Commentary by: Rodel J Ramos in Mississauga

It seems our Filipino leaders have no vision and no ambition except to lead their small ethnic tribes and followers to socials, beauty contest, religious, sports and yearly traditions that lead to nowhere and no future for our people. While some are involved in politics, we do not seem to know how to play the game and benefit from it. Some of us are already proud to know well known politicians and kiss their ass.

We can’t blame anyone else but ourselves. When you do nothing and just watch your people being abused by the system and politicians, you are to blame. Most of us do not go out and vote and therefore are irrelevant to the system. Yet it is our taxes that make the government work and it is our efforts that make Canada grow. We need good leaders but we are good at doubting, maligning and shooting our leaders who rise above us specially when it comes to money. We do not know how to encourage and reward good leaders who have the our concern and have the expertise to lead and manage. We always doubt their intentions. And then we go to court, spend hundreds of thousands of our money just to prove that we are right.

While other ethnic groups get millions of grants from the Government, we are getting peanuts and our concerns are not being addressed. Our community gets ignored. They approach us only during election time to get our votes. Our community is only good at fiestas and small parties every weekend which only drains the pockets of our people. No wonder we all retire poor. After more than 40 years we can only see a few significant accomplishments and legacies. Yet we claim to be a great people.

We are more than 350,000 Filipino Canadians in Ontario and less than a million in the whole of Canada in a country with less than 35 million population. And we are acting as if we are powerless and being played around by politicians.

We are the most active community with more than 350 organizations in Metro Toronto alone. We have chapters in most of the Churches specially Couples for Christ and Bukas Loob sa Diyos. We even have an organization of Filipino priests. Our Filipino Freemasons, Knights of Columbus, Knights of Rizal, Jaycees, and Rotarians have wide influence in our society. Even our caregivers who work for the rich specially the political leaders have connection and influence. We rejuvenated the Catholic Churches and other religious churches. Our talents and taxes have contributed much to the progress of this country.
Most of us are well educated but our foreign education is not recognized.

It is time we show that we have the power to bring down a government that is not responsive to our needs and concerns and just flatter us during elections. It is also to show that we can make an unknown leader take over the government with our help. The Liberals in power have no room for Filipinos to rise because all their positions are filled. And they show no desire to even appoint our best in any position in the government. They talk about diversity but only appoint the whites.

The Progressive Conservatives under Patrick Brown have accepted Atty. Angely Pacis as their official candidate in Mississauga Centre. She is a lawyer, a journalist and a graduate of Harvard, the daughter of the late Doctor Lydia and Antonio Pacis. She is most qualified to be a Member of the Provincial Parliament and a pride for our people. I am sure with her qualifications, Patrick Brown will give her a portfolio as a Minister when they win.

The Liberals in spite of our years of loyalty to them has never done much for our people. They never appointed any of our people to high positions in government. The Conservatives under former Prime Minister Harper appointed Senator Tobias (Jun) Enverga, and Ontario Supreme Court Judge Steve Corroza and helped the caregivers with cancer who were about to be deported stay in Canada and brought their families here. He brought about the Juana Tejada Law.
The smaller communities have better strategies than us. They can elect their own people into high offices by mere show of strength and manipulations. Look at what happened to Atty. Antonio Villarin in a nomination in Scarborough where he was defeated by a Sri Lankan, a Tamil, a small ethnic community. Shame on us all. We can also have our own representative but we have to know the game, work harder and stand together, otherwise we are powerless and hopeless as a people. We have to cultivate and train potential politicians in our community. It takes years to learn the game. And it needs the whole community to raise a candidate. We have to contribute to the funds and promote them. We have to be there to vote during the nomination and election. We can’t just brag about our greatness but show nothing.

Patrick Brown is our chance to shine. He is close to the Filipino community. He choose to take not just one but three vacations in the Philippines instead of other places. Patrick loves halo halo and even had a Halo Halo Party at Queens Park. He was even inducted by Sir Joe Damasco as member of the Knights of Rizal. He recognizes the talents and strength of the Filipino community.

There is no room for us to grow in the Liberal Party. I understand the loyalty of the Filipinos to the Liberals. Some say because of Pierre Trudeau who opened up Canada to the Filipinos during his time. Did he open Canada to us because of his love for Filipinos or that Canada needed the talents and industry of the Filipinos? We worked hard and paid our taxes for many years. We are not free loaders. It was this contribution that enriched Canada. Even if we owe our gratitude, does it mean we have to serve all our lives with gratitude or servitude?

The Provincial Liberals under Kathleen Wynne wasted millions of dollars with their bad decisions of cancelling the two energy power plants in Mississauga in their incompetence. They sold the Hydro shares and made our electricity so expensive, yet we subsidize electricity in the U.S.

They are not doing anything to bring the cost of housing down. Let’s make this housing crises into job opportunities for Ontarians specially the poor. We are attracting a million immigrants every 3 years and 40% of that goes to Ontario. They should open up lands in farming communities close to Toronto for housing. We should built houses for these people at an affordable rate. Our children will not be able to afford the present real estate prices.

Republished under arrangement with The Philippine Reporter.

Published in Politics
Saturday, 11 March 2017 20:34

When Bigger is Better

by Tazeen Inam

For 21-year-old Mahnoor Baig, who grew up in Mississauga, the guest list for her wedding came as a shock. It included many people she had never met before, and numbered in the hundreds. But her parents insisted they wanted to invite people from every corner of the world to their only daughter’s celebration.

Though younger Pakistanis tend to be more modest in their approach, older generations see weddings as an once-in-a-lifetime affair, to be celebrated extravagantly. Industry insiders say that community members compete to outdo each other in a bid to wow attendees, designing events to be remembered and discussed long after the couple has returned from their honeymoon.

