On December 3, 2015 Geoff Regan was elected as the 36th Speaker of the House of Commons — reportedly the first from Atlantic Canada in almost 100 years.

The veteran politician, who was first elected to parliament in 1993 to represent Halifax West, was re-elected to his seventh term in October 2015 during which time he has held 126 town hall meetings.

His focus over the years on issues such as education, environmental protection, health promotion and retirement security, has led him to the new position he holds as Speaker of the House.

More respect in the House of Commons

In a conversation with Touch BASE editor Robin Arthur, Regan said he plans to change the tone of the house to make it less confrontational.

“Of course, I cannot do it alone. I need the cooperation of Members of Parliament (MPs) to do this. Canadians would like to see MPs show more respect for each other and think about the people they serve rather than the parties they belong to.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Sixty nine per cent of MPs think there is too much of heckling – especially interruption of speakers."[/quote]

Regan was pointing to heckling on the floor of the House of Commons which he says is a form of intimidation. “It especially discourages women from entering politics. I want to see less of that type of heckling,” he says.

“Sixty nine per cent of MPs think there is too much of heckling – especially interruption of speakers — and so that’s the challenge ahead.”

The Speaker of the House votes only in the event of a tie. He votes not as he wishes to, but based on precedent.

Speaking on matters of immigration

The position of Speaker of the House of Commons requires him to be non partisan and impartial at all times – therefore he can no longer comment publicly on issues that might come before him on the floor of the House. Nevertheless he can communicate with MPs separately. That being said, although the House Speaker cannot introduce bills, he can take up issues that matter to his constituency and represent his constituents.

“I can do that in direct communication with MPs, cabinet ministers or parliament secretaries,” Regan said. He told this newspaper there are issues that matter to his constituency (Halifax West).

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"[P]oliticians at all levels should put the pressure on professional bodies responsible for credentials recognition to make sure they are welcoming in their approach."[/quote]

“These include community infrastructure, the immigration system — there will be an immigration plan this year — initiatives that would allow families to make ends meet, health and seniors care,” he said.

The Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has met its promises to open Canada’s gates to 10,000 refugees by December 31. But is the government looking to iron out other issues of interest to newcomers?

“These are matters of government,” Regan observed. “However, the Liberal party has promised to speed up family reunification and double the number of parents and grandparents coming in every year.”

He says that in town hall meetings, he has heard from immigrants with advanced degrees. These are matters that can be taken up to speed up credentials recognition.

“The minister cannot be an expert on specifics of job sectors. So politicians at all levels should put the pressure on professional bodies responsible for credentials recognition to make sure they are welcoming in their approach and are not looking to lower the number of professionals coming into the country,” he observed.

Regan also touched on Bill C-24, introduced by the Harper government, which allows the minister of immigration to strip a dual citizen of his citizenship if he is convicted abroad without the right to defend.

“The Liberal party opposed the Bill when it was introduced,” he said. “We will have to wait and see if the government will introduce a Bill to review it.”


This article first appeared on Touch BASE. Re-published with permission. 

Published in Politics

by Susan Korah in Ottawa 

Approximately 500 Taiwanese Canadians from Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver travelled to Taiwan to vote in the country’s recent presidential election. 

They say they are proud of the democracy in their home country and value it as a precious gift for which their parents and grandparents fought so heroically. 

Most of these voters, who spent between $1,500 and $2000 each on an airline ticket, are in their 50s and 60s, says Jack Chen, a Taiwanese Canadian scientist with Environment Canada living in Ottawa. 

Unlike younger people, who often wish they could go, but don’t have the opportunity, this demographic is more likely to have the time and the financial means to make the trip, he adds. 

“Many of them are first generation immigrants to Canada with strong ties to the home country,” he explains, emphasizing that they also have first-hand experience of living without any civil and political rights under repressive governments. They have a deep appreciation of their hard-won right to vote. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][Many first generation Taiwanese Canadians] have a deep appreciation of their hard-won right to vote.[/quote]

Growing up in Taiwan 

Grace Bui, one of the Taiwanese Canadians who made the trip to vote, says she remembers the days of repression in the 1950s. 

“My brother, 15 years older than me, lived his high school years in fear because many of his classmates were dragged away from the classroom and were never seen again,” she recalls. “I could see the fear in his eyes. He warned me never to discuss this because the secret police could take us away.” 

Shin-Youg Shiau, an Ottawa resident and community leader, is another of those first generation Canadian immigrants that Chen refers to. 

“It’s a great sacrifice for us in financial terms,” Shiau explains, just before leaving for Taiwan with his wife to participate in the election. “We not only have to pay for our flights, but also hotel rooms because we don’t have any family left there to stay with.”

He adds, however, that the sacrifice is worth it and that they are happy to have had this opportunity. 

Eligibility of overseas voters 

From the Taiwan government’s point of view, there are certain conditions voters must meet to make them eligible. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Taiwanese voters must be physically present in Taiwan to cast their ballots.[/quote]

“Overseas Taiwanese who want to vote must still possess our citizenship,” explains Simon Sung, Director of Information at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, the equivalent of a Taiwanese embassy in Ottawa. 

