by Binoy Kampark in Melbourne 

At the psychological heart of every liberal is a milk soft tendency to succumb to the authoritarian personality, a feeling that, just around the corner, resistance will fold.  Before such authority, adoration and bruising follow in menacing union.

“Action is consolatory.  It is the enemy of thought and the friend of flattering illusions.” -Joseph Conrad, Nostromo (1904).

As US President Bill Clinton fumbled his way, fly-down, through the Oval office of the 1990s, his popularity ratings would soar with the next insidious missile strike on a place in Sudan or Afghanistan, places few US citizens would have been able to find on the map.  What mattered was that impotence before official inquiries was not to be replicated by the man behind the trigger, even if it did entail the slaughter of a few anonymous coloureds of Islamic faith.

The Trump Phenomenon

President Donald Trump presents this problem in an even more profoundly obscene way.  Impulsive, spontaneous, trigger happy at the end of a conversation, the boy man imperial figure is capable of doing anything that will change the game at a moment’s notice.  Those interested in examining such behaviour best dust off their copies of Suetonius’ The Twelve Caesars to make sense of it all. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]When you kill innocent children, innocent babies – babies! – little babies… that crosses many, many lines. Beyond a red line, many, many lines. -Donald Trump[/quote]

The entertainment fetishized complex of suffering, the reality show of dead and dying children, becomes the centre point for supposedly sensible policy. Ever long in having the ear of the intelligence community in Washington, David Ignatius dares find moral suasion in the act of firing 59 cruise missiles against a Syrian airbase. 

“Even for a president who advertised his coldblooded pragmatism, the moral dimensions of leadership find a way of penetrating the Oval Office.  In the case of President Trump, the emotional distance seems to have been shattered by simple, indelible images of suffering children in Idlib, Syria.” - David Ignatius

Liberal Support

As Joan Walsh explains in The Nation, individuals such as Fareed Zakaria on CNN’s News Day (“I think Donald Trump became president of the United Sates” with the strikes); or MSNBC’s Nicholas Kristof (Trump “did the right thing”) signal that dire, toxic embrace that confuses power with purpose. From seeing Trump previously as an incompetent, unable buffoon unfit for the White House, he bloomed in the field of conflict.

We have seen such instinctive support before, notably from those within progressive circles.  The liberal establishment, be it the human rights defender Michael Ignatieff or the late polemicist Christopher Hitchens, both strutted the line that weapons could be used to advance humanitarian and liberal agendas even as they destabilised and amputated a nation state.

Ignatieff took his point of departure as the attacks of September 11, 2001 on the United States, admitting that backing the mission that took the United States on an ideological crusade into Iraq in 2003 involved keeping company with those he did not like because they were “right on the issue.”

“As long as there was as much as a 1 percent chance that rogue states would transfer chemical, biological and nuclear weapons to suicide bombers, Britain and the United States knew where their interests lay, and they did not lie in deferring to the reluctance of their allies at the United Nations.”

Such an observation has all the ingredients that have since been replicated by Trump: a castigation of the international community, a general scolding of the UN system as barrier to firm action against atrocity, and the sense of catastrophe in the absence of such action.

Unity Against Terroristic Ideologies

As he was scribbling in March 2003 with Iraq smouldering, Ignatieff would say that he wished for a world with stable rules, and limitations on the use of force.  But he also made it clear that supporting the invasion “entails a commitment to rebuild that order on new foundations.”

Hitchens was similarly converted in the carnage of the collapsing Twin Towers of New York, embracing the thesis against incongruously named Islamofascism, and seeing any means to counter it, even those forces not so inclined towards it (Saddam Hussein was far more secular in his terrorising approach) as conflated enemies requiring extinction. 

So convinced was he by the case that any attempt to suggest he had erred in joining the powerful was dismissed as ill-informed claptrap.  “We were never, if we are honest with ourselves, ‘lied into war’.” -Christopher Hitchens

In other instances, Hitchens was positively bloodthirsty, exulting in the infliction of those deserving of death. These villains, he wrote in 2002, would receive “those steel pellets”; they would “go straight through somebody and out the other side and through somebody else… They’ll be dead, in other words.”

Such symptoms of automatic support for the beast of purpose are typical of the seductive allure of muscular power, which is, by its very nature, anti-intellectual and consoling.  Intellectuals and members of the professional classes, while feeling repulsed by such fronts, often swoon to its application. They would love to be riding the storm of ill-thought in sadistic bliss, but prefer idyllic shelter whilst daddy does his bit for the patria.


Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Published in Commentary
Wednesday, 30 November 2016 00:23

Wynne and Jeffery: the Powerful and the Powerless

Commentary by Surjit Singh Flora in Brampton

Kathleen Wynne, the current premier of Ontario, and Linda Jeffrey, the past Wynne Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and Brampton’s current Mayor, are a study in contrasts.  

As Ontario’s 25th Premier, Wynne is both at the height of her power and the low depths of popularity. But even with her popularity at below 20 per cent, she remains a powerful politician in control of her cabinet and caucus and with the ability to set and implement her political agenda. 

