by Ranjit Bhaskar (@ranjit17) in Mississauga, Ontario

Canada will persist with its new Immigrant Investor Venture Capital plan despite the less-than-enthusiastic response to it so far.

Pilot programs like this always take time to be known in a competitive global environment,” Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said Tuesday in Mississauga, Ont. at a meeting with a select group of media.

Canada has so far received just six applications for the pilot program as of June 8, according to data obtained by Richard Kurland, a Vancouver immigration lawyer through an Access to Information request.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Minister Alexander ruled out easing the entry norms under the pilot to make it popular like the previous one.[/quote]

Popularly referred to as the “millionaire visa,” at its launch in January it was expected that at least 50 foreigners would join the plan, under which applicants must be far richer than what was stipulated previously for a similar program.

Would-be immigrants under this class must now invest a minimum of C$2 million in Canada for a 15-year period and must have a net worth of at least C$10 million. Among other new criteria, they must also be able to speak English or French.

Launched in the mid-1980s, the old plan fast-tracked visas for foreigners with a net worth of C$800,000 and C$400,000 to invest. The amounts were later upped to a net worth of C$1.6 million and C$800,000 to invest.  

The old plan was very popular, particularly with Chinese investors. As demand surged, the program was frozen in 2012 to clear backlog. It was scrapped last year amid criticism over allowing the global rich to buy their way into Canada.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][Minister Chris Alexander] said the program was the first of its kind in the world and proof that Canada’s immigration programs will remain the most agile and responsive. “We are prepared to adjust.”[/quote]

Minister Alexander ruled out easing the entry norms under the pilot to make it popular like the previous one. “Keeping program standards high will ensure that Canadians continue to benefit from our immigration programs,” he said.

The minister said the pilot was only one among a number of pathways to attract investment into Canada. He pointed out the Start-Up Visa Program that hopes to attract immigrant entrepreneurs who have the potential to build innovative companies that can compete on a global scale and create jobs.

He said the program was the first of its kind in the world and proof that Canada’s immigration programs will remain the most agile and responsive. “We are prepared to adjust.”

Responding to new high in immigration levels

On the controversial aspects of Bill C-24, which came into force last month, Alexander said his government has only built on existing rules. “The new rules are meant to weed out citizens of convenience who view the Canadian passport only as an insurance policy.”

He said Canada has increased its response to refugee resettlement in view of the crisis in Iraq and Syria along with renewing its commitment to reuniting families.  

The minister said in the past three years close to 75,000 people have come in on family reunification visas and 50,000 have been issued super visas.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]There has also been an increase in the numbers of visitors from countries like Brazil, China and India on account of new 10-year multiple entry visas, [Minister Alexander] added.[/quote]

On the issue of reducing the age of dependents to 18, Alexander said it was done to make it consistent with laws of the land, which consider those above that age as independent adults.

“When these young adults apply for residency on their own, their pathway would be faster as the points system gives them a huge advantage,” he explained.

There has also been an increase in the numbers of visitors from countries like Brazil, China and India on account of new 10-year multiple entry visas, he added.

“These visitors are economically significant for the Canadian economy along with international students, whose intake has doubled over the past few years. Last year the number crossed 64,000, up from 29,000.”    

The minister said international students are potential immigrants through a new channel.

With 262,000 people entering in 2014 alone, he said the current level of immigration is a new high in Canadian history.

{module NCM Blurb}

Published in Policy

by Lucy Slavianska (@lucylsl) in Toronto, Ontario

As mainstream media focus on the war in Ukraine and Canada’s position on it, headlines in the Eastern European diaspora media reveal some of the other challenges, struggles and joys of its community in Canada.

Canada Relaxes Visa Requirements for Citizens of Romania And Bulgaria

Romanian and Bulgarian media report on the Harper government’s decision to relax the visa requirements for Romanian and Bulgarian nationals.

According to new regulations coming in 2016, Bulgarian Flame reports, Bulgarian citizens who have held a Canadian visa in the last 10 years or who hold a U.S. non-immigrant visa will no longer need to apply for Canadian visas, but will only have to register for an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA). The same regulations apply for Romanian citizens.

The news came after Romania and Bulgaria, both European Union (EU) members, declared they would not ratify the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), a EU-Canada free-trade agreement, if Ottawa would not lift the visa requirements for their nationals. In order for CETA to come into effect, all 28 EU members must ratify it.  