“They need to maintain a valid household registration in any place in Taiwan and must activate that registration six months before the election so that the local election commission can prepare documents and ballot papers for them,” he adds. “When they show up at the polling station they can cast their votes.” 

Chen, who is also the vice chair of the parents’ advisory council of the Ottawa Mandarin School run by the Ottawa Catholic School Board, was unable to go to Taiwan himself, but closely monitored the campaign and the presidential election on Jan. 16 from Canada. 

He points out that unlike Canadian elections in which non-resident citizens can vote by mail, voters must be physically present in Taiwan to cast their ballots. 

Optimism for the future 

Chen says that regardless of party affiliation, most Taiwanese are proud of the election of Tsai Ing-wen – the country’s first female president – and also of the peaceful transfer of power. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Our democracy has become strong and mature and we are all proud of that.”[/quote]

Kuomintang (KMT), the party of defeated President Ma Ying-jeou, was in power for eight years and people wanted a change, but unlike in the election of 2000, there was no violence whatsoever, he adds. 

“Our democracy has become strong and mature and we are all proud of that,” Chen says. 

Louisa Ho, a retired businesswoman from Ottawa, is another Taiwanese citizen who could not make the trip to vote. She also watched the election from overseas and says she is pleased with the final results.  

“Our new president, Ms. Tsai Ing-wen, is very calm and composed and very knowledgeable,” she says. “I’m also happy that her party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), has won the majority of seats in the legislature because now their new policies and legislation won’t be blocked.” 

Ho adds that most people in Taiwan want to lead peaceful lives with an improved economy.   

Both Ho and Mai Chen (no relation to Jack Chen), a resident of Kingston, Ontario, express hope that the new party in power will restore Taiwan’s ‘space’. They say that under former President Ma Ying-jeou, Taiwan was leaning too close to China, and they perceived this as a threat to Taiwan’s democracy. 

“If the KMT [party of Ma Ying-jeou] had continued to be in power, there was a distinct possibility that Taiwan could go the way of Hong Kong,” says Mai Chen.

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Published in International

Yaldaz Sadakova | December 11, 2015

 

What’s the safest place to have a heart attack?

The back of a Canadian cab — because the driver is likely a foreign-born doctor.

Benefits Canada

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Published in Economy

by Dalia Hashim in Toronto

When Canadian filmmaker Elisa Paloschi decided to embark on a new film project in India, documenting the life of Karnataka’s first female taxi driver, she had no idea it would be a decade in the making.

“At the beginning of the filming I didn’t think I’d be filming for 10 years […] but Selvi’s story was constantly developing and I had to go back [to India several times],” explains Paloschi.

The result of Paloschi’s work was Driving with Selvi, which follows a young woman’s journey running away from an abusive marriage she was forced into at age 14 and becoming a taxi driver. The inspirational full-length documentary will open up the 19th edition of the Reel Asian Film Festival (RAFF) in Toronto this year.  

[youtube height="315" width="560"]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OqER8vQNHQc[/youtube]

Paloschi says the driving force behind her documentary was Selvi herself.

Selvi was only 18 when her and Paloschi first met and since then the two of them have grown to know each other very well.

Paloschi says it was an honour to watch and document Selvi’s healing process. “I got to see her transform from being afraid and timid to taking ownership of her life.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“I got to see her transform from being afraid and timid to taking ownership of her life.”[/quote]

Paloschi mentions she is particularly excited to be part of a Toronto festival and have Selvi in attendance for the screening, since 500 Torontonians donated to Paloschi’s online fundraising campaign to make this documentary possible.

Diversity in titles, attendees

Driving with Selvi is one of 72 titles featured in this year’s festival, which received a record number of 1,000 submissions from more than 10 countries.

Since 1997 the festival has aimed to showcase the wide variety of Asian films from East, South and Southeast Asian filmmakers from Canada, the United States, Asia and other parts of the world.

This year includes the most diverse lineup of films to date, coming from regions like Afghanistan, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Canada and the U.S.

Of the 72 titles being shown, 42 per cent are by Canadians and women have directed 50 per cent of the short films.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]This year includes the most diverse lineup of films to date.[/quote]

It’s the festival’s ability to engage and attract diverse audiences that keeps California native Aram Collier coming back every year since 2005 when he first volunteered.

“It’s quite challenging to reach out to diverse crowds around the [Greater Toronto Area], so we are hoping this year by having screenings in Richmond Hill and North York that we will be able to reach wider and more diverse audiences,” said Collier, now the Director of Programming and Education for RAFF, during the festival’s media launch event.

He spoke of how both the festival’s titles and attendees have changed and diversified since he first began his tenure with the organization.

This has particularly been the case since 2013 when RAFF opted to include South Asian titles in the lineup. Previously only included East Asian films so as to not compete with the other South Asian Canadian film festivals.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The move to include films from all across the Asian continent has “brought a lot of diversity to the festival.”[/quote]

The move to include films from all across the Asian continent has “brought a lot of diversity to the festival” Collier pointed out.

