Friday, 16 October 2015 19:01

6 No-No’s on the Campaign Trail

by Maryann D’Souza in Mississauga, Ontario

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s ‘old stock versus new stock Canadians’ comment during a political debate could very well cost him the election. His political opponents and the media would not let him live it down and seized the moment to brand it as divisive politics and racist. 

Was he intentionally creating the ‘them versus us’ scenario or was it a slip? Come Oct. 19 Canadians will have their say. 

From the peegate to homophobia, radicalization to the niqab, this federal election campaign has put ethnic candidates and immigrant communities in the spotlight. 

Today’s voter, however, is more politically aware and active no matter the length of time they have lived in Canada, which means candidates must pay careful attention to their election speak. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“There is no such thing as old stock and new stock Canadians. Everyone has the same concerns about health care, jobs and the economy.”[/quote]

New Canadian Media spoke with three experienced campaign advisers about what candidates should never say to immigrant voters both now and in future elections. 

Neethan Shan is one of the two first Tamil Canadians to be elected to any public office in Canada. He was a public school trustee with the York Region District School Board and former president of the Ontario New Democratic Party. 

Abbas Baig has worked with a cabinet minister, a member of Parliament (MP) and a member of provincial parliament (MPP) and as a campaign adviser. He is now a licensed immigration consultant and works on citizenship and immigration issues.

Sarbjit Kaur is a long-time political strategist who has worked in journalism and at Queen’s Park. She is currently working with several Liberal candidates in Brampton and Mississauga.

You’re different from the other Canadians: 

“Doublespeak is disrespectful,” says Kaur. “Never say something different to the community and the general public or mainstream media with respect to your policies. Their concerns are the same as the other Canadians.” 

“There is no such thing as old stock and new stock Canadians. Everyone has the same concerns about health care, jobs and the economy,” adds Baig, who says that it is comments like those that “drive a wedge between Canadians.”  

“When issues arise, be honest,” advises Kaur. Voters are more politically informed thanks to plethora of ethnic press and media channels. “A lot of the news is available in their own language so they know what’s going on,” she adds.

Thank you for coming to Canada: 

“While this might not be intentional, it is a condescending type of comment where the host and guest type of dynamics gets reinforced. It implies that this is your space while we are supposed to believe that everyone is here to build the country together,” says Shan. 

“It would be preferable to acknowledge contributions in a manner that would not limit social engagement.” 

I can help solve your community’s problems:

Both Baig and Kaur agree that it is not a good idea to try and appease a niche group. They warn candidates not to compromise on the party’s principles, or their own, just to get votes.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"[K]eep the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in mind.”[/quote]

“In trying to appease one group you could lose another,” says Kaur. “So keep the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in mind.”

Baig acknowledges that there might be some issues that are specific to certain groups like spousal sponsorship and family reunification. “At this time it is important to use the party policies and platform as your guide,” he advises.

“Diversifying outreach efforts and using different types of media, for example, might be a better approach,” Shan says. “After all people within a particular community can also have different needs on account of generational differences.”

Vote for me because I have the same background as you:

“There is nothing wrong in organizing communities to have people who are reflective of their interests so long as the individuals are not seen as working against the interests of those communities,” says Shan.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"[D]on’t take votes for granted just because you are from the community.”[/quote]

“But don’t take votes for granted just because you are from the community,” cautions Kaur.

“There are no short cuts. While people would like to know that a candidate understands their issues, you still have to make your case, earn the credentials and show that you are involved in the community.”

Shan agrees.“People understand that candidates might look like them, but their interests may not be same,” he says.

I don’t like you:

This is a rule for life not just politics – never indulge in a personal attack.

“It will affect your reputation for the rest of your life,” says Kaur.  

“It’s not worth getting carried away and ruining relationships on account of the elections. Take the higher road whether it is a voter or your opponents.”

I promise to get this done for you:

Both Baig and Kaur advise candidates against overpromising and overstepping lines of jurisdiction.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Any results earned by overpromising can only be short-lived.”[/quote]

For instance, the new sex-ed curriculum is a burning issue in many ethnic communities in the Greater Toronto Area and a few candidates have used this as leverage, though not openly.

This is both misleading and dishonest. “Any results earned by overpromising can only be short-lived,” explains Kaur. 

Shan has a different point of view though.

He says that candidates are clear about their limitations in the three levels of government and there is nothing wrong in saying they can advocate for a particular issue.

However, Shan does agree that, “it is wrong to make promises and leverage a particular issue for political advantage.”

As political leaders and their candidates pull out all the stops over the final weekend of campaigning, voters are reminded to evaluate their platforms in terms of what will benefit the country as a whole. More importantly, Canadians – new and old – are encouraged to exercise their democratic rights and vote in what could be one of the closest elections to date.  

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Published in Politics

by Maryann D’Souza in Toronto

Pulse takes a look at some stories that caught the attention of Canada’s Indian diaspora community. From cricket fever to the ethnic vote, here is a round up of the top five headlines coming from ethnic media outlets this quarter.

