New Canadian Media
Saturday, 23 June 2018 19:12

A Mongrel Among Media

Commentary by: George Abraham in Ottawa, ON

ENTREPRENEURIAL journalism sounds deceptively simple to execute. Combine journalism with business acumen … and voilà you have a winner.  

Sadly, that is not the way it actually works in real life. It is a long, lonely slog, made even more difficult with the declining economics of Canadian media companies all around. One soon learns that the ability of reporters to break new ground and the ability of editors to present stories in a way that resonates with their audience derives from the financial strength of the parent media organization.

The M-word looms large: monetization. How do you keep the lights on and feed the hungry beast that is your burgeoning editorial budget?

We weren’t daft when a bunch of us embarked on this journey called New Canadian Media. The trend towards newsroom closures and downsizing was already written on the wall. The business model of legacy organizations itself was broken or breaking down before our very eyes. Sure, there were any number of naysayers who saw no point in trying to carve out a niche that portrayed the collective perspective of newcomers to Canada.  We were warned that we would be neither “ethnic” nor “mainstream” – a mongrel among media – and that advertisers will make no room for hybrid models like ours because they have niche marketing budgets.

But, it was virgin space in May, 2014, when we launched our portal … and remains so even today.

Our first goal was to demonstrate that we could indeed produce high-quality journalism using largely immigrant talent. We’ve done that in spades. It’s our calling card.

Second, we needed to find “seed capital” that would help us convincingly demonstrate the strength of NCM’s original idea. We’ve done that as well. However, as we scaled up, we found the going difficult.

The intervening years since the launch of our site demonstrated not only the endurance of the original idea to represent “the immigrant perspective”, but also to tap into a rich vein of journalism talent that remains largely unexplored in Canada. But, in addition to pioneering a new form of journalism, we went against the grain in several important respects, all in an effort to buck the trend and improve the odds.

The original idea

NCM was founded on a rather simple premise: waves of immigrants continue to reshape this country in both visible and invisible ways. For visible signs, look no further than the sushi restaurant in your neighbourhood, turbans in the RCMP, Canada’s tilt towards the Asia-Pacific driven largely by immigration from that region of the world, ethnic nannies who raise babies for rich Canadians and the entrepreneurial energy that has made this country more prosperous.

While existing media capture the mega-trends, they do a rather poor job of portraying undercurrents and speaking to a new Canada-in-the-making. Our idea was to give voice to the opinion and points-of-view of newcomers, while enabling all Canadians to better appreciate this new perspective.

Jagdeesh Mann, executive editor of the Asian Pacific Post published in English and distributed in downtown Vancouver, has a readership that is as much white as Asian. “Canadians want to know what was happening in the Asian community and Asians want to participate,” Mr. Mann says, adding “food was usually the gateway.”

We, however, went about this in unconventional ways, ensuring that we continually broadened our horizons even while staying true to our core mission of delivering the immigrant perspective. We took great care to avoid creating what media experts call a new, isolationist “silo”, but rather to work with both existing ethnic and mainstream news organizations so our limited dollars did not end up duplicating journalism that was already out there.

There was no template to follow and hence we charted our own course.

Amid a climate of great public mistrust of ‘elites’ in general, and the media in particular, we set ourselves up as a non-profit, with paid members across Canada. When we discovered that our contributors could benefit from training and mentoring, we found the funds to launch a national professional development program. Last year, we broadened this grassroots undertaking to create an NCM Collective, inviting our contributors to band together in a countrywide effort to organize and lend even more heft to their inimitable immigrant voices.

At the same time, the organization has sustained itself on the backs of volunteer directors and pro bono time from members of our editorial board.

By the numbers

We’ve taken great pains to cross language and racial divides to address issues that confront every one of the 200 ethnic communities in Canada. Our range of stories and datelines from cities and towns across the country speak for themselves. It has contributed, dare I say, to giving many an immigrant a greater sense of belonging.

In perhaps our biggest break from tradition, we have consistently fostered a bottom-up journalism that privileges the findings of on-the-ground reporters over the preconceived notions of distant editors. We very rarely dictated a story idea, relying on our formidable network to serve as listening posts in their respective communities. Retaining a reporter’s voice is very important to us. We’ve tried our best not to shoehorn a reporter’s findings into a pre-cooked, nifty headline, or come up with an elegant turn of phrase that may not do full justice to the original sentiment.

Trust me, this has made the editing process a lot more laborious, but it has been surely worth it: it has led to unfiltered, authentic voices from communities across this fabulous country. Copy editors have gone apoplectic at times, but this approach has allowed immigrant journalists to portray the everyday experiences, joys and sorrows of new Canadians, signifying perhaps NCM’s biggest accomplishment to date.

All of this pioneering work has been sustained largely through project-based public funding (roughly $275,000 so far), enabling NCM to demonstrate the calibre and depth of its journalism and showcase the work of a growing roster of new reporters in every province.  

Numbers rarely tell the whole story, but here are a few to illustrate our growth and current profile:

  • Original stories published on the NCM platform so far = 855

  • Peak web traffic: 10,840 unique monthly visitors in Nov. 2015 (22,448 page views)

  • E-newsletter distribution list: 1,433 subscribers

  • Twitter followers: 3,811

  • Facebook Likes: 1,630

  • Reporters/commentators published: 220

  • Canadian journalists who have enlisted for NCM’s professional development program: 102

  • Images available in NCM Stock Photo library: 205

  • Canada's first-ever ethnic media and diversity style guide published in Jan. 2016

  • Audience profile: evenly split between foreign-born and native-born Canadians (Ekos survey, 2016) 

Our board of directors believes we are market-ready, and primed to emerge as a media platform in our own right. Towards this end, the board is re-tooling the NCM organization, rethinking our financial and business model, while we revamp our web platform to update several of its key attributes – to ensure that we continue to present the immigrant perspective in all its colour and vibrancy.

