. But when it comes to Canada-India trade, the modesty of the numbers is a reflection of the past, not the promise of the future.

The obstacles are obvious too. Late last year, Indian government officials slapped an increased tariff on pulses — the little yellow peas that are a staple in South Asia, which Canadian farmers export to India.

Yet we have common ground. Canada is the biggest contributor of pulses to India, and India benefits when our supply is not constricted by tariffs.

There’s no substitute for a meeting between two leaders to reach a better understanding and make it easier to trade commodities.

Canada and India have been negotiating those free trade and investments agreements for some time now — and they may well take longer. That doesn’t negate the need for a sustained engagement with India across multiple sectors.

This visit is an opportunity — to find more common ground. The elements for stronger trade, business and investment relationships between Canada and India are apparent in the number of sectors that are robust and growing yet still relatively untapped.

There are huge opportunities to expand in tourism, research and skills, medical science, technology and innovation.

Some trading partners in the world lament a brain drain, where talented people leave. Between Canada and India it’s a brain chain, where the best and brightest in both countries complement and bolster each others’ achievements.

For example, Canada is one of the most welcoming countries, reflected in our increased immigration targets at a time when others in the G7 are cutting back.

More than a million Canadians trace their roots to India; they provide a natural bridge to newcomers. Canada has increasing potential as a magnet for higher education among promising Indian students, which contributes to research and innovation in both countries.

Canadians and Indians also share many similar attitudes and values in their outlook to solving global problems. On the economic front, Indian states now embrace cooperative and competitive federalism, marketing themselves internationally the way our provinces do.

Canadians and Indians also share many values when it comes to pluralism and diversity, and both countries are in sync on combatting climate change and the Paris Accord.

Public institutions in both countries have legitimacy in ways that either don’t exist in other places or are under severe strain.

Global studies such as the Pew Global Survey and 2018 Edelman Public Trust Barometer show that Canada and India rank consistently high in the public’s trust of institutions.

The strong Canadian team led by Prime Minister Trudeau, who is accompanied by senior Cabinet ministers, demonstrates Canada’s commitment to a wider and deeper relationship with India.

The Canadian brand is a compelling one that resonates with India.  There is nothing like a prime ministerial visit — it provides an extraordinary platform to demonstrate the breadth and depth of our engagement. 


Kasi Rao is President and CEO of the Canada-India Business Council (C-IBC). Republished under arrangement with iPolitics.

Published in Politics

by Shan Qiao in Toronto

New writers are using mentorship opportunities to create and share more diverse and inclusive stories about Toronto’s history and culture. 

“What we want to do is to create a living history of Toronto through literature [and] make it as diverse as the city itself,” says Helen Walsh, the president of Diaspora Dialogues  – a charitable society made up of writers, artists and performers. 

“I’m not surprised that there are at least 50 to 60 countries represented through Diaspora Dialogues – lots of voices from Asia, Africa and Northern Europe,” Walsh adds. “Often, people write about their own cultural background and we want to bring Toronto to life through literature.” 

Mentoring new writers 

Toronto’s iconic Old City Hall, a national historic site, was the stage for Diaspora Dialogues during Doors Open Toronto, an event that offers access to buildings with historical significance across the city.  

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Often, people write about their own cultural background and we want to bring Toronto to life through literature.”[/quote]

Jamaican-born and Ottawa-raised emerging writer Dianah Smith is one of 12 writers who presented their work at Old City Hall. As a teacher and arts educator, Smith joined Diaspora Dialogues in 2014 for its mentoring program, in which she paired-up with Jamaican-Canadian writer and media professional Martin Mordecai. 

“For about six months, he helped me to get into [a] schedule of my draft and first novel, finalizing some of the scenes of my manuscript to get it ready for publication,” Smith says about her experience as a mentee. 

“It’s a story about a seven-year-old girl, Jemela Campbell, and her experience in immigrating from Jamaica to Canada and her first year in Canada,” Smith explains. 

The excerpt she reads is from the novel, with a working title The Promise of Foreign, which explores some of the challenges newcomer parents face in Canada such as finding work and keeping jobs. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“As a racialized person of colour, as an immigrant, you don’t really feel represented in the publishing world.”[/quote]

Seeking recognition as writers 

“As a racialized person of colour, as an immigrant, you don’t really feel represented in the publishing world,” Smith explains. “You have names like Margaret Atwood, mainly white and middle-class people.” 

