New Canadian Media
Thursday, 04 January 2018 09:18

Ethnic Women are Full Participants in Canada

By: Summer Fanous in Toronto

In 1916, women across the nation rejoiced as Manitoba became the first province to grant women the right to vote. Looking back, it's almost ludicrous to think that gender could determine one’s status within society. Fast forward 100 years, however, and women around the world are still at the forefront, advocating for much needed change. Silenced for far too long, women are passionately speaking out about inequalities and injustices everywhere they can, including in books. Telling Our Stories: Immigrant Women's Resilience is creating awareness about sexual abuse among immigrant and refugee women. Women’s voices are to be heard, and they are demanding equal opportunity. And the world is listening. Even Saudi Arabia, which previously served as the only country that still barred women from driving, will make a change in a ruling set for 2018 implementation. Canada, on the other hand, is a country that affords equal rights to men and women.

7.5 million people immigrated to Canada in 2016. And while specific motives may differ, the country’s stance on equality and the subsequent avenues of opportunity are a big reason such a diverse range of people can call it ‘home’. Based on recent findings, the Ministry of the Status of Women reports that 55% of all Canadian doctors and dentists are females. An optimistic sign of the progress that has been accomplished thus far. However, equal rights don’t always mean equal pay. In Ontario, for example, the average woman earns $33,600 annually, while a man earns $49,000. 

As if that’s not enough to bring spirits down, other hurdles still exist when it comes to leadership amongst women. The Canadian government, along with Skills for Change has been conducting periodic Gender Based Analysis’ since 1995 with the most recent one taking place in 2013. The findings identify the following 8 barriers: Language and Communication, Looking for Opportunity, Unemployment, Lack of Confidence, Cultural Differences, Working Survival Jobs, Finances and Refugee Status.    

New Canadian Media (NCM), along with Skills for Change and the Vanier Institute for the Family are partnering up on an exciting project available to members of the NCM Collective. Together with the Ontario multiculturalism program, NCM has been commissioned to produce a series of 20 original pieces of journalism that speak to this theme: Women as full participants in Ontario’s immigration story.

Female members of the NCM Collective have the opportunity to showcase different perspectives on a range of topics. With a focus on Ontario’s rich multi-culture, these individual pieces will provide a better understanding of the talent that the mainstream so often ignores. Even in a country that emphasizes equality, women are not always provided the same opportunities to express themselves as their male counterparts. 


Writers interested in participating are encouraged to join the NCM Collective for an opportunity. Additional details such as compensation and content guidelines will be communicated as pitches are received. 

Published in Commentary
Friday, 11 March 2016 06:37

Liberals Seek to Reunite More Families

by Rosanna Haroutounian in Quebec City  

In this week’s round-up of what’s been making headlines in Canada’s media: the federal government has a new plan to welcome immigrants that aims to reunite more families; women from ethnic communities in Canada call for a more inclusive International Women’s Day; and Saskatchewan language schools are dealing with a significant cut in provincial funding. 

Family reunification, refugees a focus: McCallum 

Canada will welcome between 280,000 and 305,000 immigrants in 2016, a significant increase from the number admitted in recent years. 

According to Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), the 2016 target represents a 7.4 per cent increase in planned admissions compared to 2015. 

As reported in the Indo-Canadian Voice, IRCC said in its Mar. 8 announcement that this plan will emphasize family reunification in order to address the current backlog in processing applications and reunite families more quickly. 

“As we continue to show our global leadership, Canada will reunite families, offer a place of refuge to those fleeing persecution, and support Canada’s long-term economic prosperity,” immigration minister John McCallum is quoted as saying in the Voice. 

The Conservatives criticized the Liberal plan to cut the number of immigrants accepted under the economic class.

2016 will also see an increase in the number of admissions under the Refugees and Protected Persons class to support the Liberal’s plan to resettle Syrian refugees, as well as increase the numbers of refugees accepted from other countries including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Colombia, and Eritrea. 

Migrants without status in Canada have asked the government to grant them the same rights that are given to Syrian refugees and to process their claims for status that they say the previous Conservative government ignored. 

The Conservatives criticized the Liberal plan to cut the number of immigrants accepted under the economic class. 

“It is the responsibility of the federal government to balance the needs of the Canadian economy with our humanitarian responsibilities,” said Michelle Rempel, Opposition Critic for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, the Voice reported. 

