by Jacky Habib in Toronto 

Joyce Chan suspected something was wrong with her husband when he started losing his way to their local Tim Hortons five years ago.

“Instead of walking south, hed walk north and get lost. I would have to go out and look for him,” Chan, 77, recalls, about her 82-year-old husband, Peter. She says he lost his way one day when they decided to go out for lunch. “We didnt know where he was, but he had walked home by himself. He fell down quite a few times.” 

Peter was diagnosed with Alzheimers disease, a type of dementia with symptoms including a decline in memory, reasoning and communication skills and a gradual loss in ability to carry out daily activities. 

Over 700,000 Canadians live with Alzheimers and other dementias. According to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, for every person with the disease, two or more family members provide care. 

The diagnosis has taken a toll on Chan, who is Peters main caregiver. He has been on a waiting list for the last year to receive long-term care. The couple immigrated to Canada 48 years ago and have one adult son whom they seldom lean on for support because of his busy schedule. 

“Its not easy. Back home in Hong Kong, we have lots of relatives ... I can call them [for support],” says Chan. “We have been here so long and we have friends, but everyone has their own family and their own problems.” 

Reverting to native language, reliving trauma 

Sharon Tong, the support and education coordinator at the Vancouver Chinese Resource Centre (VCRC), says many of the seniors she works with came to Canada through sponsorship and this impacts the dynamic they have with their children. 

Elderly parents often insist they can manage themselves and are not forthcoming with their children about their needs, she explains. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“They dont want to put an extra burden on their children, but they dont have a social network."[/quote]

“They dont want to put an extra burden on their children, but they dont have a social network, because a lot of their social networks are still in their hometown,” she says. 

The VCRC is an initiative of the Alzheimer Society of B.C. that began 20 years ago. The centre provides educational workshops in Cantonese and Mandarin as well as personal support and support groups for people with dementia and caregivers.  

It has filled a gap for people who struggle to find services in their native language.  

Ekta Hattangady, a social worker at the Alzheimer Society of Toronto, says losing the ability to speak English is a unique challenge for immigrants with dementia. 

“A lot of people revert to their first language,” Hattangady says. “The services that are available to them last year are no longer suitable to them because they no longer speak English.” 

The Alzheimer Society offers information in various languages as well as counselling with an interpreter. The most commonly requested languages are Italian, Portuguese, Greek, Arabic and Cantonese. 

Another challenge with declining memory is that people recall old memories, which can be especially difficult if they have suffered trauma. 

To deal with this trauma, Hattangady sometimes recommends attending programs or listening to familiar music, which has proven to decrease isolation and boost the cognitive processes of patients. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“A lot of people revert to their first language.”[/quote]

Accessing culturally specific services 

For people with dementia who are in need of long-term care, dietary restrictions such as eating halal or kosher food can also be a concern. 

This is where places like the Yee Hong Centre for Geriatric Care come in. The centre was established in 1994 to serve the Chinese community. It now has four locations in the Greater Toronto Area serving several communities, including a dedicated unit for Japanese patients and another for South Asians. 

The Yee Hong Centre incorporates culture in all aspects of service delivery, from the food it serves to the staff on site, who speak the same languages as the patients. 

“When [patients] talk about home, they are talking about home in a small town in eastern China or a village in India,” says Yee Hong's CEO Eric Hong. “They may not realize theyre in Canada. Our programs cater to that so they feel theyre in familiar grounds and dont get anxious.” Cultural music and newspapers at the centre contribute to this atmosphere, he adds. 

Hong explains that the Centre also provides health care that is conscious of peoples experiences and expectations. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"Even if [immigrants] get services here, sometimes they are not tuned into what a person of colour may want.”[/quote]

“Health-care [in Canada] isnt as straightforward as people expect it to be. Even if [immigrants] get services here, sometimes they are not tuned into what a person of colour may want.” 

This includes addressing different perspectives on what constitutes healthy behaviour, and the relationship between a health practitioner and patient, he explains. 

Caregivers face challenges also 

Isolation is another common experience of people dealing with dementia and their caregivers.

