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You may be a Brit in Toronto … but you probably also care about who is running the gaff back home. It’s a good idea to register soon to vote, the deadline is approaching. Use this service to apply to register to vote or to: – Update your name, address or other details on the […]

Brits in Toronto

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Published in Western Europe
Sunday, 18 October 2015 15:41

I Pay 40% in Taxes, but Can’t Vote

by Yaldaz Sadakova in Toronto

Facebook knows me well, but not that well. The other night a sponsored ad popped into my newsfeed, asking me if I could “afford” a Liberal federal government, with Liberal party leader Justin Trudeau’s picture on it. 

First of all, I’m not a fan of the Conservatives, but more importantly I can’t vote in the upcoming federal election because I’m a permanent resident. I’ve been in Canada less than three years, so I don’t have a passport yet.

Here’s my biggest problem with not being able to vote: I’m not represented. The government wants me to pay my fair share for being here and I do; about 40 per cent of my pay cheque goes to taxes.

Yet, this Monday I’ll have zero say in important federal issues that affect me just as they do Canadian citizens. 

Voicing my concerns

This Monday I won’t able to tell Ottawa that it’s placing a disproportionate emphasis on a candidate's age and a narrow set of skills when deciding whether to let certain foreigners in under its federal immigration program. 

The government says bringing in people with specific skills will help Canadian companies address talent shortages, but the economy changes and so does the need for certain skills. A year ago, Alberta’s energy sector was booming; now it’s in a recession due to declining oil prices.

By focusing on certain skills, we’re leaving out many people who can still make economic, social and cultural contributions. One of my favourite Canadians, award-winning author Rawi Hage, who’s originally from Lebanon, likely wouldn’t have made it here under the current federal immigration skills program. 

He would have never written Cockroach, a brilliant novel about an Arab immigrant on welfare who struggles with social alienation in Montreal after a failed suicide attempt. 

This Monday I’ll have zero say in important federal issues that affect me just as they do Canadian citizens.

I won’t be able to cast a ballot to tell Ottawa that Canada should accept more Syrian refugees than what the country recently pledged. We’ve only taken in just over 2,300 refugees since the Syrian unrest began in 2011 and Ottawa has promised to accept a total of 11,300 over three years

The usual argument against accepting more refugees is that they’re a burden. True, there’s an initial cost to resettle them. But studies have shown that if they receive help with integration — language training, skills assessment, school access and so on — they can make meaningful economic contributions.

This Monday I won’t be able to express that I have a problem with the Conservatives’ proposal to make it illegal for Canadians to travel to terrorist-controlled regions if they get re-elected. The only exceptions would be travel for humanitarian or journalistic reasons, but the onus would be on travellers to prove their reasons. 

As Anthony Furey wrote in a recent Toronto Sun op-ed, it shouldn’t be “up to the driver to prove he's not drunk. It's up to the police officer to prove he is drunk. It's called due process.”

He continues, criticizing the government’s attempts to increase security, “The ‘humanitarian’ exemption is also a joke. These days, aspiring jihadists can easily sign up with many so-called humanitarian organizations, which are really just front groups for terrorism.” 

I won’t be able to tell the government that we need a mandatory increase of the Canada Pension Plan monthly benefit so that those who aren’t lucky enough to have a workplace pension (which includes many immigrants) can still have enough money in retirement.

Feelings of belonging

Beyond not being able to voice my opinions via the ballot box, what bothers me about not being able to vote is this: I don’t feel like I fully belong here, even though Toronto is my home. 

Every once in awhile, I’d be in a group of Canadian friends and the conversation would turn to the elections. Everybody would vow to vote out the Conservative party. 

When all looks turn to me, I’d inevitably explain that I can’t vote because I’m only a permanent resident. That’s when I feel like a guest in this country rather than a valued resident.

I don’t feel like I fully belong here, even though Toronto is my home.

On election day, I won’t get to share in the exit poll excitement alongside my Canadian friends. When everyone else is refreshing their computer screen every half hour to see how the person they voted for is doing, I won’t feel invested in the outcome.

Of course, not allowing permanent residents to vote isn’t limited to Canada. It’s the norm worldwide, but that doesn’t make it less wrong. If you pay taxes, you should be able to vote, no matter how long you’ve lived in the country. 

Preventing newer immigrants from political participation makes no sense. If the government can trust passport holders to inform themselves and make a choice, it can definitely trust newcomers to do the same.


Yaldaz Sadakova is a Toronto-based journalist who’s worked in New York City and Brussels. Born and raised in Bulgaria, Sadakova arrived in Canada almost three years ago.

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
Wednesday, 17 June 2015 13:00

What Does it Mean to be a Canadian Citizen?

