by Diba Hareer in Ottawa 

Her story reads like a movie script. 

Twenty years ago, Maryam Monsef fled the brutal rule of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and now, two decades later, she has become the first Muslim to be appointed a cabinet minister in the federal government.  

In 1996, Monsef’s mother and her three daughters settled in Peterborough, Ont. after Iran refused to grant them refuge. 

It is the kindness and the support that my family and I received from the people of Peterborough-Kawartha that is at the heart of the service that I intend to give to the people of this riding,” says the Minister of Democratic Institutions. 

Campaigning in a small town 

Monsef says the fact that she grew up in a smaller community allowed her to build networks. It was easier for her to create connections in Peterborough, a city of less than 80,000 people. 

“It is possible to plant seeds in this community because of its size, and to see those seeds grow, and to see that you can have an impact when you come together and collaborate.” 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Monsef is also the first female Member of Parliament (MP) ever elected in the riding Peterborough-Kawartha.[/quote]

Monsef is also the first female Member of Parliament (MP) ever elected in the riding Peterborough-Kawartha. It’s an achievement she attributes to a lot of hard work. 

During the 60-day election campaign she and her team knocked on 70,000 doors and held 10 different roundtable discussions with the community. 

At these meetings she outlined her priorities for the riding. She campaigned for the Liberals on good sustainable jobs, preservation of the environment, health care and access to services for seniors. 

According to Monsef attracting and retaining newcomers to her riding is critical for the prosperity of the district. 

“Over a 160 different groups and individuals have been meeting for over five years and [have] developed strategies and action items devoted specifically to that mandate of creating a more welcoming community for newcomers to our area.” 

She adds that her riding continues its efforts to be a welcoming community to newcomers and Canadian immigrants. 

Strengthening democratic institutions 

While she was born in a country with a lack of human rights, it will be Monsef’s responsibility to strengthen Canada’s democracy as Minister of Democratic Institutions. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"[M]y job I believe is to restore and to strengthen Canadians' respect and appreciation for these democratic institutions that we are so privileged to have.”[/quote]

Monsef describes the scope of her job as “broad”, encompassing Senate reform, electoral reform and elections spending. 

“The way I see my job I believe is to restore and to strengthen Canadians' respect and appreciation for these democratic institutions that we are so privileged to have.” 

She would also like to see more women’s participation in Canadian politics. 

Monsef says she is grateful for the women who paved the way before her and hopes to do the same for others who follow. 

Inspiring Afghan Canadians 

For Afghans in Canada the news of Monsef’s appointment as a cabinet minister broke at the same time with the news of the horrific stoning of a young girl in Ghor, a northwestern province in Afghanistan.  

Amid the horror in Ghor, Afghans welcomed the news of Monsef’s appointment with delight and surprise. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Monsef’s election is helping to build the image of refugees and trust of Canadian society in them."[/quote]

Adeena Niazi, the Executive Director of Afghan Women’s Organization in Toronto is of the view that refugees are too often perceived to be a burden and treated as unequal members of society, but that Monsef’s election has the power to change that. 

“Monsef’s election is helping to build the image of refugees and trust of Canadian society in them. It decreases the discrimination against refugees in society.” 

Monsef forces the public to re-think their perception of Afghan women, Niazi adds. 

“The international media has portrayed Afghan women as victims, listeners and oppressed, but since Monsef’s election everyone has come to realize that Afghan women are not just silent victims; they have strength and ability.” 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"[S]ince Monsef’s election everyone has come to realize that Afghan women are not just silent victims."[/quote]

Khalid Mirzamir, an Afghan Canadian immigration counsellor in Ottawa, says Monsef’s story is one of hope and inspiration. 

“Maryam’s election reminds all of us as immigrants that Canada is a country where it gives everyone the opportunity to grow.” 

Hope is what Frozan Rahmani felt after Monsef was elected. The Toronto-based student followed the campaign closely and shed tears of joy when Monsef’s victory was announced. 

Rahmani is awed by the fact that it was Monsef’s mother who was the key to the minister’s success. 

After fleeing the Taliban, Monsef’s mother started life from scratch with her three daughters in Canada. The difficult task is a shared experience for many immigrants in this country. 

“I am not happy because we share the same heritage as Afghans, but because I know that she has risen from a society that has pains, from a culture that in the 21st century does not value women,” says Rahmani. “We have witnessed the stoning of women. But Maryam did rise in Canada and made us proud.”


Journalist Judy Trinh mentored the writer of this article through the NCM Mentoring Program.  

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Published in Politics
Thursday, 05 November 2015 16:54

Attack Ads in Ethnic Papers ‘Insulting’

by Robin Brown in Toronto

The post-mortem of the federal election is ongoing and until it is complete we will not know the full dynamics behind the results. But one view that is emerging is that the Liberals outperformed the Conservatives in winning the hotly contested “ethnic vote”. Or at least winning back enough of it.

Looking at results from ridings with high proportions of immigrant and visible minority populations, especially in suburban Toronto and Vancouver, this seems to be the case. So what did they do to achieve this?

The ethnic media bandwagon

The first thing is that they woke up to one of the tactics that the Conservatives have successfully employed in recent years – engaging the ethnic media.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Stephen Harper has always been generous with the ethnic media.[/quote]

Stephen Harper, who has been accused of not being accessible to the mainstream media, has always been generous with the ethnic media.

