New Canadian Media

By: Marieke Walsh in Ottawa, ON

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne was repeatedly under attack and on the defensive Wednesday night during a debate on issues facing the black community.

The debate in Toronto’s Jane and Finch neighbourhood featured all major party leaders except Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford.

Wynne was taken to task for her government’s record on disproportionate numbers of black children facing suspension and expulsion, inequities in the health care system and the persistence of carding by police.

Throughout, the premier stuck to her talking points that the Liberal government has taken these issues “head on” and that “more needs to be done.”

At one point moderator Royson James called Wynne out for her response to systemic racism in the education system.

“You do know that whatever you’re doing isn’t working,” James asked Wynne. And he wondered if the people responsible for the school system understand the “urgency.”

Stats show almost half of the black students who graduate high school don’t have the credits and grades needed to go to university and 42 per cent didn’t apply to post secondary school. -Royson James

His follow-up was met with laughs and a shout of “clueless” from someone in the crowd of roughly 200 people.

“I get that there’s a huge frustration and I feel that frustration,” Wynne said.

At which point NDP Leader Andrea Horwath broke in with “15 years” — referencing the Liberal’s time in power.

James had previously listed several statistics pointing to the experience of black children in the Toronto District School Board in 2011.

Calling them “crushing statistics” he said the stats show almost half of the black students who graduate high school don’t have the credits and grades needed to go to university and 42 per cent didn’t apply to post secondary school. Moreover he said, of those students that apply, only one in four are accepted.

Of every 100 black students only 69 graduate, James said. Out of that number, he said only 18 end up in university or college.

He said the numbers are “worse” for boys, adding that half of the students expelled from school are black kids. “What do you plan to do about this abject failure of our schools to educate black students,” James asked the three leaders.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the “first thing you have to do is admit that there’s a problem.”

“These stats aren’t new,” Horwath said. “I’d suggest that it’s getting worse and not better.” She said the government should deal with the curriculum in schools and ensure supports are there for students. This online casino prepares plenty of exciting offers and bonuses. But in order to try some online casino games it is better to start with free online slots.

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said the statistics show how much the “status quo is failing our young people.”

Meanwhile, Wynne defended her government’s record on implementing items like the Black Youth Action Plan and the Education Equity Action Plan while agreeing that more needs to be done.

“There is absolutely no doubt that there is more structural change that’s needed,” Wynne said.

Wynne got the loudest applause when she was first introduced at the event but it went downhill from there — she was at times jeered, challenged and interrupted by the crowd.

Speaking to reporters after the debate, she said the issues debated “are not simple” nor “easily dealt with.”

“What I was saying was that we have been tackling them, we have been addressing them and yes there is still more to be done,” Wynne said.

Horwath, who got a warm reception from the crowd by the end of the night, called the debate “very enjoyable.”

The Elephant not in the Room

Ford’s absence wasn’t addressed very much by the leaders during the debate, but was met with boos from the crowd when the event organizers noted his absence.

Speaking to iPolitics afterward, several audience members said his absence would hurt Ford, while another said he would still hear out the ideas put forward from the Progressive Conservatives.

Earlier in the day Wynne issued a letter challenging Ford to three debates, saying he hasn’t yet agreed to a single one ahead of the June election.

Speaking to reporters afterward, Wynne said Ford is “the one person who wouldn’t have agreed with anything that we were saying and he wasn’t there to put his position forward.”

“It is really important that he show up and that he put his opinions forward because people need to understand what that contrast is,” she said.

Ford was in Northern Ontario on a campaign-style tour.

Horwath questioned Ford’s priorities and said the “community was pretty disappointed” by his absence.


Republished under arrangement with iPolitics

Published in Politics

By: Janice Dickson in Ottawa, ON

Iranian nationals say they’re enduring painfully long wait times to become permanent residents and citizens in Canada and believe they are being treated unfairly.

Iranians who have lived and studied in Canada for years have taken to Twitter using the #DelayedIranianApplications hashtag to share their stories.

“I, along with many other Iranians are victims of systemic discrimination by the Canadian government and security apparatuses,” said Naeim Karimi, a senior business analyst with Moneris.