We are surely not alone in imagining a different media scene – one that truly reflects Canada in the 21st century. As our good friend and publisher of the Walrus magazine puts it, “If NCM did not already exist, this country would be compelled to invent it.”


George Abraham is NCM’s founder and publisher.

Published in Commentary
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

By: Tim Mayfield in Melbourne, Australia

The latest Australian census data is in and it makes for interesting reading. Of particular note, 72 per cent of residents reported speaking only English at home, down from nearly 77 per cent in 2011. Moreover, for the first time since colonisation, most of the Australians who were born overseas came from Asia rather than Europe.

So what to make of these shifts?

On the face of it, the data indicates that Australia is becoming an even more diverse society with greater links into our immediate region and beyond. However, these numbers don’t tell the full story.

To properly assess where we are at as a nation, we need to critically examine the quality of the engagement between Australia’s ethnic communities, as well as the depth of our links into Asia (given that our immediate neighbourhood is so crucial both in terms of trade but also as the major source of new immigrants).

According to these criteria, there is much work to be done. The shortfall is borne out by a quick examination of the state of Australia’s second-language teaching from early childhood through to tertiary level.

Australia is not just failing at languages (especially Asian languages), we are failing spectacularly. The percentage of students studying a foreign language in Year 12 has decreased from 40 per cent in 1960 to around 10 per cent in 2016 – and this includes native speakers.

Simply put, we must change our collective mind-set around the importance of languages to our continued wealth and prosperity.

It just doesn’t make sense in the context of our increasing interconnectedness with the global community both at home and abroad.

Of course, one could argue (and plenty do) that because Australia’s foreign language capability is on the rise, driven by immigration, there is a decreasing need to commit time and resources to second language learning.

There are several issues with this perspective. The first is that our collective commitment to multiculturalism should not start and end with those who arrive on our shores. For multiculturalism to work, it requires genuine commitment to engagement and mutual understanding from all sides.

Learning a second language is both an end in itself but also an effective proxy for the kind of intercultural understanding that will be essential if Australia is to continue to thrive in its diversity. Assistant Professor Ruth Fielding argued recently that Australia’s multilingual diversity is being stifled by a monolingual culture and approach to curriculum in schools.

By engaging with an unfamiliar language, students are also engaging with the culture and history that comes with it. In doing so, they gain perspective into a world beyond their immediate experience, greater insight into their own communities and curiosity to broaden their horizons.

This latter point is crucial when it comes to preparing the students of today for the jobs of tomorrow. Simply put, we must change our collective mind-set around the importance of languages to our continued wealth and prosperity.

The reality is that nearly all young Australians are likely to be working either in highly culturally diverse communities in Australia or in global teams with global clients and markets. Bilingualism is a skill most people will benefit from, and is something that other countries have recognised for years. That’s why Australia is now lagging at the very back of the OECD pack when it comes to the time our school students spend learning a second language.

We have been coasting for too long on the natural advantages of being a developed nation, proficient in the world’s lingua franca, and with an economy powered by an abundance of natural resources.

That is all changing. As Australia’s economy continues to transition to services, so too do the requirements of our workforce. New opportunities will be driven by evolving skills and possessing a second, third, or even fourth language will be prime among these.

It is therefore a matter of great urgency that governments at all levels get the policy settings right. At the moment, our track record on languages is abysmal. The first step to a solution is admitting there is a problem. The second is developing a road map for this vexed area of education policy. The Asia Education Foundation (AEF) has undertaken considerable research to address this second aspect, especially at the senior secondary level.

We advocate expanding opportunities to study languages in senior secondary certification structures. Simultaneously, governments and schools need to provide access to high quality languages programs to build and sustain student participation.

These efforts must be supported by engagement with all relevant parties (including students, parents and educators) to recognise and promote the value and utility of languages. At a higher level, governments and sector bodies should collaborate nationally to support languages planning and implementation in a unified way across the country.

The question is who within government and the education sector will drive this change? 

Tim Mayfield is the Executive Director of the Asia Education Foundation at the University of Melbourne. This article has been republished with permission.

Published in Education
Thursday, 16 June 2016 14:06

Visa Officers Largely Bias-Free: Author

by Howard Ramos in Halifax, Nova Scotia 

In a country where over one in five people are immigrants and far more are children and relatives of immigrants, questions of who gets into Canada and how decisions are made on immigration matters are of central concern. For instance, does the immigration system profile people from particular countries or specific ethnic or racial backgrounds? How is family sponsorship evaluated? And why do some people get visas to visit while others don’t?

Questions like these are tackled head-on by McMaster sociologist Vic Satzewich in his prize winning book Points of Entry: How Canada’s Immigration Officers Decide Who Gets In. He offers a comprehensive overview of Canada’s immigration system by looking at the overall social and political context driving immigration, the organizational structure of the Immigration department, and most interestingly, how immigration officers on the ground make decisions on individual applications and prospective immigrants. [We have excerpted a section of the Introduction to give readers a flavour of the kind of dilemmas visa officers face.]

Biases in the system

The professor visited 11 visa office abroad between 2010 and 2012 across all regions and also met with officials in Ottawa several times. In his visits he tagged along with visa officers to see how they do their jobs, reviewing field operating notes and discussing with them about how they make their decisions.

