by Themrise Khan in Ottawa 

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

Pakistani-Canadians Unsuccessful in Mississauga Ward 4 By-Elections 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alleged Irregularities Discovered in Selection of Brampton South Nominations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Published in South Asia

by Don Curry (@DonDoncurry) in North Bay, Ontario

The North Bay City Council voted last night 8-2 in support of the right of permanent residents to vote in municipal and school board elections.

Letters will be sent to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, the appropriate ministries and Leader of the Opposition to request a change in provincial legislation. The move follows a similar motion by the City of Toronto, and other southern Ontario municipalities are examining the issue as well.

The vote was not an overnight sensation. It was the result of two years of work that culminated with a council presentation and six-minute video presentation that you can see here:

[youtube height="315" width="560"]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=il3hZVr53uw[/youtube]

The video and council presentation was broadcast live to the community on Cogeco TV. Produced by Canadore College student Chris Robinson for course credit, the video features well-known North Bay residents speaking passionately about the issue.

Throughout the evening, which I found rewarding, Mayor Al McDonald and Councillor Mike Anthony, who moved the motion, had very favourable comments about the North Bay & District Multicultural Centre and its partnership with the city.

It was the end of a journey that began with a discussion led by Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI) Executive Director Debbie Douglas at one of our OCASI board meetings two years ago.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]While I am thrilled with the vote by North Bay City Council, I realize it doesn’t end there.[/quote]

She spoke about the recent vote in favour by Toronto City Council and mentioned the work of Desmond Cole, who led the charge. On my drive back to North Bay after that OCASI meeting in Toronto, I thought, “Why not North Bay?”

We have a supportive mayor and I thought there would be enough council members that could be persuaded to support the initiative. Douglas got me in touch with Cole and he offered support and guidance the rest of the way.

While I am thrilled with the vote by North Bay City Council, I realize it doesn’t end there. The provincial government has to change the legislation to allow permanent residents to vote in municipal and school board elections. Municipalities do not have that power, as they are creatures of the province.

While North Bay is the first Northern Ontario municipality to support the initiative, there is support in a number of southern Ontario cities. Outside of Ontario, the City of Halifax passed a similar motion.

The movement is growing and is landing in the laps of provincial governments.

Preventing Voting is ‘Not Right’

The need for change is, in part, being fuelled by recent federal government changes that create barriers to Canadian citizenship. Increasing application fees from $400 to $630, increasing the residence requirements from three of the last four years to four of the last six and the processing backlog all add years to the process.

Changes to the citizenship test have made it harder to pass, with pass rates dropping from 83 per cent in 2011 to 73 per cent in 2012. Two of our staff members gave the test to a North Bay service club and half the members failed.

Opponents say that Canada offers dual citizenship, and so it does, but more than 50 countries do not, including two top source countries, China and India. That is a barrier for someone who, for example, needs to return to his/her source country to take care of a dying or sick relative for an extended period.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Preventing [permanent residents] from voting, as retired Nipissing University professor Bill Plumstead says in the video, is not moral, is not ethical, and is not right.[/quote]

Opponents say that the change dilutes the value of Canadian citizenship. Our video points out that it strengthens the value, by providing a first step toward inclusion at the local level.

Permanent residents pay taxes, own homes, own businesses and employ people and have their children in school, but have no say on how their local taxes are spent. Enabling permanent residents to vote municipally, as a first step toward Canadian citizenship and full voting rights, is the smart thing to do to help newcomers integrate in to the community.

Preventing them from voting, as retired Nipissing University professor Bill Plumstead says in the video, is not moral, is not ethical, and is not right.

For more information go to http://cityvote.ca and get your municipality on board with this growing movement.


Don Curry is the Executive Director of the North Bay & District Multicultural Centre, Co-Chair of the North Bay Newcomer Network Local Immigration Partnership Initiative and Northern region board member for OCASI. He is also a board member of Pathways to Prosperity, a national immigration research organization.

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Published in Commentary

by Thamina Jaferi (@ThaminaJaferi) in Toronto

“Diversity is our strength.” Despite this being the motto of Toronto – widely considered to be the most diverse city in the world – there continues to be a large gap between the racial and ethnic composition of city residents and those elected to represent them in municipal politics. The pioneering efforts of Idil Burale, Munira Abukar and Ausma Malik in trying to break down such barriers during their respective 2014 election campaigns is showing that many diverse communities are demanding that progressive political representation be made a priority by Toronto. 

During a recent conversation with Burale, Abukar and Malik on the representation of racialized Muslim women in Toronto’s 2014 municipal election, many important insights are unearthed regarding the barriers that affect diverse candidates from running successful municipal election campaigns. Additionally, strategies on how to address these barriers are also highlighted. Burale and Abukar ran for city council positions, and Malik – who won – for a Toronto District School Board (TDSB), and in the background of all of their campaigns the visibly racist and Islamophobic public reactions showed that there is much work to be done in changing discriminatory attitudes. 

