Sunday, 03 September 2017 19:53

We Just Aren't Making Enough Babies

Commentary by: Sean Cowan

Seems like immigration hasn’t been seen in a positive light as of late. Control over immigration has been a central theme in the successful Brexit bid in the United Kingdom. America elected a president who suggests tougher laws and screening for immigrants. Syrian refugees were welcomed by the thousands into Canada (46,700 in 2016 alone to be exact), but not without considerable controversy.

Of course, with the entry of new immigrants comes the culture. Clearly they simply do not know of any other way to live until they move into new land and set roots. Learning another Language and assimilating into another culture takes time and requires patience of the guests who welcome them.

In some places, it seems, they aren’t necessarily welcome. There appears to be an immigrant backlash brewing in many of the wealthiest countries. The demographics are changing drastically and quickly. In 2012 in America, the census bureau reported that for the first time there have been more minority births than white births.

What becomes disturbing is that the glaringly obvious seems to be overlooked-Caucasians are having less babies.

We need an abundance of young people for the economy to work.

If we have less children we need to import them.

Every healthy economy regardless of society which runs it (within a more left wing society or more to the right) requires a pyramid shape in order for it to work. The tip of the pyramid being those who are not generating income (from the disabled, to young children, to the elderly), casual workers would be found somewhere below the tip, further down from casual comes the part time employees and somewhere halfway down the pyramid being the civil servant who receive revenue from public funds, yet redistribute it into the economy. The base of said metaphorical pyramid are the full time workers of various classes who work for private industry and generate the revenue which works its way up to the very tip and sustains the entire society within.

What becomes abundantly clear when visualizing this pyramid is that every society needs a healthy dose of working, young, able bodied people to sustain the economy and, most importantly, there has to be many more at the base than at the tip for the society to exist at all.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Ultimately if we curb immigration we need to make more babies.[/quote]

For the longest time it was a non-issue. Forty years ago it was nothing to see a family with four or five children and was quite unusual for anyone to reach the age of 40 and be single without multiple children.

As was often the case. Many years ago you had no choice but to have multiple children but then along came contraceptives and women entered the workforce en masse. Now people had the choice if and when they had children. Women had options. They could wait until later in life to have children and focus on their career. To see a person reach the age of 40 without a child and single in the first world now is quite common.

This person will need young people to continue to generate revenue for when he or she retires. Police are still needed, and roads need to be paved.

This is why we need immigration. The alternative is simply to make more babies. That doesn’t appear to be an option. Most people simply are not willing to make enough babies to keep the engine running (or can’t due to shrinking wages/ unstable work….but that’s another story) so therefore we need to take in young people to make up for the loss.

There are still many countries with large families of 4 or more. They are typically countries who are culturally distinct from us so as they come in, they change the landscape.

Ultimately, if we curb immigration we need to make more babies. If we don’t, eventually, the metaphorical pyramid will change shape with the base of the pyramid becoming narrow and the aging population making the tip wider. It’s a demographic nightmare that countries like China ( with their one child policy) and Japan (statistically the oldest population on earth and a country not built on multiculturalism) are currently struggling with.

Xenophobia therefore is essentially a demographic nightmare waiting to happen for any first world country. Generally the local populations have been steadily decreasing as the desire for large families have diminished. Without the immigrants to inject new fresh young workers into the economy our social services will erode quicker than you could say ‘build a wall’.

So we are left with little choice but to embrace immigration and while we may change immigration policy to be more efficient and attract more of the people each country is desperately looking for in regards to age, family size and qualifications; there is no question that we need a healthy number of new young people in just about every first world nation on earth and that will indeed change each nation that welcomes them.

It should go without saying that immigration has been a continuous process in Europe, North America, New Zealand and Australia for centuries now. Various waves have come and gone and from various ethnic groups and they have made their mark and changed the country. As a Canadian I’m hard pressed to believe that our much more diverse, multicultural country would go to war for the queen and the ‘motherland’ as we have in the past because, of course, the demographics have changed and now the majority of the population cannot identify with a cause such as that.

One thing that is clear is that more young people from afar are more crucial than ever to maintain our society and the standards we have come to expect within it. What must be understood is that for the majority of the first world in general and former British colonies in particular it has played a vital part of our society. It has in fact built the society itself. So we should embrace it, because, unless you’re going to make more babies, we simply don’t have a choice.

Sean Cowan is a former member of the military who has worked with a wide range of first-generation immigrants throughout his career. His experiences as a result of his work and his upbringing in Nova Scotia have led to become an advocate for multiculturalism. 

Published in Commentary
Tuesday, 22 August 2017 22:37

Canada’s (M)other Tongues

By: Caora Mckenna in Halifax

If you’ve ever travelled or worked abroad, speaking and listening in a language that isn’t your own, you know the feeling of lying down at night exhausted. Your brain worked all day fumbling from one language to another. Every ounce of energy is drained. When your brain is that exhausted, you call home. You listen to your mother tongue. You listen without thinking – it’s a relief.

For Canada’s consistent stream of immigrants and their children, third language or “ethnic” media can be a refuge. It is news and stories in their language of comfort. Ethnic media -the official CRTC term – is defined as media that is not English, French or Indigenous. It is a collective of “others.” 

The number of foreign-born Canadians has been increasing steadily since 1951. Today, metro Vancouver has almost as many foreign-born residents as the entire population of Nova Scotia. According to Statistics Canada, nearly half of the country’s population will be immigrants or children of immigrants by 3036. Of the 270,847 immigrants Canada received in 2015, 23 per cent had no working knowledge of English or French. For them, ethnic media is more than a haven, it’s a lifeline. The weight of this responsibility bears down on the journalists who work in ethnic media.

“It has always been the underdog industry,” says Madeline Ziniak, chair of the Canadian Ethnic Media Association and former national vice-president of Omni TV, Canada’s leader in multicultural programming. “Fraught with casualties, it’s never been easy.”

The state of ethnic media in Canada is as varied as its parts. Print is struggling to survive, radio is successful, online is innovating and TV has long been a quiet powerhouse.

