Commentary by Justin Kong in Toronto 

On June 22, members of the Chinese-Canadian community and allies gathered at Toronto City Hall to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Canadian governments redress of the Chinese Head Tax and the 1923 Exclusion Act, legislations which had been used to prohibit Chinese immigration to Canada.

The mobilization for redress against these racist laws represented an important moment in Canadian history where a combination of Chinese community organization and political advocacy was able to secure a redress and apology from the federal government.

In other ways however, the redress remains incomplete. Most immediately, families of many Head Tax survivors have noted that their calls for an inclusive redress along the lines of "one certificate one claim" have gone unheeded. 

As a consequence, only 1% of the 82,000 families directly affected by the Head Tax have been able to actually receive claims.

Redress is also incomplete in the sense the injustices faced by early Chinese and Asian migrants continue to prevail in todays Canada. 

Continued practice of economic exploitation of migrants

To recognize this failure is to understand that Chinese exclusion is not an isolated incident in Canadian history. It is a much longer and enduring practice in Canada where migrant labour is coveted, but the humanity and rights of those who provide that labour, denied.

The Chinese railroad worker, who has become etched into the national imaginary, exemplifies this practice. Conducting the most dangerous tasks that no white man was willing to do for the most meagre of wages, Chinese migrants built the railroad that brought the Canadian nation from conception to reality.

While the bodies of these migrant workers (estimates ranging from 600–1200) lined the railroad, Chinese migrants would continue to be denied citizenship. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The injustices faced by early Chinese and Asian migrants continue to prevail in todays Canada.[/quote]

Today, the exploitative relationship that constituted the experience of the Chinese railroad worker continues under new forms. Migrant workers now come to Canada from all over the world: Central America, the Caribbean and Asia.

These migrant workers are often bound to their employers, work in dangerous conditions, and denied protections and health care and — like the Chinese and Asian migrants of the past — denied status.

A commemoration of the legacy of the Head Tax and Exclusion Act must also be a commitment to standing with those that have followed in their footsteps: today's migrant workers. This means supporting their call for protections, and pivotally, their demand for status on arrival. 

Head Tax history in immigrant communities

Asian exclusion and Head Tax were the legislative manifestation of a prevailing climate of racism, violence and economic exploitation, conditions which first confined Chinese migrants into Canada's very first Chinatowns.

Segregation created a disconnect between early migrant communities and the mainstream, with profound effects and enduring consequences for immigrant workers that persist to this day. 

Nowhere is this more visible today than in the issue of labour law enforcement.

The findings of a recent report by the Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, which surveyed Chinese restaurant workers in Toronto, provides us with a glimpse of just how irrelevant labour laws (such as minimum wage and overtime) can often be for immigrant workers.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Segregation created a disconnect between early migrant communities and the mainstream.[/quote]

Such abject conditions are part and parcel, the legacy of Head Tax and Asian Exclusion.

Addressing the plight of immigrant workers means getting behind mobilizations such as The Fight for $15 and Fairness, which call for proactive enforcement, laws that protect workers, and a system that allows already marginalized immigrant workers to make employment violation claims.

Mobilizing upon the legacy of Head Tax and Asian exclusion 

To commemorate the legacy of Head Tax, we must address the unmet demands of the families of Head Tax survivors, but also the struggles of the migrant farmworker, the Chinese restaurant worker, the Filipina careworker and the Tamil grocery store worker of todays Canada.

This also means making a commitment to fight against the injustice faced by today's immigrant and migrant workers. 

Organized labour in Canada, which was actually a key advocate of Asian exclusion, must not repeat the mistakes of the past; it must stand with migrant workers. Among other things this means making cross racial solidarity and anti-racism a core component of the labour movement. Such a direction represents the only path forward for a powerful labour movement in the 21st century.

When we connect the struggles of migrants past with the continued struggles of migrants and immigrants today, we break free of the isolation and insularity produced by a class-unconscious multiculturalism. In turn, we move towards a future of economic and racial justice for all.

Until this is achieved however we must tell Mr. Harper and all Canadians who believe these laws are part of the past, that there can be no 'turning of the page' on this chapter of Canadas history. 

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Published in History

by Danica Samuel in Toronto 

When Sheema Khan told audience members at the Aga Khan Museum that the men sitting at one of her last lectures refused to face her, the entire room cringed.

Khan, a Globe & Mail columnist, author and women’s activist, says that she became a activist and feminist because of the Muslim community and this kind of behaviour.

For Aga Khan’s lecture series “Islam in the 21st Century,” Khan spoke on the challenges and opportunities of being a woman, muslim and Canadian. 

Known for her fiery columns and controversial discussions on the perception of women in the Islamic community, Khan centred her talk around her latest book “Of Hockey and Hijab: New Reflections.”

Dr. Ruba Kana’an, head of Education and Scholarly Programs at Aga Khan, organized the event that had 250 audience members in attendance.

The topic was chosen amongst many that the Aga Khan visiting survey uncovered, but Kana’an said such a controversial topic was sure to pique the interest of many people within and outside of the Muslim community.

“The issues of women, gender [equality] and the perception of women [are] questions we always ask,” says Kana’an. “It’s important to address these issues especially with how much misconception and misunderstanding there is between patriarchy and religion. It’s a topic to bring to the public.”