He added that in the future he hopes this diversity will continue to grow and the festival can be an avenue to bring communities from all over Toronto together.

What to expect

The RAFF will run from Nov. 5 to 15 with screenings in downtown Toronto, North York, and Richmond Hill. The festival will include galas, screenings, forums, workshops and parties featuring prominent actors, musicians and filmmakers.

This year will feature four new categories of film.

The Marquee genre will include gala presentations with notable directors, actors and writers who have made their rounds on the international film circuit. The Royal Tailor, a South Korean film about a young designer aiming to catch the queen’s attention with his renditions of traditional clothing, is featured in this section.

The Vista genre is reserved for critically acclaimed contemporary Asian titles such as Mina Walking an Afghani-Canadian title about a 12-year-old girl who is left to care for her family after losing her mother to a Taliban attack.

The Pulse genre will focus on short films from around the world, of which there are several titles participating in this year’s festival.

Finally, the Reel Asian:X genre will focus on exploring what the festival calls the Asian diaspora “beyond the traditional”, with titles such as Retrospective on Randall Okita, a series of short films by Japanese-Canadian artist Randall Okita.

These additional genres hope to bring to the audience a wider variety of titles and encourage differing types of film projects for future submissions.

This year’s edition will also include eight awards totaling over $46,000 in cash and in-kind prizes for films and filmmakers. Awards will be presented for categories such as best feature film, best first feature film, best short Canadian film and best films by GTA- based female artists.

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Published in Arts & Culture

by Paul Barber

Waves of immigration throughout Canada’s history have made ethnic sub-populations key targets for Canadian election campaigns.

Historically this has benefited the federal Liberals; the party supported mass immigration while governing Canada for two thirds of the 20th century, making ethnic voting a staple of Liberal politics. Challenges have come in recent years, notably from the Conservatives — who achieved considerable electoral success in immigrant ridings in 2011 — but also from the NDP.

It’s largely forgotten now, but at one time Canadians of British origin were openly suspicious of immigrants’ politics. In 1924, one prominent Winnipeg businessman said of newcomers: “We welcome all good citizens from foreign lands, but if they do not believe in the Christian religion, nor intend to keep our laws, they should be asked without delay to return from whence they came.”

Let’s look at some constituencies where there are large concentrations of Canadians from various ethnic backgrounds.

Ukrainians

Many of the immigrants that Winnipeg businessman was talking about came from Eastern Europe, particularly the Ukraine. Most came prior to World War I and settled on margins of the good farmland in the prairie provinces.

Based on the 2013 redistribution, in 2011 the top five federal ridings with the highest concentration of ethnic Ukrainians would have elected Conservatives, all but one by comfortable margins, all in Manitoba or Alberta. Most of this population is made up of Ukrainians whose families migrated to Canada prior to World War I or shortly thereafter and no longer speak the language.

The federal Liberals were successful at first with this vote, winning strong Ukrainian ridings in the '20s, '30s and '40s. But the Liberals were displaced on the prairies by the Progressive Conservatives under John Diefenbaker in the 1950s.

Harper has made support for the Ukraine in its struggle with Russian-backed secessionists a key symbolic foreign policy priority — no doubt partly for its domestic political benefit, even if many diplomats remain unimpressed. However, in 2015 Conservative support has slipped even in the party’s strongholds — and that includes ridings with significant Ukrainian populations.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Ethnicity is not the only influence on voting behaviour.[/quote]

Four out of five of these ridings would be retained by the Conservatives today, but current polling suggests one (in urban Winnipeg) could go to the NDP. Note that this constituency, Elmwood-Transcona, is about 21 per cent Ukrainian heritage. A majority voters are from other backgrounds. Ethnicity is not the only influence on voting behaviour.

(Data on the ethnic composition of electoral districts comes from the 2011 National Household Survey, which replaced the long form census.)

Italians

Large numbers of Italians settled in Ontario and Quebec after the Second World War, mainly in Toronto and Montreal. They reliably supported the Liberals. That may be changing.

The example of Toronto’s designated ‘Little Italy’ neighbourhood is a good illustration. The neighbourhood is located in University-Rosedale, a constituency with the 46th-largest Italian population in Canada (7.6 per cent). But many Italian-Canadians have long since moved to the suburbs.

The two constituencies with the highest concentration of Italian voters are relatively prosperous GTA ridings just north of Toronto (both King-Vaughan and Vaughan-Woodbridge rank among the top 25 most affluent constituencies in Canada).

Both would have elected Conservatives in 2011. Current polling suggests the Liberals could win back one of the two (and also pick up an NDP seat in Montreal). And the northern Ontario riding of Sault Ste. Marie, which elected a Conservative in 2011, is likely to go NDP.

South Asians

More recent years have seen large-scale immigration from Asia. The Conservatives targeted these ridings in 2011 and achieved significant, but not universal, success.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Over time, new Canadians become more integrated into Canadian society. As they do, their ethnic identities become less important in determining how they might vote.[/quote]

Again, using the redistributed vote we find that half of the top 10 South Asian constituencies would have elected Conservatives in 2011, although the NDP would have won four and the Liberals two.