Who is listening?

Across the country “good morning” is said in more than 200 languages every day. Buenos días is heard in Toronto, ਸ਼ੁਭ ਸਵੇਰ in Halifax and 좋은아침 in Vancouver. Omni TV in Ontario offers programming in 49 of those languages. The Canadian Ethnic Media Association’s directory of ethnic media outlets has 1,200 entries from B.C., Alberta and Ontario alone. Of the 1,609 Radio and TV Broadcast licences defined by content language, 275 are not English or French. There is similar momentum south of the border. In the United States there are over 3,000 ethnic media outlets, and since 2006 ethnic media is the only sector of print media that is growing.

Canada’s history of immigration is a history of storytellers. In 1835, Upper Canada’s first German weekly newspaper was printed in what is now Kitchener, Ontario. The Canada Museum und Allgemeine Zeitung’s subscribers were hungry for news from Europe – in a familiar voice. “It’s a bridge to Canadian citizenry,” says Ziniak.

Ethnic media is a vital tool to connect citizens not only to their past, but to Canada’s present, and to one another. Most of the time, that bridge is built with content by minorities, for minorities and about minorities. This has helped and hindered ethnic media by giving it legs to stand on, but few places to go. But this is changing. Today, car radios play international news and music, weekly newspapers cover local politics and run helpful how-to stories. You can watch Hockey Night in Canada in Punjabi from your living room on Saturday night. Ethnic media’s voices are here, they are speaking, and they are many.

The bridge that bends

George Abraham is a Canadian journalist who built a new platform. He started his career at the Times of India in Mumbai, formerly Bombay. Twenty-six years later, from his office in Ottawa, Abraham runs Canadian media, he says, “is not inclusive enough.” The problem: “The mainstream speaks to the mainstream, and the ethnic speaks to the ethnic.” 

Dr. Catherine Murray, associate dean of Undergraduate Academic Programs and Enrolment Management and professor of gender, sexuality and women’s studies at Simon Fraser University was the principal investigator in SFU’s 2007 Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Media in B.C study. She says the way different cultures are communicating within Canada is something all journalists – both mainstream and ethnic – will have to “struggle with” in their content. 

Mainstream media is taking up the challenge. CBC launched a five-year strategy, A space for us all, in 2014. Its inclusion and diversity plan commits the CBC to “be relevant and representative of the population it serves.” It is starting with the people making the content. Canadaland found that, in 2015, 90 per cent of CBC’s staff was white. 

Dr. Sherry Yu, an assistant professor in the Department of Journalism at Temple University in Philadelphia,worked alongside Murray on SFU’s 2007 study. Yu says a “new stream” of ethnic media is emerging to cover issues that are misrepresented or not represented at all in mainstream media. It is driven by a younger generation of journalists whose content is online and in English. It is pushing the limits of ethnic media’s traditional audience.

Rooting for the underdog

As waves of immigration shift Canada’s idea of identity, daily and weekly newspapers pop up and go under in steady rhythm. In 1840, Canada Museum und Allgemeine Zeitung was sold to Heinrich Eby. It changed hands three more times before 1865 when a competing German newspaper, the Berliner Journal, forced it to stop printing. Today, the steady stream of immigrants is causing saturation in already niche markets. The 2007 study Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Media in B.C. found that 28 ethnic media outlets were serving Vancouver’s 50,000 Korean residents. (North Bay, Ontario also has 50,000 residents, but only three mainstream outlets.) There are only so many Korean restaurants, travel agencies and businesses in Vancouver. Yu says this makes competition for advertising revenue “huge.” 

For Halifax’s first and only Arabic radio station, 99.1 Radio Middle East, saturation isn’t the problem. Arabic is the second most-spoken language in the city, but Oudai Altabbaa, the station’s accounts manager, says it’s “extremely hard” to introduce ethnic media into Halifax’s traditional economy. Still, he sees ethnic media as a way to “refresh” the economy, bringing in new ideas and new money. “A new way to communicate things to get people a little bit closer to each other.” 

Altabbaa is optimistic. Working in radio, he has good reason to be. From 2011-15, third-language radio stations across Canada actually made money. Their English and French counterparts did not. 

Other Canadian media outlets turn to funding from organizations like the Canadian Media Fund in order to innovate and stay open. The Canadian Media Fund is mandated by Canadian Heritage and funded by Canada’s TV companies and the federal government. It contributed $371.7 million in funding to Canadian television and digital media projects in 2015-16. Only $2.5 million went to “diverse languages.”

Money is a chief concern across all media, and ethnic media is well rehearsed in the pocket pinch. Many organizations “operate on a shoestring” says April Lindgren, associate professor at the Ryerson School of Journalism. Having time and resources to do good quality, timely and verified news “can be a challenge if you are the editor, the publisher, the reporter and the ad salesman,” says Lindgren. If the money runs out, so does the ink. 

The National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada represents more than 500 members of the ethnic press and media. In 2012 it asked its members about business challenges. Forty-three per cent said they weren’t earning money for their work.

Waves of immigration sway ethnic media’s successes and failures. In 1958 Canada had more new Italian immigrants than British ones. At that time Canada’s third language press was building a national presence: there were 250 newspapers, representing more than 50 cultures. The “fiercely Canadian, proudly Italian” daily newspaper Corriere Canadese was started in 1954 by Dan Iannuzzi. In 1995 it revamped, adding Tandem, an English-language weekend edition –aimed at their readers’ kids and grandkids. In 2013, after funding cuts, Corriere Canadese joined the ranks of retired Canadian ethnic newspapers. It looked like the end of an era. Except, six months later, it was revived – and is in print today. 

Sitting in corner stores and restaurants, it reaches 30,000 Canadians daily. As Sherry Yu says, ethnic media is “volatile.” It is also unpredictable, persistent, and necessary. 

At once, a commodity and a social movement, increasingly important ethnic media in Canada is more important than ever. Ethnic media outlets, like immigrant communities, know that to survive is to adapt. They have learned this the hard way. If they don’t survive, says Yu, “nothing comes after.”