Chan shares the difficulty in caring for her husband who she says has not been the same since his dementia has progressed. She says Peter was sharp, intelligent and had a decent build, but is now skinny, weak and needs help with tasks like using the microwave. 

Although hes a quiet person who doesnt converse with her much, Chan says when he gets sick, he screams at night and its tough to handle on her own. 

“I count my blessings every day,” she shares. “I like to play Sudoku and to watch TV and to listen to music, otherwise I will be very depressed. Ive got to keep up my spirits. I have to set an example for my husband. If I dont think positive, hell be worse.” 

Editor’s Note: Joyce and Peter Chan are pseudonyms as the couple did not want to be identified. 

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Published in Health

by Susan Korah in Ottawa 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Growing up in Taiwan 

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

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

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

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

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

Eligibility of overseas voters 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Optimism for the future 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Published in International
Thursday, 22 October 2015 19:50

First Mandarin-Speaking MP Elected in Canada

by Shan Qiao in Toronto 
For the first time in Canada’s electoral history a Mandarin-speaking member of Parliament was elected.

Now hailed by the Chinese Mandarin community members as their "true voice”, the Liberal party’s Geng Tan won the Don Valley North riding in Toronto with a solid 51.4 per cent of the vote. He trumped second-place Conservative incumbent Joe Daniel’s 37.8 per cent by more than 6,000 votes.
Tan’s win is not only a reflection of the Liberals' landslide victory, but also proof of a momentum generated by the Mandarin community, which has been very supportive of Tan’s campaign. 

Reflecting the community 

Even the defeated incumbent Daniels knows that the Chinese community is divided into three groups – the Mainlanders, Taiwanese and Cantonese – and simply saying, “I represent the Chinese community,” is naive and unconvincing. 

It’s possible to represent one or the other, but not all of them.
According to 2011 Statistic Canada reports Don Valley North has more than 12,750 Mandarin speakers, the highest amongst other ethnic languages and outnumbering the Cantonese-speaking population of 9,540 and other Chinese sub-groups that only answered “Chinese” to the question of mother tongue.
Beyond this, the riding has a 65 per cent immigrant population and 67 per cent of its constituents are visible minorities. The top occupations are in professional, scientific and technical services, and 67 per cent of residents have a post-secondary education. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“As an immigrant from Mainland China, it is so hard to set foot [in] Canada’s politics.”[/quote]

Tan, an immigrant with a high educational background, is very much a reflection of the average face of the riding. 

“As an immigrant from Mainland China, it is so hard to set foot [in] Canada’s politics,” Tan told supporters at his victory party on election night inside a Chinese fine dining restaurant.
“I’m a typical first [generation] skilled immigrant with more than a decade of community experience,” he continued. “I understand newcomers’ needs and I have the responsibility to work for newcomers and all ethnic groups.” 

Ties to Chinese community
Born in 1963 in Hunan, a mountainous province where father of Communist China, Mao Zedong, was born, Tan came to Canada as a visa student in 1998. 

He completed his postgraduate and PhD in chemical engineering and applied chemistry at the University of Toronto and then worked as a scientist at Ontario Power Generation. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“I also have [a] responsibility to ask for more benefits for our Chinese community.”[/quote]
Tan’s community involvements are closely tied to the Chinese community and his Hunan clan associations. 

During his study at University of Toronto, he served for two terms as president of the school’s Chinese students and scholars association. 

Tan was also the long-term president of the Hunan Fellow Association of Canada, the vice president of The Confederation of Toronto Chinese Canadian Organizations and a founding member of the Council of (Chinese) Newcomer Organizations.

These groups are regular fixtures at significant events held by the Chinese Canadian community to celebrate things like the lunar New Year, Mid Moon Festival and China’s National Day, as well as any organized rally or denouncement against the Tibetan separation. 

Ties to Michael Chan
Michael Chan, the Ontario cabinet minister who was once investigated by the Canadian Security Intelligence Services over fears that he was under the influence of China, is a close political ally and mentor to Tan. 

Since Tan’s Liberal candidacy announcement to him winning the seat, Chan has been a regular face during the newly elected MP’s campaign. 