Muslim women’s unhappiness in Canada

The highlights of Khan’s lecture related to the statistics that started off her talk, which she used to discuss how unhappy and targeted Muslim-Canadian women felt.

In the Environics Survey 2016, 42 per cent of Muslim women said they felt discriminated against. Of that percentage, 60 per cent wore a head covering and 40 per cent did not. Compare this to Muslim men, of whom only 27 per cent said they experienced discrimination.

Khan says this treatment leads Muslim women in Canada to be unhappy and concerned. 

“More Muslim women than men worry about how Canadians view Muslims. They are far more pessimistic than men are,” she says. “They worry about how Muslims are portrayed in the media, stereotyping their neighbours and wondering if the the next generation will face more difficulties than they do. ”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“More Muslim women than men worry about how Canadians view Muslims."[/quote]

One of the members of the audience, Judy Csillag, who has been doing interfaith and intercultural work for over 35 years, says that these worries could stem from the fact that mothers and women see how prejudice affects their children more than the men.

“Khan spoke a lot about how women don’t go to the mosque as much as men do. They are usually at home with the kids and involved in their children’s life,” Csillag says.  

To the contrary, Khan says part of the reason why Muslim men are happier is because they aren’t seen as inferior in Islamic society.

Experiences drive desire for change

Khan recalled a few experiences in her lifetime where she felt that men refused to acknowledge her as a scholar and speaker.

One circumstance, Khan recalls, happened in 1996 in Quebec. She was preparing to  speak at a Unity Dinner — a function put together by the Islamic community to address inequality in their community — when she heard that the more Conservative mosque had rejected the idea of having her speak. 

They didn’t think a women should speak in public, she explains.

“One of my muslim colleagues said, ‘Sheema don’t take it personally, it’s not you they’re against, it’s just women in general,’” Khan repeats, laughing with the audience.

She says that the views that conservative Muslim men have of women stems from their ignorance of the roles of women during the prophetic era. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]They didn’t think a women should speak in public, she explains.[/quote]

“There was one scholar, the late Abduhalim Abu Shaqqa: he was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. He [performed] very valuable research on Islamic women, which unfortunately is ignored in the Muslim world,” Khan explains.

“It took him ten years, but he looked at every single verse and narration that had to deal with women and, in conclusion, he found that the way women participated in society during the best era and generation is very different from what we see today in the Muslim world.”

The importance of women in the conversation

Kana’an says that hearing these stories is important for young immigrants looking to locate their experiences within a Canadian context. 

“One of the things that we are noticing [. . .] is that there is a happiness in the awareness of students, that they gain a sense that they matter, their history matters and that there is a worthwhile contribution they’ve made to the world at large,” she explains.

Csillag agrees, saying that as a refugee from Hungary, it was hard for her to settle in Canada.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Kana’an says that hearing these stories is important for young immigrants.[/quote]

“[How] pleased my heart is that women are starting to take the stage, and Aga Khan has been a godsend for women speaking as equals,” she comments. “What was fantastic is that so much of the audience is not Muslim, so people are reaching out and wanting to learn.”

For Csillag and Khan both, educating the younger generation is of utmost importance in order to fight radicalization and misconceptions.

 

“Being treated as an inferior human being is something no one should go through” says Khan. “I decided that I had to fight back. And by pushing back that’s how I gained my self respect. I’ve created a lot of controversy in my community, and I don’t mind because I’m thinking of the next generation.”

 

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Published in Books

by Danica Samuel in Toronto 

“Just because you’ve fallen off ship doesn’t mean you’re drowning.” 

In the film My Internship in Canada, the person struggling to stay afloat is the politician who fails to please everyone. Oscar-nominated director Philippe Falardeau’s film is a satirical, yet eye-opening, take on Canadian politics that showcases just how non-democratic our government can be. 

For National Canadian Film Day on April 20, charitable organization Samara Canada collaborated with the Regent Park Film Festival to fill a Cineplex movie theatre in downtown Toronto for Falardeau’s political comedy. 

The film is based on the journey of a young Haitian man, Souverain Pascal, played by Irdens Exantus, who greatly admires Canadian politics and culture. He gets a response to his 15-page application and secures an internship with a Northern Quebec member of Parliament (MP). 

Steve Guibord, played by Patrick Huard, is the independent MP for Prescott-Makadew à Rapides-aux-Outardes and unwillingly finds himself in the awkward position of holding the decisive vote on whether Canada will go to war. 

Guibord travels across his riding to consult constituents with his wife, daughter and Pascal. The story escalates when groups of lobbyists get involved in a debate that spins out of control. In the end, Guibord is tugged and pulled in various directions and must face his own conscience to make a decision that could affect the entire country. 

Making politics accessible

Newcomers to Canada and members of the Toronto communities of North York and Lotherton were among those who attended. 

“We thought it was a great opportunity to provide a little bit of education behind Canada’s political system, in a fun way,” said Madison Van West, coordinator of the Democracy Talks program at North York Community House (NYCH). She worked with her colleagues to bring 75 people to the screening from NYCH, which provides civic engagement and community development services to newcomers. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“We’ve seen them try to create platforms and implement mechanisms to be open and democratic, but in doing that, anyone can speak and say anything.”[/quote]

“Sometimes politics isn’t the most accessible topic, but a movie screening is a great way to bring everyone together and learn more.” 

