New Canadian Media

by Marcus Medford in Toronto 

Settlement agencies in Canada’s Atlantic provinces are working closely with provincial governments to better service immigrants, but say they need federal support to attract newcomers to smaller communities.

The provinces and territories select which immigrants they want to accept based on their local economic needs. In the past 15 years, the number of immigrants settling in the Maritimes has increased, but their numbers remain the lowest of all the provinces, explained Ather H. Akbari, an economics professor at St. Mary’s University in Halifax. 

“Larger provinces are traditional destinations for immigrants and have established communities with multiple religious and ethnic institutions, which help immigrants with aspects of settlement, but [these resources] are scarce in Atlantic Canada,” he explained, while leading a workshop titled “Economic Integration of Immigrants in Atlantic Canada,” at the 18th National Metropolis Conference in Toronto earlier this month. 

The five steps of economic integration are home ownership, car ownership, citizenship, English proficiency and earning a better income said Akbari. These five things are indicators that newcomers to Canada are invested in their new destination and intend to stay. 

[R]etention rates of immigrants in Atlantic Canada are low even in regions with large ethnic communities.

Akbari noted that the retention rates of immigrants in Atlantic Canada are low even in regions with large ethnic communities. 

“If the networks are not instrumental then there is clearly a need for government policy and settlement agencies to play a larger role in immigrant settlement and integration,” he said. 

Resources for Entrepreneurs 

In New Brunswick, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) has partnered with the government to provide financial support for French-speaking immigrant entrepreneurs in an effort to retain the francophone community. 

Attracting and retaining immigrants in rural areas can be difficult admitted Paul-Emile David, senior policy analyst for ACOA. David and ACOA work closely with businesses, governments and research institutions to find and develop entrepreneurial opportunities. 

“We offer programs, initiatives and support so entrepreneurial activities can take place in these areas,” he said. 

There are more than 40 Community Business Development Corporations (CBDCs) in Atlantic Canada, many of which are in rural areas. 

Entrepreneurial initiatives need access to financing, resources and business skills development courses, David explained. One example of this is Island Advance in Prince Edward Island, which stimulates entrepreneurial projects and helps immigrants recognize good business opportunities. 

For some immigrants and refugees learning English can be the most challenging part of integration.

More funding for integration supports 

As of the end of February, 25,000 Syrian refugees had arrived in Canada, and by the end of the year that total is expected to reach 50,000, making localized support for integration a key issue across the country. 

“We’re hoping that Ottawa will provide some strategic investments very soon in order to put the supports that are needed in place as soon as possible,” said Chris Friesen, director of settlement services with the Immigrant Services Society of B.C. 

He said he hopes that the new federal funding plan for the provinces and territories, along with help from local agencies, will speed up the process of matching immigrants and refugees with language courses. 

For some immigrants and refugees learning English can be the most challenging part of integration. 

It can take up to 16 months for newcomers to Canada to be accepted into federally funded language courses. Some have reported feeling “trapped” because of their lack of English knowledge, meaning they can’t fully interact with society. 

One of the reasons for the long wait-times to get into language programs is a lack of funding and resources. Wait-times also tend to be longer in bigger cities. 

Challenges with government-assisted stream

Of the 25,000 Syrian refugees more than half of them are government-assisted, the others are sponsored privately or with some support from the government. 

For refugees and immigrants alike, one of the most important steps to settling into Canada is finding a job and becoming economically independent. 

[F]or some immigrants and refugees, finding a job isn’t just a matter of earning an income.

Approximately 14 per cent of government-assisted refugees find work within their first year of being in Canada compared to more than 50 per cent of those who are privately assisted. 

“One of the unique challenges for government-assisted refugees is that they’re funded by the federal government for one year,” explained Nabiha Atallah, communications and outreach manager at the settlement agency ISANS (Immigration Services Association of Nova Scotia). “After that they need to support themselves or go on social assistance, but they want to work. They really want to work.” 

Atallah spoke during the workshop about strategies for economic integration for immigrants. 

She explained that for some immigrants and refugees, finding a job isn’t just a matter of earning an income, but helps with overcoming the depression, frustration and feelings of loss of self or status that can accompany relocating. 

Even highly skilled immigrants with work experience, education and English proficiency are experiencing difficulty finding jobs, Atallah said. 

ISANS works with several companies to understand their employer needs and to develop training curricula so that immigrants and refugees know what it takes to work at a particular business or organization. 