Even just two days before election day, Chan attended a Chinese media event along with Tan and three other federal Liberal candidates from the Greater Toronto Area to blast the federal Conservative government. 

When asked about why he was actively involved in the federal election, Chan said the federal government had been disrespectful toward Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. The Conservatives had made too many funding cuts to Ontario, making it difficult for his government to provide services to residents, he said.

Going beyond his Chinese heritage 

Tan has promised that he will work hard to improve Canada’s relationship with China. 

“I also have [a] responsibility to ask for more benefits for our Chinese community,” he stated during his victory speech.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"[T]he way we vote for our parliamentary representative should go above and beyond ethnicity."[/quote]

But Sheng Xue, a prominent overseas Chinese Canadian writer for the Chinese democracy movement and an independent political commentator, says Tan must go beyond just serving the Chinese community.
“As a native Chinese, I’m happy (for Tan’s winning),” said Sheng. “However, in a democratic country such as Canada, the way we vote for our parliamentary representative should go above and beyond ethnicity because looking for rights and benefits should never be based on a candidate’s skin colour and his or her country of origin.” 

Sheng added that while their native country was still under a totalitarian system, it is important for Tan to respect Canada’s system and maintain Canadian values.
“I’m not acquainted with Mr. Tan, however, I urge him to act as a Canadian when he represents Canadians.”

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Published in Politics

by Shan Qiao in Scarborough, Ontario  

Seven Conservative candidates representing Greater Toronto Area (GTA) ridings with a significant presence of ethnic Chinese voters came together on Tuesday to promote their party platform.

The Chinese Canadian Conservative Association (CCCA) organized the event for the Chinese language media.

The seven candidates who participated were Bin Chang representing for Scarborough-Agincourt; Joe Daniel, for Don Valley North; Jobson Easow for Markham-Thornhill; Maureen Harquail for Don Valley East; Chungsen Leung for Willowdale; Michael Parsa for Richmond Hill; and Bob Saroya for Markham-Unionville.

Playing the Chinese heritage card

Apart from Bin who came from Mainland China and Chungsen who was born in Taiwan, most of the other non-Chinese candidates also had immigrant backgrounds.

For example, Parsa, who came to Canada at age six, has his roots in the Iranian community, Saroya immigrated to Canada in 1975 from India and Easow, who was born and brought up in India, came to Canada over two decades ago.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“[A] MP who truly represents people needs to understand Canada’s diversity.”[/quote]

Daniel, who is South Asian, but speaks with a British accent and has a “mainstream” name, said he has supporters from every community. Born in Tanzania to Indian parents, he went to school in India and started his career in England before coming to Canada.

During the event, he contrasted his support base with that of his Liberal rival Geng Tan, who has publicly asked voters of Chinese heritage to vote for him.

Tan’s supporters have shared WeChat messages such as “He (Tan) represents the Liberal that is more friendly to Chinese”; “Without a Mandarin-speaking Chinese politician in the Parliament, who will speak for our Chinese people?”; or “Who will you vote for, a Chinese or an Indian?”

Daniel showed these messages to the media, but shrugged off his challenger.

“Chinese communities are split in three ways: Taiwanese, Hong Kong and Mainland Chinese,” Daniel said. “His (Tan’s) appeal is to Mainland Chinese. Many of them are completely opposed to what he says. I have a lot of Chinese supporters coming out and canvassing for me who say what he says is wrong.”

Daniel’s close caucus member, Willowdale incumbent Chengsun, is against ethno-centric campaign strategies.

In reference to a Globe and Mail article earlier this year that said “Toronto’s suburbs are shaping up to be a Mandarin-speaking powerhouse for the federal Liberal Party,” Chengsun had this to say:

“What is a powerhouse? A powerhouse is the MP that most represents his constituents and [speaks] for them in the House of Commons. Plus, a MP who truly represents people needs to understand Canada’s diversity.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“If you rely solely on the Chinese vote, you are going to lose.”[/quote]

He went on to add, “If you rely solely on Chinese vote, you are going to lose because that’s not representing all Canadians, that doesn’t represent diversity of Canadians. I happen to be Chinese, but I certainly don’t see myself as a Chinese candidate because it’s incorrect.”

