By Belen Febres-Cordero in Vancouver

Upon arrival, immigrant populations in Canada tend to present less allergies than their Canadian-born counterparts, but prevalence increases with time, a national study finds. However, exposing them to ethnic foods and cultural practices that they were accustomed to may help reduce allergies in this population, according to the researchers. 

There is no definitive answer as to the cause(s) of the definitely noted increase in allergies in immigrant populations when they move to Western countries such as Canada. However, the pattern is real and needs to be analyzed”, says Dr. David Fischer, President of the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (CSACI).

As first-generation immigrants to Canada, Dr. Hind Sbihi (picture below), Research Associate at the University of British Columbia, and Jiayun Angela Yao, PhD candidate at the same institution, became intrigued by allergy rates among newcomers and conducted a study to understand the role that genetics and environmental factors play in the development of non-food allergies, such as hay fever.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Our best hope to curb the increasing trend in allergic disorders is to prevent it.”[/quote]

The researchers explain that in the past decade, the media, public and researchers have mainly focused on food allergies “It’s critical to raise awareness for non-food allergies given their high prevalence in our population, and posing a big burden to our health care system,” they add.

Canada has some of the highest allergy rates

This is particularly true because Canada has some of the highest allergy rates in the world. According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology, approximately 10-30% of the global population has hay fever. While in the United States roughly 7.8% of people 18 and over has this allergy, almost 20% of the population in Canada is affected by it. Considering these statistics, Sbihi and Yao wanted to understand if immigrants in the country would also display an increase in allergies.

“Our study highlighted the unique opportunity to investigate allergies in migrant populations, who are going through a natural experiment, in which the environment around them changes dramatically in a relatively short period of time,” they explain.   

To conduct the study, the scholars used the data collected in the Canadian Community Health Survey, which gathered information about the health status, lifestyle habits and basic demographics of a large and representative sample of Canadians. In the survey, respondents were asked whether they had non-food allergies – diagnosed by a physician-, and whether they were immigrants to Canada and if so, their time since arrival. “We took the responses to these questions, and assessed the statistical association between non-food allergies and immigration status”, they say.Photo Credit:Hind Sbihi Linkedin

Following this method, the study found that only 14.3% immigrants who had lived in Canada for less than 10 years had non-food allergies, while the rates for immigrants over 10 years and non-immigrants were 23.9% and 29.6%, respectively.

These results suggest that environmental factors, such as pollution, levels of sanitization and dietary choices, carry more weight in the development of allergic conditions in Canada, Dr. Fischer explains, while Dr. Sbihi and Yao add that more research is needed to pinpoint what those factors are, and to better understand how allergies arise by country of origin.

They also highlight the need for undertaking multicultural strategies to improve newcomers’ health.

Ethnic foods may help

Dr. Sbihi and Yao add that it is also important to understand that allergies are symptoms of a loss of internal balance that results from a dysfunction of the immune system. “Providing immigrants with means to access food or cultural practice that are ethnically-friendly may help them transition smoothly into the new environment without perturbing their natural balance,” they suggest.  

“Our best hope to curb the increasing trend in allergic disorders is to prevent it. Prevention can only happen when there is a good understanding of risk factors that come to play in the development of these disorders.” For these reasons, they suggest that raising awareness among health practitioners about the link between immigration, environment and allergies might help in their patients’ management.

“The main role for medical practitioners is to work with patients to recognize if they have allergies, to manage them acutely with their patients and if necessary refer them allergist if there is some doubt about the diagnosis or for more definitive management,” says Dr. Fischer.

Published in Health

by Priya Ramanujam in Scarborough, Ontario

At a time when national and local mainstream media seem to be downsizing and shutting down daily, where does Canada’s ethnic media fit in? And how will these outlets survive? 

The 2015 Canadian edition of the Global Media Journal, edited by Rukhsana Ahmed, explores these questions with five research papers that “address challenges and opportunities multicultural (ethnic) media present to immigrant integration.” 

Across the board, one sentiment is clear: when considering both its multiculturalism and national media policy, Canada must keep ethnic media in mind.

Brampton’s ethnic media bridges cultural divides

It takes more than receiving a press release from the municipal government to ensure ethnic media report on city affairs, according to a case study by Ryerson University’s April Lindgren. In her study, “Municipal Communication Strategies and Ethnic Media: A Settlement Service in Disguise”, she suggests the city of Brampton is leading the pack in understanding this. 

Interestingly, a decade ago, a similar study deemed the city of Brampton unresponsive to the needs of its immigrant community.

