By: Marieke Walsh in Ottawa, ON

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne was repeatedly under attack and on the defensive Wednesday night during a debate on issues facing the black community.

The debate in Toronto’s Jane and Finch neighbourhood featured all major party leaders except Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford.

Wynne was taken to task for her government’s record on disproportionate numbers of black children facing suspension and expulsion, inequities in the health care system and the persistence of carding by police.

Throughout, the premier stuck to her talking points that the Liberal government has taken these issues “head on” and that “more needs to be done.”

At one point moderator Royson James called Wynne out for her response to systemic racism in the education system.

“You do know that whatever you’re doing isn’t working,” James asked Wynne. And he wondered if the people responsible for the school system understand the “urgency.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Stats show almost half of the black students who graduate high school don’t have the credits and grades needed to go to university and 42 per cent didn’t apply to post secondary school. -Royson James[/quote]

His follow-up was met with laughs and a shout of “clueless” from someone in the crowd of roughly 200 people.

“I get that there’s a huge frustration and I feel that frustration,” Wynne said.

At which point NDP Leader Andrea Horwath broke in with “15 years” — referencing the Liberal’s time in power.

James had previously listed several statistics pointing to the experience of black children in the Toronto District School Board in 2011.

Calling them “crushing statistics” he said the stats show almost half of the black students who graduate high school don’t have the credits and grades needed to go to university and 42 per cent didn’t apply to post secondary school. Moreover he said, of those students that apply, only one in four are accepted.

Of every 100 black students only 69 graduate, James said. Out of that number, he said only 18 end up in university or college.

He said the numbers are “worse” for boys, adding that half of the students expelled from school are black kids. “What do you plan to do about this abject failure of our schools to educate black students,” James asked the three leaders.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the “first thing you have to do is admit that there’s a problem.”

“These stats aren’t new,” Horwath said. “I’d suggest that it’s getting worse and not better.” She said the government should deal with the curriculum in schools and ensure supports are there for students. This online casino prepares plenty of exciting offers and bonuses. But in order to try some online casino games it is better to start with free online slots.

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said the statistics show how much the “status quo is failing our young people.”

Meanwhile, Wynne defended her government’s record on implementing items like the Black Youth Action Plan and the Education Equity Action Plan while agreeing that more needs to be done.

“There is absolutely no doubt that there is more structural change that’s needed,” Wynne said.

Wynne got the loudest applause when she was first introduced at the event but it went downhill from there — she was at times jeered, challenged and interrupted by the crowd.

Speaking to reporters after the debate, she said the issues debated “are not simple” nor “easily dealt with.”

“What I was saying was that we have been tackling them, we have been addressing them and yes there is still more to be done,” Wynne said.

Horwath, who got a warm reception from the crowd by the end of the night, called the debate “very enjoyable.”

The Elephant not in the Room

Ford’s absence wasn’t addressed very much by the leaders during the debate, but was met with boos from the crowd when the event organizers noted his absence.

Speaking to iPolitics afterward, several audience members said his absence would hurt Ford, while another said he would still hear out the ideas put forward from the Progressive Conservatives.

Earlier in the day Wynne issued a letter challenging Ford to three debates, saying he hasn’t yet agreed to a single one ahead of the June election.

Speaking to reporters afterward, Wynne said Ford is “the one person who wouldn’t have agreed with anything that we were saying and he wasn’t there to put his position forward.”

“It is really important that he show up and that he put his opinions forward because people need to understand what that contrast is,” she said.

Ford was in Northern Ontario on a campaign-style tour.

Horwath questioned Ford’s priorities and said the “community was pretty disappointed” by his absence.


Republished under arrangement with iPolitics

Published in Politics
Friday, 09 February 2018 00:49

Minimum Wage: Headstart for Newcomer Women

By: Summer Fanous in Toronto, ON

Prabhjeet Kaur was among the first victims of the rise in minimum wages in Ontario at the beginning of the year. She lost her restaurant job while the rest of the province idly debated the pros and cons of higher starting wages.

Immigrating to Canada with her family to pursue her education goals, Kaur admits she is somewhat shielded from real world expenses. She explains, “students don’t know what’s going on [at] a high level. They are giving and taking in the same way.”

Since then she has been able to find work with Walmart as a picker/driver for a little over minimum wage, but is firm in her belief that any benefits are overshadowed by increases in other expenses. 

The Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017  legislation has increased the minimum wage in Ontario from $11.60 per hour to $14 per hour, effective January 1, 2018 and will be bumped up to $15 per hour at the same time next year. According to Bill 148, “It will be mandatory for employers to pay: casual, part-time, temporary and seasonal employees, who are doing substantially the same work as full-time/permanent employees, the same rate of pay as full-time/permanent employees."

The wage increase is especially important for single income earners and women with families to provide for. Based on a timeline produced by the Vanier Institute of the Family, two-thirds (66%) of part-time workers are women, a proportion that has not changed significantly over the past three decades. While the raise seems to offer an answer to many of the questions surrounding the Ontario workforce, the solution may not be as simple as it sounds.

Shaemin Ukani came to Canada from London in 1974, today she is the Director of Operations at Arrow Professionals, a company she co-founded over 10 years ago. As an employer, she realizes that the wage increase means the biggest expense on her books becomes staff salaries. She believes business owners will have a harder time balancing their budgets, and in turn, will hire fewer people or take on more work themselves.