Matching clients’ interests, skills and abilities with the right employers and planning with end goals in mind are some of the keys to successful job searching, Atallah explained. 

“We also do a lot of work with interview skills because a lot of that is culture-laden. In some countries they don’t have interviews at all and if they do, they don’t look like ours.”


This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Economy

by Danica Samuel in Toronto 

New online programs are looking at how work is done in other parts of the world in order to more easily transfer newcomers’ skills to the Canadian job market. 

Abigail Fulton presented the British Columbia Construction Association's (BCCA) Integrating Newcomers program on Mar. 4 at the 18th National Metropolis Conference in Toronto. 

The program was one of two B.C.-based collaborative business plans showcased in the panel discussion “Facilitating Labour Market Integration to Skilled Trades”. The programs cater specifically to the construction market and offer an innovative way to reach immigrants who practise labour work in their home countries. 

“Many construction companies tend to look within their circles for hiring,” explained Fulton. “They employ their friends and family. Because of this, those who don’t fit into that category have a harder time finding work.” 

She explained that the integration program helps fill a gap, as 85 per cent of construction companies in B.C. have less than 10 employees.

... [U]nderstanding how construction is done in other countries [is] research Fulton calls “invaluable.”

An important aspect of the program is understanding how construction is done in other countries – research Fulton calls “invaluable.” 

Addressing competency gaps 

The BCCA Integrating Newcomers program focuses on assessing the skills of potential immigrants overseas as well as providing information about working and living in B.C., and later, employment leads. 

It is an example of several pre-arrival tactics that use online programs to properly survey, assess, mentor and inform newcomers about Canada’s workforce and labour market. 

Alongside this research is preparation for newcomers who want to settle in Canada and partake in the labour workforce. This is where the second business module called Facilitating Access to Skill Trades (FAST) comes into play. 

“Someone that comes from another country may have the components of many things, but we want to train them on the parts they don’t know.”

Sangeeta Subramanian of the Immigrant Employment Council of BC (IEC of BC) and Lawrence Parisotto of British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) presented FAST as a competency assessment and gap training tool for skill trades individuals. 

Parisotto says the program is “explicit and direct.” 

“Someone that comes from another country may have the components of many things, but we want to train them on the parts they don’t know,” said Parisotto. “The way to do that is being contextual and dependent between our content so that it provides and addresses outcomes.”  

Getting credentials recognized in advance 

FAST’s online application is collaborated with Shift IQ, a cloud-based learning management company. 

Shift IQ provides detailed diagnostics, validation, gap identification, post assessments and contributes to the e-mentoring program that guides and coaches a person through understanding the trades and services. 

The research BCCA Integrating Newcomers and FAST partake in both concluded that one of the main things immigrants should complete pre-arrival is getting their credentials recognized. 

Similar advice was mentioned in the “Seamless Service from Pre- to Post-Arrival in Canada” workshop.  

Maha Surani, a senior program officer and stakeholder at the Canadian Immigrant Integration Program (CIIP) said that research done by Planning for Canada to align newcomers with sector specific jobs showed that 63 per cent of employers encouraged pre-arrival immigrants to have their credentials assessed. 

Surani spoke on Planning for Canada’s collaboration with Acces Employment, a company connecting employers with qualified employees from diverse backgrounds. 

“There’s nothing generic about our work, which enhances the program altogether,” said Sue Sadler, a senior director of services and program development at Acces. 

“We have sector-specific training, and then follow through with a job search,” explained Sadler. “We then have business communications with our clients, the employers. All of this is done to connect our pre-arrival candidates to employers.” 

[I]t is also essential for employers and staff members within various companies to understand the importance of inclusion of various backgrounds and diversity.

Connecting with employers 

Acces Employment’s continuum module is enabled by online technology to enhance the job search of immigrants early on. The eight-week program caters to six sector-specific markets – engineering, human resources, finance, sales and marketing, supply chain and information technology. 

Markus Van Aardt, the business communications consultant behind the program, said that “folks are hungry for this information.” 

He explained the learning principle of the program: Immigrants usually start off being non-conscious and non-competent of the skills required for each of their desired job sectors. 

“I’ve walked in these folks’ shoes, it’s important to make sure they are in good hands,” said Van Aardt adamantly. 

“Newcomers want this information. They will drive you, and you don’t have to drive them. They will move quickly in the learning process, from being non-conscious, non-competence to conscious, [competence],” he said, using a diagram outlining the process of adult learning to illustrate his point. 