So what changed? 

Lindgren cites 2006, when the city transitioned from being a multiracial city with various visible minority groups making up over 50 per cent of its demographic to a city with a dominant South Asian — specifically Punjabi-speaking Indo-Canadian — population as a turning point of sorts.

This is when growing concern emerged from long-time residents about newcomers and the city recognized a need to amplify its ethnic media reach in order to mitigate brewing conflict.

The resulting strategy included hiring an ethnic media coordinator who had to speak Punjabi, standardizing advertising buys across a number of approved ethnic media outlets and translating all communications material into Punjabi and Hindi (as well as Urdu and Portuguese).

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The city recognized a need to amplify its ethnic media reach in order to mitigate brewing conflict.[/quote]

While it wasn’t all smooth sailing — for example, some papers thought the press releases were paid advertisements and invoiced the city for them — Lindgren concludes that municipalities that follow Brampton’s lead will find they are actually “providing a settlement service in the guise of a communication policy.”

This is echoed by University of Ottawa researchers Luisa Veronis and Rukhsana Ahmed, who studied four ethno-cultural communities in Ottawa — Chinese, Spanish-speaking Latin American, South Asian and Somali — and their access to and use of ethnic media. 

They suggest the City of Ottawa adopt a similar strategy as Brampton and engage multicultural media, which is typically more accessible (i.e. free, absent of language barriers) as well as translate important communications material, particularly on the city website.

Chinese language media struggles to maintain standards

The pressing need for stability and growth often trumps journalistic quality for Chinese-language media in Canada, say many members of the Chinese Canadian ethnic media in Xiapoing Li’s research paper, “A Critical Examination of Chinese Language Media’s Normative Goals and News Decisions.”

Much of the pressure for remaining profitable comes as a result of increased competition from free newspapers and websites entering the market and declining advertising revenues. Case in point: one of the top dailies, World Journal, ceasing all publication in Canada. 

But as Li points out, Chinese-language outlets have many important functions, one of the most important being assisting with the integration and settlement of first generation Canadians. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The pressing need for stability and growth often trumps journalistic quality for Chinese language media.[/quote]

These outlets are also the preferred media for Chinese migrants living in major Canadian cities who are looking to gather both government and general lifestyle information, according to researcher Yuping Mao. 

“The government and NGOs should try to disseminate important information in Chinese ethnic media and through Chinese social networks,” states Mao in “Investigating Chinese Migrants’ Information-Seeking Patterns in Canada: Media Selection and Language Preference”.

Mao's study further underlines what Li's paper finds: Chinese ethnic media should not only be upheld to high journalistic standards, but should be created in ways that are sustainable in Canada.

For this to happen, Li puts forth three recommendations for Chinese ethnic media in Canada: offer professional training opportunities for ethnic media journalists, some who are hired without any previous experience to reduce costs; explore possibilities of organizations like the CBC collaborating with major ethnic media outlets; and finally allocate public funds for multicultural and multilingual media — a model already in place in Australia.

“There is little justification for the absence of similar services when Canada is held up as a model of multiculturalism,” Li writes. 

Younger generations distance themselves from ethnic media

While ethnic media’s importance among first generation Canadians is clear, these outlets are growing out of touch with subsequent generations, says University of Waterloo’s Augie Fleras.

In “Multicultural Media in a Post-Multicultural Canada? Rethinking Integration,” Fleras examines the shortcomings of “multicultural media” when it comes to connecting with readers and viewers who are resistant to being placed in ethnic silos. 

The issue is part of a larger context in which second and third generation Canadians see multiculturalism as an “obsolete straight jacket,” the paper suggests. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Second and third generation Canadians see multiculturalism as an “obsolete straight jacket."[/quote]

Fleras writes that in 2015, 10 ethnic papers flourished in their federal election coverage throughout just five Brampton, Ontario ridings where there is a heavy South Asian population. This is at the same time when longstanding publications like Canadian Jewish News and Corriere Canadese struggle to stay afloat.

In order to survive, traditional ethnic media must evolve, Fleras explains, making several recommendations. 

The most important one is to produce content that is reflective of the complex lived realities of racialized Canadians, many of whom subscribe to this mentality: “Do not judge me because of my ethnicity, but never forget where I came from.”

Research Watch is a monthly 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
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
Tuesday, 01 September 2015 18:46

Research Watch #7: Enclaves and Earnings

by Priya Ramanujam (@SincerelyPriya) in Scarborough, Ontario

Several observers have noted that immigration is, generally, a non-partisan issue in Canada. That probably explains why it's not a topic of debate during this current federal election campaign. But, it's safe to say that the next government will inevitably be confronted with competing demands on the immigration file.