Prior to Bulgaria and Romania, the Czech Republic declared it wouldn’t ratify CETA if Canada didn’t lift the visa requirement for Czech citizens. The Harper government removed visas for Czech citizens, but only relaxed the requirements for Bulgarians and Romanians.

“It is a step towards the total lifting of visas for Romanians,” Pagini Romanesti writes, “but it seems unlikely that the Canadian authorities will take this decision very soon.”

Canadians, on the other hand, don’t need visas for any of the EU countries, including Romania and Bulgaria.

Biometric Data Collection Expands for Visitors to Canada

The federal government announced that the collection of biometric data from people entering Canada would vastly expand.

Polish website Bejsment.com, however, informed its readers that Poles who cross the Canadian border do not have to provide such data, because the new regulations do not apply to nationals of countries with which Canada has visa-free agreements. Also, the website explains that the biometric data of the Polish citizens are already saved in the electronic chips of their passports.

However, citizens of 148 countries who require visas will be subject to biometric data collection which includes fingerprints, facial and iris scanning. According to the federal government, the tightening of border control would not only increase the internal security, but would also limit the influx of unwanted people.

The drawback of the new project is the high cost – about $200 million for installation, and about $20 million annually for maintenance of the system.

Despite the expenses, security expert John Thompson believes that other countries should follow Canada’s example. In fact, collecting biometric data is already a common practice in Europe, the USA, Australia and New Zealand. 

Photo Credit: Bejsment.com (Accompanied original referenced article.)

The Fight for Kindergarten Ukrainian-Language Programs

Parents, teachers, community activists and organizations are concerned about anticipated changes in the decades-old Ukrainian language program running in three kindergarten classes in Toronto’s Eastern-Rite Catholic schools. In five articles, the Ukrainian-Canadian news portal New Pathway followed the heated discussions and actions of the Ukrainian community to preserve the language program.

Until 2014, the three kindergartens, which included separate half-day classes in Ukrainian, were partly funded by parents. When they became fully funded by the province, John Yan, senior coordinator at the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB), said there would be changes to the Ukrainian language component’s delivery.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]After several meetings, the prompt and united actions of the Ukrainian community members resulted in successful negotiations with TCDSB.[/quote]

Meanwhile, a petition stated, “Teachers were informed that they have to abandon their separate Ukrainian classrooms and assume support duties within the regular English curriculum.”

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) Toronto branch announced a committee of parents and community activists would challenge the changes. Some of the group’s main concerns were, “the difficulty of combining instruction in two languages for young children in a single session,” “the volume of instruction in Ukrainian” and “ways to ensure the interests of Ukrainian teachers in the new circumstances.”

After several meetings, the prompt and united actions of the Ukrainian community members resulted in successful negotiations with TCDSB. On June 3, 2015, the UCC and TCDSB released a joint statement announcing children would spend half a day with an English teacher and the other half with a Ukrainian one and an ECE (early childhood education) team.

Photo: St. Josaphat Catholic School Celebrates 50 Years // Photo Credit: tcdsb.org

Annual Competitions Encourage Reading, Writing and Spelling in Polish

To stimulate young people of Polish background to learn, use and improve their Polish-language skills, Polish schools in most provinces organize competitions in essay writing, reading and spelling at the end of every school year. Polish portal Goniec published Teresa Szramek’s report on the most popular competitions in the country.

This year, the Best Essay in Polish Language competition was held for the 50th time. According to Szramek, the jury did a tremendous job, reading and evaluating hundreds of essays sent from Polish schools from all across Canada. Among the grading criteria were the ability to use the language beautifully and the courage to speak out on difficult subjects.

The reading contest, “Champion at Reading Beautifully,” took place at John Paul II Polish Cultural Centre Mississauga. Children read a text by Barbara Gawryluk’s My Bullerby, a novel about a girl who faces challenges when her parents decide to emigrate from Poland to Sweden.

“The reading contest for children is really important,” Szramek writes, “especially in the era of ubiquitous Internet. The contest aims, among other things, to arouse interest in books, which are a cultural asset of every nation, and to encourage reading, because books develop the imagination and enrich the vocabulary of the young readers.”

A record number of candidates also competed for the title of Spelling Champion of the Year 2015.

Photo Credit: Goniec (Accompanied original referenced article.)

