New Canadian Media

by Belen Febres-Cordero in Vancouver

There has been an increased demand for midwifery in Canada over the past decade, with now over 1,300 midwives registered in Canada, while in 2005, there were just 500.

Alix Bacon, elected president of the Midwives Association of British Columbia (MABC), attributes this growth to the personalized care midwives offer to mothers and their families, as they provide continuous support during pregnancy, labour, birth, and up to six weeks afterwards.   

While midwifery’s continuity of care principle can be valuable for all mothers in Canada, Manavi Handa, a midwife and activist focusing on serving immigrant mothers, believes that this model can have particular benefits for women new to the country and its medical system.

For instance, Ali Moreno, an Ecuadorian woman who had her baby in Vancouver, is particularly happy she chose midwives as her health care providers.

“They take the time to get to know you, understand your background.”

“With doctors, the clock is always ticking,” Moreno explains. “Appointments with midwives last up to 45 minutes. They take the time to get to know you, understand your background, and take care of your emotional and physical wellbeing.”

However, Handa explains, newcomers may not necessarily consider this option when first looking for maternal care in Canada.

“People come here expecting modern healthcare and they don’t always associate midwifery with that because they don’t know how well trained we are or what we do,” she says.

What is a midwife?

Midwives are specialists in low-risk maternal and newborn healthcare.

The midwifery practice in Canada differs from practice abroad in several aspects, such as the number of births attended annually and the level of contact with mothers throughout their pregnancy.

In Canada, midwifery is managed by each individual province and territory and is currently regulated in nine. Services are publicly funded in all regulated locations.

Midwifery in Canada requires all practitioners to have a bachelor’s degree. Handa, who teaches at Ryerson University, explains that the seven midwifery programs in Canada have theoretical and practical components, including two years attending to mothers under the supervision of experienced midwives.

“We empower women to make the decisions that are appropriate for them.”

People trained abroad can practise midwifery in Canada by completing shorter bridging programs, making it an attractive option for new immigrants.

According to information provided by the Canadian Association of Midwives (CAM), midwives in Canada are registered primary healthcare professionals that are fully trained and have access to all the necessary equipment, diagnosis services, and select medications to provide women and their babies the care they need from pregnancy to postpartum.

However, midwifery understands pregnancy and birth as healthy and normal aspects of life, and as such, aims for the least amount of interventions possible.

“Technology is great if you need it, but medical intervention when you don’t need it can lead to other risks,” Handa explains.

This consideration, together with the continuous support they provide, results in lower rates of medical interventions and shorter hospital stays for women who engage the services of a midwife, according to data from the Association of Ontario Midwives (AOM).

Cultural sensitivity

Midwifery is guided by the informed choice principle, which encourages women to be active decision makers in the care they receive. Handa explains that this principle respects individuality.

“This is of particular importance to immigrants because they may have their own cultural beliefs. We empower women to make the decisions that are appropriate for them.”  

She adds that because women primarily practise midwifery, newcomers from countries where only women attend labour might feel more comfortable under their care.

For Moreno, this was an important component during her pregnancy in Canada.

“The fact that midwives are women makes you feel safe and understood. They know how you’re feeling because they probably went through something similar themselves,” she says.

Organizations also try to eliminate possibly language barriers for new Canadian mothers to be.  Ontario Midwives includes information in different languages, and MABC offers help finding midwives that speak languages other than English inside the province.

The benefits 

Another principle of midwifery that increases the number of options for mothers is choice of birthplace. According to CAM, “people might have the misconception that midwives only attend homebirths, but they can actually choose to have their babies at hospitals or birth centres too.”

In Ontario, these cost savings are increased because women can access midwives’ care for free, regardless of their immigration status.

Engaging a midwife can also be cost effective. A study of birth costs in B.C., published on July 2015, reports more than $2,300 savings per birth in the first postpartum month among women who planned a homebirth with a midwife compared to a hospital birth with a physician.

In Ontario, these cost savings are increased because women can access midwives’ care for free, regardless of their immigration status.

For women in provinces such as B.C. where uninsured individuals cannot have the services for free, Bacon explains that it would still be more affordable for them to seek care through a midwife than a physician and to have a homebirth instead of staying in hospital.  

