by Sukaina Jaffer in Brampton, Ontario 

Despite an increase in outreach efforts, some members of Brampton’s ethnic media still feel disconnected from the City. 

“There is a broken link between the City of Brampton and ethnic media,” says Jagdish Grewal, the editor and publisher of the Canadian Punjabi Post, a daily newspaper that has been published in Brampton for the past 14 years.

This is despite a case study released late last year by Ryerson University’s April Lindgren titled “Municipal Communication Strategies and Ethnic Media: A Settlement Service in Disguise”, which suggests that the City of Brampton has made wide strides in reaching out to its ethnic communities.

Following a 2007 study that deemed the City of Brampton unresponsive to the needs of its immigrant community, Lindgren says the City expanded its ethnic media strategy to fund the translation of press releases, corporate communications materials, and pertinent advertising messages among other initiatives. To date, the City of Brampton’s website shows press releases translated from English into French, Portuguese, Punjabi and Urdu.   

But Grewal says that the press releases and service updates in Punjabi, which he receives from the City via e-mail, are not effective. 

“The translated news sent out is not helpful,” Grewal explains. “The City is spending a lot of money on translation, which is not worth it as I have to rewrite the releases. This does not make sense to me.” 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Leaders of ethnic media outlets are educated enough to translate English press releases into their own language."[/quote]

He adds: “Leaders of ethnic media outlets are educated enough to translate English press releases into their own language. My reporters are capable of writing news in English and Punjabi.” 

If he could publish the translated press release as is, he would use it, but he points out, “Translation does not work like that.” He has to rewrite many of the press releases from the City into suitable news content for his paper. 

A need for more authentic relationships 

Grewal also mentions that in previous years, city council and the mayor had closer relationships with ethnic media outlets and held personal meetings with them, but now he does not find them as media friendly. 

He recommends that the City build better relationships with ethnic media groups by keeping them updated on municipal issues through meetings and press conferences. This would lead to more coverage of city events, Grewal explains. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"Punjabi-speaking people are more aware about policy changes in the city because of coverage by ethnic media outlets.”[/quote]

“Our readers are interested and want to know what’s happening in the city. Punjabi-speaking people are more aware about policy changes in the city because of coverage by ethnic media outlets.” 

Rakesh Tiwari, editor of the Hindi Times newspaper, agrees with Grewal. 

“I do not see any difference made by the City of Brampton,” says Tiwari, who has been with the newspaper for the past 12 years“The local library and hospital approach me and send me messages in English,” he says, but adds that the City does not send him updates frequently. 

“They need to connect better with the ethnic media,” asserts Tiwari, who also runs Atna Radio, a show on 101.3FM where local, national and political topics are discussed in Hindi. 

He adds that if the City would keep in better touch with him, he could cover more city-related news and talk to the appropriate people. 

“There is no support from them,” he says. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“In terms of bringing the community together, the City of Brampton has done a lot.”[/quote]

Some positive change happening: residents 

While the ethnic media may not be benefiting from the City of Brampton’s efforts, area residents do see improvements being made to reach the ethnic community. 

Rabab Kassam, a pharmacist who has been living in Brampton for four years since migrating from Kenya to Canada, finds that the City’s money has been well spent on ethnic outreach. 

“In terms of bringing the community together, the City of Brampton has done a lot,” she says, “They are encouraging people from different cultures to adapt to a better life here.” 

She mentions that the library near her house offers English language classes for newcomers as well as computer classes in Punjabi since Brampton has a large population of Punjabis from India. 

She has also noticed information posted on bus stops and inside buses in different languages with messages related to housing. 

“[The City of Brampton] is making a good investment so elders can participate in society,” says Kassam. “It’s a different language for elders, so if they can learn computers in their language then at least they can learn how to do banking from their homes and not have to go out in the winter.” 

June Dickenson, manager of marketing and communications at the Brampton Public Library, says that her branch provides a lot of free multicultural services to the public. 

These include English conversation clubs, a Punjabi writers’ club and a Hindi writers’ guild. In addition, they also have computer classes for Punjabi, Hindi and Urdu speakers. Community members can register for these opportunities through the City of Brampton. 

“Our computer classes are extremely popular,” says Dickenson. “They fill up quickly. There is more demand than space.”

Editor's Note: Efforts were made to receive comment from the City of Brampton, but response was not provided by deadline.

Journalist Priya Ramanujam mentored the author of this article through New Canadian Media’s mentoring program.

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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.”

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Published in Politics
Thursday, 05 November 2015 16:54

Attack Ads in Ethnic Papers ‘Insulting’

by Robin Brown in Toronto

The post-mortem of the federal election is ongoing and until it is complete we will not know the full dynamics behind the results. But one view that is emerging is that the Liberals outperformed the Conservatives in winning the hotly contested “ethnic vote”. Or at least winning back enough of it.

Looking at results from ridings with high proportions of immigrant and visible minority populations, especially in suburban Toronto and Vancouver, this seems to be the case. So what did they do to achieve this?

