New Canadian Media

by Maria Assaf in Oxford, England

Imagine being a child bride in pre-revolutionary Iran – suffering abuse on a daily basis, being forced into a joyless marriage and having children at the age of 13. There is no law or organization that can protect you, as the entire affair is perfectly legal.

Now, imagine having a beautiful husband and children, a mother and father, and then losing them all in a genocide.

What hope could remain in a human heart after enduring such calamities?

Could an intense desire to right the wrongs or change the world bring back life to a suffering soul?

In Amity, author Nasreen Pejvack makes her reader wrestle with such questions, page after page, as she recounts both the painful and happy memories that form the lives of her two main characters: Ragusa, a survivor of the Yugoslav ethnic conflicts of the 1990s, who is on the verge of taking her own life, and her unknowing rescuer, Payvand, who is an Iranian activist with a tragic life story of her own.

Paradox of the West

Amity shows that there are moments in some peoples’ lives in which hope does not materialize from suffering. There are times when the soul has been so utterly shattered, that the mere suggestion of finding meaning within its pain is insulting.

Pejvack presents a panorama of a Western world – with its affluence and the seeming peace of its clean streets – which hides many truths and stories of refugees or others who have fled conflict and reached what seems like a safe haven.

As the stories in Amity show, the suffering of many of those individuals will not cease once they have a Canadian passport.

As the stories in Amity show, the suffering of many of those individuals will not cease once they have a Canadian passport or British citizenship. The marks that their pasts have left on their souls will accompany them forever, like a shadow surrounding the most trivial moments of their lives.

Yes, many of them have been saved; the lucky few have even re-married in their new countries and found jobs and successful careers. But who can take away the pain of the memories, the tears, and the nightmares that keep survivors trapped in their minds as if in a prison of their pasts?

Pejvack’s book is heartfelt throughout. It is honest and direct and her phrases are simple, clear, and concise.

For those readers who are fortunate not to have suffered the misfortunes of war, oppression and tragedy, this book will provide insight into the lives of the millions of people worldwide who are experiencing similar fates as Ragusa and Payvand.

Understanding each other, and the world

Amity is a testament of sympathy with victims and the experience of sharing an understanding of tragedy and pain; of expressing empathy towards those who feel that no one could possibly understand the depths of their suffering. 

This book grabs the audience’s attention rapidly, with its strong life stories and its vibrant political, economic and historical debates, made intentionally easy to read.

Her book is incredibly timely and relevant in the context of the present turmoil in the Middle East.

The writer’s political debates illustrate the evils that have plagued Iran and the nations that formed the former Yugoslavia, creating strong sentiments between two women who shared impassionate days and brought joy to each other in their pain.

The book succeeds at making the audience care about global politics and the way it creates wars that lead to the kinds of crises that have made these two protagonists suffer so much in their lives.

As Payvand tries to pull Ragusa back to life by telling her stories, this book also grabs the reader’s attention and curiosity from the beginning by making us want to learn more about the fascinating characters Pejvack describes in each chapter.

For those interested in the histories of the places where conflict has struck recently, this book embarks on detailed accounts of Iran’s recent past, explaining how the country came to be what it is now.

Pejvack’s explanations are nuanced and politically knowledgeable. Her book is incredibly timely and relevant in the context of the present turmoil in the Middle East.

… Pejvack writes in a way that is every bit poetic as it is political and invites people to care, to take action, and to participate in her revolution.

Call to action                        

Each of Pejvack’s characters is an activist in her own right.

Ragusa, a Croat, married a Serb – something inconceivable during tense times in which Croatian and Serbian populations were at war.

Payvand, an Iranian revolutionary, had to see her comrades die and experience the disappointment of witnessing the onset of what she calls an ignorant revolution.

From the portrait of violence Pejvack presents comes a call for revolution. Formerly a writer and poet for an underground activist publication in Iran, Pejvack writes in a way that is every bit poetic as it is political and invites people to care, to take action, and to participate in her revolution.

The call for unity regardless of nationality and other differences is one of the most beautiful premises this book proposes. This work is a must-read for inspired young citizens of the world, as Pejvack appeals to those who are trying to make a difference and are in need of some accessible guidance on how to contribute positively to the world.