Canada’s controversial new bill claims it’s a privilege  and not  a right By Gemma Rains What does it mean to be Canadian? It’s a question which has been debated by poets, politicians, and people for decades, striving for an identity which truly distinguishes ourselves from other places around the globe. We don’t possess the same 

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The Philippine Reporter

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Published in Commentary

A Canadian citizen is calling on the Chinese regime to release his father from a detention centre in China, where he has been held for his belief in Falun Gong for eight months without any contact with family members or access to a lawyer.

Epoch Times

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Published in Top Stories

CANADA’S Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander on Tuesday announced that Canada has welcomed its 150,000th new citizen of 2014. This is double the number of new citizens compared to the same period in 2013 and thanks to the action taken by the government to reduce backlogs and improve processing times. Alexander attended a […]

Indo-Canadian Voice

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Published in National

by Robin Brown (@RobinBrown) in Toronto 

I became a Canadian citizen in November last year. Like most immigrants to Canada, I am proud and grateful to join my fellow Canadians in building this extraordinary nation. That didn’t stop me, however, from sharing in the hope and ultimate frustration that the English around the world experience every four years as we watch our national team compete and fail in the World Cup. And, clearly in Toronto, I am not alone. The trans-national identities of Canadian citizens are no more evident than during the World Cup or other international sports tournaments.

According to the Economist magazine we are living in an age of diasporas.  Currently over 200 million people are living in a different country than the one they were born in and that number is rising rapidly. This population, alongside their children, is creating huge ethnic diasporas who share a common culture but are geographically dispersed. The internet has enabled these diasporas to maintain an unprecedented cultural coherence through constant communication worldwide. Both immigrant Canadians and those born here are clearly comfortable embracing both their Canadian national identity alongside membership of an ethnic diaspora.

Shared experiences

The implications this has for geo-politics and public policy is widely discussed. But my interest is in the implications for business and marketing. Canadian marketers used to be able to influence the shared experiences of their consumers in limited and known geographical parameters. Now, they find themselves in an unprecedented situation where so many of the people they are trying to reach did not grow up sharing common experiences of their brands and products. We used to know that some communication may “spill over” from access to U.S. TV stations or trips across the border. But now we are in a situation where an Indo-Canadian youth may be more influenced by Pepsi India’s sponsorship of cricket than any activity Pepsi Canada initiates.

[A]n Indo-Canadian youth may be more influenced by Pepsi India’s sponsorship of cricket than any activity Pepsi Canada initiates.

In our new book, Migration Nation, Kathy Cheng and I argue that we are entering a new world of “borderless marketing”. In this new world, companies can reach large global segments that share an ethnic culture and related consumer tastes and preferences across the world. But, of course, this assumes that these diasporas are relatively homogenous in their preferences and tastes. Is that a fair assumption? Does a Chinese Canadian share a common culture with a Chinese American or a resident of China? Does their ethnicity have a stronger influence on their consumer preferences than their location or citizenship?

The answer is of course, that it depends. It depends on the product category. For categories where ethnic culture is highly influential like food you will find commonalities across the diaspora. It also depends on the characteristics of the diaspora. For example, Bollywood provides a common entertainment culture that unites many in the South Asian diaspora. Other ethnicities may not have the same unifying attributes. And, of course, the environments in which the diaspora settles influence their homogeneity.

Levels of acculturation

Our recent research compared Chinese and South Asian Americans and Canadians’ level of acculturation using Geoscape and & Environics Analytics CultureCodes (see graph). These analytical tools classify the population into five categories of acculturation based on their home language, knowledge of English/French and period of immigration. We found much higher levels of acculturation in the U.S. than in Canada for both groups. This results from a number of factors, including the “melting pot” vs. multicultural culture of each country. Of course, this means that these populations will differ and marketing efforts to reach them must navigate that difference.

But, understanding the diasporas may not be the biggest challenge faced by multinationals. The current reality for many multinationals is that many of their consumers are in some respects more global than they are. There may be good business reasons why an Asian Canadian cannot find Nescafe iced coffee here in Canada, but consumers are not aware or don’t care about the constraints of separate business units, tariffs and supply chain logistics. They are connected globally and informed of products and services that are used by their ethnic diaspora across the world.

Disconnected multinationals

Multinational companies need to become as globally connected as their consumers. I am often surprised that behind a seemingly global brand there are so many disconnected business units. For example, it should be common sense for North American companies to at least connect to their branches in Asia to simply learn more about the over 10 million Asian population living within their market borders. Yet, even that task is often not as simple as it should be. Let alone other tasks such as ensuring that products and marketing assets developed outside of North America can be effectively leveraged here.

Multinational companies need to become as globally connected as their consumers.