IRCC said the economic class will still make up the majority of immigration admissions in 2016, representing more than half of the total. 

On Mar. 7, Quebec’s provincial government announced its new immigration policy, which also puts an emphasis on matching immigrants to the needs of its labour market. The plan, called “Together, We Are Quebec,” also aims to retain international students and temporary workers. 

Other provinces, like Nova Scotia, are still negotiating with the federal government to gain authority over their immigration targets and say they won’t see changes in their quotas until 2017. 

A more inclusive image of women in Canada 

On Mar. 3, Canadian Immigrant magazine presented its third annual “Immigrant Women of Inspiration,” which focused on the theme of immigrant women in academia for 2016. 

Ananya Mukherjee-Reed, Shalina Ousman, Parin Dossa, Leonie Sandercock and Purnima Tyagi are not only PhDs in various areas of study but “are pushing boundaries in education, in their passionate pursuit of knowledge, ideas and change.” 

In Canada, black women and other women of colour find themselves missing not only from movements for gender diversity, but also from seats of power.”

Some women say there is a need for more interfaith, intercultural events and dialogue to mark International Women’s Day (IWD) in Canada. 

In a column for CBC Edmonton, Nakita Valerio wrote that rhetoric surrounding IWD does not promote intersectional or inclusive feminism. 

She wrote that debates in Canada around issues concerning ethnic women, such as a Muslim woman’s decision to wear a niqab or a hijab, highlight how the day “accentuates the fact that equality for women in this country is still heavily tied to the individual's background, religious, racial, or otherwise.” 

In the Globe and Mail, Septembre Anderson wrote that the definition of “women” used in IWD discourse does not include women of colour. 

In Canada, black women and other women of colour find themselves missing not only from movements for gender diversity, but also from seats of power.” 

Both columnists pointed out that while 2016 marks 100 years since women in several provinces won the right to vote, Asian and African women in Canada gained this right much later, a struggle which is not described in the commemorative materials. Anderson called on women in power to work with women of colour and use their positions to eradicate discrimination. 

Uncertain future for Saskatchewan language schools 

The Saskatchewan Organization for Heritage Languages (SOHL) says it is disappointed to learn the province's Ministry of Education will stop providing it subsidies to run 80 heritage language schools. SOHL has been receiving provincial subsidies for 25 years and currently teaches over 30 languages. 

The organization says the decision is a step in the wrong direction at a time when Canada is accepting many new immigrants and refugees who need welcoming environments.

“The schools focus on teaching language and culture to immigrants and refugees, and improving access to indigenous languages,” reports CBC. SOHL's executive director Tamara Ruzic told the Regina Leader-Post that about 10 language schools have opened each year, many teaching Arabic. 

She added that the $225,000 SOHL receives is “peanuts to the government.” 

Minister of Education Don Morgan said that the decision was made for economic reasons, and added that the funding, which amounts to $4.58 per student each month, can be paid by parents. 

“As a result of the announcement by the Ministry of Education, many of these non-profit heritage language schools will be faced with the difficult decision of whether they can continue to operate,” said Girma Sahlu, president of SOHL, in a press release.

The organization says the decision is a step in the wrong direction at a time when Canada is accepting many new immigrants and refugees who need welcoming environments and support in learning languages.

“The heritage language schools contribute to the retention of immigrants in Saskatchewan by helping people to maintain their culture, identity and traditions, while simultaneously learning about Canadian ways of life.”


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 Diba Hareer in Ottawa 

Her story reads like a movie script. 

Twenty years ago, Maryam Monsef fled the brutal rule of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and now, two decades later, she has become the first Muslim to be appointed a cabinet minister in the federal government.  

In 1996, Monsef’s mother and her three daughters settled in Peterborough, Ont. after Iran refused to grant them refuge. 

It is the kindness and the support that my family and I received from the people of Peterborough-Kawartha that is at the heart of the service that I intend to give to the people of this riding,” says the Minister of Democratic Institutions. 

Campaigning in a small town 

Monsef says the fact that she grew up in a smaller community allowed her to build networks. It was easier for her to create connections in Peterborough, a city of less than 80,000 people. 

“It is possible to plant seeds in this community because of its size, and to see those seeds grow, and to see that you can have an impact when you come together and collaborate.” 

Monsef is also the first female Member of Parliament (MP) ever elected in the riding Peterborough-Kawartha.