In the film, Guibord tries to initiate democracy by inviting members of his community to a town hall. Unfortunately, opposing viewpoints cause tension rather than a conversation that leads to a collaborative decision. The scene shows just how messy democracy can be. 

NYCH program manager Zesta Kim said she understands and has witnessed the hardships politicians face in her community when having to weigh several interests to create an all-inclusive environment. 

“We’ve seen them try to create platforms and implement mechanisms to be open and democratic, but in doing that, anyone can speak and say anything,” she explains. “So, sometimes it doesn’t turn out too well.” 

Falsification of equality 

In the film, Guibord has trouble balancing the interests of his wife, daughter, protesters, the mayor, and the prime minister. He can only rely on Pascal to help find a middle ground that stays true to Canadian culture and democracy. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“We haven’t seen a representation of minorities in politics and in Parliament.”[/quote]

In a panel discussion held after the screening, emerging filmmaker Amita Zamaan said these competing special interests are what disappoint and deter people from engaging in Canadian politics. 

She added that the disengagement is due to the lack of representation and the falsification of equality in our government. 

Through her web series, Dhaliwal15Zamaan, like Falardeau, approaches politics through satire when examining the lack of diversity in Canadian politics.  

“We haven’t seen a representation of minorities in politics and in Parliament,” she said. “I’m trying to address that issue by placing this fictional character (Bobby Dhaliwal, played by Jasmeet Singh) in my film, but also addressing how limited our discussions in Canada are on progressive issues.” 

Explaining voter apathy 

Another panel member, Algoma-Manitoulin member of provincial Parliament (MPP), Michael Mantha, said the problem is deeper than just having an open platform to discuss. He said there is a lack of interest from community members. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“However you make your decision, you will have to put your head on your pillow and live with your conscience.”[/quote]

“I’ve being trying to engage with people throughout my riding, to try and get a pulse on what needs to be discussed for better engagement,” Mantha said. 

“Going off the numbers in my area, last election there was a 51 per cent voter turnout. People have look at politicians, their decisions, and their actions and think, ‘Why am I going to get involved if they’re not listening to me?’” he added. 

Mantha, who was elected in 2011, has served two consecutive terms as MPP and said while he loves all aspects of his riding, from its environment to its citizens, he is well aware of the tactics that are often involved in getting politicians to make certain decisions.  

“Individuals are put into difficult positions, but again it comes down to that person’s principles and being responsible to the people that put you into that position,” he said. “However you make your decision, you will have to put your head on your pillow and live with your conscience.”


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Published in Arts & Culture

by Shenaz Kermalli in Toronto 

Hossein is a 10-year-old Iraqi orphan with long hair, big olive-coloured eyes and a shy smile. He loves going to school and playing soccer. He also loves visiting his Canadian dentist for annual check-ups. 

Hossein’s dentist is one of 51 volunteers who fly into Iraq every spring to provide free dental care. 

Armed with colouring books, games and iPads – to entertain the children while they wait for their turn – the dentists come fully equipped to carry out everything from oral health instruction to preventative care, including fissure sealants, extractions and stainless steel crowns. 

Toronto dentist Jaffer Kermalli* has been treating Hossein for several years. “His long hair hides scars from a bomb blast he was in,” Kermalli shares. “He came back to us [this year] and specifically wanted us to fix a broken front tooth and take away the pain from another tooth in his mouth.”

Kermalli recently went on his fifth trip to Iraq with Global Kindness Foundation (GKF), a Vancouver-based charitable organization that takes two trips every year to provide medical, dental and optical services to countries in need due to war and poverty. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“To see the state of these children and how much they struggle; it puts all my first-world problems into perspective.”[/quote]

A passion project 

In 2015, GKF took its dental mission to Iraq and Kenya. In the past, the organization (members pictured) also travelled to Peru, India and Tanzania. 

The 33-year-old dentist calls it his “passion project.” 

“I plan my year around the GKF trips, and over the years have become more active in helping organize supplies and train volunteers. It gives me focus throughout the year, and is my ‘reset,’” he says. “To see the state of these children and how much they struggle; it puts all my first-world problems into perspective.” 

The children they treat are generally thrilled to see them – notwithstanding the usual anxiety that comes with dental visits. 

For many, it means the first time ever sitting in a dentist’s chair, or holding a toothbrush. The lack of basic awareness is a direct outcome of living in both a war-torn country and refugee camps, where dental care is scarce or not available at all. 

Many non-dental volunteers have also joined the group, along with several opticians and physicians. The non-medical volunteers are assigned roles like screening the children in the waiting areas, occupying the children while they wait for their appointment and assisting the dentists. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]For many, it means the first time ever sitting in a dentist’s chair, or holding a toothbrush.[/quote]

Shahina Rahim, an IT executive at the Royal Bank of Canada in Toronto, joined GKF for a second time this year. 

“I wanted to make a small difference to the lives of the children,” she says. “I couldn’t stop thinking about them and wanted to come back and help.” 

This time, though, she took a few Arabic classes in Toronto before leaving in order to help overcome the language barrier. 

Meeting many needs 

Additional medical and optical camps were also set up, seeing more than 1,000 children over two weeks. Many were referred to specialists. 