This relationship was symbiotic. It helped the Conservatives focus on a key segment of the population. In turn, the ethnic media were grateful for easier access.

While the Conservatives maintained this strategy during this past election, they were not alone. The Liberals had been taking notes, and Justin Trudeau was made equally available, if not more so. This was crucial in connecting the Liberals with ethnic communities.

The messages that backfired

Individual campaigns may have employed specific multicultural communication strategies at the riding level, but the parties did not do so to any major extent at a national level.

The only example that was widely covered in the mainstream media was the Conservatives attempts to leverage social hot buttons and associate Trudeau with marijuana and prostitution.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“It’s like they think we’re stupid.”[/quote]

Along with statements from Jason Kenney, the Conservatives delivered those messages via Punjabi and Chinese language flyers and newspaper advertisements.

This attempt was widely seen as backfiring and indicative of a misreading of Chinese and South Asian voters and their concerns. Many of those voters were well aware of the fact their communities had been singled out for these messages.

As one of my Chinese friends said, “It’s like they think we’re stupid.” 

Myths about the ‘ethnic vote’

Ironically the misreading could be a result of past successes. Conservative success with the “ethnic vote” in 2011 is well documented and may have created comforting myths.

For example, The Big Shift by Darrell Bricker and John Ibbitson painted a picture of a Conservative dynasty supported by immigrants who were focused on economic, security and law and order issues and not concerned with issues such as “community supports, the environment and international engagement.” 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][M]yths lulled the [Conservative] party into believing that the “ethnic vote” was immune to the messages of the Liberals and NDP.[/quote]

These myths lulled the party into believing that the “ethnic vote” was immune to the messages of the Liberals and NDP.

However, the results of this election showed that this was clearly not the case. The messages that the Liberals successfully pushed out to the Canadian public were reaching and resonating with “ethnic voters”.

Overall it seems the “ethnic vote” was influenced by the same factors as the general Canadian vote.

One finding that may emerge from the post-mortem is that when the Canadian vote swings right so does the “ethnic vote”. When the vote swings left so does the “ethnic vote”. Maybe we will learn that the “ethnic vote” is now not quite as distinct from the “mainstream vote” as was assumed in the past.


Robin Brown is the co-author of Migration Nation: A Practical Guide to Doing Business in Globalized Canada.

New Canadian Media welcomes other perspectives on the topic of advertising targeted at immigrant communities during the 2015 federal election. Write to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if interested.

Published in Commentary
Wednesday, 04 November 2015 04:03

On the Road to Democratic Journalism

by Catherine Murray, NCM Ombudsperson, in Vancouver

This has been an historic election – one which journalists, academics and party strategists will be decoding for years to come.

As New Canadian Media’s (NCM) ombudsperson, I was privileged to have a ringside seat on monitoring election coverage.

I did not receive any complaint from a single NCM reader; NCM’s election desk moved confidently into uncharted waters.

A changing division of labour

Given its length, and the palpable sense a lot hung on it, this election generated significantly more coverage for voters.

It also appears to have led to a changing division of labour between legacy and social media, ethnic and mainstream media and editorial and news coverage, which will continue to be investigated by researchers in the ensuing days. 

While polls, poll aggregators and strategic voting apps remained centre stage, the typical horse race preoccupation widened.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Canada’s history of colonial racial oppression has not necessarily been laid bare in legacy media, but at least it has been acknowledged.[/quote]

There was more in-depth coverage of platform issues to do with proposed policy impacts on the middle class, reality check journalism which tested truth behind leader assertions, and at times, anguished assessments of the cultural politics of racial conflict and immigration.   

Canada’s history of colonial racial oppression has not necessarily been laid bare in legacy media, but at least it has been acknowledged.

New interpretation on evaluating immigration policy emerged. Failures in intercultural understanding continued.

Polls on the views of Canadian “majorities” favouring the ban on the niqab were published with little journalistic assessment of poll question design (which may have skewed the results), poll methodology or intercultural differences.

The quality and volume of investigative journalism into swing ridings and the dynamics of the ethnic vote in campaigning improved.

While there were some instrumental, exploitive tricks, attack and wedge politics did not work overall.

A raft of new journalists of colour moved in to cover and comment on the election – matching the rise of diversity among party insiders – and occasionally even being included on CBC’s “The National” At Issue panel.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]A raft of new journalists of colour moved in to cover and comment on the election – matching the rise of diversity among party insiders.[/quote]

Analyzing the election run

Political journalism is always a tricky business, as Knowlton Nash, the late CBC journalist, news anchor and predecessor to Peter Mansbridge, reminded us of in his 1984 book History on the Run.

One story not yet released is the impact of the unprecedented increase in spending on advertising in ethnic media across parties, signalling a redistribution between mainstream and ethnic media, which may help stabilize the income of more ethnic media players in the larger media landscape.

The abandonment of the broadcast consortium for the debate led to fragmentation of English media sponsors (Munk, MacLeans, Globe and Mail and so on), each with limited audience reach, but it did not include an ethnic media partner.

This election also saw many respected mainstream journalists drawn into disputes over interpretation of ‘fact’ and ‘opinion’ and internal editorial policy.

Andrew Coyne resigned as an editor of the National Post, and Michael Enright was found by the CBC Ombudsman found to have “crossed the line” in an editorial on xenophobia, ad hominem attack and racial slurs in political speech for “The Sunday Edition” because he called for a specific course of action in his discussion.