What followed were intense negotiations between parents and daughter. “The final list had only 5 per cent [of guests] that I had not met before,” Baig says. Her husband, Farhan Khan, a physician, is also not very fond of crowded weddings, but understood why so many were invited. “It’s a social gathering that reunites people who’ve been separated for a long time. It was a new experience for me, and in the end, I didn’t mind it as I met lot of people from both sides.” 

They wound up hosting 350 guests at their reception at the Burlington Convention Centre, with some coming in from other parts of Canada, Pakistan, the U.S., and the U.K.

Compared to the average cost of a Canadian wedding — $30,717, including honeymoon — Pakistani celebrations can run between $50,000 and $200,000, according to Roxy Zapala, founder and creative director of Art of Celebrations, who has been planning weddings for 15 years.

For Baig's parents and others like them, a month-long celebration is a small investment to mark the beginning of a lifelong commitment, much like making a down payment on a house. Days are spent shopping, finalizing vendors, and dropping off invitations, while on the weekends close family and friends are invited for tea or dinner. They play the dholki — a large-skinned drum that is struck with a metal spoon — sing traditional songs extolling the bride and groom, apply henna, exchange gifts, and plan for the big day. 

Shahnaz Shah, an obstetrician and gynecologist who immigrated to Canada from the U.K. in 2000, blew her son Rehan away with a grand reception held at Toronto's Casa Loma.  “I knew that my mother [was] going to do something extra for me," Rehan says, "but I never expected it to be this grand.”

“We had bhangra [music], belly dancers, a dance floor, and piano playing too. It was a combination with exquisite decor, to keep my guests occupied with fun-filled activities," Shah recalls. "People are still talking about how well it was organized.”

Other than lavish food and entertainment, the bridal dress (typically red) and jewellry consume a lot of the budget. Yellow or white gold is embedded with diamonds, pearls, or precious stones, and usually customized to match the wedding outfit. Special dresses for the immediate family, outfits for the groom, and an exchange of presents between the families add to the costs.

Competition to provide these services is intense. “There were only a few shops in the Toronto area when I started business 20 years ago," says Erum Ahmed, owner of Erum’s Creations, and a dress designer who caters primarily to the Pakistani immigrant community. "Now there are more than 50 good designer outlets selling traditional, customized bridal dresses.”

Makeup and hairstyling add to the budget as well. Makeup artists such as Aneela Gardezi, who has many years of experience working with Pakistani-Canadian families, says completing a bride's look in the traditional style can cost anywhere between $1,000 and $1,500. “Pakistani makeup is famous for its heaviness," she explains, "so those who opt for total transformation of complexion and features need extra material.”

Baig went for a natural look that suited her pastel outfit. But she had to pay extra for her hijab and dupatta (veil). “Everyone is not an expert on setting bridal hijab," she says. "I called someone at the makeup studio to do the job for me, and obviously I had to pay her extra.” 

All this preparation needs to be documented too. This can include drone cinematography to provide a 360-degree aerial view of the wedding, which can run between $1,500 and $4,500 per shoot, according to Zapala.

Khawaja tried it out at her choreographed Burlington Convention Centre event. “It’s like creating virtual reality for us and for those who missed parts of the wedding. The drone costs us a bit more, but it lent a new perspective and thrilled my guests.”

It's just the latest trend as a community attempts to meld tradition with modernity in a new land.

Tazeen Inam is a freelance journalist with New Canadian Media and Muslim Link based in Mississauga, Ontario.

This story is the product of a partnership between and New Canadian Media.

Published in Arts & Culture
Wednesday, 04 January 2017 15:51

From Helwi Hamdoun to Nabil Warda

Commentary by Khaled Salama in Mississauga, Ontario

Last summer, I had an interesting debate with a young, well-travelled Qatari friend in Doha. Not unlike millions of others around the world, he was curious to know what I thought of Donald Trump’s chances winning the Nov. elections.

“He is going to win;Donald Trump will be the incoming President,” I said emphatically, many months before the elections.

My friend was shocked. When he pressed me to back up my prediction, I explained: it’s not because Trump is the best candidate and nor is Hillary Clinton the worst nightmare, but the American people want Trump and they will make sure that Trump will be the next U.S. President.

Clearly intrigued, my Qatari friend moved closer, in an effort to speak more privately.

My reasoning went something like this: the profile of immigrants to both Canada and the U.S. has changed over the years and it’s not hard to understand the anxiety in both countries.

For me, two names personify what I see as a sea change in the attitude of immigrants to Canada over the last 80 years: Helwi Hamdoun of Edmonton and Nabil Warda of Montreal.

Canada in the 1930’s

I painted for my skeptical friend the story of Canada’s first mosque that was built nearly 80 years ago in the Alberta city of Edmonton, at a time when the number of Muslims in Canada was less than 700 . With such a small number of Muslims, most of whom had migrated from Lebanon and Syria, the community didn’t have a lot money.

They worked on farms, and some of them learned to trade in fur, the main commodity in Canada at the time.

As Edmonton’s Muslim community began to grow and prosper, they felt that their religious life was being hampered. After several meetings, they concluded that a mosque is urgently needed to accommodate the small number of Muslim families who wanted not only to guard their traditions, but also have a place to socialize, party, and give back to the community as well.

The real heroes were actually heroines, the wives of those hard-working Muslim men. These women, who had challenges with the English language, knocked on the doors of businesses in their community. They were led by Helwi Hamdoun, who managed to fund-raise exactly $5,750, despite the dire economic circumstances caused by the Great Depression.

They managed to raise money for their project and get donations from non-Muslim business owners, lawyers, politicians and members of the community who donated generously. Thanks in part to support and land from the then Edmonton mayor John W. Fry, the community broke ground for the mosque in May 1938. 

