By: Arvind Magesan in Calgary, AB

Defenders of Donald Trump say his “shithole countries” remark regarding people from Africa, Haiti and other nations was just Trump being Trump — the president may have used salty language, but it’s really just his way of saying the United States should have a merit-based immigration system like Canada’s.

A generous interpretation of Trump’s comments are that immigrants from certain so-called “shithole” countries — African nations, Haiti and El Salvador — are not typically highly skilled or economically self-reliant, and if admitted would need to depend on the state.

In fact, Trump apologists — and the president himself — might be surprised by what the economic data says about immigrants who come to Canada from the “shithole” countries.

John Fredericks, who was Trump’s campaign chair in Virginia, told CNN that immigrants from those countries “come into the United States and they do nothing to increase the prosperity of the American worker. They lower wages or go on welfare and extend our entitlement system …. Australia and Canada have a merit-based system. You know why they do that? Because they want to bring people into their country who are going to enhance the prosperity of their citizens.”

Trump, himself tweeted a similar sentiment.

The conclusion we are expected to make, it seems, is that if the United States was to adopt a purely merit-based system, immigrants would not come from these countries — they would come from countries like Norway, and immigrants from these Norway-like countries would not put pressure on blue-collar U.S. workers because they would be highly skilled and, more importantly, they wouldn’t be a drain on the system because they would be economically self-reliant.

A merit-based system

Canada offers an opportunity to take a look at this hypothesis because our points-based immigration system screens immigrants on merit to a large degree. So when we screen immigrants on merit, who do we let in and how do they do?

The first thing to note is that Canada admits many immigrants from the “shithole” countries.

Data from the 2016 Census shows over the last five years there have been more than twice as many immigrants from Central America and the Caribbean (which includes Haiti and El Salvador) than there were from the U.S. There were also more immigrants from the African continent than from the U.S. and North and Western Europe combined.

Clearly a merit-based system does not mean we only admit people from the “Norways” of the world — and in fact, the census data shows only 230 people immigrated from Norway over the five-year period.

The next question is how do these immigrants fare?

To look more closely at this, I used individual 2011 Canadian census data (detailed 2016 data isn’t yet available) to look at three groups: Canadians whose families have been here for three generations or longer; immigrants from the “Norways” of the world (Northern and Western Europe, including the U.K., Germany, and Scandanavia) and immigrants from Trump’s “shithole” countries (Central America, the Caribbean, Africa).

I looked at the skill levels of the different groups, as measured by their education level, and then at their economic self-sufficiency: Employment, wages and how much they receive in transfers and employment benefits from the government.

Let’s start with skill level.

Forty per cent of Canadians who have been here for three generations or longer have at least some post-secondary education, and 18 per cent have a bachelor’s degree. By comparison, a much larger percentage of immigrants of either type (53 per cent) have some post-secondary, and 27 per cent of immigrants from “Shitholes” have a bachelor’s degree. So by this standard measure of skill, immigrants from “Shitholes” have a slightly higher skill level than do immigrants from “Norways,” and a much higher skill level on average than Canadians who have been here for generations.

What about self-sufficiency?

It is commonly argued that immigrants, particularly from poorer countries, are “expensive” because they receive a disproportionate amount of government transfers and unemployment benefits. The truth is, though Canadians who have been here for generations are more likely to be employed and earn (slightly) more on average than either immigrant group, immigrants from the “Shitholes” are far more likely to be employed than immigrants from the “Norways.”

Fewer transfer payments

Perhaps more interestingly, immigrants from the “Shitholes” receive fewer transfer payments from all levels of government than “Norwegian” immigrants.

Finally, looking at employment insurance benefits alone, Canadians who have been here for generations receive more than either group.

What can we say about these numbers?

Firstly, immigrants from the “Shithole” countries are not typically low skill and in principle, should not be putting pressure on employment or wages of blue-collar workers in Canada. Then why is this such a common perception?

It’s likely due to a different issue, that high-skilled immigrants are unable to get high-skill jobs for other reasons (discrimination in the labour market, an inability of employers to recognize or evaluate credentials, or even language issues) and then do end up competing with lower-skilled Canadian workers.

Secondly, immigrants from the “Shithole” countries are generally no more dependent on the state than other Canadians. Though they earn less than those from the “Norway” countries, they are more likely to be employed and they receive less total government transfer payments.