He was particularly interested in examining the discretion that immigration officers have in their decisions, and their role as, what he calls, street-level bureaucrats. Their discretion and ability to make on the ground decisions have led some to question whether there are biases and hidden agendas in Canada’s immigration system.

Satzewich found no direct evidence of discrimination in approval and refusal rates across visa offices around the world, nor did he observe it through the practices of immigration officers. In fact, he found little variation in rates across regions and source countries, with officers very aware of the need for consistent application of policies. He drilled down into specific visa categories by looking at decisions made around spousal and partner sponsorship, decisions on those applying under the skilled worker program, as well as those seeking visitor visas.

Satzewich found no direct evidence of discrimination in approval and refusal rates across visa offices around the world, nor did he observe it through the practices of immigration officers.

Continual change

His analysis of the family pathway offers important insights on the Canadian government’s concern with marriage fraud. His analysis is vivid and colouful, with descriptions of what goes into case processing and an explanation of how immigration officers identify anomalies they want to investigate and then ultimately the interviews they conduct with prospective immigrants and their sponsors.

His analysis of skilled workers offers a similar level of insight.

During his field research, Canada’s immigration system was in a period of rapid and constant change. Former immigration minister Jason Kenney tweaked how the system worked on a regular basis, ultimately leading to fundamental changes to the immigration system. Satzewich tracked those changes and how it affected the system and on the ground decisions by immigration officers.

One significant change documented is the increased importance of visitor visas over permanent residency with the introduction of a super visa for parents and grandparents, the rise of temporary foreign worker applications, and a move towards attracting more international students.

Another important change was the previous government’s move to rationalize the processing of immigrants and speed up the processing time.

Increased pressure

Rather than finding overt bias and discrimination in the immigration system, what Satzewich found was an increased pressure on immigration officers stemming from a move towards immigration processing targets, faster deadlines, increased use of impersonal evaluation criteria, the auditing of their decisions and a move away from interviews and discretionary autonomy.

... Satzewich found was an increased pressure on immigration officers stemming from a move towards immigration processing targets, faster deadlines, increased use of impersonal evaluation criteria, the auditing of their decisions and a move away from interviews and discretionary autonomy.

Despite all the changes, Satzewich did not find a nostalgic longing for “old times” among the immigration officers he spoke with. In part, this is because of generational turnover, with fewer and fewer officers having worked in the immigration system when their on-the-ground decisions carried more weight in the evaluation of files.

His research ultimately shows that Canadian immigration officers are highly dedicated to their jobs and recognize the weight of the decisions they make on a daily basis.

CLICK FOR EXCERPT:

  • Maria enters the interview booth with a broad, confident smile. Brenda, the visa officer responsible for reviewing her application, smiles back and asks her to close the sliding door behind her. There is no chair on Maria’s side of the small, six- by eight-foot interview booth, so she takes a few seconds to put her bag on the floor and try to get comfortable for the interview. She ends up leaning against the small ledge in front of the bulletproof glass window that separates visa applicants from visa officers. A few years ago, Canadian embassies installed the special glass in their interview booths because of safety and security concerns. People sometimes get angry when their visa application is refused, and in this day and age, you can never be too careful.

    Brenda points to the telephone on the wall and gestures to Maria that she should pick it up. She welcomes Maria and introduces herself as “the visa officer responsible for your case.” She asks Maria in English if she can understand what she is saying. Maria nods in agreement, but Brenda asks her to please say “yes” or “no.” Maria says “yes.” Brenda needs a verbal response because she has to document her decision-making process by keeping notes of the questions asked, Maria’s replies, and her own assessment of the answers. Brenda then asks if she is comfortable conducting the interview in English, and since Maria lived in the United States for several years, she says “yes” but asks that Brenda “speak slowly.”

    Brenda already knows a lot about Maria and her circumstances from the spousal application for immigration that she and her Canadian sponsor submitted eight months ago. Maria’s husband wants her to join him in Saskatoon, and as part of the application, couples are asked to tell the story of their relationship. Brenda reviewed the application about a month ago, but something about the couple’s story did not add up. Her program assistant contacted Maria to schedule the interview so that Brenda’s concerns could be addressed.

    Visa officers do not interview every applicant for admission to Canada. In fact, headquarters in Ottawa likes them to keep the number of interviews down and encourages them to make their decisions solely on the basis of the information in the application. Interviews take a lot of time, and time in a visa office is in short supply. Officers are trained to make their decisions to approve or refuse visa applications relatively quickly. Brenda has two or three dozen files stacked on the corner of her desk and on top of two filing cabinets in her office. Her program assistant is working on a couple dozen other files at various stages of processing. Globally, there are thousands of applications in what Citizenship and Immigration euphemistically calls its “inventory,” which is its code word for “backlog.” The more time Brenda spends on one file, the longer other applicants must wait for a decision.

    Officers must also meet their yearly visa issuance targets. It is early December, and Brenda’s office has not yet met its target for family class spousal visas. If Brenda fails to meet it, this will reflect badly on her and on her boss, the immigration program manager. Headquarters in Ottawa will also be unhappy because it will have to find another visa office to pick up the slack. All the other offices are also working hard to meet their own targets, so a last-minute request to increase a target because another office has not met its own quota means that something has gone awry. If no other office manages to fill the gap, the overall target for family class admissions will not be met, and the immigration minister will want to know why. The minister announced the targets the year before in Parliament and will be held accountable by the Opposition if the number of visas falls far below, or far above, them. Since politics are politics, Opposition colleagues can be rather unforgiving in their assessment of a cabinet minister’s performance and will relish any opportunity to cast the minister as incompetent or as failing to control his or her department.