To me, as an Arab immigrant to Canada, the story of the first mosque is essential to the fabric of Canada. Without Christians, Jews and other non-Muslim Canadians, the mosque wouldn’t have existed. I’ve read that I.F. Shaker, a Christian Arab, was the master of ceremonies at the opening.

The building itself was inclusive. In addition to the prayer hall, it had a social and recreational venue in the basement, with a donated piano to also entertain guests from different faiths. The mosque also housed ovens to make baked goods that could be donated and served free-of-charge to neighbours and friends.

Canada of today

I compare that with what I see today.The issue is not in Islam as a religion, but rather with some of today’s Muslims who choose freely and willingly to migrate to Canada, but have a different approach, with goals that are irreconcilable with Canada’s diversity and multiculturalism.

Here’s what I have witnessed first-hand:

·         Some Muslims believe that – only because they’re Muslims – they are better than everybody else

·         Some of them teach their kids not to greet people from other faiths on their religious occasions or holidays

·         Some feel offended when they see Christmas decorations in public places

·         Some of them will not send their kids to public schools and will provide them with home schooling or other forms of secluded education

This leaves us with a new reality, a new ideology within our society, which brings me to my second character study: Nabil Warda, the Montreal real estate developer who wants to build a community exclusively for Muslims.

Most disturbing to me was a statement he made in an interview he gave to the Montreal Gazette in which he was quoted as saying, “We would share services between us and live with people who believe that life on Earth is not only to eat and sleep but that there is something else, and to try to live as close as possible to the monotheist ideals which started with Abraham.” 


Diversity, peace and equality

Why don’t these people just follow the Koran, which has lots of verses that suggest co-existence (“diversity”), kindness (“peace”) and the principle that all individuals are equal before God (“equality”).

To me, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms can literally be found in the Koran, which was written thousands of years ago, and yet many of today’s so-called followers deny others the right to live peacefully.

Let me just cite one verse from the Koran that has been interpreted as follows:

"O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things)”

I sincerely wonder why Warda decided to immigrate to Canada in the first place.

This sort of narrow-mindedness bothers me. I don’t find it surprising that lots of people in Canada now feel that it’s important to screen newcomers who want to live in our countries. Are these anxious people to blame?

Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch is proposing a values test for all new immigrants. I suggest that we should seriously consider the factors that have led her to make such a proposal.

Unfortunately, we'd rather debate the fallout from her proposal, rather than examining the root causes that may be behind it.

Khaled Salama is an Egyptian-born journalist, columnist, radio host and reporter for Arab media. 

Published in Commentary

Commentary by Pradip Rodrigues in Mississauga

Last week, Canada’s innovation minister Navdeep Bains all but conceded that the Liberals needed to craft a positive message about boosting the number of immigrants into Canada. In other words those in favour of a massive increase need to put a spin on it. There is resistance to that idea from sections within the Liberal party as well as from Canadians worried about the effect more immigrants will have on their job prospects, let alone their children’s job prospects.

Following public consultations with Canadians coast to coast, Immigration minister John McCallum not so long ago insisted that wherever he went, Canadians were telling him they wanted more immigrants. Some might have literally been begging, especially in immigrant-rich places like Brampton.

It is the position of many Liberals, the business community and the elite at large who are for a massive intake of new immigrants, refugees, foreign students who they insist are needed to fill labour shortages. Any day now a new three-year immigration plan is expected to be unveiled, and it looks increasingly likely that the annual number of immigrants for 2017 will be a lot higher than in previous years. By the end of 2016, Canada will have welcomed well over 300,000 immigrants.

A minority favour higher immigration levels

In a Nanos Research poll conducted in August 39 per cent of Canadians felt Ottawa should accept fewer immigrants in 2017 than in 2016, 37 per cent were satisfied with the current levels and just 16 per cent thought we should accept more immigrants.

But then again, a Canadian, both old and new is for or against higher or lower immigration levels depending on their current financial situation, their social status and place on the food chain.
If the Canadian is a new immigrant trapped in a precarious work cycle or at the mercy of temp agencies, talk about Canada’s desperate shortage of workers and the need to import more immigrants would seem like a cruel and ongoing joke, after thousands of immigrants made that fateful decision to immigrate based on such ‘reports’ only to find themselves unemployed or underemployed.

Immigration is favoured by the elite

If you are a corporate CEO or business owner who stands to gain richly by bringing in skilled workers rather than invest and train young Canadians, increasing immigrant levels is in your interest.
The Liberal elites who often happen to be civil servants with job security and generous pension plans , university professors, media professionals and the affluent who aren’t threatened by waves of immigrants love the idea of a human flood. It makes for a feel good story about great success of Canada’s stunning diversity, generosity and multiculturalism. It contributes to a sense of national identity.

Neither are their jobs threatened by immigrants who won’t ‘qualify’ as they lack ‘Canadian experience’ and the demographic composition of their neighborhoods won’t be affected by immigrants seeking jobs and homes.
Currently there are many media commentators who are encouraging the government to heed experts and business leaders who support higher immigration levels. In other words, they infer that the tremendous pushback against the idea comes from less educated and racist Canadians. Some media commentators might almost want to call them ‘deplorables’ for their anti-immigrant mentality. After all how can Joe Sixpack know what’s good for the country?

In earlier times it was easier to defer to elites and experts on complex issues like the economy, there were few questions raised by the 50 per cent or so of the population who either had an average IQ, lower education and fewer skills. The reason was many of them had decent to well-paying jobs in manufacturing and the trades that didn’t require a college degree. But in 2016 this is not the case.

Technology is eliminating job categories

More jobs than ever before require complex skills and higher education. Even a car mechanic needs to be computer savvy and it may not hurt to have programming skills in the future.
But even if free training is available, can a person without the aptitude and mental agility master complex change? This new technological age is especially cruel to those in the arts as well as those not cut out for higher education.