She says that while Diaspora Dialogues does not restrict white writers from participating, it also tries "to have alternative voices to give immigrants and indigenous people the opportunity to share their stories.” 

Author Mia Herrera adds that working in the Canadian publishing and writing industry is precarious. 

“A writer who publishes regularly makes a salary of about $12,000 a year. You can’t make a living on that,” she says. 

Born to Filipino parents, Herrera now lives in Bradford, Ont. She works in communications and marketing and says she continues to write because it is her passion. 

Smith says she is still in the process of finding an interested publisher for her novel. While her mentorship program ended last fall, she continues to participate in other programs led by Diaspora Dialogues such as Lunch and Learn events, workshops about pitching to agents, as well as mentee book readings such as the one at Old City Hall. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“These questions arise regularly for her, particularly as she lives in such a racially-charged town as Georgina.”[/quote]

Placing immigrants in Toronto’s history 

After working with her mentor, writer David Layton, Herrera had her first novel Shade published by an independent feminist publisher, Inanna Publications. 

Shade tells the story of a Filipino-Canadian woman named Benni from the small town of Georgina, Ont., and her trip to the Philippines to visit her father. 

“Georgina is a town in York region about an hour-and-a-half north of here that is somewhat notorious for racist acts – disputes about flying the Confederate flag in schools and repeated incidents of racially-driven assaults,” Herrera tells the audience at Old City Hall. 

Georgina was the site of attacks against Asian Canadian fishermen in 2007, which involved car chases, damaged fishing gear, and anglers of Asian descent being pushed into the water. 

The scene Herrera reads is from the beginning of the novel about a breakup between Benni and her long-time Chinese-Canadian boyfriend, Tom. Instead of hearing a proposal, Benni is shocked to learn that Tom has hesitations about their future together because he is concerned about how Benni’s race will affect him and his family’s business. 

“As you will find in this scene and throughout my novel, Benni deals with questions of race and what it means to be a visible minority and second-generation immigrant in Canada,” Herrera says. “These questions arise regularly for her, particularly as she lives in such a racially-charged town as Georgina.” 

“Her experiences in the Philippines allow her to take the long view of not just her life in Georgina, but of her life in Canada, and what it means to be Canadian,” she adds. 


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Published in Books

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.

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Published in Books
Saturday, 08 August 2015 13:29

Climate Change a Global Threat Shows Survey

Filipinos and Indians are the most worried about climate change with less than a fifth of China’s population showing any great level of concern, says a new study by the Pew Research Center.

The recent international survey shows that Filipinos perceive climate change as the biggest global threat with 72 per cent of Filipinos saying they are “very concerned” about climate change.

It emerged as the top concern among Filipinos, even beating out concern for tensions with China over the West Philippine Sea. The China issue came in second place, with 56 per cent of Filipinos saying they were very concerned about it, reported Rappler.com

The same survey also asked about their level of concern for issues like global economic stability, cyber attacks, and terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The results are not surprising as the Philippines ranks among the countries most exposed to threats of a disrupted climate.[/quote]

Climate change turns out to be “the most widespread concern” of all the issues in the survey, according to the Pew Research Center. In 19 out of the 40 countries surveyed, citizens deemed climate change the most worrisome threat.

The Philippines is one of 10 countries most worried about climate change, coming in sixth place. The list is topped by African country Burkina Faso (79 per cent).

The results are not surprising as the Philippines ranks among the countries most exposed to threats of a disrupted climate. 

Eight of the 10 most disaster-prone cities are in the Philippines, according to a 2015 study.

The Philippines was also the country that suffered most from climate change in 2013, says another study.

Asia, Latin America, Africa most vulnerable

Latin America, Africa and Asia are particularly concerned about climate change, the survey found out.

In Latin America, a median of 61 per cent are very concerned about the issue, the highest statistic for an entire region.

Sub-Saharan Africa comes in second place with a median of 59 per cent saying it is a top concern.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Studies by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change show that [Latin America, Asia and Africa] will experience the most dramatic rises in temperature.[/quote]

In Asia, a median of 41 per cent said the same. Half of all Asian countries surveyed identified climate change as its biggest concern. In the region, Indians (73 per cent) and Filipinos are the most worried.