    In a family class spousal sponsorship case, such as that of Maria, Brenda must be “satisfied” that the relationship between Maria and her husband in Canada is “genuine” and that its primary purpose is not for Maria to gain permanent resident status in Canada. Upon reviewing the file a month earlier, Brenda suspected that this might be a marriage of convenience. She uses the interview to figure out whether the relationship is real and whether its primary purpose is immigration.

    After asking a few simple, factual questions – Maria’s full name, date of birth, and other matters that already appear on the application – Brenda starts to focus more closely: “It says on your application that you lived in the United States for fifteen years and that you returned to Guatemala three years ago. Why did you return to Guatemala after living for so many years in the United States?” Maria explains that she missed her family and returned to Guatemala to be closer to them. This sounds odd to Brenda, who thinks to herself, “Why would someone voluntarily leave the United States to go back and live in Guatemala?” She suspects that Maria is concealing something, so she pointedly asks, “Were you deported from the United States?” After pausing for a moment to reflect on her answer, Maria admits that she was slated for deportation but chose to leave before the American authorities put her on the plane. She does not explain why she was going to be deported, but Brenda puts two and two together and surmises that Maria probably overstayed her original visa and then somehow caught the attention of US immigration authorities. For Brenda, Maria’s original evasive answer to the question of why she left the United States confirms her concerns and prompts her to dig deeper.

    She moves on. “How did you meet your husband?” Maria explains that they first met at the birthday party of a mutual friend when they were both living in Los Angeles. They dated a few times, but nothing really came of the dates. A few years later, they met again at another birthday party of a mutual friend, this time after she had returned to Guatemala.

    Brenda also knows a fair amount about Maria’s husband. She has access to the Field Operations Support System database, which contains information about the application history of everyone who has applied for admission to Canada in the past several years. Before the interview, Brenda pulled up the file for Maria’s husband, which told her that he, too, is from Guatemala and that seven years ago he submitted a successful refugee claim in Canada. He had lived in the United States for several years but then crossed the border into Canada at Surrey, British Columbia. She suspects that he, too, was scheduled for removal from the United States and that rather than return to Guatemala, he decided to take a chance with the Canadian refugee determination system. When he crossed at Surrey, he must have uttered words to the effect that “I am a refugee.” As soon as Canada Border Services Agency staff heard the word “refugee,” a complex refugee determination process came into play. Ultimately, Maria’s husband convinced the Refugee Protection Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board that he was genuinely in fear of his life in Guatemala, so he was granted permanent residence status in Canada.

    After this, he returned to Guatemala to visit some old friends, where “by chance,” he met Maria again. Since he planned to be in Guatemala for a month, they started dating, and this time they fell in love. Within two weeks, they were married at a small civil ceremony. A few close friends attended. Though his mother and two brothers lived in Guatemala, they were not at the wedding. Maria explains that they lived “far away” and could not travel to Guatemala City for the wedding. She adds that her mother and sister stayed away because they thought that her husband was not “good enough” for her.

    As Maria explains the circumstances of how she met and married her husband, Brenda looks through a pile of thirty or forty photographs that the couple included in the application to support the story of their relationship. The photos show the marriage ceremony and the small reception that followed it. One shot shows about twelve guests seated at a large restaurant table, all happily toasting the bride and groom.

    The other pictures are of the wedding night and the honeymoon. The wedding night photos show the couple in the bedroom. She is wearing lingerie; he is in a bathrobe with his chest exposed. They are lying on a bed, smiling directly into the camera and toasting with champagne. Brenda looks at these pictures and cracks a barely visible smile. She thinks to herself, “Why on earth would they have a photographer in their bedroom on their wedding night?” The honeymoon photos show the couple on a beach in Panama. Maria explains that they chose Panama because they got a good deal on a package offered by a local resort. Shortly after their honeymoon, Maria’s husband returned to Canada and began the process of sponsoring her for permanent resident status.

    Brenda then turns to the issue of children. “It says on your application that you have a child in the United States.” “Yes, she is grown and goes to college.” “Were you ever married before?” “No, this is my first marriage.” Finally, Brenda moves on to questions about Maria’s relationship with her husband. “It says on your application that you talk to your husband every day for about twenty minutes.” Also included in the file are a stack of phone cards that Maria says she uses to call her husband in Saskatoon. The cards provide no information about the numbers that were dialed or the length of the calls. Since, in themselves, they are not evidence of much, Brenda asks, “So what do you talk about with your husband when you call?” Maria says that they talk about how much they love and miss each other, and how they can’t wait to be together again. Brenda smiles, but then asks, “Okay, but you can’t talk about love all of the time. What else do you talk about?” “We talk about our lives and our future life together, things like that.” At this point in the interview, Brenda starts to drill down, to look for specifics. In her view, real couples talk about more than just love: genuine partners have some knowledge of each other’s past and everyday lives and circumstances.

    “Where does your husband work?” “A trucking company; I think its name is On Time Trucking, or something like that.”

    “What is the name of your husband’s boss?” “I don’t know.”

    “What are the names of some of the people he works with?” “He does not really have any friends at work.”

    “What are the names of his non-work friends?” “He sometimes talks about a guy named Sam, who lives in the same apartment building.”

    “What kind of apartment does he live in, and how many bedrooms does it have?” “I don’t know.”

    “What is his favourite meal?” “Hamburgers.”