In this edition of Research Watch, we offer the next Minister of Immigration a look at two studies that highlight why federal policymakers need to understand where immigrants settle, how they integrate and factors that determine their economic success in Canada. 

The truth about ethnic enclaves

A recent study released by the Institute for Research on Public Policy challenges the notion that communities with high populations of visible-minority immigrants are rife with socio-economic marginalization and cultural isolation.

In the report “Ethnocultural Minority Enclaves in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver,” researcher Daniel Hiebert sets out to answer whether these enclaves are the so-called “ghettos” they are often perceived to be.

While the answer proves complex and varied, the key finding of Hiebert’s research is that, in Canada, this tends not to be the case.

[quote align="center" color="#999999]"[I]t seems to me very relevant to have more of a municipal voice when it comes to the big questions about immigration policy and settlement policy in Canada.[/quote]

This is particularly true of neighbourhoods where there is a dominant ethnocultural group (twice the size of any other group) living alongside several smaller groups.

“[In these communities] the stereotype of the poor immigrant neighbourhood doesn’t work,” Hiebert says. “Where there is one large group, there’s probably some sort of internal capacity for helping people because of the scale of that group.”

He suggests that this is the case because social capital is strong in these communities. Immigrants are more likely to find work more easily or have success in small business ventures because of shared commonalities with other residents.

In addition, the many other cultural groups in the enclave prove to be an asset, Hiebert explains, offering what he calls “bridging” social capital – the type of learning that comes from being exposed to other cultures that helps integrate into mainstream society.

Communities with a high percentage of visible minorities that tended to have more socio-economic challenges were those where no dominant group was present – rather, just several small cultural groups residing together.

For Hiebert, the findings highlight three important ideas.

First, he says, “Cultural diversity is everywhere.” He cites an example: in the past, an organization in “Chinatown” may have found it effective to exclusively serve Chinese Canadians, but with what is now known about the diverse make-up of communities, that type of exclusivity may mean some residents are left behind.

Second, it is time to re-evaluate services for immigrants overall. Hiebert points out that many present-day services were developed in the 1970s when immigrants were settling in inner-city locations rather than suburban ones, and while that is changing, agencies may not be keeping pace.

Finally, Hiebert concludes his study by stressing that in order to truly understand and serve these ethnocultural communities effectively, municipal governments must be at the decision-making table and engaged in the development and reform of immigration policy.

“If cities are the places where most immigrants are settling and integrating,” says Hiebert, “it seems to me very relevant to have more of a municipal voice when it comes to the big questions about immigration policy and settlement policy in Canada.”

Contributors to economic success

With Canada continuing to compete in the global market to attract economic immigrants, a better understanding of predicting future earnings and success here is vital.

A recently released study from Statistics Canada based on historical data observing two cohorts of immigrants from the late 1990s and the early 2000s may help in this area. 

The study shows that, in the short-term, the best predictors of earnings are Canadian work experience and official-language skills at the time of arrival.

“Basically, it appears that economic principal applicants with Canadian work experience at the time of landing are treated more like Canadians in the labour market in terms of returns to education and experience,” explains researcher Aneta Bonikowska, adding the same goes for having strong official-language skills.

But in the long-term (over a period of five to 10 years), this changes. Age and education play a factor.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]In the short-term, the best predictors of earnings are Canadian work experience and official-language skills at the time of arrival.[/quote]

“Even though we don’t see a big return right off the bat, the earning trajectories of higher, better-educated immigrants are steeper than lower-educated immigrants – over time you see a gap in earnings developing on average,” says Bonikowska.

There is also a correlation between all four characteristics that affects the long-term predictions of an immigrant’s earnings.

As Bonikowska explains, the economic returns on age (the younger an immigrant, the higher the earnings, typically) and education at landing depend on that immigrant’s official-language skills and previously accumulated Canadian work experience.

While the Stats Canada report is meant to be an exercise in analyzing historical data – not a forecast of the future – Bonikowska points out that, from a policy standpoint, if more detailed information was collected from arriving economic immigrants, better predictions could be made about their potential success.

She says factors like the nature of an immigrant’s study, what institution he or she studied at and what level of education was achieved prior to arriving in Canada would give a better sense of who did well from the cohorts studied.

