Thursday, 28 January 2016 02:55

Fighting for Migrant Farmworkers’ Rights

PUBLISHER’S NOTE: Beginning today, NCM will bring readers a summary of what is appearing in ethnic media across Canada. We begin with English-language media, but hope to expand it to include all languages over the next few months.

by Priya Ramanujam in Scarborough, Ontario

In this week’s round-up of what’s been making headlines in Canada’s ethnic media: putting an end to 50 years of injustice for migrant workers, individuals making a difference for Syrian refugees on the ground level, and how newcomers are finding a balance between holding onto their native cultures and embracing Canada’s.

Migrant farmworkers: advocacy and celebration

Temporary foreign workers need access to permanent residency in order to protect them on the job.

This is the primary message the advocacy group Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW) delivered in a press conference Monday on Parliament Hill.  

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Permanent residency would grant farmworkers most social benefits.[/quote]

The event was held to launch a year-long campaign, “Harvesting Freedom,” which will “culminate in a historic pilgrimage of migrant farmworkers and allies on to the nation’s capital … on October 2 and 3 to insist that justice is 50 years overdue,” reported the Indo-Canadian Voice.

“Low-wage workers like myself, coming to Canada in the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP), the Caregiver Program – are tied to single employers – which means closed work permits,” said Bahiwal Gregorgina (Gina), a Filipina temporary worker.

“This means that we are subject to abuse, exploitation, and separation from our families. I lost my first job because I tried to speak up. I tried to fight for my rights and recruitment fees, I helped other coworkers to speak up and they were threatened (with) deportation.”

Permanent residency would grant workers most social benefits, reports iPolitics, including health care and the ability to work or study anywhere in Canada.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of SAWP in Canada, a program created in 1966 as a result of labour shortages on Canadian farms. While it does have its challenges, as Share Newsreports it also has its upside.

“The program has … helped thousands of families overseas and farm owners here,” writes Tom Godfrey, “with some workers returning to the same farms for 30 years.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]A Montreal business owner plans to hire more Syrian refugees as Canada continues to accept them.[/quote]

The first group of 300 farm workers from Jamaica recently arrived in Canada under the SAWP for 2016 and more than 8,000 from the island nation are expected over the year.

According to the report, more than JMD$1.7 billion was sent back to the country in remittances in 2015, and the country’s government officials say this money is vital to the local economy.

“The overseas program must be seen as a critical part of the growth agenda for our country,” said Delroy Palmer, Jamaica’s Director of Overseas Employment Service, in the article. “It must be seen as part of the economic growth of the country.”

Canadians stepping up for Syrians

A Montreal plywood factory has become a safe haven of sorts for refugees arriving in Canada.

According to a story published in the Epoch Times, picked up from the Canadian Press, Seatply Products Inc. – owned by Levon Afeyan, himself a refugee who fled Lebanon’s civil war with his family in 1975 – is a place where refugees not only find employment but can also gain access to things like French-language lessons and life-skills development.

There are currently 12 refugees from Syria employed at the factory, but people who came to Canada as refugees from Sri Lanka and Iraq work there as well.

The Montreal business owner plans to hire more Syrian refugees as Canada continues to accept them, stating in the article that he knows the importance of a job to these individuals.

“Respect is a big thing in the Middle East,” Afeyan states in the article. “A man has to be a respectable man. Without a job he doesn’t have that.”

Meanwhile, in British Columbia, Sikh community organization Guru Nanak Free Kitchen extended its welcoming hand to Syrian children arriving in Surrey with over 300 toys.

Randeep Sarai, member of Parliament for Surrey Centre, was on hand for the festivities, the Indo-Canadian Voice reported, wishing the children a wonderful future in Canada.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Newcomers tend to settle into neighbourhoods that have a similar culture to their homeland, which can sometimes be counterproductive.[/quote]

“It is heartwarming to see how such a small act of kindness can put a smile on the kids’ faces,” Guru Nanak’s Paul Hundle told the Voice.

The toys handed out this past week were only one-third of the donations the Guru Nanak organization collected, so organizers say the rest will be distributed to the hundreds of Syrian children expected to arrive in British Columbia before the end of February.

Canada’s winning – thanks to diversity

A new survey entitled “Best Countries” ranks Canada second in the world. Only Germany is ahead of it.

According to Canadian Immigrant magazine, the survey, which was conducted by the U.S. News & World Report, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and global brand consultants BAV Consulting, considered 75 factors including sustainability, entrepreneurship and cultural and economic influence.

“Canadians pride themselves in encouraging all of their citizens to honour their own cultures,” the study said, making mention of the country’s official multiculturalism policy put into place in 1971.  

While this may be a positive from the outside looking in, a new article published this week in The Source titled “Embracing Canadian culture through community connections” showcases the other side of the multiculturalism coin.

The article explains that newcomers tend to settle into neighbourhoods that have a similar culture to their homeland, which can sometimes be counterproductive.

Queenie Choo, CEO of immigrant-serving organization S.U.C.C.E.S.S. in British Columbia, explains in the article that newcomers need to embrace Canadian culture.

“It’s important for them to venture from what feels comfortable in their immediate surroundings so they can learn about our Canadian culture,” she says.

Published in Top Stories
Thursday, 10 December 2015 14:10

Research Watch #8: The Same Canada?

by Priya Ramanujam in Scarborough

Members of visible-minority groups have a stronger sense of loyalty to federal government than provincial government, reports a new study from the Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP).