Identity Politics

All three women cite the importance of giving back to one’s community and the values of public service that formed an integral part of their upbringing as primary reasons for taking the leap into politics.

Abukar says she put her name on the ballot because she wanted to bring about change in her community of Rexdale, which is often labelled as being ‘underserved’. “I want people in my community to have options” she states. She works towards bettering the living conditions of families, and changing the popular notion that residents of Rexdale are ‘victims’ of their social and economic circumstances. She actively encourages community members to take back their power.

During the election, identity politics was unavoidable at every stage of their campaigns. They faced the prejudices of those outside of their cultural and faith communities who focused on their identity as women, racialized and Muslim. “I naively thought I could stick to the issues,” says Burale, when referring to some reactions of residents she witnessed that focused more on her skin colour than her qualifications. She says she was spoken about in terms of being a “Somali-Canadian” candidate rather than being engaged in discussion about her campaign proposals. 

Burale explains that she also faced sexism from within certain Muslim communities. She experienced differential treatment by the management of a mosque that allowed a male candidate running for the election to speak to the congregation, but did not provide her with the same opportunity when she requested it.

Malik says her experience was slightly different. In contrast to Burale’s experience, Malik was invited to a local mosque to speak about her campaign at a Friday prayer. She says that it is, “important to understand the dynamics within your own community,” but the varying reactions from the different ethno-cultural and faith communities show the resistance and acceptance that these candidates received from both external and internal community groups.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“The idea of you being a politician is not readily acceptable. We keep electing White councillors because the White option is the default option.” - Idil Burale[/quote]

Much of the media coverage of the racist and Islamophobic incidents that occurred during the election focused on the defacing of Abukar’s election signs, the hurling of garbage at her volunteers, and the coordinated campaign of hate targeting Malik. However, Burale shares that she also faced serious threats on the basis of her faith. “I chose not to talk about this publicly, because I did not want it to overshadow my candidacy,” she shares.

For Abukar, on the other hand, going public about the hatred she faced was her way of showing the perpetrators that she was not going to be silenced. “I wanted to show them I was not afraid,” she says. The variety of strategies that these women used shows the complexity of the challenges that diverse candidates face, which often distract the public from focusing on their campaign platforms.

For Malik, aspects of her identity such as her visible Muslim faith (i.e. her hijab), being young and being a woman were all made the focal point of her campaign, rather than her platform for change. It was surprising to her, because she was running for a school trustee position, which is typically given the least attention during municipal elections. In the face of such challenges, Malik states that she focuses on, “being who I am, having honesty and integrity, and finding ways to move forward,” in her approach. A respect for equity is the foundation of all her political decisions.

Barriers to Political Participation

Burale (pictured to the right) points out that it is difficult for candidates from diverse backgrounds to enter municipal politics because they do not have the same access to financial resources as others might. It is also difficult for newcomers to unseat incumbents. There is the perception that a person from a non-European background will focus on serving their community, while a White candidate is better positioned to serve all communities. As a result, the racialized candidate has to work twice as hard just to prove that he or she is "Canadian enough" to serve the entire community.

“The idea of you being a politician is not readily acceptable,” Burale says. “We keep electing White councillors because the White option is the default option.”

In the current environment of heightened Islamophobia this can amplify the obstacles that racialized Muslim candidates experience, because they are often “othered” by resistant members of society that are not comfortable with the face of politics changing.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“My victory is that my community knew it could be politically active.” - Munira Abukar[/quote]

In addition, the women emphasize that within diverse communities there is a need to build cross-cultural collaborations to support progressive candidates that will serve the interests of all communities. Political literacy needs to be increased within diverse communities in order for them to see how their engagement or lack thereof impacts municipal decision-making. Abukar mentions that after the election, “my victory is that my community knew it could be politically active,” while at the same time acknowledging  the adage that Rome was not built in a day. It will take hard work and time to effect progressive change in politics. She uses the word “pioneer” to describe the path that she, Burale and Malik have paved for other young people in their communities, many of whom reached out to the women to tell them how inspiring they are.

Supports for Diverse Candidates

All three women stress the importance of establishing strong networks of progressive candidates and allies. These networks are crucial in exerting political influence over what Burale terms an “attitude of elitism” permeating city hall. Burale suggests that a party system is needed in municipal politics if we are really serious about seeing municipal politicians reflect Toronto’s ethno-racial diversity.