Similarly, new graduates or less experienced workers may be shafted since more experienced workers who are on the hunt for a job could be hired to make the same, higher minimum wage. Other disadvantages to employers of the minimum wage increase include “staff reduction, overtime reduction, job elimination, automation, and benefit cuts,” according to Ukani. The cost of living will also rise to accommodate the wage increase, so gas, household items and groceries will go proportionately to make up the difference.

As employers take steps to protect their own profit margins, many minimum wage employees are seeing cuts in hours as well as available positions. 

Equal work, equal pay

However not everyone shares negative views about the policy change. Ronia Bellotti immigrated to Canada from Jerusalem in 1986 for a “better life.” Beginning minimum wage jobs as early as the age of 13, she has climbed the ranks to her current position as Superior Court Registrar for the Ministry of the Attorney General. While she worries about how small business owners would cope with having to pay employees more, Bellotti believes the wage increase, especially for immigrant women, is a “positive step forward.”

“Immigrants, single moms or minorities would highly benefit from a wage increase in their everyday life.  This may be especially beneficial to working families, as then both mothers and fathers would see a pay raise benefiting the family unit. I do think women make up a large portion of the minimum wage sector, while historically, men have received higher incomes for the same job women do,” Bellotti feels.

Data from 2005 seems to confirm this. Immigrant women of all ages were more likely to be living in a low-income situation than Canadian-born women. Among the immigrant girls and women in an economic family, 20 per cent lived under Statistics Canada's low income cut-off before tax, compared with 10 per cent of the Canadian-born girls and women. The incidence of low income among immigrant girls and women was also somewhat higher than among their male peers (19 per cent).

Fleeing an unsafe town in Pakistan, Huda Alvi and her family immigrated to Canada in the hopes of finding better career opportunities. Her career has evolved from starting her own recruitment company at age 25 to founding Workshops by Huda, an offline space that aims to empower, educate and inspire learning in a whole new way. Alvi notes people with “low skill levels generally have a hard time finding work. If the minimum wage rises, this will also cause companies to think twice about their hiring needs, which will impact jobs that women currently hold.”

Prior to getting used to the customs and workforce in Canada, many immigrant women seek to pick up job skills. On average, immigrants have lower employment rates and incomes than non-immigrants.  Even as wages are increased, many ethnic women will still be forced to take on precarious work to make ends meet. Those looking to better their current situations may have to look elsewhere in the form of enhanced personal or professional skills.

However, as employers prepare for the second salary bump upcoming in 2019, only time will tell how Ontario adjusts. 


This piece is part of the "Ethnic Women as Active Participants in Ontario" series. Writers interested in participating are encouraged to join the NCM Collective for an opportunity.

Published in Economy
Tuesday, 12 September 2017 01:06

Wynne — Math or Sex Education

Commentary by: Surjit Singh Flora in Brampton

Time is quickly running out for this liberal government. With recent polls showing Kathleen Wynne’s approval rating hovering at 19 per cent within her home province, a historically low rate which stands below all other active Premiers.

Premier Wynne needs to step aside soon and allow another member of the party an opportunity to rebuild the Ontario Liberal brand at a time when they can still recover ahead of the next provincial election. If she waits any longer, she risks depriving her party of any chance to enjoy the grace period that is usually afforded to new leaders. On another tangent, refusal to leave could result in further economic hardships for a province that was once looked at as a prosperous financial state. 

Since that election, the gaffes and examples of Liberal mismanagement have been stacking up like cordwood and polls have shown that Ontario voters are ready for a change. The Tories have made significant gains, now finding themselves sitting at 38% in the polls to the Liberals’ 30% and NDP 24%. The recent Forum poll even suggests, say it isn’t so, that the Tories are ahead in Toronto! 

Wynne’s hubris is larger than the budget deficit she and her party have racked up under their leadership, yet she insists she will not relinquish her position of leadership. If that is the case, then I am convinced we are going to see a catastrophic meltdown of her party from which the Liberals are not likely to recover for some time. 

Liberal failures are beginning to add up: the “billion-dollar gas plant boondoggle”, the disastrously inept mismanagement of hydro in general, the more than $300 billion in provincial deficit, Wynne's costly handling of the carbon tax and environment files, the Sudbury by-election scandal, and the botched sale of Hydro-One; are all contributing to the province's mistrust of the ruling party.

The Wynne Government's recent report on Ontario education reported that hardly half of Ontario's Grade 6 students passed provincial standards in math this year. The lack of improvement has lead the party to suggest a curriculum overhaul. Education Minister Mitzie Hunter went on to say, "there's still more work to do, especially when it comes to math overall." 

Even with the additional $60 million provided to schools for improved Math curriculums, students continue to struggle with the subject. 

Ontarians and pundits alike are reaching the same conclusion that the Liberal party’s popularity and prospects cannot recover with Wynne at the helm of the government. 

Ontario’s economy is being subjected to damage, the likes of which it has never seen and may never recover from. Which may leave the citizens of this once great and prosperous province to struggle against epic currents just to keep their heads above the proverbial water.

Wynne’s terrible leadership and numerous failures have done real and lasting damage to the Province of Ontario. It is time for her to accept responsibility for her mismanagement, step aside, and allow another to take over. 