The ethnic media bandwagon

The first thing is that they woke up to one of the tactics that the Conservatives have successfully employed in recent years – engaging the ethnic media.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Stephen Harper has always been generous with the ethnic media.[/quote]

Stephen Harper, who has been accused of not being accessible to the mainstream media, has always been generous with the ethnic media.

This relationship was symbiotic. It helped the Conservatives focus on a key segment of the population. In turn, the ethnic media were grateful for easier access.

While the Conservatives maintained this strategy during this past election, they were not alone. The Liberals had been taking notes, and Justin Trudeau was made equally available, if not more so. This was crucial in connecting the Liberals with ethnic communities.

The messages that backfired

Individual campaigns may have employed specific multicultural communication strategies at the riding level, but the parties did not do so to any major extent at a national level.

The only example that was widely covered in the mainstream media was the Conservatives attempts to leverage social hot buttons and associate Trudeau with marijuana and prostitution.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“It’s like they think we’re stupid.”[/quote]

Along with statements from Jason Kenney, the Conservatives delivered those messages via Punjabi and Chinese language flyers and newspaper advertisements.

This attempt was widely seen as backfiring and indicative of a misreading of Chinese and South Asian voters and their concerns. Many of those voters were well aware of the fact their communities had been singled out for these messages.

As one of my Chinese friends said, “It’s like they think we’re stupid.” 

Myths about the ‘ethnic vote’

Ironically the misreading could be a result of past successes. Conservative success with the “ethnic vote” in 2011 is well documented and may have created comforting myths.

For example, The Big Shift by Darrell Bricker and John Ibbitson painted a picture of a Conservative dynasty supported by immigrants who were focused on economic, security and law and order issues and not concerned with issues such as “community supports, the environment and international engagement.” 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][M]yths lulled the [Conservative] party into believing that the “ethnic vote” was immune to the messages of the Liberals and NDP.[/quote]

These myths lulled the party into believing that the “ethnic vote” was immune to the messages of the Liberals and NDP.

However, the results of this election showed that this was clearly not the case. The messages that the Liberals successfully pushed out to the Canadian public were reaching and resonating with “ethnic voters”.

Overall it seems the “ethnic vote” was influenced by the same factors as the general Canadian vote.

One finding that may emerge from the post-mortem is that when the Canadian vote swings right so does the “ethnic vote”. When the vote swings left so does the “ethnic vote”. Maybe we will learn that the “ethnic vote” is now not quite as distinct from the “mainstream vote” as was assumed in the past.

Robin Brown is the co-author of Migration Nation: A Practical Guide to Doing Business in Globalized Canada.

New Canadian Media welcomes other perspectives on the topic of advertising targeted at immigrant communities during the 2015 federal election. Write to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if interested.

Published in Commentary
Thursday, 05 November 2015 12:13

A Cabinet that Looks Like Canada

by Ranjit Bhaskar in Toronto 

Diversity of all kinds was pivotal for Justin Trudeau in the recent election, and on Wednesday, the 23rd Prime Minister of Canada kept one of his main campaign promises. 

We now have a cabinet that looks like the rest of Canada. Diverse and gender balanced “because it’s 2015” as Trudeau put it.

That didn’t stop him from springing some surprises on the immigration and visible minority files. 

The appointment of John McCallum as minister for immigration, refugees and citizenship is likely to have surprised pundits. 

McCallum, who was the Liberal critic for the same portfolio while in the opposition and a veteran minister in previous Liberal cabinets, was seen as too obvious a choice likely to be overlooked in the quest for fresh blood. 

It looks like the strength of his experience prevailed. McCallum, who told New Canadian Media during the campaign that he would like to see “immigrants being welcomed with a smile instead of a scowl,” now has the daunting task of bringing in 25,000 Syrian refugees by year-end and the long-term mission of revamping the family reunification program. 

There was no surprise in the selection of Navdeep Bains, a long-time Trudeau friend and adviser. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Fittingly, it was Bains who told us that “diversity would be a given in the Trudeau cabinet” because it was an organic part of the larger Liberal team.[/quote]

His important portfolio of innovation, science and economic development is a welcome departure from the previous cabinets where minority ministers only had token presence. 

Fittingly, it was Bains who told us that “diversity would be a given in the Trudeau cabinet” because it was an organic part of the larger Liberal team. 

An accountant and financial analyst and visiting professor at Ryerson University in Toronto, he was an MP from 2004-2011 and served as parliamentary secretary to the PM and a Liberal critic for various portfolios. 

Harjit Sajjan, as Minister of National Defence, was again not a surprise. His appointment marks yet another case of a minority MP getting an important position. Sajjan was the first Sikh to command a Canadian army regiment. A decorated Afghanistan veteran, he also served with the Vancouver police gang crime unit. 

Sajjan is a member of Trudeau’s economic team announced during the campaign and was seen with him at various stops across the country. As reported earlier, this team has proven to be a precursor of the newly appointed cabinet, with many of its members figuring in it. 

