Commentary by: Don Curry in North Bay, Ontario
Don’t buy Vic Fedeli a yellow tie. He has dozens of them.
That’s his signature trademark, but he is just as well known for his intellect, knack for getting things done, workaholic tendencies, a big smile and a handshake for everyone who crosses his path.
Now interim leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, the 61-year-old aims to be the permanent leader after a leadership convention that has to be held before the end of March to give the party time to campaign before the June provincial election. Underestimate his chances at your peril.
But what does the Nipissing MPP and former mayor of North Bay know about immigration? Quite a bit, actually.
Of Italian immigrant stock and a big supporter of the city’s Davedi Club, as mayor he saw immigration as a key to the future well-being of the city. Northern Ontario has faced youth out-migration, baby boomer retirements and a declining birth rate and does not have an immigration strategy.
Fedeli identified the local need as mayor in his first term starting in 2003 when he tasked the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development with getting the city involved in attracting and retaining immigrants. The North Bay Newcomer Network, a Local Immigration Partnership, was formed and it later led to the establishment of an immigrant support agency, the North Bay & District Multicultural Centre, in 2008.
Full disclosure, I have known him for almost 40 years. He formed Fedeli Advertising in 1978, the same year I moved to the city to teach journalism at Canadore College. I interviewed him in the early 1980s for a feature article for Northern Ontario Business magazine and our paths have crossed many times since. I would describe him as conservative on fiscal issues and liberal on social issues.
I was part of a delegation from the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI) that met with him in his Queen’s Park office to brief him on provincial immigration issues. My OCASI colleagues, perhaps anticipating some pushback from a Conservative, were impressed with his knowledge. I have met with him in his North Bay constituency office to discuss local and regional immigration issues and see that he always does his homework to prepare for the meeting.
I played golf with him at a fundraiser for the North Bay & District Multicultural Centre. I drove the cart and he worked his smart phone to stay in touch with provincial issues. Although we are members of the same golf club, he rarely plays, as his workaholic tendencies continue through the summer. We tried our hands at cricket together with the local cricket club. Club members stifled their laughter.
Fedeli ran for the party’s leadership in 2015 and bowed out of the race to support Christine Elliott. Since then he has been the party’s bulldog in the Legislature as finance critic, holding Premier Kathleen Wynne’s feet to the fire on numerous issues.
He has the unanimous support of the PC provincial caucus and Northern Ontario politicians of more than just Tory persuasions. The North Bay Nugget quoted Mayor Al McDonald, a former MPP himself, saying Mr. Fedeli would be a “great choice” for party leader. He pointed to the need for an immigration strategy for Northern Ontario that Fedeli could champion, plus a rollback of provincial policies that have impaired the potential for development in the north.
The article quoted other North Bay municipal politicians singing Fedeli’s praises. He has also generated excitement province-wide on social media.
He is a proven winner in North Bay. A two-term mayor, he won the 2003 campaign against three challengers, including a former deputy-mayor, earning 75 per cent of the total votes cast. In the 2006 campaign, opposed by a former mayor, he earned more than two-thirds of the votes. Each year he donated his approximately $50,000 salary to a different charity.
His business was a roaring success. It was listed as number 34 of the top 50 Canadian best places to work by Profit, a magazine for small business. He was recognized as one of Canada’s most successful entrepreneurs in an episode of Money Makers. He sold his business in 1992 for a large profit, and has been a leading philanthropist in the city ever since.
He donated $250,000 to Nipissing University, $100,000 to Canadore College, and then $100,000 more. He donated $250,000 for the Harris Learning Library at Nipissing University and $150,000 for the city’s new hospital.
Prior to taking over the finance critic role in 2013, he was the energy critic and critic of the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines. He was the main party investigator and agitator over gas plant scandals in Oakville and Mississauga. In 2013, he wrote to the Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner to ask for an investigation of the removal of emails in the Premier’s Office pertaining to the gas plant controversy. The then Premier's chief of staff was recently found guilty.