These cases will become central to debate in future journalism ethics courses amidst shifting practices in an era of takedown Internet trolls and the sensational Twitterverse.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Storytelling across marginalized Canadians groups has the potential to effect change.[/quote]

Road to better democratic journalism

This election posed more frequent challenge for rules in achieving fairness and balance in coverage.

Conservative candidates more often refused to appear locally in debates or conduct media interviews. All parties except the Green appeared to pull back their use of free access time in electronic media, in favour of paid partisan ads. 

The balance between “earned media” from attack ads and news was hard to achieve and momentum grew for the establishment of a fairness in political advertising code similar to that for commercial advertisers at the Advertising Standards Council.

In my initial watch list, I flagged how the reduced mandate for Elections Canada under the Harper Fair Elections Act required special attention to citizen awareness of where to vote in new ridings, and party conduct during getting out the vote on e-day.

While some concerns about dirty tricks emerged, they were not as widely reported as they were in 2011. And parties learned their lesson from 2011 on using media quotations without permission in attack ads.

The next four years will see much dialogue about democratic reform.

Initiatives like Democracy Watch’s honesty in politics campaign may add a ‘civility’ element. The politics of hope are back.

Ethnic media editors and journalists should continue to be involved. Ethnic media must become more transparent and included in the self-regulation of standards of election reporting, introduce more awards for excellence in election coverage and share more about best practices.

Storytelling across marginalized Canadians groups has the potential to effect change.

The Canadians who voted against Harper throughout this past decade know something about the experience of being invisible and marginalized by the party in power. But for the first time in recent political history, things have changed.

Trading places between majority and minority identity status disciplines compassion and intercultural understanding wonderfully.

It can also produce better democratic journalism.


Catherine Murray, New Canadian Media’s Ombudsperson, is a professor in the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University. She has researched and written on B.C. ethnic media, self-regulation and the politics of cultural diversity in Canada. Write to her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Published in Commentary

by Leah Bjornson in Vancouver

With the final ballots long since counted and the prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau preparing to name his cabinet, members and guests of the Canadian Journalism Foundation (CFJ) gathered in downtown Vancouver to reflect on the longest election campaign in Canadian history.

The discussion, titled “Election 2015: How the Votes Were Won”, was held in an auditorium in the Simon Fraser University Segal Building on Oct. 27. 

Panellists included Susan Delacourt, a columnist with the Toronto Star, Adam Radwanski, a political columnist with The Globe and Mail, Hannah Thibedeau, a veteran political reporter and Paul Wells, the political editor for Maclean’s magazine. Tom Clark, chief political correspondent for Global National, served as the moderator for the evening. 

Beyond the rise of the Liberal party and the potential this administration has for greater cooperation with the media, the night’s discussion focused on the important role ethnic and immigrant communities played in this hotly contested race. 

Miscalculations about #CdnImm voters 

The panel discussed how all parties spent a significant amount of time targeting ethnic and immigrant demographics during this election period. 

For Clark, who has covered every federal election campaign since 1974, digging into how parties were marketing themselves to these communities was “fascinating.” 

“They were conflating concerns that certain communities would have, say with Kathleen Wynne [Ontario’s premier] and sex education,” he said. “I heard one ad that said, ‘if you don’t like Kathleen Wynne and sex education, vote for Stephen Harper.’” 

Despite spending a significant amount of time, money and effort trying to court these demographics though, “those communities basically turned against the Conservatives,” Clark added. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"[T]here seemed to be a view that a lot of other immigrant communities take a certain 'close-the-door-behind-you' approach.”[/quote]

Radwanski, who previously served on the Globe’s editorial team, referred to the Muslim vote in particular, saying that while the Conservatives mainly wrote off Muslim voters when taking a stance on the niqab issue, the unintended consequences of this decision were unforeseen.

“Where I think they made a miscalculation was … there seemed to be a view that a lot of other immigrant communities take a certain 'close-the-door-behind-you' approach,” he stated, speaking of an assumption that once immigrants arrive in Canada they are less likely to care about others wanting to reach Canada. 

The reverse happened though. Rather than seeing the problem as one that only applied to Muslim Canadians, members of other communities identified with the fact that minorities were being targeted, Radwanski said.

Long campaign a benefit to Liberals

Making a light-hearted reference to the Jon Oliver sketch video that described Canada’s “gruelling” 78-day election period as “cute,” Clark asked the panellists how this year’s lengthy election differed from those of the past.

“I think everybody got into the long election campaign. I think democracy was sort of served by it,” Delacourt responded. “I think the turnout in this election is a really good argument for the longer election campaign.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"I just don’t think we would have seen anything resembling the same results in a five-week campaign.”[/quote]

Radwanski agreed. “I actually think the long campaign really made a difference, not just in that we all had more time to watch … [but] in that I just don’t think we would have seen anything resembling the same results in a five-week campaign,” he said.

The panel seemed to agree that Trudeau and the Liberal party “read” the long campaign better than the New Democratic Party (NDP), which ultimately allowed them to push past the former official opposition party in the last few weeks.

The NDP had the highest approval rating at the beginning of the campaign, polling nationally at around 33.2 per cent. The party even reached 37.4 per cent by late August.

However, this number shifted dramatically in late September as the Liberals overtook both the NDP and the Conservatives.

