Saturday, 16 December 2017 13:29

Punjabis Sign up for Nanny School to get Visas

Canada’s commitment to boost its live-in caregiver program as a pathway to citizenship has boosted the business of “nanny institutes” in Punjab.

Traditionally, people from Punjab have gone to Canada as farmers, plumbers, carpenters, electricians and welders.

For Punjabis dreaming of better opportunities abroad, a caregiver visa is now one of the best white collar ways to get into Canada, reported the Indian Express.

“Going to Canada as caregiver is a relatively new trend. After an initial boom, there was a downturn in 2009 when the processing time took much longer due to the increasing number of aspirants. Since last year, there is again a boom as rules were changed. Now a caregiver need not live with the family round-the-clock, but for a minimum eight hours in a day,” said Gursharan Sodhi, who runs the Chandigarh-based Cali Healthcare Resources (CHR).

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“I will get a good salary and better environment there.”-Jatinder Kaur, 22[/quote]

There are about 10 institutes in the Chandigarh and Mohali areas alone offering the “nanny course”, charging between Rs 60,000 and Rs 90,000

The number of students in each class varies between 10 and 30.

 A network of agents offers “packages” to the aspiring immigrants, complete with the “nanny” course and a job offer from Canada.

Armed with a certificate from a training institute, and a signed agreement of employment, a visa applicant can apply for a two-year work permit. After two years of working as a caregiver, the candidate is free to apply for a permanent residency and later citizenship in Canada.

Jatinder Kaur, 22, is an economics graduate from Kapurthala and is enrolled with Chandigarh Immigration. She described the course as “first aid, taking care of children and elderly, prescription reading”. And admitted that her goal is Canada.

“I will get a good salary and better environment there.”

Fellow student Sukhjeet Singh, a 25-year-old electrical engineer from Hoshiarpur and the son of a Punjab Police inspector, said there is no money in engineering jobs. “I worked as an engineer for three years. I was getting about Rs 20,000 as salary. As a nanny in Canada, I hope to easily make more than Rs 1 lakh.”

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada recently said  it will have the backlog of permanent residence applications through the old Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP) largely cleared by the end of 2018.

In an announcement on Dec. 3, IRCC said its goal is to finalize 80 per cent of applications for permanent residence submitted on or before Oct. 1, 2017, by caregivers and their family members through the LCP.

“The commitments the government has made today will mean that many Live-in Caregiver Program applicants who have faced long delays and family separation may soon reach their goal of permanent residence,” Canada’s Immigration Minister, Ahmed Hussen, said in a news release.

“After diligently providing care for Canadians, they may soon be in the company of their own loved ones, together in Canada.”

The program provided foreign nationals with at least two years of full-time, live-in employment as a caregiver in Canada with a direct pathway to permanent residence. The program was closed in 2014 but thousands of caregivers who were working in Canada were given an extended opportunity to apply for permanent residence.

As many as 6,000 more applications for permanent residence under the LCP could still be submitted, IRCC says.

In its announcement, IRCC also committed to processing 80 per cent of new, complete LCP applications submitted on or after Oct. 1, 2017, within 12 months.

As of Oct. 1, 2017, IRCC said the number of caregivers and their family members waiting for their applications to be finalized had been reduced by 63 per cent. This reduction was due in part to additional resources that IRCC dedicated to processing the backlog of applications.

IRCC says this push has it on track to finalize 5,000 more cases than it had originally forecast for 2017. In total, 20,000 new permanent residents will be welcomed to Canada this year in the caregiver category.

IRCC also said that developments could soon be announced regarding a proposal to eliminate the $1,000 Labour Market Impact Assessment fee for Canadian families looking to hire a foreign worker to care for a person with high medical needs. The fee would also be eliminated for Canadian families with an income of less than $150,000, who are looking to hire a foreign worker to provide childcare.

But not all Punjabis who turn up in Canada as caregivers remain as such, and might switch to other jobs after becoming permanent residents, said an immigration expert in Chandigarh.

 “The majority of Punjabi immigrants do not want to work at someone’s home abroad. Also, the many Punjabi families in Canada who give job offers do not want a nanny either. It has become a sort of business for many to charge money for paperwork. For others, it is a way to help relatives and friends enter Canada,” the expert, wishing not to be named, told Indian Express.

National Institute Chandigarh owner G L Kaushal said caregiver employers usually cross-check several times to ensure that the probable caregiver does the job diligently once abroad.

Students at the institutes confessed that they had tried unsuccessfully for US or Canadian visas earlier. “My family is settled in the United States. But the US turned down my visa twice citing that I was overage. There is no upper age limit for caregiver job,” said Rupinder Kaur, 26, who has come from Amritsar to the CHR institute.