Karimi said that he applied for permanent residency in 2012 and obtained it in 2014. Now he’s applied for his citizenship but he said his application is “stuck” at the security screening stage, which is similar to those waiting for permanent residency. 

“I first thought this was isolated to me, but then when I found many many others online who were in a similar situation, I realized that this is the result of systemic discrimination against Iranians,” he said. 

Hursh Jaswal, a spokesman for Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen, said security checks have no set processing time and they will vary as they are done on a case-by-case basis.

“The CBSA performs background checks on all visitors, immigrants and refugee claimants of 18 years of age or over to ensure that inadmissible person — such as criminals or persons considered security risks — are not allowed to enter or remain in Canada,” he said.

Jaswal said the department understands the “frustration” felt by applicants and their loved ones, but that the thorough security screening of all applicants is important to ensure the safety and security of Canadians.

“BSA and the Government of Canada are committed to a fair and non-discriminatory application of immigration procedures while protecting the safety and security of Canadians,” said Jaswal.

Karimi said he’s submitted a complaint to the Human Rights Commission and advised others to do the same. Though various casino bonuses exist, generally, there are two major type of casino bonuses- deposit required and deposit waivered ones. The deposit required ones include bonus cash as well as loyalty points. They are both given out to customers who deposit with the casino.   

“In the case of the PR applicants, who are all highly educated individuals and have graduated from or are currently enrolled in Canadian universities, we are seeing delays of up to two years from the regular six-month processing time,” he said. 

Karimi called the “processing time” Jaswal had mentioned “a self-declared time” by the department of immigration.

“This alone is an indication of the systemic discrimination.”

“We are all professionals, masters or PhD [students] and pay very high taxes, contributing to the economy. Many of us are scientists or entrepreneurs and contribute to Canada’s scientific advancement.  Canada is getting all the benefits and we are kept in a limbo. Unable to vote and uncertain if we can even continue to stay,” said Karimi, who is an Ontario resident. 

Iranian nationals in Quebec spoke out recently about the delays for permanent residency. CBC News reported that dozens of Iranians in Quebec have been waiting more than two years to become permanent residents.

Jaswal said the total processing time for currently listed for Quebec skilled workers is 15 months. That figure represents the time it has taken IRCC to process 80 per cent of applications, which means that 20 per cent of the applications received have taken longer than that.

Jaswal said the department cannot comment on the details of any specific case due to privacy laws.


Republished under arrangement with iPolitics. 

Published in Top Stories

By: Kasi Rao in Toronto, ON

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s arrival in New Delhi on February 17 for a week-long state visit marks the 12th visit by a member of his cabinet to India, and given his position, the most important one.

The significance of Trudeau’s visit is clear — India matters to Canada, as a friend and a trading partner with still-unrealized potential at a time when Canada seeks to broaden and deepen its international markets.

"The building blocks are there. Two-way trade between Canada and India was nearly $8 billion in 2016, even though there have been setbacks and slow progress in formal trade talks."

Canada and India have been talking for a while about reaching more comprehensive trade and investment agreements. But the real significance of this visit is already comprehensive — there’s a positive shift in our relationship that we’re ready to build on together.

The building blocks are there. Two-way trade between Canada and India was nearly $8 billion in 2016, even though there have been setbacks and slow progress in formal trade talks.

We do that amount of two-way trade with the United States every four days. But when it comes to Canada-India trade, the modesty of the numbers is a reflection of the past, not the promise of the future.

The obstacles are obvious too. Late last year, Indian government officials slapped an increased tariff on pulses — the little yellow peas that are a staple in South Asia, which Canadian farmers export to India.

Yet we have common ground. Canada is the biggest contributor of pulses to India, and India benefits when our supply is not constricted by tariffs.

There’s no substitute for a meeting between two leaders to reach a better understanding and make it easier to trade commodities.

Canada and India have been negotiating those free trade and investments agreements for some time now — and they may well take longer. That doesn’t negate the need for a sustained engagement with India across multiple sectors.

This visit is an opportunity — to find more common ground. The elements for stronger trade, business and investment relationships between Canada and India are apparent in the number of sectors that are robust and growing yet still relatively untapped.

There are huge opportunities to expand in tourism, research and skills, medical science, technology and innovation.