Mentoring is another support that Burale, Abukar and Malik (pictured to the left) agree is essential to helping diverse and progressive candidates have a realistic chance of running a successful campaign. Because candidates from backgrounds of privilege have more access to political institutions and networks, they should use that privilege to help candidates who do not have the same level of access. Burale mentions that “incumbents need to show new entrants the ropes.” Access to these networks and endorsements can help strengthen the candidacies of people from diverse backgrounds.

“My allies helped me to keep going despite the hate,” claims Malik, who credits mentors and allies such as Olivia Chow, Kristyn Wong-Tam, Joe Cressy and Mike Layton with motivating her to overcome the obstacles she faced.  

Toronto’s Role in Equal Opportunity

Concerning political power at city hall, Abukar states, “power is not absolute and we have to be willing to share it.” Additionally, she mentions the importance of holding politicians and the municipality accountable to the residents of Toronto so that we are, “putting the community first rather than interests.” This is achieved by asking politicians tough questions and ensuring that public consultation occurs in decision-making processes.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"] “I have worked with politicians that have principles. There’s so much we can do to support each other. We need to push the limits of what is possible.” - Ausma Malik [/quote]

Abukar and Burale also place responsibility on the media to be mindful of how the stories of candidates (especially from underrepresented communities) are presented, because news stories have a significant impact on how their identities are perceived by the public. The angles from which stories are written can affect the safety and lives of the people they profile, and this responsibility should not be taken lightly. Abukar mentions that fact-checking is crucial, and states that out of the media outlets that covered the hateful incidents during her campaign, only one of them actually checked the facts with her. The emphasis on expediency in publishing stories should not override journalism ethics and standards.

Malik emphasizes the need to examine issues of equal opportunity in politics from a systemic lens. She applauds politicians that take a stand for progressive politics. “I have worked with politicians that have principles,” she says. Furthermore, she states that this type of solidarity building is a personal journey for anyone, and it requires much internal reflection and using one’s own “internal compass” for guidance. She points out: “There’s so much we can do to support each other. We need to push the limits of what is possible.”

Photos courtesy of source's individual social media profiles.

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Published in Politics

by Priya Ramanujam (@SincerelyPriyain Toronto

It is no secret that immigrants play an important and vital role in the make-up of Canada’s fabric. There is also no dearth of research studies being conducted by academics and organizations across the country relevant to new Canadians. Research Watch will keep an eye on the studies being released and uncover key findings on a regular basis. The first installment of this NewCanadianMedia.ca exclusive looks at reports examining voter turnout in Toronto elections, changes to the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) program and the transformation of services available for Vancouver’s refugee population.


The Immigrant Vote

In 2010, when Toronto mayor Rob Ford went up against George Smitherman in the last municipal elections, many neighbourhoods heavily populated with immigrants and visible minorities voted for him. This is according to a study released in April, Who votes in Toronto municipal elections? conducted by Ryerson University professor in politics and public administration, Myer Siemiatycki and co-author Sean Marshall. But after the circus act that has gone on for months inside City Hall and the Mayor being put on blast for his alleged use of racial slurs (in November 2013 he was accused of calling a taxi driver a “Paki”, for example), the question is, will he earn the votes of newcomers and visible minorities on October 27? The verdict is still out on that one.

But at the heart of the matter lies another issue brought to light in Siemiatycki and Marshall’s study – neighbourhoods with high populations of immigrants and visible minorities have noticeably lower voter turnouts than their counterparts throughout Toronto. The study, which was based on 2003, 2006 and 2010 city elections, ranked communities like Mt. Dennis and Mount Olive/Jamestown as having the lowest turnouts, while areas like Leaside and Lawrence Park came in at the top of the list.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Community organizing matters,” emphasizes the report, stating that a neighbourhood’s voter turnout is not fixed.[/quote]

At a time when the current mayor is being scrutinized for his insensitivity toward issues faced by minorities, this may be time for these populations to get organized and get out to the polls. “Community organizing matters,” emphasizes the report, stating that a neighbourhood’s voter turn out is not fixed. For example, in the case of Regent Park, which is currently in the second phase of a major revitalization and historically has a high level of newcomer and visible minority residents, the community ranked 122nd out of 140 neighbourhoods in 2003. However, in 2006, it ranked third.

While factors like income level and household dwelling were also studied, the report highlights the most significant characteristic of neighbourhoods not showing up at the polls is the percentage of immigrants and visible minorities residing there. So, in possibly one of the most important municipal elections in recent history, no matter whether it is for David Soknacki, Karen Stintz, John Tory, Olivia Chow (an immigrant to Canada from Hong Kong herself), the incumbent Rob Ford, or any one of the other candidates, the most important thing is that visible minorities check a ballot box, period. 