“One child had a case of congenital heart defect which had gone untreated and required surgery,” recalls Vancouver dentist and GKF founder, Dr. Hasnain Dewji (pictured).  

“There were also some cases of severe psychiatric conditions, so a referral to a local psychiatrist was arranged. Two other boys needed growth-hormone therapy. We are trying to determine the cost of therapy and see if we can raise the funds needed.” 

The two opticians in the group also flew in from Vancouver, and determined that at least 60 of the children they saw required corrective lenses. The charity arranged for the eyeglasses to be made in Tanzania and delivered for free to Iraq. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"[The kids] have aspirations, optimism and hopes and dreams like all of us.”[/quote]

Kids are kids 

The dental mission to Iraq started on March 19 and ended April 1. GKF is already recruiting its next set of volunteers to travel to Bhavnagar, India, in December. 

For Rahim, the hardest part of her trip to Iraq was witnessing the social remnants of war – the beggars, the children in wheelchairs and the sheer poverty. 

“For many of the kids, you can see the poverty through hygiene, dirty or worn clothes, and shoes or sandals that don't fit them.”  

But none of that seemed to stop them from smiling, laughing and dreaming, she adds. 

“My encounter with the kids has been a wonderful one. They have aspirations, optimism and hopes and dreams like all of us,” she says. 

“Kids are kids after all, no matter what part of the world they live in.” 

*Source is not related to the author.


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Published in Health

by Ted Alcuitas in Vancouver

The man who put Filipinos on the political map of this country has died in Winnipeg, his home for more than five decades.

Conrad Santos, the first Filipino-Canadian to be elected to a provincial legislative assembly died at Winnipeg’s Victoria General Hospital on Feb. 29. He was 81. The cause of death was not known.

In a statement, Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger offered his condolences to Santos’ family on behalf of Manitobans.

“It was with deep sadness that we learned of the passing of Dr. Santos,” Selinger said.

“Dr. Santos served his adopted province and his constituency with dedication and self-sacrifice. Our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Dr. Santos served his adopted province and his constituency with dedication and self-sacrifice."[/quote]

A distinguished career

Conrad Santos was first elected to the Manitoba Legislative Assembly under the New Democratic Party (NDP) in 1981, serving for five terms (1981-1988 and 1990-2007) before stepping down in 2007.

Born in the Philippines and a native Bulakeno, he was educated at Harvard University and the University of Michigan, where he earned a PhD in Political Science.

He moved to Winnipeg in 1965 after obtaining a teaching position at the University of Manitoba. He remained a tenured professor at the U of M until his election to the legislature. Santos also worked as a consultant for the Instituto Centro-Americano de Administracion Publica in Costa Rica, and was a board member of the Citizenship Council of Manitoba from 1977 to 1980.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The soft-spoken and eccentric Santos led a colourful and sometimes controversial political life.[/quote]

Santos was active in the Winnipeg Filipino community for many years serving as an adviser to many organizations notably the Philippine Association of Manitoba (PAM). He was a member of the Knights of Rizal, the organization that first broke the story of his death.

Controversy in his political life

The soft-spoken and eccentric Santos led a colourful and sometimes controversial political life. Long before riding a bike became popular, he was already riding one to the legislature from his home in Fort Garry with his iconic Che Guevarra hat and a sling leather bag at his side.

Santos was first elected to the Manitoba legislature in the 1981 provincial election as a New Democrat in the northwest Winnipeg riding of Burrows, defeating NDP-turned-Progressive Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) Ben Hanuschak. He was re-elected in the 1986 election.

In June 1984, there were unconfirmed rumours that he was considering a move to the Progressive Conservative Party.

In 1987, he was accused of trying to use his political position to prevent Winnipeg School Division No. 1 from expropriating a house he owned. 



Santos lost the Burrows NDP nomination to Doug Martindale in 1988, and subsequently entered the party’s leadership election. He was not regarded as a serious candidate, and received only five votes on the first ballot. Santos ran for mayor of Winnipeg in 1989, but was again not considered a serious candidate and finished a distant fourth.



In 1990, Santos won the NDP nomination for Broadway, another northwest riding, by a single vote over favoured candidate Marianne Cerilli. He subsequently defeated Liberal incumbent Avis Gray in the 1990 general election, and was re-elected in the 1995 election.

In 1995, he endorsed Lorne Nystrom’s bid to lead the federal NDP. 

When the Broadway riding was eliminated by redistribution in 1999, Santos won the NDP nomination in Wellington (also in Winnipeg’s northwest), and was returned by a wide margin in the 1999 provincial election.

He was again re-elected in the 2003 election. 

Santos was named Deputy Speaker after the elections of 1986 and 1999, but has never been appointed to a cabinet position.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]There is no doubt that Conrad Santos paved the way for the current crop of Filipino politicians in Manitoba.[/quote]

Santos left the New Democratic Party caucus shortly before the 2007 provincial election after being accused of improperly selling party membership cards (he denied the charge). He campaigned as an independent, and finished last in a field of five candidates. His successor, Flor Marcelino, was a last minute replacement candidate for the NDP.

The Winnipeg Sun reported in 2013 that on Mar. 16, 2005 “Santos was scolded for bringing a paring knife into chamber. …The speaker confiscated the three-inch blade from Santos, who apologized for bringing it into the house.”