There are millions of Canadians and Americans, mostly men who are currently unemployed, stagnating at dead-end jobs or have simply stopped looking for work. These are victims of technology changes and outsourcing. While the new report released recently by the Conference Board of Canada discusses the affect of an aging population on the economy and the need for higher immigration levels may have some merit, it simply baffles those at the lower end of the food chain. And no one pushing for more immigration seems to have taken into account the fact that technology is set to get rid of entire job categories . Between outsourcing and redundancy hundreds of thousands of jobs could disappear just as immigrants appear over the horizon.

Prepare for short-term employment

Our Finance Minister Bill Morneau recently told Canadians to prepare for an era of short-term employment he also noted that some people will see their jobs disappear in the years to come — truck drivers and receptionists, for instance.

So on one hand Canadians who want to work will find themselves working even less if at all and on the other hand we are reminded or a looming labor crisis.

As I write this column, there are thousands of Canadians trapped doing jobs they hate simply because there are few options out there. There are any number of university-educated millennials struggling to find jobs or hold down jobs that barely utilize their skills. Barristers are baristas at coffee shops in Toronto. Walk into temp agencies and you will find an endless stream of educated and mostly new immigrants hoping to luck out with a dead end job.
Big corporations may talk about the need for more highly-skilled immigrants, but they won’t promise not to ship jobs off to India and China when its convenient or more economical.

Most immigrants compete in crowded job categories

And one problem with skilled workers is that while they come into Canada as the principle applicant, they bring along spouses who may in all probability have skills that aren’t in high demand, in which case he or she will end up competing for scarce jobs with other Canadians. So technically for every one immigrant with skills, comes another who will join the crowded general job category. This could end up depressing wages at the lower end of the job market, naturally or add to the unemployment numbers. Why would a small businessman want to give his employees a livable wage that is well above minimum wage when there are any number of new immigrants and foreign students willing to work for less? Late last month a report from new survey from Aon Hewitt, a Human Resource firm, said Canadians could forget about getting a raise in 2017. They ofcourse refer to those in the private sector. Civil servants and others can expect good raises, not surprisingly, these are the ones most in favor of bringing in more immigrants.

Even brown Canadians are wary of increasing the number of immigrants, unless ofcourse they have family who’ve applied for immigration or student visas. There was a time small businessmen loved new immigrants who were willing to work for minimum wage and absolutely no medical benefits, now many of them are keen on a steady supply of foreign students. Why? Who else will work for $6 an hour?

Republished with permission

Published in Policy

by Tazeen Inam in Mississauga

Sports has the ability to unite Canada, show the recently released findings of an Association for Canadian Studies survey.

“A majority of Canadians agree that sports break down linguistic and cultural barriers to unite people,” the report states.

In Canada, immigrants from different countries and origins also bring with them some of their own favourite sports.

Dr. John Shields, interim academic director at Ryerson Centre for Immigration and Settlement (RCIS), highlights the growing popularity of cricket in Canada as an example.

“[There are a] lot of people coming from South Africa, Pakistan and India who are avid fans of cricket,” says Shields.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Immigrants from different countries and origins also bring with them some of their own favourite sports.[/quote]

Sports history important to know

University of Toronto vice-president Bruce Kidd says including sports history in the country’s narrative is an important step in telling a complete story.

“If you don’t understand the role of sports in Canadian history, you missed an important part and your sense of Canadian history will be incomplete.”

For instance, Canadian national sports like lacrosse and hockey were part of the nation’s culture even before confederation. They were the outdoor games played by First Nations. Curling and golf arrived with Scottish immigrants in the 1600s.

Canadians also played important roles in the early beginnings of popular sports like football and basketball.

Kidd explains that when sports are adopted in Canada they are infused with Canadian values, skills and narratives.

“I would say that Canadians have put their own stamp on the games that we play.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“I would say that Canadians have put their own stamp on the games that we play.”[/quote]

Sports as a unifying force

Today, hockey alone can ignite patriotism throughout the country.

Jennifer Anderson, historian at the Canadian Museum of History, says hockey is often reflected in Canadian popular culture. Even those who are not enormous hockey fans come across cultural references to the game in everyday life through TV shows, books and children stories.

“Somewhere there is a link between the game and our culture, and I think it demonstrates the relationship that Canadians have to the game,” she explains.

While sports can be a unifying force, like other aspects of Canadian culture, it can also be divisive, says Kidd.

“During those times when Canadian teams made up of Anglophone and Francophone athletes lead internationally, it forges bilingualism and commonality,” he says.

However, he adds, “When you have the Canada games, which put efforts from each of the different provinces against each other, it may create rivalries on linguistic ground.”

Exclusion also part of sports history

While Shields says that sport “tends to bring people together in terms of common cause,” he points out there certainly has been a history of exclusion and racism in Canadian sports, too.

“Historically it was very hard for Aboriginal people to get into the professional hockey leagues, as was for Black people,” Shields says.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Historically it was very hard for Aboriginal people to get into the professional hockey leagues, as was for Black people.”[/quote]

Anderson explains that it’s not that First Nations people are dissatisfied with the way games like hockey and lacrosse have evolved; it’s more about the acknowledgement of their participation.

“They would like to be acknowledged as having participated in the game over an extended period of time,” she states. “Not just the beginning perhaps, not just the origin, but they continued to participate in the sport.”

Similarly, women have always been engaged in Canadian sports, but pre-Confederation, they were often barred from sports and had to participate informally.

Kidd says that women have gradually succeeded in winning opportunities for themselves in this area.

“I would say since the First World War, they played every sport that men played and today are an important, proud part of Canadian sports,” he adds.     

Anderson emphasizes that “this hasn’t always been acknowledged in the same way as men sports has.”

Increasing the media’s coverage of women’s sports has been a long-fought battle, and there have been movements and conversations about ensuring equality.