Some trading partners in the world lament a brain drain, where talented people leave. Between Canada and India it’s a brain chain, where the best and brightest in both countries complement and bolster each others’ achievements.

For example, Canada is one of the most welcoming countries, reflected in our increased immigration targets at a time when others in the G7 are cutting back.

More than a million Canadians trace their roots to India; they provide a natural bridge to newcomers. Canada has increasing potential as a magnet for higher education among promising Indian students, which contributes to research and innovation in both countries.

Canadians and Indians also share many similar attitudes and values in their outlook to solving global problems. On the economic front, Indian states now embrace cooperative and competitive federalism, marketing themselves internationally the way our provinces do.

Canadians and Indians also share many values when it comes to pluralism and diversity, and both countries are in sync on combatting climate change and the Paris Accord.

Public institutions in both countries have legitimacy in ways that either don’t exist in other places or are under severe strain.

Global studies such as the Pew Global Survey and 2018 Edelman Public Trust Barometer show that Canada and India rank consistently high in the public’s trust of institutions.

The strong Canadian team led by Prime Minister Trudeau, who is accompanied by senior Cabinet ministers, demonstrates Canada’s commitment to a wider and deeper relationship with India.

The Canadian brand is a compelling one that resonates with India.  There is nothing like a prime ministerial visit — it provides an extraordinary platform to demonstrate the breadth and depth of our engagement. 


Kasi Rao is President and CEO of the Canada-India Business Council (C-IBC). Republished under arrangement with iPolitics.

Published in Politics

Commentary by: Muhammad Ali in Toronto, ON

I’m the child of Indian immigrants and, for my family, ‘Indian Standard Time’ is a term used to determine that even when we are running late, we are arriving with the party in full-swing. In the case of trade negotiations between Canada and India, we have reached Indian Standard Time.

Our two countries have long had a ‘complex’ bilateral relationship. While the previous Canadian government was able to successfully end a long-simmering nuclear dispute, allowing for the sale of Canadian uranium to India, it was unable to complete the free trade negotiations started back in 2010. Several cabinet ministers have visited India over the past two years, in addition to visits by various provincial premiers and big-city mayors to encourage more bilateral trade and investment between their respected jurisdictions.

But progress remains slow on a formal trade agreement.

Part of the reason for this slow progress is the lack of high-level discussions between Prime Minister Trudeau and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. With Trudeau visiting China twice and hosting President Xi Jinping in Canada, Indian officials may wonder how high of a priority trade with India is for the Canadian government. China and India are regional rivals economically, militarily and politically. They want assurances Canada cares and understands India.

Trudeau experiences a high degree of popularity amongst India’s population and within the Indo-Canadian community, an important political force in Canadian politics. To appease his key voter base and the interests of Canadian businesses, Trudeau will need to maximize his impact during his trip to India.

The purpose of this trip will be threefold: First, to quell any concerns Prime Minister Modi may have with the priority Canada has assigned to its relationship with China; second, to address any issues arising from the differences between the Indian and Indo-Canadian diasporas; and lastly, on issues impacting trade negotiations.

It will be part of Trudeau’s task to get Modi’s focus on the urgency and benefits of stronger trade ties with a trade agreement and use his popularity and charisma to show Modi that his commitment to improving our bilateral relationship is real and not calculated to only shore up domestic support.

South Asians in Canada hold tremendous political influence reflected by the appointment of four Sikh-Canadian ministers in important portfolios, and nearly two dozen MPs and Senators currently serving our country. Indo-Canadians have become engaged citizens who are shaping industry, culture and policy for Canadians. Addressing the delicate relationship between the Indian and Indo-Canadian diasporas will aide Trudeau to move negotiations forward.

Finally, Trudeau will be looking to address core economic issues such as agricultural exports to India, access to natural resources and migrant skilled workers coming to Canada. At the moment, India has raised tariffs on pulse seed imports, the majority of which comes from Saskatchewan. Canada produces a third of the worlds pulse crops (ex. lentils, peas, chickpeas) and this will have a ripple effect throughout the Canadian agricultural industry.