Paving the way for Filipino politicians

There is no doubt that Conrad Santos paved the way for the current crop of Filipino politicians in Manitoba including Dr. Rey Pagtakhan who followed him as the first Filipino to be elected member of Parliament in 1988.

Pagtakhan’s nephew Mike, is a long-serving member of the Winnipeg city council and there are currently two sitting members of the Manitoba legislature – Flor Marcelino and Ted Marcelino, both of the NDP.

Other Filipino politicians served in various positions in school boards putting Manitoba firmly in the leading position in the country as having the most number of Filipino politicians in office.

Santos is survived by one daughter, two sons and two daughters-in-law, Evelyn Santos, Conrad and Leslie Santos, Rob and Kim Santos, and their families; four grandchildren, Kristen and Matt, Ginny and Josie.

Affectionately known as ka Rading to his family, he is also survived by his three siblings and three sisters-in-law, Leticia Santos, Rebecca Santos, Ruel and Dina Santos, Narcisa Santos, Luz Santos, and all their families (including his nephew, Paul Santos).

Santos was predeceased by his parents, Federico and Marcelina Santos of Malolos, Bulacan, Philippines; his sister Melita Santos Beltran, his brothers Virgilio Santos and Benjamin Santos, and his wife Emerita Santos, and is survived by their families.


This article first appeared on PhilippineCanadianNews.com. Republished with permission.

Published in Politics

by Tazeen Inam in Mississauga

Canada’s falling loonie has added extra dollars to the pockets of residents who rely on financial assistance from abroad. 

Foreign investors in real estate and local exporters are also enjoying benefits from the dip in our dollar, which is at its lowest level since the spring of 2003, and expected to go lower, as analysts forecast the loonie could lose another 10 cents. 

The loonie dropped just under $0.70 U.S. at the beginning of the year, reaching 69.9 cents on January 12. 

Added cash in hand 

Azra Riffat, a retired officer from Pakistan, lives in Toronto and is enjoying the benefits of the low dollar. 

Riffat immigrated to Canada 10 years ago. Unable to work because of her responsibilities at home, caring for her 80-year-old mother, Riffat receives support from her siblings who transfer money to her account for their mother’s medical and household expenses. 

“My sister is in the UK and brother in the U.S.,” says Riffat. “They cannot physically take care of our mother, so they send in money.” 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“The lower Canadian dollar only benefits wealthier individuals who have resources to transfer [funds] to Canada."[/quote]

Over the past 12 months, the Canadian dollar has lost 15 per cent of its value against the U.S. Because the majority of the funds transferred to Canada are in U.S. dollars, this means up to an additional $45 for every $100 US converted to Canadian currency. 

“Last month when I checked the quote on an exchange rate of selling $100 US to buy Canadian dollars, it was 144.50,” says Riffat. 

Immigrants often come to Canada as families, but men sometimes return to their countries of origin because they are unable to find work. In other cases, men with high-paying positions in other countries move their families to Canada to give their children a more promising future. These are some of the families who are benefiting from the current exchange rate. 

“The lower Canadian dollar only benefits wealthier individuals who have resources to transfer [funds] to Canada, provided that [the funds come from] countries where the local currency is also in high value,” says Mustafa Koc, professor of sociology at Ryerson University in Toronto. 

Similarly, new immigrants who relocated to Canada during the past year have the added advantage of being able to stretch their savings for a longer period, compared to those who settled before, adds Majid Kazmi, a banker and immigrant from the Middle East. 

Good for real estate 

The low currency this year, complemented by low interest rates, creates an optimal situation for immigrants buying homes and foreign investors alike, as their buying power in the Canadian housing market has increased, particularly in Vancouver and Toronto, says Wayne Ryan, Managing Broker at Remax-Vancouver. 

“Vancouver’s high-end properties are not flying off the shelf,” says Ryan, but explains that detached homes, which can cost anywhere between $3 and $5 million, are popular among foreign investors. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Canada is seen as a “safe-haven” for foreign capital and the falling currency helps to further encourage it.[/quote]

Some potential buyers are able to take advantage of liquidating their assets in their countries of origin and investing in the Canadian real estate market. Analysts like Eytan Lasry, who teaches in the business department at Toronto’s York University, suggest that Canada is seen as a “safe-haven” for foreign capital and the falling currency helps to further encourage it. 

Lasry adds that the best thing for both home buyers and investors is the low interest rates – which may sink even lower – as they make debt manageable. 

“It’s a global economy,” he explains. “When money goes low, you attract more, topped with low interest rates makes the debt servicing easy.” 

Exporters tap gains 

Canadian businesses, including those in food and consumer product industries, that export to the U.S. are also enjoying the extra profit because of the lower exchange rate. 

In a 2014 report, Moody’s Investors Service stated that the Canadian dollar depreciation is a positive for many Canadian industries, such as pulp and wood products. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Their costs are in Canadian dollars and their revenues are coming from abroad in currencies that are better off.”[/quote]

Also, small businesses that export services, like catering and trucking to the U.S. and Mexico, tend to gain from the falling loonie. 

“Their costs are in Canadian dollars and their revenues are coming from abroad in currencies that are better off,” explains Kazmi. 

Fuzail Ata Pirzada, who migrated from the UK 16 years ago, runs a catering business in Mississauga. He provides service to Asian-themed functions and festivals in the U.S. too, close to the border. 