Enid Pico, senior vice-president and head of operations and share services at Scotiabank, spoke from an employer’s perspective. 

As the first female president of Scotiabank Puerto Rico and once a newcomer to Canada, she shared her encounters as a newcomer to the country and stated that while a pre-arrival program that prepares immigrants for job specific sectors is important, it is also essential for employers and staff members within various companies to understand the importance of inclusion of various backgrounds and diversity. 

“These cross-competency relationships are important. [Scotiabank] believes in diversity. It’s the right and smart thing to do,” said Pico. “Because of this, it’s important for us to find units and partners [like Planning for Canada and Acces] so that we can work with them to give us what we need.” 

Acces Employment and FAST’s pre-arrival modules will launch later on this year and the BCCA’s Integrating Newcomers program is now accepting applications.


This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Economy

ASSISTANT Deputy Speaker of the B.C Legislature, MLA Raj Chouhan, honored 92-year-old Indian field hockey legend Balbir Singh in the House on Wednesday with the following statement: “Madam Speaker it gives me a great pleasure and honour to speak about an unsung hero and a forgotten legend. Mr. Balbir Singh has won three Olympic […]

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Published in History

THE annual statistics for 2015 show British Columbia saw a 7.9% increase in international visitors over the previous year. A total of 4.9 million international visitors came to B.C. in 2015 – 359,750 more people compared to 2014. British Columbia saw an increase from a number of regions including: * France up 32.8% * […]

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Published in National

by Carlos Tello in Vancouver 

A new food guide combines recipes from British Columbia’s immigrant communities with local seafood options to teach new Canadians how to incorporate B.C. fish into a healthy diet. 

“You have chefs from all over the world, and then you make them cook this local product,” says Siddharth Choudhary, the executive chef of Siddhartha’s Kitchen, a Vancouver restaurant that specializes in Indian food. “So people will be able to make dishes with ingredients they can find in any grocery store. It’s kind of a nice mix.” 

A recent survey commissioned by Vancouver settlement organization MOSAIC, the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association and local newspaper, The Province, found out that although immigrants tend to generally eat the suggested amount of meat, fish and alternatives by the Canada Food Guide, they are less aware of how to ensure ‘healthy-heart’ diets. 

This type of diet keeps cholesterol low, prevents heart disease and includes foods high in Omega-3 acids like salmon and other types of local B.C. fish. 

[I]mmigrants often don’t know how to incorporate salmon into their diets.

According to Jeremy Dunn, the executive director of the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association, this could be because immigrants often don’t know how to incorporate salmon into their diets. 

“One thing we hear a fair bit from people with respect to salmon, especially with respect to making it at home, is that either they don’t know how to cook it, or they don’t know more than one way to cook it,” he says. “And so it gets boring.” 

In order to address this, MOSAIC and the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association recruited chefs from different backgrounds in order to produce the Eating Resource Guide, titled A Mosaic of Flavours, comprised of six recipes by six different chefs. 

The guide showcases different ways to cook meals that utilize B.C.’s local fish and seafood. Of the six recipes presented in the guide, four have salmon as a main ingredient. 'Indian Baked Salmon' and 'Salmon Chinese Way' are two examples.

Guide a nod to B.C.’s multiculturalism 

“Apart from the nutrition factor, the guide gives you different types of recipes. It gives you a little bit of Korean, of continental, of Indian, and more,” says Choudhary. 

For the chef, the fact that the guide mixes local and international ingredients and spices showcases the multicultural nature of B.C., a province in which visible minorities represent just over 25 per cent of the population. 

[T]he guide mixes local and international ingredients and spices ...

Moreover, Choudhary says the guide also highlights the stories of the chefs who come from a variety of ethno-cultural backgrounds. 

“By reading the guide, you can learn about these chefs coming from different countries who are working very hard in order to be successful,” he says. “I think it sets an example.” 

For Choudhary, being fluent in English and spending almost a decade working in Europe and Asia didn’t relieve him from the struggles many immigrants face when they settle in a new country. 

Choudhary moved to Canada with his family seven years ago and a year after settling in Vancouver, he opened Siddhartha’s Kitchen. 

“When I first arrived, I was very confused about what to do and how to do it,” he shares. 

At the time, Choudhary wasn’t aware of the existence of immigrant settlement agencies. After learning about the services these organizations provide to newcomers, he became eager to help. 