This is despite Wynne’s now self-admitted mismanagement of our province’s electricity system, which she now concedes has caused such hardship in the province that some are forced to choose between feeding themselves or heating their homes. 

It is a sad reality that Premier Wynne and her Liberals are looking more and more likely to hold on to power in the 2018 election as both the NDP and Conservatives appear to be parties struggling to seize any of the public’s attention, let alone imagination. 

On one hand, Andrea Horwath and her NDP seem to have little ground to stand on, given that the Liberals have all but assumed much of the left’s territory, leaving the NDP with few policy options and little to say. 

And, then, there is Patrick Brown, who with so many opportunities to pillory a Liberal government mired in scandal, continues to squander his opportunities to effectively hold this government to account while failing to be consistent in publicly expressing his own party’s policies and platform. 

The recent by-elections in Ottawa and Niagara were an indictment of an ineffective opposition that bodes well for Wynne going into her pre-election year. 

Contrast Wynne with Brampton Mayor Linda Jeffrey. Like Wynne, Jeffrey served as an Ontario Liberal Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, as well as Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.  Her predecessor, Susan Fennell, had presided over a virtual renaissance in Brampton. 

During her tenure as Mayor, Brampton saw major investments in public infrastructure, and a massive $300 million expansion of public transit funded jointly by all three levels of government despite the fact that, at the time, there was no formal program in place from the Federal and Provincial governments to fund it. 

All of that travelling to Ottawa paved the way for the single largest provincial/federal investment in Brampton’s history, but was ultimately part of what I have always believed to be an organized campaign to run her out of office. 

Her frequent travel was at the heart of unfounded accusations, innuendo and vicious allegations that lasted all of two years. After having been cleared of all but two ridiculously minor issues just days prior to the 2014 municipal election, Fennell lost to Jeffrey, who promised to clean up City Hall. 

Two years later, under Jeffrey’s leadership, Brampton's reputation has sunk to new lows. Jeffrey presides over a fractious Council that cannot agree on anything.  An LRT line that had unprecedented public support was defeated despite over $300 million in approved provincial funding. 

A search for a new chief administrative officer attracted only one candidate, who, since being hired has been on a rampage at City Hall that has seen virtually the entire senior management fired, drawing comparisons to a mini “reign of terror” with blood-soaked corridors and a civil service in disarray. 

And even when she wins, Jeffrey loses.  After recently scoring a coveted nod from her former Liberal government colleagues to locate a university in Brampton, it was revealed that even that effort is plagued with a lack of organization and little in the way of a plan, leaving Council slack-jawed, asking, “What do we do now?”

Wynne and Jeffrey are Liberals, but complete opposites: Wynne is powerful and blessed with a weak opposition; Jeffrey, powerless and cursed with a fractious and ineffective Council. 

But both have one thing in common: they both need to be replaced and 2018 can’t come soon enough.

Brampton-based Surjit Singh Flora is a veteran journalist and freelance writer. 

Published in Politics
Saturday, 22 October 2016 14:26

One Year In, Big Shift in Foreign Policy

Commentary by Bhupinder Liddar

Did the seismic shift in Canada's political landscape, a year ago, following the election on October 19, 2015, also trigger a shift in Canada’s diplomacy, defence and development agenda? To a large extent, yes, and for the most part for the better.

The first strong signal of change in policy came immediately after the election when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declared Canada’s intention to accept 25,000 Syrian refugees by Christmas 2015. The former Conservative government of Stephen Harper had been dragging its feet on this issue and most of Western Europe was devising ways to block their entry.

Canada re-surfaced at the United Nations – the world family of 193 nations. Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s disdain, disrespect and disapproval of anything to do with the UN was well-known, resulting in Canada’s isolation at the UN, including losing its bid for a seat at the Security Council, the ultimate decision-making body on world affairs. While Harper rebuffed the UN, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau embraced the world body, and addressed the General Assembly in September declaring, “Canada is back” on the international scene.

Good money after bad

In re-emerging at the UN, Canada also pledged financial assistance to various UN agencies that was withdrawn by the previous Conservative government. One must, however, caution against throwing good money after bad, in the case of UN agencies, as they are rife with inefficiency. The previous Conservative government was adamant in demanding accountability before approving funding for any UN requests for financial assistance.

A country the size and strength of Canada can leverage its influence effectively and efficiently through multilateral organizations. Hence, Canada seems to be enhancing its role in various international and regional organizations, including, the G-20, NATO, and the African Union, among other forums. While pursuing the Canadian agenda through multilateralism remains an essential part of Canadian diplomatic strategy, bilateral relations are also playing an important part, as with Prime Minister’s state visit to China in September and various foreign heads of government knocking on Ottawa’s door.

Pursuit of free trade agreements goes on with the same vigour as under the Conservatives. The Canada-India Free Trade agreement seems to have died with the defeat of the Harper Conservative government. Much too much energy was wasted on this agreement, which at the end was designed to appease Canadian voters of Indian origin, most of whom were not too impressed or thrilled with the blatant and transparent vote-getting antics.

