New Canadian Media

A study led by Western University researchers Stelian Medianu and Victoria Esses has found that visible minorities are significantly under-represented in senior leadership positions at City Halls in London and Ottawa, with Hamilton faring better.

In London, only 7.9 per cent of senior leaders in the non-profit and municipal public sectors were identified as visible minorities compared to 13.1 per cent of the general London population.

In Ottawa, only 11.9% of senior leaders in the studied sectors were visible minorities compared to 19.4 per cent of the general Ottawa population.

In contrast, it was found that 13.8 per cent of senior leaders in Hamilton were visible minorities, closely aligned with the 14.3 per cent of the general Hamilton population who are visible minorities, according to a Western University news release

New Canadian Media interviewed Prof. Victoria Esses by email. She is Director of the Western Centre for Research on Migration and Ethnic Relations. Access the study here: Visible Minorities and Women in Senior Leadership Positions: London, Hamilton and Ottawa

Q: What would you say were the top five findings from this study?

The top five findings from the study are as follows:

In London and Ottawa, our data showed that visible minorities and visible minority women were severely under-represented in leadership positions in the municipal public and non-profit sectors. Hamilton fared better overall.

The municipal public sector had the poorest representation of visible minorities and visible minority women across all three cities. Visible minorities and visible minority women were also severely under-represented in Ontario’s agencies, boards, and commissions.

There was also evidence of under-representation of women at the senior leadership level in all three cities and Ontario’s agencies, boards, and commissions, but these effects were less severe than those evident for visible minorities and visible minority women.

Q: What do you think was your most startling finding in the representation of minority groups ?

The most startling finding was with respect to the lack of representation of visible minorities in the municipal public sector.

Q: You have been a researcher in the area of immigration and equity for a long time. What are the legitimate conclusions Canadians can draw from this study nation-wide? Is there a need for studies in other immigrant-rich cities and towns across Canada?

There is a need for studies in other cities and towns across Canada. Similar research is currently being conducted in Vancouver and we look forward to seeing their results.

I believe that one conclusion that can be drawn from these results is that there is still work to do to ensure that senior leaders who are our decision-makers represent those for whom these decisions are being made. This work may occur at the level of recruitment, as well as selection of senior leaders.

Q: Did you interview corporations and hiring managers? How did they explain the gap between the demographics of London and the representation within their own companies/institutions? Are they doing anything to fix this gap?

As mentioned, we did not look at businesses. Instead we examined the public sector and non-profits. It is also important to note that our methodology involved examining the representation of visible minorities in leadership positions and we found evidence of under-representation, but we did not address the issue of why these effects are evident. 

 

Published in Top Stories

BY JORDAN BATEMAN British Columbia Director Canadian Taxpayers Federation    

AT a time when many BC taxpayers are struggling under the weight of their heavy tax burden, growing personal debt, and an incredibly high cost of living, our locally elected officials are there to remind us all of how hopelessly out of touch […]

 

Indo-Canadian Voice

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Published in Commentary
Thursday, 30 October 2014 06:02

Welcome to Tory’s One Toronto

By Gerald V. Paul 

John Tory – about to become a household name in the Caribbean community – says that as mayor, he will unite Toronto and deliver results.

After a long, tough campaign, Tory will officially take over Dec. 1 as Toronto’s 65th mayor. He captured about 395,000 votes or 40%, with 60% turnout at the polls in his bid to replace Rob Ford, now elected as councilor for Ward 2 Etobicoke North after dropping out of the mayor’s race due to ill health.

The Caribbean Camera

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Published in Top Stories
Monday, 23 June 2014 17:35

Celebrating Ottawa's Newest Residents

by A Staff Reporter

“It is a struggle to be alone. I needed a friend ... I came to Canada to learn the beauty of the human heart.”

This is just one of several quotes from real-life stories of genuine friendship that Ottawa’s immigrants celebrate, presented as part of a special photo exhibit currently on at City Hall. The launch of Welcoming Ottawa Week (WOW 2014) by Mayor Jim Watson today created a certain buzz among leading civic and business leaders, representatives from multicultural organizations and citizens interested in an inclusive city.

The week-long activities are being hosted by various immigrant settlement organizations, government agencies, higher secondary institutions, and by individuals under the banner WOW 2014, promises to showcase the capital city’s immigrant-friendly face.