This is now Patrick Brown’s election to lose and he needs to step up and show he has what it takes to lead Ontario out of the bleak state of affairs that Wynne and her Liberals have dragged us into. 


Brampton-based Surjit Flora is a veteran journalist and freelance writer who has previously contributed to the Huffington Post, Toronto Sun and other publications.

Published in Politics
Saturday, 06 February 2016 15:12

Canada Defends Fast-Track Refugee Plan to U.S.

by Rosanna Haroutounian in Quebec City 

In this week’s round-up of what’s been making headlines in Canada’s ethnic media: India’s Republic Day was not a celebration for everyone, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s visit to a Sikh shrine was less controversial than first reported and Canada’s plan to settle 25,000 refugees faces more challenges.

Refugee resettlement strategy under scrutiny 

The Canadian government’s plan to accept 25,000 Syrian refugees through immediate government and private sponsorship is facing criticism from south of the border. 

Canada’s government defended its refugee plan at a U.S. Senate committee hearing on Feb. 3 titled “Canada’s Fast-Track Refugee Plan: Unanswered Questions and Implications for U.S. National Security.” 

In a Canadian Press story picked up by the Epoch Times, it was reported that Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., Gary Doer, declined the Republican-controlled committee’s invitation to attend in person. 

Instead, Doer sent a note outlining five security measures related to the Syrian refugee program, four of which involved regular border co-operation with the U.S. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Rest assured that no corners, including security screening, are being cut in order to achieve the government’s objectives.”[/quote]

“Rest assured that no corners, including security screening, are being cut in order to achieve the government’s objectives,” Doer wrote. “Rather, the government has devoted significant resources to this effort.”

Canada’s plan will have to stand up against testimony from border guards, anti-terrorism organizations and economic experts who argue that tightened borders affect the flow of exports from Canada to the U.S.

In related news, some of the Syrian refugees who have arrived are feeling “hopeless” as they wait in hotel rooms to be settled into homes, find work and go to school. 

“Some of the 85 government sponsored refugees say they want to return to the camps in Jordan and Lebanon as opposed to staying in Canada,” reported the Epoch Times, citing a CBC report. 

The Times also refers to an op-ed piece in the Toronto Sun that asks Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to allow more refugees to be accepted through private sponsorship.

India’s Republic Day marked by ceremony, criticism

Events took place in India and Canada on Jan. 26 to celebrate Republic Day, though some were not without controversy. The event marks the adoption of India’s constitution on the same day in 1950. 

As the Indo-Canadian Voice reports, this year’s celebration in New Delhi was a display of pomp and military prowess for politicians and dignitaries, including French President Francois Hollande. 

The Indo-Canadian Voice also reports that the Sikh Regiment was excluded from the Republic Day parade in Delhi, which Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal later called “sad and regrettable” in a letter to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

Meanwhile, according to South Asian Daily, separatist leaders were put under house arrest to prevent protests at the Republic Day celebration in Srinagar, the summer capital of Kashmir state. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"[O]ur annual recognition serves as reminder to strive for [Mahatma] Gandhi’s message of unity through diversity and thriving together in harmony.”[/quote]

In Canada, British Columbia Premier Christy Clark made a statement wishing a memorable Republic Day celebration to Canada’s Indo-Canadian community. 

“With a proud and vibrant Indo-Canadian community, British Columbia has always had a special cultural connection with India,” said Clark, as reported in the Indo-Canadian Voice. “As we continue to expand trade and research relationships, those ties will grow stronger,” she went on to say. 

In Ontario, Premier Kathleen Wynne marked the celebration at the Consulate General of India offices in Toronto, ahead of her visit to India on Jan. 27. 

“Sixty-six years ago today the Constitution of India came into force signalling a new era for the entire country,” said Wynne, as quoted in Canada Wishesh. “It was a moment of great triumph and celebration for India, and our annual recognition serves as reminder to strive for [Mahatma] Gandhi’s message of unity through diversity and thriving together in harmony.” 

Conflicting accounts of Wynne’s visit to Sikh temple 

News sources published different reports of Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s stop at a Sikh shrine during her visit to India last week. 

Even before her visit to the Golden Temple on Sunday, the Hindustan Times in India reported that the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) would not present the premier with a siropa (robe of honour) because of her support for same-sex marriages. 

According to the Indo-Canadian Voice, SGPC President Avtar Singh Makkar told the Hindustan Times: “Offering her (Wynne) a siropa would be against Sikh ethics.” 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Offering her (Wynne) a siropa would be against Sikh ethics.”[/quote]

The Times maintained that Wynne did not receive the siropa even after photos of her were published wearing the robe following the visit, reports the Voice. 

“The SGPC apparently avoided mentioning the presentation of the siropa to save face after having declared that they would not honour Wynne with it. The Punjab government apparently exerted great pressure on the SGPC to present Wynne with a siropa,” reported the Voice. 

An article by Indo-Asian News Service, picked up by both South Asian Daily and Darpan, reported that Wynne was honoured with the siropa, as well as a tour of the shrine’s important areas and a gold-plated photo of the site. 

However, the Punjab Star noted that Wynne did not receive the siropa. 