Volunteers Run “Food Bank On Wheels”

People who use the Canadian social assistance system should not just passively wait for help – many of them could be more actively engaged in improving of their situations and the lives of others in need, says Lada Alexeychuk in Russian Week.

Alexeychuk is involved in an organization created and run by volunteers who call this activity “food bank on wheels.”

The work is simple: the volunteers talk to grocery store and warehouse managers and, at the end of the day, pick up the food that has not been sold. They immediately deliver this food to the homes of people in need. In this way, about 100 people receive fresh fruit and vegetables every week.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Since products are delivered the same day, the “food bank” doesn’t need storage or administrative staff. All it takes is the will to help others.[/quote]

Alexeychuk writes that elderly people are especially grateful for this home-delivery service in winter, because they don’t have to walk the slushy, slippery streets to get food.

Since products are delivered the same day, the “food bank” doesn’t need storage or administrative staff. All it takes is the will to help others.

“The reasons people need help are different – unemployment, sickness, old age, immigration,” Alexeychuk says. “However, if a person is in need of social assistance, this doesn’t mean that he or she is completely helpless. If you think about it, every man, even the weakest person with disability can be of some help in some way.”

Photo Credit: Russian Week (Accompanied original referenced article.)


Lucy Slavianska is a Toronto-based journalist who has lived and worked in Bulgaria, Japan, Venezuela and the Netherlands. She has a PhD in clinical philosophy and background in editing and publishing.

{module NCM Blurb} 

Published in Eastern Europe
Thursday, 18 June 2015 09:59

Courting the #CdnImm Vote

by Anita Singh (@tjsgroupca) in Toronto, Ontario

It is no secret. Whenever an election is nearing, the number of appearances by incumbents, prospective candidates, ministers and party leaders at roundtables, speeches, photo-ops or other events organized by ethnic and immigrant community groups increases.

And, particularly in an election year, these politicians hope that their presence will gain the one vote that will determine their success in the upcoming elections.

The recent numbers are impressive – the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce has hosted four federal ministers in as many months, and the Chinese Professionals Association of Canada has hosted six high-profile individuals, premiers, ambassadors and ministers since the beginning of 2015. 

While Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Chris Alexander could not beat preceding minister Jason Kenney’s record attendance of community engagement events (at times as many as six appearances in a night), he has also dedicated a significant amount of time for community engagement, meeting members of the Polish and Chinese communities in the last month.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The ‘shaking-hands-and-baby-kissing’ explanation of how immigrant communities vote oversimplifies a complex relationship between immigrant communities, representative interest groups and political leaders.[/quote]

Yet, the ‘shaking-hands-and-baby-kissing’ explanation of how immigrant communities vote oversimplifies a complex relationship between immigrant communities, representative interest groups and political leaders. 

Immigrant groups have an important effect on elections, policies and party platforms by helping politicians position themselves to appeal to respective communities.

Issues Development

An interest group’s most effective role is its ability to identify issues that are electorally important for the immigrant community. It provides candidates and parties with a pulse on the issues that exist within a community. It serves as a forum where active members of immigrant communities discuss, dissect and organize around these issues. 

Members of ethnic interest groups in Canada have been vocal on issues of visas, the temporary foreign worker program, small- and medium-sized business development and reduction of trade barriers to developing economies.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Political science research has shown that people actively involved in their communities – including interest groups - are more likely to be involved in aspects like fundraising and volunteering for political parties.[/quote]

The Chinese-Canadian National Council, for example, has been a long-time advocate of the ‘super visa’ for parents and grandparents, a 10-year visa that allows holders to stay in Canada for up to two years a visit. It has also been vocal against the government’s caps on applications (only 5,000 applications were accepted in 2014).

Similarly, Indo-Canadian groups have played a significant role in identifying the major trade barriers between Canada and India in the completion of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement.

Community Engagement

Political science research has shown that people actively involved in their communities – including interest groups – are more likely to be involved in aspects like fundraising and volunteering for political parties. And the numbers show that members of the Conservative Party have reaped the benefits of this.

A 2013 CBC article found that nearly 60 per cent of the $143,000 raised by Kenney’s Calgary riding association came from the Chinese-Canadian community in Ontario and a significant (but smaller) amount from the South Asian community also outside of Alberta, indicating their support for his approach to community engagement. 