Many differences

As an economist, it’s important to state that we shouldn’t interpret these relationships between country of origin and economic outcomes as causal — workers from different countries are different for many reasons (demographics like age, as well as occupation, etc).

But that doesn’t at all affect the main point — Trump’s perception of the differences in the average immigrant from countries like Haiti and Norway is at the very least a consequence ignorance, or as many have suggested, racism.

The ConversationOne thing that can’t be rationalized by the raw numbers here: The course of history and the current plight of many of the “shithole” countries is at least partly a consequence of U.S. foreign policies, that the position of relative economic superiority of the U.S. is partly an outcome of these policies, and that this above all might imply a moral obligation on the part of the U.S. when deciding who to let in and from where.


Arvind Magesan is an Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Calgary. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Find the original article here.

Published in Policy
Thursday, 10 November 2016 21:05

Canada not Immune to Trumpism

Commentary by Alma Sandoval Betancourth in Pickering, Ontario

What can I say: I called it.

It may have been my lifetime exposure to dictatorships. It may be my gradual and irreversible loss of faith in humanity that has made me become so jaded.

It may be that I have paid too much attention to the lessons history has thrown at us. And even though I did predict it, it still hit like a bucket of very Canadian ice wintry cold water. Let that one sink in, Canada (and the rest of the world): Donald Trump is the newly elected President of the United States.  The head of state of the most powerful nation in the world. And our neighbour to the south. Our closest ally. Canada’s Big Brother. Just because the people were given the option to choose, it doesn’t mean they chose right. In Canada, the great majority of us mourn that choice.

And so, whatever happens to our southerly neighbours, will have a strong effect on how we live, think and act over here. Not only does it affect us, it sends shock waves through our core. You can see it so palpably in the strong reactions of all Canadians (be it happiness or distress) upon hearing the news.

Math at work

Trump’s win (and Clinton’s loss) is not only a loss on sanity, logic and sound decision-making. This is a loss on progress and an attack on the liberties and gains that have taken so long and so much effort and struggle to achieve.

At the core of this loss is the notion — a certainty, really — that humanity is flawed. Human beings, we’re all flawed. And with Donald Trump being a businessman, math comes into play in the form of a twisted version of Victor Hugo’s “The liberty of one citizen ends where the liberty of another citizen begins” that reads more like “one person’s gain is another person’s loss.”

If a woman is on her way of earning the same wages as a man, she is perceived (and this is key, because it’s not necessarily truth, but perception that’s so dangerous) to be taking that away from a man. If a visible minority is making progress in carving a better place for him or herself in society (be it through work, to access to health and education, to being granted access to opportunity and power) that means that someone (more likely a straight white male) is losing that very thing.

If a poor person (whether a visible minority or a white person) is improving the quality of their life, that means (again, perceived) that someone at the top is losing a small percentage of their wealth. And that cannot happen.

On guard, Canada

We as a society must watch very carefully what’s unfolding right before our very eyes. We can see it so much clearer because it’s in high definition: on a computer, on iPads and on our very own smartphones — because everything that has taken place and will be taking place in the future will unfold on social media for the world to see.

Mark my words: this outcome next door will be affecting Canada directly. This could (and most likely will) be Canada in four years.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Mark my words: this outcome next door will be affecting Canada directly. This could (and most likely will) be Canada in four years.[/quote]

We may boast how multicultural, egalitarian and progressive we are.

Better listeners

But, we need to start listening, really listening to what’s building up at the core of our society: the unhappiness, unrest and fear (terror, honestly) that those who have been at the top and are gradually experiencing a perceived loss of power are feeling.

We must start listening, really listening because as women, visible minorities, the LGBTQ community, the poor and all those disadvantaged sectors of the population are given more opportunities to play on a level field within Canadian society, there is someone on the other side resenting (sometimes silently) these changes and hoping Canada “becomes great again”.

We must, as a society (our leadership, our politicians, our institutions, our community organizations) really listen to those voices, give them an opportunity to express their concerns and unhappiness, because if we don’t, the disconnect (that very same disconnect that created the marked divisiveness that gave Trump that shocking victory) will only widen, and four or eight years from now we will be stunned to learn that a fascist, racist, bigot regime is threatening the very fabric of what makes Canada such a progressive, forward-thinking and humanitarian nation.

In the meantime, God Help our brothers and sisters to the south.

Republished with permission from Alma Latina. Alma Sandoval Betancourth is editor/publisher of Alma Latina, an English/Spanish publication featuring articles about events/arts & music/community/people in Durham Region and the Greater Toronto Area.