A woman from Faridkot, with a B.Sc in Biotechnology, said her application for visa for Canada under the hairstylist category was rejected a few years back. She hid her B.Sc. qualification at the time of application. She is now trying again under the LCP.


Republished under arrangement with the South Asian Post.

Published in Top Stories

By: Jagdeesh Mann in Vancouver

To be the “last king” of anything means you left this world either a legend or a tragic figure. Maharajah Duleep Singh, the final monarch of the Punjab kingdom, who was forcibly separated from his family as a child, dispossessed of the Koh-i-noor diamond, converted to Christianity as a teenager, died a penniless, broken man in Paris, and is today buried in England, clearly falls into the latter category. But just as some within England’s Sikh community are seeking to exhume his remains for return to the Punjab, so are others working at rehabilitating his victim legacy. 

Veteran U.K. actor and filmmaker Kavi Raz is one of these reformers. His film, The Black Prince, is a new production on the deposed monarch, who as an 11-year-old was removed from the throne and by 15 was exiled to England after his kingdom was annexed by the British in 1849. Unlike other ‘last kings’ such as Louis XVI of France and Nicholas II of Russia, Singh was spared the guillotine and firing squad, but the impressionable boy king would live out his life cut off from his family, culture, and homeland, remaining forever hidden away, if not lost, from his people.

Raz’s biopic sets course to rescue Duleep Singh from the forgotten recesses of English and Indian history. For the writer-director and his fellow producers, The Black Prince is clearly a passion project; the period piece is scripted in a mix of English and Punjabi, showcases an international cast, and features detail-oriented sets of Victorian England. 

The film is not song-and-dance Bollywood, nor does it fall into the Punjabi-language genre which is bloated these days with slapstick comedies. Like the recent Oscar nominated Lion, The Black Prince is part of a new wave of film and television content capable of generating box office revenue domestically and internationally. In Canada, there are over one million Punjabi speaking South Asians who provide a niche target for the film.

Raz knows his target demographic well—he is originally from the Punjab region—and has crafted a story to win the hearts and minds of this audience. Unfortunately, this comes at an artistic cost, as The Black Prince seems more like a mission than a movie at times. Raz presses hard to recast Duleep Singh as a freedom fighter and a devotee of the Sikh faith, selectively omitting facts to make this case. The oversimplification of Duleep Singh’s re-initiation into the Sikh faith is one example of the film’s rolling-pin approach to the maharajah’s story (more on this pivot point below).

This heavy-handedness flattens characters throughout the movie, whether they be villainous English officers or the maharajah’s wives. Raz’s Duleep Singh is a stripped-down joyless version of an ex-sovereign, who was known to have thoroughly appreciated the velvet trappings of aristocratic life. We also see very little of a maharajah who took considerable pride in being a sportsman, playwright, and musician.

This ‘Black Prince’ who is constantly in a black mood is played by the eminent Punjabi musician Satinder Sartaaj who is forced to brood through his lines and awkward silences that ask too much of his acting skills. When he is not weighed down by a gnawing sense of displacement—the maharajah was, technically speaking, England’s first Sikh immigrant—he suffers from an identity crisis. That only intensifies when he finally reunites with his mother, Rani Jindan, superbly acted by Shabana Azmi.

These repetitive scenes of inner anguish neither advance the story nor reveal the complexity of a maharajah who, as a blue-blooded aristocrat, may have felt as much kinship with members of Europe’s ruling classes as with the average Punjabi peasant or Sikh devotee. The use of a third-person narrator would have relieved the maharajah from having to make banal political statements every other scene. Alternatively, Raz could have shot the film as a historical docu-drama interspersed with interviews to maximise his control over the narrative.

Eventually the maharajah’s contrived emotional distress culminates in a lukewarm climax when he re-converts to Sikhism during a failed passage to India—the British government denied him entry to travel to his homeland. Now near the end of his life, his unrest becomes outright rebellion as he bands with a group of Irish rebels and Russian agents and takes the helm of a quixotic, and ill-advised, plot to seize back his kingdom.

While there was likely some revolutionary fervor in the maharajah’s desire to overthrow English rule in India, it is a stretch to credit these actions solely to a pious freedom fighter, as Raz has suggested.

Historically there was also a financial motive—and a reasonably just one—behind Duleep Singh’s fall-out with his captors. Like many Victorian-era estate holders of his time, he was perpetually in debt due to a profligate lifestyle. His promised annual pension in 1860 of £40 thousand per annum ($7.7 million CAD in today’s terms) was always short-paid by half every year. While £20 thousand per year afforded him a luxurious lifestyle as single man, this amount, not indexed to the rate of inflation, became insufficient later in life as he became a father to eight children and husband to two wives.