Ottawa currently welcomes roughly 12, 000 immigrants every year (based on 2012 numbers), and these include permanent migrants and temporary residents, among them a large number of students to the city’s post-secondary institutions. These numbers are not very high in comparison to the quarter-million immigrants who arrive in Canada every year. Ottawa has to vie with other immigrant-magnet cities like Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary. It is, therefore, not surprising that City Hall wants to showcase Ottawa as a welcoming city.

Watson (picture alongside), in his opening speech, highlighted the need to make Ottawa even more welcoming so that more talented people immigrate to Ottawa. “Welcoming Ottawa Week will underscore our genuine respect and hospitality to newcomers, while at the same time creating opportunities for dialogue and interactions between newcomers and established residents.”

He outlined a variety of measures taken by his administration, including a Municipal Immigration Strategy, offering professional internships for newcomers, instituting Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards and the launch of an immigration portal at the City of Ottawa.

WOW Ambassadors

The highlight of the launch, however, was a photo exhibit of WOW Ambassadors.  This award, introduced for the first time, asked immigrants in Ottawa to nominate someone who had given them a helping hand in their immigrant journey. Numerous nominations poured in from grateful immigrants, and from those nominations, 11 Ambassadors were hand-picked.

“Feeling welcome matters, because when we feel that we belong, we work to make that place better.”

Nominees were recognized with plaques. WOW 2014 Co-chairs Sarah Onyango and Louisa Taylor outlined five qualities that they were looking in a WOW Ambassador: respect, intercultural bridging, hospitality, opening doors to the community, friendship and generosity of spirit.

Deliberate branding

Welcoming Ottawa Week was launched in 2013 as part of Ottawa’s Immigration Strategy, which aims to create connections between new and old-time residents of Ottawa – culturally, intellectually and socially. WOW is also an attempt to draw attention to the diversity of Ottawa’s population, with the hope of attracting more immigrants to consider settling here.

“When I hear people being afraid of immigrants, I want to say: Be real, make new Canadians a part of your life.”

By trying to brand itself as a welcoming city, Ottawa is joining other North American cities which are trying hard to attract human capital. The “Welcoming Cities and Counties” initiative has several U.S. cities like Chicago (Illinois), Austin (Texas), Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) and St. Louis (Missouri), positioning themselves to attract new blood.

WOW promises to be an annual marker on Ottawa’s busy social calendar.Today’s launch marks the beginning of diverse public events happening throughout Ottawa, ranging from cultural shows, documentary screenings, book launches, guided walking tours, town hall discussions and sports tournaments.

“Having moved around a lot, I understand what it means to connect with people locally and how alienating it can be to not know anyone.”

Several local organizations have come on board with the Ottawa Local Immigration Partnership (OLIP), the hosts of Welcoming Ottawa Week. “It takes a city to welcome immigrants,” remarked Hindia Mohamoud, Director of OLIP, on the breadth of partnerships formed to celebrate WOW 2014.

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
Wednesday, 18 June 2014 10:29

In Conversation with Naheed Nenshi

by Abbas Somji (@abbassomji) in Calgary

Naheed Nenshi’s meteoric rise – from relative obscurity to being the new face of Western Canada – was fodder for international media when he first became Calgary’s mayor in 2010. Since then, he has orchestrated the city out of last year’s devastating flood, winning him accolades, trending hashtags, and a second term in office.

Yet four years ago, political pundits wondered: how could Canada’s arguably most conservative city elect a non-white Muslim mayor?

Nenshi – a former Harvard-educated academic – says Calgarians didn’t care much about his background or his skin colour. In fact, they bristled at anyone who did.

“The issue of my faith came up exactly twice [in Calgary], and both times there was a huge backlash against people even talking about it,” says Nenshi, his first term evidenced from the multiplying grey hairs in his messy mop of trademark curls.

“People would phone the newsrooms and say, ‘Why do I care? I want to know what he wants to do about transit. It was only after I was elected – immediately after I was elected, within hours – that I suddenly found myself being very famous. And people from outside of Calgary wanted to know about this Muslim mayor.”

Nenshi says he was reluctant to discuss his heritage at first, deeming it irrelevant to his work as the city’s mayor. Today, he admits it’s “an incredibly important part of my identity and the way I see the world.”