With the considerable improvement in Liberal support during the current election, it is likely that the Conservatives would retain just a third of these constituencies; the NDP would drop two and the Liberals would make significant gains.

Chinese

We see a similar pattern among constituencies with substantial Chinese populations: considerable Conservative success in 2011 with likely large-scale losses, mainly to the Liberals, but also one to the NDP, anticipated in 2015.

Over time, new Canadians become more integrated into Canadian society. As they do, their ethnic identities become less important in determining how they might vote.

As second, third and fourth generations replace the original immigrants they develop political views they share with others outside of their ethnic sub-groups. Whether they are environmentalists or social justice advocates, free traders or anti-tax conservatives, their ethnic identities have progressively less influence on how they vote and view politics.

Although the Liberals continue to do well among ethnic minority voters, political support from Canada’s minorities has diversified. The efforts made by the Conservatives in 2011 met with considerable success and the NDP has made its own gains. The days of monopolizing the immigrant vote are over, and the political importance of ethnic identity clearly fades over time.


Paul Barber is a retired former public servant and journalist. He worked for the governments of Ontario and Manitoba, mainly in intergovernmental relations, and as a TV current affairs documentary producer in Winnipeg and for the program The Journal in Toronto. He offers his opinions on politics and media at the blog: tcnorris.blogspot.com

Published in partnership with iPolitics.ca.

Published in Commentary

 

Conservative party members like Minister Jason Kenney (left) have made in-roads with new Canadians in recent years by promoting the value of multiculturalism and attending cultural events like the Khalsa Day Parade. But, experts ask, will that be enough to earn their vote this October?

Photo Credit: Jason Hargrove via Flickr CC 


by Inder S. Marwah, Stephen E. White, Phil Triadafilopoulos

Heading into this federal election campaign, the Liberal Party of Canada finds itself on unfamiliar terrain.

After having held power for 70 years in the 20th century and acquiring the sobriquet of Canada’s Natural Governing Party, most recent opinion polls place it third in the race.

Alongside the Liberals, many immigrant voters too find themselves in a strange position this time around.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Since the 1970s, the early days of Canada’s modern immigration regime, it has been a virtual truism to observe that new Canadian voters belong to the Liberal Party.[/quote]

Since the 1970s, the early days of Canada’s modern immigration regime, it has been a virtual truism to observe that new Canadian voters belong to the Liberal Party. 

This has been so for a range of reasons (some more speculative than others) from the Pearson Liberals’ introduction of the points system in 1967 to Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s stewardship of Canadian multiculturalism in the 1970s.

The Reform Party’s perceived hostility toward “hyphenated” immigrant citizens in the late 1980s and 1990s also helped in cementing their bond with the Liberals.

As immigration numbers climbed, new Canadians became an increasingly important and historically reliable source of support for the Liberals, who, more often than not, were number one in federal elections.

It all changed with the 2011 election. The Conservatives won their first majority and made significant inroads into the new Canadian communities long beholden to the Liberals. Why did more than three decades’ worth of relatively consistent support decline?

Conservative success an aberration?

One answer might be that since 2004 the Conservatives recognized the necessity of appealing to new Canadians.

They developed targeted research to identify cultural groups amenable to their social and fiscal conservatism, attended innumerable religious and cultural festivals nationwide, loudly proclaimed the value of multiculturalism, maintained robust annual immigration quotas, issued apologies for historical harms to certain communities, and, of course, tweeted photographs of MPs in turbans. 

In short, the Conservatives have done exactly what worked for the Liberals: they have built a presence in communities, issued policies and symbolic gestures favourable to them, drawn MPs from their ranks, and embraced the national diversity to which they contribute. By all accounts, it seems to have worked.

But, then again, maybe not. The Conservatives’ successes, and Liberals’ failures, might be more of an aberration than an indication of any larger or longer-term trend.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][T]he Conservatives have aggressively pursued policies whose substance and rhetoric could very easily alienate new Canadians.[/quote]

The Liberals were at a historic low point by the time of the last election. After reaching unprecedented depths with only 26 per cent of the vote in 2008, they hit rock bottom, capturing just under 19 per cent of the vote in 2011. It is hardly surprising that a party so unpopular among voters in general would lose the backing of some of its core supporters.

However, even though fewer immigrant Canadians voted Liberal in 2011, many more still said they thought of themselves as Liberals. And there is some evidence that they were returning to the fold as early as 2012. In addition to this, the Conservatives have aggressively pursued policies whose substance and rhetoric could very easily alienate new Canadians. 

The climate of fear-mongering surrounding Bill C-51 and Bill S-7 (Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act) has proven unpalatable to many Canadians, and appears to target Canada’s Muslim communities. 

This perceived hostility toward Muslim Canadians has only been further exacerbated by Stephen Harper’s declamation against the niqab as “rooted in a culture that is anti-women” and by his dogged determination to keep Omar Khadr incarcerated, despite the Supreme Court’s judgment to the contrary. 