Published in Commentary

by Aurora Tejeida in Vancouver, British Columbia

The University of Toronto’s International Human Rights Program is suggesting that Mexico be removed from Canada’s “safe country” list, making it easier for sexual minorities and those living with HIV to seek asylum here.

The report, published on World Refugee Day Monday, comes at an awkward time: just when Ottawa is moving to remove visa restrictions imposed on that country by the previous Harper government in 2009.

The UofT study, co-authored by Kristin Marshall and Maia Rotman, was based on in-country interviews with 50 Mexicans, including journalists, activists, members of the country’s LGBTQ+ community, health care professionals and people living with HIV. It documents the gap between laws to protect minorities in Mexico and the on-the-ground reality of discrimination and exclusion faced by vulnerable populations.

This spotlight on Mexico’s human rights comes on the heels of violent clashes between government forces and Mexico’s largest teachers’ union. The most recent conflict in Oaxaca left at least four protesters dead and hundreds of people injured, including police officers.

Mexican President Peña Nieto is visiting Ottawa next week for a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Barack Obama for the Three Amigos summit on June 29.

Canada considers Designated Countries of Origin (DCOs) (or, “safe country”) as those that “do not normally produce refugees, but do respect human rights and offer state protection.” The list includes countries like the U.S., Denmark, Finland and Germany, but also countries like Hungary, Israel and Mexico, which was added to the list only in February 2013

“I think these two countries, Mexico and Hungary, were targeted because there were such a high number of claims,” explained Marshall.

“They wanted less Mexican [refugee] claimants, and the government rhetoric at the time was about deterring bogus and unfounded claims from Mexico and Hungary, their thinking was that by giving faster timelines and no option to appeal, all of these "baseless" claims would go through the system and the people would get deported back to their countries,” added Marshall. "It sends the message 'don't bother coming' because we think Mexico is safe.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"] "On one level it looks like inclusion on the ‘safe countries’ list is a compliment to whatever state is put there."[/quote]

Fewer refugee claims

The twin measures resulted in fewer Mexicans seeking asylum, which fell to 1,199 from more than 9,000. However, the percentage of successful refugee claims remained about the same.

Marshall thinks that signalling that Mexico is “safe” could have an impact on cases that might have otherwise been successful.

However, the “safe country” designation is not imminent. All an Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) spokesperson would say is that “being listed on Canada’s designated country of origin list does not prevent individuals from seeking refugee protection in Canada.”

The IRCC added that it “continuously monitors all designated countries of origin to determine whether conditions remain similar to those at the time they were designated. In the event of significant changes, IRCC may undertake a review of country conditions to determine if removal from the designated country of origin list is warranted.”

The spokesperson confirmed that Canadian officials are currently working with their Mexican counterparts to lift the visa requirements.

Clearly, a “safe country” designation is a mixed blessing.

Commenting on the UofT report, Dr. Chris Erickson from the University of British Columbia’s Department of Political Science, noted, "On one level it looks like inclusion on the ‘safe countries’ list is a compliment to whatever state is put there. On the other hand, it does allow for significant abuses to be entirely whitewashed. The language itself indicates that any claim to asylum coming from someone from one of the states on the list is likely to be false.”

Not safe for minorities

In one particularly shocking section of the report, the writers describe an attack on a transgender woman in the northern state of Chihuahua. The woman was beat up and shot in the head just days before Mexico City’s 2015 Pride parade.

“The victim’s body was wrapped in a Mexican flag — apparently a protest against the Supreme Court’s June ruling allowing gay marriage,” reads the report. 

Despite enacting laws to protect LGBTQ+ rights, including a recent proposal from President Nieto legalizing same sex marriages, according to Mexico’s Human Rights Commission, the country has the second highest number of hate crimes against sexual minorities in the Americas.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“There's a great effort and determination invested to project a certain image to the world, but the will to implement laws isn't there.”[/quote]

“There's a great effort and determination invested to project a certain image to the world, but the will to implement laws isn't there,” explained Marshall. “There are also issues with resources that are unavailable, and many of the problems faced by sexual minorities also have to do with conservative values in Mexico, which means deep down there isn't a desire to see these rights protected.”

The report recommends offering assistance to Mexico to create specialized health care services for trans people and working with the government to create educational resources about sexual and reproductive health.