At the time of Punjab’s annexation, the British government had also seized his family’s vast personal estates and holdings which should not have been included as state properties. Despite Singh’s ongoing campaigning to the Crown, these assets were never returned, much to his vexation.

Among Sikhs, there is a commonly held view that the modern downfall of their Punjab state actually began over 150 years ago when the kingdom created by Duleep’s father, the great Maharajah Ranjit Singh, crumbled after the Anglo-Sikh wars. A century after the golden age of the Lahore Darbar, Punjab was torn in half by Partition in 1947, and today what is left is being further shredded by rampant drug abuse, gross corruption, farmer suicides, and environmental damage.

Solutions remain elusive, but heroic accounts from the past provide hope that things can be better. 

The Black Prince covers an important story that has long required production. While this movie pays tribute to the maharajah by rescuing him from the shadow of history, it does not, however, set him free. Over a century since his death, Duleep Singh still remains a pawn—now of modern-day Punjabi and Sikh identity politics—as he once was during the Great Game of colonialism in the 19th century. 


Jagdeesh Mann is a media professional who works as the executive editor of the Asian Pacific Post. This article has been republished under arrangement with the South Asian Post.

Published in Arts & Culture

by Anita Singh in Toronto

 In 1904, there were only 40 immigrants from India living in Canada, mostly from the Punjab.  Largely based in Vancouver and surrounding areas, these pioneers came to Canada as labourers, in farms, on the railroad and in factories, creating a foundational community for South Asian immigrants in future decades – which has grown to nearly 1.4 million since the turn of the century.  

As described in a brand-new podcast called ‘The Nameless Collective,’ produced by Jugni Style, the journey towards inclusion for these communities was not always an easy or welcome one.  

The podcast describes the climate of early 20th century Canada.  Previously-settled Canadians were concerned that new immigrants, particularly those from China and India, threatened jobs, culture and a way of life.  Anti-immigrant public opinion was supported by the government, which established a “White Canada” policy, institutionalizing a preference for immigration from Europe.  On the flipside, those from China and India were subject to the Chinese head tax, the continuous journey legislation and ghettoization when arriving in Canada, spotlighted in the recent government apology for the Komagata Maru incident of 1914.  

The hosts, Milan Singh, Paneet Singh, and Naveen Girn, are a self-described team of researchers, time-travellers, detectives and hosts, who tell this history in with an entertaining impression. It unfolds the story of a community, where listeners will be introduced to personalized stories depicting the vividly personal struggles of a small, group of immigrants living and working in a land very different from where they came from. 

The timing and content of this podcast is stunning in its unshakable feeling of familiarity.  In our current political climate, racist killings in Trump’s America, a ban on Muslim immigration, a vote for Brexit in the United Kingdom, make the podcast immediately relevant and scarily contemporary. 

For example, in episode two, the podcast follows the story of two women, Harnam Kaur and Kartar Kaur, wives of prominent members of the Khalsa Diwan society in Vancouver.  In Harnam Kaur’s case, she travelled with her family to from the port of Calcutta to San Francisco enroute to Vancouver.  On reaching the United States, Kaur and her family were held in detention for two months and deported to Hong Kong.  In a second effort, Kaur, her husband and 16 others boarded a ship in Hong Kong destined for Vancouver.   

 

Yet on arrival, Harnam, her son, and the other women on the ship were once again held in detention, while the men on the ship were allowed off to their labour jobs. As discussed by the podcast hosts, the Canadian government was concerned that the arrival of Asian women would begin to settle these unwanted immigrant communities, rather than continuing to be temporary labour migrants. It was several long months of waiting and debating within government, before the women were eventually allowed onto shore.

The strength of the podcast is the willingness of the hosts to go above and beyond to present new evidence and documentation. In episode one, the team makes a huge discovery the archives of the Vancouver public library, diving into a century’s worth of microfiched phone directories.  They found that while ‘mainstream’ Canadians were listed by name and number, the phone numbers and addresses associated with immigrant communities were listed as “Hindoo” “Japanese” or “Chinese” instead of their names. As the hosts explain, “why would anyone want to know where these people lived?” By tracing these addresses, the team is able to identify neighborhoods where early communities settled in Vancouver.  The hosts also acknowledge, that despite these discoveries, they will be limited by a limited evidence based and knowledge of this early community.