The Conservatives have also, in the last few years, eroded the rights of dual citizens. Bill C-24 empowers the government to strip them of their Canadian passport for certain offences.

This legislation eradicates the equality of citizenship (Canadians without a second nationality remain subject to our legal system, while dual citizens can be pushed out of it) and opens the possibility that Canadian-born subjects could be extradited to a country to which they’ve never been, and whose language they might not even speak. 

NDP in the forefront

Finally, there is the matter of the three-way race that the New Democratic Party’s rise has opened up. With a weaker Liberal Party, will new Canadians take a closer look at the NDP as an alternative?

Overlooked in hype around the Conservatives’ efforts to win the support of new Canadians is the NDP’s outreach among minority ethno-cultural communities for decades.

A survey of federal party memberships as far back as the year 2000 indicated that it was the NDP, rather than the Liberals, who stood out with approximately one in five members born outside of Canada. While the NDP’s efforts with new Canadians haven’t always paid off at the ballot box in the past, things may be different now that they are the official opposition.  

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Can the Liberal Party win back the support of new Canadian voters, or will it be overtaken by a surging NDP?[/quote]

The 2015 election thus raises a number of interesting questions: Can the Liberal Party win back the support of new Canadian voters, or will it be overtaken by a surging NDP? Can the Conservative Party of Canada hold onto the gains it made in 2011, or will its policies on citizenship, the niqab and national security turn a significant segment of new Canadian voters away?

What combination of outreach, ideology and appeals to material interests will garner the parties an advantage with new Canadian voters while maintaining and extending their appeal to other important constituencies? 

One thing is for certain: Given their large numbers, clustering in vote rich urban regions and tendency to vote at the same rate as native-born, new Canadians will be aggressively courted by all three parties. Stay tuned as we track how parties compete for their support in the weeks ahead. We’re in for a long and interesting campaign. 


Inder S. Marwah is a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow at McMaster University’s department of political science. Stephen E. White is a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow at Concordia University’s department of political science. Phil Triadafilopoulos is associate professor of political science at the University of Toronto Scarborough and the School of Public Policy and Governance.

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Published in Commentary

by Sam Minassie (@samminassie) in Toronto

“We follow everything Canadians do; we follow their schedule, follow their holidays, take out OSAP, go to Canadian schools, pay taxes. I don’t know what’s not Canadian about us, our skin?” asks Sami Khalifa.

What exactly is Canadian culture? Canada is often described as one of the most diverse nations in the world, but this multiculturalism has come at the price of a distinct national identity.

Approximately 250,000 immigrants arrive in Canada each year. Their integration into society is always a high priority, but there is arguably little focus on their children who will be the face of the country one day.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]What many tend to overlook is how the children of these immigrants, who as of 2011 Stats Canada reported represent 17.4 per cent of Canada's population, must cope with the dual identity that is subsequently created.[/quote]

After speaking with a number of second-generation immigrants - defined by Stats Canada as individuals who were born in Canada and had at least one parent born outside Canada - it becomes evident that many have trouble pinpointing exactly what it means to be Canadian.

“I do not feel a [personal] connection to Canadian culture because the culture is non-existent,” says Solomon Woldemichael, a descendent of Ethiopians. “I only identify as Canadian because I lived here for much longer.”

The social and cultural alienation that many immigrants feel is something that can be expected; while finding their place within a new setting they often face challenges such as language barriers, difficulty finding employment and an overall culture shock. What many tend to overlook is how the children of these immigrants, who as of 2011 Stats Canada reported represent 17.4 per cent of Canada's population, must cope with the dual identity that is subsequently created.

Sammy Nbarak comes from a Tanzanian family that immigrated to Canada in the late 1980s. “Even though you’re born here in Canada, your parents’ discipline came from Africa,” he shares. “Everything they taught you came from African tradition. Our lifestyle is different than what they went through, but it is [essentially] the same upbringing.”

However, this cultural rift that has formed cannot be attributed solely to parents or any household practices, as there are a number of external factors that also play a role.  

Not 'fully' Canadian

“[Research done by the Canadian government] suggests that current and future second generation youth cohorts are more likely to grow up in neighbourhoods predominantly populated by co-ethnics,” states a 2013 Policy Horizons Canada report, Why it is Time to Take a Second Look at the Second Generation. “Thus, this research indicates that the second generation, now and in the future, will have very different experiences integrating into Canadian society than the cohorts which preceded them.”

Sami Khalifa, whose mom and dad are from Egypt and Sudan respectively, says he can relate to this first hand. “When you are younger you are surrounded by [immigrants of the same or similar backgrounds], going to the community centres, cultural events, mosques. But the older you get you don’t have as much time for that, you get more involved in the community and you are exposed to a more diverse landscape.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Canada’s identity is basically multiple identities [of] every race or religion. I’m still a Canadian at the end of the day. I’m more Canadian because I was raised here. Sudanese by nature, Canadian by nurture.” - Sami Khalifa[/quote]

It is the experiences of second-generation youth like Khalifa that researcher Mehrunnisa Ali studies in the report “Second Generation Youth in Toronto: Are We All Multicultural?” published in 2008 by Metropolis’ Canadian Diversity.  