“Currently [women’s sport is] still underperforming in the kind of media coverage it gets,” Anderson says. “But I think social media has changed this to some degree and to some extent has shifted the way women sports is being covered.”

Sports have long been an important part of the Canadian economy, culture and education system, but experts like Anderson suggest that more efforts are required to promote equality in Canadian sports.

Specifically, they suggest we need to counter the growing cost of playing sports, ensure greater exposure of women’s sports and include more First Nations people in the national sports arena.

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Published in History

by Tazeen Inam in Mississauga

Many leaders of the East who fought to decolonize their countries from Western authoritarian rule were also educated in the West. Upon returning home, they became trapped in a mental rift – they owed their education to the Western system, which also worked to colonize and ruin their countries and people.

This dichotomy is relatable to the main character of Mysterious Fragrance of the Yellow Mountains, a novel by Canadian author Yasuko Thanh.

It was usually lawyers or social scientists who became leaders and policy-makers to fight rigid authoritarian powers. However, in Thanh’s story, a group of Vietnamese nationalists enlist their friend – the refined, educated Vietnamese physician Dr. Georges-Minh Nguyen – to poison the French general and his garrison.

Dr. Nguyen has a medical degree from Lycée Condorcet in Paris. What he owes to the French and how they’ve taken over Vietnam clash to carve rifts in his psyche and cause him to slowly go insane.

The close-knit group of friends makes up a revolutionary cell called the Mysterious Fragrance of the Yellow Mountains. They plot revenge on the French for the oppression they forced upon the Vietnamese – an act they hope will send a message to the colonizers that revolution has begun in Vietnam.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Most of the doubt was gone from his mind now. He was quite certain he could kill a man.”[/quote]

Justifying revenge

The book is based on the true story of the Hanoi Poison Plot of 1908, which took place in Saigon.

Dr. Nguyen is overcome by the guilt of the prospect of killing someone, until his pregnant wife escapes a rape attempt by a French soldier.

“Though he hadn’t told [his friend] Khieu about the rape his anger about it had made him steely. Most of the doubt was gone from his mind now. He was quite certain he could kill a man. Part of him was looking forward to trying.”

Khieu, a determined member of the revolutionary group, has his mind set on plotting revenge. His commitment is what allows the plan to continue.

However, the plot is foiled when cooks at the garrison confess to it, providing the names, places and dates of the plan to a priest. This forces the Mysterious Fragrance of the Yellow Mountains members to flee to other provinces.

Dr. Nguyen avoids capture, but must leave his wife and his newborn son behind after they are caught by French soldiers.

“He’d never imagined kissing her for the last time. Not once. He’d never imagined last times for anything. He simply ran.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]It sheds light on how discrimination by French imperials aimed to make the Vietnamese feel shame and responsibility for their plight.[/quote]

Laying blame

The book depicts the era of the French colonial period in Indochina, during which people were suffering from social deprivation and using drugs to quell their anguish. It sheds light on how discrimination by French imperials aimed to make the Vietnamese feel shame and responsibility for their plight.

Dr. Nguyen encounters a French doctor at the Centre for Infectious Disease Control to discuss the “Paddy Fever,” or yellow fever. He is taken aback when Dr. Michaut calls the Vietnamese “teachers of moral vice” because he believes they have “corrupted” the French soldiers.

“What was this man on about?” thinks Dr. Nguyen. “If only he didn’t need his help, his lab, his equipment, he’d pop him in the jaw.”

Instead, Dr. Nguyen suggests Vietnamese boys engage in prostitution in opium dens to pay for their own opium habits, or to acquire goods they can’t afford.

From the French doctor Michaut’s perspective, the offence is less evident: “I don’t include you in these comparisons. You studied in Paris, like me,” he says to Dr. Nguyen.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Vietnam’s colonial history reflects some of today’s challenges of occupation and abuse of people’s land.[/quote]

Suffering under colonialism

Thanh tells us stories of capricious characters that go to great lengths to overthrow their colonial oppressors. Her characters survive living amongst imaginary, yet dangerous, ghosts.

She takes us to a savaged, but vivid, colonial Vietnam, where streets are filled with fierce threats in the form of killing, rape and rebels’ chopped heads mounted on bamboo poles as warnings.

After his marriage with Dong, Dr. Nguyen lacked solace and drifted away from his wife. Once, in conversation with her, he justifies his absence by explaining the historical colonization of Vietnam by one power or another, resulting in turmoil and agony for the country’s women.

“Our country is in crisis," he said. "Men abandon their families and leave their wives in charge of feeding the children. The women have no money and they do what they must to survive. This country was the possession of the Chinese, and now is the mistress of the French. For a thousand years we’ve lived under the dominion of others. It’s why everyone’s going mad.”  

Vietnam’s colonial history reflects some of today’s challenges of occupation and abuse of people’s land. In war zones like Syria, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and many others, colonialism results in the total disarray of a country’s inhabitants, and leaves their attempts at survival and revolution against past oppressors unfulfilled as they are quickly taken over by new ones.

Thanh’s novel shows that the lust for power results in horror and misfortune for the colonized and is ultimately reflected in the truest form of human tragedy – the loss of innocence.

Tazeen Inam is passionate about both print and electronic media. She has a master's degree in mass communications, has worked as a senior producer and editorial head at Pakistani news channels and has contributed to BBC Radio Urdu in London, England. Inam is presently pursuing a course in digital media studies at Sheridan College.

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Published in Books

by Tazeen Inam in Mississauga, Ontario

According to the 2015 child poverty report for Toronto, newcomer children, children of colour and children with disabilities are among the largest groups living in poverty. Families that fall into more than one of these groups face even more grim circumstances.