The three regions are especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

Studies by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change show that they will experience the most dramatic rises in temperature.

Such a rise is expected to have disastrous consequences on such crucial sectors as agriculture, fisheries, health, food security and water security.
Asia is also home to island-states threatened by sea level rise, yet another outcome of unabated climate disruption.

Countries least concerned play biggest role in change

Europe is not as concerned about the phenomenon, the survey showed.

No European country identified climate change as one of its top two concerns. Anxiety in the region is lowest in Poland, with only 14 per cent saying they were very concerned with the issue.

Together with Israel (also 14 per cent), Poland is the country least worried about climate change.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The growth of [US, China and Europe's] economies, powered heavily by fossil fuels, is responsible for most of the carbon emissions which have led to the planet’s warming.[/quote]

What’s one other country not sweating over global warming? China, apparently, with only 19 per cent of respondents saying climate change is a top concern.

In the United States, climate change is the second least worrisome issue.

Only 42 per cent of American respondents said they were very concerned with the phenomenon. The only issue they are less worried about is the territorial disputes with China (30 per cent).

US, China, and Europe also happen to be the economies seen to have the biggest responsibilities in curbing climate change.

The growth of their economies, powered heavily by fossil fuels, is responsible for most of the carbon emissions which have led to the planet’s warming.

The Pew Research Center survey was conducted in 40 countries among 45,435 respondents from March 25 to May 27, 2015.

It comes four months before the much-awaited United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change's 21st Conference of Parties (COP21). The conference, to be held in Paris, is expected to produce a global deal through which countries agree on how to curb climate change before it’s too late.

The global goal is to stop the earth’s warming from going over 2 degrees Celsius, the level of warming at which scientists say climate change becomes irreversible and catastrophic.


Published in partnership with Asian Pacific Post.

Published in International

by Ted Alcuitas (@Ted_Alcuitas) in Vancouver

With Philippine President Benigno Aquino’s recent visit to Canada, the Philippines have been more widely reported on in mainstream media. Still, many of the diaspora’s stories and news go widely uncovered by major news networks. Aquino, himself, was covered quite differently by Philippine outlets than in the mainstream. In this edition of PULSE, find out about what’s been making waves in the Philippine media.

Aquino’s Visit to Canada: Not All Positive

The recent visit of Philippine President Aquino generated its fair share of coverage from the mainstream media – generally concentrating on the ‘positive’ side of the visit, trade talks, etc., while treating protesters with muted interest.

But Filipino outlets covered the negative aspects as well; in fact, even before he arrived.

Bern Jagunos (pictured to the right), a writer for the Toronto-based Philippine Reporter, wrote on May 1 that it appears Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has not heard that the President’s aura has “irreversibly dimmed,” thanks to what she called Aquino’s, “atrocious human rights record, dismally inept leadership and the unbridled corruption of his administration.”

President Aquino’s popularity back home has sunk to a record low, Jagunos claimed.

Jagunos also referred to a study by Global Witness that quotes the International Coalition on Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) saying that, “under President Aquino’s leadership, the Philippines ranks third among the most dangerous countries in the world for citizens who advocate for the protection of the environment. In 2014 alone, 15 Filipinos were killed by state agents because the Aquino government considered their opposition to large scale mining and other destructive resource extraction projects a threat to the state.”

Meanwhile, after he arrived in Canada, ethnic media continued to provide critical commentary of his visit.

The Philippine Reporter called Toronto’s event at Roy Thomson Hall welcoming Aquino to town, a “political rally”, inside its article published in partnership with New Canadian Media. Most of the invited guests cheered Aquino and Harper on, the article stated, but many others were upset the more difficult issues of rights abuse, poverty and temporary foreign workers were not raised.

On the other hand Vancouver’s Philippine Canadian Inquirer reported that Aquino had a “rousing welcome” from the Fil-Can community, but failed to mention the protests outside.

Filipinos Want to Stop Deportations

According to the Pilipino Express, activists from across Canada stepped up their fight efforts to stop the deportations of thousands of temporary foreign workers caught in the federal government’s “4-in-4-out” rule that came into effect April 1.

Migrant workers who have been in Canada for four years will be barred from returning to Canada under the same program for another four years.