I don't think human rights will feature prominently in the Three Amigos summit,” said Marshall. “But I do think this is a new government [in Ottawa] and it's a new opportunity for Canada to show international leadership.


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Published in Top Stories
Saturday, 06 February 2016 15:12

Canada Defends Fast-Track Refugee Plan to U.S.

by Rosanna Haroutounian in Quebec City 

In this week’s round-up of what’s been making headlines in Canada’s ethnic media: India’s Republic Day was not a celebration for everyone, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s visit to a Sikh shrine was less controversial than first reported and Canada’s plan to settle 25,000 refugees faces more challenges.

Refugee resettlement strategy under scrutiny 

The Canadian government’s plan to accept 25,000 Syrian refugees through immediate government and private sponsorship is facing criticism from south of the border. 

Canada’s government defended its refugee plan at a U.S. Senate committee hearing on Feb. 3 titled “Canada’s Fast-Track Refugee Plan: Unanswered Questions and Implications for U.S. National Security.” 

In a Canadian Press story picked up by the Epoch Times, it was reported that Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., Gary Doer, declined the Republican-controlled committee’s invitation to attend in person. 

Instead, Doer sent a note outlining five security measures related to the Syrian refugee program, four of which involved regular border co-operation with the U.S. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Rest assured that no corners, including security screening, are being cut in order to achieve the government’s objectives.”[/quote]

“Rest assured that no corners, including security screening, are being cut in order to achieve the government’s objectives,” Doer wrote. “Rather, the government has devoted significant resources to this effort.”

Canada’s plan will have to stand up against testimony from border guards, anti-terrorism organizations and economic experts who argue that tightened borders affect the flow of exports from Canada to the U.S.

In related news, some of the Syrian refugees who have arrived are feeling “hopeless” as they wait in hotel rooms to be settled into homes, find work and go to school. 

“Some of the 85 government sponsored refugees say they want to return to the camps in Jordan and Lebanon as opposed to staying in Canada,” reported the Epoch Times, citing a CBC report. 

The Times also refers to an op-ed piece in the Toronto Sun that asks Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to allow more refugees to be accepted through private sponsorship.

India’s Republic Day marked by ceremony, criticism

Events took place in India and Canada on Jan. 26 to celebrate Republic Day, though some were not without controversy. The event marks the adoption of India’s constitution on the same day in 1950. 

As the Indo-Canadian Voice reports, this year’s celebration in New Delhi was a display of pomp and military prowess for politicians and dignitaries, including French President Francois Hollande. 

The Indo-Canadian Voice also reports that the Sikh Regiment was excluded from the Republic Day parade in Delhi, which Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal later called “sad and regrettable” in a letter to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

Meanwhile, according to South Asian Daily, separatist leaders were put under house arrest to prevent protests at the Republic Day celebration in Srinagar, the summer capital of Kashmir state. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"[O]ur annual recognition serves as reminder to strive for [Mahatma] Gandhi’s message of unity through diversity and thriving together in harmony.”[/quote]

In Canada, British Columbia Premier Christy Clark made a statement wishing a memorable Republic Day celebration to Canada’s Indo-Canadian community. 

“With a proud and vibrant Indo-Canadian community, British Columbia has always had a special cultural connection with India,” said Clark, as reported in the Indo-Canadian Voice. “As we continue to expand trade and research relationships, those ties will grow stronger,” she went on to say. 

In Ontario, Premier Kathleen Wynne marked the celebration at the Consulate General of India offices in Toronto, ahead of her visit to India on Jan. 27. 

“Sixty-six years ago today the Constitution of India came into force signalling a new era for the entire country,” said Wynne, as quoted in Canada Wishesh. “It was a moment of great triumph and celebration for India, and our annual recognition serves as reminder to strive for [Mahatma] Gandhi’s message of unity through diversity and thriving together in harmony.” 

Conflicting accounts of Wynne’s visit to Sikh temple 

News sources published different reports of Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s stop at a Sikh shrine during her visit to India last week. 

Even before her visit to the Golden Temple on Sunday, the Hindustan Times in India reported that the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) would not present the premier with a siropa (robe of honour) because of her support for same-sex marriages. 

According to the Indo-Canadian Voice, SGPC President Avtar Singh Makkar told the Hindustan Times: “Offering her (Wynne) a siropa would be against Sikh ethics.” 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Offering her (Wynne) a siropa would be against Sikh ethics.”[/quote]

The Times maintained that Wynne did not receive the siropa even after photos of her were published wearing the robe following the visit, reports the Voice. 

