by Themrise Khan in Ottawa, Ontario

Canada’s immigration landscape has seen several changes over the last decade, shifting the demographics of its provinces and cities.

The number of immigrants to Canada continues to increase, and newcomers are choosing cities beyond the conventional to make their home. What does this mean for Canadian cities, particularly, its scenic and quiet capital?

New Canadian Media sat down for a rapid fire round of questions with Ottawa Mayor, Jim Watson, to get some sound bites on what makes, or could make, Ottawa a more welcoming city. The conversation came at a fitting time, given that this week marks Welcoming Ottawa Week (WOW) – the third annual weeklong series of dialogues, events and activities meant to offer genuine hospitality to the city’s newcomers.

Small Town Charm

In a time of stiff competition for resources among provinces, what makes a smaller city like Ottawa more attractive for newcomers in comparison to larger cities like Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver?

According to Mayor Watson, a stable economy, an intelligent workforce, high quality of life and physical proximity to the federal government – not withstanding that the government has downsized substantially – are the city’s greatest assets.

“Ottawa-Gatineau offers the best of both worlds, small town charm and [it] is not as congested as other cities. I came from Toronto and found it very overwhelming there,” said Watson. “I wish we could do something about the weather,” he added, smilingly at one of the city’s only drawbacks from his perspective.

A Need for Immigrants

Several changes have occurred in Canada recently including reduction in funding to settlement services, tightening of immigration rules and procedures, the introduction of anti-terror act Bill C-51 and events like the Parliament Hill shooting, all of which have possible implications for newcomers to Canada. Could these deter immigrants from coming to Ottawa?

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“If the government is making immigration more difficult that is outside our jurisdiction, but we will still need to attract more immigrants into the economy.”[/quote]

On the changes in immigrations rules, the mayor said it is hard to tell right now. “If the government is making immigration more difficult that is outside our jurisdiction, but we will still need to attract more immigrants into the economy. We need to reinvigorate the workforce with people from abroad because we are not producing enough children.”

The settlement sector has also seen substantial cuts over the last few years, which has affected the work of many frontline immigrant-serving organizations providing vital social services to newcomers, including in Ottawa.

However, as the mayor explained, “This is a federal issue and we have a pretty specific mandate under the Municipal Act with no funds [allocated for it]. But this is where we need new Canadians to come forward and push the candidates for where they stand on this issue.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“We have really matured as a multicultural community over the last few years. Today when I visit a school it’s like walking into the United Nations.”[/quote]

And that means tapping into the city’s image as a thriving, diverse metropolis. “We have really matured as a multicultural community over the last few years. Today when I visit a school it’s like walking into the United Nations,” Watson said. “There are dozens of different languages and a high quality environment.”

Adding to Ottawa’s draw for newcomers, the mayor cited examples of people like billionaire tech investor, Sir Terry Mathews, who could live anywhere in the world, but chose Ottawa, as well as new entrepreneurs like Tobias Lütke, founder of Shopify, who “originally came here from Germany, fell in love with the city and now has 400 employees and a billion dollar empire in Ottawa.”

Strength in Diversity

It could be argued that too much diversity in a small space could lead to problems, but Mayor Watson feels otherwise. “We need to see our diversity as a strength and sell that as an asset to companies who may want to relocate here,” he said, furthering the discussion on making Ottawa more attractive for business.

Fair enough, but what about several recent reports from major Canadian banks that claim job quality has fallen to its lowest level in more than two decades? Ottawa’s three largest industries in terms of employment are the federal government (public service jobs), the high tech industry and tourism,” Watson responded.

“The first two of those tend to have quality jobs and fair compensation. [In Ottawa] we tend to have more knowledge-based employment rather than a manufacturing base, so we don’t have the same kind of problems we have seen in other provinces and cities, which have a heavy manufacturing base.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“We need young people and their energy and they need to believe in government. We also need to burrow into multicultural communities to get them more involved.”[/quote]

On the issue of trying to engage more racialized youth in entering politics, municipal or federal, Mayor Watson said that trying to get any Canadian interested in politics is a challenge.