Moderating Effect

In addition, organized and formal interest groups provide a forum for politicians looking to connect with immigrant and ethnic communities, while helping to moderate messaging of the more radical groups in line with government interests and policy. Politicians are then able to prioritize issues that they can more easily act upon, instead of focusing on ‘splinter’ issues within particular groups that have unfavourable, anti-state and sometimes violent ideologies.

For example, in recent years, members of Parliament (MPs) have distanced themselves from events such as Vaisakhi parades where participants have advocated for violent separation from India, or rallies in the Tamil community, which promote and fundraise for the Tamil Tigers.

Are Politicians Listening?

Correlation between these community engagement activities and influence on policy is hard to prove. But there are signs that political candidates are listening to interest groups.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]For a period of three years between 2008 and 2011, the ruling Conservative party issued formal apologies for injustices committed against numerous ethnic communities in Canada.[/quote]

For a period of three years between 2008 and 2011, the ruling Conservative party issued formal apologies for injustices committed against numerous ethnic communities in Canada, including the Komagata Maru incident, the poor handling of the Air India attack and the Chinese head tax.

Significant changes to immigration policies have seen the landing fees for new residents nearly halved. They have created opportunities for skilled labour to gain access to work, benefiting those most likely to be politically engaged and involved in ethnic organizations. 

But these policy platforms are not limited to the ruling party.

Justin Trudeau has recently taken aim at what he calls the racist anti-Muslim policies of the Conservative government, including the proposed ban on headscarves at citizenship ceremonies and Canadian Terrorism Act (Bill C-51), both issues taken up by the National Council of Canadian Muslims, while Tom Mulcair has promised improvements to the immigration system to speed up visas for family reunification.

The question now remains: which one of these approaches will reap the most electoral benefits in the future?


Anita Singh is a founding partner of Tahlan, Jorden & Singh Consulting Group and a Research Fellow at the Centre for Foreign Policy Studies at Dalhousie University. Her research examines the role of diaspora groups and their influence on foreign policy, particularly the Indo-Canadian community and Canada-India relations.

{module NCM Blurb}

Published in Commentary

by Maria Assaf (@MariaAssaf) in Toronto

Hermie Garcia arrived in Canada in 1984, shortly after he and his wife, Mila Astorga-Garcia, were released from a military prison for being part of the left-wing underground movement in the Philippines.  After trying to find work in Canadian mainstream media and failing for not having Canadian experience, the couple started the Philippine Reporter in 1989. 25 years later, they continue to run the paper from their home. With a circulation of 12,000, the paper serves some of the nearly 200,000 Filipinos in Toronto, out of the close to 500,000 Filipinos in Canada. Every year, about 30,000 Filipinos arrive in Canada as permanent residents. 

Here is a condensed and edited version of an interview conducted by NCM Reporter Maria Assaf with the newspaper publisher shortly after the 25th anniversary celebrations:

Q: Many newspapers are facing a crisis as they lose readership to online media. How does your paper manage to stay afloat after 25 years and what sets you apart from other Filipino community papers?

A: We listen to the community and we interact with a lot of groups and sectors of the community, so that we have a strong sense of their interests, their concerns, their issues. There’s the issue of immigration, of temporary foreign workers, issue of caregivers, issue of jobs for immigrants, issue of family reunification. We interview them, we get their opinions, we get their views, we get their life-stories, and then the response of the government, the provincial and municipal. So people find stories in our paper that impact their lives.

Q: How do you find out what issues your community cares about the most?

A: We attend dozens and dozens of events going on in the community every week in many areas of Toronto, so we take pains in talking to not only the readers, but the members of organizations. We attend the meetings, we interview them, we read their newsletters and publications, we read their websites. So we have a strong sense of what’s happening in the community.

Q: What is the biggest challenge ethnic media faces in comparison to mainstream media?

A: Most of the ethnic media, be it newspapers or magazines or radio programs or TV programs or online publications, they don’t have the resources of the mainstream media. The mainstream media have hundreds of millions in revenue. Except for publications like Canadian Immigrant, which is owned by Torstar (publishers of the Toronto Star), all the ethnic media publications are small businesses, so they don’t have the millions, they don’t have the big printing presses, they don’t have hundreds of members of staff, most of these are family-run, what you would call mom-and-pop businesses.

Q: What do you think small ethnic media can provide that others can’t?