“The SGPC apparently avoided mentioning the presentation of the siropa to save face after having declared that they would not honour Wynne with it. The Punjab government apparently exerted great pressure on the SGPC to present Wynne with a siropa,” reported the Voice. 

An article by Indo-Asian News Service, picked up by both South Asian Daily and Darpan, reported that Wynne was honoured with the siropa, as well as a tour of the shrine’s important areas and a gold-plated photo of the site. 

However, the Punjab Star noted that Wynne did not receive the siropa. 

The Star also reported that a major discussion point for SGPC chief secretary Harcharan Singh was the issue of exempting Sikh men from wearing helmets while driving motorcycles in Ontario. 

It is not clear whether Wynne will consider the exemption.

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Published in Top Stories

by Zarqa Nawaz in Regina

I asked Anton Leo, the head of comedy for CBC Television, why he had decided to green-light "Little Mosque on the Prairie" all those years ago. He said he was the son of Italian immigrants and my tales of being a daughter of Pakistani immigrants resonated with him. They were universal.

The show now airs in more than 60 markets around the world, many in Europe. But Europeans are watching the program for a different reason: It reflects a multicultural society that is a success rather than a failure. What did Canada do right that so many other countries are getting wrong?

As I watch the stories of Syrian Muslim refugees unfold, I think about how my life as a Canadian of Muslim faith has taken so many unexpected twists.

My journey to Canada started in 1947, when Pakistan was carved out of India; that act instantly turned my grandparents into refugees in their own country. They lived in camps until they were sent by train to what was now Faisalabad, Pakistan. The family plunged into poverty.

My father, the eldest son, was 15. He saved his family the only way he knew how: He did well in school, became an engineer and got a job working on the Mersey Tunnels in Liverpool, where he and my mother moved at a time when immigration to Britain was almost instantaneous.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]I don’t think my life as a European Muslim would have been as rich and full of opportunity if he had chosen to stay there.[/quote]

A few years after I was born, my father wanted to bring his brothers and sister to join us in Liverpool. But Britain was starting to restrict family reunification. My mother’s asthma was exacerbated by rain, so doctors recommended that he find a country with a better climate.

Canada, hungry for educated immigrants, offered him a job and a way to bring the rest of his family. We were not fleeing persecution, but we were looking for a better life, which Canada offered. I’m glad he made that choice. I don’t think my life as a European Muslim would have been as rich and full of opportunity if he had chosen to stay there.

Only in Canada

I was always secure in the feeling that Canada was home and I was Canadian. That security gave me time to look into the practices of my community with a critical lens.

When the National Film Board approached me to make a documentary, I chose to focus on patriarchy and the social exclusion of women in mosques. In 2005, Me and the Mosque was released.

For me, Islam was never the problem – it was men and how they interpreted faith to their own advantage. I wondered what would happen to a mosque if it were run by an imam that came from a culture committed to gender equity, such as Canada. That was the question I explored in "Little Mosque on the Prairie".

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]In Pakistan, I would have been killed by now; in Europe, I would have been too broken by xenophobia and rejection to even try; the Islamophobic, post-Sept. 11, 2001, world of the United States would have stopped me cold.[/quote]

At first, the show wasn’t received well by the Muslim community. It was considered offensive and insulting to Islam. I was a pariah for a long time and I still bump into people who say I’ve given a bad impression of Muslims.

But I’ve seen those attitudes change toward me. The community no longer sees me as someone who is mocking the faith, but as someone who genuinely loves Islam, but wants a critical dialogue about some of the cultural practices that have seeped in over the centuries.

I am considered one of the few Muslims in the world who have successfully bridged the worlds of faith and comedy. But I would never have been able to do this had I lived anywhere else in the world.

In Pakistan, I would have been killed by now; in Europe, I would have been too broken by xenophobia and rejection to even try; the Islamophobic, post-Sept. 11, 2001, world of the United States would have stopped me cold. It was only Canada, where I truly felt I belonged and was cherished as a Muslim, where I could safely poke fun at both my Muslim and non-Muslim worlds.

My faith is different from that of my parents; we are forged by our environments and circumstances, which are radically different. And my children are different from me still. But we are all Canadian and have changed Canada, and Canada has changed us, all for the better.