Maria Assaf is a Colombian-Canadian freelance reporter who writes for Latin American, Filipino and other immigrant publications in Canada, including New Canadian Media. She completed her bachelor's degree in journalism at Ryerson University and is currently pursuing a master's degree in development and emergency practice at Oxford Brookes University, where she is researching refugee freedom of expression.


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 Books
Thursday, 11 February 2016 08:28

Newcomers – Reconciliation Needs You Too

by Maria Assaf in Toronto

Canada’s Indigenous people are asking immigrants to join the nationwide process of reconciliation by learning about and celebrating Indigenous culture.

One of the many recommendations that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) published in their final report calls on the government to incorporate more information on the history of Canada’s diverse Indigenous communities in information kits for newcomers and in citizenship tests.

This includes information on residential schools and the Treaties through which settlers dispossessed the Indigenous peoples of their land.

The recommendation is just one of 94 outlined in the report from the TRC, whose work on restoring the relationship between the Canadian government and Indigenous communities culminated with the report’s delivery on Dec. 15, 2015.

Learning the true history of Canada

“I really think it’s important to realize that this was not an empty land when people came here. There were thriving nations in this land,” says Jane Hubbard, acting director of operations of the Legacy of Hope Foundation.

Her organization works to raise awareness about the history of residential schools in Canada and to promote reconciliation among Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in Canada. 

“I think it’s very important that the true history be told, so that people understand that Canada did not start in 1867. There was a long history before contact as well,” she says.  

Hubbard says Aboriginal peoples’ present-day contributions to society should also be included and celebrated.

“Often in a lot of government materials, Aboriginal peoples are referred to in such a way as to make someone think that perhaps they are a historical entity,” she says.

It is vital that newcomers do independent research to learn about Indigenous culture, instead of absorbing the misinterpretations of the general narrative.

“We would like to see more of the current-day representation. Thriving cultures, restoration of language. That people are here and walking amongst us and that they are lively contributors to society.”

Andrew Tataj is a second-generation Canadian whose parents came to Canada in the 1970s from Ireland and former Yugoslavia. “Learning about our history is important, because it can help newcomers assimilate into our culture, especially knowing about the country’s past – good and bad things,” says the computer engineer.

However, he is skeptical about the positive effect of providing more information. “I don't think much can be changed when it comes to awareness. … It won't get their land back,” he says.

Participating in reconciliation

Heather Igloliorte, an Inuit professor and chair in Indigenous art history and community engagement at Concordia University, outlines some ways in which newcomers can participate actively in the process of reconciliation.

“I think that one of the things that new Canadians could do is attend festivals and celebrations and Aboriginal peoples’ day and other events, so that they have an opportunity to meet and converse with Indigenous people. So that their understanding does not come only from literature, but also from first-person experience,” she says. 

One of the primary focuses of the TRC was to expose the truths of the residential-school system.

Igloliorte says that it is vital that newcomers do independent research to learn about Indigenous culture, instead of absorbing the misinterpretations of the general narrative about them.

“It’s incredibly important for newcomers to Canada to understand the history of how we got to where we are today, so that they do not simply absorb the stereotypes and the racist perspectives towards Indigenous people that we still have in Canada right now,” says Igloliorte.

“I think Aboriginal people did not receive enough respect from the very beginning,” says Khaled Elrodesly, a biomedical engineer from Egypt who recently took his citizenship test. “They are supposed to be the first settlers of the Americas and everyone else that comes after them should respect their thoughts and ideas and try to connect with them.”

“A turning point”

One of the primary focuses of the TRC was to expose the truths of the residential-school system, which existed for over 100 years.

This system took First Nations, Inuit and Métis youth from their parents, often forcibly, to eradicate their culture and instill a Christian-European one through a process of assimilation that many have described as “cultural genocide.”

"I remain hopeful that this country right now is at a turning point..."

Garnet Angeconeb is one of the survivors of this system.

Now in his 60s, he recalls the six formative years of his youth from age seven to 12, which he spent in a residential school in Sioux Lookout in northwestern Ontario. He says that despite the state’s efforts to erase his culture, he never lost it completely.

“Even though I went to residential school, there was always something there that I knew that was put on the shelf for a while. So it was through my own curiosity, through my own pride as an Aboriginal person that I wanted to take that knowledge, that experience, my culture, off the shelf and live it again,” he says.

Throughout his life, Angeconeb began reclaiming his cultural heritage and his identity became clearer as he grew older.