“In Canada, as elsewhere, the concern itself is indicative of uncertainty that second generation youth may not see themselves, and may not be seen by others, as “fully” Canadian,” Ali writes. “This is despite the policy, official discourse and ideology of multiculturalism, which suggests that various cultural groups are equally valued in this country.”

Khalifa can relate. “Canada’s identity is basically multiple identities [of] every race or religion. I’m still a Canadian at the end of the day,” he says. “I’m more Canadian because I was raised here. Sudanese by nature, Canadian by nurture.”

Mosaic vs. melting pot

In the U.S. diversity is also celebrated, but to ensure that the authenticity of American culture is not compromised, the concept of a “melting pot” was adopted, as opposed to Canada’s ever changing “cultural mosaic.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][S]ome argue that the “melting pot” is a more realistic ideology for those immigrating to a new country so as to not infringe upon the cultural rights of the established citizens.[/quote]

In a 1971 speech to the House of Commons, then Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau spoke to the importance of the multicultural mosaic developing at the time in Canada. “National unity if it is to mean anything in the deeply personal sense, must be founded on confidence in one’s own individual identity,” he said. “Out of this can grow respect for that of others and a willingness to share ideas, attitudes and assumptions.”

However, some argue that the “melting pot” is a more realistic ideology for those immigrating to a new country so as to not infringe upon the cultural rights of the established citizens.

Daniel Leung, whose parents are originally from China, is a strong advocate of this. “My parents came to Canada to adopt the cultural freedoms and rights of this country. Canada is our home, we don’t try to change its culture to that of which we migrated from.”

As a whole, Canada has made great strides and is known for its multiculturalism in the international community, but there are always improvements that could be made, and understanding second-generation Canadians is one area to focus on.

As the Policy Horizons report states there is a, “need for an expanded consideration of the challenges faced by the second generation. Nevertheless, despite a variety of research findings indicating that recent immigrants and visible minorities in Canada may be disadvantaged in a number of ways, little research has been completed on what this “new” second generation may experience.”

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Published in Top Stories

by Ranjit Bhaskar (@ranjit17) in Mississauga, Ontario

If a beer company can harness the power of Canada’s diverse languages to open a fridge full of its wares as a marketing stunt, why not use that same force for civic engagement? 

In time for this year’s Canada Day and the upcoming federal elections, the Canadian Arab Institute (CAI) has released an Arabic version of “O Canada” to open the hearts and minds of its cultural community. 

[youtube height="315" width="560"]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=33oWbDJAamw[/youtube] 

Part of the CAI’s Your Voice campaign, “Ya Canada” is performed by soprano Miriam Khalil, and hits all the right notes, including the replacement of the contentious, “in all thy sons command” phrase with the gender-inclusive “in all of us command.” 

This unofficial translation of the national anthem is “one of the tricks up our sleeve” to roll out the non-partisan voter engagement campaign, said Raja Khouri, president of the CAI during a recent panel discussion titled “From Marginalization to Integration” it hosted in Mississauga, Ontario. 

The panelists included Ratna Omidvar, Executive Director of the Global Diversity Exchange at Ryerson University; Cathy Winter, Manager of DiverseCity onBoard; Crystal Greer, Director of Legislative Services & City Clerk with the City of Mississauga and Mohamad Fakih, the CEO of Paramount Fine Foods. 

Bemoaning that voting was becoming more transactional in nature and not part of nation building, Omidvar emphasized the need to shift away from this trend. “Democracy belongs to all of us only when we actually start participating.” 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][Mohamad]Fakih shared his experiences in civic engagement at the local level. Fakih stressed that, “Change is a belief that you can make a difference even if it takes time and hard work,” and it starts with voting to ensure the right to have a say isn’t lost.[/quote]

Omidvar said there are all kinds of opportunities, including small daily acts as well as sitting on the boards of various public and non-profit institutions that lead to participation. “It is all about taking ownership and paying it forward.” 

She said it is not an anomaly for people to have split national loyalties in an increasingly globalized world where multiple identities are a fact of life. “As long as we wear our various hats properly, it is the values we uphold that matter.” 

‘Don’t have to Keep Heads Low’

Picking up on the importance of being involved in the community, Winter highlighted the work of DiverseCity onBoard. The program enables visible minorities to find a place on non-profit and charitable boards. Winter said it is imperative that the face of leadership reflects the new Canada and all communities need to stretch their social capital.

Greer showcased the City of Mississauga’s efforts in engaging citizens and making sure city council utilizes its skills and knowledge while developing policy. Greer said this is mostly done by including citizen advisers on the different committees of the municipal council and making sure their input and feedback is heard.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“[W]e must all become members of one political party or the other. We must infiltrate the system by not just sitting aside – when we move, we make change.” - Ratna Omidvar[/quote]

With the self-deprecating claim that, “I am a shawarma man, not a politician,” Fakih shared his experiences in civic engagement at the local level. Fakih stressed that, “Change is a belief that you can make a difference even if it takes time and hard work,” and it starts with voting to ensure the right to have a say isn’t lost.