India and Canada can benefit from greater mobility of technology-trained workers, such as software engineers, between both countries. With the Waterloo-Toronto corridor and Bangalore-Hyderabad tech-centres hosting a thriving technology sector, a trade agreement would be able to enhance a bilateral ecosystem for companies to further develop.

Of most importance for Trudeau will be securing environmental and labour standards that have become core negotiating principles for this government. Canada’s leverage to securing these standards is giving India its first free-trade access to a Western market, including Canadian businesses that have access to North America, the EU, several countries in South America and potentially 10 Pacific-coast nations. Amidst the populist rhetoric to protectionism and anti-trade, Trudeau is positioning Canada as a beacon of economic opportunity that India would benefit from tremendously.

This trip to India, if successful, may cement Trudeau’s ability to deliver on his promise to diversify Canadian market access and reduce our dependence on the Americans, who continue to play Russian roulette with NAFTA discussions. Given the NAFTA risks, Canada needs this trade deal more than India does — to which Trudeau must move quickly before he loses any leverage in these talks.


This piece was republished under arrangement with iPolitics.

Published in Politics

By: Beatrice Britneff in Ottawa, ON

Canada’s oldest media union is renewing calls on the federal government to intervene and help the country’s struggling news media outlets, after Postmedia Network Inc. and Torstar Corp. announced today they will collectively shutter more than 30 community and daily newspapers and eliminate 291 jobs.

In response to the closures – which came about through a publication swap between the two companies – CWA Canada is urging the Liberal government to inject more money into local news coverage; to “beef up” the federal Competition Act “to prevent concentration of ownership” in the news industry; and to allow non-profit news organizations to qualify as charities so they can be supported by philanthropic funding.

In a statement, the union – which represents approximately 6,000 media workers cross Canada – called the Postmedia-Torstar deal a “deathblow to local newspaper coverage.”

“It’s a dark day for local journalism and for local democracy,” Martin O’Hanlon, president of CWA Canada, wrote in a statement. “This means fewer journalists reporting on the stories that matter to communities – and leaves almost no one to hold local politicians and powerful interests to account in many places.”

Last year, Canadian Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly conducted consultations on how to revamp Canada’s cultural policies and strategies. During that time, many groups suggested a variety of lifelines the government could throw to ailing media outlets – particularly newspapers, which are struggling with steep declines in print circulation and advertising revenues.

In a major speech in September outlining Canada’s revamped cultural strategies, Joly said the government does not intend to to provide that level of assistance to the news industry. Joly said the government will not “bail out industry models that are no longer viable” but will instead support “innovation, experimentation and transition to digital.”

The minister said Monday afternoon she is “sorry” to hear about the Postmedia and Torstar closures and that the government “values the importance of journalism.” When asked whether the Postmedia-Torstar deal has caused her to rethink her largely hands-off approach to the news industry’s fate, Joly reiterated that the government is “looking to support local media while they transition to the internet.”

But Pierre Nantel, the NDP’s culture and heritage critic, argued the government is not doing that.

“It’s absolutely terrible… (Minister Joly) has been asked by so many stakeholders, so many interveners… she didn’t pay attention at all, and this is what you get,” Nantel said. “You get job losses and you get a voice diversity situation that’s going to be lacking.”

Conservative MP Peter Van Loan, who serves as the Tories’ Canadian heritage critic, called the Postmedia-Torstar deal “disappointing” but contrary to Nantel, argued that the government has no place in giving newspapers a leg up. He said he also does not support philanthropic financing of journalism because he believes “journalism has to be truly independent.”

The closures announced today – many of which are effective immediately – will largely affect communities in eastern and southern Ontario.

Through the deal, Postmedia acquired 22 local newspapers and two Metro dailies from two Torstar subsidiaries. Postmedia said in a press release it plans to close all of those publications, except the Exeter Times-Advocate and the Exeter Weekender, by mid-January. The local papers that Postmedia will fold include Metro Ottawa, Metro Winnipeg, Belleville News, Kingston Heritage, St. Mary’s Journal-Argus as well as a number of Ottawa-area publications.