He said his message to the Chinese community was to “vote for the government that best represents you.”

Wooing the Chinese vote

Alex Yuen, the president of CCCA indicated that although two of the Conservative candidates were Chinese, the organization’s mission was to hear out voices from all communities.

Nevertheless, the seven candidates who had gathered at an upscale Chinese seafood restaurant in Scarborough were fully prepared to woo the Chinese community with topics that interested them.

They each had a Chinese name that was most likely given to them by their ethnic Chinese volunteers. For instance Saroya’s Chinese name meant “contribute to the country” and Daniel’s meant “stronger and talented.”

“It’s clear that Chinese families share our Conservative values,” said Saroya. “They agree with our low tax, balance budget policies and they do not want marijuana to be legal and accessible like cigarettes and alcohol.”

Harquail, the only native-born candidate, who also happens to be a cousin of late Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, had this to say: “The Prime Minister recognizes the outstanding contributions that Chinese Canadians have made.”

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Published in Politics

by Deanna Cheng (@writerly_dee) in Vancouver, British Columbia

Twelve tables of mahjong (Chinese tile game) in Vancouver’s Chinatown Memorial Square fill up with fervent game-goers within 15 minutes. Silence quickly turns into chatter mixed with the clickety clack of tiles. A diverse pocket in British Columbia's largest city comes to life.

Last Saturday, a local group called the Youth Collaborative of Chinatown (YCC) hosted a public games night titled, ‘Chinatown Mahjong Social: A Hot and Noisy Night’. The games night was the first to kick off a series of events to regenerate public spaces in Chinatown.

‘Hot and noisy’ is a play on the Cantonese word yitnaau and the Mandarin word renao and loosely translates into a measure of liveliness in an atmosphere.

Mahjong is a game played between four players with a set of 144 tiles inscribed with Chinese characters and symbols. The game is one of skill, strategy and calculation. It also involves a degree of chance – or what some seniors would call luck.

‘Bring Your Own Poh Poh

‘BYOPP – Bring your own poh poh (grandmother)’ called out the youth group’s Facebook post advertising the June 20 event.

Mark Lee did more than that. Along with his grandmother, he brought his boyfriend, his sister and her husband.

The 24-year-old is half-Chinese and half-British; his connection to Chinatown stems from a deep connection to his grandmother.

“When I was little, she’d pick me up from preschool. When we were sick, she was there to make us feel better … and also, make us drink soups.” 

As a kid, Lee would ask her to teach him how to write Chinese and she showed him simple words. When he asked her to teach him Cantonese, she told him to go learn Mandarin. So he did.

The University of British Columbia graduate now has a major in linguistics and a minor in Chinese. He’s also fluent in Mandarin and has a basic understanding of Cantonese.

“The whole reason I’m involved with Chinese was to communicate with Grandma,” Lee says. “It’s been nine years and I still can’t.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“This is ideal … seeing old folks with young people learning how to play mahjong.” - Mark Lee[/quote]

One of his goals is to learn Cantonese. Another one is to be part of the revitalization effort of Chinatown and to prevent gentrification.

“I hear stories about people with family in Chinatown, but [they] never come here,” he says.

Lee wants to do more than organize just social events with the YCC. He wants an intergenerational connection. He admits the language barrier can be an obstacle, but points out that there are others who can translate – and that it’s an opportunity to learn the language. All that’s required, he says, is for people to show up to their events.

“This is ideal … seeing old folks with young people learning how to play mahjong.”

Players of All Ages and Ethnicities

Colourful paper lanterns hang on the trees next to where local artist Yule Ken Lum has set up his cart doubling as a makeshift studio. He invites the public to finish decorating the last tiles of his 300-piece mosaic. It depicts the words ‘CHINATOWN’ in a giant heart stencil.