“We want to create awareness amongst newcomers on the relationship between healthy eating and heart disease.”

His opportunity arrived last month, when he learned that MOSAIC was looking for chefs to compile a healthy eating guide. 

“I thought it would be a great idea to come up with a new recipe,” Choudhary says. “I wanted to incorporate my skills, to [do] whatever I could to contribute with MOSAIC.” 

Healthy diet is not enough

The purpose of the guide is not only to provide newcomers with ideas on how to incorporate more seafood into their diets, but also to start a conversation about the benefits of eating healthy. 

“We want to create awareness amongst newcomers on the relationship between healthy eating and heart disease,” says Ninu Kang, MOSAIC’s director of communications and development. “Our focus with this guide is to have newcomers start to think about their diets, and to create awareness about the different healthy foods that are available.” 

The Heart and Stroke Foundation reports that 600,000 Canadians are living with heart failure. A 2015 study found that some aspects of Western culture, like fast food and cigarettes, can contribute to declining heart health among immigrants when they arrive in Canada. 

According to the same study, immigrants from South Asia had the highest rates of heart problems. 

Dr. Manjeet Mann, a cardiologist based in Victoria, B.C., says eating oily fishes like salmon at least once a week is a good start towards a healthier lifestyle, but he warns that it is not enough. He recommends also discussing food choices with a dietitian and doing moderate exercise daily. 

“A guide is only useful if it can be applied to your day-to-day practice, and I find that without dietitian consultation, it tends to be very generic,” he says.

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Health

by Melissa Shaw in Richmond, British Columbia 

Richmond community members came together last week to discuss breaking down the barriers of racism as part of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation’s (CRRF) three-year Our Canada Project. 

Held at the John M.S. Lecky UBC Boathouse, the Living Together symposium featured guest speakers and guided public discussions aimed at building a more inclusive community. 

Local member of Parliament for the riding Steveston-Richmond East, Joe Peschisolido, spoke about the role of society and government to mitigate conflicts and bring people of all different backgrounds together. Richmond’s acting mayor Bill McNulty highlighted the city’s diverse historical roots, including its First Nations, Japanese, Chinese and European influences. 

One of the panel discussions, moderated by Robert Daum, Simon Fraser University (SFU) fellow in diversity and innovation, focused on the forces that shape Canadian identity. 

“We keep using the word immigrant in a way that says some people belong more than others who arrived here on this territory, [when instead] we are all guests on Indigenous land,” stated Henry Yu, history professor and principal of St. John’s College at the University of British Columbia (UBC), during the panel.

“We keep using the word immigrant in a way that says some people belong more than others who arrived here on this territory."

Yu explained that early Europeans in Canada were called settlers, while people from other countries are called immigrants. 

Bringing people together

Dr. Kanwal Singh Neel, program coordinator of the Friends of Simon tutoring program in the faculty of education at SFU, added that many people want to feel a sense of belonging in Canada, while preserving their native language and culture. 

Neel said sporting events like Vancouver Canucks’ hockey games and the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics bring people together. 

Elaine Chau, an associate producer for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) program “The Early Edition”, said the sharing of food builds a sense of belonging and community. 

“When we look at what we eat, even something as simple as rice pops up in every culture.”

“When we look at what we eat, even something as simple as rice pops up in every culture,” said Chau. “There are so many ways to relate around the dinner table that we can celebrate our differences.” 

Addressing underlying tensions

When asked what challenges Richmond faces in creating inclusive communities, Chau said the issue of Chinese-language-only signs is more about the tensions “bubbling underneath,” because people she spoke with felt they were not welcome in Chinese shopping areas. 

“People need to think about what can be done to make people want to venture into places that look unfamiliar,” she said. 

Yu added that people should examine what’s causing the hurt feelings underlying the issue of Chinese-language-only signs and focus on building reciprocal relationships. 

Metis writer and arts activist, Joanne Arnott, said the arts can be used to accomplish this goal and share culture. She drew on examples like a multilingual art project she led, as well as local poetry gatherings, which she explained encapsulate a person’s rich roots and emotions. 

“How can we overcome these challenges? Through dialogue, through telling stories that create empathy."

In regards to the question about how to address xenophobia and racism in the wake of the Canadian government’s decision to accept 25,000 Syrian refugees this year, Yu encouraged people not to isolate themselves from those they fear. 