What if complications arise?

In specific cases of high-risk pregnancies, each province has guidelines for midwives to consult with or refer women to other health specialists.

Midwives can also provide shared care or transfer the care at any point, if needed.  

“If a more serious complication arises, the most responsible care provider would become an obstetrician, but we would remain in a supportive role,” explains Bacon.

This was what happened in Ali’s case.

She initially planned to have a homebirth, but she had complications during labour.

“I decided to go to the hospital. Midwives, nurses, and doctors were all great,” she remembers. “They worked together and they helped me choose the safest option.”


Journalist Leah Bjornson, through the New Canadian Media mentorship program, mentored the writer of this article.

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

B.C.’s population increased by 1.06 per cent, or 48,677 people to reach 4.63 million in 2014. According to BC Check-Up, an annual publication by the Chartered Professional Accountants of British Columbia (CPABC), most of this growth was propelled by international immigration. The destination of choice for most of these immigrants was Southwest B.C., which is […]

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Published in National
Wednesday, 09 September 2015 08:11

Red Tape Hinders Sponsoring Refugees

by Leah Bjornson in Vancouver

The current Syrian refugee crisis continues to ignite the compassion of the Canadian public. Citizens and local politicians alike are pledging their support to bring greater numbers of Syrian refugees to the country.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson spoke to a crowd of hundreds at City Hall Tuesday night to discuss his plans to turn the city into a sanctuary for Syrian refugees.

“Vancouver must continue to expand upon the steps we are taking to be a welcoming city, but it’s clear that the Government of Canada has not been meeting our international obligations in this continuing humanitarian crisis,” Robertson said in a news release on Monday.

The statement also outlined Robertson’s plan to bring a motion before city council, calling on the federal government to take “immediate action” and to assist 20,000 refugees annually by 2020.

The fervour with which many Canadian politicians are confronting this issue mirrors that of many of their constituents.

Robertson is not alone in his criticism of the government’s current refugee policies.

Mayors in Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa have all pledged their support for increased intervention in the current migrant crisis, with Toronto Mayor John Tory even opening his own doors to a refugee family from Syria.

Provinces are getting involved as well. The British Columbia government, for example, is allocating $1 million for a readiness fund to assist and support Syrian refugees settling in the province.

The fervour with which many Canadian politicians are confronting this issue mirrors that of many of their constituents.

In a poll released Tuesday by Mainstreet Research and Postmedia, almost half of Canadians responded that they want Canada to accept over 30,000 refugees from Syria – a number significantly higher than the Conservative government’s pledge to bring in an additional 10,000 refugees over the next four years if re-elected.

So far, Canada has accepted 2,374 Syrian refugees and has promised to accept 11,300 over three years.

In the same poll, 31 per cent of those surveyed said Canada can best intervene in the international crisis by bringing Syrian refugees to Canada, while 27 per cent believed humanitarian aid was the best route forward. Another 18 per cent felt military deployment in the conflict region was the best way to move forward.

Cutting through the red tape

Despite these huge numbers of support, matched in part by sweeping donations across the country to aid in Syrian resettlement, the country’s federal bureaucratic system may inhibit immediate action from taking place.

There are already 24,000 privately sponsored refugees who have been waiting for years to come to Canada. Tima Kurdi, the aunt of Alan Kurdi, said her own attempts to bring her brother overseas to Canada were prevented by complicated government policies.

The typical wait time for privately sponsored refugees is four to five years.

Naomi Alboim, who is on the steering committee of Lifeline Syria, estimates that even with the current influx of willing host families, it may take months before refugee families begin arriving in Canada.

That is “unless the government of Canada really starts to step up its game and starts processing applications and getting them on planes to come here,” she adds.

Alboim explains that the Toronto-based organization, which has an aim of recruiting, training and assisting sponsor groups to welcome and support 1,000 Syrian refugees over the next two years, has not yet brought any Syrians into the country.

“It’s really hard [for] sponsorship groups to have any incentive if it’s going to take so long.”

This could in part be because the process for sponsoring a refugee is incredibly time consuming.

Once a private organization – be it a community organization, church, charitable group, or a group of five or more permanent residents – has decided to sponsor a refugee, it must send an application form to be vetted by a government facility in Winnipeg.