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Published in Policy

by Priya Ramanujam (@SincerelyPriya) in Scarborough, Ontario

With the federal election approaching, it seems a fitting time to gauge the pulse of the Canadian public to find out where it stands on issues of immigration and multiculturalism. It’s also an opportune time to take note of the challenges members of specific ethno-cultural groups – often invisible in mainstream discussion – face on a day-to-day basis. In this edition of Research Watch, we examine emerging research that offers insight into both these areas.

Public opinion on multiculturalism: not as bad as you might think

The Canadian public’s opinion on multiculturalism and immigration has changed remarkably little over the last three to five years – it remains relatively positive. This is according to the Environics Institute’s recently released report, which aims to update the organization’s ongoing research on topics of immigration and multiculturalism dating back to the 1970s.

This overarching highlight of the report is particularly notable, says Environics executive director Keith Neuman, because recent commentaries in the media and public discourse regarding things like concern of domestic terrorism, citizenship and immigration policy reform, and international refugee issues may suggest otherwise. 

“It would not be surprising to find that perhaps Canadians are becoming more weary of immigrants, people coming with different cultures – but we didn’t find that.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][W]hile there is a tendency to think that Quebec residents are the least tolerant of immigration and multiculturalism, there were some areas in the study that proved otherwise.[/quote]

What was also particularly interesting, Neuman adds, is that while there is a tendency to think that Quebec residents are the least tolerant of immigration and multiculturalism, there were some areas in the study that proved otherwise.

For example, 68 per cent of Quebec residents surveyed expressed increased concern about the treatment of Muslim people – the highest percentage across all regions surveyed. 

“This tells us that we should be careful not to peg Quebecers as the most anti-immigrant [or anti-multicultural] part of the country,” Neuman says.

The study put forth a range of statements such as “Overall, immigration has a positive impact on the economy,” or “There are too many immigrants coming into this country who are not adopting Canadian values” and then compared the national responses in 2015 from those over the last 30 years. The results were analyzed based on respondents’ province of residence, age, socio-economic profile and political-party allegiance.

Neuman points out that while the findings based on political party are in line with previous research – indicating supporters of the New Democratic Party are the most positive about immigration and multiculturalism and those of the Conservatives the least – the gap is gradually narrowing.

“In some of the key questions, some who support the Conservatives become more positive about immigration and multiculturalism,” he explains. “The difference has been diminishing, not growing larger.”

Acknowledging complexity in racial identity

What it means to be Somali, Canadian, Muslim, Black, and in many instances all of those is a large part of the identity crisis faced by Somali-Canadians – both immigrants and non – states the first half of “The 360 Project: Addressing Racism in Toronto” report released last week by the Urban Alliance on Race Relations and Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“The Somali Canadian is being profiled on two levels, race and religion, and after September 11, the Somali has been profiled more so on Islamophobia. These are the layers … we are newcomers, refugees, Black and Muslim."[/quote]

“It’s a discussion that one has of ‘who am I?’” explains Mohamed Elmi, research assistant at the Diversity Institute and a member of the team who put together the final report, which was based on a one-year study.

Raised in New Brunswick and having lived in Halifax, Ottawa and Toronto, Elmi says the discussion of identity has resonated with him no matter where in Canada he went. “[It’s] the idea that in different spaces I’m Somali and in public spaces I’m Canadian.”

His sentiment is echoed throughout the report’s segment titled “Addressing the Discrimination Experienced by Somali Canadians in Toronto,” which combines the voices of 15 focus-group participants with various academic literature to address key issues affecting the community in relation to racial identity, education, housing, justice, employment and health.

“Everyone is Black in Africa,” says one participant. “You come here [to Toronto], you are identified as Black, and with that you are put into a box that is very confusing … Parents don’t know what Black is, however, the young people know that there is a Black experience.” 

Another participant speaks to the multiple dimensions of discrimination members of the community face. “The Somali Canadian is being profiled on two levels, race and religion, and after September 11, the Somali has been profiled more so on Islamophobia. These are the layers … we are newcomers, refugees, Black and Muslim."

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][S]ystemic change needs to come from an understanding that lumping people together based on wide-sweeping categories such as “racialized” or “visible minorities” isn’t effective when creating community programs and services.[/quote]

More than anything, Elmi says the report, which details challenges experienced by the Somali Canadian community such as the cycle of poverty and racial profiling by police, sets out to “give voice” to a marginalized community.

“It was a conversation about race, a conversation about identity, a conversation about community,” he explains. While it doesn’t make any conclusive policy recommendations, he adds, what it is calling for is “the need to move for systemic change.”