The Power of the Ethnic Vote

No party can afford to overlook the power of the ethnic vote. A perfect example: the NDP’s recent nomination of Farheen Khan (pictured to the right) as their federal candidate for Mississauga Centre. While demonstrating their diversity and support for the Muslim community and women all in one move, the NDP also took aim at Prime Minister Harper, who has come under fire for his seemingly disparaging remarks about Muslims.

As the Forum Poll carried in the Indo-Canadian Voice pointed out, the controversy over banning the niqab during Canadian citizenship ceremonies has clearly not helped the Conservatives — even though there are many who may agree with them.

In the Weekly Voice report, Khan is clear about the objective. “It is so important that at a time of heightened tensions amongst various cultures, we unite together and show the rest of world that Canada will not be phased by fear,” she explains. “We will show the Harper Conservatives that we can have a safer Canada without trading in our individual freedoms.” Many community newspapers, including South Asian Focus, have covered the news of her nomination. But, as Can-India News rightly points out, perhaps one should not be so concerned about what is on her head (the hijab), as what is in it.

According to Sikh Press — which also published a photo of Khan with Jagmeet Singh, NDP’s Sikh MPP for Bramalea-Gore-Malton — the political candidate is hurt, but undeterred by the, “[N]egative comments from individuals telling her to take off her scarf if she wanted to make it to Ottawa.” But considering there are many who wear a hijab in her constituency, it might be worth noting that long-time NDP members who attended the event said, “It was the largest NDP nomination meeting in Mississauga that they had seen.”

Lifelong Visa on OCI Card

The announcement of a lifelong visa on the OCI (Overseas Citizenship of India) card is a major win for the Indian diaspora who travel to India often, sometimes on short notice due to emergencies like an illness or death in the family. Dr. Azad Kaushik, a member of The Overseas Friends of BJP (OFBJP), who pushed for the changes according to an article in the Weekly Voice, states that, “[F]rom now, the OCI card will be the entry and exit document for India, though you are required to carry the Canadian passport as well.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][M]any in the community were upset when Canada was denied visa-on-arrival privileges last year, and the OFBJP had pledged to take up the matter at that time.[/quote]

Not being delayed by visa application formalities and the complex system that can have travellers going back and forth more than once has the community sighing with relief. It was what Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised during his visit to the United States: a simpler system. 

As Can-India News reported, many in the community were upset when Canada was denied visa-on-arrival privileges last year, and the OFBJP had pledged to take up the matter at that time.

Do We Need a Radicalization Tip Line?

Can-India News asks: Will a radicalization tip line be the solution to preventing acts of terror? With jihad being romanticized and idolized, many who have been pushed to the fringes of society are turning to radicalized groups for a sense of belonging and renewed purpose, or as a form of revenge for being left out.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]A tip line that allows Canadians to provide critical information without revealing the identity of the informer might reduce terror-related incidents — and a dedicated one for radicalization will no doubt speed up intervention.[/quote] 

Are these radicals protected by filial or community loyalty — or is it out of a fear of being targeted, as the editorial in the Bharat Times suggests? Jayant Gala says there are moderate Muslims who do not agree with the extremists that have drowned the voice of reason with their loud rhetoric. The moderates may know who these extremists are, but are afraid to reveal their identities because of perceived repercussions to them or their families.

A tip line that allows Canadians to provide critical information without revealing the identity of the informer might reduce terror-related incidents — and a dedicated one for radicalization will no doubt speed up intervention.

Cricket Fever

Cricket is to India what hockey is to Canada, and what soccer is to Europe and Latin America. While Indians might enjoy many other sports, it’s cricket that helps bond the country’s citizens together no matter where they are in the world. The Weekly Voice’s headline says it best: “For Indian cricket fans, heart rules over the head.” 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]As India blasts its way to the finishing line in the hope of retaining the World Cup, all eyes are on Australia and New Zealand where the tournament is being played.[/quote]

Pakistan is the opponent that really drives up the excitement. Any game the two countries play is like the finals. That’s why the first World Cup game between the archrivals was screened free in many parts of the Greater Toronto Area. As India blasts its way to the finishing line in the hope of retaining the World Cup, all eyes are on Australia and New Zealand where the tournament is being played. While India is set to take home the Cup again, no matter what team it plays, many feel an India-Pakistan game would be the perfect finish.

Man Sues Canada for Wrongful Conviction

“Miscarriage of justice” — that’s what a B.C. Criminal Justice Branch investigation (in 2013) deemed a ruling that turned the life of a falsely accused Indo-Canadian man named Gurdev Singh Dhillon upside down.

A report in the Weekly Voice, which was carried by several media outlets in India including the Times of India and NDTV, indicates he is filing a suit against two RCMP personnel, Crown prosecutor Don Wilson and his former defence lawyer Sukhjinder Grewal for the wrongful conviction.

The 36-year-old Surrey resident was found guilty of sexual assault in 2005 and extradited to India upon his release from prison in 2008. The conviction was made on the basis of the victim’s testimony, which placed Dhillon as one of the three men at the scene of the crime. DNA evidence later revealed the other two were responsible. 

In the meantime, Dhillon’s marriage and family broke up, and he was stripped of his Canadian permanent residency status.

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Published in India

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