See snippets of the interview with Mayor Nenshi here:
 

Personal story

His story is not unlike that of countless other Canadians, who left their home countries in search of brighter prospects. For the Nenshi family, it meant leaving their native Tanzania in the early 1970s while the mayor’s mother was still pregnant with him.

He says he grew up wondering why his family had “big fancy citizenship certificates” and all he had was a “lousy birth certificate,” realizing later in life those pieces of paper were deeply meaningful. It was a sentiment that snowballed and soon morphed into a profound sense of appreciation for what makes Canada a beacon for immigrants.

“As minority communities, we often focus on things that could be better, such as the discrimination or lack of equal opportunity,” says Nenshi.

“We need to focus on the extraordinary place in which we live,” insisting that every child, regardless of where they come from or what they look like, has the opportunity to realize their Great Canadian dream.

“I believe I’m one of five non-white city council members ever, in history,” acknowledging his own Great Canadian dream realized.

Nenshi wants to see other newcomers looking to fulfill their own ambitions – not just for their children. In order for that to happen, he says, more groundwork needs to be done, be it through offering incentives to quit their jobs and return to school, improve their English skills or acquire accreditation in the professions for which they’ve already been trained.

“People have to be able to understand that it’s possible here and it isn’t possible everywhere,” says Nenshi. “For many of us, it isn’t possible in the countries we came from.”

Success stories

He rattles off some success stories with a deftness that hints he’d told them many times before: a man who immigrated from Colombia after being mayor in his own hometown, and found work in Calgary as a house painter, only to quit his job, enroll in college and take on an internship in city hall, which would soon lead to work in Mayor Nenshi’s office.

Nenshi then recalls meeting a woman from India who worked as an assistant manager at McDonald’s, who was able to put her son and daughter through college, yet still continued working at the restaurant for 27 years simply because she liked working there and wanted to ensure other newcomers who came after her could have the same experience.

The stories – albeit uplifting – may perhaps be a way to offset the negative publicity some of the country’s immigration programs have garnered. Chiefly, the Temporary Foreign Worker program which continues to get mired in controversy. The TFW program was designed to be a two-way street: an avenue for foreigners seeking work and a pathway to eventual Canadian citizenship, all while filling a void in the country’s labour market. Today, Nenshi says, the public perception of the program has changed.

“Now what you have is people saying Temporary Foreign Workers are not well treated, that we’ve created a second class of Canadians – people who don’t have the right to stay here,” says Nenshi.

“Now what you have is people saying Temporary Foreign Workers are not well treated, that we’ve created a second class of Canadians – people who don’t have the right to stay here,” says Nenshi.

“Those are very deep moral issues that we have to talk about.”

He says the success of Canada’s immigration system hinges on three levels: policy, programs and people.

“The [federal] government has to get the policy right – how many people do we let in? What kinds of people do we let in?” he says, adding the other two facets are even more important than getting policy right.

Settling in

Newcomers can’t walk that road alone. Nenshi says non-profit agencies, government, and immigrant-serving agencies all have a role to play in offering programs to assist immigrants settle in, from accessing language training to getting a foreign degree accredited.

Nenshi admits he may not be politically correct, but integration entails “fluency in English, reducing accents, [and] being able to get more in the workplace.” He says confronting that issue can mean wiping out other social problems that arise from it, such as generational poverty.

Nenshi admits he may not be politically correct, but integration entails “fluency in English, reducing accents, [and] being able to get more in the workplace.” He says confronting that issue can mean wiping out other social problems that arise from it, such as generational poverty.

Yet, at the heart of it all, people can make all the difference in assisting newcomers and prove to be the most vital element.

“It really is about those human linkages and human beings helping one another think about better ideas,” he adds.

He says he’s “very optimistic” the community will tap into its full potential and continue to welcome immigrants, in spite of “little strains of xenophobia that have crept into the conversation.”

Case in point: Quebec’s controversial Charter of Values, a bill that was famously proposed by the former Premier Pauline Marois in 2013, which restricted government employees from wearing religious symbols, such as turbans and hijabs.