More surprises 

The next three minority ministers came as a surprise. 

Amarjeet Sohi, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, has a backstory like no one else’s. 

A three-term Edmonton city councillor, Sohi was a former bus driver. He was also wrongfully imprisoned, without charge, as a terrorist in India. He has gone on and won various awards for his efforts to promote cooperation among cultural groups. 

While Sohi was at least on some speculative lists of likely ministers, Bardish Chagger, the Minister of Small Business and Tourism was on nobody’s list. 

Chagger is a long-time Liberal worker from the time she was a teen and has volunteered for community organizations for the past two decades. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Maryam Monsef is now not only the first Afghan-born MP, but also the first from her ethnicity and the first Muslim to become a minister.[/quote]

She also breaks the usual mould of “ethnic” MPs getting elected from ridings with large minority populations. She was elected from Waterloo-Kitchener, Ontario where not many look like her  family who emigrated from India. 

Like Chagger, Maryam Monsef, the Minister of Democratic Institutions, also broke new ground by getting elected from Peterborough-Kawartha, Ontario where not many share her heritage. 

Monsef is now not only the first Afghan-born MP, but also the first from her ethnicity and the first Muslim to become a minister. She came to Canada with her single-mother led family as a refugee 20 years ago and went on to co-found a campaign to raise money for women and girls in Afghanistan. 

It must be mentioned that Monsef is the only visible minority minister who is not a Sikh and doesn’t speak Punjabi, now the third most spoken language among the new set of MPs. [Twenty of them speak the language and appropriately, according to Statistics Canada, it is the third most common tongue in Canada after English and French.] 

Empowered women

The absence of tokenism in the cabinet also extends to the gender diversity file. 

Among the women, many have large portfolios. Jody Wilson-Raybould is the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Chrystia Freeland gets international trade, Catherine McKenna is the minister of the now-renamed Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, and Dr. Jane Philpott gets health. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]All these women are there not merely because of their gender, but for being high achievers.[/quote]

In addition, Carla Qualtrough, a visually impaired Paralympian, is Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities; Kirsty Duncan, a medical geographer, is Minister of Science; Dr. Carolyn Bennett, is in charge of Indigenous and Northern Affairs; and Patty Hajdu will look after the status of women portfolio. 

All these women are there not merely because of their gender, but for being high achievers. And, this being Canada, there is again diversity among them.  

Wilson-Raybould is from among the eight Liberal Indigenous MPs, a record in itself. She along with Hunter Tootoo, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, unlike in previous federal cabinets, did not get pigeonholed into ministries presumed to be natural fits. 

Like a commentator said on CBC, minority and Indigenous ministers have now been “mainstreamed,” while a mainstream minister like Dr. Bennett is in charge of indigenous affairs. 

All of these ministers are also members of various cabinet committees and now have a chance to bring their diverse voices to the highest decision-making table of the land. 

And the calibre of the ministers selected will lay to rest the claim that diversity and merit cannot go together. It no longer is a case of window dressing to meet a certain diversity quotient. 

To borrow from an infamous line in a Conservative attack advertisement against Trudeau, “the cabinet got to balance itself.”

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Published in Top Stories

by Anita Singh in Toronto

During an election, ethnic media is a double-edged sword. 

On one hand, they provide an outlet for parties to target their messaging towards immigrant groups. 

Recognizing the interests and issues that affect Canada’s largest minority groups, political parties can develop policies and ideas that relate to a specific community and have them translated into Punjabi, Chinese, Tagalog or Vietnamese. 

But herein lies the second edge of the sword.  

In a day and age where all media can become mainstream, ethnic media has changed the landscape for what parties say and how they say it in these mediums. 

While in mainstream media this campaign, parties have kept a tight lid on their messaging, barriers such as language limitations have resulted in less effective message management in ethnic media.    

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][P]arties have had a difficult time keeping track of the messages proliferating from candidates and supporters in [ethnic media].[/quote]

Thus, parties have had a difficult time keeping track of the messages proliferating from candidates and supporters in this medium. 

This lack of oversight from the party is likely one reason why former-Conservative candidate for Mississauga-Malton, Punjabi Post editor Jagdish Grewal felt comfortable using his paper as an outlet for his comments that fell outside the careful Conservative messaging on homosexuality.   

Grewal was removed from the Conservative slate shortly after a statement he made in an article in the Punjabi Post asking, “Is it wrong for a homosexual to become a normal person?” went public. 

While instances like the Grewal issue has been limited, there is evidence that the Conservative party deliberately uses ethnic media in a way that has similar undertones. 

This past week, the Conservative party struck out again with ethnic media, defending an attack ad they released about Justin Trudeau in Chinese and Punjabi media. 

In this series of ads in a Chinese-language newspaper the Conservatives allege that Trudeau would legalize brothels and drugs in Canada. Yet, in this case, instead of a retraction, Prime Minister Harper defended the decision to run the ad. 