This is particularly true of first-generation Canadians, say researchers Antoine Bilodeau, Luc Turgeon, Stephen E. White and Ailsa Henderson in Seeing the Same Canada? Visible Minorities’ Views of the Federation.

The study focuses on both first- and second-generation visible minorities living in Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec, posing two questions:

a) Do visible minorities hold similar views to other Canadians with regard to Canada, its institutions and its national policies?

b) Are there differences between visible minorities who immigrated to Canada and those born in Canada?

The answer: across all four provinces, visible minorities – especially those born abroad – express a higher level of confidence in the House of Commons. The level of engagement seen in this fall’s federal election from new immigrant communities as voters, candidates and elected members of Parliament is evidence of this.

In B.C. and Alberta, second-generation visible minorities tend to become more involved provincially with time, while in Ontario – where the study states political views tend to be more federally oriented – visible minorities regardless of generation are engaged at both the national and regional level.

However, in Quebec, where there is no provincial policy on multiculturalism, both first and successive generations of visible-minority groups face difficulty integrating into regional politics.

The authors suggest this points to the possibility of growing tensions between majority and minority groups in Quebec, as they “do not appear to be marching in sync when it comes to their understanding of the federation and identification with Quebec and Canada.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Somali parents raising a child living with autism in Toronto face significant barriers accessing support systems.[/quote]

Somali parents of children with autism experience barriers to support

Somali parents raising a child living with autism in Toronto face significant barriers accessing support systems, particularly as a result of language barriers.

This was one of the main findings of a qualitative, cross-national analysis recently released by Pathways to Prosperity looking at the experiences of Somali parents raising children with and without autism in Toronto and Minneapolis.

“I know over 100 parents myself who have a child with autism,” said one father in the study. “Most of them do not get support from anywhere. Many are single mothers who don’t drive or speak English.”

For Faduma Mohamed, a 22-year-old Toronto-based spoken-word artist of Somali heritage, this experience is all too familiar. Her 18-year-old brother Bilal lives with autism.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“We need policies that facilitate [migrant workers’] transition, rather than complicate it."[/quote]

“There was no treatment offered, no therapies, no extracurricular activities because of a classist system,” Mohamed shares. “The people who know English, the people who have the money, the people who know how to get the resources will get the resources.”

Researchers Melissa Fellin, Victoria Esses and Gillian King also indicate in the study a stigma associated with autism within the Somali community that often prevents parents from speaking about their challenges.

“It’s scary for some parents because we’re all caught up in the definition of normal; when our child falls out of the realm of normal in our culture, we immediately ‘other’ that person,” explains Mohamed.

Despite this stigma, the Pathways study found that there are Somali parents coming together in both cities to advocate for their children and policy changes at their local school boards and in health care.

It’s the type of change Mohamed is hoping for.

Through a 132-day autism awareness campaign (paired with the hashtag #OughtTheBox) she is carrying a large plastic bin – one of the props from her upcoming stage play Oughtism – everywhere she goes.

Why? The first time she brought the box on a bus, people were surprisingly kind – offering her a seat or to help carry it – despite how much room it took up.

The experience was vastly different from people “staring, cutting their eye or grumbling under their breath” when her brother has meltdowns in public.

“I thought it was funny,” she says. “People could help me more with a box than they could with a human being.”

Complex issues for migrant workers seeking permanent residency

Migrant workers pursuing permanent resident (PR) status in Canada should be considered “transitional” as opposed to “temporary,” according to recommendations put forth in a recent study released by the Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP).

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"How can you properly pay for a family if you’re being paid low wage?”[/quote]

“We need policies that facilitate [migrant workers’] transition, rather than complicate it, as is now the case,” state authors Delphine Nakache and Leanne Dixon-Perera in Temporary or Transitional? Migrant Workers’ Experiences with Permanent Residence in Canada.

The study gathered qualitative evidence from 99 participants ranging from migrant workers who became permanent residents to nongovernmental organizations, and focused on factors leading to migrant workers seeking permanent residency, challenges faced during this transition and implications of the two-step migration (temporary to permanent) for settlement.

Based on the experiences put forth by respondents, the study makes several policy recommendations, including eliminating the 4-in, 4-out rule – which allows employers to constantly replace workers – implementing the right for migrants working in low-skilled positions to have their family accompany them to Canada, and offering free language training and more settlement services to transitional migrant workers.

Aimee Bebosa, chair of the Ottawa-based Philippine Migrants Society of Canada, says that while these recommendations are a good start, more must be considered when implementing.

“For example, how can you properly pay for a family if you’re being paid low wage?” she asks. “They have to consider also properly remunerating workers so they can support their families.”

The IRPP study also recommends reconsidering both employer-driven immigration contingent on full-time permanent job offers and employer-specific or “tied” work permits to reduce barriers to transitional workers successfully receiving PR status.

Authors Nakache and Dixon-Perera make note that the study’s findings confirm the complexity of navigating multiple ever-changing immigration programs and policies at both the federal and provincial level.

“We are not suggesting that there is an easy fix,” they write.

Research Watch is a regular column on that looks at recently released and emerging research relating to immigration, settlement, immigrant/ethno-cultural communities and multiculturalism. Researchers or organizations releasing studies we should consider are encouraged to write to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Published in Policy

by Rachelle Cruz (@rachellecruz_) in Toronto

If Friday’s state visit of Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III was any indication of the Harper government’s political orchestration in obtaining votes from the Filipino-Canadian community, then it’s safe to say that winning over Filipinos in the upcoming federal elections won’t be an easy feat.