Further, the podcast will also be of particular interest to those familiar with Vancouver or the lower mainland.  The hosts do an excellent job showing the connections between existing buildings and communities and key events in immigration history – like Chinatown and Japantown during the race riots, or how communities settled in the Indigenous territory of modern-day Kitsilano.

There are very few flaws in this podcast.  The largest challenge is that the hosts have tailored the podcast towards an audience that is familiar with the basic immigration story of the region.  Yet, if they want to connect with all Canadians interested in how our country became a multiethnic, multilinguistic state, the podcast would benefit with more contextual information for new learners of this history. 

There are only three episodes of the podcast, and as episodes are released (one every week), listeners can anticipate the development of a richer and richer portrait of early 20th century immigration.  With a growing audience, hopefully this podcast will not be nameless for much longer. 

The Nameless Collective podcast can be downloaded on iTunes, Google Play for Android and Stitcher.

Anita (@bisu) is a Research Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Security and Development at Dalhousie University. Her research examines the role of diaspora groups and their influence on foreign policy, particularly the Indo-Canadian community and Canada-India relations. 

Published in History
Tuesday, 01 November 2016 15:14

Chunni Project Connects Women Across the Globe

Growing up in Canada, Harman Kaur experienced first-hand the hidden angst that torments many young women in transplanted South Asian families.

“I've tried my best to keep my culture alive but as I grew up, I was surrounded by other brown people who completely rejected their culture. I don't understand why. I mean our culture, our language, our music, our religion is so beautiful,” states Harman, a Simon Fraser University student in Greater Vancouver.

She also noticed a lot of girl-on-girl hate in the Indian community and also realized that Indian girls do not have many role models to look up to and little or no representation in the media.
Tired of the Punjabi women stereotyping, Harman, whose family hails from Mohali in Punjab, decided to launch the ‘Chunni Project’ – a digital platform to empower Indian women, especially Punjabis.

The project is aimed at empowering Indian women by sharing inspiring stories and highlighting role models they can relate to.

"I saw a need for this because I believed that creating such a platform would empower Indian women. I was also very troubled by the stereotypes associated with them, and wanted to shatter these by providing stories from the source itself.

Another aim of The Chunni Project was to connect women all over the world. It has been successful in creating an online community where women from Canada, India, UK, Australia, and USA interact and empower each other."

"I started this project with the hope that I would be able to help at least one woman feel empowered, but it has clicked beyond my expectations. What started off as a blog where different women shared their stories, turned into a space of creativity!

Writers and artists started to submit any work related to Indian women, and now The Chunni Project has become a space where anyone can come and discover new and talented female Indian art ists, poets, singers or others.”

“I have received positive feedback from women who are part of the project as well as those who follow it. As there is not much Indian representation in Western media, there should be a space where one can find out how resilient and talented Indian women are," says Harman.

The name of the project is self-explanatory in a way. It symbolises Harman's objective of helping the diaspora remain in touch with their culture.

"Giving a glimpse of her growing up years, Harman says, "When I was younger, my parents made sure that I did not stray from my roots. I learned how to read and write Punjabi at a very young age, and started learning about Sikhi at the same time. These two things kept me close to my roots. I am a writer...and my writing revolves around my religion and culture. Although I have had an easy time sticking to my roots, I recognize that this may not always be the case for every woman. There are many western influences, fear of mockery, and insecurities that may prevent women from visibly showing pride in their culture. I think that being a part of an online community, such as The Chunni Project, can empower women to not be afraid or embarrassed to stick to their roots."

Harman's next step is to advance from the online platform and organize physical events to further female empowerment.

For more information on the Chunni Project go to www.instagram.com/thechunniproject.

Published in Arts & Culture
Tuesday, 24 November 2015 15:14

Politics a Natural Fit for Many Indo-Canadians

by Simran Singh in Vancouver 

Indo-Canadian representation in Canada’s new government goes beyond the cabinet ministers Prime Minister Justin Trudeau introduced to the country at his swearing-in ceremony earlier this month. 

In what he called “a cabinet that looks like Canada,” 15 of Trudeau’s 30 ministers are women, two are aboriginal, two have disabilities and four are Indo-Canadian Sikhs. 

The Indo-Canadian representation of Trudeau’s cabinet was noted around the nation and internationally. From India’s Hindustan Times to New Zealand’s Indian Weekender, global news media showcased Canada’s newly appointed Indian cabinet ministers. 

A total of 23 Indo-Canadian representatives were elected into parliament in the recent election, an astounding increase compared to the nine Indo-Canadians elected in 2011. 