A: Publications like Canadian Immigrant, in addition to being owned by a corporate mainstream media, its approach is also different. It wants to cover all the ethnic communities. They are somewhere above the communities. But most of the ethnic media outlets, they cover specific communities. We are more deeply connected to the community. For example, we have a story coming out tomorrow about [federal Minister] Jason Kenney stating that Filipinos are abusing the live-in caregiver program for purposes of family reunification. That’s a very strong statement. Then they announced some changes in the temporary foreign workers programs. These were covered by the mainstream media, like Toronto Star, Globe and Mail. We also covered them, but we got reactions from community groups, community leaders. So that’s the difference. We are not confining ourselves to job-hunting stories.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][W]e have a story coming out tomorrow about [federal Minister] Jason Kenney stating that Filipinos are abusing the live-in caregiver program for purposes of family reunification. That’s a very strong statement.[/quote]

Q: With a staff of only about seven full-time people in Toronto, how do you manage to cover stories from all over Canada?

A: We know people from other cities, like Montreal, Vancouver, Winnipeg. We have connections with some groups, some individuals who can occasionally write for us and who occasionally volunteer stories to us or send pictures or press releases or cover stories in their areas. Because we’ve been in operation for 25 years, it’s not that hard. You know a lot of people. We know sources, we know the leaders, we know the groups, we know the organizations, we know when events are held. It is not hard to find writers. There are so many potential writers and former writers and reporters and journalists in the community.

Q: How did you get fresh foreign content at the beginning?

A: We couldn’t afford to pay correspondents in Manila, especially at that time. We called our friends in the Philippines in the media and asked them to send stories and we paid them not their rates, but some kind of discounted rates, because we were friends. We asked some newspapers there to send stories to us for re-print. We went the extra mile. We were the first newspaper in the Filipino community to use a fax machine. We even asked the papers in Manila to fax pictures so we could use them on page one in our newspaper.

Q: Tell me about the challenges you faced when you started the paper.

A: When you have limited resources, limited equipment and limited staff -- writing staff and office staff -- it is very hard to sustain a business, because you cannot afford to lose money indefinitely. Especially when the market is relatively small. We learned not to confine ourselves to our community for advertising revenue. It was a losing proposition for the first few years. But we didn’t stop. I was thinking we would grow, we would become stable, we would make money and continue publishing a paper that is self-sustaining and we succeeded. It was very hard at the start. Especially before I quit my job, we would work only at night and on weekends. My wife and my family sacrificed a lot to produce this paper for a long time.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]It was very hard at the start. Especially before I quit my job, we would work only at night and on weekends. My wife and my family sacrificed a lot to produce this paper for a long time. [/quote]

Q: What made you think you could start a new paper in a city that already had about five Filipino community papers, when the community was much smaller?

A: I didn’t have any business experience in the Philippines. What I thought was that if these community papers that existed then ... some of them were not run by journalists, they were run by business people who didn’t have any journalistic background. I thought if they could do it, may be I could do it too. I thought I could produce something with quality. In the Philippines, I was a journalist for many, many years. I worked as a magazine writer, later as a reporter and later as a desk editor of two daily newspapers. Because of my experience and my wife’s experience -- she was also a reporter at a business daily for a long time -- I had the feeling that content-wise, it’s not hard to produce a newspaper. Lots of those papers were covering entertainment stories, there was a lack of serious stories. Some of the newspapers then were using old stories, from months and weeks ago. They were already stale. [Mila Astorga-Garcia is co-publisher and managing editor.]

Q: How has your paper coped with the growth of the Filipino community in Canada?

A: We always get calls, we always get e-mails, we always have people tell us personally, “We need more copies of the paper,” ... “In this store we don’t have copies of the paper,” in these far away, far away rural areas. We have to print more so we have to spend more, and we have to get more advertising revenue. Because our newspaper is free, what we do is we make distribution more efficient. We make sure that not too many copies are wasted. We visit outlets regularly and if we find that the old issues are still there, we reduce the number of copies and take them to other outlets. If there’s a party or an event, we deliver the newspaper. At that time we covered more stories from the Philippines, because not much was happening in the community [here], now there are more activities, more events, more people, so more stories. 

(Editor's Note: At the 25th anniversary celebrations, Garcia printed T-shirts with the words "Stop killing journalists". Many journalists have been killed in the line of duty in the Philippines. There's a campaign among journalists there and their supporters to prosecute the perpetrators -- mostly politicians, police and military who were subjects of the journalists' investigative stories, according to Garcia.)

{module NCM Blurb}

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