So, are we entering a world of borderless marketing? Slowly. There are glimpses of it. Unilever, for example, is effectively doing it. The Asian products under the Knorr brand are marketed to the Asian diaspora in North America by an international business unit independent of Unilever Canada or U.S. But, for many, the task of connecting to global diasporas and navigating the new world of borderless marketing requires not only an understanding of that new audience but a cultural and organizational shift. Canada is one of the most diverse nations in the developed world. Our population is highly globalized. Now is the time for our business culture to embrace and take a lead in the borderless future.

Robin Brown is Senior Vice President at Environics Research Group and co-author of the newly released book, “Migration Nation: A Practical Guide to Doing Business in Globalized Canada”.

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
Monday, 07 July 2014 14:14

Fed Up With Politicians? So Is Your MP

by Books Editor Abby Paige

Tragedy in the Commons: Former Members of Parliament Speak Out About Canada’s Failing Democracy

Alison Loat and Michael MacMillan

Random House Canada

Non-Fiction, 2014

In 2009, Alison Loat and Michael MacMillan founded the political think tank Samara. They were concerned about a growing disengagement among Canadians from their political system, what MacMillan describes as a “turning away from the village green, from the importance of how we decide to live together and make decisions together, and how that translates into how we govern ourselves.” They saw these trends in the larger culture, but also among colleagues and peers.

“So many people that I knew,” says MacMillan, describing his frustration, “Smart people in their middle age — a good proxy for part of the population — saw no reason to talk about this stuff, let alone vote, let alone join a political party, let alone actually read a book, let alone sign a petition.”

These problems are not unique to Canada. Western democracies are all suffering similar symptoms of citizen disengagement, even as those countries attempt to export their systems of governance to other parts of the world. Not only has voter turnout dipped significantly, but fewer people are joining political parties, donating to campaigns, and otherwise participating in political culture.

But Loat and MacMillan don’t necessarily see citizens as the root of the problem. “To throw the blame at the feet of 35 million disparate citizens, who have many other things on their plate, is probably not fair,” says Loat. So they sought out a small sector of the population with much more direct experience of the inner-workings of Canadian democracy.

Western democracies are all suffering similar symptoms of citizen disengagement, even as those countries attempt to export their systems of governance to other parts of the world.
 

Citizen engagement

Through Samara, Loat and MacMillan aim to create educational programs and research projects that will shine a light on issues of citizen engagement in Canadian democracy, and their first such project was to conduct exit interviews with former Members of Parliament about their experiences on the job. Who better to diagnose the problems of our political system than those who have worked inside it? They ultimately spoke with eighty MPs, including 35 cabinet ministers, across all parties and regions of the country, and, based on those conversations, they wrote Tragedy in the Commons: Former Members of Parliament Speak Out About Canada’s Failing Democracy.

The title may seem alarmist to some readers; an audience at the Ottawa Writers Festival took issue with the characterization of Canada’s democracy as “failing.” The phrase “tragedy of the commons” is borrowed from a 1968 essay by an American biologist on the challenges of managing public resources: how can the long-term benefits of the group be protected from a few individuals seeking short-term gains? This is certainly a question Canadians might ask themselves around election time, when candidates seem more focused on trashing one another than articulating a coherent political vision. But the real tragedy that Loat and MacMillan describe is that, once the dust of electoral mud-slinging has settled, our politicians appear to feel as alienated from our political system as we do. And if they’re not invested in nurturing our democratic institutions, how can ordinary citizens be?

The title may seem alarmist to some readers; an audience at the Ottawa Writers Festival took issue with the characterization of Canada’s democracy as “failing."

Tragedy in the Commons is a useful, warts-and-all primer on the Canadian political system. It reveals some of the psychological elements at work in Canadian political culture and, by focusing on the experiences of MPs, uncovers subtle, underlying causes of dysfunction. The portraits are not always riveting, but they are often surprisingly relatable in their banality. Like their constituents, MPs are romanced by their political parties during campaigns, but once in office, successful candidates are left to their own devices, without a clear job description or any consistent system of orientation for the newly elected. Many feel like pawns of their parties and cope by finding alternative ways to make themselves useful, such as greasing the wheels of government bureaucracy on behalf of local constituents or taking on pet issues in which to become self-styled experts.

Political outsiders

One unexpected trend that emerged from the interviews was a tendency among the vast majority of MPs to describe themselves as political “outsiders.” The authors were fascinated by how consistently their interviewees, unprompted, expressed surprise at being approached about running for office and denied that they had had sincere political ambitions of their own, although most had been active in their communities in some type of leadership role. It is this “outsider narrative” that, to Loat and MacMillan, suggests a strong and pervasive disdain for the political process. What does it say about our attitude toward democracy that political office is either thrust solely upon the unwilling or is too deviant an aspiration to admit?