“I am paid in U.S. dollars, but the cost of the vegetables and meat has also increased in Canada, which offsets my profits,” he says. He adds that during winter, business slows down, but he is hoping to reap the benefit of the low dollar when spring arrives, and the wedding season begins. 

“It’s a good time to invest in the Canadian export industry, with a controlled cost of production on manufacturing and producing goods, and enjoy the pricing advantage later,” Kazmi suggests. 

As the Bank of Canada Governor, Stephen Poloz, has said repeatedly, the loonie is a casualty of the falling price of oil. He says it could take three years for Canada to work through the economic issues that are currently driving its dollar down.

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Published in Economy

by Susan Korah in Ottawa

To some people, Canada seems like the land of American civil rights hero Martin Luther King Jr.’s dreams. But a group of race relations activists in Ottawa contend that this belies the truth, and that Canadians need to work harder to make King’s vision a reality in this country. 

Both views were shared at an Ottawa celebration and awards ceremony that a group named DreamKEEPERS organized to mark the 30th anniversary of Martin Luther King Day. 

Originally declared a public holiday in the U.S. in 1986, the same date was chosen by the Canadian organization to honour King’s memory and raise awareness of his message, which was most eloquently articulated in his speech entitled, “I Have a Dream.” 

Recognizing King's values and principles

Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau, wife of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, presented a lifetime achievement award to the Rt. Hon. Joe Clark, the 16th Prime Minister of Canada (1979-80), described as a leader in fighting apartheid in South Africa and promoting human rights in Canada and the world. 

Most recently Clark served as an honorary witness to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada that reported on residential schools. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The “beloved community,” was [King's] vision of a society based on justice, equal opportunity and love of one’s fellow human beings.[/quote]

Daniel Stringer, a former Canadian diplomat and a founding member of DreamKEEPERS, explained that the tabletop award sandblasted with a glass gold leaf is given annually to an individual who has become a role model in Canada and beyond for embodying King's values and principles. 

These include the promotion of social justice, human rights, racial harmony, spiritual values and the advancement of his dream of the “beloved community.” 

The “beloved community,” an idea that King popularized, was his vision of a society based on justice, equal opportunity and love of one’s fellow human beings, said Stringer.

Community leadership awards were also presented to Larry Hill, former Deputy Police Chief of Ottawa and Désiré Kilolwa. Originally from Congo, Kilolwa works with women and children who are victims of his native country’s brutal civil war.

“[Canada is a] unique country,” Clark said in his acceptance speech. “The tradition of generosity is deep within us.” 

Clark explained that Canada’s very survival depended on all people pulling together.

“Many of us – Black [people], [Jewish people], Vietnamese, Africans – came here as refugees and we are prepared to extend a welcoming hand to others.” 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“In the 1970s, visible minorities were few and far between in Canada, but now they are becoming the majority.”[/quote]

He reminisced about working with past recipients of the same award, including Jean Augustine (first African Canadian woman to be elected to Canada’s House of Commons and the first to serve in the federal cabinet) and Lincoln Alexander (first Black member of the House of Commons and later, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario). 

“In the 1970s, visible minorities were few and far between in Canada, but now they are becoming the majority,” Clark observed. 

Stepping up to fight injustice

Clark acknowledged that further work needs to be done in promoting equality for all of Canada’s diverse peoples. He cited the example of the Canadian Council of Christians and Jews, founded in response to the Holocaust, which promoted reconciliation and understanding between the two faith communities. 

“Perhaps we need a Council of Christians, Jews and Muslims at this time,” he concluded, making reference to the increase in Canada’s Muslim population with the arrival of Syrian refugees. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][U]nlike the U.S., which is more open about its problem with racism, Canada is in denial.[/quote]

In her keynote speech, Grégoire-Trudeau painted a similar picture of Canada, as a nation that has come a long way in terms of respecting the human rights of its diverse population. 

“The good news is that people in Canada, and indeed the world, are stepping up to fight racial and gender injustice,” she said. 

She pointed to a new generation of young leaders in Canada and the world, who are far more sensitive to past injustices and are prepared to address them. 

“Martin Luther King was an amazing speaker and champion for justice. When he made his “I Have a Dream” speech, the whole world took notice,” she said. 

“If Dr. King were here today, he would be proud of Canada because we haven’t refused entry to refugees whose expression of faith is different from ours,” she observed. 

Canada in 'denial' about racism

As a counterpoint to this image though, Stringer said that Canadian society is often in denial about the racism that occurs here. 

He referred to the recent firebombing of a mosque in Peterborough, Ontario, in the aftermath of the shootings in Paris. 

He said that unlike the U.S., which is more open about its problem with racism, Canada is in denial.

Rev. Dr. Anthony Bailey of Ottawa’s Parkdale Baptist Church, who hosted the ceremony, also referred to racist graffiti scribbled on his church and racist threats he had received.  

“It’s important to celebrate what we have achieved, but also important to keep the momentum going and further the work that still needs to be done,” Bailey said. 

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Published in Top Stories

by Jagdeesh Mann in Vancouver

Depending on whom you ask, the actions of Louis Riel, and Dr. Norman Bethune, along with others who lived through difficult times, can be seen as verging on treasonous or justified. Add to that list Mewa Singh.