The Star also reported that a major discussion point for SGPC chief secretary Harcharan Singh was the issue of exempting Sikh men from wearing helmets while driving motorcycles in Ontario. 

It is not clear whether Wynne will consider the exemption.

{module NCM Blurb}

Published in Top Stories

by Kyle Duggan in Ottawa 

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne made a broad appeal for acceptance at a visit to an Ottawa mosque for Friday prayers last week.

Wynne stopped by the Ottawa Muslim Association’s mosque with Ottawa Centre MPP Yasir Naqvi, and addressed the violent Paris attacks two weeks ago, saying it is “now more important than ever” to show compassion towards others.

“It’s our responsibility as Canadians to make sure we guard against the fear and we resist blame that can lead to racism and to hatred. At these moments it’s extremely important we reinforce our Canadian values that are [inclusive] and based in compassion.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“It’s our responsibility as Canadians to make sure we resist blame that can lead to racism and to hatred."[/quote]

She said the Paris attacks were an act of terrorism not borne of religion “because religion has no place for hate.”

Wynne said she met Thursday night with the young Muslim woman from her own Toronto riding who was physically attacked and called a terrorist.

“I could feel the fear that is in that household because she was attacked outside her children's school. She was born in Toronto.”

“That kind of hatred is what we have to guard against at this moment in our history,” Wynne said.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Naqvi said the Premier’s visit to the mosque sends “a very strong message that we as Ontarians stand together.”[/quote]

Defeat hatred with love

There were several other acts recently in the province, including one on a Peterborough mosque that was burnt down. That incident is being investigated as a potential hate crime.

“Only love is going to defeat hatred,” she said.

Naqvi said that in the face of acts of violence and hate, the Premier’s visit to the mosque sends “a very strong message that we as Ontarians stand together.”

On welcoming Syrian refugees, Wynne said “that humanitarian crisis calls on us to demonstrate who we are in the world.”

The province aims to resettle some 10,000 refugees by end of 2016.

Federal Cabinet Ministers said today they would announce details of the refugee plan on Tuesday.


Re-published in partnership with iPolitics.ca.

Published in Top Stories

by Kyle Duggan in Ottawa

Residents in a Don Valley West neighbourhood have been blitzed with flyers over the past week linking Liberal leader Justin Trudeau to Ontario Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne, and suggesting that a vote for Trudeau is a vote endorsing Wynne’s controversial sex-ed curriculum.

The blitz is going on in the Thorncliffe park neighbourhood in the Don Valley West riding, which has a large immigrant population and is where parents pulled their kids from school in protest over the new provincial sex education curriculum.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The blitz is going on in the Thorncliffe park neighbourhood in the Don Valley West riding, which has a large immigrant population.[/quote]

One flyer reads that it’s from Conservative candidate John Carmichael and poses the question: “Would you trust Justin Trudeau and Rob Oliphant to stand up to Kathleen Wynne’s plan to introduce sex-ed curriculum without consulting parents?” It also hits against other social issues, including the Liberals’ marijuana policy and stance on mandatory minimums.

Flyering has ramped up

Other flyers have been passed under apartment doors recently and handed out – many by the Thorncliffe Parents Association – which also made that connection. The issue has been a hot topic in that riding, which is also Wynne’s provincial riding.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“We’ve been getting the same messages again and again and again, really trying to drill it into people’s heads. And it’s weird because it’s not a federal issue.”[/quote]

Rabiya Asad, a Thorncliffe Park area resident, says flyers decrying the sex-ed curriculum have ramped up closer to the election.

“For the past two, three weeks we’ve been getting flyers pretty regularly,” she said. “We got like three just today and the election’s tomorrow.”

She thinks they’re effective because the issue – and messaging connecting the federal and provincial Liberals – simmered for so long.

“We’ve been getting the same messages again and again and again, really trying to drill it into people’s heads. And it’s weird because it’s not a federal issue.”

Don Valley West: A riding to watch

Don Valley West Liberal candidate Rob Oliphant told the Globe and Mail in September the curriculum needs to be looked at to make sure it’s taught in a sensitive way, after some Toronto-area Conservative candidates made the curriculum part of their campaigns. Media had reported that Kyle Seeback and Parm Gill previously also sent out campaign material and flyers with similar messages in Mississauga-Malton.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Wynne recently called the Conservatives’ use of the sex-ed curriculum as a federal wedge-issue “deplorable.”[/quote]

Meanwhile, Wynne hasn’t distanced herself from Toronto-area Liberal candidates and spent time this week campaigning with some – including Oliphant on Thursday. Wynne recently called the Conservatives’ use of the sex-ed curriculum as a federal wedge-issue “deplorable.”

On AM 640’s John Oakley show in Toronto on Friday, Carmichael said “it’s a wedge issue if you look at how hard she’s been stumping for Justin Trudeau,” and drew the issue back to a lack of consultation with parents.

Don Valley West will be a riding to watch on Monday – Carmichael defeated Oliphant by just 611 votes in 2011. If the new riding boundaries had been in effect, it would have been by 1,088 votes, or a 2.4 per cent margin, according to Pundits’ Guide.


Published in partnership with iPolitics.ca.