It is estimated that as many as 70,000 workers will be forced to leave, according to the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“It’s appropriate to sympathize with individual temporary foreign workers, because, quite simply, they’ve done nothing wrong.” - Gil McGowan, head of Alberta Federation of Labour[/quote]

Workers in managerial and professional occupations, or under international agreements such as NAFTA, and those who have already received approval letters for their permanent residence applications, are exempt.

Critics have condemned the April 1 implementation as an April Fool’s joke for the thousands who expected to be deported.

Veteran immigration consultant Michael Scott, writing for the Pilipino Express in Winnipeg, praised Gil McGowan — the head of the Alberta Federation of Labour — and quotes him speaking about the basic compassion held by Canadians: “It’s appropriate to sympathize with individual temporary foreign workers, because, quite simply, they’ve done nothing wrong,” McGowan said.

McGowan pointed out that the expansion and abuse of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) is a result of the Harper government’s approach to the shortage of skilled workers inside Canada.

He added that the Conservatives created a “two-tier labour market in which unscrupulous employers are allowed to use a vulnerable underclass of workers to drive down wages, displace Canadians and avoid their responsibilities related to training.”

International Outcry Wins Reprieve for Mary Jane Veloso

Canada was caught in the international outcry surrounding Indonesia’s aborted execution of Mary Jane Veloso, who a firing squad was scheduled to execute on April 28. 

The mother of two won a reprieve from the Indonesian government after Philippine President Aquino reportedly broke protocol by speaking directly to the Indonesian Foreign Minister on the sidelines of an Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting.

The migrant’s rights group Migrante Canada, which has organizations in Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and B.C., spearheaded the Canadian effort to lobby for Veloso’s release, alongside organizations like Migrante International, the International Migrants Alliance (IMA), Bayan Canada and the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS).

According to the Philippine Asian Chronicle, members of Migrante B.C. (pictured above) rallied outside the Indonesian consulate in Vancouver on April 24.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][Migrante B.C.] held Aquino’s government accountable for Veloso’s near-execution and criticized him for his continued inaction towards other cases involving Filipinos on death row abroad.[/quote]

In a press release, Migrante B.C. coordinator Jane Ordinario said that although Veloso had already been transferred to ‘Execution Island,’ the group would not give up hope, adding that many individuals and organizations were calling on Indonesian President Joko Widodo to grant her clemency.

The group held Aquino’s government accountable for Veloso’s near-execution and criticized him for his continued inaction towards other cases involving Filipinos on death row abroad. 

Ordinario added that the group had met with the Philippine Consul General, Neil Ferrer, to submit its demands.

Migrante held a noon vigil on April 28 in front of the Indonesian consulate followed by a community prayer at the Multicultural Helping House Society to celebrate that Veloso’s execution had been cancelled.

Michael Davantes Voted Most Beautiful Filipino-Canadian

Mabuhay Montreal TV (MMTV) anchor, Michael Davantes, has been named the ‘Most Beautiful Filipino-Canadian’ in Canada.

The Montreal-based North American Filipino Star’s Fely Rosales Carino writes, “The word beautiful can be defined in many different ways. It commonly describes those with physical attributes; however, it can also describe someone who has demonstrated an extraordinary achievement or success.”

The International Professional Entertainment Network chose Davantes, because as Carino reports, the network honours those who have made an “impact in the community, or even in somebody else’s life.” The Network has made it clear that it believes Davantes to be a beautiful person inside and out.

The fifth annual Most Beautiful Filipinos in Canada Awards ceremony was held in Toronto on January 31, 2015. There, Davantes received an award of recognition.

In the past, the anchor has been a recipient of Vanier College’s “Life Award” for scholastic achievement and tremendous community service. He has also held the “Outstanding Graduate of the Year” title by the Philippine Benevolent and the Scholarship Society of Quebec (PBSSQ) and been recognized as one of the “Most Outstanding Filipino-Canadians” by the Bb. Pilipinas World Pageant for helping build a positive image for Filipinos in Canada.

Calling him “dynamic” Carino’s article also lists all of Davantes’ many talents as he has worked as a medical lab technician, model trainer and agent, international pageant director, public relations and marketing consultant, musical theatre actor and an environmental columnist in the past.

Manila: A Dangerous Place for Lawyers

Just as Philippine President Aquino left Canada last week, The Law Society of Upper Canada said it is deeply concerned about the ongoing human rights violations faced by lawyers and judges in the Philippines, reported the Filipino Post.