Kababayans (Filipino word for countrymen) across the Greater Toronto Area flocked to Roy Thomson Hall to show their support and excitement to meet the Filipino leader. Some men donned the traditional barong, and some women were dressed in Filipiniana iconic butterfly-sleeved gowns. It was the first visit of Aquino and the first by a Filipino president since 2002 with the visit of then president Gloria Arroyo.

But in the periphery, there was also a group of other Filipino organizations that rallied outside. Jesson Reyes, a spokesperson from Migrante Canada said that they are ultimately calling for Aquino’s resignation because of his dismal record in protecting Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) like Mary Jane Veloso and failing to address the extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances rampant in the country, among other issues. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]As the two national anthems were sung one after the other, Filipino-Canadians experienced that feeling of duality – of loving both their motherland and now their adopted country Canada.[/quote]

Though the three-day state visit of Aquino was clearly divisive, it was still a rare occasion to celebrate and witness. He arrived in Toronto, home to Canada’s largest Filipino community, on the second of his three-day visit.

Philippines-born Senator Tobias Enverga Jr. (pictured to the right) was the evening’s emcee; he introduced Prime Minister Stephen Harper to the stage, shortly followed by President Aquino. Both leaders received standing ovations, applause and cheers from the crowd, as waves of small Philippine flags broke out from the audience.

“I’m excited to hear his speech,” Art Viola, the nostalgic former Lord Mayor of Niagara-on-the-Lake expressed. “When his mother came to visit Toronto, I was also invited. A couple of people from Niagara Falls attended the dinner. So it was double excitement. I was really surprised to see him here; I just got the invitation last night. It was very informative and positive.”

An electric mix of excitement, nationalism, pride and unity hung in the air, as both leaders took to the expansive stage that was adorned with Canadian and Philippine flags.   

As the two national anthems were sung one after the other, Filipino-Canadians experienced that feeling of duality – of loving both their motherland and now their adopted country Canada.   

Other dignitaries and officials were present; Harper was backed up by some of his Cabinet officials including Finance Minister Joe Oliver, and barong-clad Defence Minister Jason Kenney. Toronto Mayor, John Tory, was also in attendance.

Positives in Bilateral Relationship

In his speech, President Aquino respectfully told the Prime Minister that in this rare occasion to meet with fellow Filipinos, he’d like to deliver his remarks in Tagalog, to which Harper then intermittently put headphones into his ears for translation. 

President Aquino humbly boasted about the reforms and progress made under his administration, from infrastructure/road projects, boom in coconut water exports, updates on procuring second-hand fighter jets, and his steady fight against corruption. Mostly, his remarks highlighted economic growth in the country.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][I]t’s wonderful that a Philippine leader can actually come and visit Filipinos who are overseas and give some good, positive report in what’s happening in our country. It is wonderful that the people-to-people relationship is already there. Now we can mutually develop the trade relationship.” - Julius Tiangson, Member of Parliament candidate[/quote]

Bigyan mo lang nang isang pagkakataon, ay talagang magpapakitang gilas ang Pilipino,” Aquino said, which translates to, “Just give him one chance, and the Filipino will surely show his prowess.”

He continued stating that what the Philippines had accomplished economically was “no joke”. “Let’s peek at the economy, formerly Sick Man of Asia, now tagged Darling of Asia. We achieved the all-time high foreign direct investments of $6.2 billion in 2014. From 2010 to 2014, we had an average GDP growth of 6.3 per cent,” he noted, garnering applause from the audience.

The President added that this year’s target would be seven to eight per cent GDP growth.

“This is a very significant visit here, one of the largest Filipino populations is here in Canada,” said Julius Tiangson, officially nominated Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) candidate for Mississauga Centre riding. 

“It’s a good report and it’s wonderful that a Philippine leader can actually come and visit Filipinos who are overseas and give some good, positive report in what’s happening in our country. It is wonderful that the people-to-people relationship is already there. Now we can mutually develop the trade relationship.”

The visit is not only a reciprocal gesture from Harper’s official trip to the Philippines back in November 2012. This time around, the two countries engaged in discussions over free trade agreements, regional and global security challenges, and Canada’s foreign aid, in a move to further strengthen bilateral ties.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Filipinos are smart, they’re intelligent people, we know what the story is, it’s going to be difficult to pull a fast one over us.” - Rafael Fabregas, immigration lawyer[/quote]

We are starting negotiations on a FIPA (Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement) and we are going to start on a preliminary basis having a free-trade agreement,” said Finance Minister Oliver. “We already have a FIPA, we need to modernize it. We just want to broaden trade in all areas.” 

Important Issues Overlooked

It wasn’t all pride and glory though. While those present could appreciate the moment, some were critical.

“You know what, if it walks like a duck, it talks like a duck, it’s probably a duck,” immigration lawyer and advocate for the live-in caregivers program, Rafael Fabregas, commented. “There were definitely elements of a political rally, but the people who are sitting around me, who didn’t know who I am and what my background is, they were cognizant of that, they picked up on it.”

Fabregas said he heard comments like, ‘Ano ba to? (What is this?) Rally ba ito or speech ni PNoy? (Is this a rally or speech of PNoy (Aquino)?)’ from audience members. “Filipinos are smart, they’re intelligent people, we know what the story is, it’s going to be difficult to pull a fast one over us,” he added.