“I never lost it, but I never used it,” he says. “But now it’s my chance, and I am going to share it with my children and with my grandchildren.”

Angeconeb is hopeful about the future of reconciliation. “I really have a strong heart and I am a very strong believer in resilience – that our people have the ability to bounce back, no matter how dark this chapter of our history is.”

He says Indigenous pride and culture in Canada are very much alive.

“People are reclaiming their languages, their cultures … There is healing in that, and I think we need to celebrate our survival in many ways. I remain hopeful that this country right now is at a turning point in terms of improving and acknowledging a positive relation with the Indigenous community.”

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 Maria Assaf (@MariaAssaf) in Toronto

A new study published by Statistics Canada’s official release bulletin The Daily indicates that when it comes to choosing their new home, immigrants respond mainly to economic conditions, existing communities and changes in provincial entry programs.

The study examined the decade between 2000 and 2010 and found that, while the number of immigrants intending to settle in Toronto and Vancouver declined, a greater number intended to settle in Montreal. Provinces like Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta also saw increases.

A look at impact on distribution of settlement.An increase in Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs), through which provinces can choose the types of immigrants it needs, was one of the biggest reasons for the change, says Aneta Bonikowska, a senior research analyst at Statistics Canada and one of the authors of the report.

“It’s quite likely that the expansion or introduction of these Provincial Nominee Programs was related to the economic conditions, specifically to attract more new immigrants into those areas where there was demand for labour,” says Bonikowska.

“The economic conditions are driving where people are from, and where they’re going, in terms of country of origin. So it’s a big factor in there.” - Ray Bollman

Better economic conditions mean higher demand for labour, which increases the need for foreign labour. In places like Saskatchewan, the existence of economic propellers like the oil patch could be the reason provincial governments used more PNPs to attract a higher number of immigrants, says Ray Bollman, former chief of the Rural Research Group at Statistics Canada.

“The economic conditions are driving where people are from, and where they’re going, in terms of country of origin. So it’s a big factor in there,” says Bollman.

In major cities, countries of origin also impacted the number of newcomers. “For example, we saw an increase in immigrants from Africa and these are immigrants that tend to move to Montreal,” says Bonikowska.

The increase in the number of African newcomers could be one of the reasons the overall share of new immigrants planning to settle in Toronto fell from 48 per cent to 33 per cent over the 10-year period, whereas the number of those intending to settle in Montreal increased from 12.5 per cent to 16.6 per cent.

“Certainly part of it is people go where they have networks; people speaking their language. And that’s always been the case. They have information networks, they have support networks,” says Bollman.

“Perhaps once they are there and they figure out how to operate in Canada, then maybe they’ll move to where there are jobs,” he says. 

Temporary Foreign Workers Oppose Imminent Deportations

Migrant workers across Canada are planning peaceful protests in several cities to continue up until April 1, 2015, the date on which the first wave of temporary foreign workers (TFWs) will be ordered to leave the country as part of the federal government’s “four in and four out” rule.

This rule took effect April 1, 2011, stating that TFWs within certain categories, like fishing and agriculture, have to leave Canada immediately after the end of a four-year work term. They can only re-apply to come back after remaining outside the country for four years. Those who arrived after the legislation took place will also be affected.

“What we are seeing right now is a system that treats workers as disposable, where workers are brought in, worked to their limit and then sent back. We cannot allow such a system to continue.” - Syed Hussan

“What we oppose is a revolving door immigration system,” says Syed Hussan, a coordinator at Migrant Workers Alliance for Change. “What we are seeing right now is a system that treats workers as disposable, where workers are brought in, worked to their limit and then sent back. We cannot allow such a system to continue.”

2014 No One Is Illegal meeting in Vancouver.Hussan also organizes the “No 4 and 4” campaign, which demands the elimination of the rule so that it will not apply to any migrant worker ever. The group also advocates that the government grant Permanent Residency status to all migrant workers now and in the future, regardless of the program they work under, and finally, provide all provincial and federal social benefits to migrant workers, who pay the same taxes as average Canadians. Other groups like No One Is Illegal (photo of the organization meeting in Vancouver in 2014 to the left) is also against the four in and four out rule. 

“[These] people are paying for taxes, but aren’t able to get any of the benefits that come with it. In fact, even if the law allows it, it is so complicated that you can’t get [the benefits],” says Hussan.