Published in Politics
Friday, 03 July 2015 19:19

Chan and Confucius

by Simon Li in Hong Kong

You've probably never realized that Ontario cabinet minister Michael Chan is a highly polarizing figure within the Greater Toronto Area's (GTA) Chinese communities until the Globe and Mail's recent coverage.

That's the case at least for my non-Chinese friends in the city, perhaps because the 64-year-old gentleman's appearance seems rather gentle; not the controversial type. During his eight years in Cabinet, opinions about Chan among Chinese Ontarians have remained sharply divided.
 
Three Little Surprises
 
Three little things have actually surprised me since the Globe ran the story on the only Chinese Canadian in Premier Kathleen Wynne's cabinet. (The minister threatened on the eve of Canada Day to take further legal action against the Globe if the paper does not apologize and immediately retract the story within 72 hours.) 
 
The Confederation of Toronto Chinese-Canadian Organizations, making a similar demand on Canada Day, has just asked the Globe to apologize not only to them but to the Chinese community and Chan. Apologizing to the Chinese community? This sounds like the whole community of Chinese Ontarians are homogenous while sharing a single view on the Globe story.
 
This is the very first thing which surprises me as a scholar of Chinese Canadian history. Time after time, the Chinese-Canadian community is intentionally being misrepresented by some (and hence mistakenly seen by the mainstream society and governments) as a homogeneous group, while it certainly is not. It is much more heterogeneous than one can imagine.
 
[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Even if you don't pay close attention to security matters, you may still have noticed that Canada's spy agency, Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), has been paying awfully close attention to one country in particular these days: China.[/quote]
 
Although some associations’ names may sound like they are sole spokespeople for Chinese Canadian society, the reality is that there is not a single group that can speak on behalf of the whole Chinese community on the Michael Chan matter or any other issue.
 
Second, while it would not be difficult to hear polarizing views about Chan in the community, a good number of the province's Chinese-language media have strangely selected interviewees from just a particular side since day one -- that is, views that simply side with Chan -- instead of professionally reporting multiple views, including those that are other than pro-Chan's. Why? 
 
The third surprise has to do with the controversy surrounding Chan and Confucius — an unexpected pairing and the focus of this commentary.
 
The Background
 
Even if you don't pay close attention to security matters, you may still have noticed that Canada's spy agency, Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), has been paying awfully close attention to one country in particular these days: China.

Apart from the Globe's coverage of the CSIS revelations that Chan may have been under the influence of a foreign government and had "unusually close ties to Chinese officials," what catches some community members' attention is actually facet of the paper's reporting.
 
The Globe story suggested that Chan once lobbied for a deal between the Toronto District School Board and the Confucius Institute (CI), named after the ancient Chinese philosopher. This Institute has now been banned from a number of universities and school boards across Canada amid concerns about interfering with academic freedoms. Those which officially cut ties with the Confucius Institute include McMaster University, the University of Manitoba and the University of Sherbrooke.

Let's zoom out a bit here: What are Confucius Institutes? And why would the Liberal minister, as the Globe report disclosed, lobby the controversial Institute to make a deal with Canada's largest school board? 

Many wonder.
 
[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Digging deeper, these are the legitimate questions a journalist should ask. While the Chinese press has also been following the Chan story in the past two weeks, none of these questions have really been put forward to the minister.[/quote]
 
The Chinese government says the Confucius Institutes, the brainchild of Beijing's Ministry of Education, are simply promoting Chinese culture and business ties. However, according to a declassified CSIS brief which was obtained earlier by media under the Access to Information Act, Canada's spy service believes China has enlisted the institutes to advance China's power behind the scenes. The secret intelligence report, portions of which were blacked out, states, "In other words, China wants the world to have positive feelings toward China and things Chinese."

"Soft power" is the keyword here. CSIS warns that Confucius Institutes are not as benign as they pretend to be because they are a part of -- albeit a relatively small part -- of China's strategy of "soft power".
 
Chinese "soft power"

While Chan’s spokesperson replied to the Globe that the minister only “wrote one letter offering his personal support to the TDSB in pursuing a dialogue to establish a Confucius Institute in Toronto,” there is still a puzzling question: Why would then-TDSB chair Chris Bolton actually deem Chan’s support of the establishment of the Confucius Institute in Toronto as crucial?

As Bolton publicly disclosed during last summer's gala to celebrate the CI-TDSB arrangement, "I'd like to take a moment to thank the people who were directly involved in the establishment of the CI. Right from the beginning, an MPP (Member of Provincial Parliament) by the name of Michael Chan has supported the establishment" -- it keeps one wondering: what precise role did the Ontario cabinet minister play in this whole deal involving a CI establishment which the CSIS refers in its report as a calculated part of China's "soft power" campaign?

Another essential question would be: what motivated him to be so "directly involved" (using the ex-TDSB chair's choice of words) in supporting the Beijing-sponsored institute which would be in charge of the curriculum and the hiring of teachers instead of the public-secular school board for Toronto? Chan represents Markham-Unionville, which does not fall under the Toronto school board, and his portfolio in Cabinet has nothing to do with education. 

In the wake of the high-profile CI crisis to date, why did the minister say earlier that he had "not paid attention at all, in terms of the curriculum” during the lobbying process? As a matter of fact, different concerns surrounding these controversial Confucius institutes and their curriculum have been extensively reported in Canada in as early as 2007.
 