This article was republished under arrangement with the Signal. 

Published in Arts & Culture

By: Caora Mckenna in Halifax

Inside the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market on Halifax’s waterfront you’ll find a stack of the Dakai Times newspapers. Printed in Chinese and English, the quarterly newspaper is a tiny nod to the growing immigrant population in the area. On Saturday mornings, the market fills with sounds, scents and accents from all corners of the world. The lone stand of newspapers tells a different story. Local ethnic media - integral to community integration for newcomers - is almost entirely absent from the airwaves and newsstands in the province.  

The provincial government is working hard to bring immigrants to Nova Scotia. Nearly 5,500 newcomers arrived in 2016 -- the highest number in the last decade -- and more are expected for 2017. Significant resources are being put into the Atlantic Immigration Pilot and Halifax Partnership to bring immigrants to the province and keep them here. One thing missing for new and old immigrants is information in their mother tongues. Where local media is absent, newcomers are leaning on international sources for news from home in a familiar language.  

Filling the gaps:  

Halifax is home to the majority of Nova Scotia’s immigrants and the few local ethnic media outlets catering to immigrants are there, too.  

Meng Zhao started the Daikai Maritimes Newspaper in 2012. It covers local events, highlights local business owners, and regularly documents its issues in the Nova Scotia Archives. Through a partnership with The Chronicle Herald, 30,000 copies are distributed four times a year as well as 5,000 copies at specific neighbourhoods in Halifax Regional Municipality. Zhao set out to fill a gap in a niche community, and five years later is still the only print source in the province printed in a minority language.  

The second most spoken language in Halifax is Arabic, but it wasn’t until the spring of 2016 that Montreal based 1450 AM launched 99.1FM Radio Middle East in the city. The station broadcasts Arabic programs and a selection of Arabic and international music. Account executive for the station Oudai Altabbaa says the minority language audience is on the rise in Halifax, and “somebody needs to tap into it and talk to it.”  

Altabbaa knows there is great potential for the economy to grow by capitalizing on this market. But “it’s extremely hard to educate businesses here about the benefit of this because they are not used to it, and as we know Nova Scotia is very traditional,” he says. “So when you tell them it’s an Arabic radio station, they don’t take you seriously.”  

Working to highlight the importance of immigrant voices and stories is My Halifax Experience. The quarterly magazine fills news stands in ethnic grocers and community centres, and content is regularly published online. Filled with helpful tips and inspirational stories, in English, it speaks to all immigrants, beyond their mother tongues. The online website has expanded to My East Coast Experience with the same goal in mind.  

International magazines and newspapers available from libraries or specialty newsstands are filling in the rest of the gaps. Halifax Public Libraries has an extensive collection of subscriptions in Spanish, German, Arabic, Russian, Hindi, Japanese, Chinese and more. Atlantic News, a specialty store for newspapers and magazines, fills one to four regular subscriptions for Russian newspaper Argumenti & Facti and German sources Der Spiegel and Die Zeit weekly and biweekly.  

Moving Forward:  

In 2011, immigrants accounted for 5.3 per cent of the Nova Scotian population. That proportion is expected to rise to between 7.7 and 10.7 per cent in 2036, according to Statistics Canada. Immigrants in Halifax made up 8.2 per cent of the city’s population in 2011. By 2036, that will rise to 15.2 per cent.  

“When immigrants are feeling like they are a little bit more connected with opportunities that come up because of radio stations or media speaking their language,” says Altabbaa, “they might decide to stay in Nova Scotia.”  

As Nova Scotia welcomes more immigrants and tries to keep them in the province, ethnic media has an opportunity to catch up, then develop and grow.

 This article was republished under arrangement with Mirems.

Published in Arts & Culture

Commentary by Robin Arthur in Halifax

Nova Scotia MP and senior federal minister, Scott Brison, has opened up a debate, suggesting the phrase “come from away” should be banned from Atlantic Canadian vocabulary. He’s on a mission to change that.

The provocative label “come from away” has been slapped on people, firstly, from other parts of Canada and secondly, on newcomers from other parts of the world converging on cities in this region. I do not necessarily see that slight as a racial slur. 

Instead, I think it’s the prejudice of a rural mindset. That sort of antipathy towards strangers, I would like to think, can be found in most rural communities around the world. But what makes this difficult to stomach is the fact that a rural mindset, which seeks to distance itself from socio-economic progress, will leave Atlantic Canadians in the backwaters of Canada’s economic mainstream.

That, I believe, is Minister Brison’s wake-up call.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][A] rural mindset, which seeks to distance itself from socio-economic progress, will leave Atlantic Canadians in the backwaters of Canada’s economic mainstream.[/quote]

Distinctly homogenous

In 2004, Globe and Mail columnist John Ibbitson ruffled feathers when he wrote his piece: “Why Atlantic Canada remains white and poor.” At the time, he cited a Statscan study which revealed that 73 per cent of all new arrivals to Canada in the preceding five years had settled in Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver.

In fact, immigration to Atlantic Canada at the time was so insignificant, he said, that the region was not even mentioned in the main body of the 73-page report. Halifax took in 2.1 per cent of newcomer arrivals and St. John's claimed a dismal 0.8 per cent.

In recent years, that demographic patina may have changed somewhat. The arrival count has bumped up.  Nova Scotia’s immigration minister, Lena Diab told me some months ago that the number of arrivals under the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) almost doubled in 2015 rising from 700 nominations in 2014 to 1350 in 2015.

But the demographic face of the region has not changed in any spectacular way. Like the rest of Atlantic Canada, the province is distinctly homogenous.  

An immigration study titled Pathways to Prosperity observes: “When we examine Nova Scotia, we see a different pattern. Although there are some concentrations of immigrants from China, India, and the Philippines, especially among economic category immigrants, we see that traditional sending countries, like Britain and the USA, still play a prominent role as the sending countries of immigrants to the region.” This pattern is in striking contrast to the demographic stats unfolding in the rest of Canada.