Moreover, 20 of the Indo-Canadian MPs speak Punjabi, making it the third most-spoken language in Canada’s House of Commons after English and French. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Most Indo-Canadian politicians originate from the northern Indian state of Punjab, which has a rich, politically, fuelled history.[/quote]

Punjab: A political hotbed 

Although this year’s Canadian cabinet announcement appeared to draw a lot of attention to Indo-Canadians’ representation in politics, their involvement has remained steadfast in all levels of government across the nation. 

Most Indo-Canadian politicians originate from the northern Indian state of Punjab, which has a rich, politically, fuelled history. Their political inclination is embedded in their cultural background and heritage. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"[Y]ou are dealing with a group of people that never led any kind of comfortable lifestyle. They were constantly invaded."[/quote]

“The first thing you have to look at is that Indo-Canadian politicians are mostly Sikhs and [they are] a small, yet highly motivated, religious sect that developed a kind of reformation movement,” explains Shinder Purewal, a professor of political science at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey, B.C. 

Purewal adds that the geographical positioning of Punjab in India has made it a political hotbed for centuries. 

“Every invader from Alexander the Great down to the Ahmad Shah Abdali came through the Punjab,” explains Purewal. “So you are dealing with a group of people that never led any kind of comfortable lifestyle. They were constantly invaded. It moulded that spirit of trying to resist oppression and exploitation and that kind of unity created is highlighted [in the] Sikh diaspora.” 

Gradual political participation in Canada 

That sense of unity remained for Punjabis when they first settled in British Columbia in 1903. 

In 1907, the province of B.C. disenfranchised not only Punjabis, but all of the South Asian diaspora. They were not allowed to vote in federal elections or participate in politics. 

After 40 years, the voting restrictions against South Asians were lifted in 1947, but their political involvement developed slowly. 

“The numbers didn’t warrant for [Indo-Canadians] to actually be successful at either provincial levels or federal levels,” says Purewal. “But they did work for the parties mostly as volunteers and also raising funds. They were doing this from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s onward.” 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“My activism started almost right away when I came to Canada."[/quote]

Although political participation was gradual, Indo-Canadians were motivated and outspoken on many issues impacting their communities. 

Ujjal Dosanjh, the first Indo-Canadian provincial premier and a former Liberal federal cabinet minister, began his community activism by advocating for the wellbeing of B.C. farmworkers. 

Many of these workers were South Asian and Chinese immigrants, who were being underpaid and mistreated. 

Like Dosanjh, Raj Chouhan, a long-time member of legislature in B.C., explains how he was driven by advocacy for farmworkers during his early days in Canada. 

“My activism started almost right away. When I came to Canada, I saw people working in the farms – they were treated so badly,” says Chouhan. In 1980, after speaking out on the issue, he became the founding president of the Canadian Farmworkers Union. 

Inspiring the next generation 

Both Chouhan and Dosanjh point to the political culture of India as a nation playing a large role in motivating early Indo-Canadian politicians. 

“I had this sense of pride in our history and our civilization, and in the morals and values of the independence movement,” Dosanjh recalls. “There was politics all around as I was growing up.” 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“[Politics in India] is part of life, it’s like a second nature.”[/quote]

India’s democratic system is the largest in the world. It fosters a feeling of responsibility to get politically involved amongst Canada’s South Asian diaspora. 

“[Politics in India] is part of life, it’s like a second nature,” Dosanjh says. “It is a very comfortable position for [Indians] to be in when they come to Canada – to be part of the political system.” 

That political voice has grown stronger as the South Asian representation in Canada’s highest level of government serves as inspiration for the next generation of young Indo-Canadians. 

But Dosanjh highlights that no matter who you are, politics is about believing in yourself and your values. 

“You don’t do it for glory. I did it because I believed in it […] Winning or losing isn’t the issue. In the end you have to look at yourself in the mirror and see if you have been true to yourself,” he says. 

“I would say to young people, if you believe Canada can be a better place, and you want to make it better, go into politics.”

{module NCM Blurb}

Published in Politics
Friday, 22 August 2014 04:00

NCM NewsBriefs: launch edition

by Maria Assaf (@MariaAssaf) in Toronto


Punjab teachers graduate from training program

Fifty teachers from the Indian state of Punjab who came to Canada for a teaching development program at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) picked up their diplomas today and are getting ready to return to India.

The teachers, who were carefully selected from public schools, spent four weeks in Toronto taking courses at OISE designed to give them tools to improve the educational system back home.

For many of these teachers, the experience was unique in their lives. 

“This is the first overseas program we are coming to,” says Nutan Sharma, an English teacher of grades 11 and 12 in India. “We like Canada very much. We have learned so many new strategies to teach. Critical thinking and community learning. And the people were very nice, very nice and cooperative to us. We liked it,” she says.