Legitimate questions
 
Digging deeper, these are the legitimate questions a journalist should ask. While the Chinese press has also been following the Chan story in the past two weeks, none of these questions have really been put forward to the minister.

So at this point, only Chan knows the true answers.

Confucius too, maybe?  

The Chinese master of enduring wisdom once counselled, "Study the past if you would define the future."  And while our country's spy service believes China has enlisted its ancient politician-philosopher in its quest for power, don't be surprised by the fact the Communist Party of China has never quite been supportive of Confucian ideals (there was even a "Criticize Confucius" campaign in the People's Republic in the mid-1970s).

The past is ironic. 

So is the controversy surrounding the cabinet minister and the Chinese master.  

The clock is ticking. Let's see what happens when Chan’s 72-hour ultimatum expires. 
Simon Li, a former Canadian political journalist, currently teaches political science and investigative journalism in Hong Kong. Before entering an academic career, he was a political host on AM 1540 in Toronto and guest hosted The Current on CBC Radio. He previously researched Canada-China relations and Chinese Canadian history at Queen’s University.
 
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Published in Commentary
Wednesday, 17 June 2015 23:16

I'm No Dupe of China, Rebuts Michael Chan

by Ranjit Bhaskar (@ranjit17) in Toronto

Ontario cabinet minister Michael Chan has joined issue with the Globe and Mail over its reporting this week suggesting he could be a threat to national security on account of his close ties with China.

In an open letter, the provincial Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and International Trade said the articles “are little more than a re-hash of ludicrous allegations published – and debunked – five years ago. Indeed, the Globe & Mail at that time properly called the suggestions 'reckless, foolish and contradictory.'"

The allegations Chan was referring to spring from a CBC interview with former Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) director Richard Fadden aired in 2010. Fadden did not identify anyone in that interview nor did he elaborate on specific concerns. After a backlash from politicians and Chinese-Canadians, Fadden recanted and the controversy subsided.

Persistent Theme

"There is a persistent theme that there is a perceived risk that I am under undue influence and that I am an unwitting dupe of a foreign government," Chan asserted in his open letter today. 

However, following the Globe and Mail articles, federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay said there is an “ongoing investigation” involving Chan. “Clearly there are people outside our country, as inside our country, who would seek to exert influence,” MacKay, who would not comment on specifics of the probe, said.

MacKay’s comments highlight the difference between Ottawa and Queen’s Park over the issue. Premier Kathleen Wynne on Tuesday defended her minister, saying any concerns about Chan were “baseless,” and the federal spy agency’s suspicions lacked substance. “He has my trust.”

“All of those have been addressed. There was nothing of substance that has been brought forward to me,” the Premier said during an unrelated factory tour in Cambridge, Ont. “Michael Chan has done his job with respect and with honour. He has worked incredibly hard for the people of Ontario and he continues to do so.”

Chan first became a cabinet minister eight years ago under former premier Dalton McGuinty and has continued to serve under Wynne.

“On our trade mission together last fall to China, Michael was instrumental in attracting to Ontario almost $1 billion in new investment by Chinese companies, creating 1,800 jobs,” said Wynne. “There are some who may believe that there is something sinister about maintaining deep ties with one’s country of origin, or one’s culture. I believe the opposite and so do millions of Canadians who have immigrated to Canada.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“There are some who may believe that there is something sinister about maintaining deep ties with one’s country of origin, or one’s culture. I believe the opposite and so do millions of Canadians who have immigrated to Canada.” - Wynne[/quote]

Globe reporting

Chan in his letter says the banner headline of the first article on Monday gives the impression that it contains a major revelation, with a  headline in bold type in the print edition stating that it has been alleged that “this Minister” could be a “threat” to Canada.

“Although I have been a minister for eight years, it is probably true that most Ontarians do not know me well. For many, their first impressions of me will be from the headlines in the recent Globe articles. It hurts me that this is the case,” Chan wrote, saying the body of the article contains a blend of innuendo and half-suggestions although “nothing I have done in any way supports any suggestion that I am a possible threat to Canada or to Ontario.”

A second story that followed on Wednesday details his emigration to Canada and his rise to success in business and politics.  Chan, in his open letter, said maintaining deep, meaningful connections with one’s culture, with one’s country of origin, is something millions of Canadians cherish. “I came to this country as a young man. Canada welcomed me. While I am proud of my Chinese heritage, I am a Canadian first and foremost. I owe all the success I have had to this country and, most particularly, to the province of Ontario.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"There is a persistent theme that there is a perceived risk that I am under undue influence and that I am an unwitting dupe of a foreign government." - Chan[/quote]

Chan, a prominent Liberal fundraiser in Chinese circles, said he would like to think that in some small way he has served as an example to all Canadians who may wish to take part in public affairs. He concluded his letter by saying he will continue to encourage newer Canadians to take an active role in public life.

“They should not be discouraged by the fear of allegations that the everyday actions of newer Canadians need to be minutely examined to determine if they somehow have lesser loyalties to this country.”


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Published in Top Stories

by Don Curry (@DonDoncurry) in North Bay, Ontario

The North Bay City Council voted last night 8-2 in support of the right of permanent residents to vote in municipal and school board elections.

