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VANCOUVER – B.C. Premier Christy Clark is [...]

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Originating from India, Buddhism is said to be the religion of about 300 million people worldwide.

Founded by Tsengdok Rinpoche, and organized by the BC Buddhist Festival Committee, the inaugural event will bring together over 20 Buddhist communities and thousands of attendees to promote ‘Vesak’ for world peace. Vesak is a holiday observed by Buddhists that commemorates the birth, enlightenment, and death of Gautama Buddha.

Serving to bring together Buddhists of all traditions, the full day event will be one of colour and spectacle, with nuns and monks assembled on stage to jointly pray for peace.

The BC Buddhist Festival at UBC’s Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Arena runs May 30 from 9:30am to 6:30pm and is suitable for all ages. 

Serving to bring together Buddhists of all traditions, the full day event will be one of colour and spectacle, with nuns and monks assembled on stage to jointly pray for peace. There will also be a Buddha wishing tree, a Buddha bathing area, a display of rituals, customs, music, crafts and vegetarian food. Lotus lanterns will be made on site and for sale at the event, with 45 per cent of profits being donated.  

“Charity and service are cornerstones of Buddhist life and we wanted to represent the birth, life and passing of Buddha’s life by ensuring 45 per cent of proceeds benefit BC Children’s Hospital and the VGH and UBC Hospital Foundation’s Palliative Care Fund, because they serve the needs of people who come from all parts of the province,” says Rinpoche. 

Another 45 per cent will go to participating Buddhist communities for ongoing development work, and 10 per cent will be retained for next year's event. To end the day, there will be a walk for peace, with each participant holding a lotus lantern as they circulate the arena.

Coupon books of $20 will be available to purchase food and merchandise.

To learn more about the first ever BC Buddhist Festival, visit www.BCBuddhistFestival.com.


Published in Partnership with Asian Pacific Post.

Published in Arts & Culture

The centennial of the 1914 – 1918 First World War (WW1) is an historic opportunity for Canadians to commemorate those that lost their lives, and to inform today’s youth and diverse communities about the significance of those sacrifices. On declaration of war Britain despatched its standing army of 125,000 to France only to be […]

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SURREY, B.C.—There has been more gunfire in Surrey, B.C., hours after Premier Christy Clark assured residents all possible efforts are being made to combat an...

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by Aurora Tejeida (@Aurobots) in Vancouver [Part 3 of 3 of an in-depth investigative series]

The settlement service sector across the country is undergoing major changes and facing several challenges as a result. Unlike Ontario and the Atlantic region, both B.C. and Manitoba used to have provincial control of their settlement services. For these provinces, the largest issue has been getting used to federal control.

Settlement in the west coast metropolitan city of Vancouver one of Canadas top destinations for migrants with 45 per cent of its population being foreign-born – is no exception.

When the federal government decided to strip control of settlement services from B.C. effective April 1, 2014, the biggest casualty was the freedom agencies had to serve a large array of newcomers.

“Under federal funding, service can only be provided to permanent residents and government sponsored refugees,” explains Karen Larcombe, the executive director of South Vancouver Neighbourhood House (SVNH). “That leaves out naturalized immigrants (those with citizenship), temporary foreign workers, who we used to be able to serve, foreign students, etc.”

It’s been a year since agencies in Vancouver have been working under federal government guidelines and the effects are already being felt. This is why the province of B.C. stepped in to help.

“In our province, these changes have been less impactful because the provincial government has provided some agencies, mine included, surplus funding so we can continue to serve the clients that are ineligible under federal funding,” says Larcombe.

I think temporary foreign workers is where we’re most feeling the pressure.” - Karen Larcombe, South Vancouver Neighbourhood House

But those resources are limited. Provincial funding represents about 10 per cent of SVNH’s funding. The rest, 90 per cent, is provided by the federal government and can only be used for what the government calls ‘eligible clients’.

“In theory, ineligible clients are supposed to be 10 per cent of our cases,” Larcombe says. “In reality we’re seeing more than the 10 per cent, for us it’s closer to 15 per cent.”

Between 2013 and 2014, British Columbia received 37,451 foreign immigrants; 85 per cent of them settled in Metro Vancouver.

It’s likely these numbers only represent new permanent residents, since they don’t add up when the largest ‘ineligible’ group that Larcombe’s agency sees, which is temporary foreign workers, is taken into account.

“Their numbers are growing. I think temporary foreign workers is where we’re most feeling the pressure,” she explains.

The number of temporary foreign workers in the province increased from 19,283 in 2002 to 69,955 in 2011. Similarly, over 290,000 international students were enrolled in Canadian schools during 2013; 24 per cent of them live and study in B.C., that’s almost 73,000 people. Both groups have no access to settlement services.

[F]rom a service delivery perspective, that means that we lose control over what our services look like. So something that works in Ontario, might not necessarily work in Vancouver.” Karen Larcombe, South Vancouver Neighbourhood House

Another casualty has been the time workers can devote to clients. Under the federal government there’s more extensive recording required, so workers spend more time inputting data into the system.