Resistance to change

The trend, I think, is driven by a stubborn resistance to change, a commitment to “old boy networks” and a reluctance on the part of rural Atlantic Canadians to assimilate with people who are different and have “come from away”. The trend is a dangerous one for a nation seeking a vibrant economy.

That is exactly what prompted Brian Lee Crowley, former President of AIMS ( Atlantic Institute of Market Studies) to proclaim some time ago: “How we respond to the challenges of immigration, diversity and population change will literally determine whether we as a society live or die.” A dramatic statement no doubt, but no less true for that.

“Atlantic Canadians are struggling to renew their society,” he pointed out. “Indeed, governments can make a difference, but immigration is not merely an affair of governments. That is why the key question is not ‘Why don’t they come’ but rather ‘Do we really, in our hearts, want them to come.’”

When Halifax hosted the Atlantic Mayor’s Immigration Conference in 2005, that was a ground-breaking initiative, reflecting new ideas coming out of think-tanks in the country that said cities and communities have a role in developing multicultural societies for economic growth.

It is a foregone conclusion that growing immigration is a sure sign of economic and cultural dynamism. Ottawa may set the parameters for national policy, but creating the environments and infrastructure in which diversity can thrive is a job for city planners and communities.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Ottawa may set the parameters for national policy, but creating the environments and infrastructure in which diversity can thrive is a job for city planners and communities.[/quote]

Do-or-die question

So, it’s not really a matter of dropping the “come from away” slight from Atlantic Canada’s vocabulary. It’s the mindset that must change. Canadians in our rural towns continue to believe that Canada’s immigration program reflects its altruism and humanitarian outlook on the world, confusing the country’s commitment to the Geneva Convention on Refugees with its immigration program that’s driven to grow the economy, drive up consumption, sustain the tax base and keep its productivity competitive and vibrant. 

In other words, it’s important for rural Canadians to see in Crowley’s statement an absolute truth: “How we respond to the challenges of immigration, diversity and population change will literally determine whether we as a society live or die.”

Robin Arthur is editor of Touch BASE, a monthly tabloid with a global news perspective and a voice that addresses the challenges of diversity, human rights and social justice. He is based in Halifax.

Publisher's Note: This is the first in a series of guest commentaries NCM plans to run in the coming weeks on immigration to Atlantic Canada.

Published in Commentary
Tuesday, 03 May 2016 21:22

Nova Scotia Has A Race Problem

Commentary by Stephen Kimber in Halifax, Nova Scotia

Where to begin?

With the too-soon deaths of three young black men killed in separate incidents within a week last month?

Or with last Monday’s announcement the provincial government is restructuring — which is to say eliminating —  a community-based program in North and East Preston, Cherry Brook and Lake Loon that had been helping young African Nova Scotians find jobs since 1983?

Or perhaps we should begin with the most recent: last Thursday, an independent human rights board of inquiry ordered Sobeys, our iconic, Nova Scotia-based supermarket chain, to apologize and pay $21,000 to a woman it racially profiled at its Tantallon store in 2009.

Nova Scotia has a race problem.

We like to believe the bad old days — segregated schools, movie theatres that wouldn’t allow blacks like Viola Desmond to sit in the white section, the Africville relocation — are now historic artifacts to be mea culpa-ed during African Nova Scotia Month each year — and then forgotten for the next 11.

The reality is we have never fully escaped our history.

The most obvious symbols have mostly disappeared. Restaurants on Quinpool Road no longer refuse to serve blacks as they did in the early 1960s when retired Senator Donald Oliver was a university student.

But blacks are still routinely followed around in stores by salespeople who assume they must be shoplifters, or stopped by police because… well, because.

Labour Minister Kelly Regan may be right when she says the jobs program she axed was administratively top heavy, but it’s hard to shake the belief her government is more committed to balanced budgets than to opportunities for those who have none.

“All of this leads to feelings of despair,” noted Reverend Rhonda Britton, the pastor at Cornwallis Street Baptist Church.

She was trying to make sense of the recent string of murders involving young black men. “They've had bad experiences in school or in society as people who have been marginalized, or people who have been discriminated against. It leads to a lack of self-worth — a devaluing of self and others,” she told the CBC. 

That, more even than the murders, is the real crime, the societal crime we continue to commit. And our society pays a terrible price for that.

Stephen Kimber, a Professor of Journalism at the University of King’s College in Halifax, is an award-winning writer, editor and broadcaster.

Published in Commentary
Tuesday, 26 April 2016 01:46

Accents Celebrated at Shakespeare Reading

by Diana Manole in Ottawa 

Four hundred years ago, on April, 23, 1616, William Shakespeare passed away. His plays are so special that today we can critically reflect on any topic when reading, staging, or watching them: social inequality, politics, history, culture, love and death.

The modernization of the English language also started with his work, leading to the current standard version, in England, and the numerous variants spoken all over the world by almost 943 million people.

As the saying goes, “The best reaction to reading a poem is writing a poem.”

George Elliott Clarke, Canada’s Parliamentary Poet Laureate (PPL), along with the Library of Parliament and the League of Canadian Poets, organized a celebration of Shakespeare and National Poetry Month (NPM) through a poetry reading. Shakespeare on the Hill was the first official poetry reading on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, according to Clarke.

He says he plans to organize other similar events on Parliament Hill during his PPL tenure. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Shakespeare’s English” can be heard in Canada with accents from all over the world.[/quote]

I was honoured to be included among the readers, together with Monty Reid, Amanda Earl and rob mclennan. Our selected readings from Shakespeare and our own work had to relate to this year’s NPM theme, “The Road” – or travelling. 

Clarke is an award-winning Canadian writer, who has published 16 collections of poems, as well as plays, opera librettos and two novels. From Three Miles Plains, N.S., where he was born, Clarke has gone on many roads across Canada, but also around the world.