“They underestimated Trudeau,” explained Thibedeau, who was on the election trail with the Conservative party for the first four weeks of the circuit and joined the NDP later on.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“[Both the Conservatives and NDP] underestimated Trudeau.”[/quote]

She pointed to specific moments that highlighted this, such as when Harper’s spokesperson was quoted as saying “I think that if [Trudeau] comes on stage with his pants on, he will probably exceed expectations.”

Thibedeau continued, “Even more than that, the NDP … underestimated Justin Trudeau as well, and I think that was the biggest fault with those two parties.”

Media coverage in the new Trudeau era

On the day after he was elected, Trudeau travelled to Ottawa to take questions from journalists at the National Press Theatre. This was the first time since 2009 that a prime minister (or in this case, a prime minister-designate) was available to take questions at this official site.

For the panellists, this signalled a potentially more amiable relationship between journalists and the federal government in the future.

“It’ll be interesting to see if they maintain a lot of the restrictions that we’ve seen since ’06 or if they’ll loosen those moving forward,” said Thibedeau.

Wells, who moderated the Maclean’s debate in early August, echoed these thoughts.

“I believe that access and a general sort of relaxed attitude around journalists is going to be substantially greater under Justin Trudeau than under Stephen Harper,” he commented. “But I note that Justin Trudeau met with the premier of Ontario today and it was photo-op only, no questions.”

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Published in Politics
Monday, 26 October 2015 14:56

“Diversity a Given” in Trudeau Cabinet

by Ranjit Bhaskar in Toronto

One of prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau’s first orders of business will be to form a cabinet. It is one of the most difficult tasks facing any prime minister, as there is a need to strike geographic, linguistic, ethnic and gender balance.

While a mix of experienced legislators and fresh blood is expected, the diversity Trudeau will bring to his front bench will be revealed on November 4.

Other known priorities for Trudeau: gender parity and “small” in size. While gender parity was on the Liberal platform, Trudeau indicated reducing the cabinet size at his first press conference without being specific.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Though committing to gender balance is likely to make Trudeau’s task harder, keeping it small gives him an escape route to placate disappointed MPs.[/quote]

Under Stephen Harper, the Conservative cabinet had swollen to 40 ministers by January 2015, matching the size of Brian Mulroney’s 1984 Progressive Conservative cabinet.

When Harper first became prime minister in 2006 he appointed just 26 people to contrast his fiscal conservatism with the policies of former Liberal PM Paul Martin, whose cabinet had ballooned to 39.

Though committing to gender balance is likely to make Trudeau’s task harder, keeping it small gives him an escape route to placate disappointed MPs. He can blame it on the imperative of having a compact cabinet. With 184 MPs to choose from, Trudeau has his work cut out.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Bring together the best of our 20 MPs and inevitably it would be a diverse group.”[/quote]

But as one Liberal MP who spoke to New Canadian Media said, ensuring diversity will be the least of his problems. “Bring together the best of our 20 MPs and inevitably it would be a diverse group.”    

Given the limitations imposed by gender parity and size, expect to see MPs who score on more than one criterion make it to the cabinet. Here’s our shortlist of likely minority candidates.

Harjit Sajjan: A former Vancouver police detective, Sajjan is a highly decorated lieutenant colonel in the Canadian Armed Forces who served three tours in Afghanistan and is the first Sikh to command a Canadian military regiment. Sajjan is a member of Trudeau’s economic team.

This Vancouver South MP ticks the following boxes: Vancouver area representative, veteran, Sikh minority.

Dr. Hedy Fry: An incumbent MP, Dr. Fry has experience on her side as she earned her reputation as a leader in medical politics at the local, provincial and federal levels. In 1993, she was first elected as an MP by defeating then-Prime Minister Kim Campbell.

This Vancouver Centre MP ticks the following boxes: Legislative experience, medical doctor, woman, Black.

Navdeep Bains: A key organizer for the Liberals in the immigrant community around Toronto, Bains has been the party’s critic for trade and natural resources. An accountant and former MP from 2004 to 2011, Bains is a member of Trudeau’s economic team and among the most experienced legislators of the large number of visible minority MPs from the “905” belt of the GTA.

This Mississauga–Malton MP ticks the following boxes: Legislative experience, GTA representative, Sikh minority.

Omar Alghabra: Having served as an MP from 2006 to 2008, Alghabra has been the Liberal critic for natural resources, as well as citizenship and immigration. An engineer by training, he is a prominent voice in the Arab and Muslim community in the GTA.

This Mississauga Centre MP ticks the following boxes: Legislative experience, Arab and Muslim minority.

Yasmin Ratansi: Yasmin Ratansi was an MP from 2004 to 2011. She was Deputy Whip of the Liberal Caucus, and served as Chair of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and as Chair of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women. Her roots are in the Ismaili Muslim community.

This Don Valley East MP ticks the following boxes: Legislative experience, Muslim and South Asian minority, woman.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][E]xpect to see MPs who score on more than one criterion make it to the cabinet.[/quote]

Emmanuel Dubourg: An incumbent MP, Dubourg was previously involved in Quebec provincial politics as a Liberal Member of the National Assembly for six years. Before entering politics, Emmanuel worked in the federal public service for nearly 20 years. He is a member of Trudeau’s economic team.

This Bourassa MP ticks the following boxes: Legislative experience, Quebec representative, Black.