This process often takes months, after which the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees must screen the refugees again.

There are fears that this lengthy process may discourage would-be sponsors who are stepping forward in this heated political atmosphere.

“It’s really hard [for] sponsorship groups to have any incentive if it’s going to take so long,” Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, told the Globe and Mail.

This is especially troublesome considering that hosting a family comes with the steep price tag of approximately $30,000 per sponsor family per year, which after the first year, most refugees are expected to have found their footing in the host country.

What else can be done?

Many who cannot afford the high costs associated with sponsoring a family are searching for alternative ways to support Syrian refugees in this tumultuous time.

At the public forum inside Vancouver City Hall Tuesday night, speakers cautioned those in attendance about the complexities of refugee sponsorship, especially considering the associated costs.

“Canadians overall have shown this type of compassion and humanitarian response in the past.”

Numerous international charities are asking concerned citizens to donate either to local, established organizations and existing sponsorship agreement holders or directly to Syrian people living in refugee camps.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, a donation to the UN refugee agency of $20 gets a family sleeping mats, while $550 gets a family a tent.

For Eyob Naizghi, an Eritrean refugee who came to Canada 35 years ago, these types of discussions regarding the role Canada can play are crucial if the country is going to make a real impact in the months ahead.

He told the Vancouver Sun, “It’s all about learning, it’s a starting point, because Canadians overall have shown this type of compassion and humanitarian response in the past.”

 

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 Top Stories

by Jeremy J. Nuttall (@Tyee_Nuttall) in Ottawa, Ontario

The battle for votes in Vancouver's large Chinese community is being complicated by deep divisions over immigration issues here and across the Pacific in Hong Kong.

Chinese-language radio talk-show hosts say callers are more worked up than ever about the federal election.

And their support seems largely determined by where they came from in China and their attitude toward tougher immigration rules introduced by the federal government since the 2011 election.

Cantonese-speakers, mainly people from Hong Kong and southern parts of Mainland China, tend to be staunch Conservative supporters.

But for Mandarin-speakers, from northern China and Taiwan, new immigration rules have become the focus of opposition to Stephen Harper's party.

It's an important political battle. About 14.8 per cent of Greater Vancouver residents reported Chinese as a mother tongue in the 2011 census, with 5.8 per cent reporting Cantonese and four per cent Mandarin. Five per cent didn't specify a Chinese language.

On 'Public Forum,' supporters chatter

Johann Chang hosts Public Forum, a weekend Cantonese language show on the Richmond-based Fairchild radio. He said phone lines light up with support for Harper.

"The Conservatives have a strong support base in the Cantonese community. They've been working for that base for a long time," he said. "Conservative supporters call into our show and basically take up the phone lines."

Callers are concerned with New Democratic Party (NDP) and Liberal stances on marijuana legalization and chide the media for talking so much about the Mike Duffy trial, Chang said. They also complain the NDP satellite office issue hasn't been brought up as often as they would like.

"Part of the Cantonese community who are from Hong Kong feel like that city has been flooded with immigrants from Mainland China."

But the community is most divided over tougher immigration rules. The elimination of the skilled-worker program in 2012 and immigrant investor program in 2014 made it harder for Chinese residents to make a new home in Canada. The replacement programs set a tougher standard for would-be immigrants.

The Cantonese community, especially people from Hong Kong, welcomes the changes, Chang said.

"Part of the Cantonese community who are from Hong Kong feel like that city has been flooded with immigrants from Mainland China," Chang said. "So whatever policy makes it harder for Mainland Chinese, or even stops them, from coming to Canada, they can relate to."

Hong Kong's special status in China, created when the United Kingdom ceded control of the territory in 1997, provides freedoms not available in the rest of the country.

The influx of mainland immigrants and tourists to Hong Kong has increased as wealth in China grows, which has led to protests in Hong Kong.

On 'News Frontline,' foes grumble

But if you tune into Fairchild radio during drive time and catch Debbie Chen's show News Frontline, disgruntled Mandarin-speaking callers aren't happy with Harper.

Chen said immigration rules are the bullseye on a dartboard of policies that many Mandarin speakers oppose.