He also fought the Liberal government on the divestment of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission, based in North Bay. His efforts were successful and the ONTC is now on sound financial footing.
North Bay is excited. We had a premier from here before – Mike Harris. Could Vic Fedeli be the second from this city of 50,000, just a few hours north of Toronto?
Don Curry is the president of Curry Consulting. He was the founding executive director of the North Bay & District Multicultural Centre and the Timmins & District Multicultural Centre and is now chair of the board of directors.
THE B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers (CARL) on Monday launched a legal challenge to protect the rights of Canadians facing revocation of their Canadian citizenship due to allegations of misrepresentation.
The organizations argue that any Canadian facing the loss of their citizenship must have a full and fair opportunity to defend themselves in a hearing. However, this long-standing right to a hearing was taken away by the last government in Bill C-24.
Since it took office, the current government has set targets and initiated revocation proceedings to strip citizenship from between 40 and 60 Canadians per month, despite the fact that it denounced citizenship revocations by the minister alone, without a hearing, as “dictatorial” while in opposition.
OTTAWA—A prominent Canadian victim of abuse behind bars in Syria is calling on the government to cancel controversial directives that allow for the sharing of...
Commentary by Natalya Chernova in Toronto
On Friday, Mar. 4, I attended the 18th National Metropolis Conference, hungry for new information and curious to find out whether my area of expertise – ethnic media – was covered.
The forum subtitled “Getting Results: Migration, Opportunities and Good Governance” welcomed researchers, policy makers, community and government representatives from all over Canada to exchange experience and ideas on the issues of immigration, settlement and integration.
Among diverse topics presented were recent statistics and migration trends, personal experiences and professional observations of the immigration policies, labour issues and programs, academic studies on family integration and even happiness levels among recent immigrants.
All these sessions painted a clear and colourful picture of Canada’s immigration future – steady, progressive growth of the number of new immigrants with diverse ethnic backgrounds and diverse personal and professional needs. Among those needs are information and a sense of community – key components of what the ethnic media provides.
A significant tool for outreach
Integration and inclusion, also part of the ethnic media’s role, were some of the most discussed issues that day, with Yolande James, former Minister of Immigration and Cultural Communities of the Government of Quebec, summarizing it with a statement that “governments must create an engaging environment where immigrants can reach their full potential”.
The common agreement among the presenters though was that governments have not yet done enough to establish the level of support that would allow immigrants feel fully accepted and integrate easily into Canadian society.
In addition, Canadian Refugee and Immigration Lawyer El-Farouk Khaki noted that the second and third generations of racialized immigrants generally tend to be closer to their ethnic groups than the first generation. “The more discrimination people face, the closer they feel to their ethnic groups.”
However, despite a common understanding of increasing immigration trends and the impact of ethnic communities on newcomers’ integration experience, surprisingly no presentations or workshops mentioned the role of the ethnic, multilingual media in new immigrants’ lives.
As part of a team of ethnic media consultants, I see stories on immigration, integration, education and legal issues, labour, health and safety, immigrant challenges and struggles every day, and yet ethnic media seems not to be on the radar of policy makers and service providers as one of the most valuable resources on immigration they can find.
Following the ethnic media would seem to be a significant part of the outreach equation of what Ryerson University professor April Lindgren calls “A Settlement Service in Disguise” in her pioneer case study on the City of Brampton’s municipal communication strategies and ethnic media (2015, Global Media Journal -- Canadian Edition Volume 8, Issue 2, pp. 49-71.)
The divide from mainstream media
When asked about it, government officials acknowledge the importance of ethnic media, but admit that it’s not being used to its full potential. There is still separation between mainstream media and ethnic media press conferences, message and language specifics.
But does there have to be? Shouldn’t ethnic media be an integral part of the communication mix, a two way channel for an open dialogue between governments, service providers and immigrant communities?