These two examples show how complex the role of ethnic media has become in electoral politics. 

The good, the bad and the ugly

The good 

The main benefit of ethnic media during election campaigns is their democratizing effect. They continue to make elections accessible to people who would normally not be involved or have an opportunity to learn about politics. It is this access to information that allows communities to have discussions, rallies, and debates about the political issues of the day.

The bad

Particularly when it comes to the Conservatives this week, the politics around ethnic media during election campaigns has become manipulative at best and nefarious at worst, taking unfair advantage of those that, for language or accessibility reasons, cannot tap into alternative sources of elections information. 

These stories and advertisements in ethnic media will only be entertained by certain sections of the community. Second and third generation immigrants, who may rely more on mainstream media outlets or are less interested in news translated into their mother tongues are not the main audience of ethnic media. 

Often the target is those that are more comfortable in mother tongues and those connected to their ethnic communities that engage with this media. And language barriers limit who can legitimately access the news in ethnic papers. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][T]he Conservative party has hidden behind the limited readership of these media outlets.[/quote]

The ugly 

The lack of oversight and public accountability has allowed parties to think that they can do anything with ethnic media. 

To suggest that a Liberal government would open brothels “on every street corner in Canada” borders on libelous. 

Yet, the Conservative party has hidden behind the limited readership of these media outlets, becoming less democratic in the long run by identifying a platform position of the Liberals that they had not articulated.   

This differs from issues the niqab controversy, because niqab messaging was consistent from the Conservative party across both mainstream and ethnic media.  

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Democratizing ethnic media is an important function of social media.[/quote]

Recent attack ads targeted the social conservative elements of ethnic communities in Richmond and South Vancouver in B.C., and Richmond Hill and Markham in Ontario. However, this appeal to conservative sentiments was based in fallacy, rather than legitimate party platforms or positions. 

In this way, the Conservative’s attack ads were insulting to the communities they target. In an interview to the CBC, Rattan Mall, editor of the Indo-Canadian Voice newspaper, said “It is quite insulting to the community that the Conservative party might think that people can be manipulated.” 

‘We cannot trust everything we read’ 

Just like with any media outlet, audiences of ethnic media must push these outlets to adhere to a standard for reporting, which includes the type of ads they accept from political parties. 

Individuals should be encouraged to engage with various news media, even if they are all ethnic media sources, to get a varied and nuanced view of the political messages targeting the community.

Also, wherever possible readers should use social media to call attention to unethical reporting standards. Democratizing ethnic media is an important function of social media as it allows the mainstream to be made aware of the misinformation perpetuated by the parties through ethnic media. 

Finally, Canadians have to use good judgment to make up our minds. As shown in the final days of this election, the sad truth is that we cannot trust everything we read.

Anita Singh is a founding partner of Tahlan, Jorden & Singh Consulting Group and a Research Fellow at the Centre for Foreign Policy Studies 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.

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Published in Commentary

by Ranjit Bhaskar in Toronto

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by Naval Bajaj on Thursday, October 1, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published in Politics

As the federal election campaign goes into high gear, a distinct Punjabi flavour is permeating Canadian politics with some 40 Punjab-origin men and women in the fray for office on Parliament Hill.

All three main political parties in Canada—the Conservatives, the Liberals and the New Democratic Party have put up Punjab-origin people, mostly Sikhs as their candidates, mainly in Brahmpton, Surrey, Calgary and Edmonton.

“There is a lot of Punjabi tadka in the Canadian elections. However, there is lot of difference in the style of campaigning in Canada and India,” said a Punjabi politician in the election fray, according to the Tribune, one of India’s biggest media houses, which is keeping a close eye on the elections.

Punjabi candidates could be 'make or break' for parties

Latest polls show that Canada's federal election on Oct 19 is too close to call, with a virtual three-way tie a little more than a month before voters cast their ballots.

The three parties are in a statistical dead heat, according to a survey by the Ekos polling firm, which showed the New Democrats hanging onto an insignificant lead with 30.2 per cent voter support -- well within the margin of error.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]In several ridings it's Sikh versus Sikh.[/quote]

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Tories, meanwhile, had 29.5 per cent support, and the Liberals polled 27.7 per cent in the survey of some 3,243 Canadian voters.

The sampling error for the August 26 to September 1 survey was 1.7 per cent. Given the tight race, the Punjabi-origin candidates with their ethnic support could make or break a party, political analysts said.

Going up against each other

In several ridings it's Sikh versus Sikh.

One of the prominent faces in the poll fray is Bal Gosal, a minister who is contesting as a candidate of the Conservatives Party from the Brampton Centre constituency. The Liberals have put up Rameshwar Sangha against him.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The hottest electoral battle among Punjabis is said to be in the Surrey Newton constituency.[/quote]

Another minister, Tim Uppal, is contesting from Edmonton Millwoods. The Liberals have put up Amarjeet Kohli to oppose him.