Canada’s relations with the United States of America are foremost on Canada’s diplomatic agenda. Trudeau has restored much needed personal diplomacy with U.S. President Barack Obama, who addressed the Canadian Parliament in June. And, Trudeau was the first Canadian Prime Minister to be hosted at a White House State Dinner, in March, in almost two decades.

Within a year of coming to power, the Liberal government has kept its commitment to climate change agenda, by signing the Paris Agreement on controlling carbon emissions.

Canada has resumed an active role in defence matters, too, with a promise to participate in UN peacekeeping operations. The problem is that while Prime Minister Trudeau committed to providing 600 Canadian Armed Forces troops, we have not found a place to deploy them. The government seems to have put the cart before the horse. 

Showcase our pluralism

Consistent with the previous government, Canada is actively monitoring Russian jockeying in the Baltics and Ukraine. It has pledged to contribute more troops, as part of NATO’s efforts to protect and ensure sovereignty of the Baltic states.

Whereas the Harper government was hostile to an international development agenda and inflicted serious financial cutbacks to the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the Liberal government has resumed Canada’s role in providing humanitarian and development assistance, be it immediate help in the aftermath of the recent hurricane in the Caribbean or funding women’s education and literacy programs to furthering gender equality, under the aegis of UN agencies.

As for the future, the volume of consular matters will continue to increase and become more challenging, both because of changing demographics and dealing with countries that have different value and legal systems.

Instead of indulging in cost-cutting exercises, Canada needs place more diplomats in foreign missions. We should end the practice of replacing Canadian diplomats with locally-engaged staff.

One hopes that the year-old Trudeau government will continue to make Canada’s presence felt on the international scene, as it has in the past year, and showcase the Canadian experiment in building a pluralistic and multicultural society.

Bhupinder S. Liddar, is a former Canadian diplomat and publisher/editor of “Diplomat & International Canada” magazine. He can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit www.liddar.ca

Published in Commentary

Commentary by Winnie Hwo in Vancouver 

The much-anticipated first federal budget from the new Liberal government was unveiled on March 22. To describe the general reactions, they would be “Wow,” “Oh,” and maybe even, “Oh no.” 

I was all “Yay!” and this is why. 

I am a Chinese-Canadian mother with a university-aged child. I also work for one of the most respected environmental organizations in the country, after a long career in journalism. 

For someone with my kind of profile, I tend to want my country to be cleaner, greener and friendlier. I want this because it is good for my health, my child’s health, our lives and his future. 

For a decade, people like me were frozen out of the federal government’s national policy equation because our previous federal government was only interested in pushing fossil fuels. 

The consequences of this are known: our major trading partners like the U.S. and China have spent the last decade developing their clean-tech industry and green infrastructure. We are grossly behind in this very competitive new economy. 

A struggling Canadian economy 

As it turns out, our previous government was also reluctant to invest in our infrastructure, while it continued to take in more immigrants. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][W]hile newcomers help our country grow, they also increase demands for housing, transportation and other services.[/quote]

One thing about accepting more immigrants is that while newcomers help our country grow, they also increase demands for housing, transportation and other services. 

We know many new Canadians gained acceptance to our country by paying millions of dollars for investment funds to contribute to the nation’s economy even before they landed. 

One would expect that this money would be invested in areas to strengthen our economy, like in our clean-tech sectors and aging infrastructures. Unfortunately, that was not the case.  

Over a billion of taxpayer dollars were invested in the fossil fuel industry in the form of oil sand subsidies. 

As world oil prices plunge, so does our dollar. Today, Canadians struggle in the low-dollar reality and find ourselves stuck, with little room to juggle. 

While workers in the oil sands industry are losing their jobs fast, those in the manufacturing sectors are only recently seeing their job prospects improve slightly. 

Long overdue attention to First Nations 

The investment in our First Nations communities is also commendable. 

As immigrants, we came to Canada mostly for better job opportunities, clean water, air and food security. 

Unfortunately, these are not always afforded to our Aboriginal Peoples. For those who live on reserves especially, their water supply is often compromised due to irresponsible mining. 

When their only source of water is contaminated, they pay with their health and lives. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The new Liberal budget is important to me because it signifies a new direction or even the dawn of a new era.[/quote]

For generations, our First Nations people have had to see their loved ones, often small children, suffering serious health challenges because their homes were badly built, their water supply was contaminated and hope was always too far to reach. 

The $8.4 billion funding for our First Nations communities is long overdue. 

Welcoming a new era 

The new Liberal budget is important to me because it signifies a new direction or even the dawn of a new era, if you will. 

The vision I keep seeing is a huge ocean liner called Canada changing course in the high seas, making waves and making its passengers feel bumpy, disrupted or even unsettled. 

But if we take a deep breath and think about it, the reason we feel so shell-shocked by this new budget is because a lot of the big-ticket items were not even addressed by the previous government. 

The move to a new and green economy is a reality. Some might even say inevitable. 