Wendy Cukier, founder of the Diversity Institute and one of the lead authors of the report, says that part of that systemic change needs to come from an understanding that lumping people together based on wide-sweeping categories such as “racialized” or “visible minorities” isn’t effective when creating community programs and services. It’s important to consider the intersection of many complex challenges often experienced by marginalized communities, she says.

“There are other issues that have a huge impact on the experience of people in that broad category,” she says. “We know, for example, that within that broad category, different ethnic groups experience different levels of discrimination.”

The second portion of the report focuses on the discrimination experienced by racialized LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgender, Queer) youth who are homeless in the Greater Toronto Area, particularly in terms of challenges with the police, feelings of isolation and a lack of culturally appropriate services. 

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Published in Policy
Wednesday, 12 November 2014 15:59

Understanding Social Media and Revolutions

by Suzanne Bowness 

When the series of revolutionary protests and riots – dubbed the “Arab Spring” – broke out in late 2010, news outlets worldwide were quick to highlight the role of social media in bringing these demonstrations to the world’s attention.

Yet Merlyna Lim, Carleton’s new Canada Research Chair in Digital Media and Global Network Society, says that a more accurate understanding of digital media’s role in revolution comes from resisting hasty labels. Her research instead takes a closer look at how the new format interplays with traditional networking, urban spaces, and activism.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]You cannot make a movement in two days or even two weeks with Facebook, so it’s misleading to call them ‘social media movements'.[/quote]

Although Lim has been studying revolutions in academic settings for over 10 years, her interest in revolution is personal. “I have always been interested in technology and activism. I am Indonesian and I was in Indonesia in 1998 as a student at the time of the revolution [against Suharto]. I wasn’t an activist, but like all students, I went to the streets.” That environment had a profound effect on her. An architecture student at the time, she switched to social science, eventually writing her doctoral dissertation on political activism in Indonesia at the University of Twente in the Netherlands.

Another element to have a profound influence was early exposure to the Internet, which allowed Lim to witness the impact of digital media from the beginning. “In 1995-96, not many people had used the Internet, but I had friends who were technical, who were involved in the street but also online,” she recalls. She also realized another affinity that suggested a future as a scholar. “I collect everything. I collected all kinds of conversations, mailing lists,” says Lim. Today her research continues to rely on data gathered from online sources such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and blog posts, as well as interviews with activists on the ground.

Lim may be immersed in the digital world, but she frowns on generalizations about its role in revolution. “My research is mostly longitudinal — when I look at revolutionary moments, I look at the trajectory. There’s a reason why some movements transpire and some do not,” she says.

She points to the role of social media in Syria where the use of platforms like Twitter originated mostly from the global community versus in Tunisia where the use of social media originated on the ground with the anti-censorship movement and where long-standing labour also had a profound influence.

You cannot make a movement in two days or even two weeks with Facebook, so it’s misleading to call them ‘social media movements. "Because in reality all movements — especially revolutionary movements, say in Tunisia, Indonesia or Malaysia — these are not movements that happen in weeks or months. It’s a culmination of decades of struggle,” says Lim. She prefers to look at how digital media operates alongside more longstanding networks on the ground. Where social media does have great power is in linking existing groups and movements, and by quickly increasing a revolution’s visibility enough to create a movement without being shut down by the regime.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][A] more accurate understanding of digital media’s role in revolution comes from resisting hasty labels.[/quote]

Throughout her research career, Lim has looked at digital media in a wide range of contexts, including its influence on democracy, identity and religion, and civic spaces. She’s also studied a variety of locales, including Indonesia, Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, Malaysia, and even the Occupy movement. So what interests her today? She says Eastern countries are particularly fascinating because of their higher adoption rate of digital media, population growth, emergent middle class and transition towards democracy.

“I look at India, where suddenly Internet and social media matters to the election: for the first time over 100 million people are online, and over 50 percent of those are first time voters,” she says. Indonesia also continues to hold a strong interest due to its election and strong online presence with 77 million users in a country with only 200 million people.

This post was republished with permission fromCarleton University's Research Works.
Published in Top Stories

by Priya Ramanujam (@SincerelyPriyain Toronto

When it comes to research pertaining to immigration and new Canadians, things are definitely picking up quickly this fall. In the second installment of Research Watch we take a look at some important research coming out of other parts of the world on migration issues, as well as the upcoming Pathways to Prosperity research conference and an exciting new research collaboration between Ryerson University and the Maytree foundation.