“The fact that the ‘Charter of Racism’ (as I call it) was voted down soundly in Quebec says a lot about who we are as a community,” says Nenshi. “It’s because people fought against it and stood up and said, ‘That’s not right. That’s not the Quebec we live in, that’s not the Canada we live in, that’s not the world we want for our kids.’”

“We have to keep doing it every single day or we risk sliding backwards,” he adds.

Nenshi says he’s heartened by the strides made in Calgary, suggesting the city may truly be colour blind – or at least partially.

“Those of us who are minorities learn to live with it and we learn to overcome it,” he says, citing his own Member of Legislative Assembly, Manmeet Bhullar. “[Bhullar] is a large man with a beard and a turban, and nonetheless is the Minister of Human Services.”

“I think that speaks incredibly well of our ability to move forward.”

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
Sunday, 02 March 2014 17:05

Ford Nation: There May Yet Be Round Two

by Maria Assaf

With Canada’s mainstream newspapers asking the mayor of Toronto to step down and humourists worldwide making a caricature of Rob Ford, it seems as though no one could conceive a single person voting him to power again.

Yet, none of this rubs off on the indomitable representative of Canada’s most immigrant-rich city who continued his take-no-prisoners approach in Ottawa last week, calling his fellow mayors a “lefty caucus.”

Yet, some expect that “Ford Nation” could rise and give Toronto a surprise in the coming elections.

“He’s been making a laughingstock of the country; that’s a reality. Nobody likes that,” said Maria Tavares, administrator of the First Portuguese Canadian Cultural Centre. “But as a mayor, I don’t think he’s done nothing to deserve that.

“What he did in his own personal time, that’s his own problem,” she said, adding that she sees no issues with the way the mayor has managed the city’s affairs.

“I am his fanatic. I support the mayor because he thinks about needs of community, of people and he does not want to increase taxes. That’s why I will vote for him,” said the secretary of the Jewish Russian Community Centre of Ontario, who did not wish to be identified.

Resonating with diverse communities

Mr. Ford’s simple messages such as cutting taxes and building new subways appear to have bred a constituency the mainstream media calls “Ford Nation,” the term used to describe supporters in Toronto’s suburbs.

“If you’re a newcomer and you’re struggling and if you don’t feel like you necessarily fit in with the prevailing elite in your new society, [his message] is attractive,” said Phil Triadafilopoulos, an associate professor of political science at the University of Toronto.

He said while it is impossible to determine who cast ballots for him in 2010 — because of the lack of research on immigrant voting patterns — he sees the appeal Mr. Ford can have on new immigrants.

“He spoke very clearly,” said Pablo Vivanco, an activist in Toronto’s Hispanic community. “What he said really resonated with people who live in the suburbs and have different concerns from downtowners.”

Any press is good press

Mr. Ford’s repeated public relations disasters over the last year even seem to have worked in his favour in some sectors. Some people started viewing him as human rather than as a politician.

“He doesn’t think before he speaks, that is his problem,” said Ms. Tavares. “He is just a regular guy trying to deal with the press.” She added that she admires Mr. Ford’s determination to stay in power despite public outrage over his conduct.

“His whole message has always been geared around casting himself as someone different than the downtown elites, someone different than the people who already have not only economic, but social, power,” said Prof. Triadafilopoulos.

“The anti-elite message, the outsider message, struck not only among new Canadian voters, but among a lot of people who agree they don’t necessarily like elites, they don’t like high taxes, they want someone who has almost a singular anti-elite, anti-tax message,” said the academic.

Mr. Ford said that this message will be the defining factor setting him apart from competitors such as former Progressive Conservative party leader John Tory, whom the mayor’s supporters accuse of being part of the entrenched elites.    

But the mayor’s anti-elite message, although at odds with the reality of his wealthy family background, has gotten the mayor some faithful constituents.

Critics perplexed

“When I was talking to my cousins, they were still adamant he had the best campaign. Even if he had those scandals,” said Samantha Lui, a Chinese community member from Scarborough. 

That immigrants would support a man known to have made racist comments in the media towards communities like the East Asian community has many critics perplexed.

“They were shocked alright. My dad says he probably won’t vote for him,” said Ms. Lui.

Amir Pasha, a member of the Persian community in Toronto, gave his opinion on the mayor’s leadership.