Lum says he is surprised by the age and diversity of the turnout. “At the Chinese chess table, it was good to see a poh poh sitting by a Caucasian girl, like a team.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Our goal is to engage youth to take part and do what they’d like to see instead of listening to the ‘doom and gloom’ about Chinatown in the media.” - Doris Chow, Youth Collaborative of Chinatown[/quote]

Meanwhile, on a board with neon sticky notes, participants write suggestions for future events. Some ideas include: tai chi, line dancing and outdoor film screenings.

As all the tables of mahjong fill up, passersby appear disappointed so event organizer Kathryn Gwun-Yeen Lennon (pictured above on the right) offers to set them up with Chinese chess and Chinese checkers. They choose to watch instead.

Resisting Chinatown’s ‘Doom and Gloom’

Vancouver’s Chinatown spans about a nine-block radius, not including the residential area. It is part of the downtown eastside, one of the city’s oldest neighbourhoods and is commonly referred to as ‘Canada’s poorest postal code’.

In recent years, Chinatown has undergone large and rapid development projects, including sky-high condominiums occupied with young urbanites that don’t speak Chinese, construction plans for water main upgrades along Pender Street, located near the centre of Chinatown and the end of the Chinatown Night Market. But there is still more work to be done.

“Our goal is to engage youth to take part and do what they’d like to see instead of listening to the ‘doom and gloom’ about Chinatown in the media,” explains YCC member Doris Chow (pictured above on the left).

Seniors often want to communicate their history with youth, but don't know how to go about it, she adds. “The YCC can work as translators to help shrink the intergenerational gap.”

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Published in Arts & Culture
Tuesday, 19 May 2015 15:29

OMNI TV's Fading to Black

Rogers Media Inc. announced earlier this month that it would be replacing daily multi-language newscasts on OMNI Television with half-hour, multi-language current affairs programs instead.

Simultaneously the Rogers media giant cut 110 jobs, the majority of which came from its OMNI multicultural stations’ television operations.

The announcement naturally sparked great discussion amongst various circles. Here at New Canadian Media, we brought together three marketing experts who have followed OMNI's trajectory for a long time to weigh in on this question: What went wrong with OMNI and what does this mean for multicultural programming in Canada? (See Storify below)

An Inconsistent Viewership // by George Kan in Vancouver

When Rogers first acquired OMNI, it must have seen it as a great opportunity. The station had the resources, but did Rogers make the necessary investments to make the channel thrive?

Look at one of OMNI’s biggest competitors in the Chinese television market: Fairchild. That company succeeded in digging deep and understanding what its viewership wanted.

As a result, Fairchild broadcasted Chinese programs that captured its target audience’s attention and in return, advertising revenues. Whereas OMNI used programs such as “The Simpsons” and “Late Show with David Letterman” to keep its ratings up, but ignored what the ethnic viewers wanted. 

That was the beginning of a vicious cycle.

How is “The Simpsons” a relevant program to a multicultural audience? OMNI failed to attract the ethnic audience, and diverted its attention to the general Canadian audience.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The daily news was also the most effective form of interaction with the community; without it, OMNI has lost the spirit of cultural connection.[/quote]

As a result, this inconsistent viewership failed to attract revenues from advertisers that want their message to reach a specific ethnic market. Subsequently, profitability plummeted, leading to the disincentive for Rogers to invest in high quality programs for OMNI, and thus, failing to interest its intended viewers.

Granted, OMNI must abide by restrictions from the CRTC, but surely it could have made its programs more relevant.

The most watched programs during prime time are Punjabi, Cantonese and Mandarin daily news. From an advertisers’ perspective, those were the most attractive timeslots that advertising agencies would recommend to their clients. The daily news was also the most effective form of interaction with the community; without it, OMNI has lost the spirit of cultural connection.

Now that OMNI has removed these essential programs that appealed to the largest audience, where will they go from here?

This channel has failed to attract viewers for the past years, how can it be so sure that this change that rendered 110 people unemployed, was the best decision?

Is removing multicultural news from the daily cycle, and depriving these ethnic groups of the right to watch daily news in their native language on the only free multicultural channel offered, a viable first step? Has Rogers given up on OMNI?

