by Maria Ikonen in Gatineau, Quebec 

National Aboriginal Day celebrated its 20th anniversary on June 21. The nation-wide day of celebration is culturally significant as a time when Aboriginal groups celebrate their heritage as well as the summer solstice.

“For Canadians, National Aboriginal Day celebrations are an opportunity to learn, to join in appreciation of Aboriginal culture and to engage with others,” says Trina Mather-Simard, executive director of Aboriginal Experiences, Arts & Culture, which produces the Summer Solstice Aboriginal Festival.

Mather-Simard emphasizes that organizers were happy to see so many Canadians in attendance and engaging with their nation’s history. 

History of First Nations in Canada

Aboriginal peoples is used as a collective name to refer to the original peoples in North America and their offspring. According to the Canadian constitution, First Nations, Métis and Inuit are recognized as Aboriginal peoples, and the 2011 National Household Survey indicates that over 1.4 million people in Canada identify as part of an Aboriginal group.

The earliest signs of Aboriginals in Canada date back 15,000–20,000 years ago, but “in Aboriginal perspective, they have been here always,” says George Nicholas, Simon Fraser University professor and director of the Intellectual Property Issues in Cultural Heritage Project (IPinCH).

Historians grouped the First Nations according to the six main geographic areas of Canada: Woodland First Nations, Iroquoian First Nations, Plains First Nations, Plateau First Nations, Pacific Coast First Nations and the First Nations of the Mackenzie and Yukon River Basins. 

Residential schools and colonialism

In recognition of National Aboriginal Day, Historica Canada revealed its latest Heritage Minutes, which explore the history of Aboriginal residential schools and the aftermath.

Aboriginal residential schools were part of a program to remove children from the influence of their families and assimilate them into Canadian culture. The schools, which housed roughly 150,000 First Nations children, were heavily criticized for the significant harm they caused the children, such as by exposing them to physical violence and depriving them of their culture and heritage.

“It brings back my own memories of experiencing, of having to watch a child being beaten to death. So when I see that, it brings back those horrors. I hope I don't have a nightmare tonight," said a Cree educator and residential school survivor Doris Young of the videos.

Despite an apology given in June 2008 by former Prime Minister Harper for the residential school program and Prime Minister Trudeau's announcement of new funding for indigenous mental health services, representatives feel there is still work to do regarding the treatment of Aboriginal peoples in Canada. 

David Zimmer, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, says that the current challenge is to encourage non-Aboriginal communities to work with Aboriginal communities.

John Rustad, B.C.’s Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation, writes, “Reconciliation comes in many forms. To me, reconciliation means to respect, to be aware and to acknowledge each other as equals. It’s about teaching our children about their past, and it’s about creating understanding and better opportunities for Aboriginal people.”

In keeping with the day’s focus, Nicholas highlights the need to remember First Nations’ challenges with colonialism, which has resulted in their loss of access to their land, language and heritage.

He says that the reconciliation is very much needed, but also very problematic, “It requires fundamental changes on how things are done. The government has to make up new ways to work with the First Nations, not only consult them. First Nations must have more power in the decision-making process.”

First Nations in modern Canada

While Minister Zimmer is very hopeful that the challenges faced by Aboriginals will lessen as more people become aware of their situation, Nicholas highlights how difficult it can be for First Nations to become a part of greater Canadian society.

Sam Mukwa Kloetstra, a representative from the Mattagami First Nation in northern Ontario, told CBC News about his transition from his small community to the big city of Toronto: “You go from a community that is so tight-knit, where everyone is family, your doors aren’t locked, you know all the dogs by their first name. Then you move to a city where people just seem so closed off — there’s lots of people, but not lots of interaction.”

According to the CBC News, living away from their familiar surroundings, “Indigenous youth risk losing their connection to their home and their culture. Many face discrimination. Some turn to alcohol or drugs to numb the pain and loneliness.” 

Brock Lewis, Anishinaabe (Odawa, Pottawatomi) from Wikwemikong Unceded Territory on Manitoulin Island, offered advice to First Nations youth on retaining their heritage: “Dancing, singing, painting, art or ceremonies — if you're able to grasp onto any of that stuff, really take it and go with it as far as it'll bring you.” 

For Nicholas, the National Aboriginal Day is an opportunity for all Canadians to reflect on the importance of First Nations for the country.