The program also promoted collaboration in teaching methods between India and Canada, offering lessons for each side to make teaching more effective.

“It was really four weeks of sharing our knowledge on how we do things,” says Elizabeth Coulson, program organizer and internship coordinator at OISE. “Just as businesses are globalizing, education is also globalizing in many ways,” she says.

While Canada provided training in classroom technologies and critical thinking exercises for students, Indian teachers shared their expertise in language and grammar teaching, says Coulson.

“The kind of technology these Canadian schools and universities use are really state of the art and these were something novel for us,” says Rajiv Kumar Makkar, a political science teacher from India.

One of the main problems Indian education is facing is not having enough funding from the government to be able to use technologies such as projectors in every classroom, says Makkar.

He adds that one of the main differences between the Canadian and the Indian system of teaching is the number of students per classroom and the degree of teacher participation. In a lot of public schools in India, classes can have 100 students, while in Canada, the average class size is 35 students. 

Doctor doesn’t lose hope

Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, the Palestinian doctor in Toronto who is trying to bring 100 children from Gaza to be treated at Ontario hospitals, is heading to Gaza tonight, while he still waits for the government to respond to petitions to reconsider refusing his initiative.

“I feel these children are my children. I feel sad, I feel outraged. I want everyone to look in the eyes of these children and to see them as if they are theirs. If you have a child suffering, would you like others to help? We need to think of these children as ours.”

He and his supporters have sent letters to members of the Canadian government including Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Chris Alexander, petitioning for bringing these children. He has also met with the leaders of other parties including Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau, as well as with representatives from the Green Party.  But, so far, he has received no reply at all from the federal government.

“People are waiting just to act. The public, the community, the people from everywhere, throughout all of Canada, who were writing me hundreds of emails asking me what can we do, we are ready to open our houses and to host these children when they come. We want to cure them, to help them and [for them] to leave Canada with a smile on their face. We are not planning for these children to stay here. They have their country, they have to go there. But we want them to leave functioning well, happily and healthy,” says Dr. Abuelaish.

 “Where is our humanity? We need to save lives and these are children I am talking about. Children.  Children who are the life, who are the future, who are the hope. These children will be disabled and most of them, they lost their loved ones. We need them to be independent, to run a normal life. We can make a difference,” he says.

But without the government’s approval, these children will not get the help they need. “At the end of the day, these children they need visas,” says Dr. Abuelaish.

If his initiative fails, he says, “I will feel sad, I will feel in pain. I will feel angry about it. But I tried, I tried my best.”

Dr. Abuelaish saw three of his daughters getting killed by an Israeli shell that fell on his home. He is a promoter of peaceful discourse and has been nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Writing to inspire

Nick Noorani, managing partner of “Prepare for Canada” is embarking on yet another community enterpise. His “What’s Your Secret” contest is awarding $1000 every month from March to November 2014 to an immigrant who shares their success story.

The best stories and those with the most votes will win the cash prize.

“All they have to do is write a story and get their friends on Facebook to vote for them. Now it’s not necessarily that the person with the most votes will win, but the quality of the story is very important,” says Noorani. 

He is also the author of a seminar titled 7 Success Secrets for Canadian Immigrants. “This year, what we decided was to turn the focus and talk to immigrants and ask: what is it that helped them? They can write their own stories, they can use the points of 7 Success Secrets or they can come up with their own points. I want to hear from immigrants,” he says. 

The founding publisher of Canadian Immigrant magazine thinks there needs to be more success immigrant stories in the media. “I need to know that there is hope. You know it’s so hard when you come to Canada as an immigrant.”

There have been two winners so far, the first one was Nonita Mole (pictured), originally from the Philippines and now living in Winnipeg. 

He also talks about the challenges immigrant professionals face when trying to make it in their field in Canada. “The number one problem, of course, we all know is the problem of credential recognition. But it’s beyond that,” he says. “There’s a work culture, you know. In Canada, you’re expected to work independently. In a lot of other countries, including India, I know for a fact, you are working very closely with a boss who monitors your movement from one place to the other.”

Other problems, he says, includes a lack of “soft skills” that immigrants from some countries face. “In Canada, doing presentations in public, making presentations is very important,” says Noorani.

“Immigrants are coming from parts of the world where technical skills are being taught rather than soft skills. So these are challenges. This is part of this journey.”

{module NCM Blurb}

Published in News

by Shruti Prakash -Joshi in Vancouver

When the worlds largest democracy is in the midst of choosing its next government, it is only natural that the the worlds largest cluster of Indians outside India are on tenterhooks. 