Celina Caesar-Chavannes: A successful entrepreneur and the recipient of the Toronto Board of Trade’s Business Entrepreneur of the Year for 2012, as well as the 2007 Black Business and Professional Association’s Harry Jerome Young Entrepreneur Award, Caesar-Chavannes is also a research consultant and member of Trudeau’s economic team.

This Whitby MP ticks the following boxes: Young entrepreneur, woman, Black.

Peter Fonseca: An Olympian who represented Canada as a marathon runner, Fonseca sat in the Ontario Legislature between 2003 and 2011 and served as Cabinet Minister, taking on the labour and tourism & recreation portfolios.

This Mississauga East–Cooksville MP ticks the following boxes: Sports person, legislative experience.

Arnold Chan: An incumbent MP, Chan was first elected in a by-election in 2013. His career has included roles in both the public and private sectors as a lawyer, political aide and senior corporate manager. He is also the most senior among the three MPs of Chinese heritage in the Liberal caucus.

This Scarborough–Agincourt MP ticks the following boxes: Chinese minority, legislative experience.

Ali Ehsassi: A lawyer by trade, Ehsassi has extensive experience working in government at both the provincial and federal levels of government, as well as in the private sector. He brings to the table his specialization in international trade and arbitration.

This Willowdale MP ticks the following boxes: Iranian and Muslim minority, government experience.

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Published in Top Stories
Friday, 23 October 2015 21:11

Pros and Cons of Family Reunification

by Leah Bjornson in Vancouver

Justin Trudeau has now officially been elected as Canada’s 29th Prime Minister and with him come promises of investment in infrastructure, electoral reform and changes to the lengthy family reunification process.

Some of those changes involve doubling the number of applications allowed for parents and grandparents to 10,000 each year, speeding up permanent residency applications for spouses and raising the age limit for dependants.

These changes mark a reversal to the Conservative government’s overhaul of the family reunification process in 2011.

Limitations placed by the federal government at that time on the application process meant sons and daughters living in Canada could expect to wait up to six and a half years before their parents’ applications were processed.

Changes to regulations

Allowing immigrants to sponsor their parents and grandparents is concerning to many economists and politicians because of the heavy price tag it carries.

According to Fraser Institute Senior Fellow Martin Collacott, each grandparent ultimately costs Canadian taxpayers more than $300,000 in services and welfare benefits over the course of their time in the country.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"[T]he government attempted to limit Family Class immigration after noticing that some relatives who were brought to Canada ... were likely to make little economic contribution to Canada."[/quote]

In his study, titled “Canadian family class immigration: The parent and grandparent component under review,” Collacott explains that the government attempted to limit Family Class immigration after noticing that some relatives who were brought to Canada were ultimately unskilled, had limited English language skills, and were likely to make little economic contribution to Canada.

Over the last few decades, these assumptions have led to an increase in the number of economic immigrants coming to Canada from 45 per cent in 1990 to 63 per cent. To contrast, family class immigrants have dropped from 34 per cent in 1990 to 25 per cent in 2014.

The group that has most acutely felt the effects of these changes are older prospective immigrants.

In 2011, the Conservative government temporarily stopped receiving applications for sponsored parents and grandparents in order to deal with a backlog of approximately 160,000 applicants.

When the stream reopened in 2014, the government limited the total number of applicants in this category to 5,000 per year.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“At the basis of this is an assumption that only economic immigrants are important.”[/quote]

Jason Kenney, who was then the Citizenship and Immigration Minister, explained these changes when they were announced, by stating: “We're not looking for more people on welfare, we're not looking to add people as a social burden to Canada. If their expectation is that they need the support of the state then they should stay in their country of origin, not come to Canada.”

The reforms in 2013 also increased the minimum necessary income (MNI) to sponsor parents and grandparents by 30 per cent and reduced the maximum age of dependants from 22 years old to 18.

“This is not a random phenomenon,” explains Marc Yvan Valade, a PhD candidate in policy studies at Ryerson University. “At the basis of this is an assumption that only economic immigrants are important.”

A different type of contribution

Despite these arguments, some experts argue that this focus ignores the many non-economic contributions these immigrants make.

“If it would help immigrant families to secure a stronger foothold in our society and feel even more belonging and want to contribute, well this is a gain for all of us,” says Valade. “It’s a gain not only economically in the short term, but it’s a gain in the long term as a society.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“[Family reunification] is a gain not only economically in the short term, but it’s a gain in the long term as a society.”[/quote]

A study by the Ethno-Cultural Council of Calgary found that family separation could both exacerbate the vulnerabilities of the children in these families as well as hinder meaningful integration into Canadian culture.

“Contrary to the representation of sponsored relatives as a drain on the health-care system and social services, we heard instead that sponsored parents and grandparents were playing critical roles as child care providers that allowed their children to go out and become part of the workforce in Canada,” the study explains.

The Liberals' promise

Navdeep Bains, just-elected Liberal MP from Mississauga-Malton and a member of Trudeau’s economic advisory group, told New Canadian Media during the election campaign that the party’s policies reflect this understanding.

“Family reunification is important as it enhances the family support system,” he said. “It will have meaningful impact for new Canadians as it will enable families to earn double incomes if a couple or shift worker gets child care support from their parents. It is sound economics, as good family dynamics help people to thrive.”