“If we want to promote Canadian multiculturalism we should acknowledge and respect other voices. We can't forget that the First Nations were the founding people of this country, and therefore to be acknowledged for who they are,” he states.

He continues, “Things are changing. I am very optimistic. First Nations are gaining more control of their affairs and gradually there are more opportunities.”

Festivities related to National Aboriginal Day will continue in Ontario until July 1.

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Published in History

by Maria Ikonen in Gatineau, Quebec

Settlement workers seeking opportunities to upgrade their knowledge and exchange ideas about tackling the challenges faced by refugees, will be given the opportunity through a one-of-a-kind course offered at York University.

“Refugees and Forced Migration” is a one-week intensive summer course being offered from May 9 to 13, 2016 at York University in Toronto. Presentations will cover refugee and forced migration issues such as the law and legal context, diversity and resettlement in Canada and health care.

Johanna Reynolds, summer course director at the Centre for Refugee Studies at York University, says that participants come globally from countries such as Ethiopia, the United Kingdom, Germany and South Africa.

According to Dr. Christina Clark-Kazak, acting director of the Centre for Refugee Studies, the course will offer “Canadian context, but also international such as United States and Europe. This enriches the discussion.” 

Participants will have a chance to visit local resettlement agencies and to speak with the people working on the frontlines. “It is rare to be in a room with people who have expertise with the refugee forged immigration issues,” says Reynolds.

Clark-Kazak, who herself participated in the course 12 years ago, hopes that the program will provide an opportunity for academics and people working with refugees to talk about the newest trends and what is currently happening.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“This is a valuable opportunity to share information globally."[/quote]

According to Reynolds, anyone who is passionate about the course topics would find this week very useful. “This is a valuable opportunity to share information globally, and to take it back to the workplace with the tasks such as policy making and advocacy.”

Reynolds says that the participants are offered a deeper understanding refugee and forced migration issues, which extend beyond what the media is covering.

“Participants see that refugee issues aren’t only with Syrians, but there are other issues too. [The] course brings up the complexity of the refugee and forced migration politics.”

Global perspective on resettlement and refugees

According to Clark-Kazak, the main demand for the course arose from outside of the university. People doing related work wanted to attend the centre’s courses, but couldn’t for different reasons.

“We saw the need and market in North America and Canada,” says Clark-Kazak.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“I feel it is important for learners to have a sense of how health intersects with refugee migration.”[/quote]

Reynolds points out that networking opportunities involve making linkages with faculty members from the Centre for Refugee Studies.

Some of the expert presenters will include Michael Casasola, a resettlement officer with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Ottawa, François Crépeau, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants and Director of McGill’s Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism and Dr. Meb Rashid, physician and co-founder of Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care and the medical director of Crossroad’s Clinic.

“I feel it is important for learners to have a sense of how health intersects with refugee migration,” explains Rashid. “Although settlement issues such as housing and employment are often the greatest determinant of the health of newly arrived refugees, poor health often negatively affects settlement.”

He continues, “Those that struggle with medical problems often have challenges with employment, language acquisition, housing, etc. As such, it is important to inject health care into the discussion around refugee migration.”

Participation in the course in May requires registration, but a public lecture will be hosted as a part of the week on May 10.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Refugee issues, as you know, could not be more salient than they are at present."[/quote]

The lecture will be presented by Dr. Jacqueline Bhabha, director of research at Harvard University’s François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights and professor at the Harvard School of Public Health.

“York University is known for the excellent work it has done on migration and refugee related issues for many years, so I was delighted to be invited to contribute to this worthwhile course,” Bhabha says. “Refugee issues, as you know, could not be more salient than they are at present, and the opportunity to engage students in key and challenging issues is more than usually welcome.”

Unique possibilities

Organizing a summer course doesn’t happen without challenges. As an example, Reynolds says that prospective participants have had issues with obtaining visas.

However, the organizers say the summer course is very much worth the effort of attending. Clark-Kazak mentions that the course can give busy policy makers and practitioners time to reflect.

“[The] course is a unique possibility for direct discussions after the presentations. It is a course that can offer a platform to come up with solutions to the refugee and forced immigration issues,” adds Reynolds.

“Every presenter and participant brings [a] different point of view and this course can mobilize participants to collaborate as project partners.”