The hottest electoral battle among Punjabis is said to be in the Surrey Newton constituency where Sukh Dhaliwal of the Liberals, Harpreet Singh of the Conservatives and sitting MP Jinny Sims of the NDP are in the fray.

The NDP has put up Harbaljit Kahlon form Brampton East, Martin Singh from Brampton North and Amarjit Singh from Brampton South constituencies. It also has put up Sahajvir Singh Randhawa from Calgary Skyview, Jasbir Deol from Edmonton Millwoods, Bill Sundhu from Kamploop, Jasbir Sandhu from Surrey Centre, Amardeep Nijjar from Vancouver South.

The Liberals have put up Harjit Sajjan in Vancouver South, Raj Grewal from Brampton East, Sonia Sidhu form Brampton South, Kamal Khera from Brampton and Raj Saini from Kltchender Centre. Navdeep Bains is its candidate from Mississauga Malton. The other candidates put up by the Liberals include Jagdeesh Grewal, Darshan Kang, Joti Sidhu, Sukh Dhaliwal, Anju Dhillon and Gagan Sikand.

The candidates put up by the Conservatives include Nina Grewal, Harpreet Singh, Sucha Thind, Devinder Shory, Deepak Oberai, Jagdish Grewal and Ravinder Malhi.

"Ethnic vote" not to be taken for granted

Canada’s history of large immigrant inflows combined with a high naturalization rate (citizenship acquisition) has made it an electoral imperative to court – not dismiss – the “ethnic vote.”, said Michael Adams, president of the Environics Institute and Andrew Griffith, a former director-general of Citizenship and Multiculturalism.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]In the 2011 federal election, voters sent 42 foreign-born citizens to represent them as MPs in Ottawa.[/quote]

No party has a monopoly on immigrants, new or long-settled, and none can take for granted the support of any ethnocultural or religious minority group, they said in a recently published article in the Globe and Mail.

In the 2011 federal election, voters sent 42 foreign-born citizens to represent them as MPs in Ottawa. That’s about 13 per cent of the then-308-member House of Commons. That proportion falls short of parity with our foreign-born population (20 per cent of us are foreign-born), but it comes quite close to matching the proportion of us who are foreign-born and Canadian citizens: 16 per cent.

Remarkably, the immigrants who were elected to Canada’s Parliament in 2011 had not only become citizens, gotten themselves nominated and then won election – but they represented all five main political parties: 18 Conservatives (of 166 elected), 18 New Democrats (of 103), four Liberals (of 34), and one each in the Bloc Québécois (of four) and the Green Party (of one). The Green Party is 100-per-cent foreign-born: Elizabeth May is from Hartford, Conn. The Bloc is dedicated to dismantling the country but managed to be inclusive of the foreign-born. Only in Canada.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][T]here’s every reason to expect that one day soon a person of non-European origin will be our prime minister.[/quote]

Another “only in Canada” fact is that our most right-wing party, the Conservatives, attracts a substantial contingent of candidates born abroad. 

The high proportion of foreign-born MPs suggests a willingness to elect people not born in Canada – but are Canada’s immigrant MPs all from countries like Britain and France, of which the dominant ethnocultural and religious groups mirror Canada’s? No. Canada’s foreign-born MPs came from everywhere: 15 from Europe, 11 from Asia, 11 from the Americas and five from Africa.

Oct. 19 and beyond

Looking ahead to our date with electoral destiny on Oct. 19, which ridings are likely to have interesting ethnocultural dynamics? Out of Canada’s 338 ridings (under the new boundaries), 15 have populations that are more than 70-per-cent visible minority. Ten of these are in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), five in Greater Vancouver.

These ridings are mostly defined by Chinese and South Asian populations (mainly people from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka); one, York West in Toronto, has 22 per cent who self-identify as black. Interestingly, only four have a majority of one ethnic group: Brampton East in the GTA and Surrey-Newton in Greater Vancouver have 60- and 59-per-cent South Asian residents, respectively.

Markham-Unionville in the GTA and Richmond Centre in Greater Vancouver have 57-per-cent and 51-per-cent Chinese residents, respectively. Another 18 ridings have visible-minority populations ranging from 50 to 70 per cent, but none of these has anywhere near a majority of only one group.

When it comes to another aspect of our ethnocultural diversity – religion – the picture becomes even more fragmented: In no riding in Canada does one non-Christian religious community comprise a majority of the population.

The highest proportion in the country is Surrey-Newton with 44-per-cent Sikh, followed by 34-per-cent Sikh in Brampton East. The next most populous religious group in one riding are those of Jewish faith: 37 per cent of the population in Thornhill (GTA) is Jewish, as is 31 per cent of Montreal’s Mount Royal riding. Canadian Muslims form between 15 and 20 per cent in six ridings.

It’s not unlikely that on Oct. 19, there will be 50 or more foreign-born legislators of all parties in our newly elected House of Commons. And there’s every reason to expect that one day soon a person of non-European origin will be our prime minister – but it’s anybody’s guess which party he or she will lead. 

Published in partnership with South Asian Post.

