New Canadian Media
Sunday, 20 July 2014 15:59

Rasode Could Remake Surrey Race

by Esmir Milavic (@EsmirMilavic) in Surrey

 With the Surrey mayoral elections still four months away, a new candidate from the South Asian community threatens to shake up the race in a city whose population growth is being fuelled by immigrants and new citizens.

Although Barinder Rasode has not yet announced, her candidacy is making the rounds, with observers speculating that name recognition and her independent streak might give her a good shot to replace Mayor Dianne Watts on Nov. 15. While Watts is not running, she has backed Councillor Linda Hepner of the Surrey First Coalition. Former Mayor Doug McCallum and an independent, Vikram Bajwa, are the other two declared candidates.

Surrey is populated by more than half-a million-people and growth is expected to continue over the next five years, as forecast in the Annual Official Community Plan. By the end of this decade, Surrey could possibly overtake Vancouver, with most of the growth coming from immigration and low or mid-income families moving into the city.

Their votes will play a crucial role in November, with the potential to make life for future immigrants to Surrey better. Another element is the influx of wealthy immigrants and foreign investors who may want more of a say in how the City is run. Their investments would help secure jobs here and improve the economy.

Population growth, with a new influx expected to be approximately 10,000 per year over the next electoral term, is the number one issue. The second is public safety and transportation. Over Mayor Watts’ tenure, crime first went down, but spiked again last year, which unfortunately ended with 25 murders. The most horrific was one of late Julie Paskall, who was killed in front of the Newton ice rink while she waited for her son to finish officiating at a hockey game. 

Since then, the political situation in Surrey has changed rapidly, which probably explains why there are several candidates running to succeed a woman who was once considered one of the most popular mayors in Canada.

Hepner’s problems with media 

Hepner, who is a veteran city bureaucrat and three-term Councillor, started her campaign recently with strong backing from incumbent Mayor Watts and many representatives of ethnic communities in Surrey. Her aim in this race is to continue doing what Watts started a decade ago, when she was first elected following the defeat of then mayor, today mayoral hopeful, Doug McCallum.

Unfortunately for Hepner, her campaign did not get off to a great start. As is well known, crime and transportation are the main issues, but Hepner has not spoken about them. Instead, in her announcement interview she spoke about her goal to have a ferris wheel and a beach on Surrey Lake – which left most people speechless. 

Speaking with Kevin Diakiw of The Surrey Leader, Hepner asked: “Why can’t I have a ferris wheel there? Why can’t I have something that brings kids to the waterfront?” The “waterfront” she was referring to is the Bridgeview community of Surrey which is one of the most underdeveloped and a community that struggles with many problems, including transportation and safety.

Also, while addressing issues regarding Newton, which has been the scene for many-a-crime, the candidate went on to speak about how she would remove the public ice rink arena from the centre of the community as she sees it as a great location for a mixed residential and business development. 

McCallum’s experience and baggage 

McCallum, former City Councillor and three-term mayor of Surrey, frustrated by the current political and security situation in Surrey, decided to run again after almost a decade in political retirement. His aim is to put the city back on track when it comes to finances, security and better policing, and to build on its reputation in the transportation field. McCallum comes into the race with significant political knowledge and experience, but this could also work against him.

"With such rapid growth, Surrey requires decisive leadership to tackle some very difficult issues. People are feeling unsafe in their neighbourhoods, spending and debt is out of control, transit services are severely lacking, and a ward system that would help cultural and regional representation on City Council has never been seriously considered.  The time for action is now,” McCallum said in statement just before he announced his run to Surrey media just over a week ago. 

He is quite right in his assertions, but his previous record shows us that McCallum struggled while he served as mayor. Many, including those living today in Surrey’s most insecure neighbourhood of Newton, say that Surrey was Canada’s crime capital during his stint. He is going to have a hard time defending his past record in office, including claims of harassment against him. 

According to Surrey political observers, McCallum is not without his chances and could play the role of vote spoiler by helping either Hepner or Rasode, if she chooses to run.

This will be Bajwa’s second run for mayor, but his chances are very slim. He is running as an independent and self-financed candidate, without much support in the community and not enough public recognition. Last time, his main proposal was to built an international airport in Surrey to compete with Vancouver, which in truth does not have an international airport of its own as the terminal is situated in the city of Richmond. 