The writer of this article was mentored by Leah Bjornson, a Vancouver-based journalist and New Canadian Media’s (NCM) Special Projects Editor through the NCM Mentoring Program.

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Published in Education

by Maria Ikonen in Gatineau, Quebec

Growing up in a small village in Iran near the Caspian Sea, Maria Rasouli felt the rush of freedom as she explored her surroundings riding her bicycle.

Despite being able to provide her with great joy, the activity was seen as inappropriate for an 11-year-old girl.

Things changed when she moved to Canada at age 24. Here, she was finally able to make her dreams of exploring the world on two wheels a reality.

Today, she is the founder and operator of Escape Bicycle Tours, a company that gives tourists and adventure seekers bike tours around Ottawa.

Her company was one of three winners of an Immigrant Entrepreneur Award this year from the City of Ottawa.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“A true source of inspiration [for my business] was my life in Iran as a woman where I was not allowed to bicycle.”[/quote]

“A true source of inspiration [for my business] was my life in Iran as a woman where I was not allowed to bicycle,” she says.

She adds that Escape Bicycle Tours was the result of two years of self-reflection that finally gave her the courage to pursue her dreams of riding a bicycle. Her passion for the sport is what she aims to provide for her clients.

“I have had guests who said they did not remember the last time they were on a bicycle or they had not bicycled for over 30 years,” she shares. “They were so happy that they took a bicycle tour with Escape.” 

Challenges of an immigrant entrepreneur 

Despite the motivation to take an entrepreneurial path, new Canadians may find obstacles in things like time-consuming bureaucracy and a lack of local networks.

According to David Crick, an international entrepreneurship and marketing professor from the University of Ottawa, a newcomer’s existing skill set or business model from overseas is not guaranteed to work well in Canada – there may be more competition already here. 

“They may have to look towards something that offers value [to Canadians like] lower costs,” he says.  

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“[There] are still many people who put immigrants into a box, and this is not something that will be changed quickly.”[/quote]

Another issue may rise from having no local banking history. 

“Even getting lines of credit from banks may be hard,” Crick explains. “[It is] a high risk to banks. This makes starting a business problematic.” 

Moe Abbas, founder of Ottawa General Contractors and another winner of the Immigrant Entrepreneur Award this year, points out other difficulties such as prejudice. 

“[There] are still many people who put immigrants into a box, and this is not something that will be changed quickly,” he says. 

“We must all understand how we are viewed in the eyes of the clients we serve. That judgement may not be a bad thing if we know what it is, and can work with it.” 

Rasouli also mentions the challenge of being in unfamiliar territory when new to Canada. She had to take some time to establish herself and gain a better understanding of how business is conducted in Canada. 

“I actually think it is a good idea for immigrants to work in Canada for a few years before starting their own business. There are lots of things that an immigrant can learn from co-workers and how organizations are run in Canada by being in a workplace,” she says. 

“That knowledge could later on be used for starting a business, building partnerships, marketing, sales and customer service.” 

She adds that the absence of family members in Canada can result in the lack of a support net, but may create a platform to improve as an entrepreneur. 

“I do not have the emotional, psychological, and sometimes financial support that family members could provide. This has led me to build strong professional and support networks and work harder to succeed.”   

Tips for immigrant entrepreneurs

Despite the challenges many newcomer entrepreneurs face, networking with similar ethnic groups could be something beneficial to try, Crick says.

“They may have networks overseas that can help in self-employment practices,” he explains. “For example, depending on the nature of the business model employed, some may have access to import or export linkages that domestic Canadian firms may not have.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"[S]ome may have access to import or export linkages that domestic Canadian firms may not have.”[/quote]

Abbas, who is in the process of working on a social media start-up, Bumpn Inc., highlights the importance in understanding the consumer’s mindset. 

“If you are an entrepreneur selling to a demographic, you must look and behave, or at least understand deeply, the demographic you are serving,” he says. 

“People buy from people they trust. They usually trust people like them.” 

Rasouli emphasizes the value of making connections. 

“Network, network and network: people are often very kind and try to help if you ask them,” she says. “So, make sure that you have a diverse, solid network of professionals and friends who could help you with various aspects of your business and life.” 

Success is mostly in an entrepreneur’s hands, Rasouli adds. 