Published in Politics
Wednesday, 02 September 2015 22:12

What Makes Brampton Voters Tick

by Surjit Singh Flora in Brampton, Ontario

With campaigning for the 42nd Canadian federal election on October 19 gaining momentum, the issues uppermost amongst voters in the ridings of Brampton, a city in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), are no different than that of others across the country. 

In 2011, the Conservatives had a strong showing in the GTA and its surrounding areas by winning 19 new seats. This boost effectively secured the party its 11-seat majority in the House of Commons.

This breakthrough may be giving the Tories an edge this time around, as well as the ridings they won a special status on the hustings.

In particular, the five ridings in Brampton – Brampton North, Brampton Centre, Brampton South, Brampton West and Brampton East – are considered the best to micro-target and win.

With a population over half a million, Brampton’s growth of late has been fuelled by immigrants who now account for half the number of people living there. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][A]ll the three major parties ... are paying careful attention to Brampton ridings, with leaders making multiple campaign stops over the past few weeks.[/quote]

As two-thirds of the immigrants are visible minorities, hearing Punjabi or Urdu is as common as English. Other languages heard in the city are Portuguese, Gujarati, Spanish, Hindi, Tamil, Tagalog, Italian and Polish. 

The babel of languages combined with a significantly younger population at times makes Brampton an enigma for outsiders. And it is no different for political parties. 

To crack the code, all the three major parties have fielded a large number of visible minority candidates and are paying careful attention to Brampton ridings, with leaders making multiple campaign stops over the past few weeks. 

But exactly how easy is it to win over Brampton voters?

“Many times I have heard our political leaders making sweeping statements, particularly when an election draws near,” says Solomon Naz, a professional writer and author.

“They say come to me any time with problems of the riding. But as voters we need to go beyond that and start asking candidates about their political agenda and party manifesto.” 

Naz says candidates should be aware of problems facing a riding instead of soliciting them from constituents. “If they simply tell us what they have done over the years for a riding, they do not have to beg for votes and canvass.” 

Federal support 

Many in Brampton see the sinking value of the Canadian dollar against its U.S. counterpart as a sign of a weakening economy and the inevitable increase in prices of imported food and fuel. 

The delivery of the expanded Universal Child Care Benefit cheques to parents, just before the start of the election campaign, doesn’t seem to have softened the blow.   

“We were so happy when we got [the] big cheque and we thought [the] Harper government is really helping the poor people, and thinking about Canadian families,” recalls Surjit Gunraj, a mother of two, who lives in Brampton West. 

“But just after a week or so we come to know from TV and newspapers that much of the money would be taken back as tax.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“To improve standards, federal, provincial and municipal governments need to work together for Bramptonians.”[/quote]

Macro economic issues are not the only ones to bother Brampton residents. There are a host of local issues too.

“No matter which party comes to power, as a Brampton resident, I want to see more nurses, more doctors in our hospitals, better and safe service,” says Ajinder Singh, expressing distress at the current state of medical services in the city.

“To improve standards, federal, provincial and municipal governments need to work together for Bramptonians.”  

Singh’s sentiment resonates with Mayor Linda Jeffrey.

“City council and residents are keen to know how the federal government will be supporting growing cities like Brampton as our transit and infrastructure demands continue to be a burden on the property taxpayer,” says Jeffrey.

She says the federal government has an important role to play in providing affordable housing. 

“Along with my large urban mayor colleagues I am concerned by the gradual and systematic withdrawal of federal financial support of new projects as well as the maintenance of existing facilities. I would like to see all party leaders commit the federal government to take on a leadership role in affordable housing and working closely with municipalities across Canada and more specifically Peel Region to address this growing backlog.”

Immigration matters

Brampton being what it is today because of its new Canadian demographics, issues around immigration remain on community members’ minds.

“We have seen the Liberals in the past and now the Conservatives proclaim themselves as best for immigrants,” says Gurvinder Kaur Virdi, a long-time Brampton resident who runs her own graphic design shop. 

“But they are not. The current government has made its immigration rules so tough that even sponsoring a spouse is a difficult process. Yes, they need to put a cap on fake marriages, but because of just a few cases, everybody is suffering. Put something else in place to detect fraud, instead of making it difficult for everyone.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“There must be a clear and well defined policy to guide the way Canada accepts immigrants.”[/quote]

Dr. Balwinder Singh, host of the local Sargam Radio, says the immigration system should not be run on an ad hoc basis.

“There must be a clear and well defined policy to guide the way Canada accepts immigrants,” he says. “Obviously, people expect more officers deployed for timely disposal of the applications.”

Gursimrat Grewal, the editor of Punjab Star weekly newspaper, maintains that Brampton constituents must elect the party that can best look after immigration matters.

“Because the Liberal government made the Canadian system so liberal, the Conservatives made excuses about needing time to clean up the mess left behind by the Liberals. Now everybody can see what they have done to immigration policies and some other sectors,” says Grewal.

“It is inevitable that we now give the NDP a chance.”