Canadians of Indian origin tend to follow the tumultuous political goings-on in their country of origin. The fact that most of them dont have the right to vote in Indian elections is hardly something that distracts them from voicing their opinion on how and who should run the country.

For the last month and more, the drawn-out Indian elections have become a hot topic for discussion. Whether it is at house parties or on open-line South Asian talk shows, at parks or even at work, Indian politics seem to have captured the imagination of not only the Indian diaspora, but South Asians in general.

The most interesting comments and debates are, of course, on open-line talk shows where we, the emotional people,have so much to say that hosts have a hard time switching from one caller to the other.

Interestingly, the participation by women in these talk shows is poor, although in India, women voters are being hailed as a major deciding factor in the polls this year. The Indian Election Commission had made great efforts to woo women voters through its ‘Power of 49 campaign (women make 49 per cent of registered voters in India), but not here in British Columbia, where political conversation in the public sphere remains a largely male bastion.

The contenders

The comments come in fast and furious: Narendra Modi (the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, BJPs prime ministerial candidate) is communal, Congress (the ruling party) is corrupt and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP, a new party, translated loosely as the Party of the Ordinary Man) is like a breath of fresh air, but perhaps doesn't have the experience ... they go on and on breathlessly.

So much so that a protest rally was recently organized in Surreys Holland park to condemn yoga guru Baba Ramdev, who reportedly made insulting remarks about dalit (a class of people considered lower-caste) women, in India. A motley group of people at the park raised slogans against the yoga guru and called for the authorities in India to immediately arrest him.

Kuldip Grewal is a self-employed person of Indian origin who follows the elections quite closely. He listens to radio talk shows and has often engaged in discussions with friends, mainly because he feels an emotional connection to his country of origin. "We might not really know the ground realities as they exist in India, but sitting so far away we wish the best for our country. All we have heard in the last five to seven years are reports of scams and corruption and it saddens us. And, therefore, when a new party such as the Aam Aadmi Party comes forward promising to clean the system I see it as a welcome change. Whether they win or not is a million dollar question, but we want the best for India," said Grewal.

Passionate for change

Equally passionate to see a change in India's leadership is Vishwanath Dhiri, an accountant in Surrey. But he sees the BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi as the only leader who is capable of leading this change.

"AAP's objectives might be laudable, but they have no experience in governance and it's too early for them to actually govern a diverse country like India," said Dhiri.

Talking about Modi's oft-alleged communal bent of mind, he said that it is merely a mistaken perception and blamed it largely on social and other media which, he said, is often prejudiced and biased.   "If you repeat a lie constantly it tends to become the truth in people's mind. The Godhra (the 2002 riots in Gujarat in which a large number of Muslims died under Modi's watch) riots should have never happened, but then after 2002, Gujarat has progressed by leaps and bounds. You can't judge a person by just one incident; the benefit of the doubt has to be given to him," he said. According to Dhiri, the Congress party, fearing a massive defeat, is desperate and therefore is fear-mongering. "I think Modi has proved himself in Gujarat. He has proved that he is business friendly and will take India forward undoubtedly," said Dhiri.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"I think Modi has proved himself in Gujarat. He has proved that he is business friendly and will undoubtedly take India forward."[/quote]

Two extremes

Professor of political science at the University of British Columbia (UBC), Anjali Thomas Bohlken, who takes a particular interest in India, agrees that the 2014 Lok Sabha (lower house in Parliament) elections in India have become particularly interesting because of the choices that are being presented before the people. "On the one hand  you have the BJP which is seeing an unprecedented surge, and on the other hand is the beleaguered Congress Party desperately trying to shed its image of being a corrupt, dynastic party. In between these two extremes is the newly minted Aam Aadmi Party, which is proving to be a massive vote spoiler," she said.

According to her, these  elections have become overly polarized because of the campaign tactics being used, especially playing the communal  card. "It has been seen that both BJP and Congress have played the card to their advantage many a times previously. In these elections, emotions are being flared and both the parties are trying to either use the secularism card or the dynastic rule card,"  she said.

This is something that Dr. Jasbir Singh Romana, a popular talk show host, hears regularly. He has been featuring the elections, with a particular focus on the state of Punjab (from where most Indo-Canadians in B.C. hail), for the last month and has invited journalists, opinion leaders, candidates and ordinary people from Punjab and other cities in India to speak on his show. 

According to him, the anti-incumbency factor is huge. "People certainly want a change and they are pinning their hopes on the AAP, perhaps sometimes without realizing that AAP has a limited presence and can't form the government. But for them a change is crucial at this time," said Romana.