Zarqa Nawaz is the creator of "Little Mosque on the Prairie" and author of Laughing All the Way to the Mosque. This comment originally appeared in The Globe and Mail and has been republished with permission from the author.

Published in Commentary
Wednesday, 01 October 2014 15:46

On Balance, Karzai Rescued Afghanistan

by Farouq Samim (@ghsamim) in Ottawa

Hamid Karzai arrived in Kandahar 13 years ago, as a relatively unknown man ready to topple the Taliban’s stronghold and lead the country towards peace and democracy. As he steps down from his presidency and makes room for Afghanistan’s new president Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, many around the world are left pondering whether or not he accomplished what he originally set out to do.

At first, for many Afghans, Karzai appeared to be no different than the communist president Babrak Karmal who was once brought to power on a Russian tank with the help of former superpower, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).

But within no time, the citizens’ perception of him changed, and he became the most popular and beloved person in the country to many. Not only that, but when he came into office, he had lived in the U.S. making him the choice person amongst Americans to lead a country leaving behind over two decades of invasion and civil war. And of course, not to be forgotten, the Taliban movement had recently killed his father.

“His relatively successful transitional government and first term presidency had earned him popularity with the West, which later he began to lose after corruption allegation against his family and his lax stand against some of his corrupt cabinet members,” explains Mohammad Sediq, a recent Masters graduate from the University of Ottawa who explored e-governance in Afghanistan during his studies. 

Despite his many deficiencies and shortcomings, it is fair to say Karzai made many strides during his tenure. He was the reason that once-rival Jihadi leaders, who fought each other during the 1990s, gathered around the same table to work for peace. Over seven million children, 40 per cent of them girls, go to school today while there were only one million male children who had access to a war-torn education infrastructure under the Taliban.

In a country where there were only 20,000 teachers, there are close to 200,000 teachers today, 30 per cent of them female, who teach in close to 5,000 schools. In a country where women were once no more than prisoners in their homes under the suffocating Taliban vice and virtue rules, they now have the opportunity to come out and become contributing members of Afghan society. Women are now members of parliament; they own their own businesses.

Thousands of miles of roads were built to connect the people in different parts of the country, both amongst each other and with the world beyond. There are 12 million people who own cellphones, compared to a time when people had to travel to a neighbouring country to make a phone call to a family member living outside Afghanistan. In a country where TV was once illegal to watch, there are now close to 100 private and state-owned channels, around 200 radio stations and 11 news agencies.

Karzai achieved all of this.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Despite his many deficiencies and shortcomings, it is fair to say Karzai made many strides during his tenure.[/quote]

That being said, many problems persist. Complex issues such as insecurity and injustice have yet to be resolved. Human rights and women’s rights violation still howl in the country. Women are still raped and murdered. Child marriages haven’t stopped. The question of corruption lingers. Afghanistan is still the supplier of three folds of illegal drugs to the world (80 per cent of the global opium production, according to a UN Report). And addiction is a relatively new phenomenon following the return of Afghans who had fled to neighbouring Iran and Pakistan beginning in 2001.

The question remains: was Karzai part of the problem or the solution? In fairness, he did what he could accomplish as a fragile and inexperienced politician. At the time he was seen as a one-eyed-man among the blind. He was the only choice Afghans had after three long decades of crisis and sufferings. The alternative to him: warlords who once destroyed the capital and killed many civilians.

“If I had the experience I have now, I would have made different decisions in some cases, and I would have accomplished more than what I did within my 13 years as president,” Karzai said in a recent speech.

Some experts, like Sediq, disagree. “There would have been less problems if he hadn’t lost his grip over his leadership and dealt with the challenges like a good leader… To me, [his legacy is that of] a weak leader who wasted $120 billion of civilian aid, which would put an end point to any chaos in any country.”

How Things Went Sour

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]It all started in 2009 when Karzai won against Abdullah Abdullah. Karzai strongly believed that the Americans intervened in the election, because they did not want him to be the president any more.[/quote]

When the Americans first descended upon Afghanistan, no one doubted the strong ties between Kabul and Washington. After suffering for two decades from misery and devastation, Afghans breathed a sigh of relief because of this friendship. American soldiers actually sat in restaurants and ate side by side with ordinary Afghans with no security concerns. The westerners, particularly the Americans, were seen as liberators of the nation. There are still many Afghans who honour the number of American lives lost in Afghanistan. There is a strong support among the public for the U.S.