The Ryerson Maytree Global Diversity Exchange

As of September 15, a section of the Maytree Foundation – projects, staff and resources – will have a new home: inside the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University. Through what is shaping up to be a dynamic research collaboration that will focus on effectively bringing about increased inclusion of immigrants and racialized minorities in the Canadian business world, four specific projects will come to Ryerson with Maytree: DiverseCity onBoard, HireImmigrants, Cities of Migration and Flight and Freedom. It truly speaks to the important role immigrants play in our country’s economy, explains Wendy Cukier, founder of Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute and Vice-President of Research and Innovation.

“I think that increasingly people are recognizing equity and diversity are grounded in a commitment to human rights and that it is the right thing to do from an ethical perspective,” Cukier says. “But, increasingly, they are recognizing the business case and how addressing [diversity] issues appropriately is critical for the competitiveness of businesses, for the effectiveness of government, and, in fact, for Canada as a nation.”

According to Cukier, the new initiative’s Executive Director Ratna Omidvar, and her team, is looking forward to being able to tap into Ryerson’s faculty and students to get involved in current projects. Cukier says this partnership will bolster the expertise, contacts, networks and partners Maytree has as a leading organization in reducing poverty and inequality since 1982. It will also further expand on Ryerson’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]But increasingly they are recognizing the business case and how addressing [diversity] issues appropriately is critical for the competitiveness of businesses, for the effectiveness of government and in fact for Canada as a nation.[/quote]

Canada has a history of being a country of immigrants, and other countries are trying to catch up, Cukier explains. Leaders from countries around the world – she notes the president of Germany, Joachim Gauck, will be here later this month – come to Canada to find out how the nation has been so successful at inclusion of immigrants and racialized minorities.

At the same time, we know we can do better,” she adds. “I hope this partnership pushes that envelope.”

Misconceptions about migration to EU

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Interestingly, over 90 per cent of the children I interviewed have a family member in the U.S., with just over 50 per cent having one or both parents there.[/quote]

In recent years, the European Union (EU) has faced considerable economic turmoil. And as such, something has to be blamed. For many, that something is migration. Although political leaders once staunchly defended migration, since the 2008-09 financial crisis, defenders are few and far between. Views such as migrants-are-not-needed in the EU or migrants-take-up-all-the-jobs, run rampant. But, the Migration Policy Centre at the European University Institute challenges these notions with a new research paper: Is what we hear about migration really true? Questioning eight stereotypes, edited by researcher Phillipe Fargues. A combined effort of 10 authors and contributors, the 92-page report provides in-depth analysis that debunks eight specific stereotypes of migration in the EU.

Of the eight stereotypes, six are argued as point-blank wrong – we do not need migrant workers; migrants steal our jobs; we do not need low-skilled immigrants in the EU; migrants undermine our welfare systems; migration hampers our capacity to innovate and our southern coastline is flooded with asylum seekers. The authors counter these stereotypes with research proving otherwise; for example, an aging population and waning work force in the EU means immigrants will help stimulate the economy. The final two stereotypes – economic migrants are trying to cheat our asylum system and our children suffer from having immigrants in class are deemed complex issues that are not as cut-and-dried to easily proven or disproven.

The misconceptions of migration are not limited to the EU, it seems. In July, The American Immigration Council released a study by researcher Elizabeth Kennedy, No Childhood Here: Why Central American Children are Fleeing Their Homes, which worked to get to the bottom of the influx of unaccompanied child migrants in the United States coming from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Perhaps, what stood out the most about Kennedy’s findings was this passage, “Interestingly over 90 per cent of the children I interviewed have a family member in the U.S., with just over 50 per cent having one or both parents there. Most referenced fear of crime and violence as the underlying motive for their decision to reunify with family now rather than two years in the past or two years in the future. Seemingly, the children and their families had decided they must leave and chose to go to where they had family, rather than choose to leave because they had family elsewhere. Essentially, if their family had been in Belize, Costa Rica, or another country, they would be going there instead.”

Through this finding, Kennedy shows that it isn’t so much about the United States and the pursuit of the American Dream that brings the children across the border, as is widely reported, but rather it is serious issues such as organized crime, gangs and violence. The report also speaks to the fact that leaving their country is often a last resort for these young people and that the children and their families often don’t trust their own national governments to help them.

P2P's second annual conference in Montreal

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]A benefit of attending this conference is to receive up-to-date information from a variety of stakeholders about the latest research being done on cutting-edge issues[/quote]

Pathways to Prosperity (P2P), which unites university, community and government partners in the work of promoting the integration of immigrants and minorities across Canada, will bring together its researchers with policy and program officials from all three levels of government, graduate students and community service providers to set research priorities for the coming year. The 2nd annual conference, being held on November 24 and 25 in Montreal, builds off of last year’s success, which conference co-chair Victoria Esses says created real connections between community partners and academics, which led to meaningful work.