After all, with growing immigration and yet-to-be-improved integration processes, ethnic media will continue to grow and be a viable component of immigrant life in Canada. So why not make it a powerful tool in creating an engaging society where everyone can reach their full potential?
Metropolis 2016, while having presented lots of valuable information and opinions, left these questions unanswered for me right now.
Natalya Chernova is a MIREMS Ethnic Media Expert.
This article was first published on MIREMS. It has been re-published with permission.
On December 3, 2015 Geoff Regan was elected as the 36th Speaker of the House of Commons — reportedly the first from Atlantic Canada in almost 100 years.
The veteran politician, who was first elected to parliament in 1993 to represent Halifax West, was re-elected to his seventh term in October 2015 during which time he has held 126 town hall meetings.
His focus over the years on issues such as education, environmental protection, health promotion and retirement security, has led him to the new position he holds as Speaker of the House.
More respect in the House of Commons
In a conversation with Touch BASE editor Robin Arthur, Regan said he plans to change the tone of the house to make it less confrontational.
“Of course, I cannot do it alone. I need the cooperation of Members of Parliament (MPs) to do this. Canadians would like to see MPs show more respect for each other and think about the people they serve rather than the parties they belong to.”
Regan was pointing to heckling on the floor of the House of Commons which he says is a form of intimidation. “It especially discourages women from entering politics. I want to see less of that type of heckling,” he says.
“Sixty nine per cent of MPs think there is too much of heckling – especially interruption of speakers — and so that’s the challenge ahead.”
The Speaker of the House votes only in the event of a tie. He votes not as he wishes to, but based on precedent.
Speaking on matters of immigration
The position of Speaker of the House of Commons requires him to be non partisan and impartial at all times – therefore he can no longer comment publicly on issues that might come before him on the floor of the House. Nevertheless he can communicate with MPs separately. That being said, although the House Speaker cannot introduce bills, he can take up issues that matter to his constituency and represent his constituents.
“I can do that in direct communication with MPs, cabinet ministers or parliament secretaries,” Regan said. He told this newspaper there are issues that matter to his constituency (Halifax West).
“These include community infrastructure, the immigration system — there will be an immigration plan this year — initiatives that would allow families to make ends meet, health and seniors care,” he said.
The Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has met its promises to open Canada’s gates to 10,000 refugees by December 31. But is the government looking to iron out other issues of interest to newcomers?
“These are matters of government,” Regan observed. “However, the Liberal party has promised to speed up family reunification and double the number of parents and grandparents coming in every year.”
He says that in town hall meetings, he has heard from immigrants with advanced degrees. These are matters that can be taken up to speed up credentials recognition.
“The minister cannot be an expert on specifics of job sectors. So politicians at all levels should put the pressure on professional bodies responsible for credentials recognition to make sure they are welcoming in their approach and are not looking to lower the number of professionals coming into the country,” he observed.
Regan also touched on Bill C-24, introduced by the Harper government, which allows the minister of immigration to strip a dual citizen of his citizenship if he is convicted abroad without the right to defend.
“The Liberal party opposed the Bill when it was introduced,” he said. “We will have to wait and see if the government will introduce a Bill to review it.”
This article first appeared on Touch BASE. Re-published with permission.
The economy is weak, the price of oil has collapsed, and the loonie is doing a swan dive, but Canadians are remarkably happy with the performance of the federal government and the general direction of the country, according to a new survey conducted by Nanos Research for Policy Options magazine. Positive about Liberal government A […]
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Commentary by Andrew Griffith in Ottawa
The Liberal government has emphasized its diversity and inclusion language in speeches, cabinet ministers, committees and mandate letters. This emphasis has been reinforced by the return of the multiculturalism program to Canadian Heritage. Taken together, these represent mainstreaming of diversity, inclusion and multiculturalism to an unparalleled extent.
It starts with the language of Prime Minister Trudeau who regularly emphasizes that:
Canadians understand that diversity is our strength. We know that Canada has succeeded — culturally, politically, economically — because of our diversity, not in spite of it.