    “What does he like to cook for himself?” “Hamburgers.”

    “What was the last movie he saw?” “Friday the Thirteenth.” “So, he likes scary movies?” “Uh huh.”

    This back-and-forth about Maria’s knowledge of her husband and his life in Canada lasts about ten minutes, and then Brenda asks, “Are you looking forward to moving to Saskatoon?” “Yes, very much.” “What is Saskatoon like?” “I don’t really know, but it seems it is a lot like California.” Brenda, visibly surprised by this answer, says, “Really? What makes Saskatoon like California?” Maria pauses for a moment and replies, “There is shopping there, it is clean, things like that.” “Have you ever seen any pictures of Saskatoon in the winter?” “No.”

    The interview lasts for about an hour, and after the last question Brenda takes a few minutes to review the overall application and digest Maria’s answers. She then tells Maria that she is not satisfied that her relationship with her husband is genuine, and that she believes that the primary reason for her marriage is to gain permanent resident status in Canada. She details the “concerns” that have led to her assessment. Maria listens with apparent surprise that her story is not believed and spends the next few minutes trying to address each of Brenda’s concerns by repeating what she has already said. After listening intently, Brenda says, “Thank you, I am ready to make my decision.”

    In the end, what decision do you think Brenda made? Did she grant Maria her family class spousal visa, or did she refuse the application? Was Maria in a real relationship, or was it a fake? Did she get married primarily because she wanted to become a permanent resident in Canada or because she loved her husband and wanted to start a new life with him?

    Canadian visa officers must answer these kinds of questions every day. They make decisions about who should, and should not, be issued a visa to enter Canada, both as permanent and temporary residents.

    Excerpted with permission from Points of Entry: How Canada’s Immigration Officers Decide Who Gets In, by Vic Satzewich, 2015, UBC Press, Vancouver and Toronto, Canada.

Howard Ramos is a Professor of Sociology at Dalhousie University. His research focuses on issues of social justice including the non-economic elements of immigration and examination of family and non-economic streams of immigration to Canada. 

Published in Books

by Florence Hwang in Regina

Attendees from across North America gathered to discuss ways to revitalize Canada’s Chinatowns at the Edmonton Chinese Chinatown Conference, held on June 11 and 12. It’s possibly the first of its kind in terms of scale and scope, says one organizer.

Topics included “Transforming Chinatowns: Social, Economic and Cultural Trends” and “Development Strategy and Planning and the Chinatowns of the Future: What Would This Look Like and How to Sustain Them?”

The first conference on this topic was held in 2011, but it focused mostly on the City of Edmonton. This year’s conference took the issue to a larger stage, drawing on the expertise and experience of Chinatown activists from all over Canada and United States.

Conference organizer Lan Chan-Marples says some recommendations for revitalizing Chinatowns that came out of the weekend included hosting night markets, cultural festivals and historical walking tours.

Chinatowns were formed in the 1880s in major cities in the United States largely because of the Chinese Exclusion Act. In Canada, they arose with the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway, on which many Chinese immigrants worked.

These enclaves enabled Chinese immigrants to form tightly knit communities, capable of defending themselves against hostile external forces, and create job opportunities. 

Before the 1950s, most Chinese immigrants in the United States and Canada came from the southern province of Guangdong. Since then, the population has became much more diversified.

Intention of the conference

Claudia Wong-Rusnak is the City of Edmonton Project Manager for the Chinatown plan. She was also one of the panelists at the conference.

Wong-Rusnak says there have been many decisions made in the past few decades that impacted the city’s Chinatown, but that they now need the residents’ assistance to put those plans into action.

“That’s why we’re having a conference. That’s why we need a comprehensive plan because the old one [that was made in the 1980s] didn’t materialize. The city council is extremely dedicated to seeing Chinatown thrive,” notes Wong-Rusnak. 

She says the two Chinatowns in Edmonton, which are quite close to one another, have had competing interests, making progress difficult.

"The city council is extremely dedicated to seeing Chinatown thrive.”

“The north Chinatown is a very commercial centre. South Chinatown is more of a destination and houses the multicultural centre, the Benevolent Association and the seniors’ home. Ideally, Chinatown should have both elements of business and culture,” she says.

“We’re suggesting we grow a core so that we can have a destination and explore those connections to downtown and to each other physically,” Wong-Rusnak explains. She also hopes that they can “continue storytelling and celebrating our Chinese culture through softer means.”

Revitalising Chinatown’s across Canada

Named Toronto’s first Chinese historian, Valerie Mah discovered very little had been written about the Chinese when she attended Teachers’ College in Toronto.

Mah was born in Brockville, Ontario, where her grandfather had a laundromat and her parents opened a restaurant in 1930. When her mother was born, there were only two Chinese families in town, but many “bachelor” Chinese men owned or worked in Chinese restaurants.

Mah is still involved with the Chinese community, even in her retirement from teaching. She sits on both the Yee Hong and Mon Sheong Board of Governors, two major Chinese retirement homes.

“My hope is to try and help 'East Chinatown' become a vibrant community. Some of the older owners are retiring and I am working on their offspring who are carrying on in the community,” says Mah.

Creating change through collective dialogue

Yi Chen, a filmmaker who was born and who grew up in Shanghai, China, was asked to speak at the conference about her 30-minute documentary that explored Washington, D.C.’s Chinatown. 

Chen said she wanted to be part of this conference because it gathered Chinatown activists from major cities across Canada and the United States to talk about a topic she’s very passionate about. 

“More importantly, this kind of collective dialogue about Chinatown’s future is unprecedented and much needed,” she says.