Presumed candidate

Independent Councillor Rasode is not yet in the mayoral race, but is expected to jump in very soon. Two-term Councillor, once a member of Mayor Watts’ Surrey First coalition and one of the most visible politicians in Surrey, she will come into the race as a community relations leader and first East Asian female candidate with a good chance of becoming the mayor of a major North American city. She left the Surrey First coalition frustrated over the City’s apparent will to fight crime and guarantee public safety situation, culminating in 25 murders last year. She’s proven to be an agile user of social media and someone who’s not afraid to break ranks on issues that impact the community.

The presumed candidate has a string of successful community projects, including a series of town halls which involved community in consultation with municipal government. Through her work with more than a 30 different community organizations, many representing immigrants, Rasode helped create Surrey Community Summit, which is now an official annual event on the City calendar. Rasode is also creator of a unique program, Rakhi project, which fights against domestic abuse.

Her challenges include being a single mother of three coming from a very patriarchal community. Running as an independent and not being funded through a well-established party system can prove to be a handicap. In fact, being a woman from the South Asian community will be significant on Election Day, drawing some of people away from her and her campaign. 

Esmir Milavic is a Surrey-based writer and blogger. Formerly reporter and editor of the Dnevni list newspaper in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where he was born and raised, he is editor of the From Bosnia To Canada site, a Community Relations Specialist at Surrey604.com and political commentator for Bosnian FaceTV Sarajevo. 

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 Commentary

A travelling exhibition which highlights the experiences of immigrants to Canada officially launched in Nanaimo, British Columbia, this week.

Canada: Day 1 is a Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21’s legacy project to commemorate Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2017. The exhibit explores immigrant experiences from Confederation to present day.

“We are very excited to have our first travelling exhibition cross Canada with this beautiful and engaging exhibition which presents the Museum’s collection of stories in innovative and thought-provoking ways,” says Dan Conlin, curator at Pier 21.

The exhibition, currently showing at the Nanaimo Museum, in partnership with the Central Vancouver Island Multicultural Society, offers a combination of historical objects and reproductions; oral history accounts and original artwork. Examples include war bride documents, an oral history from a descendant of Black Prairie pioneers in Alberta, and artwork by Lin Xu entitled Holder of Dreams, a used suitcase filled with ceramic pillows, each printed with words conveying feelings and emotions in different languages.

Curators are hoping the exhibition will allow the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 to reach a greater audience and express the Museum’s national mandate, as well as build relationships with community groups, individuals, and museums across Canada, says Cailin MacDonald, communications manager at the museum. “Creating this exhibition also helps build and diversify our collections as we seek new stories and oral histories about people’s immigration experience,” she explains. 

That first day of physical arrival to Canada is a symbolic, personal and official milestone in the process of becoming Canadian.”


Dates & locations for the exhibition include:

Nanaimo Museum, British Columbia                       June 2 – September 1, 2014              

Markham Museum, Ontario                                       January 16 – June 10, 2015

The exhibition will travel for a total of five years and so far includes shows in Saskatoon, Moose Jaw, Red Deer, Edmonton and Gatineau.

To find out more, check out Pier 21’s website.

Published in History
It’s time to take a look at race and racism in our community
 

by Province deputy editor Ros Guggi

 

I didn’t speak a word of English when I started kindergarten in Ontario.

My dad, from Austria, and my mom, from Yugoslavia, met on the boat to Canada in the early 1950s. They were in their late teens and early 20s, fleeing the poverty of postwar Europe. I was born here, but we spoke only German at home.

We were considered “other,” on our street and in my school. My full name is Roswitha and I cringed whenever I started a new class and the teacher made a big deal out of trying to pronounce it. My last name, Guggi, was just as tough. I just wanted to fit in. But being of German descent in the ’50s and ’60s wouldn’t allow that. There was a lot of hatred of Germans after the war and parents passed that on to their kids, who passed that on to me in the schoolyard.

Successive generations of immigrants to Canada have gone through the same things. There was discrimination against the Irish when they first came, and the Italians, and the Ukrainians. In my school, most folks had last names like Smith and Jones and Carmichael.

If your name was different, you didn’t fit, and you felt it.

Now we are no longer a country of largely British and French descent, First Nations people or European immigrants with hard-to-pronounce names.

Since the early ’70s, most of our immigrants have non-European ancestry.