“The federal government wanted everybody across Canada to deliver services under the same way. So part of that was having the same information and the same data to get a better picture across the whole country,” says Larcombe.

“From a funder’s perspective, that makes sense. But from a service delivery perspective, that means that we lose control over what our services look like. So something that works in Ontario, might not necessarily work in Vancouver.”

Manitoba’s Challenges

Aside from B.C., Manitoba was the only other province that lost control of its funding in the last couple of years; now settlement services in Manitoba fall under federal regulations. 

Jorge Fernandez is the executive director of the Manitoba Immigrant Centre. Like his counterpart in Vancouver, he says the biggest change has been the type of clients that settlement services can help.

“We can no longer help temporary foreign workers or foreign students,” explains Fernandez. “And the province of Manitoba is not offering any extra funding.”

Fernandez says 20 per cent of the approximately 18,000 clients his agency saw last year are what the government considers ‘ineligible’.

“It was difficult for us to close the door on clients, so we secured some private funding. We managed to raise $50,000 to hire one worker to see this group of people,” he adds.

The funds came from private donations and Winnipeg foundations. But even with the extra funding, the agency was only able to help 2,000  out of 5,000 clients that have asked for help, but are deemed ‘ineligible’.

“We are bringing temporary foreign workers into the country, and we have the Express Entry program, so we need the workers, we need labour force. So if we’re bringing them here, why aren’t we providing services for them?” - Jorge Fernandez, Manitoba Immigrant Centre

Out of those ‘ineligible’ clients, Fernandez says 50 per cent are temporary foreign workers, 25 per cent are international students and the remainder is a mix of visitors and Canadian citizens — a group agencies in both Manitoba and B.C. consider important due to the fact that they may have only been in the country for a couple of years.

“We wish we could see everybody,” says Fernandez. “If we had more funding we could hire another worker and see more people.”

He hopes things will improve if there is a change in government, especially since some current migration policies don’t make sense to him. 

“We are bringing temporary foreign workers into the country, and we have the Express Entry program, so we need the workers, we need labour force. So if we’re bringing them here, why aren’t we providing services for them?”

Is Sanctuary the Only Solution?

Byron Cruz is a community worker and an advocate for all types of migrants in Vancouver. He works with an outreach group called Sanctuary Health. For the last year or so, his organization, along with many more, has been participating in the mayor’s immigration task force. The main item of the agenda is to obtain sanctuary city status in Vancouver.

“Every settlement agency depends on the CIC (Citizenship and Immigration Canada) because all or most of their funding comes from the federal government, so instead of helping local communities, they’re doing CBSA (Canada Border Services Agency)’s job,” says Cruz.

“Many agency workers want to help, but they have to do it outside office hours because otherwise they risk losing their jobs or their funding. It’s a system that discriminates.” - Byron Cruz, Sanctuary Health

Cruz explains that a group of undocumented mothers had recently approached him because they wanted to take a workshop that was offered by a local settlement agency, but that the agency denied them the service.

“Many agency workers want to help, but they have to do it outside office hours, because otherwise they risk losing their jobs or their funding,” he adds. “It’s a system that discriminates.”

Still, several agencies have helped pen the sanctuary city policies Cruz hopes will be completely adopted by Vancouver sometime this year. Agency workers like Larcombe agree that these policies would help those that are most in need.

“At this point there are more vulnerable migrants that we would be able to help if the city was granted a sanctuary city status,” she explains. “It’s difficult for these migrants to break through the poverty barrier.”

By ‘vulnerable migrants’ Larcombe means undocumented migrants, another group agencies are barred from helping. A 2009 House of Commons immigration committee report estimates that the number of undocumented immigrants in Canada ranges anywhere from 80,000 to 500,000.

But even without taking undocumented immigrants into account, the reality is that many of B.C.’s newcomers are not being granted access to settlement services under federal regulations.

“We need changes to ensure that those people are protected,” says Larcombe. “Even if technically it wouldn’t fall into the federal government’s mandate.”


In previous 360º instalments, NCM looked at the state of settlement services in Ontario, Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island. Be sure to read all three parts of this investigative series to get a sense of how several provinces across the country are dealing with a changing settlement system.  

Published in Top Stories

by Ted Alcuitas (@Ted_Alcuitas) in Vancouver  

The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal recently granted one of the largest awards given to a Filipino caregiver, a win that Filipino-American expert on labour and migration, Dr. Anna Guevarra, calls 'monumental'. 

The caregiver, known only by the initials PN, was awarded $5,866.89 for lost wages and $50,000 as damages for injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect. 

She worked for a year in Hong Kong before being brought to Canada in July 2013 by her employers (also identified by their initials, FR and MR). According to the decision handed down on April 1, PN was treated like a "virtual slave."

“Im happy to see that the case was recognized as a human rights issue,” adds Dr. Guevarra by phone from Chicago, where she is the director of the Asian American Program at the University of Illinois.

Hopefully this would encourage other workers to come forward [about] their isolation,says Guevarra, before adding that the decision is an important one and a milestone for the Filipino communitys struggle for human rights. 