Outside of Canada’s sizeable two million plus South Asian community, few Canadians will have heard of Singh who is revered as a Che Gueverra-like figure, in particular by Sikhs. A new play, The Undocumented Trial of William C. Hopkinson, which opened January 8, is the first major artistic production to re-evaluate a man whom many view as Canada’s forgotten martyr.

In the play, Mewa Singh is placed on the stand to answer for his real life shooting and killing of William Hopkinson, a Canadian immigration official. The incident took place in the same art gallery 101 years ago on October 21, 1914 when it served as the Vancouver’s Provincial Courthouse.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Outside of Canada’s sizeable two million plus South Asian community, few Canadians will have heard of Singh who is revered as a Che Gueverra-like figure.[/quote]

On that morning, Singh walked up to the third floor rotunda and killed Hopkinson with four shots from his revolver. He then handed over his weapon to the authorities and took full responsibility for his act, knowing he would receive capital punishment.

“I shoot. I go to station,” he proclaimed, in his limited English.

Within three months on Jan. 11, 1915, Singh was hung from the gallows in New Westminster. He died at age 33, the same age as Hopkinson.

Lionized by Sikh Canadian community

Despite the violent nature of Singh’s act, he has been lionized by Canada’s Sikh community in the same way Louis Riel has been by the country’s Metis population. Though he is a character written into Canadian history books as an assassin, in the Sikh community he is their version of Tiananmen’s Tank Man, the solitary protester saying no and standing his ground against the machinery of institutionalized repression. 

There are numerous sports and literary events organized annually in his tribute. The dining hall in Vancouver’s Ross Street Sikh temple, the country’s largest gurdwara where India’s Prime Minister Modi stopped by with Stephen Harper for a visit last April, bears his name and iconic image in memorial. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"He stood up in the most difficult of circumstances and follows in the tradition of other Canadian martyrs like Louis Riel.”[/quote]

For playwright Paneet Singh, The Undocumented Trial of William C. Hopkinson is a forum to cast light on the murky events that led to the shooting and to reveal the social conditions that made the collision between Singh and Hopkinson unavoidable.

“I have been surrounded by this story since I was a child, when my mother would tell it to me,” said Singh. “Mewa Singh’s name resonates in the South Asian community, but it has been locked out of the mainstream. This play exposes his actions through the framework of the times in which he lived in order to move the story into the 21st century. He stood up in the most difficult of circumstances and follows in the tradition of other Canadian martyrs like Louis Riel.”

Hopkinson and Singh were born and raised in India, and in adulthood, both migrated to Vancouver. Singh left a small village near Amritsar, Punjab to find his fortunes while Hopkinson left his post as a policeman after his first wife died. The Raj in India was beginning its slow fade. Hopkinson had never lived in England and so chose to renew his life in Vancouver. 

But at the turn of the 20th century, Canada’s promise as a new world Gold Mountain came with caveats for non-white immigrants over their European counterparts. The Canadian government had institutionalized racism through legislation like the Chinese Head Tax and the continuous journey clause. The latter was utilized in 1914 in the infamous Komagata Maru incident which was playing out at the same time as the Singh versus Hopkinson duel.

Despite holding very different stations in life, the destinies of Hopkinson and Singh became intimately tied to each other in B.C. Hopkinson’s fluency in Hindi landed him a job as a government agent. His assignment was to harvest information from the Sikh community about their sympathies for Indian independence from British rule. He had a number of active moles in the community burrowing for intelligence.

Singh's legacy reflected in politics today

Hopkinson’s methods were as heavy handed as his agents were clumsy – they shot and killed two Sikhs at the local temple. Hopkinson threatened Mewa Singh to become an informant, or to find himself the next target.

What Hopkinson didn’t anticipate, was that Singh would accept death before turning. Killing Hopkinson would not save Singh, it would only give rise to another Hopkinson. But making a public statement by killing him in the open and by embracing the death penalty would make a statement that resonates to this day.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Neither could have foreseen the modern multicultural Canada their clash would inadvertently help cast.[/quote]

For Sikhs in Canada who were struggling for a foothold in Canada at the time, Singh’s defiance would inspire their push for political equality – an achievement coming 30 years later in 1947 when South Asians and Chinese were granted the right to vote.

Mewa Singh’s singular act echoes still in the disproportionate success of South Asians in Canadian politics – there are 16 MPs of Sikh heritage currently serving in Canada’s Parliament. Had the Chinese community their own version of Mewa Singh, perhaps they too would be better represented at the highest politics levels.

William Hopkinson’s pernicious agenda was a spear foiled by Mewa Singh’s shield. Hopkinson left India seemingly to find his piece of the Cotswolds in the new world. But the new world would not be shaped by the old rules, as he fatefully discovered in his encounter with Mewa Singh.

Neither could have foreseen the modern multicultural Canada their clash would inadvertently help cast. 

For more information on the play click on the link for The Undocumented Trial of William C. Hopkinson.


This piece was was first published in The Globe & Mail. Republished in partnership with the South Asian Post.

 

Published in Arts & Culture

by  in Ottawa

Syrian refugees will have the chance to immerse themselves in Canadian culture for free, thanks to a new initiative announced on Friday.