The Post article speaks to an incident last summer when an unidentified motorcycle gunmen killed lawyer Rodolfo Felicio (pictured to the left) on August 24, making him the fifth member of the Filipino activist group, National Union of People’s Lawyers, to have been killed in the past 10 years.

Reports indicate that at least 41 lawyers and 18 judges have been murdered in the Philippines since 2001. An increasing number of lawyers and judges have been harassed and attacked.

The Law Society urged the government of the Philippines to put an end to all acts of violence and harassment against human rights lawyer and defenders in the nation, and guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological safety and integrity of all human rights lawyers and defenders, according to the article.

According to the Basic Report on the Human Rights Lawyers under Continuing Threat in the Philippines, in these cases “only very scarcely a perpetrator is arrested and nearly never prosecuted or punished by the courts.”

The Post makes note that in its World Report 2015 Human Rights Watch stated that Aquino continues to send “mixed signals” about his administration’s commitment to improving human rights in the Philippines.

“While human rights was a key agenda for Aquino when he took office in 2010, he has failed to make good on many of his commitments, chiefly his expressed intent to end killings of activists and journalists and bring those responsible to justice,” stated the report.

Photos sourced from the original stories that were summarized from ethnic media outlets cited.


Ted Alcuitas is former senior editor of the Philippine Asian News Today and currently publisher and editor of philippinecanadiannews.com.

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Published in The Philippines
Sunday, 26 April 2015 13:50

Remittance 'Mega-Flows' to Asia

Remittances to the Philippines reached $28 billion US in 2014, making the country the third largest remittance recipient in the world, a report from the World Bank (WB) showed.

The country is preceded only by India, which received remittances of $70 billion, and China, $64 billion. Mexico and Nigeria followed the Philippines, having received $25 billion and $21 billion, respectively.

Total remittances in 2014 reached $583 billion, representing a 4.7 per cent growth from 2013.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]With new thinking, these mega-flows can be leveraged to finance development and infrastructure projects.” - Kaushik Basu, World Bank[/quote]

“This (total remittances) is more than double the ODA (official development assistance) in the world… With new thinking, these mega-flows can be leveraged to finance development and infrastructure projects,” said the bank’s chief economist and senior vice president Kaushik Basu.

For this year, global remittances are projected to grow by 0.4 per cent, the slowest growth rate since the global financial crisis in 2008.

In 2015, total remittances are expected to reach $586 billion.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The United States, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong and Canada are the top countries where Filipinos work or migrate.[/quote]

“The slowdown in the growth of remittances this year will affect most developing countries…The positive impact of an economic recovery in the U.S. will be partially offset by continued weakness in the Euro area, the impact of lower oil prices on the Russian economy, the strengthening of the US dollar, and tighter immigration controls in many remittance source countries,” the report said.

Slowdown Seen in 2015

For East Asia and the Pacific, the World Bank said the growth will also be slower. From an estimated 7.6 per cent growth in 2014, growth this year is seen to hit 2.8 per cent.

Citing data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, the BSP said 1.6 million Filipinos were deployed last year, while job orders increased by 10.7 per cent to 878,609.

The United States, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong and Canada are the top countries where Filipinos work or migrate.


Published in partnership with Asian Pacific Post.

 

Published in The Philippines
Wednesday, 20 August 2014 15:18

In Asia, Cheating to the Test

by Andrew Lam (@andrewqlam) in San Francisco

CNN recently reported that college applications from Chinese foreign students to the US sounded exactly the same. 

In fact, one admission officer read a phrase in one of the applications that sent up red flags: “Insert girl’s name here.” The number of Chinese students in the United States has reached 235,597 as of 2013 but admissions officers said that “as many as one in 10 applications to U.S. colleges by Chinese students may include fraudulent material, including phony essays and high-school transcripts.”

Cheating is a worldwide phenomenon, and is a challenge even here in the United States, but in Asia it has reached near-crisis levels. Last year, riots broke out when teachers at a school in Zhongxiang, in China’s Hubei province tried to stop students from cheating. Parents fought police when they found out their children were prevented from cheating. It’s only fair that their children should cheat, they reasoned, since everyone else was cheating as well. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]When you take into account that two out of three Asians in America were born overseas, it's no wonder that even the most diligent Asian students feel more comfortable in science classes than in English literature, where raising your hand to offer opinions is not only encouraged but counts toward the final grade.[/quote]

Can Asians think?