He emphasized Shakespeare’s influence on his own work. “Reading Titus Andronicus In Three Mile Plains, N.S.” is part of Execution Poems, for which Clarke received the Governor General’s Award. Inspired by Shakespeare’s perspective on crime, this poem denounces both historical violence and the persecution of black people in the 20th century. He writes:

“And History snapped its whip and bankrupted scholars,
School was violent improvement. I opened Shakespeare
And discovered a scarepriest, shaking in violent winds,
Some hallowed, heartless man, his brain boiling blood,
Aaron, seething, demanding: 'Is black so base a hue?'"

Recognizing accented writers

As a Romanian-born poet and a first-generation Canadian, this event had a special significance for me. I dedicated my reading to all “accented” writers from this country and the immigrant voyage to Canada that has changed their destinies. Indeed, my own trip to Canada in 2000 has been one of my most important journeys. 

The first poem I read, “Fleeing. Becoming,” synthesizes the redefinition of my sense of national identity: 

“I became Romanian, fleeing.
I became Canadian when the U.S.
took my fingerprints.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“The [foreign] accent represents the democratization of language.”[/quote]

Aurelia Zmeu, Diplomatic Counsellor at the Romanian Embassy in Ottawa, noted in my reading the ongoing travel between two cultures, which defines any immigrant. 

“Listening to her reading from [Shakespeare’s] The Tempest and from her own work, I perceived the two pans of the balance scale in Diana Manole’s soul,” she said. “The poet’s feelings towards Romania, her country of origin, and Canada, her adoptive country, are placed on this scale, interconnected, in a balance that was perturbed only by the applause at the end.” 

As Clarke emphasized after my reading, “The [foreign] accent represents the democratization of language.”

Indeed, “Shakespeare’s English” can be heard in Canada with accents from all over the world. It is one of the best proofs that people can find means to communicate beyond cultural barriers.

Clarke’s celebration of Shakespeare proved that poetry and politics can sometimes be on the same page – even at Parliament Hill. 

Journeys of all forms 

Earl is a poet, publisher and the author of two books of erotic fiction. 

“The road for me equals time from birth to death and the obstacles along the way, the constancy of love in times of trouble,” she says. 

Her Shakespeare selections reflect on similar experiences, including “Sonnet 116” and, from Hamlet, Gertrude’s description of Ophelia's madness and suicide. Her poem, “O’Keeffe,” deals with the reversed journey from death to life and the effort to understand its meaning:

“I seek answers in myth: Orpheus, 
Persephone, those who’ve been 
to the Underworld and back”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“The road for me equals time from birth to death and the obstacles along the way, the constancy of love in times of trouble.”[/quote]

Born in Saskatchewan, Reid worked for many years in Alberta, British Columbia and Quebec, and now lives in Ottawa. He focused on the theme of melancholy travel with Jacques’s monologue from As You Like It.

He also read some of his poems on the same topic, including “Very Soon, and With Someone Pleasant” from Disappointment Island. 

“I don't care where you were. I don't care about the black ice
and the big trucks and all your other travelling anxieties.
Imagine trying to pick up Singapore noodles with a single stick.
That's how it makes me feel." 

mclennan was inducted into the VERSe Ottawa Hall of Honour in March 2016 and has won numerous awards and published nearly 30 books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction. He read “Two ghazals, for newborn,” an homage to the birth of his third child, Aoife: 

“Map: for she articulates
our new, invented landscapes.

A declaration of staccato kicks
and wails.

A salted, sunny membrane
of gestures, squeaks and snorts.

Dr. Diana Manole is a Romanian-born poet, translator, and scholar. She has published nine collections of poems and plays, and contributed to many national and international magazines. Her latest poetry book, B&W was published in 2015 by Tracus Arte in a bilingual edition, co-translated with Adam J. Sorkin.

{module NCM Blurb} 

Published in Books
Wednesday, 17 February 2016 00:58

Myth Busting in Nova Scotia

Commentary by Howard Ramos in Halifax 

With a rapidly aging population and low birth rate, Canada’s Atlantic provinces have turned full force towards immigration. 

Nova Scotia, for instance, has nearly doubled its allocation of provincial nominees and Premier Stephen McNeil has been a vocal supporter of immigration as a solution to the province’s problems. 

This being the case, it is worth asking how immigrants fare there. 

Individuals such as Globe and Mail columnist, John Ibbitson, believe that, “Immigrants avoid the Maritimes because of the lack of economic opportunities and because they tend to gravitate toward communities that already have newcomers.” 

However, a recent report for Pathways to Prosperity (P2P) by Yoko Yoshida, Madine VanderPlaat and myself of Dalhousie and Saint Mary’s universities, in partnership with the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS), suggests that immigrants do well in Nova Scotia. 

Debunking myths

The report busts a number of myths. The first is that immigrants don’t find work in the province. 

This may have been the case a couple of decades ago, however, recent economic immigrants who arrived in Nova Scotia between 2010 and 2012 out-performed newcomers in other parts of Canada. 

Immigrants to the province actually have higher rates of employment one year after arriving (76 per cent) compared to Canada as a whole (73 per cent). 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][I]n Nova Scotia, economic principal applicants’ average earnings are $44,000 compared to $36,000 nationally.[/quote]

Another busted myth is that immigrants will be underemployed compared to other parts of the country. 

The report finds that one year after landing in Nova Scotia, economic principal applicants’ average earnings are $44,000 compared to $36,000 nationally. 

Changes in policy and the success of settlement organizations, such as ISANS, have clearly worked at better integrating recent cohorts of immigrants to the province. This is largely because of the work they do in terms of language training, employment and interview coaching, and bridging programs that link immigrants to specific job sectors.

One more busted myth is that immigrant spouses and partners do not fully contribute to the economy. 

The report shows that 96 per cent of spouses and partners who come with economic immigrants and 91 per cent of family sponsored spouses and partners are of “prime” working age, between 20 and 55 years old. 

The majority of spouses and partners are also employed one year after arrival and over a third have a university degree. 

When spouses and partners immigrating to Nova Scotia are compared to immigrants settling across Canada we find that rates of employment are about the same, however, when earnings are examined the report again shows an advantage for family sponsored spouses and partners in Nova Scotia. 