Still, he had some positive observations.

I think it was a very engaging speech, a lot of information,” Fabregas added. “I was looking forward to hear more about what’s going on in the Philippines. It was nice to hear him acknowledge the contributions made by the Filipino-Canadians, through the betterment of our country. At yun naman yung talaga ang gusto natin right? (Isn’t that what we want?) We always want to give back to our motherland.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“I was a bit disappointed because I thought that he came here for that purpose. You know to bail out our TFWs from going home and applying again in four years, which is unnecessary. And most of the jobs of TFWs, the Canadians don’t even want to take it.” - Ladies of the Knights of Rizal member[/quote]

Others showed some disappointment.

The more contentious issues, like the plight of Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW), were left out, or simply contained. Reports have stated that Aquino and Harper made a deal on the TFW program, but details of that have not been released.

A member of the Ladies of the Knights of Rizal voiced out, “I was a bit disappointed because I thought that he came here for that purpose. You know to bail out our TFWs from going home and applying again in four years, which is unnecessary. And most of the jobs of TFWs, the Canadians don’t even want to take it. That’s why they were hired in the first place, from the Philippines. They don’t want to do the jobs that the Filipinos are willing to do,” she said.

When The Philippine Reporter broached the subject with Minister Kenney, and asked if the TFW subject was raised between the two leaders, he replied: “It was only raised briefly, and I think both Prime Minister and President Aquino agreed that we want to protect the rights of contract workers, of temporary foreign workers.”

“Of course, we Canadians have to ensure that Canadians, immigrants, and citizens, have the first available access to available jobs,” he continued. “We don’t want to end up with permanent people who are on temporary status, which is why we have increased pathways to permanent residency and citizenship for TFWs and also put in a limit to how long those who don’t get permanent residency stay in Canada.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The number of Filipinos [immigrating] to Canada with permanent residency has doubled since our government came to office. It has increased by over 100 per cent.” - Defence Minister Jason Kenney[/quote]

When further pressed about the negative implications for migrant workers in relation to the Four-in/Four-Out rule that took effect early this year, he said: “The number of Filipinos [immigrating] to Canada with permanent residency has doubled since our government came to office. It has increased by over 100 per cent. It has gone from annual average of about 16,000 Filipino permanent residents' immigration to Canada prior to 2006 to about 28,000 on average now."

He continued: "So that’s largely because of the huge increase in the number of temporary foreign workers who can now access permanent residency through the Canadian experience class and, of course, the expanded live-in caregiver program, as well as the new Express Entry program. Obviously we are much more generous than before, but there are obviously going to be limits and anyone who comes here on a work permit knows full well that there’s no guarantee they’ll get permanent residency. So there’s got to be a balance.”

Filipinos are Philippines Greatest Resource

Yet like it or not, Filipinos are creating a niche for themselves beyond the common stereotype as caregivers or health-care professionals. There’s a surge in the community where Filipinos are now working to serve as political leaders, entrepreneurs, creative designers, activists, journalists and so forth.

Harper eloquently greeted the masses with “Bonsoir, Good evening, Magandang Gabi,” but it was his remarks later on that were foretelling: “Ladies and gentlemen, I think the President Aquino put it well when he said, and I quote, ‘The Philippines is blessed with the greatest resource. It’s people, who are hardworking, very loyal, and very adaptable . . .’ and I would add, love for family and commitment to faith. Filipino-Canadians have become an integral part of every single aspect of Canadians today,” he said.

And he’s right. Kababayans are no longer just sitting there waiting on the sidelines. 

Published in partnership with The Philippine Reporter.

Published in Top Stories

by Ted Alcuitas (@Ted_Alcuitas) in Vancouver

The first visit of a Philippine president to Canada in 20 years has stirred Filipinos across the country as they eagerly await the arrival of President Benigno Aquino III (or PNoy, to most Filipinos) in early May.

But while most Filipinos are eager to meet Aquino during his May 7-9 visit, Migrante BC’s Jane Ordinario says her group is planning a rally against Aquino.

“We strongly oppose the visit because Aquino has a poor human rights record. He does not embody the values of human rights that Canada has,” says Ordinario. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“He has no respect for migrant workers, as proven by his late response to the appeal to save the life of Mary Jane Veloso.” - Jane Ordinario, Migrante BC[/quote] 

“He has no respect for migrant workers, as proven by his late response to the appeal to save the life of Mary Jane Veloso,” Ordinario adds.

Veloso was convicted of drug trafficking and scheduled to be executed on April 28 in Indonesia. She won a last-minute reprieve and was saved from the firing squad.

Aquino is expected to visit Ottawa, as well as Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver, where he will meet with the large Filipino communities in these cities.

He will also make a one-day working visit to the United States to meet with potential investors and with the local Filipino community in Chicago.

“We do not have any definite confirmation of the visit yet,” says Philippine Honorary Consul General Orlando Marcelino by telephone from Winnipeg.

“Syempre presidente yan, gusto nating makita [Of course we want to have a meet-and-greet] — a forum, here in Winnipeg,” adds Marcelino.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“I look forward to meeting with President Aquino to further strengthen the bonds between our two countries, including in the areas of trade, investment, development and security, benefiting the citizens of both nations.” - Stephen Harper[/quote]

Elected in 2010 (pictured to the right), Aquino is on his last two years of a six-year term. He is not the first of his family to visit Canada.