“They came back, over and over,” says Loat, “To ‘question period is terrible,’ as if they weren’t there. ‘I never planned to run,’ even though they were active in their communities. Part of what we are trying to do is send a message to people who are in politics that you can’t always be looking from the outside in. You have a responsibility to uphold the quality of our politics.”

The book is often repetitive, suggesting that perhaps the authors needed to stretch their material to book length, and the repetitiveness at times muddies the shape of their argument. Tragedy also falls into a common trap for political books of stating and restating problems, while solutions are less well elaborated and defended. Nonetheless, readers might be heartened to discover that the authors and their interviewees propose no vast structural changes to the political system, but rather minor tweaks to create greater transparency in party operation and Parliamentary bureaucracy and to develop a greater sense of accountability on the part of individual MPs.

Tragedy in the Commons is perhaps best read in the context of Samara’s other activities, which include a broad range of programs to reveal the inner workings of our political system and engage citizens in political conversations. According to Loat and MacMillan, this is quite simply the work required to keep a democracy healthy and vibrant.

“I sometimes use the metaphor of the human body,” says MacMillan. “If you don’t eat properly, if you don’t exercise, your body will fall apart. Complex systems inherently need constant attention.”

Samara’s goal is to provide ways for citizens to tend to their democracy and to make sure that their elected representatives are doing the same. Tragedy in the Commons provides a starting point.

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
Tuesday, 29 January 2013 20:19

Painful wait mars citizenship

by Vilma Filici

Canadian citizenship should be seen as a reward for Permanent Residents who have established themselves in the country and become exemplary citizens. However, in reality, measures to prevent immigration fraud are unnecessarily penalizing law abiding people applying for citizenship.

My friend’s travail makes a good case study of the problems being faced by many.

I spent most of the spring and summer of 2011 helping her prepare for the citizenship test. We got together twice a week, read the booklet sent to her by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) and went further than what was required for the test as she was eager to learn as much as she could about her new country.

My friend loves Canada and is interested in its people, its geography, its government and its politics. She took several mock tests online to make sure that she would pass the real one. When she spoke of becoming a citizen, her face lit up. The night before the exam, we spoke and I reassured her that she was ready and that she would get her citizenship.

On exam day I received a phone call from my friend. She was crying and was extremely upset. She said the officer who checked her identification before writing the exam noticed that she had travelled outside Canada many times. The officer could not take the time to do the calculations for the required number of days she was present in the country although my friend met the requirement. Instead, he gave her a long questionnaire to complete and a long list of documents to submit before a specific date.

The questionnaire asked detailed questions of every aspect of her life in the last nine years. The list of documents included health records from the Ministry of Health, a record of visits to the United States from the authorities there, a record of her trips out of Canada by the Canadian Border Services Agency, all her income tax returns for the four years prior to the application, documents to prove employment and schools she attended during those four years and much more.

My friend is alone in Canada and has a brother and niece and nephews in the USA. She travels stateside on the children’s birthdays and all Jewish holidays. She also travelled to her country of birth to sell her properties. She invested the money from the transactions in Canada. In total she was out of Canada 145 days in the four years preceding her application.  The residency requirement for citizenship is that a permanent resident reside in Canada for 1095 days in the four years preceding the application.

It took weeks for her to gather all the documents required. Some that had to come from government departments took a lot longer and documents from the US took six months to arrive. It has been over a year since all the documents were submitted, but she is yet to hear from CIC. When she calls them, she is told that her file is under process and she has to wait.

As she waits in limbo, my friend is becoming more and more disillusioned about Canada. She has a hard time understanding why she is being treated like a criminal when she has done everything by the book. She questions whether a Permanent Resident (PR) has no right to procedural fairness and is convinced she should not be made to pay the price for the wrongdoings of others.

Whenever I see her, I try to avoid the subject as it upsets her very much. She tells me that she feels mistreated, insulted and most of all frustrated. She needs to go out of the country for her niece’s bat mitzvah but is afraid to leave as it might be seen as a sign that she does not care about Canada. As her PR card is going to expire, she will now have to apply for an extension. Something she would not have to do if she were a citizen.

While my friend is at a loss to understand why she was being treated this way, the fact is that many people are facing the same situation. An application which was supposed to take no more than 21 months to process after completing the required time of residence in Canada, is now taking more than four years.

If the government wants to continue with these measures, it should perhaps increase the CIC budget to ensure prompt and humane processing of applications. The process should not, instead, unintentionally impart pain and suffering.

 [Vilma Filici is Director of Immigration Issues with the Canadian Hispanic Congress]

Editor’s note: Do you have an immigrant point of view you’d like to share with our readers? Please send us a two-paragraph preview, along with two lines about yourself.

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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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.

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