She was isolated, underfed and treated like she was sub-human; all because she was a young Filipino mother who needed the job to take care of her own children. I would like to think that this behaviour does not occur in B.C.” - Catherine McCreary

Born in the Philippines, but raised and educated in the U.S., Dr. Guevarra has been published by many journals. She is an expert in immigrant labour and global care workersshe specializes in domestic workers.

Her written work on the stereotyping and prejudice suffered by many Filipino domestic workers played a crucial role in the tribunal decision taken by member Catherine McCreary. 

A Harrowing Tale

The tribunal decision chronicles sexual abuse, assault and harassment from the hands of the male employer, as well as verbal and physical abuse from the female employer and their children in Hong Kong and in Canada.

While working for the respondents, PN was exploited,writes McCreary in the tribunal decision. She had to perform sexual acts at the whim and insistence of her employer, she was humiliated and degraded by her other employer, and she was even made fun of by the children who were in her care. She was isolated, underfed and treated like she was sub-human; all because she was a young Filipino mother who needed the job to take care of her own children. I would like to think that this behaviour does not occur in BC.

The family lived in a hotel in Richmond while buying a house. PN had to sleep on a couch in the living room. Less than six weeks later, she fled the hotel alleging that the sexual and verbal abuse she suffered in Hong Kong continued in Canada. She fled with only the clothes she was wearing and no passport, money or any other belongings.

She sought directions to the Philippine Consulate in Vancouver, but when she got there the office was closed because it was Sunday. A Filipino store worker allowed her to use the phone with which she contacted the police. She was later referred to the womens shelter, Deborahs Gate, by sympathetic church people she met at the mall.

It is an unusual case in that the complainant took this all the way to a hearing – it is extraordinary for her to do that.” - Lawyer Devyn Cousineau

According to the court, the police initially declined to help saying that, the jurisdiction for solving her problem was in Hong Kong, not in Canada.

It was only after FR reported her missing to police that they came to interview her. 

According to McCrearys decision, “when she first came to Deborahs Gate, the staff found that she was malnourished and sleep deprived. She would not make eye contact with staff or other residents. She often cried in her room. She would ask for permission to do the most mundane things. It was clear to the staff person who testified that PN had been traumatized.

Damaging Stereotypes

Quoting Guevarra, the tribunal said, Filipino domestic workers are often marketed as obedient, hardworking, God-fearing, loyal, honest, cooperative, and compliant. At the same time, she says that they are also promoted as highly educated, skilled, and exhibiting a high tolerance for stressful conditions.

Filipinos made up 50 per cent of Hong Kongs foreign domestic population, which totalled 320,000, in 2013.

Lawyer Devyn Cousineau of the Community Legal Assistance Society represented PN. The respondents retained lawyer Winnie Leung and another Hong Kong lawyer when the case started, but HR eventually represented himself via videoconference from Hong Kong during the hearing, Cousineau said in a telephone interview. 

Final Outcomes

PN remains in Canada, although the visitors visa under which she was brought into the country was good for only three months.

The tribunaldecision came barely a month after Franco Orr, who was convicted in 2013 of human trafficking in Vancouver in another case that involved another Filipino domestic helper, won a retrial of his case.

Cousineau said work is under way to forward the tribunal decision to the B.C. Supreme Court and register it as an order of the court against the property. The family against whom PN brought up the case is believed to be in Hong Kong, but owns property in B.C.

It is an unusual case in that the complainant took this all the way to a hearing it is extraordinary for her to do that,says Cousineau, who praised PN for her courage.

When asked why the case did not end up in court, Cousineau said police did not have enough evidence, but believes they are continuing their investigation.

The tribunals decision came barely a month after Franco Orr, who was convicted in 2013 of human trafficking in Vancouver in another case that involved another Filipino domestic helper, won a retrial of his case. He was charged along with his wife, Oi Long Nicole Huen, who was acquitted after the couple's jury trial.

While there was no sexual assault alleged in this case, it remains similar to the current PN case in all other respects. Orr was convicted of human trafficking and sentenced to 18 months in jail. It is the first conviction for human trafficking in Canada involving a caregiver.  

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

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BY RATTAN MALL   IN view of the endless incidents of brazen shootings in Surrey at night and in broad daylight, one has to SERIOUSLY wonder if Canada will have to suffer the shame of a shooting in Surrey on Thursday when India Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be in Vancouver and Surrey. There were […]

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Thursday, 09 April 2015 18:02

Crushing Crime in British Columbia

WITH the press of a button and the crunch of metal and glass, a former gang vehicle was taken out of commission and off of B.C.’s roads – delivering on the Province’s commitment to crime reduction and public safety. The all-clear signal was given today at ABC Recycling, a junkyard in Burnaby, for a car […]

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VANCOUVER—A key witness in a terrorism trial underway in British Columbia has denied playing a heavy-handed role in encouraging the man accused of building pressure-cooker...

Epoch Times

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“I am very disturbed by the rising violence on the streets of Surrey, and gun crime in particular. Including an incident this morning, gunfire has broken out in Surrey 12 times in just the last month.
“It [...]

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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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