They’ve been coming from Asia and India and the Philippines, with hard-to-pronounce names.

The streets of Metro Vancouver are filled with visible minorities, who have brought their culture and values with them. But many newcomers are living in self-segregated areas, where they are close to their own kind and don’t need to mix with the larger community.

While we look like a model of inclusivity, it’s clear many new immigrants don’t feel welcome. There are tensions bubbling beneath the polite surface of our official multiculturalism in B.C. and they are in full roar in Quebec. Our aboriginal people feel disenfranchised and experience open racism.

We felt we needed to take a look at race and racism in our community.

It’s the hardest project I’ve undertaken in more than three decades as a journalist. And it is the bravest project our team has done. The writers have been tasked with exploring racism without provoking it. What we do want to provoke is a community discussion about the issues that divide us, and what needs to change to make ours a more inclusive place.

Over the next 17 days, we’ll be exploring all aspects of the issue, and we’ll be encouraging you to join the conversation. While we want this to be an honest discussion about issues of race, culture and values, we do not want to become a platform for racists. We will be doing our best to vet comments so the conversation is constructive, rather than destructive.

Before we started work on this multimedia series last spring, I met with many community leaders to discuss the issues we should explore. We thank them for their insights and help in opening doors for us. They include Mo Dhaliwal, Ujjal Dosanjh, Tung Chan, Alden Habacon, Naveen Girn, Wade Grant and Janet Austin. My colleague and friend, Province Deputy Editor Fabian Dawson who immigrated here from Malaysia in 1988, provided invaluable advice.

We also want to thank the scores of people who opened up to our journalists about racism they’ve experienced.

The essays of nine community leaders will appear, along with your feedback, throughout the series.

Please read the series and check out the compelling online videos and multimedia features we’ve produced. Then join this very important discussion by sending your stories about racism you’ve experienced or your thoughts on the issues we’re raising to racism@theprovince.com.

Tell us what you think needs to change. How can we make this province a more inclusive place and create a better community?

Ros Guggi is The Province’s Deputy Editor and the project leader.

Republished with permission from The Province. Read original reporting here

Published in Top Stories
Saturday, 06 April 2013 16:43

Bollywood event in B.C. an elitist showcase

By Sunera Thobani

After much fanfare and a fair share of controversy, the Times of India Film Awards (TOIFA) arrived in Vancouver, British Columbia last Saturday with a kickoff event “Celebrating Women”.

The success of the International Indian Film Awards (IIFA) last year in Toronto, Ontario seems to have cemented the link between India’s Hindi film industry [popularly known as Bollywood] and mainstream Canadian politicians, by way of the elites in the Indo-Canadian community. This year the industry has been wooed by the governing Liberal Party, with the province of British Columbia budgeting $11 million for TOIFA.

A staple in South Asian households across the diaspora for generations, today’s Bollywood seems to be catering only to the elites and not to the wider communities that put it on the map in North America.

Celebrating Women was organized to coincide with International Women’s Day (IWD). I use the word coincide advisedly instead of commemorate or celebrate as nothing about the event was recognizable as having anything to do with IWD. Indeed, the event could more appropriately be characterized as a hijacking of the issues — often life and death ones — which women all around the world, including in India and Canada, associate IWD with to commemorate and renew their collective struggles for economic, social and political justice.

Tax dollars for Bollywood extravaganza

First, some background is in order. The B.C. government’s decision to spend millions to bring TOIFA to Vancouver in advance of the upcoming May provincial election sparked off a controversy as soon as the public announcement was made. The Liberals were accused by mainstream commentators of pandering to the South Asian community by wasting precious tax dollars on a Bollywood extravaganza instead of supporting the local film industry.

Supporters of the event, including many from the South Asian community, noted that South Asian Canadians also pay taxes and pointed to the tax dollars that have been squandered in even greater measure on previous mega-events (the Olympics, Expo ’86, etc.). TOIFA, argued its proponents, would bring economic benefits to the province by boosting tourism from India, attracting Bollywood film productions, and generating an all around feel good factor towards B.C. among the readership of the powerful Times of India media conglomerate.

Promoting trade and cultural links between Canada and India has been high on the Canadian political agenda — federally and provincially — for some time now, given the rise of India as a socio-economic power to be reckoned with and of Bollywood as a major player in the global media industry.