“When you come into the country as a skilled worker, you come with PR, with your family. Only workers in particular kinds of jobs that don’t pay a lot are the ones who don’t get permanent residency and we think it’s just unfair,” he says. 

“The purpose of Canada’s work permit programs is to fill temporary needs and workers agree in their application that they are coming to Canada to work temporarily,” Johanne Nadeau, a media relations advisor and spokesperson for Citizenship and Immigration Canada, wrote in an e-mail to New Canadian Media.

“The four-year cumulative duration limit for foreign workers was put in place in 2011 to encourage workers to use appropriate pathways to permanent residence rather than using work permits to remain in Canada indefinitely,” she says. “Workers and employers have been aware of the four-year limit since 2011.”

Mohamed NasheedCanada Condemns Jailing of Maldivian Former President

In a recent press release, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed Canada’s discontent with the decision of a Maldivian court to put former president Mohamed Nasheed in jail for terrorism.

Nasheed, an opposition leader in the Maldives, was the first democratically elected president of the island nation. On March 14, a court found him guilty of ordering the “arresting or forceful abduction and detention” of a senior judge during his time in office.

“This verdict goes against the core principles of the Commonwealth, and Canada will continue to call on Maldives to reaffirm its commitment to democracy, human rights and the rule of law.” - Deepak Obhrai

“This verdict goes against the core principles of the Commonwealth, and Canada will continue to call on Maldives to reaffirm its commitment to democracy, human rights and the rule of law,” says Deepak Obhrai, parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, in the statement.

Nasheed denied the charges against him. His supporters, as well as the United Nations and human rights agency Amnesty International, claimed the jailing was politically motivated and said the trial was not fair.

India, the main regional power, and the United States have also opposed his sentence.

Nasheed was known for his pro-West approach to foreign policy and his efforts at countering Islamic conservatism, a faction of politics close to the former regime and to his political opponent, current President Abdulla Yameen.

Yameen, who is the half-brother of former dictator Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, prefers a turn toward China, and claims Nasheed threatens the country’s traditional Islamic values.

A week before his arrest, Nasheed said the international community should consider imposing sanctions against his country’s leadership. He also called for public protests and warned travellers to study the Maldives’ political situation before planning a trip there, as the country is a popular destination for Western travellers. Tourism is one of its main sources of income.

In its press release, Canada’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs urged calm and restraint on all sides.

 

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

Caption:
NCM contributor Maria Assaf spoke with Ryerson's Dr. Usha George about immigrant health disparity

by Maria Assaf

A struggle to find employment and a lack of understanding of the medical system are the main reasons for the “healthy immigrant effect,” a phenomenon of new immigrants’ health decline within their first five years of arriving to Canada, said Maya Roy, executive director of Newcomer Women’s Services, at the Immigrant and Racialized Women’s Health (IRWH) project conference on February 21 at Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Management.

The event brought together researchers from Ryerson, York and the University of Toronto who, along with healthcare practitioners, community activists and policy makers, shared their ideas with the public on how to improve immigrant women’s health in Ontario.

“When immigrants arrive in Canada, [they] say…‘I’m in good health.’ Or their health state is seen as good. Over four or five years of being in Canada or even much later, that good health state kind of declines one or two points to modest health,” said Dr. Usha George, dean of Ryerson’s faculty of social work and one of the project members. “There is a lot of evidence indicating that minority populations have less access to health, more diseases and the severity of their diseases is also very high compared to the normal population.”

The cause, she explained, is “mainly lifestyle changes and a lack of understanding about the system itself and access to health care and even the quality of healthcare they receive.”

Declining immigrant health

Part of the problem, said Roy, is that government health promotional materials are geared towards middle-class Canadian-born women and do not take into consideration the social and economic landscape of most Canadian new immigrants.

Newcomers, who, according to the panel account for 12 per cent of Toronto’s population, have lower incomes, said Monica Campbell, director of Healthy Public Policy. They also have a higher unemployment rate and are paid less than native Canadians in similar jobs – with the gap being much worse in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, the top three immigrant destinations.

Immigrants who are concerned about finding suitable employment don’t have the time to join a sports team or exercise regularly, said Roy, who summarized new immigrants’ views on this matter with the slogan: “less jogging, more jobs.”