For those landing between 2010 and 2012, average earnings were $26,000 one year after arriving compared to $22,000 for immigrants across Canada. Policy makers should not underestimate the economic potential of sponsored family immigrants. 

Emerging trends 

Such findings show that the federal government’s decision to increase the cap on immigrants to the province is well justified and that Nova Scotia is right to continue to ask for more immigrants. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][M]ore autonomy in crafting immigration policy ... could be a way to stem population pressures and even grow the economy.[/quote]

If the trends identified in the report continue, more autonomy in crafting immigration policy to the region with a broader mix of immigration pathways could be a way to stem population pressures and even grow the economy. 

The report, however, also identifies some trends that should be examined further and that need policy attention. 

In particular, when a comparison is made between economic and family-sponsored stream immigrants, interesting findings emerge. 

For instance, among cohorts of immigrants landing in Nova Scotia in the 1990s and early 2000s, family-sponsored spouses and partners rivalled and even outperformed economic-stream principal applicants, which suggests that there is an important role for the family stream in the immigration mix. This is a trend unique to the region and one that has shifted in recent years. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][I]t is important for Nova Scotia to continue to invest in researching immigration.[/quote]

Also worth policy attention are the noticeable differences identified in the report between economic versus family-sponsored spouses and partners. 

The economic successes have been greater for spouses and partners coming through the family pathway rather than those who come with economic principal applicants. It is unclear why this might be the case and this should be a focus of future analysis. 

A need for more research

Questions like these mean that it is important for Nova Scotia to continue to invest in researching immigration. 

It is through investigation and critical review that strong evidence-based policies can be developed. 

Such policies combined with quality efforts by settlement organizations are what have led to the dramatic shift in how immigrants fare in Nova Scotia. 

Premier McNeil and Immigration Minister Lena Diab, who is the daughter of first generation immigrants herself, are right to encourage immigrants to come to Nova Scotia. They will likely be successful in integrating into jobs and making meaningful contributions to the province. 

It is now time to let the rest of Canada in on the secret: immigrants do well in Nova Scotia.

Howard Ramos is a professor of sociology at Dalhousie University. His research focuses on issues of social justice including the non-economic elements of immigration and examination of family and non-economic streams of immigration to Canada.

Published in Commentary

by Kelsey Power in Halifax, Nova Scotia

Many immigrant women who are experiencing domestic violence require culturally sensitive support services. A new project on Canada’s east coast aims to ensure these types of services are made available.

The New Brunswick Multicultural Council (NBMC) received almost $230,000 in funding from Status of Women Canada to create projects to ensure local domestic and family violence service providers, as well as settlement service providers, are adequately equipped to support immigrant women experiencing violence at home.

“We don’t know that the rates are different amongst immigrant women, but what we do know is that even though it’s difficult for everybody to disclose and seek help, we want to make it as easy as possible when they do,” says Dr. Catherine Holtmann, director of the Muriel McQueen Fergusson Centre for Family Violence Research (MMFC), one of the project’s partners. “We’ll respond in ways that are appropriate and help them to stop the violence in their lives.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“One woman may not be able to access [services] because of the linguistic barrier, another one may be frustrated for not being culturally understood."[/quote]

Alex LeBlanc, managing director of the NBMC, says settlement service providers currently lack expertise in addressing intimate partner violence while domestic, intimate and family violence service providers lack capacity in terms of cross cultural contexts.

“It speaks to a lack of capacity on both sides of the fence. We want to figure out what the needs are and how to address them in a more coordinated way,” explains LeBlanc.

Barriers for immigrant women 

Reflecting on her own background entering Canada as a refugee, Hyasinter Rugoro, one of the project’s research co-chairs, says there are many possible structural barriers that may impact an immigrant woman’s ability to access services.

“One woman may not be able to access [services] because of the linguistic barrier, another one may be frustrated for not being culturally understood when they are trying to access the services or it could be somebody not understanding that they exist,” Rugoro explains.

Rugoro, who will be volunteering her time along with fellow immigrant and co-chair Dr. Maria Costanza Torri over the three-year duration of the project, recalls being new to Canada and being directed to prenatal classes, along with other services, of which she had no prior knowledge.

“There could be someone or some people that could be left into loneliness and confinement, not knowing where to go or what to ask for.”

Helen Lanthier was a project co-coordinator of Be the Peace, a similar initiative in Nova Scotia.

Also funded by Status of Women Canada for three years, Be the Peace was a coordinated community response to violence against women and girls, including sexual assault in rural communities. Thanks to this project, Nova Scotia’s South Shore area now has sexual assault services.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Stereotypes are destructive and discrimination can happen because of [them].”[/quote]

Lanthier says having the focus on immigrant women presents unique challenges due to the damaging impacts of societal stereotypes.

“Stereotypes are destructive and discrimination can happen because of [them],” Lanthier states, pointing to the recent niqab debate during the federal election as an example of this.

Lanthier’s counterpart says there might be some similarities between their project’s considerations of rural women and the NBMC project’s focus on immigrant women.  

“I think there’s a lot of overlap. Probably one of the biggest barriers is isolation,” says Sue Bookchin, co-coordinator for Be the Peace.

Bookchin speaks of rural isolation partially being present by lack of transportation, and social isolation by not being part of the dominant culture.

She says sensitivities, perceptual obstacles, fears and shame may hinder immigrant women from coming forward to access services and that attracting them to conversations might be more challenging.

Protecting confidentiality

The NBMC’s initiative is set up to pilot in four different communities in New Brunswick, both English and French, rural and urban: Saint John, Moncton, Bathurst and St. Stephen.

There will be various stages to the project including: assessing the community’s needs, exploring partnerships and collaborations, knowledge sharing and eventually an evaluation.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"[W]e are really trying to understand the level of what the immigrant women know about domestic violence.”[/quote]

Like Bookchin, LeBlanc anticipates challenges in getting women to come out and share their experiences.