“When I first ran for mayor, there were 20 of us running. In this election there were just about five.” Declining involvement in federal and municipal elections is also a major issue for Watson. “Turnout in last year’s municipal elections was only 40 per cent. Many young people are frustrated and angry and that is not something one wants to see among the youth, especially if they are entering politics.”

His advice is threefold: “First get involved by voting, then get involved in a political campaign and then get your name on a ballot. We need young people and their energy and they need to believe in government. We also need to burrow into multicultural communities to get them more involved.”

Perhaps events such as WOW could eventually move beyond just a series of annual events and act as platform to encourage such engagement. The mayor was happy to entertain this idea, but he felt that it should come more from the grassroots than from the political sector.

{module NCM Blurb} 

Published in Economy

by Themrise Khan in Ottawa 

While the mainstream media definitely covers stories of local politicians’ victories and foreign leaders’ visits to Canada, what is sometimes missing from the coverage is the 'ethnic' story angle relating directly to the many Diaspora communities settling in Canada. That's why ethnic media outlets are vital to our country's media make-up. In this edition of PULSE we explore five headlines relating to the Pakistani-Canadian diaspora making waves in ethnic media outlets. 

Pakistani-Canadians Unsuccessful in Mississauga Ward 4 By-Elections 

After earning a total of 1,565 votes, John Kovac was the winner of the Mississauga Ward 4 by-elections held in April, reported the Urdu Post. 

Several candidates from the Pakistani community also contested the by-elections, but unfortunately, did not fare as well. Rabia Khedr garnered 850 votes, Arshad Mahmood received 265 votes and Ameer Ali received only 95 votes out of a total of 9,000 votes cast.

Kovac, won slightly over 17 per cent of the popular vote, with a result that came as a surprise to many voters. Kovac ran a stellar campaign to become the youngest councillor to be elected in Mississauga with a winning margin of almost 100 votes over opponent Antoni Kanto who received 1,467 votes.

From a total of 27 candidates, only seven ran campaigns that could be considered as well organized as Kovac's.

Modi’s Visit to Canada: Kashmiri People Must be Allowed to Decide Own Future

Until the Kashmiri people are given the right to decide their own future, the struggle for freedom will continue.

This was the message put forward by Dr. Ghulam Abbas at a meeting held in Toronto in light of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s official visit to Canada in April, reported the Weekly Urdu Post Canada.  

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The meeting protested Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Canada and declared that in accordance with international law, India and Pakistan must withdraw their forces from Occupied Kashmir and allow the Kashmiri people to decide their own future.[/quote]

Thousands of Kashmiris have been killed in Occupied Jammu and Kashmir due to India’s forced occupation of the region and the Modi government has been accused of creating its own colonies to be able to crush the Kashmiri independence movement, reports the newspaper.

Members of this meeting further demanded that Canada should end all its agreements with India to convince it to allow the (disputed) state of Jammu and Kashmir to decide its own fate.

The meeting protested Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Canada and declared that in accordance with international law, India and Pakistan must withdraw their forces from Occupied Kashmir and allow the Kashmiri people to decide their own future.

Why are Pakistani-Canadians not Politically United? A Commentary.

The weak performance of Pakistani candidates in Canadian politics has prompted many in the community to question why they have not been able to achieve success.

A commentary by Masood Khan on this topic appeared in the May 6 edition of the Urdu Times, using the Mississauga Ward 4 by-elections as an example of this, where the few Pakistani-Canadians who contested, fared poorly.

Unlike the Indian community who are very politically and socially united, several Pakistani community members have made many attempts to contest in local ridings, but have not been very been successful in winning, despite their contributions to the community.

One of the reasons for this, the article suggests, is perhaps that many Pakistanis contest for nominations without having much experience in politics or, for that matter, working for the community. 

The analysis further states that thousands of people vie for nominations on local seats so candidates now need at least between 2,500 and 4,000 votes to win, which is far beyond the scope of the Pakistani community in many cases.