“Your success is … dependent on the amount of work you put into your business. You don’t have to wait for a performance appraisal or a manager to acknowledge or approve your work. The harder and smarter you work, the more success you bring to your business.”

Journalist Samantha Lui mentored the author of this article through the New Canadian Media Mentorship Program.

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Published in Economy

by Maria Ikonen in Gatineau, Quebec

People running across the borders, others hanging for their lives on an overcrowded boat and a three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a beach. These are just some of the chaotic images reported to us by the media on the Syrian refugee crisis. 

European newspapers have been giving space to cover the crisis, but the actual voice of refugees has not been heard. Not until a Danish newspaper, Dagbladet Information, let 12 journalist refugees take over the newspaper for one day last month.

The initial idea

Anders Fjordbak-Trier, news editor of Information, says that the idea came up during a meeting with the editorial staff. “Only by getting to know each other we can start building bridges in Europe. There is no chance of a constructive dialogue if you talk through razor wire.”

“Basically we felt the need to give a voice to the group of people whom everyone in Europe talk about, but never actually listens to – the refugees. Its a democratic responsibility and a journalistic virtue to give the speechless a chance to answer,” Fjordbak-Trier told New Canadian Media over e-mail.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Letting the journalist refugees work on the newspaper inspired the creation of a significant amount of content.[/quote]

One of the journalist refugees, Lilas Hatahet from Syria, is a member of a small network of refugee journalists in Denmark established recently by The Danish Union of Journalists and International Media Support.

She wrote over e-mail that the experience with Information was a unique opportunity to be working again in a professional context and “to reconnect with your own professional identity, which for all refugees, not only journalists, is so difficult to maintain.”

According to Fjordbak-Trier, finding the journalists was easy because of social media and other networks. Letting the journalist refugees work on the newspaper inspired the creation of a significant amount of content.

“We normally print 20 pages on Fridays. This Friday it was 48. If we had the resources to do it, we could easily have made a much larger paper, but Dagbladet Information is a pretty small organization, so we did what was possible for us.”

Hatahet describes the idea to give refugees their own voice as exciting.

“It was a chance for us to speak directly to readers in our new country of asylum, in which we want to get a normal life in freedom as respected and contributing citizens.”

According to Hatahet, working together with other refugees and with the colleagues at Information resulted in a strong unity.

She says the work process carried “an important positive message in itself at this tense moment of increasing stigmatization of refugees even in a small Scandinavian country like Denmark,” says Hatahet.

Importance of refugee voice

Information’s idea was not just to put refugees in the mainstream limelight.

“It is important to state that in making this paper the refugees were not only opinion makers. They were the editors of the day,” says Fjordbak-Trier. “It was their stories, their journalistic selection of what the paper should cover.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"Instead of being perceived as just victims they will appear as willing and able to engage actively in their new society.”[/quote]

Hatahet finds it extremely important to counter the persistent, dehumanizing image of refugees that is often portrayed in the media.

“How can a western audience understand and deal with ‘the refugee crisis’ without having heard the experience and perception of those who are risking their lives in a desperate search for rightful protection in accordance with the international conventions,” she puts forward.

Hatahet explains another important aspect of the idea.

“Last, but not least, when refugees are given a chance to be heard in mainstream media, it will be clear how resourceful many of them are. Instead of being perceived as just victims they will appear as willing and able to engage actively in their new society.”

Reactions worldwide

Information’s Oct. 9 edition became a sought-after item.

“After reading, people passed it on to the next reader, but only if they promised to return it,” says Fjordbak-Trier. “We measured the digital version and the amount of readers exploded these days. For example, our reach on Facebook this week was 60 per cent higher than the week before.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"I hope, it will serve as an inspiration to other media, not only in Denmark.”[/quote]

From Hatahet’s perspective, the readers’ reaction might imply that the idea was making a strong impact.

“I think the many reactions, reflections and comments we have seen already clearly shows that the initiative taken by Information has struck something very essential in people’s mind. I hope, it will serve as an inspiration to other media, not only in Denmark,” she says.

As a result of this endeavour, Hatahet hopes to see an increased acceptance of refugees as active participants in the debate in all countries of asylum.

“I hope that media everywhere – radio [stations], TV stations and newspapers – will see the merit of following this idea, of giving the refugees a voice and thereby making the debate more nuanced and comprehensive.”