To do well on tests is the end point, not necessarily to learn. So much so that some years ago Kishore Mahbubani, a career diplomat from Singapore, posed this question in the title of his book,"Can Asians Think? Understanding the Divide Between East and West.” A rhetorical title surely since Asia, from Confucius down to dissident artist Ai Wei Wei (the creator of the Bird’s Nest in Beijing) to writer Haruki Murakami, abounds with philosophers, artists and thinkers. But Mahbubani does have a point: The majority of the population tends to fall into conformity and while a few are winning prestigious literary and artistic awards, the majority measures success via material gains and it begins with doing well on tests, ethical considerations be damned. 

Is this a uniquely Asian problem? Intellectual laziness is a major issue here in the United States too, and students buy homework online to avoid thinking the way they download music from iTunes. But America still values those who think outside the box, originality. We immortalized Steve Jobs for his inventions. We mourn comedian and actor Robin Williams’ passing for his unique, brilliant, and fierce brand of humor. Williams invents words without thinking, jokes fall out of his lips unrehearsed and we all roar in laughter, awed by his inventiveness. The inventor, the loudmouth, the class clown, the individual with a vision, the maverick – these are encouraged still in America. 

I learned to say “I disagree” to my father in English when I first came here at age 11 from Vietnam at the family table. In Vietnamese, it would have sounded harsh and unfilial (unbecoming of a filial son), and unthinkable. But the “I” fell off my tongue much easier in English. It allowed me to separate myself from the clan, the collective. It allowed me to think for myself. America encourages rebellion against the collective: follow your dreams. 

Alas, back in Asia the ego is still by and large suppressed. The self exists in the context of families and clans. It is submerged in the service of shared values and ritualized language. A student raising his hand to disagree with a teacher would make a rare sight, indeed, in Vietnam, and may in fact be seen as a direct challenge to authorities. You are measured by how well you do on tests, end of point. 

Plagiarism

A professor friend of mine teaches Asian American studies at a college here in the Bay Area. Every semester she catches her students cheating, mostly in the form of plagiarism. “I said to the class, ‘three of you plagiarized,’” she once told me. “’But I’ll be nice for once. Just rewrite and slide the new midterm essay under my office and I won’t flunk you.’” Three days later, she found 11 new essays under her door upon the deadline. “A lot of them are foreign students or immigrant kids, and they are not confident with their own voice.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The inventor, the loudmouth, the class clown, the individual with a vision, the maverick – these are encouraged still in America. [/quote]

When you take into account that two out of three Asians in America were born overseas, it's no wonder that even the most diligent Asian students feel more comfortable in science classes than in English literature, where raising your hand to offer opinions is not only encouraged but counts toward the final grade.

Asia has become an economic powerhouse in the 21st century. China’s economy will soon surpass those of the United States and Europe. Friends of mine in East Asia are quite proud of this fact. But to them, I often ask, “What does all that mean?” Materialism, after all, is not an ideology, it’s selfishness writ large. To create a viable civilization it starts with clear moral values regarding pedagogy, a shared sense of purpose, and a critical mass of thinkers and inventors. That is, it usually takes a lot of thinking and imagining and re-inventing for a civilization to have its sphere of influence emanating beyond its borders. 

And my suspicion is that it usually starts in the classroom. 


Andrew Lam is an editor with New America Media and author of the "Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora," and "East Eats West: Writing in Two Hemispheres." His latest book is "Birds of Paradise Lost," a short story collection, was published in 2013 and won a Pen/Josephine Miles Literary Award in 2014.

Republished with permission.

Published in China
Tuesday, 19 August 2014 15:23

Peeling Rambutan: "I exist, still"

by Julie Mahfood (@JulieWrites2) in Montreal

When asked if her love of reading was fostered by any particular person in her childhood, nothing comes immediately to mind for poet Gillian Sze. Sze’s third book of poetry, Peeling Rambutan, came out last month, and she has met me at Café Shaika in Montreal’s NDG neighbourhood. After thinking for some moments, the poet fondly recalls circle time in Kindergarten and Grade 1, and even names her teachers. A more dominant memory, however, turns out to be an image she has, not of a parent reading to her, but of herself reading to her father from a very young age.