It would be wonderful if Canadians were served a gradual change, of course, but the 10 years of relying on oil and closing our ears to the call for help from our First Nations people by the Harper government means our journey from here on will likely feel a little bumpier. 

Yes, we will have to spend a little time to play catch up, but I know Canadians are resilient and hard working. As long as we work together and support each other, I have no doubt we will make the journey.

Winnie Hwo joined David Suzuki Foundation’s Climate Change Team in 2010 after a long and stellar career in journalism. She is passionate about Canada’s multicultural policy and healthy environment.


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Published in Commentary

by Laura Payton 

The Liberals hope increasing the government’s target for new permanent residents to 300,000 will boost the economy, the 2016 federal budget says. 

The 2016 target is seven per cent higher than last year’s, and includes an additional 10,000 Syrian refugees the Liberals plan to resettle in Canada, on top of the 25,000 who arrived before the end of February.

The total cost for the 35,000 Syrian refugees is budgeted at $923 million over six years.

The Liberals promised in the election to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2015, but it was quickly apparent it wasn’t possible to ramp up either the civil service or immigration settlement services in time to meet that goal. The government adjusted the deadline to Feb. 29 and hit that target instead.

The new 2016 target of 300,000 permanent residents will allow officials to “reunite families, offer a place of refuge to those fleeing persecution and support Canada’s long-term economic prosperity,” the government says in the budget, tabled Tuesday afternoon in Ottawa.


Published in partnership with iPolitics.ca


Published in Economy
Friday, 11 March 2016 11:37

Liberals Seek to Reunite More Families

by Rosanna Haroutounian in Quebec City  

In this week’s round-up of what’s been making headlines in Canada’s media: the federal government has a new plan to welcome immigrants that aims to reunite more families; women from ethnic communities in Canada call for a more inclusive International Women’s Day; and Saskatchewan language schools are dealing with a significant cut in provincial funding. 

Family reunification, refugees a focus: McCallum 

Canada will welcome between 280,000 and 305,000 immigrants in 2016, a significant increase from the number admitted in recent years. 

According to Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), the 2016 target represents a 7.4 per cent increase in planned admissions compared to 2015. 

As reported in the Indo-Canadian Voice, IRCC said in its Mar. 8 announcement that this plan will emphasize family reunification in order to address the current backlog in processing applications and reunite families more quickly. 

“As we continue to show our global leadership, Canada will reunite families, offer a place of refuge to those fleeing persecution, and support Canada’s long-term economic prosperity,” immigration minister John McCallum is quoted as saying in the Voice. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The Conservatives criticized the Liberal plan to cut the number of immigrants accepted under the economic class.[/quote]

2016 will also see an increase in the number of admissions under the Refugees and Protected Persons class to support the Liberal’s plan to resettle Syrian refugees, as well as increase the numbers of refugees accepted from other countries including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Colombia, and Eritrea. 

Migrants without status in Canada have asked the government to grant them the same rights that are given to Syrian refugees and to process their claims for status that they say the previous Conservative government ignored. 

The Conservatives criticized the Liberal plan to cut the number of immigrants accepted under the economic class. 

“It is the responsibility of the federal government to balance the needs of the Canadian economy with our humanitarian responsibilities,” said Michelle Rempel, Opposition Critic for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, the Voice reported. 

IRCC said the economic class will still make up the majority of immigration admissions in 2016, representing more than half of the total. 

On Mar. 7, Quebec’s provincial government announced its new immigration policy, which also puts an emphasis on matching immigrants to the needs of its labour market. The plan, called “Together, We Are Quebec,” also aims to retain international students and temporary workers. 

Other provinces, like Nova Scotia, are still negotiating with the federal government to gain authority over their immigration targets and say they won’t see changes in their quotas until 2017. 

A more inclusive image of women in Canada 

On Mar. 3, Canadian Immigrant magazine presented its third annual “Immigrant Women of Inspiration,” which focused on the theme of immigrant women in academia for 2016. 

Ananya Mukherjee-Reed, Shalina Ousman, Parin Dossa, Leonie Sandercock and Purnima Tyagi are not only PhDs in various areas of study but “are pushing boundaries in education, in their passionate pursuit of knowledge, ideas and change.” 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]In Canada, black women and other women of colour find themselves missing not only from movements for gender diversity, but also from seats of power.”[/quote]

Some women say there is a need for more interfaith, intercultural events and dialogue to mark International Women’s Day (IWD) in Canada. 

In a column for CBC Edmonton, Nakita Valerio wrote that rhetoric surrounding IWD does not promote intersectional or inclusive feminism. 

She wrote that debates in Canada around issues concerning ethnic women, such as a Muslim woman’s decision to wear a niqab or a hijab, highlight how the day “accentuates the fact that equality for women in this country is still heavily tied to the individual's background, religious, racial, or otherwise.” 

In the Globe and Mail, Septembre Anderson wrote that the definition of “women” used in IWD discourse does not include women of colour. 

In Canada, black women and other women of colour find themselves missing not only from movements for gender diversity, but also from seats of power.” 