Why International Students Matter

Changes to the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) may have a profound impact on Canada’s ability to have a competitive edge in attracting international students, according to a recent working paper released from the Ryerson Centre for Immigration and Settlement (RCIS). First introduced in 2008, the CEC was touted by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, “to allow applicants with sufficient language skills, a Canadian post-secondary degree, and one year of Canadian work experience to access a relatively straightforward route to permanent residency.” Needless to say the program soared, and as of 2013, over 25,000 CEC applications had been processed successfully.

But in November 2013, the federal government announced some crucial changes to the program, namely, that six occupations (cooks, food service supervisors, administrative officers, administrative assistants, accounting technicians and bookkeepers and retail sales supervisors) were no longer eligible for CEC applicants. This announcement prompted the working paper, The Impact of Changes to the CEC Program on International Students, produced on behalf of Global Orient Vision, and guided by Series Editor, Harald Bauder.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“If we regard international education as a Canadian “export” – in the sense that Canadians are working to produce services offered to and paid by residents of other countries – international education services can be considered a large-scale Canadian import enjoyed by many countries and their residents.”[/quote]

Above all, the report stresses one important fact, which many Canadians already know, but perhaps the government is slow to catch on to: Canada needs foreign students as much as they need Canada. Not only are international students a choice selection of human resources (they are assimilated to Canadian culture and speak one of the native languages already, the report says) but they also pay considerably more in tuition fees, helping subsidize Canadian education, and while studying here, contribute tremendously to the economy. 

“If we regard international education as a Canadian “export” – in the sense that Canadians are working to produce services offered to and paid by residents of other countries – international education services can be considered a large-scale Canadian import enjoyed by many countries and their residents,” the report states. In short, internationals students are big business.

To put it into context, a 2012 Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada report that looked at Canada’s more than 218,000 long-term international students indicated that they contributed $6.9 billion in expenditure and $4.2 billion in GDP, which supported 70, 240 jobs and contributed $391 million in tax dollars.

In January 2014, the federal government announced a goal to double the country’s international students by 2022 and acknowledged that in order to attract foreign students, a feasible means of obtaining permanent residence status would be needed. The RCIS report calls the CEC changes counterproductive to this agenda, particularly given that most post-secondary graduates, foreign or not, have to work entry-level positions and those are the occupations no longer available in the program.

What the working paper recommends to the government in order to remain a contender and leader in the international student marketplace: use methods like encouraging applicants to other fields, implementing quotas for particularly over-populated occupations and placing lower priority on the six aforementioned work categories versus eliminating them altogether, while continuing to improve and enhance the program and develop Canada’s international education industry.

Vancouver’s Changing Face

In two year’s time The New Welcome House will open its doors in metropolitan Vancouver. The first of its kind, regional services hub – a 58,000 square foot facility built in partnership between the Immigrant Services Society of British Columbia (ISSofBC), Henriquez Partners Architects and Terra Housing – will be a one-stop housing and support centre with 138 beds and a health care clinic for refugees with or without legal status. It is being built in direct response to the needs of refugees settling in the Vancouver area, the focus of a ISSofBC report, Refugee Newcomers in Metro Vancouver: Changing Faces and Neighbourhoods 2010-2013, issued in May 2014.

According to the report, three Metropolitan municipalities received two thirds of government-assisted refugees in 2013: Surrey (28%), Coquitlam (22%) and Burnaby (16%). While Metro Vancouver is the number one destination for refugee claimants, this is primarily due to the fact that when awaiting a decision on their claim, people stay in shelters or with family.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Perhaps what’s the most promising information from this report for Vancouver-based refugees is that the B.C. government has now contracted settlement agencies, at least until March 2015, to provide services to refugee claimants who are not eligible for traditional Citizen and Immigration Canada services.[/quote]

Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan, Bhutan and Myanmar were the top six source countries for refugees who arrived in Vancouver. While the report breaks down the individual settlement patterns of people from each of these countries, the common finding was that individuals tended to settle where others from their country were already established.

“For instance, Somali and Iraqi communities that are already present in Surrey will likely attract new arrivals from these communities,” the report states. But when that’s not the case, the other major factors that influence settlement patterns include affordable housing, public transit and access to faith communities.

In addition to the Welcome House, perhaps what’s the most promising information from this report for Vancouver-based refugees is that the B.C. government has now contracted settlement agencies, at least until March 2015, to provide services to refugee claimants who are not eligible for traditional Citizen and Immigration Canada services. However, it is unsure if the funding will continue. 

Priya Ramanujam, a second-generation Canadian, is a regular contributor to New Canadian Media. A native of Scarborough, Ontario, Priya is a freelance journalist/editor, the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Urbanology Magazine and a part-time professor at Humber College. She has a passion for reporting on stories that often go untold and for working with youth on multimedia journalism projects that provide them a platform to be heard in society.

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Published in Top Stories

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