George Kan is a Partner and the Creative Director of Vancouver based multicultural advertising agency, Captus Advertising. He has worked on world renowned brands such as Nike, Shell Oil, Nestle, Citibank, Rolex and Ford Motors. In 2009, George and his partner decided to start up their own agency and established Captus Advertising. In five short years, Captus is now one of Canada's most awarded creative multicultural agencies.

Representing the ‘Ethnic Aisle’ // by Robin Brown in Toronto

The challenge for OMNI is that its design is not suited to the increasingly empowered multicultural audience.

In retail, an “ethnic aisle” with a mix of ethnic produce used to be appropriate, but now does not meet the needs of shoppers who already have access to more and better from ethnic stores.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]We have consistently seen other cultural targeted channels such as Fairchild, Asian Television Network, and even streaming offerings like iTalkBB, as being more effective for advertisers.[/quote]

To some extent OMNI represents the “ethnic aisle”. Viewers have access to a much wider range of culturally targeted content. Additional to this, newcomers are less language dependent so they can pick and choose their content within and outside of their ethnic media.

And the fact is that money talks.

At Environics we recently analyzed awareness of Chinese New Year advertising campaigns for one of our clients with and without OMNI in the mix. There was no increase in awareness due to the addition of OMNI alongside Fairchild and other culturally targeted channels.

We have consistently seen other cultural targeted channels such as Fairchild, Asian Television Network, and even streaming offerings like iTalkBB, as being more effective for advertisers.

Robin Brown is Senior Vice-President, Consumer Insights at Environics Research Group, a research and consulting firm and co-author of the book "Migration Nation: A Practical Guide to Doing Business in Globalized Canada."

OMNI: Presence, Then Silence, Then Absence // by Gavin Barrett in Toronto

There are inherent dangers and risks in launching an ethnic channel or publication. In recent times, we have seen both new players and well-established ones ride into the sunset. 

Mehndi TV made a comet-like appearance, flashed across our airwaves for a year, only to fade to black. That was a couple of years ago. It has since appeared in another constellation – on the website unpromisingly named Channel Zero. 

Multimedia Nova, a publishing group whose newspapers included the 59-year-old Italian Newspaper Corriere Canadese, shut its presses in 2013.

The 53-year-old Canadian Jewish News shut down its print edition and went all digital in 2013.

But the OMNI announcement makes me wonder if something else is at play here.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]It is tempting to limit or define foreign cultures by language just because it makes it more convenient to sell airtime or diapers or haircuts or oranges, but this is both facile and dangerous.[/quote]

I wonder, for instance, if OMNI was “too ethnic”? In other words, did OMNI take an oversimplified content strategy with the ethnic consumer?
Allow me to explain. There is too often a rush to dumb down our understanding of Canada’s multicultural markets.

Too often, ethnic consumer targets are rendered into shapeless homogenized blobs that bear no resemblance to what is actually a much more finely nuanced, multi-faceted cultural reality. A content or advertising strategy created for these fictional language-centric monoliths produces fuzzy, undefined work that has little appeal or relevance.

It is tempting to limit or define foreign cultures by language just because it makes it more convenient to sell airtime or diapers or haircuts or oranges, but this is both facile and dangerous. 

After all, there are cultures united by language and separated by geography and, equally, cultures separated by language and united by geography. Add religion and history and we start to see an incredibly complex mosaic. There is rich irony in the mental visual of senior OMNI TV executives closing their eyes to this.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]A Chinese citizen in China is not the same person as a Chinese Canadian citizen in Canada. Our experience alters us.[/quote]

Worse, this oversimplification is often combined with an attempt to keep new Canadians in their ethnic boxes. To do this is to deny the powerful narrative contained in the immigrant journey and to forget the impact that becoming Canadian has on the immigrant's life. A Chinese citizen in China is not the same person as a Chinese Canadian citizen in Canada. Our experience alters us.

The words over the Queen Street viaduct in Toronto remind us, “The river I step in is not the river I stand in.” As we make our way in Canada, Canada changes us. And we change Canada. This is powerful stuff that is rich territory for original content.