"[Mandarin callers] think Conservatives only benefit the rich people."

Generally, Mandarin speakers think the immigration changes are intended "to block out people from Mainland China," she said.

Most of Chen's Mandarin callers are not happy with Harper, she said, and don't care for policies like income splitting, which critics say favours wealthier Canadians.

"They think Conservatives only benefit the rich people," she said. "They think paying more taxes would be good to get more social benefits."

Chen said the anti-Harper callers appear to be split fairly evenly between support for the NDP and the Liberals, with the Liberals enjoying a slight edge.

Chen said many recent immigrants from China are more working class than the long-established Hong Kong community.

Divisions not unexpected: Houlden

Gordon Houlden of the University of Alberta's China Institute said the link between issues in China and Canada is not entirely unexpected, but still fascinating.

It's a reminder that the Chinese community isn't as monolithic as outsiders assume, he said.

"If you've been here longer and you're more settled, you may not welcome a wave of people who are similar in some ways, but different in others."

New immigration rules focus more on skill set and education than family reunification, he said, so it makes sense that Mandarin speakers would be upset about the changes. The changes reduce the opportunity for relatives to join family members already in Canada.

On the other hand, the Cantonese community may support tougher immigration rules because it tends to be older and more established.

"If you've been here longer and you're more settled, you may not welcome a wave of people who are similar in some ways, but different in others," he said.

Houlden said protests in Hong Kong last year over Beijing's refusal to allow open elections may have added to the divisions between the two groups.

Chen, who is originally from Taiwan, said that Mandarin-speaking Taiwanese immigrants who call in generally also voice opposition to Harper.

"We have the free election right in Taiwan, so we don't like the government staying too long," Chen said. "The Conservatives kept power over 10 years, so some Taiwanese people think it's time to change."


Re-published with permission from The Tyee.

Published in Politics

by Marieton Pacheco (@marietonpacheco) in Vancouver, British Columbia

Ever since Dr. Rey Pagtakhan served as Member of Parliament from 1988 to 2004, first from Winnipeg North and then Winnipeg North - St. Paul, no one of Filipino descent has been elected to the House of Commons.

But the drought may be about to end as at least five candidates from the community are running in October’s federal election.

“They’re in for a tough battle,” says Aprodicio Laquian, former University of British Columbia (UBC) professor and author of Seeking a Better Life Abroad: A Study of Filipinos in Canada.

“Filipinos in general don’t vote for other Filipinos just because of shared heritage. They’re a lot more critical, their network allows them to easily identify who’s running … and if they’re running for their own selfish interest, they don’t vote.”

Laquian says that despite an estimated 700,000 Canadian residents tracing their ancestry back to the Philippines, there is also no real “Filipino town” or single riding in Canada where they make up a big chunk of the population. 

Winnipeg North, the riding that first sent Pagtakhan to Parliament, is the exception as an estimated 40 per cent of the population is of Filipino descent. 

Levy Abad, a human rights activist and singer/songwriter of Filipino heritage, is contesting there under the New Democrat banner and sees the demographic advantage only as a leg-up.

“[A] Filipino running for office should not only depend on the support of one group but should engage all communities.”

“Although it helps to have the support of the Filipino community, I think a Filipino running for office should not only depend on the support of one group but should engage all communities,” says Abad. 

Pagtakhan says ethnicity is only one of many factors. “While a particular community will likely support a candidate and party if they champion policies dear to their hearts, their combined credibility and qualities will also be considered.” 

Abad believes that his job as a multicultural outreach officer in Manitoba’s Ministry of Multiculturalism and Literacy has prepared him for the run. He says he knows the issues affecting all groups in his riding and would be their collective voice in Parliament. 

Facing negativity

In Vancouver Kingsway, a riding with half its population made up of visible minority groups, Conservative party candidate Francisco “Jojo” Quimpo does not have any advantage because of his ethnicity.

Quimpo will compete for votes of Chinese-Canadians who are the dominant group at 43 per cent of the population followed by fellow Filipino-Canadians at 11 per cent.

“I am running not just because I’m a Filipino. I’m an immigrant; my story is many other people’s story,” says Quimpo. “I can relate with many, I know the issues and challenges.”