Sean Meagher, Executive Director of Social Planning Toronto suggests that immigrants with non-European backgrounds taking care of children born with disabilities face financial crises often.

“English speaking [people], compared to the significant number of immigrants who are not from that background, are successful in getting jobs and we do have a racially segmented employment market [that] people with coloured skin face.”

Sacrificing to take care of family

Those taking care of someone with a disability often relinquish their own plans, as is the case of Ottawa resident Maryem Hashi (name changed for privacy).

Hashi has three younger siblings between the ages of 22 and 26 years old who all have disabilities. She gave up her university studies and a full-time job to fulfill her responsibilities at home.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][I]mmigrants with non-European backgrounds taking care of children born with disabilities face financial crises often.[/quote]


Hashi, who moved here from Pakistan, recalls her initial days in Canada, when her mother had to face the ordeal of raising her siblings, without much access to Internet. With difficulty in speaking and understanding English, she had to navigate things like funding, health care and programs that suit the needs of her children.  

“My siblings didn’t receive any government funds and didn’t go to any specially designed programs to cater to their needs as my parents were not aware that some services were available,” explains Hashi. 

Hashi’s siblings have delayed development, which usually starts showing up after a child is two to five years old. It is a “mild” condition that affects their ability to do things “independently.”

“They tend to forget things easily and [have an] inability to do things on a daily basis like managing money, packing a [backpack], remembering directions, etc. and the challenge is to keep them in conversation,” shares Hashi.

Today, Hashi is a program assistant and works part-time in occupational therapy, serving children with disabilities under the age of three to five years old.  

What happens after 21 years old?

For Hashi’s siblings, a crucial time came when they each turned 21, as that is the cut-off age for school programming for kids with a disability.

“Due to the lack of government funded after school programs, people with disability after 21 years of age usually stay at home as there is a long waiting [lists] to get into programs suitable to their needs,” says Hashi. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"[P]eople with disability after 21 years of age usually stay at home as there is a long waiting [lists] to get into programs suitable to their needs.”[/quote]


She says that such programs are a support for caregivers too, and allow the young person not to lose what they have learned from school.

“My siblings [have been] home for a couple of years, and [are] alone with depression and low self esteem; it’s hard to deal with their ordeal,” she shares. “If we take programs privately, it starts at $90 a day, which is unaffordable with multiple siblings [with a] disability.”

Rabia Khedr, executive director of the Canadian Association of Muslims with Disabilities, runs a program in Mississauga, Ont., DEEN (Disability Empowerment Equality Network) support service, which is an extended-hour day program and works on the capacity building of individuals with disabilities who have aged out of school programs.

“It will be an 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. program,” explains Khedr, “and gives enough time range to caregivers – particularly those who are striving to earn.”

The school has a sliding scale fee structure and the rest is fundraised through charitable donations.

In the long run, Khedr is planning a residence service, especially for people with disabilities who do not have caregivers. She shares that in Ontario alone 12,000 people with intellectual disabilities are waiting for housing.

Khedr’s extension of the school in Ottawa, where Hashi will provide some of her services too, is at the initial stage and individuals with disabilities will get three hours of activities on Sunday only starting in the new year.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"[W]e want at least medication to be cost-free for all.”[/quote]


Making ends meet

Every year on Dec. 3 is the International Day of Persons with Disability. The theme in 2015: Inclusion matters, access and empowerment of people with all abilities.

According to the department of finance, in 2011 the Canadian federal government transferred almost $4 billion to low-income families and spent $19.9 billion on Employment Insurance benefits alone.

Still for some, medications, dental care and eye check-ups are not included. And in the cases of people with disabilities things like electronic gadgets, crutches, wheelchairs and scooters to assist in daily life are also not fully covered.

“They have to hire special vans to take these individuals from place to place. This all has a cost,” says Hashi. “And we want at least medication to be cost-free for all.”

Khedr says that people who don’t have the experience of poverty won’t understand how choices can become increasingly limited when a person is on welfare assistance.

She suggests, “The solution lies in a combination of a few hours of activity and government funds.”

Journalist Priya Ramanujam mentored the writer of this article through the NCM Mentorship Program.

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Published in Health

by Ranjit Bhaskar in Toronto

Canada has spoken and its ethnic minority electorate has made it clear that they are on the same wavelength as the rest of the country. The “905” belt around Toronto city, that famously shored up the Conservative party in the 2011 federal elections, has now helped in ensuring its defeat.  

Large numbers of minority voters in this belt voted just like their “416” city neighbours as if to prove that the telephone code monikers that differentiate them are superficial. And that 905 can no longer be used as shorthand to describe the purported small “c” values that made them support the Conservatives.

While statisticians and academics will trawl through voting data to come up with plausible reasons for the vote shift, anecdotal evidence points to the generational shift taking place in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) suburbs.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]As newer immigrant communities mature, the second and third generations are thinking and voting like their downtown Toronto counterparts.[/quote]

As newer immigrant communities mature, the second and third generations are thinking and voting like their downtown Toronto counterparts. Many of them are professionals who work and even live in the city, visiting their suburban parents on weekends. This has led to the gradual erosion of the cultural boundaries that existed between Toronto and its surroundings.

“Plenty of the young condo dwellers in my riding of Spadina-Fort York are children of parents who live in Brampton and Mississauga. So here I am, trying to influence these parents for their children’s votes,” Liberal candidate Adam Vaughan told New Canadian Media at a campaign stop in Brampton.  

Vaughan is among his party’s winners who have painted the whole of the GTA into a solid patch of red spreading north from the shores of Lake Ontario.

Intergenerational conversations

What has been happening is that the older and younger generations interact over the weekends and seem to influence each other. Not very unlike this skit from the Anybody But the Conservatives camp that captures the essence of generational differences amongst South Asian families.