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Published in Politics
Sunday, 28 June 2015 09:41

Sing Your Way to Punjabi

Preet Sandhu Dhillon has taken what kids and babies naturally do and made it a teaching tool. 

“Singing to babies and children comes naturally. We all do it. Children also love music and it’s a very powerful tool for language exposure,” says Dhillon, who has three children.

She and her team of producers and musicians put together catchy and easy to sing-along tunes to expose children to Punjabi numbers, colours, animals and body parts in their first children’s album Punj Nikkay Bandar.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“This is going to be a very powerful tool in helping to preserve the Punjabi language.” - Preet Sandhu Dhillon[/quote]

Dillion looked for professionally performed Punjabi songs with a good beat; she found the quality of songs available was lacking, too religiously based or not developmentally appropriate for preschool aged children. That inspired her to create her own album that kids and parents could sing along. 

“This is going to be a very powerful tool in helping to preserve the Punjabi language,” says Dillion. 

Punj Nikkay Bandar is a children’s music playlist with tunes that are familiar and catchy, and will introduce the Punjabi language to all listeners.

Tracks include: "Baabay Budday Da Si Khait" ("Old Macdonald Had a Farm"), "Angootha Kithay Ah?" ("Where is Thumbkin?"), "Jay Kushi Hundi Ah Gidha Pao" ("If You’re Happy and You Know It") and many more.

Punj Nikkay Bandar can be purchased on iTunes and on Amazon.

Published in Partnership with South Asian Post.

Published in South Asia
Tuesday, 19 May 2015 15:29

OMNI TV's Fading to Black

Rogers Media Inc. announced earlier this month that it would be replacing daily multi-language newscasts on OMNI Television with half-hour, multi-language current affairs programs instead.

Simultaneously the Rogers media giant cut 110 jobs, the majority of which came from its OMNI multicultural stations’ television operations.

The announcement naturally sparked great discussion amongst various circles. Here at New Canadian Media, we brought together three marketing experts who have followed OMNI's trajectory for a long time to weigh in on this question: What went wrong with OMNI and what does this mean for multicultural programming in Canada? (See Storify below)

An Inconsistent Viewership // by George Kan in Vancouver

When Rogers first acquired OMNI, it must have seen it as a great opportunity. The station had the resources, but did Rogers make the necessary investments to make the channel thrive?

Look at one of OMNI’s biggest competitors in the Chinese television market: Fairchild. That company succeeded in digging deep and understanding what its viewership wanted.

As a result, Fairchild broadcasted Chinese programs that captured its target audience’s attention and in return, advertising revenues. Whereas OMNI used programs such as “The Simpsons” and “Late Show with David Letterman” to keep its ratings up, but ignored what the ethnic viewers wanted. 

That was the beginning of a vicious cycle.

How is “The Simpsons” a relevant program to a multicultural audience? OMNI failed to attract the ethnic audience, and diverted its attention to the general Canadian audience.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The daily news was also the most effective form of interaction with the community; without it, OMNI has lost the spirit of cultural connection.[/quote]

As a result, this inconsistent viewership failed to attract revenues from advertisers that want their message to reach a specific ethnic market. Subsequently, profitability plummeted, leading to the disincentive for Rogers to invest in high quality programs for OMNI, and thus, failing to interest its intended viewers.

Granted, OMNI must abide by restrictions from the CRTC, but surely it could have made its programs more relevant.

The most watched programs during prime time are Punjabi, Cantonese and Mandarin daily news. From an advertisers’ perspective, those were the most attractive timeslots that advertising agencies would recommend to their clients. The daily news was also the most effective form of interaction with the community; without it, OMNI has lost the spirit of cultural connection.

Now that OMNI has removed these essential programs that appealed to the largest audience, where will they go from here?

This channel has failed to attract viewers for the past years, how can it be so sure that this change that rendered 110 people unemployed, was the best decision?

Is removing multicultural news from the daily cycle, and depriving these ethnic groups of the right to watch daily news in their native language on the only free multicultural channel offered, a viable first step? Has Rogers given up on OMNI?

George Kan is a Partner and the Creative Director of Vancouver based multicultural advertising agency, Captus Advertising. He has worked on world renowned brands such as Nike, Shell Oil, Nestle, Citibank, Rolex and Ford Motors. In 2009, George and his partner decided to start up their own agency and established Captus Advertising. In five short years, Captus is now one of Canada's most awarded creative multicultural agencies.

Representing the ‘Ethnic Aisle’ // by Robin Brown in Toronto

The challenge for OMNI is that its design is not suited to the increasingly empowered multicultural audience.

In retail, an “ethnic aisle” with a mix of ethnic produce used to be appropriate, but now does not meet the needs of shoppers who already have access to more and better from ethnic stores.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]We have consistently seen other cultural targeted channels such as Fairchild, Asian Television Network, and even streaming offerings like iTalkBB, as being more effective for advertisers.[/quote]

To some extent OMNI represents the “ethnic aisle”. Viewers have access to a much wider range of culturally targeted content. Additional to this, newcomers are less language dependent so they can pick and choose their content within and outside of their ethnic media.