“This is about the future of Canada, not only Filipinos, but also all Canadians.”

A community leader, he is best known for organizing the annual Pinoy Fiesta that celebrates Philippine culture.

But ever since announcing his intention to run, he’s had his share of critics from within the community; some have even flipped on an earlier promise to support him by putting up lawn signs of his NDP rival, incumbent MP Don Davies.

Quimpo believes Filipinos as a group are turned off by politics due to their negative experience of the process back home. He wants the community to participate more in politics and to realize its positive impact here in Canada.

“To be comfortable with this kind of electoral process … you have to be passionate and committed with the values you represent to the people so they can understand. This is about the future of Canada, not only Filipinos, but also all Canadians,” says Quimpo.

Old-style Philippine politics

Nevertheless, Quimpo says the community members’ historical dislike for politics does not prevent them from resorting to old-style Philippine politics by seeking favours in return for votes. 

Since starting his campaign, he’s received requests for assistance ranging from helping a sick relative back home to expediting immigration applications. 

“I received so many questions on why they need to pay when I’m the one asking for their support!”

“I was running for the party nomination and was asking for kababayans [fellow Filipinos] to pay and become a member of the party so they could vote for me … I received so many questions on why they need to pay when I’m the one asking for their support!”

In Winnipeg Abad says he’s heard of similar stories during his campaign, but has no experience of people asking for favours outright. 

“The residents of Winnipeg North have a lot of concerns like poverty, crime, housing that should be properly addressed and offering paltry solutions will not help.”

Fielding Filipino candidates

In Mt. Royal, Quebec, basketball coach Mario Rimbao is hoping residents will see him beyond sports.

The challenge of finding available daycare prompted him to enter politics under the NDP banner. He wants to do more for immigrants with a focus on family reunification.

“We need to be heard; this is the time. We’re trying to make history together,” says Rimbao, who has no demographic advantage in a riding where over 60 per cent of the population is Jewish and white.

Rimbao’s only consolation from an ethnic vote perspective is that at over nine per cent, Filipinos lead the rest of the minority groups in a riding seen as a Liberal bastion.

[P]arties are still trying to figure out how to tap into [the Filipino] voter group.

Also bereft of any ethnic affinity advantage is Julius Tiangson who hopes his experience serving different communities will make him the Conservative MP for the Mississauga Centre riding with a large immigrant population.

An active community leader, Tiangson is co-founder of the Gateway Centre for New Canadians, which focuses on the economic integration of newcomers. 

The only independent candidate in the running is Jesus “Jayjay” Cosico from Nepean, Ottawa. A former politician in the Philippines, he seeks to be the voice for “pro-life” issues in Parliament.

With a community far from mature in understanding Canada’s political process, Laquian says parties are still trying to figure out how to tap into this voter group. Fielding Filipino candidates is just one of the arrows in their quivers.

Pagtakhan believes Filipino Canadians are actually far more interested and involved in Canadian politics than the overall population.

“We can persuade even more to participate when we succeed in lending credibility to the nobility of politics as a means to make salutary differences in the life of fellow Canadians,” he says, adding, “Yes, it is a tall order.”


Published in partnership with Asian Pacific Post

 

Published in Politics
Thursday, 27 August 2015 04:40

Richmond Residents Divided on Immigration

by Deanna Cheng (@writerly_dee) in Richmond, British Columbia

If Joseph Martinez was given the option, he would “export half of the population of Richmond back to China.”

Owner of Little Paws Animal Clinic and resident of the newly created federal riding of Steveston - Richmond East in British Colombia, Martinez is upset by the “arrogance” of immigrants.

His is part of a growing undercurrent of anti-immigrant sentiment in the riding.

Along with contiguous riding of Richmond Centre from which it was partly carved out, this area near Vancouver has a high concentration of visible minorities.

The debate around immigration has long-since been a hot button issue in the area.

According to the recently published Multiculturalism in Canada: Evidence and Anecdote book by former director-general of Citizenship and Multiculturalism, Andrew Griffith, 43 per cent of Steveston - Richmond East identifies itself as ethnic Chinese and 11 per cent as South Asian, while in Richmond Centre the split is 51 per cent Chinese, five per cent South Asian.