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

This cross-pollination of ideas is likely to be one of the several factors that helped the Liberals regain ground from the Conservatives in the suburbs and edge out the NDP in the city. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]To their credit, the Liberals had started cultivating the younger generation of minority professionals, way before the elections were called.[/quote]

To their credit, the Liberals had started cultivating the younger generation of minority professionals, way before the elections were called. It was evident at events like the South Asian Bar Association (SABA) of Toronto’s awards gala where Justin Trudeau was the keynote speaker.

At this event a year ago, the Prime Minister-designate was visibly proud to present his young team of candidates, many of them lawyers. They now are part of the 150-odd neophyte MPs who will be entering parliament.

Meet the Brampton, Mississauga cohort

A quick look at this 905 cohort will give an idea about the candidates the Liberals were able to attract compared to the mostly self-made business people who flocked to the Conservatives.

Sven Spengemann (Mississauga-Lakeshore) completed his doctorate in political and constitutional theory at Harvard Law in June 2006.

Gagan Sikand (Mississauga-Streetsville) is a lawyer who has worked for the Attorney General of Ontario, the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs, and the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Overall, the median age of these 905 Liberal MPs reflect that of their party leader. And they come with matching attitudes.[/quote]

Iqra Khalid (Mississauga-Erin Mills) studied law and is now an articling student with the legal department at The City of Mississauga. She expects to be called to the bar soon.

Ruby Sahota (Brampton North) is an attorney who has practised for five years in the areas of criminal law, litigation, and dispute resolution in both the public and private sectors.

Raj Grewal (Brampton East) practised law at a prominent Bay Street firm and was also a financial analyst for a fortune 500 company.

The oldest MP among this crop of legal professionals is Ramesh Sangha (Brampton Centre), who jumped into the fray after a career in law.

And if they are not lawyers, the other MPs are health-care professionals. Kamal Khera (Brampton West) is a registered oncology nurse and Sonia Sidhu (Brampton South) is a cardiology technologist.

The few among the cohort with previous legislative experience are Navdeep Bains (Mississauga-Malton) who has been MP for Mississauga—Brampton South from 2004 to 2011; Omar Alghabra (Mississauga Centre) who was an MP from 2006 to 2008 and Peter Fonseca (Mississauga East-Cooksville) who is a former Ontario provincial cabinet minister.

Overall, the median age of these 905 Liberal MPs reflect that of their party leader. And they come with matching attitudes.

Khalid, possibly the youngest among them, had set her mind on sitting in Parliament while in university. “Why wait until I’m older, for another 20 or 30 years. The time is now.”

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Published in Top Stories

by Ranjit Bhaskar in Toronto

The Harper Conservatives seem to be looking across the Pond more and more for ideas.

After co-opting the services of Lynton Crosby, the Australian campaign fixer credited with turning around British Prime Minister David Cameron’s re-election campaign, the Tory campaign in Brampton, Ontario seems to have been inspired by a Hindi music video from the playlist of their British cousins.

The “Neela Hai Aasma” (“The Sky is Blue”) video, launched in the run-up to the May 7 British general elections, is clearly the template for its Canadian clone titled “Harper Sarkaar, Fir Ek Baar” (“Harper Government, Once More”).

Harper Sarkaar, Fir Ek Baar! - Vote for Naval Bajaj

Proud to be a part of the Conservative Team! Only Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party have built a strong relationship with the South Asian Community. Watch "Harper Sarkaar, Fir Ek Baar" and vote for Naval Bajaj on October 19th! #BramptonEast

Posted by Naval Bajaj on Thursday, October 1, 2015

Federal Defence and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney was among those who shared it on Facebook when it was released last week.

“By far the best musical jingle of this campaign, #Desi-style,” Kenny wrote.

The video is a montage off clips and images of Stephen Harper’s interactions with Indian-origin communities in Canada and from his trip to India three years ago.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The lyrics, in Hindi with a fair sprinkling of English, are all about Harper increasing trade worldwide, making the economy strong, cutting taxes, creating one million jobs, bringing thousands of immigrants to Canada, showing youth the way to success and strengthening the country’s relationship with India.[/quote]

It begins by flipping through news clippings while the voiceover intones highlights like super visa approvals. It then transitions into song.

The lyrics, in Hindi with a fair sprinkling of English, are all about Harper increasing trade worldwide, making the economy strong, cutting taxes, creating one million jobs, bringing thousands of immigrants to Canada, showing youth the way to success and strengthening the country’s relationship with India.

If attentive, Bollywood fans can catch a glimpse of star Akshay Kumar in cameo.

The over three-minute-long video ends with an appeal to vote for the Conservatives, and specifically, party candidates Naval Bajaj from Brampton East and Jagdish Grewal from Mississauga-Malton.

The awkward bit here is that Grewal, the editor of a Punjabi newspaper, was dumped by the party on Tuesday, hours after media reports surfaced about a contentious article he wrote in March on the topic of homosexuality and the idea of using therapy to turn gay youth straight.

The Conservative Party said in a statement that Grewal's comments do not reflect the views of the party and he was no longer an official candidate. Grewal says key parts of his article were misquoted because of poor translation from Punjabi to English.