“How can we overcome these challenges? Through dialogue, through telling stories that create empathy so we understand, ‘Who are these people, what are their hopes and dreams?’” said Yu. 

He said the picture of drowned Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi was powerful because it changed people’s feelings towards refugees. 

Neel highlighted the importance of dialogue by using the example of the speculation that resulted over recent media coverage of three men taking ‘suspicious’ photos in the Pacific Centre mall, who the police described as looking 'Middle Eastern'. 

Social change takes hard work 

Later in the symposium, Suresh Kurl shared an uplifting story about coming to Canada from India and Richmond resident Cecilia Point talked about the Musqueam Nation’s successful fight to preserve a burial ground. Their stories are included as part of the CRRF’s 150 Stories project. 

The public also participated in roundtable discussion sessions to create a timeline of important events that have impacted the city and develop a plan to address 11 key issues including the growing wealth gap and housing costs. 

About 100 members of the public attended the event including students, local First Nations representatives and politicians. 

“Social change takes hard work on the part of many, many people,” said attendee Caroline Wong, reflecting on the day’s programming. 

Other participants expressed hope that the collected feedback would be put into action. 

Attendee Kanwarjit Sandhu said that people can ask for change, but “we have the power to change one thing, that is ourselves, our attitude.” 

The CRRF will hold upcoming symposiums in Halifax, Nova Scotia; Hamilton, Ontario; Red Deer, Alberta; and Yellowknife, Northwest Territories in 2016. The Our Canada Project culminates with Canada’s Sesquicentennial in 2017.

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Arts & Culture

Commentary by Jagdeesh Mann in Vancouver 

It was inevitable the success of Trumpolitics would generate imitators. Stephen Harper dabbled with its tactics in the last federal election by pandering to the baser views of the so-called ‘angry white male’. It comes as a surprise, however, the next piper to try charming this cobra is Ujjal Dosanjh.

The former premier of BC, protector of gay rights, health care, and multiculturalism, recently wrote a lengthy blog post bemoaning political correctness as having gagged white men from saying what they really think. White men who have framed Canada's political narrative since Confederation, have apparently become excluded from it, somehow finding themselves now at the back of the bus.

Overnight, Dosanjh has become Canada’s Bobby Jindal, the new champion of the far right, quite an act of re-invention for a man who started out on the far left of the political spectrum.

Not surprisingly, Dosanjh's call found hearty praise from the closeted hordes who took to the comments sections of various online newspaper forums.

The white male commenters vented their frustrations at ‘Multicultism’, immigrants, Muslims, Syrian refugees, and basically anyone who didn’t fit in with the world as seen by ‘old stock’ Canadians. Their antidotes to Canada’s woes were predictable: curtail immigration, seal the border to everyone except Europeans, and renew Judeo Christian liturgical practices.

Now they were venting furiously about how their lifetime membership to the exclusive club of white privilege had apparently eroded in value.

These were the white men Dosanjh had referenced in his post as having ‘been shamed into submission’ by political correctness. Now they were venting furiously about how their lifetime membership to the exclusive club of white privilege had apparently eroded in value.

'The white man is not disenfranchised'

While Dosanjh’s intention may have been to stir dialogue on Canadian identity, and culture, his approach is fundamentally divisive. He is pandering to one group’s fanciful list of grievances. His apocalyptic vision of white men being overrun by political correctness is built on a number of glaring fallacies.

The first is the most obvious: The white man is not disenfranchised.

Dosanjh’s pitch for amplifying the voices of the privileged is like advocating another tax cut for the one-percent.

To be voiceless is to be a First Nation’s child growing up in a broken home on an isolated reserve without running water. The opposite, more likely than not, is to be a white man.

At Apple, for example, the world’s largest company, white men hold over 70 per cent of senior management positions When compared to other companies and across industry, this is not an anomaly. 

When noteworthy decisions are made in Canada, on any number of issues from monetary policy to environmental regulation to First Nations relations, and so forth, they are made by government officials, the majority of whom tend to be white.

These wider decisions indelibly impact our sense of national culture and identity, which Dosanjh claims excludes input from white men.

Dosanjh’s pitch for amplifying the voices of the privileged is like advocating another tax cut for the one-percent. 

Political correctness a scapegoat

The second flaw in Dosanjh’s arguments is that white men disproportionately suffer from political correctness, its tight ribbing suffocating only them from speaking on many issues.

What he fails to note is that this same corset of censorship applies equally to everyone, regardless of race.