Meanwhile, Torstar acquired a total of 17 publications from Postmedia: seven daily Ontario newspapers, eight community newspapers and free dailies 24Hours Toronto and 24Hours Vancouver. The two dailies and the eight community papers are being shut down immediately, as well as three of the daily newspapers – the Barrie Examiner, Orillia Packet & Times andNorthumberland Today.

Torstar will continue to operate and publish the St. Catharines Standard, Niagara Falls Review, Welland Tribune and Peterborough Examiner.

Four free dailies and 32 daily and community papers are being shuttered in total. The Postmedia closures will result in 244 layoffs, while Torstar’s will eliminate 47 full-time and part-time employees.

Postmedia and Torstar both claim the papers they are folding are located in communities that are served by other publications.

“We were not creating any news deserts,” Bob Hepburn, the Toronto Star’s director of community relations and communications, said of Torstar’s 13 closures. “(The communities affected) will continue to be served by Metroland publications.”

In a company statement, Torstar’s President and CEO John Boynton said the deal will allow the company to “operate more efficiently through increased geographic synergies in a number of our primary regions.”

Postmedia CEO Paul Godfrey acknowledged in his company’s press release that closures involve letting go of “many dedicated newspaper people.”

“However, the continuing costs of producing dozens of small community newspapers in these regions in the face of significantly declining advertising revenues means that most of these operations no longer have viable business models,” Godfrey wrote.

Postmedia and Torstar said their deal is “effectively a non-cash transaction” as the publications exchanged have “approximately similar fair values.” Their statements also noted the exchange is “not subject to the merger notification provisions of the Competition Act” and no regulatory clearance from the Competition Bureau was required.

In an email to iPolitics Monday afternoon, a spokesperson for the Competition Bureau said the Bureau is aware of the Postmedia-Torstar transaction and will be “undertaking a review” of the deal.

“While I cannot speak to the specifics of a Bureau review for reasons of confidentiality, under the Competition Act transactions of all sizes and in all sectors of the economy are subject to review by the Commissioner of Competition to determine whether they will likely result in a substantial lessening or prevention of competition in any market in Canada,” Jayme Albert, senior communications advisor, wrote in an email – adding that the commissioner has up to one year after a transaction has taken place to challenge it in the Competition Tribunal.

Here is a list of the publications Postmedia acquired from Torstar and has decided to close:

  • Belleville News
  • Brant News
  • Central Hastings News
  • Frontenac Gazette
  • Kanata Kourier-Standard
  • Kingston Heritage
  • Meaford Express
  • Metro Ottawa
  • Metro Winnipeg
  • Nepean/Barrhaven News
  • Norfolk News
  • Orleans News
  • Ottawa East News
  • Ottawa South News
  • Ottawa West News
  • Our London
  • Quinte West News
  • St. Lawrence News
  • St. Mary’s Journal-Argus (and the St. Mary’s Weekender)
  • St. Thomas/Elgin Weekly News
  • Stittsville News
  • Stratford City Gazette
  • West Carleton Review

Here is a list of the publications Torstar acquired from Postmedia and has decided to close:

  • 24 Hours Toronto
  • 24 Hours Vancouver
  • Barrie Examiner
  • Bradford Times
  • Collingwood Enterprise Bulletin
  • Fort Erie Times
  • Innisfil Examiner
  • Inport News (Port Colborne)
  • Niagara Advance
  • Northumberland Today
  • Orillia Packet & Times
  • Pelham News
  • Thorold Niagara News

Republished under arrangement with iPolitics.

Published in Top Stories
Thursday, 12 October 2017 08:03

Jagmeet Singh and the Media's Race Problem

Commentary by: Paul Adams in Ottawa

Jagmeet Singh does not yet have a seat in the House of Commons. So when the new NDP leader comes to visit, he’ll have to sit up in the Leader of the Opposition’s Gallery and gaze down on the body he wishes someday to join. 

If all the MPs are there that day, Singh may notice that there are already five turbaned Sikh men with seats. In 2015, 47 so-called “visible minority” MPs were elected along with 10 Indigenous people, very nearly mirroring their relative shares of the Canadian population.

If Singh then swings his eyes to the north end of the Commons chamber to the gallery above the Speaker’s Chair — to the Press Gallery, that is — he may notice something different. So far as I am aware, there has never been a turbaned man working as a reporter for a major news organization, so he won’t see any of those.