“I, along with every other individual that has the capacity to reason, believe that it is absolutely ridiculous — and frankly offensive — that a man known for using illegal drugs continues to hold the office of the mayor of Toronto. I know that many of the Iranian community members in Toronto share this concern as well,” he said.

Mr. Vivanco said regular individuals are more likely to give their real opinions about Mr. Ford’s conduct than city-funded community groups. He said some heads of these groups won’t speak candidly about the mayor because they fear if they do, the city will cut their funding. He said he has seen this happening with other mayors.

Some are still pretty vocal. Ismet Cihad Ulker, a youth representative from the Turkish Society of Canada, called the Ford saga “incredible.”

Speaking for Toronto

Mr. Ulker said many in his community are questioning the reliability of the mayor.

“In Turkey, we respect individual freedoms, but you also expect leaders to have a conservative behaviour when it comes to drugs and crime,” he said.

Elias Hazineh, former president of the Canadian Arab Federation, said his community is not united in its opinion of Mr. Ford. “The vast majority is, if not disgusted, at least disappointed,” he said.

“Running a city doesn’t only take ideas. You can always hire people to bring you ideas. You are a personality that people emulate, that they look up to. You represent the city. So your character has to be clean. You cannot change hats after five o’clock and say that you are a private citizen. You are a mayor 24/7.”

Mr. Hazineh said the people in his community who voted for Ford and still support him are of the view that less government is better. “He represents that: Less taxes. Less services.”

But for Mr. Vivanco, the tax cuts are pure talk. “Even though Ford said he was going to lower property taxes without cutting public services, taxes did [go up] when he approved expanding the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission). 

“He said he was going to cut spending without cutting services, but as soon as he got elected he started cutting services … In that sense, he acted like a typical politician. This year, when people receive their tax bills and look at the increase, they will begin asking questions,” he said.

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
Wednesday, 29 January 2014 16:04

Mayor Rob Ford: a Londoner’s View

by Adam Winfield

Upon moving to a new city, especially one in a country to which you’ve recently emigrated, it often takes a considerable amount of time to become acclimatized to its domestic political culture. For someone living and working in a new environment, it is of vital interest how -- and indeed how well -- its power structures (at least appear to) operate. Having recently made the transition from living in inner city London to downtown Toronto, this personal process has been a relatively easy one, given the obvious similarities between the two cities. Both are large, economically vibrant, and highly populous metropolises in powerful liberal democratic countries, which, it is clear, are exceptionally labour and cost-intensive to administer, and especially to administer well. 

For myself, however, and many others who are new to Toronto, and, I’d hazard to assume, to Canada as a whole, this political learning curve has been dominated and somewhat confused by the ongoing saga of one man: Mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford.

In London, we are far from unfamiliar with larger-than-life politicians -- the kind that make insiders and outsiders alike question how they conceivably got elected into such high-paid and high-power positions of office. Our rough equivalent to Toronto’s Rob Ford also resides at city hall, and is also ever-present in the national press for memorable occurrences unrelated to policy decisions. He is the extremely gaffe-prone, Boris Johnson.

Rob and Boris

Mr. Johnson -- best known for his unkempt appearance, idiosyncratic hairstyle and a strange combination of 'poshness' and gracelessness – is arguably a useful comparison to Mr. Ford. All of these said characteristics were on embarrassing display at the handover ceremony at the end of the Beijing Olympics Games in 2008. He proceeded to explain how, although China had excelled itself during this major sporting event, particularly in table tennis, this pastime, in fact, had nobler upper-class British origins. In his unexpected brief history of the game, Mr. Johnson asserted in a typically blundering and half-aristocratic manner how it was “invented on the dining tables of England” in the 1880's, and was known as “Wiff-Waff”. At London 2012, he explained, “Wiff-Waff” would be coming home.

This single event six years ago is not really circumstantial, however, representing a head-in-hands moment for the people of Britain, and those of London who had either voted for this man (who had been given this somewhat easy task of giving a short, cordial speech, at a rather important diplomatic occasion) or whose taxes contribute to his annual salary. These are the people whose lives may be substantially affected by his decision-making in the areas of transport, housing and the economic development of the capital, and who have become well-accustomed to these odd moments of politically-unwelcome public inelegance.