Both columnists pointed out that while 2016 marks 100 years since women in several provinces won the right to vote, Asian and African women in Canada gained this right much later, a struggle which is not described in the commemorative materials. Anderson called on women in power to work with women of colour and use their positions to eradicate discrimination. 

Uncertain future for Saskatchewan language schools 

The Saskatchewan Organization for Heritage Languages (SOHL) says it is disappointed to learn the province's Ministry of Education will stop providing it subsidies to run 80 heritage language schools. SOHL has been receiving provincial subsidies for 25 years and currently teaches over 30 languages. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The organization says the decision is a step in the wrong direction at a time when Canada is accepting many new immigrants and refugees who need welcoming environments.[/quote]

“The schools focus on teaching language and culture to immigrants and refugees, and improving access to indigenous languages,” reports CBC. SOHL's executive director Tamara Ruzic told the Regina Leader-Post that about 10 language schools have opened each year, many teaching Arabic. 

She added that the $225,000 SOHL receives is “peanuts to the government.” 

Minister of Education Don Morgan said that the decision was made for economic reasons, and added that the funding, which amounts to $4.58 per student each month, can be paid by parents. 

“As a result of the announcement by the Ministry of Education, many of these non-profit heritage language schools will be faced with the difficult decision of whether they can continue to operate,” said Girma Sahlu, president of SOHL, in a press release.

The organization says the decision is a step in the wrong direction at a time when Canada is accepting many new immigrants and refugees who need welcoming environments and support in learning languages.

“The heritage language schools contribute to the retention of immigrants in Saskatchewan by helping people to maintain their culture, identity and traditions, while simultaneously learning about Canadian ways of life.”


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Published in Top Stories

Commentary by Pradip Rodrigues in Mississauga 

Canada’s Minister for Immigration, John McCallum, made a startling announcement in Brampton. on Tuesday, about welcoming a whopping 305,000 permanent residents by the end of 2016. This is a 7.4 per cent increase from the 2015 admission target.

All this comes during a time of rising unemployment — namely, 7.2 per cent. Youth unemployment hovers at 13 per cent and the projected economic growth in 2016 is expected to just exceed one per cent.  

So, against this gloomy economic backdrop, the announcement of record high immigrant and refugee numbers leaves many, including me, wondering if there should be some co-relation between economic growth and immigration. 

While economic immigrants are made up of highly-skilled workers and caregivers, who may not be highly skilled but will still make up the majority of newcomers, McCallum's number will include 60,000 sponsored spouses, parents and children as well as 20,000 parents and grandparents by the end of the year. 

Historically, Canada has admitted between 251,600 to 262,200 immigrants every year, a number that was seen as striking the right balance between population and economic growth.

Going forward, it’s clear that the Liberals will be shifting the focus away from the economic class and placing a greater emphasis on bringing in more family-class immigrants, seniors and refugees. 

Skilled workers forced to take survival jobs

University of Toronto economist Peter Dungan points out in a Globe & Mail article that if Canada were to double the number of economic-class migrants only, average entry wages for all immigrants would rise by between five and six per cent. 

I am not sure how bringing in immigrants with lower skill sets will help either the country or these newcomers in a rapidly evolving Canadian economy. Will a significant number of them be condemned to working at minimum wage?

I immigrated to Canada in 2000 under the now-defunct points system under a category of Writer/Journalist. Lawyers at that time encouraged people like me to find a “good job” on the understanding that after a short struggle, we would land well-paying employment. 

Reality struck when I got to Canada and heard heartbreaking stories about men and women who held good jobs back in the old countries, only to be crushed and broken after being forced into survival jobs in order to put food on the table. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]I am not sure how bringing in immigrants with lower skill sets will help either the country or these newcomers.[/quote]

I've met dozens of former doctors, engineers and accountants working in factories or other dead-end jobs simply because their credentials weren’t recognized. No one would give them "Canadian experience". For many educated immigrants, toiling in warehouses or driving taxis was all they got.

Then Harper’s Conservatives came along in 2006 and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney drastically overhauled the immigration system, bringing in skilled refugees and calibrating immigration to support the country’s specific economic needs

I am sure that if I applied for immigration under the revised system brought in by the Conservatives, I might not have been eligible to immigrate to Canada. That would've been fair, because, looking back, letting hundreds of immigrants into the country like myself when there were no real jobs now looks like a case of false advertising. 

Concerns over competition and economic burdens

When I speak with new Canadians who’ve struggled to find their professional footing in Canada about more immigrants, seniors and refugees being accepted as permanent residents, they aren’t very thrilled by the news. Unless, of course, they’re sponsoring family or senior parents. 

A couple of weeks ago, I found out that an acquaintance who spoke out against bringing in more seniors had herself sponsored her parents ten years earlier to Canada. 

In previous estimates, a set of grandparents can cost the system $400,000. Statistics have pegged sponsored parents and grandparents as receiving, on average, $6,262 in Old Age Security (OAS) and Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) payments plus $1,381 in other government transfers each year.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]For many educated immigrants, toiling in warehouses or driving taxis was all they got.[/quote]

Many Canadians, new and old, who are struggling to keep or find jobs are wary about having to compete with new waves of job seekers. One parent I spoke to thought it might be a good idea to reduce immigration numbers until the economy improved. She was also opposed to foreign student workers because they’re often willing to work for less than minimum wage. 