The Canada Council for the Arts and Sun Life Financial have teamed up to give financial support to arts organizations that provide free cultural events for refugees in their local communities.

“All Canadians are encouraged to join in the efforts to help Syrian refugees flourish in their new communities. I am pleased to support this initiative that will allow newcomers to discover Canadian culture through enriching cultural and artistic experiences,” said Mélanie Joly, the Minister for Canadian Heritage in a press release.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“We know the welcome and integration of refugees is a highly complex and multifaceted process."[/quote]

The Canadian Council for the Arts is committing $150,000, in 2016 to 2017 for the program. Sun Life Financial will kick in $50,000. Further details on the initiative will be released in March 2016.

“We know the welcome and integration of refugees is a highly complex and multifaceted process, and this initiative is one modest piece of [a] much broader collective and national efforts,” said Simon Brault, the director and CEO of the Canada Council for the Arts, in a press release.

“We also know that arts and culture can be a refuge, a celebration of diversity, and source of inspiration and connection. Our message on behalf of the arts community to newcomers is ‘welcome, we are so happy to have you in our communities, we welcome you to our spaces, performances and events when you are ready,” he said.


Re-published in partnership with iPolitics.ca

Published in Arts & Culture

by Justin Kong in Toronto

Political discourse often speaks to the social conservatism of immigrant groups. However, the results of the recent federal elections show that we need a better understanding of how immigrant groups are mobilized and integrated into formal spheres of Canadian politics. This two-part series focuses on the Chinese community in metropolitan areas of Canada. Part I explores the role of churches in helping to integrate Chinese Canadians and how that might lead to conservative politics. 

Despite the sweeping defeat of the Conservatives by Trudeau’s Liberals throughout the suburban areas of Vancouver and Toronto (the very same ridings that enabled a Conservative victory in 2008 and 2011) in last week’s election, it would be a mistake to think that the Conservative influence in these communities has come to an end.

When the Conservative party took out ads in certain ethnic Chinese media suggesting the Liberal party would legalize brothels, open drug injection sites and make marijuana more accessible to children, it was a targeted and informed choice. Spend some time in any of the Chinese Christian megachurches in Richmond, Vancouver or Scarborough, Toronto and you will often find the very same issues raised. 

In fact, if we look at regions where the Conservatives did retain seats in metropolitan Vancouver and Toronto (such as Richmond Centre, South Surrey-White Rock and Markham-Unionville) we do find they are areas with large numbers of Chinese Christians.

The important role of Chinese churches

To understand the strong support for Conservative politics and the party amongst the Chinese community in metropolitan Canada, we need to understand Chinese Christian churches. 

While the first Chinese Christian church in Canada can be dated to the early 1900s, it was with the wave of Hong Kong immigrants in the 1970-80s that we began to see the rapid growth of Chinese Christian churches in metropolitan areas such as Vancouver and Toronto. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]It would be a mistake to think that the Conservative influence in these communities has come to an end.[/quote]

The demographics (middle class, professionals) and political dispositions of this Hong Kong immigrant flow inevitably influenced the politics that are reproduced within these churches. 

At the same time, Chinese Christian churches have and continue to be an institution of unparalleled importance within the Chinese diaspora. These churches are vital hubs of community that help facilitate the integration of new immigrants. They also offer social services to seniors, new immigrants and international students that are increasingly important in the context of recent cutbacks to immigrant and community services.

Conservative tendencies

The recent anti-sex education movement in Ontario is supported by many churches and the Chinese Christian community. These sentiments are richly detailed in this portrait of one of the leading Chinese organizers.

In this and other ways, there exists a connection between Chinese Christian churches as institutions that integrate newcomers to Canada and as institutions where political-social conservatism is reproduced and concentrated.

Of course, the Chinese Christian community is not a monolith; it’s a complex, changing group with its own internal differences and disagreements. What is highlighted by the Ontario sex-ed debacle and the Chinese Christian opposition is that most vocal and politically active element of this community does tend towards conservatism.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Of course, the Chinese Christian community is not a monolith.[/quote]

It should not be surprising that this Christian conservatism has found an easy affinity with the Conservative party, who has tried to leverage the grassroots strength of the Chinese Christian churches for electoral gain by running candidates with church affiliations.

To acknowledge all of this, however, is not to find in Chinese immigrants some innate, unchanging ‘conservatism’, but to illustrate the class biases of the immigration system and how immigrants during the process of immigration and through institutions like churches have become mobilized to become ‘conservative’ in the context of life in Canada. 

Part Two of this series turns to a discussion of the new Chinese working class, how contemporary conditions are ripe for the development of a Chinese left and what this means for the Canadian left.


Justin Kong studies sociology and is engaged with community and labour groups in Toronto.

Journalist Ranjit Bhaskar mentored the writer of this article, through the New Canadian Media mentorship program.

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Published in Commentary
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New Canadian Media provides nonpartisan news and views representing all Canadian immigrant communities. As part of this endeavour, we re-publish aggregated content from various ethnic media publishers in Canada in an effort to raise the profile of news and commentary from an immigrant perspective. New Canadian Media, however, does not guarantee the accuracy of or endorse the views and opinions contained in content from such other sites. The views expressed on this site are those of the individual writers and commentators, and not necessarily those of New Canadian Media. Copyright © 2019 All rights reserved