I think OMNI could have significantly helped its cause by taking a leaf out of CBC’s book by using more original Canadian content in the official languages to target the multicultural Canadian viewer. And, by that, I mean the Canadian viewer.

I look at CBC’s Hocket Night in Canada play-by-play sportscasts in Punjabi and Mandarin and shows like “Little Mosque on the Prairie” – very diverse programming that reflects a very diverse reality – and I ask why couldn’t we see more of that?

We have an amazing talent pool in multicultural Canada. There’s a multicultural renaissance going on. Right now, the Tarragon Theatre is staging an Indo-Canadian version of Shakespeare’s Much Ado and it’s been getting rave reviews.

We have writers like M G Vassanji, Michael Ondaatje, Rohinton Mistry and Vincent Lam. We have comedians like Russell Peters, Mikey Bustos, Ron Josol and Sugar Sammy. Bands like Delhi 2 Dublin, artists like Ritesh Das. This is not a country with a shortage of multicultural content.

Rogers is a sophisticated media-and-message convergence advocate and a successful player in that game, so I find it difficult to accept that it is allowing its investment to fail so easily.

I feel OMNI really had a good thing going with its newscasts, but I was shocked when the station dropped the South Asian news in English a couple of years ago. Almost every South Asian I knew watched it. 

I felt then that it had stepped off an edge and was suspended momentarily in mid-air. Now it plummets. 

Gavin Barrett is Founding Partner, Creative Director and Ideawallah at Barrett and Welsh. As writer, art director and VP/creative director, Gavin has worked for Lintas and DY&R Rediffusion in Bombay, India; JWT and Leo Burnett in Hong Kong; and Maclaren McCann and at Vickers & Benson/Arnold Worldwide. He co-founded barrettandwelsh in 2003. 

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by Tung Chan (@28WPender) in Vancouver

The federal election season is fast approaching. The BC civic election was a mere three months ago. Every aspiring federal politician will try to vie for the attention of every eligible voter. With so many residents speaking Chinese in the lower mainland and Greater Toronto, getting their attention in their own language seems to be a good thing for politicians to do.

The Chinese language media is a force of its own. If you have attended any political media conferences lately, you will notice the number of reporters representing Chinese language media organizations out-number the English language media outlets. They are diligent and report news almost verbatim from what was said and what was in the press kit.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]A case in point is how NPA’s Vancouver mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe’s name appeared in various Chinese newspapers when he first announced his candidacy. You don't need to know how to read Chinese to see that they all look different.[/quote]

They will, for the benefit of their consumers, translate the English proper names into Chinese. If a Chinese name was not provided, each news outlet will make up a phonetically translated name base on the mother tongue of the translator.

A case in point is how NPA’s Vancouver mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe’s name appeared in various Chinese newspapers when he first announced his candidacy. You don't need to know how to read Chinese to see that they all look different: Ming Pao Daily (明報): “拉波特", Sing Tao Daily (星島日報): “拉波因特”, World Journal (世界日報): “拉龐特”, Dawa Business Press (大華商報): “凱克.拉波特". Together, these four dailies have a daily circulation in the low six figures and reach about one in five Chinese-Canadians in the lower mainland.

Can you imagine what kind of a nightmare it would be if you try to promote yourself as a politician to the Chinese-Canadian readers of these four newspapers? LaPointe’s team soon caught on and issued an official Chinese name for him: 賴普德. 

Creating a Chinese Name

There are generally four ways to generate a Chinese name from English. They are i) literal translation, ii) pure phonetic translation, iii) beautified phonetic translation and iv) trans-creation.

The first method, literal translation, is the most simple. This method of name creation is more applicable for organizations where their name has a meaning and less useful for individuals whose names usually carry no meaning. This method is particularly appropriate when the name has a positive connotation in Chinese. For example, the Royal Bank’s name in Chinese is 皇家銀行, which literally means Royal Bank. This method may not be as appropriate if the translated name is not so positive in the target market. For example, Volkswagen could be translated into 大眾汽車. The name was not used because “common people’s automobile” may not be the image it wants to project to the Hong Kong Chinese consumers. So it calls itself in Hong Kong 福士, a name translated using the pure phonetic translation method that means “good fortune person”. (Volkswagen uses 大眾汽車 in Mainland China, as the name is more acceptable in that market.)