No one keeps racial statistics on the Press Gallery the way they do for the House of Commons, but when I looked through the membership list the other day, I was able to identify only one visible minority reporter working for one of the big legacy media outlets – a reporter at CTV. None at the Globe, none at the Star, none at CBC-TV. And no Indigenous people either.

This may overstate the case a little bit. Since I was a reporter on the Hill in the 1990s, there has been an influx of young reporters of colour. They tend to be concentrated in online and specialist publications such as HuffPost Canada, the Hill Times, the Aboriginal Peoples’ Television Network (APTN) and some ethnic and foreign news outlets. The so-called Mainstream Media — not so much.

The House of Commons is today much more representative of the face of modern Canada than is the Press Gallery. Most of us can name a few visible minority and Indigenous politicians. Try coming up with more than one or two political journalists of colour.

When Singh was chosen as NDP leader, there were two streams of news coverage, both echoing (in a small way) the reaction to Barack Obama’s breakthrough in 2008. The first was a self-congratulatory celebration of the nation’s inclusivity. The second involved an obsessive concern with the man’s race and ethnicity.

One interview that got a lot of attention was Terry Milewski’s welcome-to-Ottawa interview with Singh on CBC’s Power and Politics. Milewski has never suffered fools gladly and operates on the premise that all politicians are fools until proven otherwise. (Stephen Harper was never able to establish this to Milewski’s satisfaction, so far as I could see.)

Apparently Singh, or his office, had — with stunning naiveté — asked to see the questions in advance. Milewski delightedly tweeted out that fact before Singh backed down. Advantage: Milewski.

A lot of the reaction to Milewski’s interview turned around a “gotcha” section at the end of the interview in which Milewski doggedly asked Singh to denounce posters of Talwinder Singh Parmar, which appear in some Sikh-Canadian institutions. Parmar was a Sikh nationalist who was — it has been well-established — the mastermind behind the Air India bombing in which 329 people were killed, most of them Canadian, many of them of Indian extraction.

Except for Milewski’s first question — which was about how Singh would manage without a Commons seat — every single query directly or indirectly invoked race, religion or ethnicity.

For many viewers not steeped in the issue, it must have been a baffling exchange. But few reporters in Canada have covered the Air India bombing and its aftermath more thoroughly than Milewski — and Jagmeet Singh has been deeply engaged in Sikh politics. It may have been a ‘gotcha’ question, but it got Singh, who dodged and weaved but would not be caught denouncing Canada’s worst-ever mass murderer.

Singh is really going to have to do better than this if he wants to lead a national party with any success.

What concerned me about the Milewski interview was not this exchange, but what came before it. Except for the first question — which was about how Singh would manage without a Commons seat — every single query directly or indirectly invoked race, religion or ethnicity.

There were questions about refugees, religious symbols, Singh’s “acceptability” in Quebec — all coming before the Parmar exchange. Nothing on Singh’s interesting views on addressing precarious work among the young. Nothing on his controversial views on decriminalizing possession of drugs like cocaine and heroin. No “open-ended” questions that would allow Singh to lay out his own agenda.

Earlier that same day, another CBC journalist had posted a tweet that appeared to confuse Singh with another turbaned Sikh — federal economic development minister Navdeep Bains. If I were among the one-in-five people living in Canada who are visible minority, I might be tempted to wonder whether journalists who see a politician of colour see anything but the colour.

When we look south of the border — or across the Atlantic — it’s easy for Canadians to think of racism as a foreign problem. And I agree that we seem (for the moment) unusually blessed.

But take a look at some of the just-released data from Canadian Press’s important “Populism Project” – a survey from EKOS research. According to EKOS’ massive survey, 37 per cent of Canadians think too many immigrants are visible minority. Among respondents who are themselves visible minority, 43 per cent said they had “personally seen or experienced a clear incident of racism” over the past month. Remarkably, 26 per cent of other Canadians said the same.

While a plurality of Canadians don’t think there been much change in the level of racism in Canada, 33 per cent think racism is becoming more common, compared with 20 per cent who think it is becoming less common.