LeBlanc is concerned branding the project under the label of domestic violence might turn people away or make those who do come forward more vulnerable. But according to Holtmann, even though this project isn’t research, the needs assessments will abide by university ethical principals.

“We will ensure their confidentiality … the results of the needs assessment will not refer to any individual in any way that they could be identified.”

As well, because this project is about hearing what immigrant women, along with service providers, have to say, transportation, childcare and whatever else is necessary to make sure interested women can take part will be made available.

“We all come from different backgrounds and cultures and beliefs and my definition of domestic violence could be different from somebody else’s,” says Rugoro. “So we are really trying to understand the level of what the immigrant women know about domestic violence.”

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Published in Top Stories
Wednesday, 30 September 2015 18:32

Nova Scotia Aims to Lead in Immigration

by Kelsey Power in Halifax, Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia now has the ability to fast track an additional 300 immigrants through new express entry streams.

The announcement made by Premier Stephen McNeil and Immigration Minister Lena Diab earlier this month came after the federal government gave into the province’s pressure.

It’s great news, we have worked extremely, extremely hard in this province and that’s recognition that the federal government and CIC (Citizenship and Immigration Canada) has seen that,” Diab told New Canadian Media. “We want to be seen as the hardest working provincial jurisdiction in the country when it comes to immigration.”

Nova Scotia will now be allowed to nominate 1,350 immigrants under the provincial nominee program (PNP) this year, nearly double the 700 nominees the province was previously capped at.

Originally 350 spots had been reserved for the express entry streams, and they were already filled at the time of this increase.

It was also recently announced that Nova Scotia’s PNP will now include two new streams: the entrepreneur stream and the international graduate entrepreneur stream.

“It’s important to poke at the notion of how much things are increasing or decreasing,” says Howard Ramos, a political sociologist who is a professor at Dalhousie University. “We’re not talking about a huge increase here, 300 more spots under express entry is not a large number of people.”

Despite this, Ramos does view the announcement positively. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Anything that can improve or increase the number of immigrants to Nova Scotia is going to help the province.”[/quote]

“Anything that can improve or increase the number of immigrants to Nova Scotia is going to help the province,” he says. “I think that it will mean change, but change is a good thing.”

Express entry applicants bringing their families, buying property and engaging in other markets and services is a step towards solving Nova Scotia’s demographic and economic issues, explains Ramos, but it may not solve the province’s rural needs.

“I think the intent is to spread out migration to all the parts of the province, but if the jobs are actually in Halifax I’m not so confident there will be so much of a spread as people may hope for,” says Ramos.

According to Gerry Mills, director of operations for the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS), approximately 25 per cent of people coming into Nova Scotia have said they were interested in settling outside the urban area of Halifax, but many eventually have to move to the city to find employment.

“I think there are communities across Nova Scotia who really see immigration as part of the solution to their demographic challenges,” says Mills. “The reality is that immigrants come from large urban centres. They’re risk takers and they want to move to urban centres.”

Nova Scotia’s pioneering streams

The national express entry system is an electronic system that was introduced in January to better manage how skilled workers apply to immigrate to Canada. It prioritizes people based on their ability to settle and take part in Canada’s economy, rather than the first come, first serve system.  

Its main improvement has been decreasing application processing times, although it also aims to fill labour shortages.

The three federal economic immigration programs it is tied to are: the federal skilled worker program, the federal skilled trades program and the Canadian experience class.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“When we launched the Nova Scotia experience express entry stream in May 2015, it was innovative, it was not anywhere else in Canada.”[/quote]

Nova Scotia was the first province to create its own associated streams. Under the PNP, these are Nova Scotia demand, created last January, and Nova Scotia experience, introduced in May.

Both streams, like the national express entry system itself, are aimed at highly skilled immigrants. Ideal candidates for Nova Scotia would be individuals already living there and contributing to the economy – like international graduates.

“When we launched the Nova Scotia experience express entry stream in May 2015, it was innovative, it was not anywhere else in Canada,” recalls Diab. “We received numerous calls from other provinces looking for advice on how we’re doing what we’re doing, which is actually wonderful.”

The program was launched specifically to help students working in Nova Scotia to become permanent residents, aiding both international graduates and their employers.  

“This is exclusively for Nova Scotia graduates who are working for Nova Scotia employers in jobs where these employers are saying these are the people that we need and want because they have the skill that we couldn’t find in other graduates,” says Diab. “It’s a win for everybody.”

Benefits of a provincial stream

When an express entry candidate is nominated through any PNP they are invited to apply for permanent residency.

These applicants must have the skills, education and work experience to contribute to the economy of the province or territory they are applying to and must want to live there. There is no requirement as to how long they must stay.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“In terms of actually getting in, it would always be faster to go through a provincial stream."[/quote]

The difference between applying to the provincial express entry systems versus the national one is if the candidate is nominated by a PNP he or she gains a higher Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score. This is the tool used to evaluate an express entry individual’s profile credentials.

A PNP nomination, and associated job offer, garners 600 of a possible 1,200 points.

Without the direct nomination, hopefuls must apply to the Employment and Social Development Canada’s (ESDC) job bank in search of one. The idea is employers in provinces and territories would then search through this pool for candidates.

Nine months later, though, the job bank is still not operational.  

“In terms of actually getting in, it would always be faster to go through a provincial stream because you get those 600 points, which now automatically gets you in because the numbers are so low,” explains Mills. “It’s like a cream rises to the top situation: in January you had to have 700 and something points, last week it was 400.”

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Published in Top Stories

by Peter Uduehi (@kogibobo) in Toronto

From the fight against radicalization and professional roadblocks to the question of whether a Black police chief would have any impact in Toronto, here are some recent headlines in the African-Canadian diaspora media.                             

Radicals Have No Chance With Our Youth: Toronto's Somali Community

Somalis in Toronto are not taking chances. Neither will they take a wait-and-see approach.