Interestingly, so excited are people to bring about change that, according to Romana, a large number of people have actually travelled to India, sent monetary assistance and are frantically making calls to their family members, to influence the vote. "We are all emotionally connected to our country (of origin). What happens there effects us," he said.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"We are all emotionally connected to our country (of origin). What happens there effects us."[/quote]

Similarly, Harjinder Thind, another popular talk show host on Red 93.1 FM, also said that immigrants cannot break their ties with India so easily. "Whether it is through property, parents or family, they will always be connected and discussing what happens there, thrashing out solutions, even though they know that these might not bring about direct change, (but) gives them satisfaction that they have contributed in some way," he said.  

He said these elections are particularly very polarized because the BJP and its leader, Narendra Modi, are viewed with suspicion by the large Sikh community here. They are worried that if he becomes the prime minister, minorities will be persecuted in India and this perception is mainly through what they see and hear in the media,said Thind. The people here, having experienced the Congress, are worried about the BJP and now are pinning their hopes on the Aam Aadmi Party, which according to them, will change the way politics is played out in India.

And thus it will go on -- discussions, comments, heated debates -- until the results come in on May 16. 

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Published in Top Stories
Thursday, 14 February 2013 00:53

The Third Opinion: Independentistes elsewhere

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is on the record as saying that the Canadian government acted against its own political interests by listing the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) as a terrorist group in 2006.

Kenney said this at a special briefing limited to Tamil-Canadian media in Toronto last month (watch YouTube video below) when asked about his reaction to Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Gamini Lakshman Peiris’ accusations that Canada’s approach to human rights in his country is biased and unbalanced.

“My answer is what I told him (the Sri Lankan foreign minister). The current Canadian government acted against its own domestic political interests by adding the LTTE to the list of prescribed terrorist organizations in 2006,” said Kenney. “They’ve been accusing us of somehow responding just to domestic political pressure, and being indifferent to the Tigers. I say this is exactly wrong.”

Kenny’s office later explained that his remarks highlighted the government’s “principled opposition to terrorism, and support for human rights and the rule of law.” But what was perhaps left unsaid is that the Canadian government believes that most Sri Lankan Tamils in this country are sympathetic towards a “terrorist” organization. How else does the “terrorist” label fly against the government’s domestic political interests? That is an unfortunate insinuation.  

iPolitics.ca reported Canadian Tamil Congress national spokesman David Poopalapillai as saying, “I don’t know what he meant. It was a little confusing.” Despite his confusion regarding Kenney’s comments about the listing of the LTTE as a terrorist organization, Poopalapillai said the Canadian Tamil Congress welcomed Kenney’s toughness on the Sri Lankan government and supports Canada’s threat to boycott the Commonwealth meeting.

The government’s contention that domestic political calculations do not come in the way of foreign policy is hard to square with its stand on Sikh separatist activity in Canada and its total silence on the mysterious activities of a Muhammad Tahir-ul Qadri, a Muslim preacher from Toronto, in Pakistan, who created a political storm in that country by calling for the removal of a democratically-elected government. There does seem to be at least some daylight.

On his recent visit to India, Prime Minister Stephen Harper rejected the host government’s suggestion that Ottawa needs to do more about Sikh separatist activity. Harper said that that merely advocating for a separate Khalistan homeland in the Punjab is not a crime. “It may be a political position that both the government of Canada and the government of India disagree with,” the Prime Minister said in the southern Indian city of Bangalore. “We can’t interfere with the right of political freedom of expression.”

That is a tenuous line to walk. The link between the demand for Khalistan in India and this country came home to roost when a whole planeload of Canadians was bombed out of the sky in 1985. Even this week, a radio producer in British Columbia, Maninder Gill, is in the news because he claims the weapons charges against him stem from the politics around the Khalistan movement. Gill received a Queen’s Jubilee Medal from his local MP, Jinny Sims. One also remembers the attacks on Tara Singh Hayer, the only journalist ever assassinated in Canada, for writing critically against Khalistan extremists and agreeing to be a witness in the Air India bombing case. The brutal attack on former federal minister and B.C. premier Ujjal Dosanjh for vehemently opposing the separatist movement is yet another example.

It is hard to gauge support for either the Tamil Eelam or the Punjab Khalistan cause because the campaigners tend to be more vocal and better organized. It is, therefore, dangerous to tar a whole diaspora with the same brush. Instead, the government should crack down uniformly on all fund-raising and separatist activities targeted at foreign nations. We know only too well the cost of fighting a sovereigntist movement in Quebec. To the extent that Canada contributes to their discomfort, we should do everything we can to spare the global South these distractions. 

- New Canadian Media

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Published in Commentary

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