Alleged Irregularities Discovered in Selection of Brampton South Nominations

Unusual circumstances have prevented Nasir Hussain, the Liberal Party candidate in Brampton South, from securing a nomination for his party recently, reported the Urdu Times. Coming third place in the race has raised serious questions for all those who recognize Hussain as being a long-standing member of the local community and the Liberal Party for several years.

A sudden blackout on the day of polling at the station and unusual traffic conditions that blocked roads leading to the polling station were incidences that have raised suspicion amongst Hussain’s supporters. Investigations revealed that the reason for these occurances was a traffic accident close by that damaged an electrical pole.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]These incidences have raised many concerns amongst [Nasir] Hussain’s supporters, who feel the need to find out exactly why someone as popular as him was unable to secure the riding nomination. They want to protect the Liberal Party from such attacks in the future.[/quote]

But even if this was the case, the article continues, it still raises questions as to why there were not adequate measures made at the polling centre for backup generators, or an alternative route was not provided to those driving to the polling station.

Another major concern that raised suspicion of irregularities in the process, was the removal of Hussain’s chief polling agent on accusations of wrongdoing, which provided the opposing candidate the opportunity to take advantage of the situation, and ultimately, win.

This was followed by an altercation between the winning party and supporters of Hussain who claimed they were abused verbally in ways that did not reflect Canadian values.

These incidences have raised many concerns amongst Hussain’s supporters, who feel the need to find out exactly why someone as popular as him was unable to secure the riding nomination. They want to protect the Liberal Party from such attacks in the future.

The 100-Year Journey: A Story of South Asian Pioneers

With the help of funding from the Government, a project showcasing the contributions of South Asians in building Canada has been initiated to create awareness on the subject among the public at large.

According to The Canadian Times, Minister of Multiculturalism Jason Kenney and state minister for Multiculturalism Tim Uppal (pictured to the right) announced that under the 100-year Journey Project, the Government of Canada would provide $200,000 to produce a book chronicling this journey. 

The book will contain stories of prominent South Asians who came to Canada in its early years and made significant contributions to the development of the country.


Themrise Khan is a freelance social policy research professional and a recent immigrant to Canada. She has a keen interest in issues of migration and migrant diasporas, as well as foreign policy and international relations.

{module NCM Blurb} 

Published in South Asia

by Themrise Khan in Ottawa

Canada needs a greater competitive edge in order to remain a top destination of choice for immigrants from around the world. This was the primary message from the two-day Canadian Immigration Summit, wrapped up in Ottawa this week.

While the summit, which was organized by the Conference Board of Canada (CBOC) touched on a range of issues including language, employment, education, health, social integration and cultural adaptability, the economic benefit of immigration was clearly the focus. Not surprising, as economic migrants make up the bulk of total immigrants to most host countries in the West.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]There is an urgent need to keep Canada relevant at a time when many other countries in East Asia and Africa, for instance, are upping their game in providing attractive employment or investment.[/quote]

It was a lot of ground to cover in such a short time for what would help in developing the research agenda of the COBC’s newly created National Immigration Centre and associated National Immigration Action Plan.

In order for this plan to roll out effectively, a vast number of complex social issues must be addressed; the summit was set up to get the dialogue started. Here is a look at some of the hot-button issues surrounding the future of immigration that emerged:

Express Entry

Discussion around the new application management system for permanent residents, Express Entry, covered its benefits and drawbacks.

Despite being very new (only launched in January this year), there was caution around the system – which creates a pool of qualified applicants who can apply for permanent residency based on points – saying a human side needed to balance the economic side.

Interesting to note, Canada was seen primarily as a small business economy, and it was examined how Express Entry would impact newcomers in that context.

International Students

Canada has an ambitious target of attracting 450,000 international students to Canada by 2022. But, the country is starting to face stiff competition from places like China, from where a majority of Canada’s international students actually come from.

China is now ramping up its own education system to attract international students from the surrounding region.

Pathways to permanent residency, an attraction for many students who want to remain in Canada, is also heavily dependant on what Canada can offer these students in terms of employment prospects.