“A benefit of attending this conference is to receive up to date information from a variety of stakeholders, about the latest research being done on cutting edge issues,”says Prof. Esses, who is the Director of the University of Western Ontario’s Centre for Research on Migration and Ethnic Relations.

Six main sessions are scheduled, themed around issues such as regionalization and immigration to communities outside of metropolises and changing entry pathways, including students, temporary workers and transition classes. Workshops and roundtable discussions will be held to set research priorities regionally – remote Northern communities, Quebec, Ontario, the Atlantic provinces, the Prairies and British Columbia are all focus areas, for example.

As Prof. Esses points out, not only will this conference help shape the priorities of P2P’s academic collaborators in the coming year, but it will also help finesse how projects are identified and how existing studies will be re-aligned to better suit community/government goals. The conference will also provide an excellent platform for graduate students to network and find out what’s new in the field, while they seek out possible thesis ideas or gain insight on how to narrow down broad thesis statements. Registration is now open.

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Published in National
Wednesday, 03 September 2014 01:35

Canada Inspires Scandinavian Policy Rethink

Dr. Trygve Ugland, professor at Bishop's University in Quebec, recently published a paper titled "Canada as an Inspirational Model: Reforming Scandinavian Immigration and Integration Policies," in the Nordic Journal of Migration Research. New Canadian Media interviewed him on his study: the first systematic study of the international relevance of the Canadian immigration system. (Please also read relevant abstracts provided below in support of his responses to our questions). 

Dr. Ugland describes himself as a "European living in North America." He was educated in Oslo and Belfast, obtaining his Ph.D. from the University of Oslo in 2002. 

1. How did you arrive at this topic for your research?

I have been interested in issues related to the field of comparative public policy since I was a student. In particular, I am fascinated by the processes of learning across borders. The challenge posed by increasing immigration and ethno-cultural diversity is a major concern for governments across the world, and different immigration and integration policy solutions exist internationally. It is interesting to study to what extent apparently successful national models and solutions are used elsewhere.

2. You found in your study that Canada has managed to reconcile important welfare state objectives with increased immigration and diversity? Could you please explain?

The notion that there is a potential trade-off between a more open and accommodating approach to immigration and the maintenance of a robust welfare state has been increasingly expressed in many European countries.
However, Canada has managed to reconcile important welfare state objectives and principles with increased immigration and diversity.  Although not as comprehensive and generous as the Scandinavian welfare states, the Canadian social security system includes unemployment insurance, child tax credits, universal childcare benefits, medicare, the Canada Pension Plan, old age security, and social assistance. In contrast to many other countries, Canada has not actively sought to fence off the welfare state from newcomers. Further, public attitudes in Canada reveal little tension between ethnic diversity and support for social programs. In fact, the welfare state and multiculturalism are for many Canadians the two most important ingredients in the Canadian identity, i.e. what it means to be Canadian.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Although there is little evidence to support the contention that increasing ethnic diversity as such has adverse effects on established welfare states (Banting & Kymlicka 2006), a growing chorus of commentators has argued that ethnic/racial diversity makes it more difficult to sustain redistributive policies.[/quote]

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]In fact, Canada has been described as a “statistical outlier” in that it has managed to combine high levels of diversity with peace, democracy, economic prosperity, and individual freedom (Laczko 1994; Kymlicka 2007a). Further, Canada has also managed to reconcile important welfare state objectives and principles with increased immigration, and public attitudes reveal little tension between ethnic diversity and support for social programs (Banting 2010).[/quote]

[toggle_item title="Trade-offs"]
The universalistic and generous Scandinavian welfare model has been regarded as particularly vulnerable: “immigration to a country that espouses the principle of equal treatment and has an extensive welfare state challenges the population’s generosity in the first instance, and may in the longer term affect the sustainability of the system itself if the bulk of the newcomers are unable to support themselves” (Brochmann 2003: 6).[/toggle_item]


3. What were the main findings in your paper entitled "Canada as an Inspirational Model: Reforming Scandinavian Immigration and Integration Policies"?

My article deals with the international relevance and reputation of the Canadian immigration and integration policy model. A key finding here is that Canada served as an important inspirational model for the Scandinavian countries during the 2000-2012 period. In particular, Canada has a strong reputation in Scandinavia as a country that views immigration and immigrants as a resource. In this respect, the transnational inspiration from Canada contributed significantly to the rediscovery of labour immigration in Denmark, Norway and Sweden during the 2000s.