But in one of his last speeches, President Karzai warned the incoming government to be particularly cautious in its relations with the United States and the western world. Although his remarks came as a surprise to members of both the Afghan and international community, the tension between Karzai and the U.S. is neither new or for one particular reason. 

It all started in 2009 when Karzai won against Abdullah Abdullah. Karzai strongly believed that the Americans intervened in the election, because they did not want him to be the president any more.

In addition, the issue of civilian casualty rates played a role in tarnishing the relationship between Karzai and the U.S. When the Taliban regrouped across the border in the tribal area of Pakistan and was fighting fierce battles in the south against the International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) many civilians were caught in the crossfire. Thus, Karzai was put in the hot seat. He received much public criticism and felt enormous pressure, particularly from the Pashtuns in the south. To make matters worse, the Taliban raised public sympathy by using the issue of civilian casualty in a sophisticated, yet effective, propaganda campaign to recruit new forces.

Karzai cried out for help from the Americans, who tried to address the issue, but failed time and time again. Karzai made these failures by the U.S. known widely, and by doing so, made the two countries’ relations even worse.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]While Afghanistan may not practice the kind of democracy that exists in Canada right away, it doesn’t mean that the country has to move as slow as it did during the Karzai presidency.[/quote]

Then came the Taliban negotiations, which both Washington and Kabul agreed to do. Unfortunately, the efforts weren’t unified and collaborative, which created a lot of distrust between the two governments. “Karzai called the Taliban – a fierce enemy of the U.S. allies – his brothers, and began to release them unconditionally from the prison without the U.S. consent. Some of [them] rejoined the fight against ISAF and the Afghan government,” said Sediq. This led the U.S. to rely more on cooperation from Pakistan than the Karzai government in its side of negotiations with the Taliban.

Sediq reasons that this was all part of a strategy at work. “[Karzai]’s popularity among the public had tremendously gone down because of corruption allegation against his family and some of his cabinet members [so] he cleverly started to shift the blame on the western allies particularly the U.S. He changed the perception of Afghans had about the U.S. from a savior of the country to a barbaric force that is there to kill innocent Afghans and destroy their country.”

The verbal clashes reached a boiling point. Karzai recently blamed the U.S. – once an ally in the war on terror – for fueling the conflict in Afghanistan. “If the U.S. honestly wants it, peace will come to Afghanistan the next day,” he said.

The Future: What's Next For Afghanistan?

Despite the long wait and public critics of the recent Afghan election result, many Afghans see the new power-sharing government as the best option. President Ahmadzai’s speech at his inauguration was full of hope and promises to many Afghans and foreign allies. Amongst his promises: justice system reform and a new administration with half its members being young generation or women.

His newly appointed chief of security council signed the pending bilateral security agreement with the United States, allowing almost 10,000 U.S. troops to remain in the country and continue to educate Afghan security forces. Many believe Ahmadzai is a much stronger president than Karzai. “If he walks his talk, he will overcome the challenges he inherited from Karzai’s era,” says Sediq. 

While Afghanistan may not practice the kind of democracy that exists in Canada right away, it doesn’t mean that the country has to move as slow as it did during the Karzai presidency. A traditional society like Afghanistan needs time to change and won’t tolerate too much change at once. In order for change to happen, the people need to be educated in order to shift the mentality in the society, and there needs to be unity amongst the different ethnic groups, long disconnected due to ongoing conflict.

As Toronto-based Afghan journalist Breshna Nazari points out, Afghanistan needs one thing above all: peace. Many Canadians, who have followed the war on terrorism from the other side of the globe, particularly families of the nearly 160 soldiers who have lost their lives in the war, would likely agree. “To obtain that goal the Taliban needs to lay its arms down and reconcile,” Nazari says. “I am not optimistic that people like General Dostum, Mohaqeq and even Dr. Abdullah who used to fight Taliban, and now are in the unity government, will allow such resolution to happen.”   


Farouq Samim is an Ottawa-based communications consultant, with a Masters in Communication from the University of Ottawa where he studied the Afghan conflict. For eight years (2001 to 2009) he worked as a freelance producer, reporter and human rights investigator in Kabul, Afghanistan contributing to Aljazeera English TV, the Chicago Tribune Newspaper and Human Rights First.