In the days leading up to his party’s Oct. 19 win, long-time Liberal MP John McCallum said his party intended to “put the family reunification program back on [the] rails.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"Super Visas are not a substitute for family reunification.”[/quote]

“Let’s be clear, Super Visas are not a substitute for family reunification,” McCallum said.

Introduced by the Conservatives, the Parent and Grandparent Super Visa (Super Visa) is a temporary resident permit that allows parents and grandparents to stay for up to two years in Canada per visit, and is valid for up to 10 years.

“The family reunification program is a priority for us. It is a huge issue, that is cause for anger, frustration and tears,” added McCallum, who formerly served as the party critic on the immigration file. “We see it as part of an immigration program that will welcome new Canadians with a smile instead of a scowl.”

Valade is optimistic about these changes, but says the real test will be whether sufficient resources are made available to treat demands in a reasonable time.

“Overall, the whole Family Class program should be reviewed in a way that considers the immigrant family as an asset for Canadian society, and a contribution to immigrant integration.”

With additional reporting by Election Desk Editor Ranjit Bhaskar in the Greater Toronto Area.


This is part two of a two-part series looking at family reunification policy. Read the first instalment here.

{module NCM Blurb} 

Published in Policy
Thursday, 22 October 2015 19:50

First Mandarin-Speaking MP Elected in Canada

by Shan Qiao in Toronto 
 
For the first time in Canada’s electoral history a Mandarin-speaking member of Parliament was elected.

Now hailed by the Chinese Mandarin community members as their "true voice”, the Liberal party’s Geng Tan won the Don Valley North riding in Toronto with a solid 51.4 per cent of the vote. He trumped second-place Conservative incumbent Joe Daniel’s 37.8 per cent by more than 6,000 votes.
 
Tan’s win is not only a reflection of the Liberals' landslide victory, but also proof of a momentum generated by the Mandarin community, which has been very supportive of Tan’s campaign. 

Reflecting the community 

Even the defeated incumbent Daniels knows that the Chinese community is divided into three groups – the Mainlanders, Taiwanese and Cantonese – and simply saying, “I represent the Chinese community,” is naive and unconvincing. 

It’s possible to represent one or the other, but not all of them.
 
According to 2011 Statistic Canada reports Don Valley North has more than 12,750 Mandarin speakers, the highest amongst other ethnic languages and outnumbering the Cantonese-speaking population of 9,540 and other Chinese sub-groups that only answered “Chinese” to the question of mother tongue.
 
Beyond this, the riding has a 65 per cent immigrant population and 67 per cent of its constituents are visible minorities. The top occupations are in professional, scientific and technical services, and 67 per cent of residents have a post-secondary education. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“As an immigrant from Mainland China, it is so hard to set foot [in] Canada’s politics.”[/quote]

Tan, an immigrant with a high educational background, is very much a reflection of the average face of the riding. 

“As an immigrant from Mainland China, it is so hard to set foot [in] Canada’s politics,” Tan told supporters at his victory party on election night inside a Chinese fine dining restaurant.
 
“I’m a typical first [generation] skilled immigrant with more than a decade of community experience,” he continued. “I understand newcomers’ needs and I have the responsibility to work for newcomers and all ethnic groups.” 

Ties to Chinese community
 
Born in 1963 in Hunan, a mountainous province where father of Communist China, Mao Zedong, was born, Tan came to Canada as a visa student in 1998. 

He completed his postgraduate and PhD in chemical engineering and applied chemistry at the University of Toronto and then worked as a scientist at Ontario Power Generation. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“I also have [a] responsibility to ask for more benefits for our Chinese community.”[/quote]
 
Tan’s community involvements are closely tied to the Chinese community and his Hunan clan associations. 

During his study at University of Toronto, he served for two terms as president of the school’s Chinese students and scholars association. 

Tan was also the long-term president of the Hunan Fellow Association of Canada, the vice president of The Confederation of Toronto Chinese Canadian Organizations and a founding member of the Council of (Chinese) Newcomer Organizations.

These groups are regular fixtures at significant events held by the Chinese Canadian community to celebrate things like the lunar New Year, Mid Moon Festival and China’s National Day, as well as any organized rally or denouncement against the Tibetan separation. 

Ties to Michael Chan
 
Michael Chan, the Ontario cabinet minister who was once investigated by the Canadian Security Intelligence Services over fears that he was under the influence of China, is a close political ally and mentor to Tan. 

Since Tan’s Liberal candidacy announcement to him winning the seat, Chan has been a regular face during the newly elected MP’s campaign. 

Even just two days before election day, Chan attended a Chinese media event along with Tan and three other federal Liberal candidates from the Greater Toronto Area to blast the federal Conservative government. 

When asked about why he was actively involved in the federal election, Chan said the federal government had been disrespectful toward Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. The Conservatives had made too many funding cuts to Ontario, making it difficult for his government to provide services to residents, he said.

Going beyond his Chinese heritage 

Tan has promised that he will work hard to improve Canada’s relationship with China. 

“I also have [a] responsibility to ask for more benefits for our Chinese community,” he stated during his victory speech.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"[T]he way we vote for our parliamentary representative should go above and beyond ethnicity."[/quote]

But Sheng Xue, a prominent overseas Chinese Canadian writer for the Chinese democracy movement and an independent political commentator, says Tan must go beyond just serving the Chinese community.
 