Martinez says for him it isn’t about race per se as he would prefer to have Taiwanese immigrants around because “they’re more respectful.”

In fact, he wants “nice Chinese” people who he defines as anyone who isn’t from Hong Kong and makes an attempt to learn English and “greet other races instead of ignoring them.” He also wants newcomers to respect the rules of the road and not drive recklessly as they do in Asia.

A community divided

The debate around immigration has long-since been a hot button issue in the area, and a letter to the editor in last week’s Richmond News brought it to the fore at the start of the election campaign.

In her letter, reader Emilie Henderson expressed her frustrations on reading letters from other residents about their dislike of new immigrants and the change that comes with them.

I read these letters and feel anger at the pure ignorance and lack of perspective of these ‘locals’, descendants of immigrants who likely faced similar hurdles in their adaptation to this country.

“Week after week, I read these letters and feel anger at the pure ignorance and lack of perspective of these ‘locals’, descendants of immigrants who likely faced similar hurdles in their adaptation to this country populated by immigrants,” she wrote.

Henderson goes on in her letter to say Richmond is a wonderful place to live because of its diversity, not in spite of it.

Steveston resident Lori Crump says she is inclined to partially agree with Henderson as immigration has its good outcomes too.

Out on an evening bicycle ride by the water, Crump says her relative’s property value going up is one such positive. “You also learn more about other cultures. There were some Russians who came in. Mandarin. It’s all over the map.”

However, she says more regulation on immigration is needed – something electoral candidates Kenny Chiu (Conservative), Joe Peschisolido (Liberal), Scott Stewart (New Democratic Party) and Laura-Leah Shaw (Green Party) should debate on in the coming weeks.

The decision to stop businesswoman Wendy Yuan from seeking nomination seems to have upset many ethnic Chinese supporters of the [Liberal] party.

But the Liberal nomination in the riding itself had its own share of controversy. The decision to stop businesswoman Wendy Yuan from seeking nomination seems to have upset many ethnic Chinese supporters of the party.

The acclamation of Peschisolido, a former Richmond MP who was elected in 2000 under the Canadian Alliance banner, is seen as an attempt by the Liberals to field someone with sufficient right-wing credentials to breach a Conservative stronghold.

Alice Wong, the Conservative incumbent in neighbouring Richmond Centre, won her seat in 2011 with over 58 per cent of the votes. This time around she will be competing for votes from her own ethnic group as the Liberals have fielded Lawrence Woo and the Greens Vincent Chui. Jack Trovado is running for the NDP.

More accepting than Vancouver 

But whether attitudes around immigration will shape the election outcome in both the Richmond ridings remains a moot issue.

When New Canadian Media hit the streets for a straw poll, it found most people were welcoming and open to immigrants.

Simon Fraser University (SFU) student Fran Li, who grew up in Steveston before moving into a suburban neighbourhood of Richmond, said the city had a “pretty good attitude” towards immigrants.

“It was important to have a bigger perspective of the world.”

Based on her experience of travelling between Vancouver and Richmond to attend SFU’s downtown Vancouver campus, the 19 year old feels more accepted in Richmond. She shared an example of a panhandler in Vancouver telling her to go back to Asia when she ignored him.

Li says her high school had more multicultural events due to international transfer students. It even had a multicultural club, which she enjoyed.

Those school events helped her learn more about the world as opposed to just what’s happening locally. “It was important to have a bigger perspective of the world.”


 

Published in partnership with Asian Pacific Post

Published in Top Stories

by Kayla Isomura (@kaylaiso) in Vancouver, British Columbia

It was a celebration of Japanese Canadian history and community at the 10th annual Asahi tribute baseball game, which took place at Oppenheimer Park in Vancouver, British Columbia last weekend.

The Asahi was a Japanese Canadian team that played in the industrial – or semi-professional – leagues in Vancouver from 1914 to 1941. During World War II, the team disbanded when Japanese Canadians were sent to internment camps by the Canadian government.

“[The tribute game] allows us to remember our history in a really holistic way,” explains Angela Kruger, event organizer and member of the Japanese Canadian Young Leaders of Vancouver (JCYLV). “It’s transposing our memory of the past into an event that means something for the current Japanese Canadian community and the Downtown Eastside.”