And in any case, a large percentage of the almost 350,000 international students currently studying in the country have every intention of becoming permanent residents. For many South Asians and Asians in particular, coming to Canada as an international student is just another way to immigrate. 

Many immigrant parents with university-going children stay awake at night, worrying that their children may not find jobs once they graduate. How are they supposed to feel optimistic about Canada bringing in more immigrants who will likely compete with them as well as their children for a limited number of jobs?

Considering this, economic indicators should also be factored in when setting annual immigration quotas.

Bringing newcomers into a broken system

I often wonder how practical it is to have a large number of immigrants come in without taking into account the state of the economy. While I get it that Canada needs immigration in order to keep its economic engine running, I worry that the immigrants and refugees now being admitted into the country could end up being a burden on the system.

How can an immigrant contribute to the economic success of the country if he or she is not working at their full potential or is not working at all? That will be the likely fate of so many new immigrants in the years to come.

Meanwhile, it is the over-burdened taxpayer who is obliged to pitch in at a time when their own job security is shaky.


Pradip Rodrigues is currently the editor of Can-India, a weekly newspaper and website catering to the South Asian diaspora in the GTA. He immigrated to Canada in 2000 and currently lives with his wife and young son in Mississauga. Prior to coming to Canada, he was the Assistant Editor at Bombay Times, then the city section of the Times of India. 

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Published in Commentary

by Florence Hwang in Regina, Saskatchewan 

Immigrants not only have to learn a new language when they arrive in Canada, but also adopt the values of Canadian society. This can often impact their parenting methods. 

“This is part of how we should be settling new immigrants into our community,” says social worker Gary Direnfeld, who has 33 years of experience and works out of Dundas, Ontario. “I’m of the view that there should be a structured approach to that. More often it’s kind of a haphazard approach. They have to pick [parenting methods] up almost by osmosis and trial and error.” 

With the Liberal government contemplating revoking Section 43, the corporal punishment section of Canada’s Criminal Code, otherwise referred to as the “spanking law”, some immigrants to Canada may be forced to rethink their parenting methods. 

Separating discipline from anger 

Alden Habacon is the founder of Schema Magazine, an online magazine described as “a blend of pop culture and identity for the interculturally-minded.” He was born in Manila, Philippines and raised in western Canada. 

He refers to an International Parenting study that examined “criminality trends” of over 11,000 university students in 15 different countries, showing that spanking was associated with higher rates of criminal behaviour. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Spanking teaches children that there is an acceptable time for physical violence.[/quote]

He says that after watching a documentary that made a correlation between spanking and prison incarceration, he was convinced not to spank his two sons. 

“The documentary found that spanking actually leads to more violent behaviour as an adult,” he explains. “That all incarcerated men were spanked. True? I don't know. But it won me over.” 

He has told immigrant parents that it is hard to separate discipline from anger when using spanking. 

“Spanking does not necessarily teach children about the consequences of their actions,” he says. “What it does demonstrate to them is physical violence [causing pain] is acceptable in some circumstances.” 

While Habacon says there might be a "right way" and “wrong way” to spank children, he wonders if it is worth the risk. 

“Are you disciplining or just acting out in anger towards someone who has no defence? Hard to know when you are overwhelmed with emotion,” he points out. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“It took me a long time to resolve the resentment."[/quote]

The choice not to spank

Clara Chung Der, who was born in Malaysia, remembers being spanked until she was about 11 years old. She vividly recalls having to either stick out her hand for ‘lighter punishment’ or pull down her pants and lie over the edge of the bed, face down, for more severe ones.   

“I remember feelings of fear and anger towards my mom and because she is not one to work through emotions,” says Chung Der, who now has four children and lives with her family in Regina, Saskatchewan. “It took me a long time to resolve the resentment, which is one of the main reasons I do not spank my kids.” 

Chung Der once tried spanking her eldest daughter when she was a toddler.   

“I was angry and frustrated with her actions and did not know how else to communicate for her to stop, so I slapped her arm, which took her by surprise and she ended up laughing, which woke me up to my actions,” she says. “We decided then, we did not want to resort to a 'violent' act to communicate with our kids.” 

Now, she and her husband parent based on being relational with their children. 

Using strategies that don’t shame 

Direnfeld agrees that spanking can run the risk of children becoming resentful for being shamed or being hurt by their parents. 

He notes that while spanking seems to correct the child’s behaviour, they may act out in different ways. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"[T]he child believes, ‘If my parents can hit me, then certainly I can hit another child.’”[/quote]

“So instead of being openly defiant, maybe now I steal from your purse. So superficially the parent thinks I’ve dealt with it,” he says. 

He adds that corporal punishment can create a new set of behaviours for parents to correct. 