Letters will be sent to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, the appropriate ministries and Leader of the Opposition to request a change in provincial legislation. The move follows a similar motion by the City of Toronto, and other southern Ontario municipalities are examining the issue as well.

The vote was not an overnight sensation. It was the result of two years of work that culminated with a council presentation and six-minute video presentation that you can see here:

[youtube height="315" width="560"]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=il3hZVr53uw[/youtube]

The video and council presentation was broadcast live to the community on Cogeco TV. Produced by Canadore College student Chris Robinson for course credit, the video features well-known North Bay residents speaking passionately about the issue.

Throughout the evening, which I found rewarding, Mayor Al McDonald and Councillor Mike Anthony, who moved the motion, had very favourable comments about the North Bay & District Multicultural Centre and its partnership with the city.

It was the end of a journey that began with a discussion led by Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI) Executive Director Debbie Douglas at one of our OCASI board meetings two years ago.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]While I am thrilled with the vote by North Bay City Council, I realize it doesn’t end there.[/quote]

She spoke about the recent vote in favour by Toronto City Council and mentioned the work of Desmond Cole, who led the charge. On my drive back to North Bay after that OCASI meeting in Toronto, I thought, “Why not North Bay?”

We have a supportive mayor and I thought there would be enough council members that could be persuaded to support the initiative. Douglas got me in touch with Cole and he offered support and guidance the rest of the way.

While I am thrilled with the vote by North Bay City Council, I realize it doesn’t end there. The provincial government has to change the legislation to allow permanent residents to vote in municipal and school board elections. Municipalities do not have that power, as they are creatures of the province.

While North Bay is the first Northern Ontario municipality to support the initiative, there is support in a number of southern Ontario cities. Outside of Ontario, the City of Halifax passed a similar motion.

The movement is growing and is landing in the laps of provincial governments.

Preventing Voting is ‘Not Right’

The need for change is, in part, being fuelled by recent federal government changes that create barriers to Canadian citizenship. Increasing application fees from $400 to $630, increasing the residence requirements from three of the last four years to four of the last six and the processing backlog all add years to the process.

Changes to the citizenship test have made it harder to pass, with pass rates dropping from 83 per cent in 2011 to 73 per cent in 2012. Two of our staff members gave the test to a North Bay service club and half the members failed.

Opponents say that Canada offers dual citizenship, and so it does, but more than 50 countries do not, including two top source countries, China and India. That is a barrier for someone who, for example, needs to return to his/her source country to take care of a dying or sick relative for an extended period.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Preventing [permanent residents] from voting, as retired Nipissing University professor Bill Plumstead says in the video, is not moral, is not ethical, and is not right.[/quote]

Opponents say that the change dilutes the value of Canadian citizenship. Our video points out that it strengthens the value, by providing a first step toward inclusion at the local level.

Permanent residents pay taxes, own homes, own businesses and employ people and have their children in school, but have no say on how their local taxes are spent. Enabling permanent residents to vote municipally, as a first step toward Canadian citizenship and full voting rights, is the smart thing to do to help newcomers integrate in to the community.

Preventing them from voting, as retired Nipissing University professor Bill Plumstead says in the video, is not moral, is not ethical, and is not right.

For more information go to http://cityvote.ca and get your municipality on board with this growing movement.


Don Curry is the Executive Director of the North Bay & District Multicultural Centre, Co-Chair of the North Bay Newcomer Network Local Immigration Partnership Initiative and Northern region board member for OCASI. He is also a board member of Pathways to Prosperity, a national immigration research organization.

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Published in Commentary

by Eternity Martis (@iratemixedchick) in Toronto

While Caribbean, black and ethnic media as a whole may never be mainstream, they offer a fundamental contribution to racial discussions in Canada by bringing together communities, tying Canada to other countries and establishing a minority voice on a visible platform.

Over the last few months here are just a few of the headlines Caribbean media outlets broke in Canada, that went under reported by the larger outlets.

Caribbean Immigrants Most Affected by New Canadian Citizenship Changes

According to CICS News, new data shows that changes in the citizenship process have caused a drop in the number of immigrants wanting to be citizens.

In 2008, only 26 per cent of permanent residents in Canada received citizenship. That is down from 44 per cent in 2007, and 79 per cent from 2000.

The decline is attributed to the harsher rules and fees established in 2010. The score to pass a citizenship test has increased from 60 per cent to 75 per cent (or 15 out of 20 multiple-choice questions).

Citizenship and Immigration Canada has also raised the citizenship application fee to $530 per adult, more than five times the cost in 2013.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The extra financial hurdle of the citizenship application fee may also deter certain groups of applicants more than others.[/quote]

What is most shocking is the ethnic breakdown of the test’s pass rates before and after the reform. While those from South Asian, Southern and East African communities all experienced a decline of more than 15 per cent, immigrants from the Caribbean had their pass rate go down by almost 20 per cent.

Andrew Griffith, former citizenship director-general who retired in 2013, found these trends through extensive research. While he does not give a reason why Caribbean immigrants experience less of a pass rate than other immigrants, he says education and income levels often determine who passes.

The extra financial hurdle of the citizenship application fee may also deter certain groups of applicants more than others.

Town Hall Meetings in Toronto Tackle Community Issues

According to Share News, the Jamaican Canadian Association, the Black Action Defence Committee and the Jamaican Diaspora Canada Foundation have organized three town halls to discuss and work on community issues, education, unification of African and Caribbean communities and policing.