Like in Edmonton, the Chinese population in D.C. is hoping to revive their Chinatown by working with grassroots and non-profit organizations with similar interests, as well as the municipal government.

"This kind of collective dialogue about Chinatown’s future is unprecedented and much needed.”

Nicole So, who has helped establish the Youth Collaborative for Chinatown group and organized the "Hot and Noisy" mahjong social events in Vancouver, saw the conference as “a unique opportunity that brings together individuals from Chinatown all across North America."

These events are vital “to further the conversation about the different Chinatowns, especially given the rapid developments and changes seen in recent years,” she says.

“Who we are, what we do and where we come from is nested in the history and lives [and] the actions of all those who came before us,” she continues. “So I think it is important to remember and cherish that, especially for someone like myself—to learn about their roots and remember how things used to be.

“New things are always coming along, but once old things are lost, they are gone for good.”

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 History
Tuesday, 31 May 2016 19:00

Canadians Are Craving Ethnic Foods

With immigration continuing to drive Canada’s population growth and alter its ethnic makeup, a new study says these factors are being reflected in how Canadians eat.

The Mintel study, Ethnic Foods and Flavours, found that nearly three quarters (73%) of Canadians like to experience other cultures through food, with more than half (57%) indicating they are more willing to try ethnic foods than they were a few years ago.

Canadian Grocer

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Published in Arts & Culture

NEW YORK – An Indo-American Harvard University graduate has come up with a new series of seven dolls that represent common girls with ethnic diversity and celebrate them for their brains, talents and leadership.

Neha Chauhan Woodward, 29, has given each of the seven dolls unique personalities, which girls can relate to.

The doll collection created by her startup toy company Willowbrook Girls and story series is based on the similarly ambitious childhood friends she grew up with on Willowbrook Road.

The Link

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Published in Arts & Culture

by Diba Hareer in Ottawa 

Lack of language skills, community support and cultural constraints prevent many immigrant and ethnic women from fleeing abusive relationships and seeking help.  

The most recent figures from Statistics Canada show that one quarter of all violent crimes are domestic in nature and in nearly seven out of 10 cases women and girls are the victims. 

Although there are no specific numbers for the demographic, shelters in urban centres say they are seeing a growing number of immigrant/ethnic women using their services and fear many others aren’t seeking help because of cultural barriers. 

Seeking refuge 

Elmas, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, is an 18-year-old, born and raised in Canada by immigrant parents. She was abused by her parents who, she says, sought to control every aspect of her life, imposing what she calls the lifestyle of a ‘traditional Middle Eastern woman’ on her. 

She currently lives in a women’s shelter and is concerned her parents might find her.  

[Elmas] fled her parents’ home after they tried to force her into an arranged marriage.

Elmas says that she fled her parents’ home after they tried to force her into an arranged marriage, which she refused. 

Even though she was raised in a Middle Eastern culture at home, she valued her Canadian identity and wanted to be in charge of her own life. She says that’s what led to her parents abusing her.  

“My parents act as [if] they’re dictators in the house, whatever they say must happen ... They have anger issues,” she explains. 

Elmas says her parents worried they would become the “laughing stock” of their social circle and that they valued their image in the community above her welfare and happiness. 

Although they did not like being married to each other, Elmas says they chose to continue the relationship because divorce was considered taboo. Elmas desired to choose her partner herself, rather than be pushed by a culture she could not understand.  

Elmas explains her parents constantly yelled at her and subjected her to harsh criticism. They began controlling her contact with her friends and restricted her social get-togethers.  

“It was getting to an extent where I wasn’t having a choice in anything.” 

[T]he women who most often don’t seek help are the ones who don’t speak English or French.

A common story  

Elmas’ story is one that staff at women’s shelters often hear from immigrant and ethnic women. 

Keri Lewis, the executive director of Nelson House in Ottawa, says more than half of the women staying at the shelter are immigrants and/or ethnic women. Lewis says the immigrant women specifically that she sees are often quite isolated due to language barriers.  

The trend is similar in Toronto. About 55 per cent of the women staying at Sandgate Women’s Shelter in York region are immigrants and/or ethnic women, according to Jehan Chaudhry, Sandgate’s executive director. Of that number, 35 per cent are of Middle Eastern descent. 

The types of cases both shelters handle are similar and include women fleeing physical and emotional abuse, forced or arranged marriages, and honour-based crimes.  

According to Chaudhry, the women who most often don’t seek help are the ones who don’t speak English or French and aren’t aware of the services offered by shelters.

Another factor barring women from running to safety is their concern about the impact of being separated from their children. Sometimes a woman who tries to leave her husband gets pressured by her community to stay.  

Economic dependency and fear of further victimization are other factors that force immigrant women to stay in abusive relationships. 

Priya Kharat, a counsellor at the Students’ Union Wellness Centre at the University of Calgary, found in her research that new immigrant women compare Canadian law enforcement with law enforcement in their native countries, which are often corrupt and unfair, so they fear seeking help.  

“What they were doing was wrong, no matter what they said, I knew it was wrong.”

Difficult to leave  

Elmas had many second thoughts about running away.  

“I felt that it wasn’t right for me to leave if I didn’t give them a full chance,” she says. But her parents didn’t change their approach. They continued to emotionally and physically abuse her, and often would inflict the same pain on her younger siblings.  

“It was against my religion,” says Elmas, who is Muslim. “What they were doing was wrong, no matter what they said, I knew it was wrong.”  

The day she left is seared into her memory. She remembers feeling nervous and nauseous. “But I knew it was the direction that I had to go on,” she explains. 