The second method, pure phonetic translation, is a standard translation method used by official news outlets in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. The aforementioned Chinese names for LaPointe used by the four local Chinese language outlets are generated based on this method. However, because the same Chinese character is pronounced differently in Cantonese (used mainly in Hong Kong) and Mandarin (used in China and Taiwan), the same English name is assigned different Chinese characters depending on the language spoken by the translator. To understand how this works, imagine how the numeric symbols 1, 2, 3, etc. are pronounced differently by English, French and German speakers even though the symbols are the same.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Our mind is set up to learn by association. It is difficult for Chinese speakers to associate a pure phonetically translated name to something in their memory bank.[/quote]

I still remember when I was a youngster living in Hong Kong, I was confused when reading news about the US. I was confused because U.S. President Kennedy was known as 甘迺迪 in the Hong Kong based newspapers and 肯尼迪 in the Mainland China based newspapers. For a while, I mistakenly thought the U.S. had two presidents.

This method of translation is not very helpful if your aim is to create a memorable name in the minds of Chinese speaking consumers. Our mind is set up to learn by association. It is difficult for Chinese speakers to associate a pure phonetically translated name to something in their memory bank. To understand this point, see if you can register the name “Tung Yun Tong” in your mind. The name is just three meaningless sounds that you would have a hard time to visualize. However, to most Canadians who speak Chinese, 同仁堂 is a well-known, respected and established traditional Chinese herbal store. It is with this understanding in mind that the Bank of Nova Scotia stopped some years ago from using 士高沙 (a pure phonetic translation of the word Scotia) as their official Chinese name.

The third method, beautified phonetic translation, is the most commonly used method. This is a modified approach of the pure phonetic translation method. The starting point of this method is the phonetic pronunciation of the name followed by choosing culturally meaningful homonyms. The official Chinese name for the aforementioned LaPointe, 賴普德, was arrived at by such a method. The three Chinese characters are pronounced in Cantonese as Lai Po Dug and approximate LaPointe.  

The word 賴 is a common Chinese surname; 普 means general, universal or popular, while 德 means virtue or moral. Thus, 賴普德 is far better than the pure phonetic name 拉波特 used by one of the local Chinese language newspapers. Another such example is the Chinese name for the Toronto Dominion Bank. It dropped the pure phonetic name of 道美寅 in favour of the beautified phonetic name of 道明. Both of the Chinese names were based on the word “dominion”. 道美寅 has no consequential meaning while 道明 means a “bright pathway”.  

The Chinese name for Coca-Cola, 可口可樂, is another wonderful example. The four Chinese characters are pronounced in Mandarin as Kē Kou Kē Lè and can roughly be translated as, “pleases your mouth, makes you happy.” 

The fourth method, trans-creation, is by far the most powerful, but less used one. This method is used almost exclusively for commercial entities and rarely used by individuals. The starting point of this method of name generation is to crystallize the essence of the resulting image one wants to project onto the consumer. The second step is to pick a name that best reflects that essence, but doesn’t necessarily bear any relationship to the actual English name. Thus the HK and Shanghai Bank becomes 匯豐銀行 (plentiful remittance bank), the Bank of Nova Scotia becomes 豐業銀行 (plentiful business bank) and Manulife Financial becomes 宏利財務 (grand profit financial). The Chinese names of all three examples cited above resonate with people who understand Chinese and is by far the most effective way to brand a product unless you are working with a pan cultural name like “Apple” 萍果.

Good luck in picking a powerful Chinese name this election.

This article first appeared here on Choice Communications' blog. 

Tung Chan is Chairperson of the Board of Trustees at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 and an Honorary Captain of the Royal Canadian Navy. Tung is also a member of the Board of the Vancouver Foundation, the Rick Hansen Institute and the Canadian Foundation Of Economic Education. From 2006 to 2010, Tung was the CEO of S.U.C.C.E.S.S., a social service agency in British Columbia. He is among this year's recipients of the Order of British Columbia.







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