She said new immigrants need to be further included in social and political life. A lot of the time, immigrants’ professional qualifications from their native countries are not recognized in Canada, leading to underemployment. 

Campbell said once they settle in Canada and their incomes improve, immigrants’ activity levels and overall health increase again.

Immigrants who are concerned about finding suitable employment don’t have the time to join a sports team or exercise regularly, said Roy, who summarized new immigrants’ views on this matter with the slogan: “less jogging, more jobs.”

Analyzing health disparity

The IRWH project was funded by the province of Ontario. Three years ago, a team comprised of professionals from all over Ontario set out to analyze and summarize academic literature to find out the causes behind health disparity among new immigrants in comparison to those born in Canada. 

The conference included 12 speakers, three moderators and 175 attendees from across the province. Conferences like this one allow non-industry professionals to get access to academic research about important health matters.

“We believe that health literacy, that is knowing much more about health issues, will enable people to manage their health better,” said George.

Most of the speakers agreed that the three-month Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) wait for new immigrants should be eliminated. In Ontario, most arriving or former residents returning to the province have to wait three months before they can get their healthcare covered under OHIP (there are some exemptions).

A great number of immigrant women are of childbearing age, said Campbell, so a lot of them need antenatal care. This makes the three-month waiting period difficult.

Manavi Handa, assistant professor at the Midwifery Education Program at Ryerson, said non-status immigrants who do not get any health care coverage experience the greatest difficulties.

Difficulties accessing health services also increases the rates of mental health problems for both the mother and the offspring. “Post-partum and antenatal depression can cause long-term consequences for children,” she said.

Another problem, she mentioned, is that children of uninsured parents are not often taken to health care facilities when needed. This can happen because of parental fears and misunderstanding of the policy.

The highest dollar expenditure in Canadian health care is on post-natal care, said Handa, and increasing spending on pre-natal care is not only humane, but also financially beneficial for Ontario’s health care system. “Every one dollar spent on prenatal care saves two to three dollars to the health care system,” she said.

Campbell said the province also needs to deal with important issues such as racism and better healthcare for refugees. She said 67% of people in Toronto have experienced racial discrimination and this can cause depressive symptoms, which, along with work and life stress, can cause mental health complications for new immigrants.

67% of people in Toronto have experienced racial discrimination and this can cause depressive symptoms, which, along with work and life stress, can cause mental health complications for new immigrants.

Health discrepancies

Cultural differences can also have serious health implications. About 15 years ago, George conducted a study about mammograms for immigrant women. “We found that family doctors were reluctant to prescribe mammograms for immigrant women simply because they thought that they would not go anyway, so why prescribe it,” she said. “They make some assumptions around their health beliefs or their health practices and therefore [they] may not provide the kind of prescriptions that are required for preventive kind of healthcare.”

Dipti Purbhoo from Toronto central’s Community Care Access Centre (CCAC) talked about the challenges and needs of providing health care in Toronto, one of the most diverse cities in the world.

She explained it is important to focus on prevention of diseases like TB, since the incidence rate of this disease in Toronto is three times higher than the provincial average. HIV/AIDS rate in Toronto is 11.3 times higher than Ontario’s average. 

Purbhoo also talked about the value of home-care workers and their need for higher wages, pensions and benefits. This mostly female workforce helps bathe seniors, clean homes and prepare meals for the city’s elderly for very little pay – $15.57/hour - with no benefits. They make less money than cleaners, so a lot of them have to take up cleaning jobs on the side to make ends meet.

Near the lunch break, Roy presented an emotional video about issues affecting elderly women in Canada. The video showed grandmothers from new immigrant communities talking about their desires.

A lot of their needs included access to cultural food, getting access to free transportation, feeling valued and respected by the youth and being independent.

Addressing the health needs of immigrant women is vital to ensuring a healthy province, and ultimately, a healthy country. 

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

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

Zo2 Framework Settings

Select one of sample color schemes

Google Font

Menu Font
Body Font
Heading Font

Body

Background Color
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image

Top Wrapper

Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image

Header Wrapper

Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image

Mainmenu Wrapper

Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image

Slider Wrapper

Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image

Scroller Wrapper

Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image

Mainframe Wrapper

Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image

Bottom Scroller Wrapper

Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image

Breadcrumb Wrapper

Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image

Bottom Menu Wrapper

Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image

Bottom Wrapper

Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image
Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image