What he fails to note is that this same corset of censorship applies equally to everyone, regardless of race and ironically, it just as often benefits white men as it harnesses them.

Contrary to Dosanjh’s claim of white men being passive victims of the PC police, they are just as likely to be PC enforcers when it serves their vested interests.

A perfect case in point is the stagnant discussion around Vancouver’s skyrocketing property prices, which Dosanjh alludes to his post. When UBC professor Andy Yan (yes he is Chinese) published his study on property prices in Vancouver and found that 70 per cent of sales in 2014 of detached homes over $3-million in Vancouver went to Chinese buyers, the response from leading (white) politicians, developers, and decision makers was that the study was invoking racism.

Mayor Gregor Robertson wasn’t grateful that finally there was real data on the house market. Instead he resorted to political correctness to obfuscate the issue,“This can’t be about race, it can’t be about dividing people,” said the mayor. “It needs to get to the core issue about addressing affordability and making sure it’s fair.”

The housing issue in Vancouver is about money being earned offshore which has in turn created unfair market conditions for people who live, work and earn in the Lower Mainland. Empty houses and unattainable prices do not a city make – and that affects everyone regardless of your colour.

It’s a class issue, full stop. Political correctness is a convenient scapegoat here.

Canadians should not be trapped in skin colour

The most flagrant shortcoming in ‎Dosanjh’s arguments is that he wants new Canadians to embrace a common set of national values and a national identity but yet he insists on first dividing us into our separate races, hence his rallying call to the white man.

Dosanjh’s view of Canadians as being different coloured lego blocks is regressive and a time warp into the colonial era of the past century. The idea of defining your identity by the quantity of melanin in your skin is as knuckle-scraping as the denial of climate change.

By dividing us into camps of white, yellow, red, brown, and black ... means we will always be stuck in these very silos that Dosanjh claims to loathe.

As Canadians, we all have a stake in issues such the choice of language for strata council meetings, the fine balance between accepting refugees and security, and immigration strategy. But an honest discussion of these issues is a colourless discussion.

By dividing us into camps of white, yellow, red, brown, and black so that we all are ‘represented’ at the table means we will always be stuck in these very silos that Dosanjh claims to loathe. This country is moving forward from the past century and we are finally getting beyond race as attested by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet postings. It is misguided for Dosanjh to re-invoke a racial paradigm and think it is a step in the right direction.

Justin Trudeau commented in a recent New York Times Magazine interview that Canada is a post-national state without a core identity and a mainstream. This includes the privilege of not being trapped in your skin – it is one of the best parts of being a Canadian, regardless if you are white, brown, or even tangerine coloured like Donald Trump. This is what it means to be post-national and why most Canadians choose this course.

Fifteen years ago Ujjal Dosanjh was a politician who as an immigrant rose up to become premier of British Columbia. It was historic because he was a visible minority.

Today, however, it is more impressive that Ujjal Dosanjh is no longer identified as a brown politician by the majority of the population, but rather as just another politician.

But he still is a politician at heart, having re-invented himself from an NDP multiculturalism minister to a Liberal cabinet minister and now to the champion of the far right. Having adorned so many party colours, it is predictable, though tragic, that Dosanjh is fanning the dying racial embers of this country to win over a new audience.


Jagdeesh Mann is the Executive Editor of the South Asian Post, Asian Pacific Post and Filipino Post.

An abridged version of this piece was first published in The Globe and Mail. It was re-published here in partnership with the South Asian Post

Published in Commentary

AN 18-month transition period is now over for post-secondary institutions in British Columbia to obtain the recognized quality-assurance designation, Education Quality Assurance, in order to host international students. “All post-secondary institutions and language schools in British Columbia that enrol international students on study permits must have Education Quality Assurance designation,” said Advanced Education Minister […]

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Published in Education

by Melissa Shaw in Vancouver

As the number of first generation Italian immigrants in Vancouver decreases, the city’s Italian Cultural Centre – Il Centro – is planning for a future led by successive generations with support from the non-Italian community. 

Il Centro is developing a revitalization plan to offer new public facilities and services to community members.

As part of this project, the centre has started to engage in a community consultation process. About 250 people participated in the Il Centro Ideas Fair in October, which was intended to gather input from the public for future construction on the four and a half acre property.

Mauro Vescera, executive director for Il Centro, says the revitalization of the 38-year-old centre will transform it from a cultural centre into a community centre by adding various amenities such as a cinema, theatre, daycare, exhibit space and commercial space, as well as room to expand the Westside Montessori Academy located on the property. 