Fjordbak-Trier says Information is listening to the public and is “already working on the next project.”

Vancouver-based journalist Leah Bjornson mentored the writer of this article through New Canadian Media’s mentorship program.

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Published in International
Thursday, 22 October 2015 02:16

Volunteering Benefits Newcomers' Well-Being

by Maria Ikonen in Ottawa

Moving to a new country can be stressful. It means leaving familiar places, people and aspects of everyday life behind. Whether arriving in Canada with their family or alone, adjusting to a new and unfamiliar environment for many newcomers is difficult.

Volunteering and getting involved in social activities has helped many adapt, and had positive effects on their overall well-being.

Originally from Pakistan, Shahnaz Ali, 44, lived in Saudi Arabia and the U.S. before coming to Canada in 2002. Encouraged by the principal, Ali began volunteering at her daughter’s school, and then later with the YMCA and a Sunday school.

She remembers the value of volunteering during those early days in Canada.

“Newcomers can get the opportunity to socialize and meet new people and get a better understanding of Canadian culture,” says Ali, who now volunteers with The Ottawa Hospital.  

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Simply put, it feels great to give back to others through volunteerism, plus there are opportunities to develop new skills.”[/quote]

Sherri Daly, manager of volunteer resources at The Ottawa Hospital, describes volunteering as an effective way to learn about social norms in Canada.

“It is vital to get out of your house when you are new to a community or job hunting. Having meaningful things to do can be a way to build self-esteem and connections,” says Daly.

Gaining valuable work experience

Having local work experience may be vital when looking for new employment. In such a situation volunteering can be beneficial, explains Annmarie Nicholson, director of volunteer services at The Royal, a mental-health research and care facility in Ottawa.

“Simply put, it feels great to give back to others through volunteerism, plus there are opportunities to develop new skills,” says Nicholson. “Work experience as well is a very practical benefit to volunteering, and having a local reference person when applying for jobs is a big benefit as well.”

Besides learning about Canadian culture and creating new resume material, being active is a chance to help others, adds Andrea Tatarski, coordinator in humane education at the Ottawa Humane Society.

“Volunteers have the opportunity to give back to the community by making positive differences for the animals in our care, as well as the people we serve through our various programs and services.”

Improving mental health

Sinthuja Krishnamoorthy works in the Newcomer Youth Program at East Metro Youth Services, an adolescent mental-health and addictions centre in Scarborough, Ontario.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Some newcomers may be interested in volunteering, but are unsure of where to start or are hesitant to get involved.[/quote]

The program is geared toward engaging young refugees and those who have permanent residency in Canada in social and volunteering activities.

“Becoming lonely in a new country and being away from family can cause anxiety,” says Krishnamoorthy. “We help these newcomers discuss their issues in a safe environment.”

The biggest challenge for youth is often feeling confident in their language skills, Krishnamoorthy explains.

“They might not learn English as a second language in their home countries, or aren’t comfortable using it. This is where our daily conversations and interactive activity component comes in handy.”

Once program participants feel more comfortable, Krishnamoorthy says they have an opportunity to volunteer.

Participants have made mattresses from used milk bags to send to developing countries, for example.

“We want to keep youth active and interested,” says Krishnamoorthy. “We ask the youth what they would like to achieve by being in the program.”

Krishnamoorthy also has success stories to share. “One youth was shy at the beginning, but now he is going into his second year of medical school. Another young man [shared] in a television interview his understanding of what mental health is. [He said] speaking of it and seeking help has greatly improved his relations with his family and helped to improve his own mental health.”

Taking the first step

Many things may prompt a person to decide to volunteer.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]I believe volunteering my time is the best way [to] appreciate all blessings in my life.”[/quote]

One reason might be positive encounters with a particular organization.

“I had a friend who had a very good experience with the nursing staff when her father stayed at [The Ottawa Hospital], and she committed to volunteer to give something back to the cause,” shares Ali.

For others, the decision to start volunteering may arise from a personal situation.

“I lost my hearing about six years ago, and as that happened, my employer refused to accommodate my disability,” says one volunteer from The Ottawa Hospital who wishes to remain anonymous. “Volunteering at the hospital allows me to gain experience so that in the future I can find an employer who will accommodate [me].” 