“Now this child goes to school and somebody offends the child, and the child believes, ‘If my parents can hit me, then certainly I can hit another child,’” says Direnfeld. “So we’re inadvertently role-modelling behaviour that clearly, if acted upon by the child, is going to be deemed inappropriate.” 

He recommends using other strategies that don’t shame, demean or hurt the child, but continue to hold the child accountable. 

“Strategies could be loss of privilege, time-out, restitution, returning something or doing something on behalf of the party that was hurt, apologizing, talking with the person who may have been hurt or offended so that the offender better appreciates the impact of their actions on others and can develop empathy – you don’t get any of that from a smack on the rear end,” he says. 

When parents spank their children, they lose opportunities to teach children lessons and learn about the impact of their behaviour on others. 

“It’s what the child internalizes in what we call a conscience that facilitates the best behaviour,” Direnfeld adds.

This is the third and final part of our series on spanking and what it means for new Canadian parents. The first and second articles in this series sparked a lot of debate on social media. Here is just a sample of what some people had to say:


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Published in Health
Saturday, 20 February 2016 21:31

Iraq is a Quagmire and Trudeau Knows It

Commentary by Firas Al-Atraqchi in Cairo, Egypt

Despite the partisan brouhaha and accusations of weakness and betrayal directed at the Liberal government, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision last week to withdraw jet fighters from the international anti-ISIS coalition was the correct one. 

True, the Liberals may not have been particularly bright or assertive in how they sold the idea of the CF-18 pullout, but the facts on the ground support Trudeau. 

In fact, his decision was the sanest yet in a conflict that no longer makes sense. 

The coalition’s campaign of bombing ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria has produced little. It has failed to significantly cripple ISIS’s military capacity or its ambitious recruitment drive. 

The extremist group not only still controls Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, and much of the north and centre, but it has expanded into Libya and Afghanistan. 

Coalition airstrikes had even failed to fully dislodge ISIS fighters from all of Ramadi, capital of Anbar province, until earlier this week. 

Then there’s the collateral damage. 

Coalition air raids have, as claimed by many Iraqi and Syrian civilians in the past 18 months, led to a number of civilian casualties 

That’s not exactly protecting civilians from ISIS, is it? 

Canada does not need to have blood on its hands, whether directly or by association. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Canada does not need to have blood on its hands, whether directly or by association.[/quote]

Other types of war brewing 

While the war for hearts and minds has not been particularly successful, there’s also the war of perceptions which rages in the Middle East and on social media. 

And the U.S.-led coalition appears to be losing that one, too. 

For more than a year, various Middle Eastern voices have accused the U.S.-led coalition of actually aiding ISIS 

On social media, various videos purport to show airdropped U.S.-made supplies falling into the hands of ISIS fighters. Whether these were seized from the Iraqi army or not is largely a moot point. 

Canada does not need the negative publicity that accompanies accusations of aiding ISIS. 

It’s also rather confusing. The U.S.-led coalition is comprised of predominantly Sunni states who are opposed to the Alawite (Shia) rule of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. 

Assad is supported by Iran. 

Iran is in a proxy war with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Yemen. 

Elements within these Sunni states are accused of supplying the Islamist rebels, including Al-Qaeda and ISIS, with weapons and funds – whether directly or not. 

And it could get messier. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]And it could get messier.[/quote]

Saudi Arabia and the UAE pledged to send up to 100,000 troops to remove Assad’s government. 

They already moved their air force assets to Incirlik air base in Turkey. 

Why does Canada want to get caught in the middle of a proxy sectarian war 

It doesn’t, but Canada cannot stand on the sidelines. 

A country with a tradition of humanitarian global assistance, Canada will up its efforts to host refugees and assist others left in the Middle East. 

In the meantime, it is boosting its military advisory role in Iraq, increasing the number of trainers and experts who will help the Iraqi army enhance its capabilities and reach from 69 to 207. 

Strengthening Iraq’s core 

By stating that airstrikes alone do not produce long-term stability, Trudeau is not only drawing on lessons from Canada’s moral experience in Afghanistan, but also correctly reading the situation on the ground. 

Iraq has been bombed, re-bombed and over-bombed more than any other country since World War II. 

The country has gone from bad to worse, sinking into a medieval state of disrepair. Despite shock and awe and tens of thousands of sorties – using the most advanced smart and dumb technology of warfare – the country has failed to stabilize. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][Iraq] has gone from bad to worse, sinking into a medieval state of disrepair.[/quote]

There are more than 60 organized, battle-hardened and fully-equipped militias operating beyond the scope of the government in Iraq.  

They have wreaked havoc throughout the country, adding to the sectarian tensions already about to burst. 

During the effort to liberate Anbar capital, Ramadi, three months ago, the Iraqi government – at least on the surface – appeared to acquiesce to Western pressures not to use these militias in the campaign. 

That these militias were heavily used 10 months earlier to liberate predominantly Sunni Tikrit is a testament to the weakening of the country’s centre; Baghdad has had a token fledgling national army since the U.S. disbanded the Iraqi military in 2003. 

Many see this as having been a mistake with deadly consequences, which ultimately led to the rise of sectarian militias that now dominate the landscape. 