The enthusiasm for partnerships was also fueled by the coming of age of the Indo-Canadian community, well enough established by the end of the 20th century to make major inroads into the economic and political mainstream of the country in which they had long struggled to be accepted as equals. Indeed British Columbia, the site of the landing of the first South Asian migrants to Canada at the turn of the 20th century, has featured prominently in the strengthening of these partnerships.

History of South Asian migration to B.C.

The first generation of South Asian migrants laid the foundation for such links from “below”, so to speak, as the early community organized its settlement in Canada in conjunction with fighting British rule in India. Taking on the racism of both British imperialism and the Canadian state whose immigration policies sought to prohibit the permanent settlement of what were then classified “non-preferred races” (i.e. ‘Orientals,’ ‘Hindoos’ and Blacks) was central to the social and political vision of these migrants.

Maintaining relations with their families and communities back in India was thus vital to their politics, as were the community networks they forged in North America as they strived for economic survival. Their advancement was linked to their struggle to liberate India from colonial domination. Early South Asian women migrants were central to these struggles, for the immigration policies of the day sought to specifically deny them entry into a Canada committed to protecting itself as a white man’s country.

All that was to change rather rapidly post World War II, with British colonies, including India, becoming independent and the liberalization of immigration and citizenship laws in 1970s.

 Canada began to experience labour shortage and could no longer rely on emigration from Europe and the other white settler colonies to meet its needs. India became a leading source of immigrants, and Canadian multiculturalism became the strategy of choice for the integration of South Asians into the Canadian political economy as “visible minorities” and “cultural communities”.  By the early 21st century, Statistics Canada reported that visible minorities account for 16.2% of the country’s population, with South Asians being the largest group (25 per cent) among them. In a mere century since the first South Asians arrived in British Columbia, they have become the largest non-white racial minority in the country. Given this historical context for the diasporic South Asian community in Canada, what can be made of how TOIFA/Bollywood chose to mark its arrival in B.C.?

Events like TOIFA play a critical role in the transnationalization of Bollywood from “above”, a phenomenon that is a feature of neoliberal globalization. Nevertheless, Celebrating Women in Vancouver has a particular “national” specificity. Such national considerations were evident in the choice of three women speakers from Canada and three from India — all presented as “successful women”  who were invited to share their “inspiring stories” with the largely well heeled sector of the South Asian community in attendance. And the speakers certainly delivered, congratulating themselves on their own successes and sharing with the audience how inspired they were by themselves. Not a word from the speakers about their achievements being built on the collective organizing of the South Asian women who came before them, and the organizations and movements these women had built to fight for women’s rights. More disturbing, not a word either from the panel about the event being located on the lands of Indigenous peoples whose territories were stolen and who are continuing to fight for their sovereignty.

Ethnic vote scandal

The B.C. politician on the panel pointedly noted that family and friends are important in helping women get ahead. But she neglected to mention how her government — headed by a woman premier — is responsible for implementing policies that are increasing the impoverishment of women and their families in the province and actually pushing women back by eroding many of the gains made in previous eras.

Nor did she mention the latest scandal to hit her party with the leaking of a memo describing how it was in essence planning to buy the “ethnic” vote — such as those of the women sitting on the panel with her – in the upcoming election through the funding of events just like this one. A following speaker acknowledged how important it is for women to speak up and then went on to thank men for allowing women to speak. Another explained how she refused to be treated as a princess by her family. Yet another talked about the neuroscience of philanthropy wherein scans apparently show the brain lighting up when one gives to community, cheerily telling the audience that philanthropy can now stand in for anti-depressants! And on and on they went, with all the speakers celebrating their own philanthropic commitments as a form of women’s empowerment, confusing charity with equality and justice for women.

Silence about violence against women

Vancouver is home to some of the oldest and strongest South Asian women’s activist groups and networks in the country. Not one of these was acknowledged in TOIFA’s celebration of its successful women — who have presumably won their successes single-handedly! In a country that has seen the disappearance and murders of over 600 Aboriginal women, an alarming number of them from the streets of Vancouver, not one word was spoken about the status of Aboriginal women in Canada and the urgent need for the South Asian community to stand in solidarity with First Nations women. South Asians in Canada have become complicit in the ongoing colonial dispossession and violence against indigenous peoples, and many activists in the community are trying to change this by supporting indigenous struggles for sovereignty.