It continues with the creation of the Cabinet Committee on Diversity and Inclusion, with a strong inclusion mandate for Indigenous and new Canadians:
Considers issues concerning the social fabric of Canada and the promotion of Canadian pluralism. Examines initiatives designed to strengthen the relationship with Indigenous Canadians, improve the economic performance of immigrants, and promote Canadian diversity, multiculturalism, and linguistic duality.
It is reflected in his choice of ministers: 50 per cent women, 17 per cent visible minority.
And is further reinforced in the shared mandate letter commitments for all ministers with two strong multiculturalism-related commitments:
Canadians expect us, in our work, to reflect the values we all embrace: inclusion, honesty, hard work, fiscal prudence, and generosity of spirit. We will be a government that governs for all Canadians, and I expect you, in your work, to bring Canadians together.
You are expected to do your part to fulfill our government’s commitment to transparent, merit-based appointments, to help ensure gender parity and that Indigenous Canadians and minority groups are better reflected in positions of leadership.
Holding all ministers to account, with the PMO tracking these and other shared commitments (in addition to minister-specific commitments), should ensure greater progress on the two objectives of multiculturalism: recognition and equality.
It will take some time to see how well these commitments are implemented, particularly with respect to appointments. An early test was with respect to parliamentary secretaries where 34 per cent were women (below parity), but 23 per cent were visible minorities (significantly above).
Equally important, the previous government’s weak record on the diversity of judicial appointments (less than two per cent visible minority) will start to be addressed.
Rebuilding multiculturalism policy
Overall, the new government made few changes to how government is formally organized (machinery changes). This was wise given the disruption and turmoil that such changes can entail (e.g., the Martin government’s splitting apart Human Resources and Skills Development and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in 2004, reversed by the Harper government in 2006).
This makes the return of the multiculturalism program to Canadian Heritage all the more striking, after some eight years at Citizenship and Immigration (now Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada or IRCC).
The original transfer to CIC was largely driven by political reasons given then Minister Jason Kenney’s political outreach role with ethnic groups.
However, there was also a policy rationale. Multiculturalism deals with longer-term multi-generational issues (along with ‘mainstream’ visible minority relations) in contrast to the newcomer focus of the immigration, integration and citizenship programs.
While multiculturalism could be seen as a logical extension of CIC’s mandate, and was portrayed as such in one of CIC’s strategic objectives, ‘building an integrated society,' in practice, however, the multiculturalism program withered away at CIC.
When the program moved to CIC in 2008, it had a $13 million budget: $12 million for grants and contributions and 73 full-time positions. The last departmental performance report (2013-14) showed 29 full-time positions (a decline of 60 per cent) with a $9.8 million budget. Money for grants and contributions fell to $7.9 million.
Negotiations over the resources to be returned to Canadian Heritage will be challenging, given the impact may be felt in other program areas in IRCC that benefited from the redistribution of Multiculturalism funds. Moreover, the weakened capacity will require a major rebuilding and re-staffing effort.
From a policy perspective, the return of multiculturalism to Canadian Heritage reinforces the overall government diversity and inclusion agenda, as well as the Canadian identity agenda, which fits nicely with Canadian Heritage’s overall mandate.
However, Minister Mélanie Joly’s public statements to date have not included any significant references to multiculturalism. Her general orientation, however, has been clear: to promote the “symbols of progressiveness. That was (sic) the soul of our platform.”
Overall, the commitment to a diversity and inclusion agenda, supported by a Cabinet Committee and shared Ministerial mandate letter commitments, and the rebuilding of multiculturalism back at Canadian Heritage, bode well for a more effective inclusion, diversity and multiculturalism strategy across government.
Andrew Griffith is the author of Multiculturalism in Canada: Evidence and Anecdote and Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias: Resetting Citizenship and Multiculturalism and is a regular media commentator and blogger (Multiculturalism Meanderings). He is the former Director General for Citizenship and Multiculturalism.