Yet, this is just one light-hearted example of the Mayor of London’s sometimes questionable behaviour that has stuck in the public consciousness. There are innumerable others which dominate the search results of YouTube and the pages of national newspapers on a daily basis. These include the full-blooded body-spearing of an ex-German international soccer player during a televised charity game, falling over in waist-deep water on national news whilst helping volunteers to clean up a stream and getting stuck on a zip-line, to name a few.

Out-of-touch conservatism

At the other end are various instances of often offensive and off-hand comments that reveal a more vicious form of out-of-touch conservatism, which may be overlooked by London’s newcomers and minority groups in favour of his more slapstick moments. It is pertinent that they are not, especially in cases such as suggesting that Muslim women attending university in Malaysia do so exclusively in order to find someone to marry, making crude jokes at a gay rights event and describing his party’s infighting as “Papua New Guinea-style orgies of cannibalism and chief-killing.”

Major of Toronto, Ford, on the other hand, cuts quite a different figure on his nation’s political landscape and has been subject to the full glare of the trans-Atlantic media spotlight for perhaps more questionable reasons. Whereas Mr. Johnson’s often comic behaviour clouds his policies and unwelcome opinions, Mayor Ford’s incomprehensible acts in the past year and beyond, can appear, particularly to an outsider, to be simple substance-fuelled bellicosity, after having admitted to “probably” using crack cocaine in “one of [his] drunken stupors.. This, without a doubt, fully overrides any semblance that the man may once have had as to the appropriate level of intellectual and professional aptitude for the role, and his ability to effectively oversee the city’s administration.

Now, political charisma is a strange thing wherever you are in the world. However, it is clear that an incumbent mayoral figure in such a major city like Toronto consuming a Schedule I substance – carrying up to a seven-year sentence for possession – is rather exceptional, and hardly comparable to falling over or dancing awkwardly to reggae music at a city council meeting. These relatively minor, and slightly more humorous acts, all pale in comparison to taking a drug like crack cocaine (or cannabis, or regularly drinking excessive volumes of alcohol) when in a position of high office, and I would suggest that Rob Ford has taken the outright incomprehensibility of publically accountable office-holders a step too far.

Year of disasters

These substance-related revelations place everything else about Mr. Ford’s political history in full perspective, ranging from the comedic to the unbelievably serious. Included in the former are his “Cut the Waist” weight loss efforts, and subsequently being filmed stumbling off the weigh-in scales and twisting his ankle, skipping hours of a council meeting to coach football and walking face-first into a television camera. And in the latter, his unpardonably explicit response to accusations that he offered oral sex to a former female employee on live television, his comments in 2008 that “Oriental people work like dogs” and are “taking over, having his photograph taken with his arm around the front man of a neo-Nazi bandin 2012 and, notoriously, the allegations that he brought prostitutes to his city hall office and the infamous crack-smoking episode. All these acts, and much more besides, has justifiably received a tremendous level of media (and social media) attention.

For politicians, personality can be a make-or-break issue, and how well or how poorly it is conveyed in the local, national or even international media itself, is a key indicator as to how well the public can conceive of their elected representatives’ suitability, even ones stripped of some of their traditional powers. For me, and others who now call Toronto their home, Mr. Ford’s annus horribilis and the huge attention it has received all over the world has been an unwanted channel of political education. Yet, it is difficult to even begin to appreciate how people who have lived and worked here for significantly longer can fail to be bewildered, angry, and ultimately politically disenchanted, as a result of the behaviour of Mayor Ford.

The mayoral responsibilities of any city may often appear mundane and trivial, but for the people who live and work within their limits, the city mayor can be the indispensable helmsperson whose decision-making skills and professionalism can be highly consequential. These individuals are vital to economic posterity and can secure or weaken investor confidence, and their actions therefore fundamentally affect vast numbers of people and the corporations for whom they work.

As an ex-Londoner, I am acutely aware of how important this can be, and, in Boris Johnson we also have someone whose ability to steer the city in the right direction is often very publicly contested. With Rob Ford, however – who not unfairly could be regarded as a kind of Boris Johnson ‘on drugs’ – it has become gravely apparent to outsiders and insiders alike, that any claim he may have had towards being a capable helmsman has dissipated if it ever existed, and long before the October 2014 election.