In 1989, his mother, Corazon “Cory” Aquino, fresh from overthrowing the dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the People Power Revolution, was the first Philippine president to visit Canada.

“[Aquino] is most welcome, but so far, wala pa kaming narinig sa konsulado [we haven’t heard from the consulate],” says Tomas Avendano, president and CEO of Vancouver’s Multicultural Helping House Society.

The Canada-Philippines Relationship

According to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Canada and the Philippines enjoy a “close friendship” as they have shared democratic values and strong people-to-people ties. After all, Canada is The Phillipines’ sixth top source market for tourism, and is home to almost 700,000 Filipinos.

“I look forward to meeting with President Aquino to further strengthen the bonds between our two countries, including in the areas of trade, investment, development and security, benefiting the citizens of both nations,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a press release announcing the visit.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“It is a significant visit as Canada tries to move up its relationship with the Philippines.” - Hugh Stephens, Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada[/quote]

Harper visited Manila in 2012 and met with Aquino at the Malacañan Palace. It was the first visit by a Canadian prime minister in 15 years.

Some community leaders, like Hugh Stephens, senior fellow at the Vancouver-based Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, agree with Harper’s viewpoint. “It is a significant visit as Canada tries to move up its relationship with the Philippines,” says Stephens.

Discussions between the two prime ministers will focus on expanding trade and investment, as Canada is the Philippines’ 21st largest trading partner and bilateral trade between the two countries totalled $1.8 billion in 2014.

In addition, though, Stephens says mutual agreement on recognizing international credentials and removing barriers would be a logical area of discussion.This is because Canada’s largest source of temporary foreign workers, as well as domestic workers, under the federal Live-in Caregiver Program, is The Philippines.  

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Published in Top Stories

by Humberta Araújo (@iafuture) in Toronto

While France remained a constant in the news at the top of 2015, with the Charlie Hebdo shooting being covered immensely, there are some stories from the Western Europe region that may have gone less noticed. Here’s a look into what’s been going on in Western Europe and its diaspora, as reported on by a variety of ethnic-media outlets.

Greek-Canadians Apprehensive about Future of Country

Greek Canadians are well aware that things in their homeland’s government are not as they should be. Nevertheless, some good news hit Athens last month, as the Eurozone finance ministers backed reform proposals submitted by Greece.

The European Commission called it a, “valid starting point.” The measures proposed by Greece include combating tax evasion and tackling the smuggling of fuel and tobacco.

According to Pierre Moscovici, the European Commissioner for Economic Affairs, the agreement, “averted an immediate crisis.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The crisis forced thousands of Greek workers to leave the country last year. The Canadian embassy in Rome has seen applications for work permits and visas nearly double.[/quote]

The firm response of the German authorities to the Greek request for an emergency loan extension had put extra pressure on the new government, which came to power with promises it would halt austerity and renegotiate the country’s bailout (which threw Greeks into despair) with the European Union and International Monetary Fund.

Hope and optimism have been dwindling for Greek-Canadians who are well aware of the country’s challenges. According to the news portal, Helenians have been following the developments coming from Athens with great interest through radio broadcasts and social networks following the January 25 election.

The crisis forced thousands of Greek workers to leave the country last year. The Canadian embassy in Rome has seen applications for work permits and visas nearly double.

Portugal: Let’s be Frank, You Can’t Expect to Get Without Giving 

Portuguese newspapers in Toronto have been echoing the position of the Greek government concerning its relationship with the European Union. The Portugese Sun reported Portugal Prime Minister Passos Coelho’s stance: it is unacceptable that the Greek newly elected government would want money from Europe without assuming responsibilities, he said.

“The Greek government requested the extension of loans,” said Coelho (pictured to the right). “It wants the right to be able to use the money the way it sees fit. However, Athens doesn’t want the responsibility to match up with the obligations framework within which the money should be allocated to Greece. This is not acceptable.”

In addition, the paper reported the reactions of the Portuguese Minister of Foreign Affairs, Rui Machete, who reacted to the statements made by Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, indicating the  European rescue program “did wrong to the dignity,” of the Portuguese, Greek and Irish. It proved Portugal should be compensated, added Machete.

Italians, Portuguese and Polish Take Ottawa to Court

A dark shadow hangs over the future of many migrant workers in Canada – particularly from Portugal, Italy, Poland and some Spanish speaking countries.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“It’s becoming impossible for migrant laborers who work in areas such as  construction, the food service industry and mechanics to stay in this country as permanent residents.” - Richard Boraks, immigration lawyer[/quote]

According to the Portuguese Sun, about 150 migrants working in construction, 100 of them from Portugal, are taking legal action against the Canadian government for alleged discrimination. The reason: the Canadian authorities are giving priority to immigrants from England, Ireland and France. “It’s becoming impossible for migrant laborers who work in areas such as  construction, the food service industry and mechanics to stay in this country as permanent residents,” said Richard Boraks, immigration lawyer, in the article.

These workers laboring in Canada under the Federal Skill Trades program, “have to go through a very demanding English test to become permanent residents (…) The government is not looking at the workers’ professional skills, but to language proficiency. The test is very difficult, and designed for people from the Commonweath. The government should follow the law and place language skills as a second priority.” According to the Portuguese Sun, around 30,000 temporary work permits have been given to candidates form Ireland, England and France, while a very small number was given to countries where English is not the first language.