Global Competitiveness

There is an urgent need to keep Canada relevant at a time when many other countries in East Asia and Africa, for instance, are upping their game in providing attractive employment or investment. The flow of labour is shifting towards these regions.

Add to this, the notion of the “transnational entrepreneurs”, skilled professionals who do not want to remain in one country for very long, but follow the trail of economic prosperity in different countries.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]A dearth of pre-arrival services was the most common gap perceived in the settlement services sector, in addition to weak funding and the need for such services to modernize to cater to the changing profile of immigrants over the years.[/quote]

This is also an important challenge for the retention of newcomers to Canada. Staying in one place permanently is fast becoming a way of the past among many newcomers.

Immigrant Retention

Closely connected to settlement and an important part of the immigration mechanism, is the idea of retention.

A dearth of pre-arrival services was the most common gap perceived in the settlement services sector, in addition to weak funding and the need for such services to modernize to cater to the changing profile of immigrants over the years.

Preparing immigrants before they arrive in Canada of what to expect and where to find networks is an important part of their first impressions, and ultimate retention.

Aging Population

The observation that kept coming up was the challenge of an aging population in Canada and the need for immigration to fill this demographic gap.

But it was also made clear by more than one speaker that immigration is not a panacea to this and issues of labour market shortages in Canada.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Systems and processes need to be smoother and simpler, both for those who wish to migrate permanently, as well as those who want to work temporarily or transnationally.[/quote]

Bringing more immigrants to Canada also needs extensive investment in resources and the creation of more economic opportunities.

Systems and processes need to be smoother and simpler, both for those who wish to migrate permanently, as well as those who want to work temporarily or transnationally.

Once again, the competitiveness of the global economy is one that needs to drive Canadian immigration policy.

But also, other incentives such as easy access to business loans to newcomers who seek to find alternative professions are ways to create an attractive and more stable environment for both the economy and newcomers.

{module NCM Blurb}

Published in Economy

by Themrise Khan in Ottawa

It is time to explore how to sustain Canada’s position as a preferred destination for the world’s talent, and as a safe and supportive home for refugees. With this in mind, The Conference Board of Canada (CBOC) has convened a national summit, bringing together major stakeholders from across Canada’s immigration system to share the latest research findings, unique insights and perspectives, and contribute to the development of a National Immigration Action Plan for Canada. Vice President of Industry and Business Strategy at the CBOC, Dr. Michael Bloom, provides a sneak peak of the two-day Canadian Immigration Summit 2015.

NCM: What is the key motivation/objective behind this summit?

Bloom: The Conference Board has worked on immigration related issues for the last 20 years. Over that time, we have seen immigration as a theme become more and more important for Canada, [as well as for] countries around the world. We have come to realize that immigration affects Canada economically, socially and culturally.

In order for us to prosper in the future, we feel we need to do a better job by addressing immigration comprehensively. As an organization we are dedicated to building leadership capacity and providing sound empirically based evidence that will help future leaders make informed decisions. Therefore, we needed to set up a dedicated centre, which would take our research to a new level. Hence we created the National Immigration Centre at the Conference Board.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]We think if we can create an event that leads us towards an action plan than can connect all the players that will be a great achievement.[/quote]

We wanted to create an event that would allow us an opportunity to showcase this new centre and also to increase the dialogue among all the stakeholders involved in immigration. Government plays a major role in this, but also others, [like] employers, the education system, communities, immigrant serving organizations, all have prominent roles to play in what happens to the future of immigration in this country.

We hope this summit will attract media attention and begin the process of approaching the topic of immigration in a broader way. Most people will talk to you about immigration in one particular way, about some slice of it, but not typically about the big picture view. We think if we can create an event that leads us towards an action plan than can connect all the players that will be a great achievement.

NCM: How will this summit contribute to the understanding of the current direction of Canadas immigration policy?

Bloom: We have already, in our initial research studies, identified a number of major themes to look at. We will be having a dialogue on some of those initiatives at this summit.