This article first appeared on The Hill Times. Re-published with permission from author.
by Kyle Duggan in Ottawa
The new minister of health can expect a flood of petitions on her desk on the topic of implementing a rare disease strategy for Canada.
Durhane Wong-Rieger, president of the Canadian Organization for Rare Disorders, told a crowd of health experts and industry stakeholders at an event put on by the Economic Club of Canada in Ottawa Monday that if they’re not writing letters to the new health minister and prime minister, they’re not doing their jobs.
“This strategy is long overdue,” she said. “We are way behind other countries.”
Her organization has been championing its plan for a national strategy since May, but sees an opportunity in the new federal government.
“I see it as low hanging fruit … a quick win for the party and the government if they were to bring this forward and implement it.”
Tougher for people with rare diseases
The strategy calls for improving early detection of rare diseases, improving quality of care for patients and introducing a policy framework for “orphan” drugs — those developed specifically for rare diseases. It also suggests measures aimed at creating a better information network for rare diseases, including a possible registry.
Monday’s event heard from Jonathan Pitre of Russell, Ontario, often called the “butterfly boy.” Pitre has an incurable skin condition called Epidermolysis bullosa (EB). He’s one of about 5,000 people with some form of EB in Canada, which causes his skin to blister and burn.
He told the crowd about the prolonged frustration of waiting for doctors to properly diagnose his condition, about the lack of appropriate adult care centres for those with rare diseases and the prohibitive cost of his medication.
“For most common conditions or diseases it’s a little bit easier, there’s more knowing about them … resources dedicated to them,” he said. “For rare diseases … it’s a bit tougher for us.”
There’s no treatment for EB in Canada – a bone-marrow transplant would cost $2.5 million, on top of the cost of travelling to and staying in the U.S. for an extended period of time.
“I think you guys noticed that’s not pocket change,” he said. “That’s unreal.”
“That’s the truth of it. Just to get that treatment that may help us … I may not live to 20. Just to be able to keep fighting we need that much money and that much resources … We can do definitely better.”
Lack of coherent, rational approach
Former Alberta health minister Fred Horne said a Canadian rare disease strategy could help deal with cases like Pitre’s in the future, and pointed to a rare drug framework as something the new government could move on quickly.
“Rare disease coverage for patients, where it exists, it’s very sporadic across the country. Some provinces have a specialized program off to the side where they can provide some assistance, but there’s no really coherent, rational approach to this. It’s a public health issue, it affects three million Canadians – that’s the call to action.”
He said a catastrophic drug coverage plan for rare diseases is critical, adding that from his experience it’s “pretty hard in a smaller budget to provide reimbursement for these drugs” because some cost hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.
Setting national standards and pooling financial resources, he said, “could do better for Canadians than we’re currently doing.
“Instead of worrying about whose jurisdiction it is, let’s look at what are the opportunities to really work together and make something happen.”
Wong-Rieger also spoke about the need to get more Canadians with rare diseases into clinical trials.
“That’s your lifeline, that’s your hope,” she said. Missing out on clinical trials can be a “major, major tragedy,” she said.
Her organization estimates that about three million Canadians – about eight per cent of the population – has a rare disease.
Published in partnership with iPolitics.ca.
by Leah Bjornson in Vancouver
The Saskatoon International Airport was a scene of exultation and relief on Sept. 17 when a family of seven Syrian refugees arrived to be reunited with their distant Canadian cousin.
Carlo Arslanian, a Syrian Canadian who left Syria when he was six months old, told CBC News that he was overjoyed to be able to provide his family members with refuge during the current crisis.
"I think it's probably the best thing that's ever happened to me and to my family," said Arslanian. "They're going to thrive in Saskatoon and in Canada. I hope it's a well worth trip, and a well worth venture."
The Arslanians are just seven of over four million individuals who have fled Syria to neighbouring countries or western European nations since civil war broke out in the country in 2011. For most, this process can take months or even years to complete, with the time in between spent in refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan, or Iraq.