This problem has also been voiced by the Spanish language newspaper El Centro, as well as Portuguese newspaper in Toronto, the Milénio Stadium, which reported concerns that these immigrants may be repatriated by the Canadian government in retaliation for their action. This is a fear voiced by many migrant workers and construction businesses in these communities.

SkyGreece Airlines SA to fly to Canada

Good news for Greek-Canadians. According to Greek Reporter the Canadian Transport Agency (CTA) has granted permission to SkyGreece Airlines SA to schedule international flights between EU member states and Canada.

“We are extremely happy with the CTA decision and it simply shows our determination to meet and surpass the requirements of the agency as well as the Canadian and Greek consumers,” said Nikolaos Alexandris, account manager and co-founder of SkyGreece Airlines SA, a company with the goal of connecting the Greek diaspora with its homeland by offering non-stop flights between Greece and North America.

The website reports that this private company was founded in October 2012 by a team of Greek-Canadian entrepreneurs “with extensive backgrounds in aviation and tourism.” It is based in Athens with offices located in Montreal, Toronto and New York.

Rome Forced to Face Terrorism Head On

The Isis beheadings of Coptic Christians from Egypt working in Lybia have brought a new challenge to some countries in Western Europe. Fears are mounting, particularly in Italy, after Libya-based Isis associates announced that the terrorist group was looking at Rome. This led the Italian government to call for a UN commanded international intervention. According to several Italian newspapers, the country, “has never been as exposed to the jihadist threat,” as it is now.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The Portuguese Sun emphasized statements made by the president of the Observatory for Security, Criminality and Terrorism, Filipe Duarte, declaring Portugal is not a target for terrorist acts, but rather a part of the jihadist puzzle as a passage place.[/quote] 

Portuguese media in Canada reporting on Italian fears have also highlighted the issue of terrorism in Portugal. The Portuguese Sun emphasized statements made by the president of the Observatory for Security, Criminality and Terrorism, Filipe Duarte, declaring Portugal is not a target for terrorist acts, but rather a part of the jihadist puzzle as a passage place. British youth have recently used Portugal as a passageway to join the jihad in Syria. To tackle the issue, last month the Portuguese government approved its national strategy to fight terrorism. Its main objective is to “detect, prevent, protect, persecute and respond,” to “the phenomenon on all its expressions.”

Italians remember the Hogg’s Hollow Disaster

The 55th anniversary of the Hogg’s Hollow disaster is fast approaching. March 17, 1960 marks the day of a tragic accident that happened in a tunnel under the Don River in Toronto claiming the lives of five Italian migrant workers.

According to the Italian-Canadian magazine Panorama, “this upcoming March 17 is a day of remembrance in Toronto for the families,” of these workers. The tragic accident forced Canadian authorities to revise the occupational health and safety laws, which had not gone through any change since 1927.

The Hogg’s Hollow disaster was the inspiration for a quilt by artist Laurie Swim that hangs in Toronto’s York Mills subway station.

Humberta Araújo was born in Vanderhoof, B.C., to parents who migrated from the Azores. As a reporter, she has worked in the Azores and Canada, both in television and newspapers. She is putting together a book on Azorean Migration to Canada. Reach her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Published in Western Europe

by Aurora Tejeida (@Aurobots) in Vancouver

As the New Year kicks off there is a lot to keep abreast of within the Latin American diaspora. Here’s a look at some of the headlines that made the most waves in recent weeks within the Latin American media.

New Canadian Migration Rules May Lead to Fraud and Racism

One of the purposes of Canada’s new migration rules, specifically the Express Entry system, is to hand out more permanent residencies and to reduce the time applicants need to wait. The country is expected to admit 285,000 permanent residents this year, as opposed to last year’s 265,000.

While some may laud the Conservative government’s policies – which favour those who have job offers or are already working – others think the new model can easily lead to racism and fraud, since they consider it gives all the power to Canadian companies.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The news portal La Portada (a site for Hispanics living in Canada) says that the new policies will benefit professional migrants by helping them land a job... but the downside might be greater, as the site claims the biggest losers of the new system are refugees, families, men and women over the age of 35 and those that don’t speak English or French fluently.[/quote]

The news portal La Portada (a site for Hispanics living in Canada) says that the new policies will benefit professional migrants by helping them land a job – statistics show that the unemployment rate for professional migrants is 50 per cent higher than that of native Canadians.

But the downside might be greater, as the site claims the biggest losers of the new system are refugees, families, men and women over the age of 35 and those that don’t speak English or French fluently. The new point-based system will benefit those who are younger, single, educated and fluent in English or French, leaving out many migrants from economically developing countries, many of which are in Latin America.

New policies have also diminished health care for refugee claimants and made it harder for migrants to bring their parents to Canada. Some critics say racism is an issue and point to the strict finance checks required for citizens of “poorer” countries – who must prove they are “wealthy enough” even if they just want to visit Canada as tourists.Ayotzinapa protest in Vancouver. Photo Credit: Ivan Calderon

Rallying for Student Murders in Mexico

This past fall, members of the Mexican communities in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver organized demonstrations and sit-ins to denounce the Mexican government and demand the safe return of 43 rural students who went missing at the hands of police last September. Most of the demonstrations, which were attended by students, activists and members of several Latin American countries, were staged outside Mexican consulates during the months of October and November. 