Apart from merely voting, Omidvar wanted the level of involvement in the political process to be a notch higher. She suggested that, “We must all become members of one political party or the other. We must infiltrate the system by not just sitting aside – when we move, we make change.”

All the panellists were of the opinion that new citizens coming from repressive societies must be made aware that it is possible to make change happen here in Canada and they have nothing to fear. “You need to unlearn repressions and know that you don’t have to keep heads low to stay out of trouble,” was the collective message from panellists to new Canadians to elevate their involvement in nation building.

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Published in Arab World

by Lin Abdul Rahman (@linabdulrahman) in Toronto

Two siblings from Saskatchewan are among 10 climbers who have been barred from leaving Malaysia after they allegedly took nude photos atop Mount Kinabalu in the country’s eastern state of Sabah.

A magnitude-6 earthquake rocked the mountain on the morning of June 5. Sixteen people have died while two are still missing.

As the highest peak in the country, Sabahans consider Mount Kinabalu to be sacred; it is a point of pride for many Malaysians. The native Dusun community, in particular, believe the mountain is the final resting place of their ancestors.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]As a Malaysian, it is unclear to me what the country’s government hopes to discover in its investigation of the climbers’ alleged crime.[/quote]

Emotions ran high when the climbers’ nude photos on Kinabalu Park Facebook page were brought to light. Reports say they were blamed by many, including Deputy Chief Minister of Sabah, Joseph Pairin Kitingan, for causing the earthquake.

Kitingan told the media that the climbers had “broken native laws”; a number of the climbers have been arrested and are currently being held for investigation.

The Divided Response

Reactions to the incident are divided into two camps. Many feel the climbers had violated the sanctity of the mountain and disrespected the people who consider it sacred.

Others felt the locals’ beliefs were founded in superstition and that the climbers should not be held to those beliefs.

One climber named Emil Kaminski – a Canadian national who claims to have been part of the “mountaintop photo shoot” – has been particularly vocal. He reportedly called Malaysia’s Tourism Minister, Masidi Manjun, an idiot for linking the earthquake to the nude photos.

As a Malaysian, it is unclear to me what the country’s government hopes to discover in its investigation of the climbers’ alleged crime. Even more unclear is what the government hopes to achieve by penalizing them.

The affront is rooted in the climbers’ insensitivity and disregard for what local Sabahans consider sacred. If that’s the case, an extended stay in a Malaysian lockup, coupled with a fine, sounds like poor remedy.

Nonetheless, the climbers’ conduct clearly showed poor judgement that needs to be addressed. Their guide allegedly scolded them for breaking away from the group in order to take the photos. According to one report, the guide was told to go away while the climbers continued.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]There seems to be a prevailing attitude of superiority towards local customs and immunity from the repercussions of violating those customs among Western travellers.[/quote]

Kaminski’s pointedly incendiary social media posts on the matter further reflect the callous attitude I have personally encountered among young travellers from the global West to developing countries.

There seems to be a prevailing attitude of superiority towards local customs and immunity from the repercussions of violating those customs among Western travellers. As in this case, the feelings and sentiments of locals are up for ridicule or outright dismissal when they collide with those of travellers or tourists.

The Learning Lesson

The fact that two Canadians are caught in this quagmire is symbolic of ongoing conversations around pluralism and diversity in Canada. The intersection where the two beliefs cross paths is a key learning point, particularly for Canada where the immigrant population is increasingly informing the fabric of its mainstream society.

News reports and anecdotal accounts of discriminatory behaviour towards minority faith groups, people of colour and Aboriginal communities show that we still have a long way to go in learning to treat one another with respect.

From the Indian Residential School system’s attempt to “civilize” Aboriginal children to the recent “Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act” aimed at stopping polygamy and child marriages, there is a clear underlying presumption of minority beliefs and cultures as inferior and of less value compared to Western, mainstream cultures.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Respect, in this instance, doesn’t necessarily mean we have to adopt the beliefs of others. It simply means acknowledging and honouring them to the best of our ability without compromising our own principles.[/quote]

Appreciation for different beliefs can only come from mutual learning and respect through conversation. Respect, in this instance, doesn’t necessarily mean we have to adopt the beliefs of others. It simply means acknowledging and honouring them to the best of our ability without compromising our own principles.

More importantly, respecting the beliefs of others certainly doesn’t mean antagonizing them when we’re in disagreement or are shown to be in the wrong.

Punishing the climbers will probably increase their dislike for local Sabahan customs and beliefs. And to say their behaviour was not wrong because it aligned with their own culture and upbringing is nothing short of cultural, if not Western, imperialism.

The better route would be for both camps to turn this confrontation into an opportunity for conversation.

Since the parties involved are sufficiently tech-savvy enough to metaphorically tear each other down on Twitter, why not tap into social media’s power to transcend geographical boundaries and engage each other in meaningful dialogue instead?