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by Robin Brown (@RobinBrown) in Toronto 

I became a Canadian citizen in November last year. Like most immigrants to Canada, I am proud and grateful to join my fellow Canadians in building this extraordinary nation. That didn’t stop me, however, from sharing in the hope and ultimate frustration that the English around the world experience every four years as we watch our national team compete and fail in the World Cup. And, clearly in Toronto, I am not alone. The trans-national identities of Canadian citizens are no more evident than during the World Cup or other international sports tournaments.

According to the Economist magazine we are living in an age of diasporas.  Currently over 200 million people are living in a different country than the one they were born in and that number is rising rapidly. This population, alongside their children, is creating huge ethnic diasporas who share a common culture but are geographically dispersed. The internet has enabled these diasporas to maintain an unprecedented cultural coherence through constant communication worldwide. Both immigrant Canadians and those born here are clearly comfortable embracing both their Canadian national identity alongside membership of an ethnic diaspora.

Shared experiences

The implications this has for geo-politics and public policy is widely discussed. But my interest is in the implications for business and marketing. Canadian marketers used to be able to influence the shared experiences of their consumers in limited and known geographical parameters. Now, they find themselves in an unprecedented situation where so many of the people they are trying to reach did not grow up sharing common experiences of their brands and products. We used to know that some communication may “spill over” from access to U.S. TV stations or trips across the border. But now we are in a situation where an Indo-Canadian youth may be more influenced by Pepsi India’s sponsorship of cricket than any activity Pepsi Canada initiates.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][A]n Indo-Canadian youth may be more influenced by Pepsi India’s sponsorship of cricket than any activity Pepsi Canada initiates.[/quote]

In our new book, Migration Nation, Kathy Cheng and I argue that we are entering a new world of “borderless marketing”. In this new world, companies can reach large global segments that share an ethnic culture and related consumer tastes and preferences across the world. But, of course, this assumes that these diasporas are relatively homogenous in their preferences and tastes. Is that a fair assumption? Does a Chinese Canadian share a common culture with a Chinese American or a resident of China? Does their ethnicity have a stronger influence on their consumer preferences than their location or citizenship?

The answer is of course, that it depends. It depends on the product category. For categories where ethnic culture is highly influential like food you will find commonalities across the diaspora. It also depends on the characteristics of the diaspora. For example, Bollywood provides a common entertainment culture that unites many in the South Asian diaspora. Other ethnicities may not have the same unifying attributes. And, of course, the environments in which the diaspora settles influence their homogeneity.

Levels of acculturation

Our recent research compared Chinese and South Asian Americans and Canadians’ level of acculturation using Geoscape and & Environics Analytics CultureCodes (see graph). These analytical tools classify the population into five categories of acculturation based on their home language, knowledge of English/French and period of immigration. We found much higher levels of acculturation in the U.S. than in Canada for both groups. This results from a number of factors, including the “melting pot” vs. multicultural culture of each country. Of course, this means that these populations will differ and marketing efforts to reach them must navigate that difference.

But, understanding the diasporas may not be the biggest challenge faced by multinationals. The current reality for many multinationals is that many of their consumers are in some respects more global than they are. There may be good business reasons why an Asian Canadian cannot find Nescafe iced coffee here in Canada, but consumers are not aware or don’t care about the constraints of separate business units, tariffs and supply chain logistics. They are connected globally and informed of products and services that are used by their ethnic diaspora across the world.

Disconnected multinationals

Multinational companies need to become as globally connected as their consumers. I am often surprised that behind a seemingly global brand there are so many disconnected business units. For example, it should be common sense for North American companies to at least connect to their branches in Asia to simply learn more about the over 10 million Asian population living within their market borders. Yet, even that task is often not as simple as it should be. Let alone other tasks such as ensuring that products and marketing assets developed outside of North America can be effectively leveraged here.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Multinational companies need to become as globally connected as their consumers.[/quote]

So, are we entering a world of borderless marketing? Slowly. There are glimpses of it. Unilever, for example, is effectively doing it. The Asian products under the Knorr brand are marketed to the Asian diaspora in North America by an international business unit independent of Unilever Canada or U.S. But, for many, the task of connecting to global diasporas and navigating the new world of borderless marketing requires not only an understanding of that new audience but a cultural and organizational shift. Canada is one of the most diverse nations in the developed world. Our population is highly globalized. Now is the time for our business culture to embrace and take a lead in the borderless future.

Robin Brown is Senior Vice President at Environics Research Group and co-author of the newly released book, “Migration Nation: A Practical Guide to Doing Business in Globalized Canada”.

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