By training Iraqi national forces, Canada will be strengthening the country’s core and signalling that the international community backs a united country led by the government in Baghdad.


Firas Al-Atraqchi is a Canadian journalist of Arab descent who has covered the Middle East since 1992. A former senior editor with Al Jazeera's English-language website, he currently teaches journalism at the American University of Cairo as an associate professor. He is a member of New Canadian Media's editorial advisory board. 

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Published in Commentary
Monday, 15 February 2016 00:58

Spanking Kids: Culture is No Defence

by Florence Hwang in Regina 

Cultural differences in childrearing require settlement organizations to provide newcomers with information and support in understanding Canadian laws on corporal punishment, also known as 'spanking', say experts. 

Nothing is more indicative of culture than the process of raising children to become adults, explains Justin Ryan, public education and communications co-ordinator with the Multicultural Association of the Greater Moncton Area (MAGMA). 

He describes a rite of passage for boys of a Brazilian tribe as an extreme example. A glove or gauntlet is made of grass. Bullet ants, whose bites feel like bullet shots, bite the young boy’s hand. He is not allowed to cry out in pain. 

“Here, that would be the most violent consideration of child abuse possible. There, it’s the process which you become an adult,” says Ryan. “If I did that to my daughter, they would take her away.” 

New immigrants coming to Canada may be conflicted on Section 43, Canada’s law on corporal punishment, which the government agreed to revoke late last year as a result of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's recommendations.

This is often because they are coming from vastly different cultural backgrounds  some from strongly patriarchal societies with very little infrastructure and where domestic violence is relatively common, Ryan notes. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][I]n a developing nation ... there may be a law that says parents can’t strike their children, but there is little follow-up or action taken.[/quote]

In some cultures, for example, a father backhanding his child for speaking back, or not cleaning up or not being obedient is acceptable. 

Ryan says the most common response he gets from immigrants is surprise that there is a law regarding corporal punishment and that the government reinforces it. 

He explains that in a developing nation that has little infrastructure, there may be a law that says parents can’t strike their children, but there is little follow-up or action taken. 

Understanding of Canadian way is vital 

Gary Direnfeld, a social worker who has 33 years of experience helping parents manage behaviour with children, says many immigrants come from countries where they place high value on respect, particularly for elders. 

“That is a kind of respect that comes without questioning, where we expect the child to heed what the elder has to say and follow through and all will be well, so to speak,” he explains.

Contrast that with Canadian culture, which has more value on individualism and freedoms, which the children are often influenced by. Meanwhile the parents may come from a country where corporal punishment is sanctioned and considered reasonable. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"[T]he thought of a children’s aid worker coming to your home is more than frightful.”[/quote]

“The child, having learned of their rights and freedoms, in the Canadian context, may then complain about the corporal punishment and that brings the parent to the attention of child protection services,” says Direnfeld, who is based out of Dundas, Ontario. 

“If you come from a war-torn country, where one is fearful of the political structures and institutions, the thought of a children’s aid worker coming to your home is more than frightful,” he says. 

“As disconcerting as it is to have a visit from the Children’s Aid Society with concerns of abusing your kids, for these families, those concerns are amplified given their lack of trust and faith in institutional services.” 

Direnfeld says this issue of corporal punishment is deeper and broader than the average non-immigrant Canadian often appreciates. In acclimatizing new immigrants to Canada, settlement organizations should help them to appreciate our parenting approaches, he suggests.   

“If you take a cross-cultural perspective on what [parenting expectations] are, then this gets a lot murkier a lot faster, which means we have to work a lot more closely with clients to communicate and make them understand what the implications are of Canadian law,” adds Ryan. 

Lost in translation   

Ryan notes that in the case of immigrants, language is also a barrier in communicating with, for example, social services. These barriers may also make it impossible to understand subtle, but crucial, differentiations. 

He says that a classic example would be, when asked, “How do you discipline your child?” they may reply, “I beat them,” when what they really mean is “I spank them.” 

“They simply don’t have the language skills to choose the word that has the right connotation and correctly carries the reality of what they’re doing.” 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"[T]he Canadian government is far more involved with managing family dynamics than most other countries.”[/quote]

MAGMA works to ensure that all parents understand the Canadian standards of child care. This is particularly the case with refugees, due to the recent influx. Child protective services delivers group sessions to proactively address these issues, such as explaining what is considered acceptable measures of discipline in Canada. 

“One of our primary requirements is to instruct our clients [on] what our appropriate Canadian values are starting as soon as they get here regarding the stuff that’s likely to get them in trouble with the law,” Ryan says. 

As to the impact of repealing Section 43, which would effectively criminalize even those actions such as corporal punishment, organizations like MAGMA have to be even more proactive in passing on that understanding to their clients. 

“Part of that is that the Canadian government is far more involved with managing family dynamics than most other countries,” Ryan explains. “Generally elsewhere … the government is not seen as having a role in such private matters. It’s therefore an adjustment for both sides in this equation when Canadian governments become directly involved in the lives of immigrant families.”

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Published in Health

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