“As a native Chinese, I’m happy (for Tan’s winning),” said Sheng. “However, in a democratic country such as Canada, the way we vote for our parliamentary representative should go above and beyond ethnicity because looking for rights and benefits should never be based on a candidate’s skin colour and his or her country of origin.” 

Sheng added that while their native country was still under a totalitarian system, it is important for Tan to respect Canada’s system and maintain Canadian values.
 
“I’m not acquainted with Mr. Tan, however, I urge him to act as a Canadian when he represents Canadians.”

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Published in Politics

by Janice Dickson in Ottawa

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper was not subtle about his use of cultural differences as a trigger for fear during the election campaign. His government pressed its case against a Muslim woman fighting to wear her niqab during her citizenship ceremony — and lost. It unveiled a “barbaric cultural practices” tipline for Canadians to report on their neighbours.

He made a debating point of his position that he’d never tell his daughter to cover her face, a moot point unless she converts to Islam. For Muslim-Canadian women the fact that those tactics backfired in the end is a validation of a particular view of Canada.

For Alia Hogben, the executive director of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, it shows that Canadians “are rejecting all the divisive and racist and hate mongering that the Conservatives were doing and they’re showing who we really are. It gives me a huge amount of hope.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Canadians “are rejecting all the divisive and racist and hate mongering that the Conservatives were doing and they’re showing who we really are."[/quote]

Hogben said that for almost every single Muslim, Harper’s vocal opposition to Muslim women wearing the niqab at citizenship ceremonies as the case of Zunera Niqab, who had taken the government to court over the issue, made its way successfully through then legal process during the campaign, was a source of anxiety.

“During that period it was nerve wracking, depressing and discouraging,” she said.

Hogben said she was worried about these new values that were being propounded by the Conservatives.

“We couldn’t tell if Canadians would lean that way or not and now it’s a huge amount of relief that its been rejected,” she said.

“We’re not saying one party is any better than another, but we’re hoping that they will learn from what went on during the election and the kind of feelings that aroused for and against a group of people and that they will learn from that and make everybody welcomed back into the family of Canadians rather than dividing us.”

No room for divisive, mean politics

In a powerful speech to a crowded room of cheering supporters in Montreal, prime minister designate Justin Trudeau said a woman wearing a hijab told him she would vote for him because she wants to make sure that her little girl has the right to make her own choices in life.

“Have faith in your fellow citizens my friends, they are kind and generous. They are open minded and optimistic and they know in their heart of hearts that a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian,” said Trudeau.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“I think if anything the niqab issue backfired on Stephen Harper and I think that kind of divisive negative nasty politics will not be seen in Canada for a long time.”[/quote]

Liberal strategist at Crestview Strategy Group, Rob Silver, said there’s no room in Canada for divisive and mean politics.

“I think if anything the niqab issue backfired on Stephen Harper and I think that kind of divisive negative nasty politics will not be seen in Canada for a long time.”

Samer Majzoub, the president of the Canadian Muslim Forum, says by electing Trudeau, Canadians have sent a very strong message to politicians who have campaigned on “hatred and discrimination.”

“They have harvested what they have planted and lost and [were] defeated,” said Majzoub.

“The fact is that Canadians have followed what Canadians believe in — harmony, unity, human rights, that’s why we feel at ease on the subject,” he said.


Published in partnership with iPolitics.ca.

Published in Politics

by Ranjit Bhaskar in Toronto

Canada has spoken and its ethnic minority electorate has made it clear that they are on the same wavelength as the rest of the country. The “905” belt around Toronto city, that famously shored up the Conservative party in the 2011 federal elections, has now helped in ensuring its defeat.  

Large numbers of minority voters in this belt voted just like their “416” city neighbours as if to prove that the telephone code monikers that differentiate them are superficial. And that 905 can no longer be used as shorthand to describe the purported small “c” values that made them support the Conservatives.

While statisticians and academics will trawl through voting data to come up with plausible reasons for the vote shift, anecdotal evidence points to the generational shift taking place in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) suburbs.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]As newer immigrant communities mature, the second and third generations are thinking and voting like their downtown Toronto counterparts.[/quote]

As newer immigrant communities mature, the second and third generations are thinking and voting like their downtown Toronto counterparts. Many of them are professionals who work and even live in the city, visiting their suburban parents on weekends. This has led to the gradual erosion of the cultural boundaries that existed between Toronto and its surroundings.

“Plenty of the young condo dwellers in my riding of Spadina-Fort York are children of parents who live in Brampton and Mississauga. So here I am, trying to influence these parents for their children’s votes,” Liberal candidate Adam Vaughan told New Canadian Media at a campaign stop in Brampton.  

Vaughan is among his party’s winners who have painted the whole of the GTA into a solid patch of red spreading north from the shores of Lake Ontario.

Intergenerational conversations

What has been happening is that the older and younger generations interact over the weekends and seem to influence each other. Not very unlike this skit from the Anybody But the Conservatives camp that captures the essence of generational differences amongst South Asian families.

[youtube height="315" width="560"]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43IVc9hc5HM&feature=youtu.be[/youtube]

This cross-pollination of ideas is likely to be one of the several factors that helped the Liberals regain ground from the Conservatives in the suburbs and edge out the NDP in the city. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]To their credit, the Liberals had started cultivating the younger generation of minority professionals, way before the elections were called.[/quote]

To their credit, the Liberals had started cultivating the younger generation of minority professionals, way before the elections were called. It was evident at events like the South Asian Bar Association (SABA) of Toronto’s awards gala where Justin Trudeau was the keynote speaker.