Monsef is also the first female Member of Parliament (MP) ever elected in the riding Peterborough-Kawartha. It’s an achievement she attributes to a lot of hard work. 

During the 60-day election campaign she and her team knocked on 70,000 doors and held 10 different roundtable discussions with the community. 

At these meetings she outlined her priorities for the riding. She campaigned for the Liberals on good sustainable jobs, preservation of the environment, health care and access to services for seniors. 

According to Monsef attracting and retaining newcomers to her riding is critical for the prosperity of the district. 

“Over a 160 different groups and individuals have been meeting for over five years and [have] developed strategies and action items devoted specifically to that mandate of creating a more welcoming community for newcomers to our area.” 

She adds that her riding continues its efforts to be a welcoming community to newcomers and Canadian immigrants. 

Strengthening democratic institutions 

While she was born in a country with a lack of human rights, it will be Monsef’s responsibility to strengthen Canada’s democracy as Minister of Democratic Institutions. 

"[M]y job I believe is to restore and to strengthen Canadians' respect and appreciation for these democratic institutions that we are so privileged to have.”

Monsef describes the scope of her job as “broad”, encompassing Senate reform, electoral reform and elections spending. 

“The way I see my job I believe is to restore and to strengthen Canadians' respect and appreciation for these democratic institutions that we are so privileged to have.” 

She would also like to see more women’s participation in Canadian politics. 

Monsef says she is grateful for the women who paved the way before her and hopes to do the same for others who follow. 

Inspiring Afghan Canadians 

For Afghans in Canada the news of Monsef’s appointment as a cabinet minister broke at the same time with the news of the horrific stoning of a young girl in Ghor, a northwestern province in Afghanistan.  

Amid the horror in Ghor, Afghans welcomed the news of Monsef’s appointment with delight and surprise. 

“Monsef’s election is helping to build the image of refugees and trust of Canadian society in them."

Adeena Niazi, the Executive Director of Afghan Women’s Organization in Toronto is of the view that refugees are too often perceived to be a burden and treated as unequal members of society, but that Monsef’s election has the power to change that. 

“Monsef’s election is helping to build the image of refugees and trust of Canadian society in them. It decreases the discrimination against refugees in society.” 

Monsef forces the public to re-think their perception of Afghan women, Niazi adds. 

“The international media has portrayed Afghan women as victims, listeners and oppressed, but since Monsef’s election everyone has come to realize that Afghan women are not just silent victims; they have strength and ability.” 

"[S]ince Monsef’s election everyone has come to realize that Afghan women are not just silent victims."

Khalid Mirzamir, an Afghan Canadian immigration counsellor in Ottawa, says Monsef’s story is one of hope and inspiration. 

“Maryam’s election reminds all of us as immigrants that Canada is a country where it gives everyone the opportunity to grow.” 

Hope is what Frozan Rahmani felt after Monsef was elected. The Toronto-based student followed the campaign closely and shed tears of joy when Monsef’s victory was announced. 

Rahmani is awed by the fact that it was Monsef’s mother who was the key to the minister’s success. 

After fleeing the Taliban, Monsef’s mother started life from scratch with her three daughters in Canada. The difficult task is a shared experience for many immigrants in this country. 

“I am not happy because we share the same heritage as Afghans, but because I know that she has risen from a society that has pains, from a culture that in the 21st century does not value women,” says Rahmani. “We have witnessed the stoning of women. But Maryam did rise in Canada and made us proud.”


Journalist Judy Trinh mentored the writer of this article through the NCM Mentoring Program.  

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 Politics

by Anita Singh in Toronto

There has been much excitement about the record number of female members of Parliament (MPs) elected on Oct. 19. However, the numbers don’t tell the whole story.

In the last parliament, 76 of 308 MPs – or 25 per cent – were women. The recent election saw a record number of 88 female MPs elected to office, but in a parliament with 30 additional seats, this increase represents just 26 per cent of the total. 

To see how Canada truly stacked up in terms of representation in the House of Commons, many factors must be considered.

“Winnable factor”

To its credit, the incoming ruling party has vowed to be a more inclusive, representative party than governments past. Along these lines, 33 per cent of Liberal candidates were women – a considerable number, although obviously lower than the proportion of women in the general population.

Research in this field has noted though that counting female candidates is not the best estimate for how well women are represented. 