Asahi faced discrimination

The Asahi originally formed in Oppenheimer Park, then known as Powell Grounds, in an area that was made up of Japanese immigrants.

“Japanese Canadians daily struggled with a racist society,” recalled Japanese Canadian historian and activist Grace Eiko Thomson (pictured right) to a crowd of 50 people at Saturday’s game.

The Asahi was no exception, as the only ethnic team playing in the industrial leagues, she said, adding that Asahi players were a foot smaller than their opponents, standing at 5-foot-something.

[P]layers were called racist slurs, booed by fans and treated unfairly by umpires.

Before the team was recognized in society, players were called racist slurs, booed by fans and treated unfairly by umpires.

However, in 1922, the team learned the now notorious “brain ball” strategy, which encompassed bunting and stealing bases.

“When they were playing their ‘brain ball’, people discovered they were really good,” explains Lorene Oikawa, president of the Greater Vancouver Japanese Canadian Citizens’ Association (GVJCCA). Oikawa’s grandfather, Kenichi Doi, was a pitcher for the Asahi.

“They began to see beyond the race," adds Oikawa. “Caucasian people were coming to games and really enjoying them, so for a brief moment, forgetting about the race aspect and just seeing the baseball, that’s pretty cool.”

Bringing communities together today

Overcoming struggles like racism and celebrating being treated as equals are some aspects that the annual Asahi tribute game is based on.

Each year, the Downtown Eastside forms its own team to participate in the tribute game, called the Pirates. Other teams are formed by anyone else interested in participating.

This year, three teams participated in a friendly game of softball. Teams ranged in age with people coming from all over B.C.’s lower mainland.

Part of the community building of the event includes a free barbecue and an opportunity for players and spectators to eat lunch together.

“To see everybody in the park smiling and laughing or cheering their friends on, that was totally amazing.”

“To see everybody in the park smiling and laughing or cheering their friends on, that was totally amazing,” says Kruger, who, despite organizing the event, had never been to a game before.

The experience also brings back familial memories to some of the participants.

For example, Alex Murata says his favourite part about the tribute game was playing on the Asahi home field with his dad, since his grandfather used to play baseball for a local team in Cumberland, a small village on Vancouver Island.

Learning from the Asahi

When Eiko Thomson speaks to the crowd each year about the team’s significance, she makes sure to include its impact on Canadian history and human rights.

Following Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii in 1941, 22,000 Japanese Canadians were forced to leave their homes and were sent to internment sites.

The Asahi were separated and never played as a team again.

However, the sport of baseball continued to bring communities together, much like today’s tribute game. Japanese Canadians continued to play baseball while interned, and even four years later, when the war ended and they were dispersed across Canada.

“It includes the early immigrants’ history, as well as the wartime history and the racism prior to the war.”

“Asahi is the best vehicle for telling the [Japanese Canadian] story because it spanned for 27 years,” says Eiko Thomson. “It includes the early immigrants’ history, as well as the wartime history and the racism prior to the war.”

While the Asahi tradition continues in Vancouver, this year fewer people came out to play.

In previous years, the Nikkei National Museum and Cultural Centre in Burnaby, a suburb of Vancouver, had organized the event. This year, the museum stepped down, prompting the JCYLV, a committee of the GVJCCA working to empower Japanese Canadian youth, to take its place.

Everything came together only weeks before the event for organizers who also included the Powell Street Festival Society, Carnegie Community Centre and Oppenheimer Park.

“It was a little chaotic in the beginning, but it really became a gradual sense of calm,” says Kruger. “The game was really great.”

Next year, organizers would like to see the event grow by sharing the Asahi history year-round and including more family friendly elements. Some would also like to include screenings of relevant films to spark a discussion on the impact of the team.

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 History
Friday, 14 August 2015 19:08

S.U.C.C.E.S.S. Goes to China

by Deanna Cheng (@writerly_dee) in Vancouver, British Columbia

Vancouver-based immigrant-settlement organization S.U.C.C.E.S.S. will be opening a new centre in Beijing, China, to help newcomers with the transition to Canada. This makes it the first non-profit to have an overseas pre-arrival centre in a major immigrant source country. 