Elmas had a friend who helped her leave home and find a shelter and a lawyer – support many women do not have. According to Chaudhry, one of the main challenges abused immigrant women face is not knowing how to navigate the Canadian system. 

Chaudhry says that’s why it’s important for shelter staff to provide facilities for women based on their specific cultural and language needs.  

Sandgate has Arabic and Farsi interpreters, a room designated for prayers and halal food options, for example.  

Now that she is at a shelter, Elmas says she feels safe. Her goal is to enrol in university once more and pursue her dream of becoming a nurse.  

Her advice for women and girls going through a similar experience is not to run unless they are committed to following through. 

“You’ll end up wanting to go back and if you go back, it’ll be even worse than before.”


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 Health
Wednesday, 24 February 2016 18:36

Overhaul Black History Month, Community Says

by Rosanna Haroutounian in Quebec City

In this week’s round-up of what’s been making headlines in Canada’s ethnic media: the Black community reflects on the shortcomings of Black History Month; groups react to the passing of a federal motion denouncing sanctions against Israel; and migrants ask for amnesty after years without status.

Black History Month needs an overhaul, community says

Members of Canada’s Black community say Black History Month fails to educate Canadians about slavery and mobilize them to be more active against discrimination.

At the 15th Black History Month concert in Brampton, Ontario on Feb. 20, Justice Donald McLeod highlighted problems that the Black community faces and needs to address with more vigilance.

As reported by Pride, McLeod noted that Blacks earn approximately 76 cents for every dollar earned by a white worker; that Blacks account for ten per cent of inmates in Canadian prisons but only three per cent of the population; and that Black boys drop out of high school at a rate of 40 per cent.

“We have to do our best to make sure that Black History Month is not just lived out in the 29 days, but it’s actually lived out in the whole year so that our kids will realize that what we expect is that they stand head and shoulders above everybody else,” he said.

“It was radical, revolutionary, loud."

On Feb. 18, the Government of Ontario passed legislation to formally recognize February as Black History Month. 

“People in our communities have recommended that February be a celebration of ‘Black Liberation’ or ‘African Liberation,’ rather than ‘Black History,’” Toronto Star columnist Desmond Cole wrote on the same day.

Black History Month doesn’t acknowledge how Black people escaping slavery in the United States faced racism in Canada and how the community continues to experience discrimination, Cole noted.

“There’s a tendency to focus on the quiet resilience of Dr. Martin Luther King and others like him, but the struggles of Civil Rights activists were not quiet,” said George Randolph, founder of Randolph Academy of the Performing Arts

“It was radical, revolutionary, loud — those are the voices I’d like to see us focus more on.” 

Randolph is one of three Black artists who shared their impressions of Black History Month with the Caribbean Camera.

Liberals criticized for condemning Israel sanctions movement

Canada’s Liberal Party is garnering praise as well as criticism for supporting a Conservative motion to condemn the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

As the Canadian Jewish News reports, the motion passed on Feb. 22 by a 229–51 vote. The New Democratic Party voted against the motion, as did the Bloc Québécois and three Liberal Members of Parliament (MPs). Several Liberal MPs did not vote.

The BDS movement is a global campaign that seeks boycotts, divestment and sanctions against “Israel until it complies with international law and Palestinian rights.”

According to the Conservative motion, BDS “promotes the demonization and delegitimization of the State of Israel.”

The New Democratic Party voted against the motion, as did the Bloc Québécois.

“BDS is a non-violent campaign that supports proven methods of conscientious objection to encourage Israel to respect international law,” wrote the National Council on Canada Arab Relations (NCCAR) in a press release following the vote. It notes that Canadians have supported past BDS movements, notably against South African apartheid. 

“At its core, the vote on the anti-BDS motion would go against the spirit of Freedom of Speech, a right enshrined in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” stated the NCCAR.

Palestine News Network reported that, on the same day of the vote, members of the Student Society of McGill University, “which has one of the highest Jewish populations of any university in Canada,” passed a motion in support of BDS. 

The motion asks McGill University to divest from “profiting from violations of Palestinian human rights.” According to the Montreal Gazette, McGill administration said that the motion does not oblige the university to change its policies.

Members of the McGill BDS Action Network told the Gazette that the vote demonstrates that the students do not agree with the government’s stance.

Migrants demand same amnesty given to Syrian refugees

As the Trudeau government reaches its goal of welcoming 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada this week, some are calling on the government to extend the same amnesty to migrants who have been without status in Canada for years.

In an open letter published in Canadian Immigrant, Odhiambo Agunga commended the government for its compassion towards Syrian refugees, but noted that other refugees like himself have been struggling to get by without status, their claims “either forgotten or ignored.” 

The letter blames much of the backlog on the former Conservative government, who Agunga said reduced refugees to second-class humans.

In another op-ed published in the Toronto Star, two psychiatrists called on the government to stop detaining migrants without charges. 

“At a time when Canadians have opened up their arms to support and protect Syrian families, we cannot ignore the practices that are taking place behind closed bars, out of sight of the generous welcomes and flashing cameras,” wrote Dr. Michaela Beder and Dr. Rachel Kronick.

Agunga says migrant claims have largely been “either forgotten or ignored.”

They said that detention for administrative purposes can lead adults to develop psychiatric problems such depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. 

“We have watched previously healthy children deteriorate: in one study, most children had trouble sleeping, some stopped speaking, many wouldn’t eat, others developed behavioural problems, separation anxiety and exhibited signs of trauma,” they wrote.