[toggle_item title="Abstract"]
The Scandinavian countries have often been portrayed as models for the development of policies for other states. However, in the area of immigration and integration policies, Denmark, Norway and Sweden have themselves been searching for inspiration and for new policy solutions abroad. Canada is internationally recognized in the areas of immigration control and immigrant integration, and this article focuses on the role the Canadian immigration and integration policy model has played in the Scandinavian reform process in the period from 2000 to 2012. The overall conclusion is that the Canadian model has significantly shaped the reform debate and process in the three Scandinavian countries. However, the Canadian model has not been copied or emulated to a great extent. Instead, it has served as intellectual stimulus and a model for inspiration. In particular, the Canadian model served as inspiration for the rediscovery of labor immigration in Scandinavia during the 2000s.[/toggle_item]


4. Were you surprised at the level of interest from Scandinavian countries in Canada's immigration policy?

I was not surprised by the level of interest because the Canadian model is widely recognized as a successful international solution when it comes to dealing with the immigration and integration issues. However, the degree of systematic attention devoted to the Canadian model from the Scandinavian countries was more prominent than expected. Information about the Canadian model was systematically collected through everything from expert analyses of policy documents to organized study trips to Canada by Scandinavian actors. For instance, approximately 100 Swedish MPs visited Canada over a 3 year period to learn more about Canadian policies and practices related to immigration control and immigrant integration. Officials at Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) interviewed for the study confirmed this overwhelming interest from Sweden, in particular.

5. Given your own Scandinavian heritage, how do you explain this interest? Are there cultural/other factors that make Canada a good model for Denmark, Sweden and Norway?

The Scandinavian countries share a common history of migration, and they can all be described as latecomers in terms of immigration. While Sweden began receiving significant numbers of immigrants during the 1950s, Denmark and Norway did not become net receivers of migrants until the late 1960s. Canadian experiences as a traditional immigration country are of interest for non-traditional immigration countries like Denmark, Norway and Sweden. The idea here is that there may be something to learn from countries that have dealt with these issues for a longer period of time

Further, Canada’s combination of an open and accommodating approach to immigration and increasing ethnic diversity with a comprehensive welfare state system is something that is very interesting for the Scandinavians, which are world renown for their generous welfare state systems. 

6. Do you think Canada's government actively positions itself as a role model for immigration policy?

It is clear that Canada has actively promoted its immigration and integration policy abroad. One of the main goals of Canada’s foreign policy is to promote a greater understanding and appreciation internationally of Canada and “Canadian values”. According to the Canadian government, one of three central objectives of the Multiculturalism Program is to: “Actively engage in discussions on multiculturalism at the international level”. The Canadian government has done this by funding academic research, conferences, and policy workshops that explore the international relevance of Canadian policies and practices.

[toggle_item title="A Policy lender"]
This illustrates that the Canadian model that has been seen as a product of unique and favorable domestic circumstances can still be relevant in countries lacking these underlying conditions. Moreover, the article demonstrates a change in roles, where Canada – often described as a policy borrower – acted as an inspirational model for the Scandinavian countries, which commonly are classified as policy lenders.[/toggle_item]


7. Have you also looked at international models that influence Canada's immigration/citizenship policies? What are they?

As information about policy in other countries has become more readily available, learning from abroad has attracted increasing interests among academics, policy practitioners and politicians. In the policy literature, some countries have generally been regarded as borrowers of policies from other countries, while others have been classified as lenders. While the latter categorization often has been assigned to the Scandinavian countries, Canada has generally been described as a borrower. This article illustrates how a traditional policy borrower (Canada) acted as an inspirational model for countries often classified as policy lenders (the Scandinavian countries). In fact, Canada is both presenting itself and being perceived as an international model in the areas of immigration control and immigrant integration.

8. Do you need to revisit your findings in light of changes in Canada's immigration policy since 2012 (your study covered 2000-2012)?

Immigration and integration policy issues are still high on the political agenda in Denmark, Norway and Sweden, and the three Scandinavian countries continue to look abroad for inspiration. However, the Canadian immigration and integration policy model is not static nor is its international reputation. The Conservative government that came into power in 2006 has adopted several changes in both policies and practices. Although my study found that the Canadian model still serves as an inspirational model in Scandinavia, future research should pay close attention to how changes and shifts in domestic policy priorities impact its international reputation in Scandinavia and elsewhere. This is exactly what I intend to do.

Read the whole study here (hyperlinked).

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Published in Policy

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 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