Adam Winfield is a British journalist based in Toronto with particular expertise in business technology writing. Following two stints working in newsrooms in his hometown of Derby, Adam became a PR consultant in London, with major writing projects for companies such as Cisco, CA Technologies, NetApp and PEER 1 Hosting. Having recently emigrated to Canada, Adam is now working on establishing himself as a freelance writer full-time. You can find his portfolio at winfieldwriting.wordpress.com.

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
Sunday, 24 February 2013 14:51

Toronto winking at lawbreakers

by Ranjit Bhaskar for New Canadian Media

It would seem as if sharks and undocumented immigrants are equally deserving of Toronto City Hall’s mercy. Both have been spared extreme measures, although one hopes the reprieve granted to the immigrants is not as short-lived as the lifesaver granted to the marine predators.

The sharks basked in the Council’s attention recently when the sale of their fins was banned. The respite offered to them by Canada’s biggest city was soon dismissed in a court of law, rendering the whole resolution moot.

This time around it is the turn of migrants, specifically those who are here without proper papers. The City has declared that they can now surface, sparing them deportation or any punitive measures from Toronto. Toronto is now a “sanctuary city” that would ensure safe access to services for undocumented residents without fear of being turned over for detention and deportation.

The near unanimity (there were only three no votes against 38 ayes) with which the resolution passed gives the impression that its noble motive of protecting poor, disenfranchised migrants rose above partisan interests. However, given the entrenched divisions in the council, that is highly unlikely.

What seems to have happened is a rare convergence of interests for very different reasons. For the left, it sent out a signal to their constituents that they are doing their best to protect the interests of the downtrodden. For the conservative capitalists, this was the best way to ensure the continued availability of indebted workers at below-minimum wages to keep businesses running in profit. 

But the move is largely irrelevant given that the services the City is proposing to offer them are already available, with no questions asked about residency status.  Children without immigration status are welcomed in schools run by the city and information about them or their families are not shared with immigration authorities as per Toronto District School Board Policy P.061 SCH. The Toronto Public Library also is not keen to know about a person’s immigration status and is happy to accept a plethora of documents to satisfy its need for ID and address proof, including having a postcard mailed to confirm an address. Under normal circumstances, the Toronto Police too will not ask witnesses to or victims of crime about their residency status.   Other services where your residency status matters like health and welfare subsidies are offered by the provincial or the federal governments. The City Council has no say here, moral or otherwise.

However, the timing of the council’s vote is significant as Toronto’s undocumented population of 200,000 is expected to surge in April 2015. That is when many legal, but temporary, foreign workers will see their permits expire under a federal rule enacted in April 2011 that created a four-year limit on the cumulative time a foreigner can spend in Canada as a temporary worker.

That rule change was made to reduce the perceived over-dependence of Canadian employers on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program to meet their permanent labour needs. The number of workers under this program has increased from around 100,000 in 2002 to over 400,000 today.

It should not come as a surprise that the concept of sanctuary cities originated in the United States, with Los Angeles being the first in 1979 by preventing the police from inquiring about the immigration status of those they arrest. Broadly, the term “sanctuary” generally applies to cities that do not allow municipal funds or resources to be used to enforce federal immigration laws, usually by not allowing police or municipal employees to inquire about one's immigration status. While the designation has no legal meaning, so far more than 30 U.S. cities have declared themselves sanctuaries for undocumented migrants.

The Toronto Council was right to ask Ottawa to establish an amnesty program for undocumented migrants and similarly recommend that the Ontario government review its policies to ensure their access to health care, emergency services and community housing. But, Canada’s premier city and home to its largest number of immigrants has gone too far by offering “sanctuary,” even if the resolution is of little practical effect.  

It sends a mixed message from Canada. On the one hand the federal government has been battening down the hatches on asylum seekers and taking proactive measures to dissuade refugees from boarding creaking boats headed to our shores. While different levels of government may see things differently – and we are all for humane treatment of all arrivals -  a coherent immigration policy is a national imperative. We do not want to replicate the American nightmare with millions of “illegals” in Canada. Nor do we want to unravel the national consensus around rules-based immigration.

As Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, one of the few opponents of the sanctuary motion, said, it “sends a message to the world that it is okay to break the law to come to Canada and it says that the City of Toronto is an accomplice to this lawbreaking.” - 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 Commentary

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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