And the fact is that money talks.

At Environics we recently analyzed awareness of Chinese New Year advertising campaigns for one of our clients with and without OMNI in the mix. There was no increase in awareness due to the addition of OMNI alongside Fairchild and other culturally targeted channels.

We have consistently seen other cultural targeted channels such as Fairchild, Asian Television Network, and even streaming offerings like iTalkBB, as being more effective for advertisers.

Robin Brown is Senior Vice-President, Consumer Insights at Environics Research Group, a research and consulting firm and co-author of the book "Migration Nation: A Practical Guide to Doing Business in Globalized Canada."

OMNI: Presence, Then Silence, Then Absence // by Gavin Barrett in Toronto

There are inherent dangers and risks in launching an ethnic channel or publication. In recent times, we have seen both new players and well-established ones ride into the sunset. 

Mehndi TV made a comet-like appearance, flashed across our airwaves for a year, only to fade to black. That was a couple of years ago. It has since appeared in another constellation – on the website unpromisingly named Channel Zero. 

Multimedia Nova, a publishing group whose newspapers included the 59-year-old Italian Newspaper Corriere Canadese, shut its presses in 2013.

The 53-year-old Canadian Jewish News shut down its print edition and went all digital in 2013.

But the OMNI announcement makes me wonder if something else is at play here.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]It is tempting to limit or define foreign cultures by language just because it makes it more convenient to sell airtime or diapers or haircuts or oranges, but this is both facile and dangerous.[/quote]

I wonder, for instance, if OMNI was “too ethnic”? In other words, did OMNI take an oversimplified content strategy with the ethnic consumer?
Allow me to explain. There is too often a rush to dumb down our understanding of Canada’s multicultural markets.

Too often, ethnic consumer targets are rendered into shapeless homogenized blobs that bear no resemblance to what is actually a much more finely nuanced, multi-faceted cultural reality. A content or advertising strategy created for these fictional language-centric monoliths produces fuzzy, undefined work that has little appeal or relevance.

It is tempting to limit or define foreign cultures by language just because it makes it more convenient to sell airtime or diapers or haircuts or oranges, but this is both facile and dangerous. 

After all, there are cultures united by language and separated by geography and, equally, cultures separated by language and united by geography. Add religion and history and we start to see an incredibly complex mosaic. There is rich irony in the mental visual of senior OMNI TV executives closing their eyes to this.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]A Chinese citizen in China is not the same person as a Chinese Canadian citizen in Canada. Our experience alters us.[/quote]

Worse, this oversimplification is often combined with an attempt to keep new Canadians in their ethnic boxes. To do this is to deny the powerful narrative contained in the immigrant journey and to forget the impact that becoming Canadian has on the immigrant's life. A Chinese citizen in China is not the same person as a Chinese Canadian citizen in Canada. Our experience alters us.

The words over the Queen Street viaduct in Toronto remind us, “The river I step in is not the river I stand in.” As we make our way in Canada, Canada changes us. And we change Canada. This is powerful stuff that is rich territory for original content.

I think OMNI could have significantly helped its cause by taking a leaf out of CBC’s book by using more original Canadian content in the official languages to target the multicultural Canadian viewer. And, by that, I mean the Canadian viewer.

I look at CBC’s Hocket Night in Canada play-by-play sportscasts in Punjabi and Mandarin and shows like “Little Mosque on the Prairie” – very diverse programming that reflects a very diverse reality – and I ask why couldn’t we see more of that?

We have an amazing talent pool in multicultural Canada. There’s a multicultural renaissance going on. Right now, the Tarragon Theatre is staging an Indo-Canadian version of Shakespeare’s Much Ado and it’s been getting rave reviews.

We have writers like M G Vassanji, Michael Ondaatje, Rohinton Mistry and Vincent Lam. We have comedians like Russell Peters, Mikey Bustos, Ron Josol and Sugar Sammy. Bands like Delhi 2 Dublin, artists like Ritesh Das. This is not a country with a shortage of multicultural content.

Rogers is a sophisticated media-and-message convergence advocate and a successful player in that game, so I find it difficult to accept that it is allowing its investment to fail so easily.

I feel OMNI really had a good thing going with its newscasts, but I was shocked when the station dropped the South Asian news in English a couple of years ago. Almost every South Asian I knew watched it. 

I felt then that it had stepped off an edge and was suspended momentarily in mid-air. Now it plummets. 

Gavin Barrett is Founding Partner, Creative Director and Ideawallah at Barrett and Welsh. As writer, art director and VP/creative director, Gavin has worked for Lintas and DY&R Rediffusion in Bombay, India; JWT and Leo Burnett in Hong Kong; and Maclaren McCann and at Vickers & Benson/Arnold Worldwide. He co-founded barrettandwelsh in 2003. 

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Published in Commentary

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