The meetings were held at the Jamaican Canadian Association in Toronto. The first meeting in January brought a smaller number; however, the following month drew in over 200 people. By the last meeting in March, fewer seats were filled.

Regardless, over a dozen community groups have signed up to partake in the town hall’s coalition group for future changes in the Black community, and activists and various members of African and Caribbean communities in the city have come together to help create solutions.

The town halls also featured discussion on the disproportionate number of Black people in Ontario public service sectors; violence and murder among young Black men and the impact on families; the lack of employment opportunities; and subsequent government policies that don’t reflect the experiences of Black communities.

Diabetes Expo Targets Caribbean-Canadians

Research on diabetes has shown many Caribbean-Canadians are diabetic, or are prone to developing the disease in their lifetime.

In order to raise awareness of diabetes in the Caribbean community, the Canadian Diabetes Association and its Caribbean Chapter hostedtheir sixth annual Black Diabetes Expo on April 25 at the Jamaican Canadian Association in Toronto.

This year’s theme was high blood pressure and its relation to diabetes. Dr. George Dresser, a clinical pharmacologist at Western University, delivered the keynote speech, “Taking control of your blood pressure will control your diabetes management.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The study found that diabetes is the leading cause of death amongst Caribbean-Canadians.[/quote]

Partners of the Expo included the Caribbean Camera, Rogers TV, and TAIBU Community Health Centre.

In addition to the research done on Caribbean-Canadians and diabetes, CERIS, an Ontario research group, conducted a study in 2013 on a group of Torontonians, both Black Caribbean and Canadian-born.

The study found that diabetes is the leading cause of death amongst Caribbean-Canadians. The study also revealed that Black Caribbeans were better at maintaining their physical health.

Black Canadians (and Caribbeans) You Should Know

Just because Black History Month has passed doesn’t mean we have to stop learning. A recent Share article by Murphy Browne titled “Blacks must learn about their history before enslavement” highlighted the importance of understanding African history – not in relation to slavery, but to the culture, progress and celebration of all Africans.

While Browne alludes to several well-known Black historical figures, as well as facts about African history, across the globe, he makes note that there is not much information available on the Caribbean community.

Here is a list of several Caribbean men and women that have contributed to Canadian history:

Lincoln Alexander (pictured above): Child of a Jamaican mother and St. Vincent father, Alexander was a politician and statesman who served as a Member of Parliament in the House of Commons, the federal Minister of Labour and the 24th Lieutenant Governor of Ontario.

Dudley Laws: A Jamaican-born Canadian civil rights activist and executive director of the Black Action Defence Committee.

Charles Roach: A Trinidadian-born Canadian civil rights lawyer and activist in Toronto.

Sherona Hall: A Jamaican-born Canadian Black feminist, activist, youth advocate and political figure.

Lennox Farrell: A Trinidadian-born community activist, retired Toronto teacher and head of the Caribbean Cultural Committee.

Herbert Carnegie: Born in Toronto to Jamaican parents, Carnegie was a Canadian hockey player who played despite racial discrimination. He founded Future Aces, one of Canada’s first hockey schools.

Calvin Ruck: Born in Nova Scotia to Barbadian parents, Ruck was an anti-racism activist and Canadian senator.

Stanley G. Grizzle: Born in Toronto to Jamaican parents, Grizzle was a citizenship judge and labour union activist.

Leonard Braithwaite: Lawyer and Liberal politician in Ontario, who served in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

Bromley Armstrong: A Jamaican-born civil rights leader who played a prominent role in Canada’s civil rights movement upon his arrival in 1947.

Commentary: Can Ethnic Media Ever be Mainstream Media?

Last month, Premier Kathleen Wynne (pictured to right, credit: Share News) spoke in Mississauga about the importance of ethnic media in Canada. Wynne addressed the ethnic media organizations present, saying, “The stories that you tell and the work that you do are absolutely vital to shaping the society we all take enormous pride in today.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Ethnic media has the simple key element that mainstream media doesn’t: the “ethnic” perspective. [/quote]

This discussion is both timely and fundamental to journalism surrounding Caribbean culture, and Black communities as a whole.

Ethnic media has the simple key element that mainstream media doesn’t: the “ethnic” perspective. These outlets can report from a position of personal experience and compassion, and are more likely to understand the complexity of stories on race. They ask the questions that mainstream journalists often overlook: What's beneath the surface? How do we cover race issue fairly?

Take for example the Ferguson protests – often poorly covered by Canadian mainstream media, painting protesters as violent, looting animals and anti-white racists, while Caribbean media has helped shine light on the reality.

Or the fact that in mainstream news outlets immigrant success stories are saved for weekend features, while Caribbean media frequently congratulates members of the community.

Caribbean media outlets take what little importance Caribbean issues may have in larger media outlets and place them at the forefront, making them a necessity, rather than a token issue.

That is, of course, if they follow independent reporting standards, and not the models set out in mainstream media.


Eternity Martis is a Master of Journalism student at Ryerson University. She currently writes for The Huffington Post and Bustle. Her work has also been featured on Salon.com, xoJane and Vice Canada with a focus on race and gender issues.

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Published in Caribbean
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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