Six of the big topics being covered at the event will be: humanitarian class immigration; labour market success (of immigrants) this includes attachment, advancement and leadership opportunities; attraction, selection and retention (of immigrants); learning and credential recognition; settlement and integration issues particularly language services; and business immigration.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The National Immigration Action Plan will be a framework that sets out the issues in relation to one another and identifies not only the challenges, but also what we think will be viable workable solutions that will bring about change in the system as a whole.[/quote]

The latter is a changing term  [that] raises many questions. What should this term cover? Do we need to structure it further? These are not the only important issues in immigration, but they are six of the big ones. Roundtables on these issues during the summit will help us to further understand them in more detail.

NCM: What is the National Immigration Action Plan?

Bloom: The National Immigration Action Plan will be a framework that sets out the issues in relation to one another and identifies not only the challenges, but also what we think will be viable workable solutions that will bring about change in the system as a whole. We call it an action plan, because we feel it will only be successful when people agree with the system as its imagined. We must also agree that this change can be achieved and that we see ourselves in it.

NCM: How far are you in developing this National Immigration Action Plan?

Bloom: In the words of Winston Churchill, we are at the end of the beginning. We have done a number of previous studies and have been able to construct a multi-year plan for the centre over the next five years.

Research studies, convening leaders and practitioners every year, communicating our findings consistently through outreach, media and our own events, are all part of the action plan. Right now, we have about seven investors providing financial support. We hope to have 20 investors by the fall and ultimately 30 or more.

We are also building up a number of partner organizations that have agreed to share their expertise and data with us. Its early days yet, as its only been a year in. But there is a high level of interest from the federal government and the private sector. We are trying to showcase this leadership and successful initiatives during the summit.

NCM: The summit is heavily focused on business and economic growth. What about the more social aspects of immigration integration?

Bloom: In total, a set of events will cover the whole range of issues in immigration. As an organization we have a lot of experience in working on economic issues in particular. But I expect to see more on social issues at the second summit next year. This year, we want to flesh out our understanding of such issues and bring that to the next event. The action plan will definitely be covering social issues as we do more research.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]We recognize that security is important for Canada and Canadians, but we need to do more research on how to frame this in the context of immigration.[/quote]

NCM: How do you see current events like the Syrian refugee crisis and emerging security concerns as shaping Canadas immigration policy?

Bloom: We still have some work to do on this. We have substantial experience on working on security issues at the Conference Board. We recognize that security is important for Canada and Canadians, but we need to do more research on how to frame this in the context of immigration. We have not yet done enough work at the intersection point of these issues.

We know the security issue is not going away, but we need to understand this more clearly and do more research before we can address it. Once we have done our due diligence on this, we can expect to address this next year as well with all the right questions. The multi-year approach of the action plan will help us with this as we develop our research plan further over the coming years.

NCM: What will be your next steps after this summit?

Bloom: We hope to take what we learn from the summit and use it to enrich our research plan. We will be starting a major project to update a study we did in 2001 on brain gain. We will do a big piece on the credential issue starting June 1. This summit is also bringing together over 100people and we hope that we can engage them in our actual centre.

We hope to be doing more regional meetings; in the year ahead we will convene out East, in Toronto, Quebec and out West. We will also be starting to plan for next years summit and ramp up our communication efforts. Speaking to the media is an important part of getting the message out for us and we will be doing more webinars and online outreach to try and engage and inform a broader audience.

The Canadian Immigration Summit 2015: Towards a National Immigration Plan will be held on April 13 and 14, 2015, at the Fairmont Château Laurier in Ottawa. Registration is open. New Canadian Media will be providing full coverage of this event.

{module NCM Blurb}

Published in Economy

New Canadian Media provides nonpartisan news and views representing all Canadian immigrant communities. As part of this endeavour, we re-publish aggregated content from various ethnic media publishers in Canada in an effort to raise the profile of news and commentary from an immigrant perspective. New Canadian Media, however, does not guarantee the accuracy of or endorse the views and opinions contained in content from such other sites. The views expressed on this site are those of the individual writers and commentators, and not necessarily those of New Canadian Media. Copyright © 2019 All rights reserved