For example, women may not be given “winnable” ridings to run in. Those may be saved for their male counterparts, which inevitably means women are less likely to win.

Other examples show how women are used to balance each other out. 

In a number of cases this election, female candidates were often running against each other. With only one victor per riding, often more than one female candidate was eliminated from the race.

Ethnic women voices missing

In contrast to its gender representation, this parliament is highly representative of ethnic communities – with a record 52 ‘ethnic’ MPs. 

Notably, communities beyond the usually well-represented South and East Asian immigrant groups have gained representation in this parliament.

Disappointingly, this has not translated into similar representation for minority women in parliament.

Two notables are Somalia-born Ahmed Hussen who won York South–Weston and Afghanistan-born Maryam Monsef in Peterborough-Kawartha. Both Liberals are the first-ever MPs from their respective communities to sit in the House of Commons.

With these 52 seats, 15.4 per cent of parliament will be made of members of a visible minority or ethnic group. Disappointingly, this has not translated into similar representation for minority women in parliament, as only 16 out of 338 MPs are minority women (4.7 per cent). 

Representation of visible minority women is even worse outside the Liberal party.

While the Conservative party, with the single-handed mission of Jason Kenney, had made major in-roads with a number of ethnic and immigrant communities since 2006, the party lost ‘ethnic women candidates’ such as Nina Grewal in British Columbia and Leona Aglukkaq in Nunavut. 

The Conservative downfall has also affected visible minority males including Devinder Shory and Tim Uppal in its Alberta heartland, as well as handpicked candidates like Parm Gill and Bal Gosal in Ontario.

Representation of visible minority women is even worse outside the Liberal party.

For the Conservatives, five ethnic candidates were elected and of those, only one woman: Alice Wong from Vancouver.

On the New Democratic Party (NDP) side, the loss of female candidates can be attributed to defeat by the red wave in many key ridings. Former and incumbent MPs such as Megan Leslie, Rathika Sitsabaiesan and Olivia Chow all lost to Liberal candidates in their ridings. 

Party

Number of candidates elected

Number of ethnic candidates elected (men & women)

Number of female ethnic candidates elected

Liberal Party of Canada

184

44 (24%)

13 (7.1%)

Conservative Party of Canada

99

5 (5.1%)

1 (1.0%)

New Democratic Party of Canada

44

3 (6.8%)

2 (4.5%)

Other

11

0

0

Total

338 (100%)

52 (15.4%)

16 (4.7%)

Note: Data collected from official party candidate websites

Some areas show promise

While these numbers are a dismal representation of ethnic women in the new government, there are a few surprises. 

In Brampton, Ontario, three of five seats in the city have gone to minority women – all newly elected. Ruby Sahota, for instance, defeated Parm Gill in one of the Conservative’s “highly ethnic” ridings identified in the party’s election strategy.

[W]e continue to have a long way to go in ensuring that all Canadians find their voices in their elected representatives.
 

Similarly, three of Vancouver’s six ridings have gone to visible minority female candidates: Jenny Kwan in Vancouver East for the NDP, and Hedy Fry in Vancouver Centre and Jody Wilson-Raybould in Vancouver Granville for the Liberal party.

While incumbency didn’t seem to matter as much, party affiliation surely played a role.

Of the 16 ethnic women elected last Monday, only three were incumbents in their own ridings.  More significantly, seven of the 16 candidates beat the incumbent Conservative MP in their ridings, suggesting that party politics reigned supreme in these decisions.

Finally, five of these visible minority female candidates were elected in the newly formed ridings that came out of the 2012 redistribution.  

Next steps

Later this week, prime minister-designate Trudeau will be releasing his new cabinet. He has made a commitment to form it with gender balance in mind. 

In addition, he should also consider adequate ethnic representation in cabinet, including front-bench cabinet positions, to reflect the diversity of the electorate. 

Despite the important commitment from the incoming prime minister, we continue to have a long way to go in ensuring that all Canadians find their voices in their elected representatives.


Anita Singh is a founding partner of Tahlan, Jorden & Singh Consulting Group and a Research Fellow at the Centre for Foreign Policy Studies at Dalhousie University. Her research examines the role of diaspora groups and their influence on foreign policy, particularly the Indo-Canadian community and Canada-India relations.

This is part 2 of a two-part commentary looking at the representation of ethnic women in Canadian federal politics.

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

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