A family of refugees who recently arrived in Charlottetown fled Syria over a year ago. They finally completed their journey on Sept. 25, when members of the local Syrian community received Awak Alkhalil and his family at the airport with welcome signs and flags.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you very much. Thank you Canada. Thank you government of Canada," Alkhalil said.
Unlike the Arslanians, the Alkhalils did not have family members to sponsor their journey to Canada. Instead, Susan Nye-Brothers brought them to Charlottetown with the assistance of the Charlottetown Diocese Refugee Committee.
These families are just two of many who expect to reach Canadian shores this fall.
According to Refuge Winnipeg, an interfaith coalition of members from Winnipeg's Islamic, Christian and Jewish communities, the group expects three Syrian families to arrive in their community within the next month. P.E.I. is also expecting two new families to arrive this month.
Expediting the process at home and abroad
In order to assist more families seeking refuge in Canada, the government is doubling the number of employees at the Winnipeg processing centre where all refugee applications are handled.
Beyond expanding their domestic services, the federal government is trying to boost these efforts even further by expediting the immigration of refugees to the country.
Immigration Minister Chris Alexander recently announced the government’s plans to bring 10,000 Syrian refugees into the country by September 2016 – 15 months sooner than its original pledge. The Conservatives have additional plans to resettle 10,000 more refugees over the next four years should they win the federal election this fall.
Canada has resettled approximately 2,300 Syrian refugees since 2013 when it began efforts to assist those fleeing conflict in the region.
In order to speed up the application process for refugees, immigration officers are being instructed to assume that Syrians and Iraqis fleeing the region are indeed refugees, rather than require that they prove they are convention refugees as defined by the United Nations Refugee Agency.
This stipulation has previously led to lengthy application processes, which can stretch on for months, if not years, leaving individuals and families stranded in a perpetual limbo of refugee camps and bureaucratic processes.
Since the announcement, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has issued a call for employees who are ready for “rapid deployment” to the Middle East.
The department is working with Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) to mobilize staff who have experience with refugee situations and who have knowledge of Arabic. Because of these requirements, the CIC is even asking retired immigration officers to step forward to assist in this time of crisis.
By sending officers to Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey – countries where a majority of refugees have fled to in an attempt to escape conflict and eventually enter Western nations – both CIC and the CBSA hope to increase their presence on the ground and assist refugees before they even step foot on Canadian soil.
The larger conflict
What the Arslanians and the Alkhalils have in common is that their journeys began long before pictures of Alan Kurdi reached the Canadian public on Sept. 2.
The Middle East was rocked by a series of pro-democracy protests in early 2011 following the self-immolation of Mohammed Bouazizi, a street vender living in the coastal town of Ben Arous in Tunisia. Bouazizi’s death spurred protests in Sidi Bouzid that eventually spread to a large number of countries in the region.
In Syria, similar protests erupted after a group of teenagers were arrested and tortured for painting revolutionary slogans on a school wall.
The unrest eventually culminated in nationwide protests with hundreds of thousands of people taking to the streets to demand the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad.
The months that followed saw the country descend into devastating conflict with rebel forces facing off against government troops.
This is the Syria that Regina resident Hany Al Moliya left behind when he fled with his family in 2012.
A web series released on YouTube this week follows Al Moliya’s family’s struggles living in a small refugee camp in Lebanon. The family lived there for three years before finally arriving in Regina several months ago.
Al Moliya is one of the roughly 600 government-assisted Syrian refugees living in Canada. The others have all been brought to Canada through private sponsorship.
The challenge for Al Moliya – as well as for the Arslanians, the Alkhalils, and the many other families arriving in the country – is to now create a new life in Canada.
With the government’s newfound efforts to expedite the process of bringing Syrian and Iraqi refugees into Canada, Al Moliya will likely be joined by many of his fellow Syrians in the months and years to come.
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-- Canada's economic development minister Navdeep Bains at a Public Policy Forum economic summit