Some newcomers may be interested in volunteering, but are unsure of where to start or are hesitant to get involved.

Nicholson says that the best time to start is now.

“Facing all of the massive changes you have already faced through immigrating to our country has allowed you to build resiliency you may not recognize,” she says. “Share your concerns honestly with the agency you are considering volunteering with, and that agency will find ways to overcome the barriers that are contributing to your hesitancy.”

Says Ali: “I believe volunteering my time is the best way [to] appreciate all blessings in my life.”

Journalist Priya Ramanujam mentored the writer of this article, through the New Canadian Media mentorship program.

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Published in Health
Tuesday, 13 October 2015 14:40

A Guide for First-Time Voters

by Maria Ikonen in Ottawa

Many new Canadian citizens will be casting their vote for the first time on Oct. 19. For them, understanding how to cast a ballot and finding the suitable candidate might seem like a daunting task.

Samara Canada, a non-partisan organization established in 2009, helps people reconnect with politics and newcomers to become active in their communities and work for democracy.

Voting can feel mysterious or intimidating. It can be different in different countries,” says Samara Canada’s executive director Jane Hilderman.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Voting can feel mysterious or intimidating. It can be different in different countries.”[/quote]

While the steps to the ballot box are not as complicated as they may seem, if a person feels the voting process is too confusing, he or she may decide not to vote at all. Samara Canada’s work is geared at reducing the likelihood of this happening.

We have an election initiative that allows newcomers to practise voting,” Hilderman shares, citing the organization’s Vote PopUp program. “A community group decides on an issue to vote on. Community members then practise casting a ballot and learn what they need to bring with them to vote.”

It is fun,” Hilderman adds. “We have young people taking selfies at the pop-up. Kids are voting at the playground. This program is very adaptable and flexible for communities’ needs.”

[youtube height="315" width="560"][/youtube]

Finding more information

Elections Canada has plenty of information – completed with precise and illustrated guidelines – about  voting, candidates and parties, along with its own section for first-time voters.

My Voters Guide is also one of the many informative packages that can be printed through the Elections Canada website. It is available in Aboriginal and ethnocultural languages like Punjabi, Arabic, Chinese (simplified/traditional) and Spanish, and some parts of the information are available in audio format as well.  

Also valuable are resources like the Frequently Asked Questions section of the Elections Canada website, which has expanded information about voting, and the postal code search, which makes finding the electoral candidates in your area easy.

Registering to vote

You have to be registered to vote. If you’ve received your Canadian citizenship recently, this may be one of the reasons why you may not be correctly registered. You can check your status online or by calling your electoral district’s office.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]It is recommended to register in advance, but it is also possible to register at your local polling station with proof of name and address.[/quote]

If you have been mailed a voter information card with your correct name and address, it means that you are registered. The voter information card shows when and where you can cast your vote.

If you are not registered, go to the online voter registration service and follow the step-by-step instructions. If you are unable to register online, call or visit your local Elections Canada office to either request the form is mailed to you, or to register in person.

Advance registration online, by mail or in person has to be done by Oct. 13 at 6 p.m. It is recommended to register in advance, but it is also possible to register at your local polling station with proof of name and address.

Selecting a candidate

Picking a suitable candidate may be a big question for a voter who is unfamiliar with Canadian politics.

For those faced with this problem, Hilderman recommends attending one of the many candidate debates organized by local groups in individual ridings.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“New Canadians have an opportunity to remind Canada how important it is that we have democracy and we have a chance to shape it.”[/quote]

As well, Hilderman recommends using Vote Compass and spending time with people who know about politics.

However, she emphasizes there is no single right way to pick a candidate.

“Spend time thinking and weigh out your options,” Hilderman says. “New Canadians have an opportunity to remind Canada how important it is that we have democracy and we have a chance to shape it.”

Other ways to get involved

Hilderman encourages newcomers, with or without Canadian citizenship, to see the importance of participating in democracy beyond voting.

According to her, newcomers can have open dialogue with their riding representative, help their neighbourhood to solve common challenges and volunteer.

Hilderman urges newcomers not just to vote, but to shape politics too.

“They can contribute to politics at their community level. Talking about politics is important here.”

Journalist Samantha Lui mentored the writer of this article, through the New Canadian Media mentorship program.

Published in Politics

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