Agunga pointed out that getting medical treatment without status is expensive: “No hospital or any medical institution in Canada will admit us as patients without down payment even if we are sick and dying yet we all pay taxes which covers these health care services.” 

The Liberal government announced on Feb. 18 that it would restore health-care coverage for all refugees and asylum claimants to pre-2012 levels in April, as reported by the Toronto Star

Agunga wrote that migrants also need to be given amnesty to go to school, obtain driver’s licenses, get credit cards, vote “and more so to be able to reunite with our beloved families scattered all over the world.”

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 Priya Ramanujam in Scarborough

In this week’s round-up of what’s been making headlines in Canada’s ethnic media: celebrated deputy chief of the Toronto Police Service quits the force, mainstream grocery stores make concerted efforts to become one-stop shops for ethnic consumers, and Filipinos in Alberta get their long-awaited consulate. 

Toronto Deputy Police Chief’s resignation a loss for local black community

Members of Toronto’s Black community view the recent retirement of deputy chief of police, Peter Sloly, from the Toronto Police Service (TPS) as a major loss.

Community advocates and activists who worked with Sloly over the years “think his departure is a blow to the city, especially in fractious police-community relation matters,” writes reporter Neil Armstrong in Pride, Canada’s weekly African-Canadian and Caribbean news magazine.

Sloly, who immigrated to Canada from Jamaica, was the TPS’ second Black deputy chief. He was passed over last year when he applied for the position of police chief, which was awarded to his fellow deputy chief at the time, Mark Saunders

Known as a staunch supporter of community policing, Sloly was instrumental in leading the TPS’ Police and Community Engagement Review (PACER), which made several recommendations to reform current policing practices, including creating a new core value articulating the service’s commitment to bias-free policing. 

"His departure is a blow to the city, especially in fractious police-community relation matters."

He has also been recognized as one of the first individuals "on the inside" to describe the highly controversial practice of police carding as a problem that has to be addressed. 

“He had such a connection to the community and he understood, he empathized and he was willing to make changes so there was a sense of loss,” Audrey Campbell, co-chair of the PACER review committee told Pride.

Many community members share this sentiment. In a Share News article, Dave Mitchell, the former president of the Association of Black Law Enforcers, stated that Sloly contributed enormously to 21st century policing.

“He will be missed in terms of his innovative approach to modern law enforcement and community-based policing,” said Michell. “He’s also a role model to other Black officers because of his myriad [of] significant achievements.”

Loblaws’ new motto, offerings reflect focus on diversity

Grocery chain Loblaws’ new motto “30/30” is a reference to estimates that 30 per cent of Canada’s population will be born outside of the country by 2030. 

As reported by Neil Sharma in The Epoch Times, to celebrate this year’s Chinese New Year, Loblaws’ North Mississauga Real Canadian Superstore decorated its store with hanging lanterns and dragons and sold items like dumplings and red envelopes.

“Chinese people will put money inside for gifts and give them to the younger generation,” Stew Chang, senior category manager of Loblaws, told The Epoch Times. “It suppresses evil and ensures the children will be healthy and have good fortune throughout the year.”

According to Won Suk Ha, senior category manager of Multicultural Fresh, Loblaws used the Mississauga location, being that it's in a highly diverse city, as a pilot to get a sense of what customers gravitated to most.  

30 per cent of Canada’s population will be born outside of the country by 2030.

To date, the Superstore’s seafood department has fared well with Chinese-Canadian shoppers. The Mississauga location has the largest seafood section of any Loblaws-operated store, with fish like tilapia and green bass on display.

Also stocked on the grocery store’s shelf: a wide selection of tea brands imported from Taiwan and mainland China; a variety of soy sauces; rice and noodle imported brands; and items like dried lily flower and Chinese peppers in the bulk food section.

Unlike initiatives such as Sobeys launching a South Asian store and the forthcoming Seafood City Supermarket catering to Filipinos, Loblaws aims to become a “one-stop shopping destination for customers,” merging “mainstream” Canadian foods with a wide range of multicultural selections. 

“Whether it’s Canadians whose families are from different places around the world or Canadians who have traveled the world and have an extended palette, it’s important to us that when they come to our store, they find [what they need],” Ha said. 

Philippines consulate to open in Calgary

It’s been a long time coming, but a Philippine consulate will be open for business in Alberta sometime next month.

According to a recent article published by The Filipino Post, the Philippines’ department of foreign affairs (DFA) will open the office in Calgary to serve the more than 120,000 Filipinos living in Alberta, something community members have been demanding for years. 

Calgary was selected as the home of the consulate office due to its high concentration — approximately 40,000 — of Filipinos, DFA assistant secretary Julius Torres told the Philippine Inquirer in a telephone interview.

The aim of the office will be to bolster relations with commercial establishments, major industries and other diplomatic offices located in the area, Torres explained. 

Calgary was selected as the home of the consulate office due to its high concentration of Filipinos.

After a 2009 economic boost brought more temporary foreign workers to Canada from the Philippines, the Vancouver office became busier and over capacity, reports the Philippine Asian News Today. In 2014, added pressure was placed on the Lower House of Congress to find room in the budget to open a consulate in Alberta.

Torres, who was appointed as consul general, will arrive in Calgary on Feb. 23. The office is expected to be fully operational by the beginning of March and will offer services like passport applications and renewals and document authentication. 

The office will be the fourth Philippine post in Canada outside of the embassy in Ottawa and consulates in Vancouver and Toronto and is expected to ease the workload of the other offices. 

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
Page 1 of 6

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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