Lin Abdul Rahman is a Malaysian-born freelance journalist and social justice advocate based in Toronto, Ontario.

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Published in Commentary
Friday, 05 June 2015 13:28

Pinoy Cash Flow Gets a Canadian Boost

Filipinos in Canada are expressing concern about Ottawa’s intention to support lower costs for remittance services.

Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade, told a Filipino gathering at the St. Mary’s church in Vancouver that Canada is working on measures to ensure safe, reliable and low-cost services to transfer money to family and friends outside of the country, helping to improve economic conditions abroad.

These transfers, known as remittances, represent a major source of income for millions of people around the world, and support a sustainable path out of poverty for the poorest and most vulnerable, he said.

To help reduce the costs of remittances services, Canada’s Economic Action Plan 2015 will invest $6 million over five years to introduce measures that will help enhance access to low-cost remittance services for Canadians, the minister said.

The Philippines is one of the top destinations for remittances from Canada.

"We will be comparing all the fees that are charged by companies and banks that are doing remittances to make sure that you know where to get the best price in terms of the cost of sending remittances back to the Philippines," Fast said.

Lower Fees Doesn't Mean Better Service

Some kababayans however said that the government may not be totally aware of what it takes to send and receive money in the Philippines, according to Balitang America.

Salve Didcott has been in Canada for 26 years and sends money to her family in the Philippines monthly. She said there's more to sending remittances than just the fees.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Those in the money remittance business meantime say fees have actually been going down the past years as more and more money transfer companies enter the market. But they say lower fees don't necessarily guarantee better service.[/quote]

"Some are actually charging more, less exchange; and the other is the charge is less, but the exchange is high. There are too many (factors), as I've said the location, the price, the exchange rate as well," she said.

Those in the money remittance business meantime say fees have actually been going down the past years as more and more money transfer companies enter the market. But they say lower fees don't necessarily guarantee better service.

Canada's Filipino Community Growing

World Bank estimates show Canada's remittance industry is growing with about $24 billion sent in remittances in 2012. The Philippines is in the top three receiving countries of remittances from Canada with $2 billion sent that year.

Meanwhile, another report said more than 40,000 Filipinos became permanent residents of Canada in 2014, making the Philippines the top source country for Canadian immigration last year. 

The Philippines had previously been the top source country in 2012, with China having been the top source country in 2013. Canada also issued nearly 47,000 visitor visas to Filipinos in 2014, a 56 percent increase since 2006. The number of new permanent residents from the Philippines is up from 14,004 in 2004, a near three-fold increase in just one decade.

Many of the Filipino newcomers originally came to Canada under the Live-In Caregiver Program, now simply the Caregiver Program after modifications made last November. The government of Canada’s immigration plan for 2015 states that it aims to convert between 26,000 and 30,000 caregivers to permanent resident status this year. In just a few short decades, Canada’s Filipino community has grown to become one of the country’s largest immigrant demographics. 

The more than 700,000 people of Filipino descent in Canada make up one of the country’s larger diaspora communities, and this number is increasing constantly. Filipino workers in Canada are important to both the Canadian and Philippine economies. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]During President Aquino’s historic visit, Canada and the Philippines signed a mutual accountability framework reaffirming the foundations of transparent, effective and sustainable international development cooperation between the two countries.[/quote]

While workers in Canada help to fill important labour shortages, families and friends in the Philippines benefit from remittances sent from Canada. About half of Canada’s Filipino population lives in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), with Vancouver hosting the second-largest Filipino population in Canada and Winnipeg also home to a large number of Filipinos. 

“Oftentimes, individuals will first come to Canada as temporary workers, leaving spouses and children behind. But many Filipinos have also worked hard to bring their immediate families to Canada. Once permanent residence is achieved, they are then able to reunite with their families in Canada,” said Attorney David Cohen.

Canada’s generous family sponsorship rules allow permanent residents to sponsor not only children and spouses, but parents and grandparents as well. These include the popular Parent and Grandparent Sponsorship Program as well as the new Super Visa Program, which offers long-term visitor visas to qualified applicants. The introduction of these family reunification programs has contributed to the upsurge in new arrivals from the Philippines.

Quick Facts

  • According to World Bank estimates, remittance flows to developing countries reached close to US$440 billion in 2014.
  • Canada ranks among the 10 largest outbound markets in the world, with remittance flows totalling an estimated US$23.1 billion transferred in 2014. It is also one of the top remittance-sending countries on a per capita basis.
  • At the Brisbane Summit in November 2014, the G-20 re-committed to reducing the global average cost of sending remittances to 5 percent of the amount sent.
  • The Philippines is a priority emerging market under Canada’s Global Markets Action Plan and is a country of focus for the Government of Canada’s international development efforts.
  • During President Aquino’s historic visit, Canada and the Philippines signed a mutual accountability framework reaffirming the foundations of transparent, effective and sustainable international development cooperation between the two countries.
  • In 2014, Canada welcomed more than 40,000 permanent residents from the Philippines, making it Canada's top source country for permanent residents last year.

Published in Partnership with The Filipino Post.

Published in The Philippines
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