Tired of reports of how Jihadist terrorists have successfully recruited African youths in the U.S. state of Minnesota, Kenya and several European countries, community activist Jibril Muhammed told the African World News, “We cannot pretend that our children in Canada could not be influenced by these crazy people who call themselves Muslims. We are aware of how terrorist groups like Al-Shabaab and ISIS have poisoned the minds of innocent Somali and other African youths everywhere they can find them.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Canada has been good to us and any terrorist trying to harm this country has no chance to use our kids against it.” - Mohammed Abdi, community activist[/quote]

Muhammed, who is also a former coordinator of many Somali community groups, said several organizations and individuals in the Somali community are working with the RCMP, the police and their parliamentarians in the Toronto area. “We have to protect our children against these bad eggs,” he says.

Another community activist, Mohammed Abdi, concurs. “Canada has been good to us and any terrorist trying to harm this country has no chance to use our kids against it. On my part, I am constantly educating my teenage children about what is the right Islam,” he explains. “I tell them always that the ISIS and Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab people they see on television are practising the wrong Islam.”

Will a Black Police Chief Really Make a Difference?

Writing in Pride News Magazine, educator and community organizer Ajamu Nangwaya says that simply having a Black police chief at the helm in Toronto is no cure for the poor relations between the force and the city’s African-Canadian community.

The organizer with the Toronto-based Network for the Elimination of Police Violence argues it’s like saying that the soured relations between American Blacks and the police would improve just because a Black president, Barack Obama, was elected the president of the United States.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“For a sobering dose of reality about race, class and policing, we may look at the behaviour of the police in major American cities that have or had African-American police chiefs or at police violence in global South countries such as Nigeria, South Africa, Brazil, Haiti, Kenya and Jamaica.” - Ajamu Nangwaya, educator and community organizer[/quote] 

He adds: “For a sobering dose of reality about race, class and policing, we may look at the behaviour of the police in major American cities that have or had African-American police chiefs or at police violence in global South countries such as Nigeria, South Africa, Brazil, Haiti, Kenya and Jamaica,” stressing that police-versus-society issues are institutionalized matters. 

Taking a swipe at those who are now calling for either deputy chiefs Peter Sloly (pictured to the left) and Mark Saunders (two African-Canadians in the Toronto Police Service) to replace the outgoing chief,  Nangwaya doubts that any police office that has successfully gone up the ladder would not belong to the same systemic ideology from which they emerged. “To what extent are we realistically expecting an African-Canadian police chief to be more committed to fighting institutional racism than a white one? Deputy Chiefs Peter Sloly and Mark Saunders have not made it this far up the organizational ladder, because of their tendency to ‘comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable,’” he writes. 

Why African Professionals Make Career Advancements Later in Canada

Many new African immigrants to Canada are often surprised to find themselves shut out of jobs in their professional disciplines.

So, not surprisingly, many African graduate and post-graduate degree holders end up driving taxis or taking menial jobs to make a living. The question is, why do newly arrived African professional immigrants to Canada make inroads to their chosen professions late?

Dr. Adeleye King (pictured to right), executive director of the Canadian Institute of Leadership and Development (Africa), told African World News the reasons are both professionally demanding and personal. He says when African professionals first come to the country as immigrants, they are shocked to learn that they must do more learning in their fields, “because Canada requires a different level of certification and designation from the ones in Africa.”

“Certain professions like engineering, for example, require a designation before you can be accepted for work as an engineer. It’s different in Africa where you are required only to be certified,” King explains. “[T]he same applies to other professions.”

King says that personal issues also prevent African professionals from making quick inroads into the Canadian marketplace. One issue is that many don’t do enough research about Canada before coming into the country. “If they did,” he says, “they would know exactly the type of skills needed to survive with their professional know-how.” He says it’s important to plan ahead before immigrating and, once here, “never lose concentration of why [you] are here, don’t straddle your life between here and the one you just left.”                                                                                                                            

Education Funding Cut May Negatively Impact African Nova Scotians

Recent cuts in funding to the Council on African Canadian Education (CACE) by Nova Scotia’s ministry of education may severely affect learning standards for Africans in the province, says the organization’s chairwoman Alma Johnston-Tynes.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“The lack of staff and resources will have a detrimental impact on CACE’s ability to identify and meet the needs of African Nova Scotian learners.” - Alma Johnston-Tynes, Council on African Canadian Education[/quote]

“The lack of staff and resources will have a detrimental impact on CACE’s ability to identify and meet the needs of African Nova Scotian learners and to fulfil its mandate under the Education Act, which is to monitor and continually analyze the policies of the Department of Education with respect to the needs of Black learners,” she said in a statement reported by the African Nova Scotian News.

The axe comes as education minister Karen Casey (pictured to left) announced that staff funding to CACE will no longer continue because of an audit that, “raised questions about the body’s governance and financial situation.” Casey described the findings as “very troubling.”

CACE was set up in 1996, after race riots in 1989, and following findings that not enough attention was being paid to improving standards for African and Black school children in the province. The council’s focus was to advise the education ministry on how to improve learning in African Nova Scotian communities, after a recent statistic showing that while reading comprehension test scores for third-graders in the Halifax regional school board was 70 per cent, it was particularly lower for African students at 54 per cent.

Immigrants Change Diet After Arriving in Canada

report by Statistics Canada cites studies that show immigrants who change their traditional diet after arriving in Canada tend to become less healthy later. Overall, the studies show, newly arrived immigrants to Canada had lower mortality rates than the Canadian-born, and also reported lower levels of fair or poor health. Those mortality rates tended to rise, the further removed immigrants were from their arrival in Canada, as did the reported levels of fair or poor health. 

Tanzanian-born Toronto resident Dr. Wasira Bokore, a family physician, told African World News that generally the African immigrant succumbs to, “a new environment where time is limited for cooking your meals and begins to adopt new eating habits, eating burgers, fast foods and fatty foods and these things are not good for your health.” She adds that matters are made worse when, “an exercise regimen is absent in one’s daily existence.”

Peter Uduehi is a journalist and publisher of the African World News in Toronto.

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Published in Africa
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