At this event a year ago, the Prime Minister-designate was visibly proud to present his young team of candidates, many of them lawyers. They now are part of the 150-odd neophyte MPs who will be entering parliament.

Meet the Brampton, Mississauga cohort

A quick look at this 905 cohort will give an idea about the candidates the Liberals were able to attract compared to the mostly self-made business people who flocked to the Conservatives.

Sven Spengemann (Mississauga-Lakeshore) completed his doctorate in political and constitutional theory at Harvard Law in June 2006.

Gagan Sikand (Mississauga-Streetsville) is a lawyer who has worked for the Attorney General of Ontario, the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs, and the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Overall, the median age of these 905 Liberal MPs reflect that of their party leader. And they come with matching attitudes.[/quote]

Iqra Khalid (Mississauga-Erin Mills) studied law and is now an articling student with the legal department at The City of Mississauga. She expects to be called to the bar soon.

Ruby Sahota (Brampton North) is an attorney who has practised for five years in the areas of criminal law, litigation, and dispute resolution in both the public and private sectors.

Raj Grewal (Brampton East) practised law at a prominent Bay Street firm and was also a financial analyst for a fortune 500 company.

The oldest MP among this crop of legal professionals is Ramesh Sangha (Brampton Centre), who jumped into the fray after a career in law.

And if they are not lawyers, the other MPs are health-care professionals. Kamal Khera (Brampton West) is a registered oncology nurse and Sonia Sidhu (Brampton South) is a cardiology technologist.

The few among the cohort with previous legislative experience are Navdeep Bains (Mississauga-Malton) who has been MP for Mississauga—Brampton South from 2004 to 2011; Omar Alghabra (Mississauga Centre) who was an MP from 2006 to 2008 and Peter Fonseca (Mississauga East-Cooksville) who is a former Ontario provincial cabinet minister.

Overall, the median age of these 905 Liberal MPs reflect that of their party leader. And they come with matching attitudes.

Khalid, possibly the youngest among them, had set her mind on sitting in Parliament while in university. “Why wait until I’m older, for another 20 or 30 years. The time is now.”

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Published in Top Stories

by Kyle Duggan in Ottawa

Residents in a Don Valley West neighbourhood have been blitzed with flyers over the past week linking Liberal leader Justin Trudeau to Ontario Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne, and suggesting that a vote for Trudeau is a vote endorsing Wynne’s controversial sex-ed curriculum.

The blitz is going on in the Thorncliffe park neighbourhood in the Don Valley West riding, which has a large immigrant population and is where parents pulled their kids from school in protest over the new provincial sex education curriculum.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The blitz is going on in the Thorncliffe park neighbourhood in the Don Valley West riding, which has a large immigrant population.[/quote]

One flyer reads that it’s from Conservative candidate John Carmichael and poses the question: “Would you trust Justin Trudeau and Rob Oliphant to stand up to Kathleen Wynne’s plan to introduce sex-ed curriculum without consulting parents?” It also hits against other social issues, including the Liberals’ marijuana policy and stance on mandatory minimums.

Flyering has ramped up

Other flyers have been passed under apartment doors recently and handed out – many by the Thorncliffe Parents Association – which also made that connection. The issue has been a hot topic in that riding, which is also Wynne’s provincial riding.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“We’ve been getting the same messages again and again and again, really trying to drill it into people’s heads. And it’s weird because it’s not a federal issue.”[/quote]

Rabiya Asad, a Thorncliffe Park area resident, says flyers decrying the sex-ed curriculum have ramped up closer to the election.

“For the past two, three weeks we’ve been getting flyers pretty regularly,” she said. “We got like three just today and the election’s tomorrow.”

She thinks they’re effective because the issue – and messaging connecting the federal and provincial Liberals – simmered for so long.

“We’ve been getting the same messages again and again and again, really trying to drill it into people’s heads. And it’s weird because it’s not a federal issue.”

Don Valley West: A riding to watch

Don Valley West Liberal candidate Rob Oliphant told the Globe and Mail in September the curriculum needs to be looked at to make sure it’s taught in a sensitive way, after some Toronto-area Conservative candidates made the curriculum part of their campaigns. Media had reported that Kyle Seeback and Parm Gill previously also sent out campaign material and flyers with similar messages in Mississauga-Malton.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Wynne recently called the Conservatives’ use of the sex-ed curriculum as a federal wedge-issue “deplorable.”[/quote]

Meanwhile, Wynne hasn’t distanced herself from Toronto-area Liberal candidates and spent time this week campaigning with some – including Oliphant on Thursday. Wynne recently called the Conservatives’ use of the sex-ed curriculum as a federal wedge-issue “deplorable.”

On AM 640’s John Oakley show in Toronto on Friday, Carmichael said “it’s a wedge issue if you look at how hard she’s been stumping for Justin Trudeau,” and drew the issue back to a lack of consultation with parents.

Don Valley West will be a riding to watch on Monday – Carmichael defeated Oliphant by just 611 votes in 2011. If the new riding boundaries had been in effect, it would have been by 1,088 votes, or a 2.4 per cent margin, according to Pundits’ Guide.


Published in partnership with iPolitics.ca.

Published in Politics

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