I am not suggesting for a moment that Sikh politicians should only be interviewed by Sikh journalists, or that Indigenous politicians (like the Manitoba NDP’s new leader Wab Kinew) should only be interviewed by Indigenous journalists. It’s a fundamental tenet of journalism that good reporters strive to understand the world around them, and strive particularly hard to understand those most different from them.

But a more diverse press corps would have two effects: one for journalists, the other for consumers of journalism.

For journalists, having people of various backgrounds in the newsrooms means being exposed to different sensibilities and story ideas in editorial meetings, over coffee, and in the thousands of chats that occur among colleagues in newsrooms every day as they try to figure out their angles. They also get to know individuals different from themselves in their full complexity — without reducing them to their most visible characteristics.

In the late 1980s, I did a story related to HIV/AIDS for the CBC. I had lived in New York at the height of the crisis a few years earlier and thought I was reasonably well informed. But after my story aired, a young producer — who was gay — came and spoke to me about some of the language I had used. He made me a better journalist by helping me see some things I had overlooked.

We are all limited to some degree by our backgrounds. Journalism is a lifelong process of educating ourselves away from those limitations. 

For news consumers, diverse newsrooms are both a substantive and a symbolic indication that the news business is serious about exploring our world, which includes people like ourselves and people who are quite different. It’s not just about comforting visible minorities through representation. It’s also about the rest of us not just seeing them, but trying to understand them.


The views, opinions and positions expressed by all iPolitics columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. This piece was republished under arrangement with iPolitics

Published in Commentary

By: Amanda Connolly in Ottawa

Immigration lawyers in Canada are warning about risks caused by the spread of misinformation as the Trump administration rolls back a U.S. government program that shielded illegal immigrants brought to the United States as minors from deportation.

U.S. President Donald Trump formally announced on Tuesday the end of an Obama-era program that protected almost a million young people brought illegally into the country by their parents and granted them renewable two-year work permits, which will now begin to expire in early 2018.

While immigration lawyers said many clients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program — widely known as “dreamers” — could be prime candidates for legal immigration to Canada, the challenge will be in making sure those looking to move are not getting faulty information about Canada’s immigration rules from unscrupulous immigration advisers or false reports. That’s what happened with thousands of Haitians earlier this summer when Trump threatened to rescind a program that lets those displaced by the earthquake in Haiti seven years ago live temporarily in the United States.

“These people are North American trained or brought up, so they have the skills to quickly adapt to the Canadian labour market or integrate into the post-secondary schooling system so there may in fact be some options for them,” said Betsy Kane, one of Canada’s top immigration lawyers and a partner at Capelle Kane.

“The only issue is if they are going to get misinformation from people trying to capitalize on their vulnerability and get sucked into a situation like the Haitians did, relying on potentially false information that would lure them into coming to make the wrong type of application to Canada.”

Roughly 7,000 asylum seekers, most of them Haitians from the U.S., have crossed into Canada since July. Some critics have accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of not doing enough to prevent the surge; some have even accused him of being partly to blame for it.

A January tweet in which critics said the prime minister implied that Canada would welcome just about anyone — legal migrant or not — has increasingly come under fire, prompting the government into damage control mode in recent months.

Two weeks ago, Trudeau walked that welcome back in a series of tweets cautioning that while Canada is an open and diverse society, it also has immigration laws that must be obeyed.

Liberal MP and Whip Pablo Rodriguez also announced Wednesday he is heading to Los Angeles on Friday on a mission similar to that of MP Emmanuel Dubourg last month.

Following a surge of illegal Haitian migrants over the summer, the government sent Dubourg — who is himself of Haitian origin — to Miami to speak with Haitian community leaders and try to counter the flow of misinformation about how Canada’s immigration system works.

The government’s goal was to get a message across loud and clear: Not every refugee claim in Canada succeeds.

Now, Rodriguez is set to carry that same message to the other side of the country in a bid to stem a new wave of Mexican and Central American asylum seekers who are expected to be next to try and make the move north. Those people are in limbo now because of the possible end of temporary protected status for nearly 350,000 Salvadorans and Hondurans in the U.S. — a change that is unrelated to the rescinding of the DACA program but is similar in terms of how those affected might be influenced by misinformation.