Sze is first-generation Canadian, born in Winnipeg to Chinese parents. It is fitting that her father has come up so early in the interview, as Peeling Rambutan is a tribute to the author’s parents and ancestors, in particular her maternal grandmother. Sze took a trip with her parents in 2008 “back home,” to Malaysia, where her father has relatives, and to China, where her parents came from.

In “Mapping the Village,” the speaker describes visiting her father’s village, which was on the cusp of obliteration. The government had taken over the land, and buildings were being erected in the middle of the existing village, erasing it. The poem describes, on one side, a child squatting to pee and a couple killing a chicken out in the open, while on the other side a tall condo is noisily erected. Despite the literal destruction of the village, Sze makes clear that her family’s roots are deep and cannot be destroyed by change or time:

Next to your house, bordered by trees heavy with tangerines, 

is a temple your grandfather built […] Newly renovated, it

gleams with sun-white lanterns and gold words of promise.

Fresh pavement was put in just a year ago, but nothing stops

tree roots. They defy war, debt, electricity – even renovation

– as they leak out the concrete square and, again, uproot the

ground.

Although the roots are hardy survivors, there is a violence to the uprooting. Just as the government has violently displaced the village, so, too, are families who move on to other places and cultures, even willingly, permanently uprooted from the ground they once knew.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]In Peeling Rambutan, Sze beautifully illustrates how a displaced family’s descendants combine their ancestors’ knowledge and collective memories with the ways of their new home to create a place between.[/quote]

This uprooting can have more ordinary consequences, such as forgetting. In her young adulthood, Sze’s mother lived in Hong Kong, but during their visit she could not always recall where things had been. The poem “In Hong Kong” describes how drastically cityscapes change, so that a neighbourhood or family dwelling that one once knew intimately can be almost impossible to identify years later:

 […] My mother’s old street vanished,

but reappeared the next week, bringing with it her old

apartment […] A young girl, combing her hair,

could look up and lose direction.

This realigning of memory is echoed in a composite the poet makes by shifting around the women in her family. Sze’s mother is one of seven sisters; between aunts and grandmothers, the poet admits to having combined several female relatives so as to avoid the reader getting “lost” amidst the various characters. This also intensifies the reader’s experience, and has been achieved well in the poem “Harvest”:

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]She’s collected scores of summer in her basket. Old silk blouses

have been ripped up to make handkerchiefs. In one, she wraps

up a boat ride to Indonesia. In another, the sound of her

mother’s last cough. She keeps her missing teeth,

[…]the remainder of a village vernacular.[/quote]

This last sentence exemplifies the sense of cultural nostalgia Sze delivers without inserting herself as writer into these poems. In conversation, she mentions a penchant for collecting: old paper, stamps, family stories, and even snippets of conversation. Like many writers, she enjoys people-watching with a touch of eavesdropping. There is a strong sense of the observer in her work, as well as the chronicler and archivist, and the participant. The poem “Continuation” provides just one example of a speaker who seems to be collecting images and rearranging them:

Where my grandmother was born
is now a tattered shack

used for keeping ducks.

                          The house it leans on has buckled                      

[…]

Around the corner from the Ladies’ Market,
I pass a woman at a shop window,
practising her smile in the glass.

When asked which of these roles — observer, archivist or participant — she could imagine writing without, Sze is at a loss. She couldn’t give up any of these. She does seem to have given up the persona of the writer, however, which was prevalent in her earlier work. Her first book, Fish Bones, has an almost self-conscious feeling to it, as the poet weaves herself into the work. Peeling Rambutan, however, like the fruit it describes, has shed that skin, leaving only the meaty flesh of the poet’s words to create vivid images, and to hint at the emotions behind them, as in the poem “Eating Fruit”:

In my mother’s language, if one does not have a taste for

a food, one does not know it, as in to comprehend

[…] Eating has become a test of

intimacy, to gauge the extent a mouth can work around a

seed. In the evenings, after dinner, we eat fruits, and

[…] my family watches […]

[The] spikes of the rambutans

[…] slackened beneath my

fingers, turned lissom like new grass.