The only show of solidarity with Indigenous peoples in the entire evening came in the “entertainment” section, with the ensemble Sticks ‘n Skins — featuring First Nations, South Asian, Japanese, African, and Cuban musical styles  – beginning their fabulous performance by acknowledging that the province of B.C. remains unceded indigenous territory.

If the successful women from Canada did not have the time or inclination to mention the rape and murders of Aboriginal women, or the violence experienced by South Asian and other non-indigenous women, including white, in Canada, the speakers from India likewise had nothing to say about the rapes, murders and violence against women in India.

Instead, what followed the panel of speakers were two fashion shows, one showcasing a BC designer, the other an Indian designer. Featuring models identical in body type, hair and make-up styles, they showcased the objectification and sexualization of women’s bodies for which the fashion industry is notorious.

At any other event, such a performance would have been hard enough to stomach for any person with a commitment to ending the oppression of women. But in the wake of the widespread women’s activism in India against rape, state violence and corruption, and with Aboriginal women in Canada leading the Idle No More movement that has galvanized international support for the struggle for indigenous sovereignty and opposition against the draconian powers assumed by the Canadian state, TOIFA’s appropriation of IWD was especially galling.

Dr. Sunera Thobani is an activist and teaches Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of British Columbia. Reproduced with permission from the author.

Published in Arts & Culture

by Ranjit Bhaskar for New Canadian Media

A leaked document outlining the Liberal party’s plan to help drum up ethnic votes for the party in British Colombia reads like a primer that many Canadian politicians would be tempted to dip into for “quick wins”.

Deeply embarrassed by the disclosure coming weeks before provincial elections, Premier Christy Clark was quick to apologize, saying in a statement that the plan crossed the line over what’s proper and was unacceptable and inappropriate. "The document did not recognize there are lines that cannot be crossed in conducting this outreach, and it is unacceptable. The language in this draft document and some of the recommendations are absolutely inappropriate," the statement read. "As a government, we have a responsibility to reach out to every community to ensure they are engaged and understand the services that are available to them." What was unsaid was the need for such short-sighted moves to engage ethnic voters.

The 17-page document prescribes apologies for historical wrongs ethnic communities as a “quick win” to “improve our chances of winning swing ridings by better engaging supporters from ethnic communities and getting them involved at the riding level”. It specifically mentioned the infamous 1914 Komagata Maru “incident”, which saw a ship carrying passengers from British India being forced to return after a two-month stand-off in Vancouver Harbour. An official federal apology had already been made for the wrong in 2008.

The very focus of political parties on involving ethnic voters at only the riding level is where the problem with regard to their engagement starts. While playing an increasingly positive role toward increasing the electability of visible minorities at the provincial and federal levels, it overlooks the need to start at the lower level of municipalities. Parties see no value in doing so as the current electoral system keeps them away from grass-root politics.

This lack of political engagement has given rise to a consistent pattern of under-representation of ethnic groups at the municipal level where most services aimed at them are delivered. Surveys with visible minority candidates point to a desire for electoral reforms along with other factors affecting their electability.

A recent University of Toronto research into the political and geographic factors contributing to the under-representation of visible minorities in Ontario municipalities suggests the need to explore involving parties among other recommendations. “However, there may be unintended consequences related to the implementation of party systems, and these need to be studied before any solid recommendation is made,” said the researchers, Matthew Smith and Alan Walks, at a panel discussion on their paper organised by Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Settlement (CERIS) that focuses on research into the resettlement and integration of immigrants and refugees in Ontario.

A number of other policy implications emerge from their findings. They include reducing the power of incumbency through term limits, some degree of public financing of candidates, expansion of tax rebates programs for donations to registered candidates, campaign training and mentoring for visible minority candidates, enhanced civic and public education, better media coverage of all candidates, allow permanent resident municipal voting rights as a majority of new immigrants to Canada are visible minorities.

The researchers did point out that “it is crucial that municipal electoral systems be free of structural institutional barriers to visible minority political candidates if Canadian democracy is to remain healthy, open, and inclusive”.  A worthy cause for political parties to take up instead of coming up with boiler-plate ideas on how to swing ethnic votes that are an insult to the very communities they target. -- New Canadian Media

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 National
Page 12 of 12

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

Featured Quote

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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