Published in Politics
Friday, 11 September 2015 00:34

Parties Target Messages to Immigrants

by Ranjit Bhaskar in Toronto, Ontario
With the federal election campaign crossing the midway marker, the theatrics are as predictable as ever, with minor distractions.
Leaders of all the major political parties are staying on message, spouting lines that sound jaded, throwing phantom punches at opponents. This theatre is played out at campaign stops with partisans providing diversity drapes and the mainstream media trying to derail leaders with questions that top the day’s news agenda. There have, of course, been a few sidelights.  
While the politicians at least tweak their backdrops and messages to suit the location and the occasion, be it in Ajax or Scarborough, the media unwittingly turns it into vanilla occasions. Their relentless single topic questions are seen as bullying by partisans unaware of the media’s need to feed the 24-hour news cycle.
The reaction of the supporters to the hounding of their leaders, from rants to heckling, then quickly becomes news. The opportunity to use the drawn-out campaign as a sounding board to discuss big ideas in this three-way race has been wasted so far.
[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The opportunity to use the drawn-out campaign as a sounding board to discuss big ideas in this three-way race has been wasted so far.[/quote]
Missing election platforms
Moreover, among the four federal parties, only the Greens have spelled out their platform, with the others preferring to wait till the very end as it gives them a chance to fine-tune their pitches.
While native-born Canadians may wish away the 42nd election as a cyclical event as predictable as a cold winter, new Canadians and immigrant groups eager to join the broader debate would be disappointed.
Immigrant voters in Brampton or Mississauga do not see Canada as a settled country drifting along in comfort thanks to its wealth. For them, this country is their new West that could be reshaped a bit by them in the same way as others before them.
The weeks before October 19 was a chance to talk about climate change and the environment, the Senate, electoral reform, national unity, economic equality, international trade, global security and yes, immigration, citizenship and many other issues.
While the Syrian refugee crisis could have been used to introduce and discuss many of the issues outlined above, it has degenerated into an endless one-upmanship and the number of refugees Canada should take in. And while talking of past responses to similar crises, not many mention that Canada does have a complicated history of refugee reception

Also lost in the debate over ISIS and the raging wars of the Middle East, is the understanding that the genesis of the Syrian crisis can be traced back to a devastating drought linked to climate change. That one of the early warnings was issued by the International Institute for Sustainable Development headquartered here in Canada has been drowned out by the noise.

A glimmer of hope on this count came in the answers both non-Conservative prime ministerial contenders gave to CBC’s Peter Mansbridge as one of the first things they will do in office. The Liberal’s Justin Trudeau and NDP’s Tom Mulcair said they would get ready for the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris in late November.
Issue of refugees
But as the battle lines are being drawn around a large intake of refugees, new Canadians may be worrying about its impact on other routes of immigration and their own settlement issues.
The Toronto Star reported that the Conservatives’ perceived hard-line on the refugee crisis seems tailored to the response party candidates say they are getting at the door. One Greater Toronto Area (GTA) candidate, speaking on background, told the Star that, if anything, the party's approach is “hardening our vote.”
In an interview with the Star, Conservative candidate Bal Gosal (Brampton-Centre), said supporters in his riding “don’t want them. The majority of people don’t want them [Syrian refugees].”
That immigration policy is a key friction area was evident when Jason Kenney, the Minister for Defence and Minister for Multiculturalism, dove into the subject.
MIREMS, an ethnic media monitoring and research firm, said in a blog post that Kenney gave a series of interviews to ethnic media outlets in which he likened the NDP's immigration proposals to overbooking flights: selling more tickets than seats on a plane.
While to date the NDP hasn’t taken the bait to hit back at the Conservative’s track record on immigration, MIREMS said many ethnic media outlets commented on Kenney's defence of his party on this file starting a "war of words" with Liberal immigration lead John McCallum*. It said the Urdu Post quoted McCallum as saying that Kenney owes apologies to Canadians for the damage he has done by "dropping 300,000 applicants for permanent residence into the Pacific Ocean [and] throwing 50,000 investor class applications in the garbage bin."
A mainstream opinion piece, too, expressed concern over the NDP's “hidden immigration pledge.” The writer saw Mulcair’s assurance to a group of South Asians in Surrey (B.C.) on family reunification for children and grandparents as 'dog-whistle' (understood only by the intended audience) politics.
This frame of reference could also be used against Conservative Leader Stephen Harper when, during a campaign stop in Markham, Ont., he made an announcement aimed at helping new Canadians get their foreign credentials recognized so they can find work in their chosen professions.
Aiming at the same immigrant audience of the Greater Toronto Area, Trudeau told the Jalsa Salana Islamic conference in Mississauga, Ont. that a Liberal government will repeal the newly legislated "two-tier" citizenship law and would do more to help free imprisoned Egyptian-Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy.
Optics of inclusion
Call these pronouncement what you may, new Canadians and visible minorities can expect to hear more such stump speeches interspersed with sound bites only for their ears.
That’s because in a tight race their support is significant in both magnitude and scope. In 110 of the country’s 338 ridings, they make up 20 per cent or more of the population, up from 90 in 2011.
However, this factor is not fully reflected in the number of visible minority candidates nominated by the three major parties. Just over 13 per cent of them so far are from these minority groups, although they now account for around 20 per cent of the Canadian population.
With around 50 nominations still to be filled, and at least two of the drop outs being minority candidates, their number is around 130 out of the over 960 nominated.
Interestingly, half of the 338 ridings don't have any visible minority candidates from the three major parties. However, in eight hyper-diverse ridings, they dominate the field and are fighting against each other.
[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Half of the 338 ridings don't have any visible minority candidates from the three major parties.[/quote]
While this strategic placement of visible minority candidates in only the most diverse ridings may be seen as good optics, it lulls us into thinking that our politics is inclusive. Elizabeth Goodyear-Grant and Erin Tolley, both professors of political science, say this effectively caps the number of seats that visible minority candidates might ever win.
In the 2011 federal election, 42 foreign-born citizens were elected as MPs. While that was about 13 per cent of the then-308-member House of Commons, it is unlikely that the current crop of candidates can breach that number because only around 13 per cent of those nominated so far are visible minorities. With 24 of them fighting each other in three-way tussles, the only consolation is that at least eight are sure to become MPs.
And that's the only safe prediction one can make about #elxn42 at half time.
* This report has been revised to make it clear that the quote attributed to John McCallum was quoted by the Urdu Post and not MIREMS.

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Published in Top Stories
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