According to a news release, the Active Engagement and Integration Project (AEIP) service centre will provide pre-arrival services such as information on Canadian history, culture, healthcare, transportation, employment, foreign credential recognition and the education system.

The organization has had pre-landing services at overseas offices in South Korea and Taiwan since 2008. This centre will be its first in China and is funded by Citizenship and Immigration Canada for the next two years.

Four stages of support

Johnny Cheng, director of AEIP, said services are provided in four components and the end goal for each section is to plan and prepare people for integration.

“For the immigrants from South Korea and Taiwan, they couldn’t tell what Canada is like. To them, there was no difference between B.C. and Ontario.” - Johnny Cheng, director of AEIP

The first part is an assessment of the challenges each newcomer would face, which allows an action plan to be developed. 

“Every immigrant has their own reason for coming to Canada,” Cheng said. “Some may not need a lot of support. Some need information on education because they want to bring their kids to Canada. Others want another career.”

The second part is providing accurate information about a settlement location, its culture and laws.

The director said most people in other countries only understand it’s a free country and it’s why they do as they wish when they arrive.

“For the immigrants from South Korea and Taiwan, they couldn’t tell what Canada is like. To them, there was no difference between B.C. and Ontario.”

The third section is an appointment to go over academic and professional credentials.

Professionals can prepare their paperwork – including translation if necessary – ahead of time and submit them to corresponding trade associations. The organization helps clients put together a resume and provides training on how to do interviews.

Cheng said they also have a program to connect immigrants with potential employers to understand business expectations and facilitate online interviews.

“Many prospective employers don’t give international work experience the same weight as local work experience.” - Vancouver Immigration Partnership

A Vancouver Immigration Partnership document titled "Immigration Matters in Vancouver" said immigrants with specialized professional skills and high educational credentials often have trouble landing jobs in the city.

It said it could be due to lack of information about business practices or credential recognition in Canada.

“Being an immigrant can also mean they lack local Canadian work experience,” the document said. “Many prospective employers don’t give international work experience the same weight as local work experience.”

The work relationship goes both ways as it also said many regulatory organizations struggle to evaluate foreign credentials and work experience.

The final component aims to connect immigrants to community resources. “We link them to the school board, community centres, city government and libraries,” said Cheng. “We also connect with cities to arrange tours for new immigrants to learn more about the city.”

Cheng said a survey on the organization’s services in South Korea and Taiwan showed more than 90 per cent of the immigrants were able to successfully settle down in their selected Canadian neighbourhood within one month of arrival. “They were able to participate in the community and enrol their kids immediately.”

Increasing pre-arrival settlement beneficial for Canada

Over the 40 years the organization has been helping immigrants, Cheng said many people have arrived saying they wanted to find a job and didn’t know they needed specific accreditation, certificates or to obtain a certain level of language proficiency.

“It’s best to do it all before coming to Canada. If they understand the language requirement, some can practise for several months – maybe even a year – before arriving.” - Johnny Cheng, director of AEIP

“It’s best to do it all before coming to Canada,” he said. “If they understand the language requirement, some can practise for several months – maybe even a year – before arriving.”

This will help them find work faster and become a taxpayer sooner, the director explained, which is a benefit to Canada.

Beijing was selected for a pre-landing centre because it’s the capital city with easy access from neighbouring provinces.

Based on B.C. Stats immigrant landings data obtained by journalist Ian Young, the number one immigrant source country from 2005 to 2013 was China, consistently followed by India (second) and the Philippines (third) during those eight years.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada said out of 258,953 permanent residents in 2013, about 34,000 of them were from China. Again, the data shows the same ranking order between China, India and the Philippines.

Cheng said it’s not easy to have an office in China, especially for a non-profit organization. When applying, the organization had to be clear its objective was to help Chinese people plan for immigration – ones who were already approved – and not recruit people to move to Canada.

Despite this, another AEIP centre is scheduled to open in Shanghai later this year.

After expanding in China, Cheng said the organization would look to expand pre-landing services in Japan, India, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Australia.

The grand opening of the Beijing centre is scheduled for September 2.

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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

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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