On September 26, following a confrontation between local police and student demonstrators outside of the Raul Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College of Ayotzinapa, six students were killed and 43 were taken by police. The officers were allegedly following an order from the mayor of the town of Iguala in the southern state of Guerrero. According to Mexican federal authorities, the police then handed the students over to a local drug cartel. During the search for their bodies, mass graves were found. Current police investigations point to a nearby dumpster where it appears a large number of bodies had been incinerated, but so far the government hasn’t been able to prove whether the bodies are those of the missing students.

Less than two per cent of crimes are prosecuted in Mexico, where violence has increased dramatically since Felipe Calderón’s presidency. Eighty thousand people have been murdered and more than 22,000 have gone missing since 2006.

Footage from one of the rallies held in Vancouver.


Latin America Soccer Cup Comes to Toronto

Eglinton Flats hosted the first Latin American soccer cup held in Toronto after eight consulates –Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, México, Uruguay and Brazil – decided to organize the sporting event as one of the activities for the Latin American health week.

The tournament, geared toward men over 18, took place in August, and proceeds went to help promote health among Toronto’s Latin American community. The purpose of Latin American health week is to offer free medical consults in Spanish, as well as services that aren’t usually offered by Ontario’s provincial health system.

Mexicans Migrating to Canada: Safety Over Economics

Mexico’s rise of violence and criminal activity is pushing young, educated residents and middle class families out of the country. For years the stereotypical image of the Mexican migrants was that of men and women who often risked their lives to move to the U.S. and Canada to help support their families back home, even though their migration status often meant that job offers were reduced to construction, agriculture and domestic services.

But Mexico is starting to breed a different type of migrant, one that isn’t leaving the country for economic reasons. According to La Portada, the Mexican government is refusing to release hard data, but studies done by Mexico’s National Autonomous University (UNAM) show that northern states are the most affected by this new trend, which unfortunately for Mexico is mostly made up of highly qualified and educated young men and women.

Canada currently asks Mexican nationals for a visa, even if they’re just visiting the country. The Latin American country is considered safe by the Canada Border Services Agency, which means it’s virtually impossible for a Mexican to be granted refugee status, even though the country is suffering from extreme violence and travel warnings to certain states are not rare. 

Diplomatic Relations Between Canada and Colombia at All-Time Best

Colombia’s president Juan Manuel Santos and the Governor General of Canada, David Johnston, held a meeting in Colombia to broaden cooperation and strengthen the relationship between both countries.

President Santos assured journalists that diplomatic relations between both countries are at their best moment in history and mentioned specific areas they hope to work on.

The areas President Santos spoke of were education and technology, whereas Governor General Johnston spoke about natural resources in Colombia and more educational opportunities for Colombian nationals in Canada.

Other subjects that were discussed include culture, mining investments, energy and oil. For over 40 years, Canada has invested more than $137 million in Colombia; most of the money is destined to protect children, create better access to education and to protect human rights, among other things.

When it comes to education, Johnston also spoke about expanding scholarship offers to Colombian students through a young-leaders-of-America program. 

Aurora Tejeida is a Vancouver-based multimedia journalist who's originally from Mexico. She has a master’s degree in journalism from the University of British Columbia and she's written stories for The Tyee, Vice and The Toronto Star, among other publications. When she’s not writing about culture, the environment or migration, she’s wandering around the city trying to find a decent place for tacos. 


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Published in Latin America
Thursday, 03 October 2013 19:07

Migrants much more than agents of growth

by Ranjit Bhaskar

Protecting the rights of migrant workers has become more crucial than ever as they are too often regarded as commodities or economic and political problems instead of human beings. This is the unitary message being put out by various experts as the UN General Assembly in New York holds a crucial discussion on international migration and development on October 3 and 4.
While the UN committee on the Rights of Migrant Workers (CMW) is urging all countries to join an international treaty that protects the rights of migrant workers, a group of 72 independent human rights experts urged world governments and intergovernmental organizations to adopt a migrant-centered approach.
The International Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families (ICRMW) is one of the core international human rights treaties,” said CMW Chairperson Abdelhamid El Jamri.
 “Migration is in essence a fundamental human phenomenon, so it is essential for discussions on international migration to be focused on human rights,” said Chaloka Beyani on behalf of the independent experts who have been charged by the UN Human Rights Council to address specific country situations and thematic issues in all parts of the world.
In an open letter to UN member-states, these experts called on states to discuss, among others, key issues like the decriminalization of irregular entry and stay; the move away from detention as a tool in addressing irregular migration, and the development of alternatives to detention; how to combat xenophobia and xenophobic violence against migrants; and the rights of migrant children, both in countries of transit and destination.
“Migrants continue to suffer abuse, exploitation and violence despite the legal human rights framework in place, which protects migrants as human beings, regardless of their administrative status or situation,” added the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Francois Crépeau, who is attending the UN event. “Human Rights must therefore be at the center of discussions at the High-level Dialogue.”
Word of caution
However, Harald Bauder, the Academic Director of Ryerson Centre for Immigration and Settlement (RCIS) in Toronto, had a word of caution. “The open letter hits on a very important issue that needs to be discussed. But too much focus on the human rights aspect of it undermines efforts to focus on their social rights,”
“The language of human rights can be easily interpreted by governments in various ways to exclude the very people it intends to protect,” Prof. Bauder said. He said current immigration policies across the world are designed to exploit labour and pitch workers against each other. “They are powerful tools to reduce wages and labour standards.”
Prof. Bauder said a universal declaration for a common approach to migration is essential to stop countries and provinces within them from becoming competitors in this inequitable game of exploitation.
Echoing these sentiments, Mr. El Jamri of CMW said ratifying the ICRMW does not commit states to giving migrant workers special treatment. It does not create new rights nor establish additional rights specifically for migrant workers. “What it does do is give specific form to standards that protect all human beings so that they are meaningful within the context of migration.”  
Canada not a signatory
Changing patterns of migration and the exploitation and discrimination faced by migrant workers in sectors such as construction and agriculture have made protecting their rights more crucial than ever, Mr. El Jamri stressed.
The ICRMW, in force for 10 years, has been ratified by 47 states. However, no major destination countries, among them Canada, the U.S., EU member states and Gulf countries, have ratified it, even though it reflects the rights set out in other core human rights treaties to which many states are already party.
More than 200 million people worldwide are international migrants; of these some 30 million are estimated to be irregular migrants.  
 “The convention is the best strategy to prevent abuses and to address the vulnerability that migrant workers face as well as to maximize the benefits of migration,” Mr. El Jamri said. The CMW Committee he heads is composed of 14 independent human rights experts and oversees implementation of the convention by states.  Many of the states are not only nations of origin but are now transit and destination countries given the changing patterns of migration. – New Canadian Media
Published in Top Stories
Thursday, 07 February 2013 00:24