The project’s architecture and development team are working on drawings to present back to the organization’s members for a vote in April or May of 2016, Vescera explains.

“This part of East Vancouver is a little bit underserved and they certainly love the idea of ... building something for the community.”

Some of II Centro’s older members are, “quite attached to the building” he says, adding, “we’ve got three buildings here, two of them are kinda ready to go.”

“At this time I can’t say yes it will be knocked down, or no it won’t be knocked down. It’s likely some of it will go down, but we’re not sure which pieces and when, because it’ll be a phased project,” Vescera explains.

He says the city is supportive of the project.

“This part of East Vancouver is a little bit underserved and they certainly love the idea of a non-profit organization building something for the community."

Understanding the new generation

Anna Terrana, Il Centro’s former vice-president and the president and executive director of the Italian Cultural Centre Society from 1980 to 1993, says that the centre has a history.

“I don’t agree with destroying anything of what has been built before,” she says.

“They seem not to want to deal with the past and it’s a mistake because without the past you cannot build the future and they will lose the support of many people in the community.”

Terrana encourages young people to have their say in what they would like to see included in the centre. So far, she is on board with a lot of the new ideas for the renewal.

“I don’t agree with destroying anything of what has been built before.”

She makes note of the Italian Cultural Institute, which offered cultural events and language courses in Vancouver, closing last year.

“The Italian government decided that they were going to get rid of it unfortunately so [Il Centro] is the only entity inside [Vancouver] that can continue with our culture.”

Gabriella Luongo teaches Italian classes and runs a youth group at the centre. She says expanding the opportunities for youth to volunteer beyond cultural activities has helped keep them engaged with the centre. 

One of these initiatives includes youth working with the City of Vancouver Park Board on the Still Creek rehabilitation and enhancement project. The creek runs through the centre’s property and youth volunteers cleared debris from its banks to improve water flow.

Luongo says Il Centro has also begun hosting a farmers’ market on every third Friday of the month called MERCATO: Italian Market. In 2014, it broke ground on a community garden at Beaconsfield Park.

“We’re more than just maybe strictly cultural, but we’re also active in the community and I think that entices people,” she says.

Remaining connected to Italian roots

In 2014, Il Centro partnered with the organizers of Italian Day on the Drive to support a motion from Vancouver city councillor Melissa De Genova to officially designate the nearby Commercial Drive area as “Little Italy”.

“We’re more than just maybe strictly cultural."

Council approved the motion, but Vescera says a community consultation is being conducted. He expects the area to be formally recognized as “Little Italy” during Italian Day on the Drive, which is held in June to celebrate Italian Heritage Month.

Luongo says the centre continues to provide support for new Italian immigrants including hosting a dinner on Dec. 23.

“A lot of them actually become our teachers at work because they were teachers in Italy, but here [their] qualifications aren’t recognized so they’ve been working with the Italian language classes.”

Looking to the future, Vescera says the centre would form an agreement with the project’s developer, Bosa Properties, to sell a portion of the 200 to 400 apartment units in the marketplace to cover construction costs; the remainder would generate revenue for the centre.

Il Centro would apply for government grants to pay for amenities such as gymnasiums, theatres and cinemas. He says loans would cover the rest of the costs and would be repaid using funds from the centre’s catering business, amenities, school and property rentals.

“It has to make sense so that five or 10 years from now our goal is that the Italian Cultural Centre will be financially sustainable, culturally vibrant and engaged with the community,” he says.

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Arts & Culture
Thursday, 10 December 2015 18:00

B.C. Pursues a New Asia Trade Strategy

BRITISH Columbia is moving to strengthen and diversify trade in Asian markets in order to grow the economy. Through a new Asia trade strategy, the Province will be opening trade and investment representative offices in Southeast Asia, developing a new strategy for India and expanding its activities in mid-size Chinese cities. Through the actions identified […]

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Poll Question

Do you agree with the new immigration levels for 2017?

Yes - 30.8%
No - 46.2%
Don't know - 23.1%
The voting for this poll has ended on: %05 %b %2016 - %21:%Dec

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The honest truth is there is still reluctance around immigration policy... When we want to talk about immigration and we say we want to bring more immigrants in because it's good for the economy, we still get pushback.

-- Canada's economic development minister Navdeep Bains at a Public Policy Forum economic summit

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