Sze’s instructional poems highlight the role of archivist. “How to Cut a Cabbage,” “How to Treat Arthritis,” and “How to Maintain Daily Health” use verse to pass down family knowledge and folk medicine. Some of these pieces are sparse, such as “How to Kill a Cockroach,” presented here in its entirety:

Without qualm,

she peers at the bottom of her shoe and says,

Never let a cockroach see your hand’s shadow.

In Peeling Rambutan, Sze beautifully illustrates how a displaced family’s descendants combine their ancestors’ knowledge and collective memories with the ways of their new home to create a place between. As she writes in “Letters,” this neither-here-nor-there-ness brings for some, “a kind of heartbreak that fills your page with three more words like I exist, still.”

Julie Mahfood is of Lebanese and Scottish ancestry, and grew up in Jamaica. She has a graduate degree in English & Creative Writing and writes for therichest.com. She is also redrafting her first novel. Julie’s work has been published in several journals, including The Caribbean Writer, Grain, Room, Descant, and The Literary Review of Canada.

{module NCM Blurb}

Published in Books
It’s time to take a look at race and racism in our community
 

by Province deputy editor Ros Guggi

 

I didn’t speak a word of English when I started kindergarten in Ontario.

My dad, from Austria, and my mom, from Yugoslavia, met on the boat to Canada in the early 1950s. They were in their late teens and early 20s, fleeing the poverty of postwar Europe. I was born here, but we spoke only German at home.

We were considered “other,” on our street and in my school. My full name is Roswitha and I cringed whenever I started a new class and the teacher made a big deal out of trying to pronounce it. My last name, Guggi, was just as tough. I just wanted to fit in. But being of German descent in the ’50s and ’60s wouldn’t allow that. There was a lot of hatred of Germans after the war and parents passed that on to their kids, who passed that on to me in the schoolyard.

Successive generations of immigrants to Canada have gone through the same things. There was discrimination against the Irish when they first came, and the Italians, and the Ukrainians. In my school, most folks had last names like Smith and Jones and Carmichael.

If your name was different, you didn’t fit, and you felt it.

Now we are no longer a country of largely British and French descent, First Nations people or European immigrants with hard-to-pronounce names.

Since the early ’70s, most of our immigrants have non-European ancestry.

They’ve been coming from Asia and India and the Philippines, with hard-to-pronounce names.

The streets of Metro Vancouver are filled with visible minorities, who have brought their culture and values with them. But many newcomers are living in self-segregated areas, where they are close to their own kind and don’t need to mix with the larger community.

While we look like a model of inclusivity, it’s clear many new immigrants don’t feel welcome. There are tensions bubbling beneath the polite surface of our official multiculturalism in B.C. and they are in full roar in Quebec. Our aboriginal people feel disenfranchised and experience open racism.

We felt we needed to take a look at race and racism in our community.

It’s the hardest project I’ve undertaken in more than three decades as a journalist. And it is the bravest project our team has done. The writers have been tasked with exploring racism without provoking it. What we do want to provoke is a community discussion about the issues that divide us, and what needs to change to make ours a more inclusive place.

Over the next 17 days, we’ll be exploring all aspects of the issue, and we’ll be encouraging you to join the conversation. While we want this to be an honest discussion about issues of race, culture and values, we do not want to become a platform for racists. We will be doing our best to vet comments so the conversation is constructive, rather than destructive.

Before we started work on this multimedia series last spring, I met with many community leaders to discuss the issues we should explore. We thank them for their insights and help in opening doors for us. They include Mo Dhaliwal, Ujjal Dosanjh, Tung Chan, Alden Habacon, Naveen Girn, Wade Grant and Janet Austin. My colleague and friend, Province Deputy Editor Fabian Dawson who immigrated here from Malaysia in 1988, provided invaluable advice.

We also want to thank the scores of people who opened up to our journalists about racism they’ve experienced.

The essays of nine community leaders will appear, along with your feedback, throughout the series.

Please read the series and check out the compelling online videos and multimedia features we’ve produced. Then join this very important discussion by sending your stories about racism you’ve experienced or your thoughts on the issues we’re raising to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Tell us what you think needs to change. How can we make this province a more inclusive place and create a better community?

Ros Guggi is The Province’s Deputy Editor and the project leader.

Republished with permission from The Province. Read original reporting here

Published in Top Stories
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