Tragedy waiting to happen again

By Ranjit Bhaskar for New Canadian Media

A year ago, on February 6, 2012, 10 migrant agriculture workers being transported in a van and the Ontarian driver of a flatbed truck were killed in a horrific collision near Hampstead, Ontario.

As the tragedy’s first anniversary approached, it was in the news again when Ontario’s chief coroner decided against holding a public inquest into the crash, concluding one of the province’s deadliest-ever collisions was solely the result of driver error.

This conclusion has been contested as the tragedy was much more than a horrible road accident. It also exposed the dark underbelly of Canada’s labour market that recruits almost 300,000 temporary foreign or migrant workers each year. Workers unions and rights activists say they often work under inhumane conditions and then sent home when their visas expire.

Wayne Hanley, the national president of UFCW Canada (United Food and Commercial Workers union), believes an inquest would have helped shed light on the challenges facing temporary foreign farm workers in Canada. It could have lead to blueprints for improving safety and preventing deaths and serve as a catalyst for changes to legislation and policies.

"It is a tragedy waiting to happen again," said Hanley in a press release. Last February, Hanley and the union called for an inquiry into the tragedy including how the total lack of regulations governing the transport of agriculture workers may have contributed to it.

"The coroner acknowledged the call for the inquest but that was it. A year later, nothing has happened. Why? The role of an inquest is to make recommendations to prevent such future tragedies. An inquiry would confirm that right now in Ontario, transporting cattle is more strictly regulated than transporting farm workers," said the leader of Canada's largest-private-sector union.

The Justicia for Migrant Workers collective, in an open letter to Premier-designate Kathleen Wynne, has also called for a review of the decision not to undertake an inquest into the accident. “The Chief Coroner’s refusal to further investigate one of the worst workplace accidents in the history of Ontario sends a message that the lives of those who perished -- most of whom were migrant workers -- matter less than those of other workers. We remind you that there has never been an inquest into the death of a migrant worker in the Province of Ontario, “said the letter.

"Workers are in jeopardy every day. They tell us of being carted around in the back of cube vans, open flatbed pickups, and even on top of food crates loaded behind a tractor. The Ontario government must not wait for another tragedy before it acts. A coroner's inquest into Hampstead is critical, but in the meantime, the government could move tomorrow under the Health and Safety Act to regulate and enforce safe transportation of farm workers," said Hanley, the UFCW official quoted earlier. "A year has passed since Hampstead. There is no excuse for further delay."

Right to Stay campaign

Meanwhile, an international campaign has been launched to let Juan Ariza, one of the survivors of the accident, to stay in Canada and rebuild his shattered life.

A Peruvian native like the nine other workers killed, Ariza had been in Canada for three days when tragedy struck. The 36-year-old man has been recuperating in a nursing home in London, Ontario but faces deportation unless his application is granted by the federal government.

"Juan would like to build a productive life in Canada for himself and his family, and he should have the right to do so," says Naveen Mehta, the general counsel and director of human rights, equity and diversity for UFCW Canada. Along with a network of community activists, lawyers, advocates, friends, and labour allies, UFCW Canada has joined in a campaign to support Ariza's application for permanent residency and his Right to Stay in Canada based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

"The Right to Stay (R2S) campaign is about fairness and accountability," says Mehta. "Juan was recruited by Canada to do hard and dangerous work that many others refuse to do. It is unjust and unconscionable for Canada to now dispose of him like some used up commodity because he was injured."

But Juan's application to stay in Canada has so far gone unanswered. To support Juan's request, the Right to Stay campaign has launched a public campaign, as well as a petition calling on Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to do what is right and fair, and allow Juan's request for permanent residency (to find out more about the petition, go to or

"For the Harper government to deport Juan would result in inhumane hardship for Juan and his family, particularly given his medical condition and the lack of supports available to them in Peru," says the UFCW Canada human rights director. "The supports that he needs are in Canada and with these supports Juan would clearly be able to lead a productive life in Canada."

 - New Canadian Media

Published in Commentary

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