Kane said the effort so far to counter the spread of bad information has been committed and social-media focused, which is exactly where it needs to be.

“I think it might be a more sophisticated group that’s not going to rely on WhatsApp or an internal rumours or community rumours as opposed to doing their research,” she said. “These are young people, they’re internet-savvy, and perhaps they’re going to spend a little more time getting the correct information, especially with all the social media that’s out there, because they’re all on social media. They’re young people, so that’s where they’re looking for information and CIC has been targeting social media.”

Many of those living in the U.S. under the DACA program are highly-educated and have skills that would make them prime applicants for the Express Entry system, Canada’s immigration scheme for skilled workers.

The question is whether those who want to use that route, or other legal options like applying for international student visas, will even be able to do so given the system overload caused by the influx of Haitians.

“The system is now overwhelmed,” said Julie Taub, an Ottawa immigration lawyer and former member of the Immigration and Refugee Board. “It’s having an impact on the other applications and it’s creating a lot of resentment for those who are immigrating to Canada legitimately through the proper channels and for those who are legitimate refugee claimants.”

For now, Taub said, those Americans who may face deportation without DACA will be looking for the best way to wait for a reinstatement of the protection — and she expects Trump’s move to rescind the program eventually will be overturned.

“It’s beyond reason that he has taken this measure,” she said. “It’s ludicrous and I think it will be overturned.” 


By arrangement with ipolitics.ca. 

Published in Top Stories
Tuesday, 01 August 2017 23:59

Jagmeet Singh Out Ahead

By: BJ Siekierski and Kyle Duggan in Ottawa

Jagmeet Singh raised more money than the rest of the NDP leadership field combined in the second quarter of 2017.

According to fundraising data published by Elections Canada late Monday afternoon, the deputy leader of the Ontario NDP raked in $356,784 from 1,681 contributors for the period that ended June 30.

That was well above Charlie Angus, who finished second with $123,577 from 1,285.

Niki Ashton raised $70,156 from 1,006 contributors, while Guy Caron brought in $46,970 from 568.

Peter Julian, who dropped out of the race in June citing fundraising troubles, still raised $28,673 from 296 donors.

In a press release, Singh cited the fact that he only officially joined the race on May 15, 2017 and that he therefore raised the impressive amount in only 47 days.

“Jagmeet Singh, candidate in the federal NDP leadership race, has raised more in the first 47 days than Justin Trudeau or Andrew Scheer at the same point in their leadership campaigns,” the press release said.

It added that the median donation was $40 and that two-thirds of the donations received were under $100.

The Liberals took issue with the $40 median donation being portrayed as evidence of a grassroots groundswell, pointing out that 87 per cent of all their donations in the second quarter were under $100 and that the median donation was just $11.

They also disputed the comparison to Trudeau’s leadership fundraising. A party spokesperson told iPolitics that — though Trudeau announced his intention to run on October 2, 2012, the race wasn’t officially underway until November 14, when the party began providing administrative support to the candidates.

In the first 47 days from November 14, the spokesperson said, Trudeau raised over $700,000.

All the same, with the NDP’s fundraising hitting a seven-year low in the quarter, Singh’s success is indisputably good news for the party, which takes a 25 per cent cut of all donations to leadership campaigns.

“Singh’s fundraising numbers also revealed how his message is resonating with new supporters for the NDP. A cross reference of address, name, and postal code with Elections Canada donor records, demonstrate that roughly 75% of the donors to Singh’s campaign have never before given to Canada’s NDP,” the Singh release said.

Singh himself argued his fundraising numbers show the party can take on the Liberals and Conservatives in 2019.

“I am very proud of what our team was able to accomplish in our first six weeks of the campaign,” he said.


By arrangement with ipolitics.ca.

Published in Politics

By: Janice Dickson in Ottawa

Liberal MP Chandra Arya says he welcomes Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s suggestion to debate the Liberal government’s settlement with Omar Khadr. 

Arya acknowledged that “it’s not just the Conservatives” who are against the reported $10.5 million payout to Khadr. 

“Most Canadians … they’re uncomfortable, as the prime minister said.” 

The Nepean MP was in the Centre Block Monday morning, delivering introductory remarks to summer school students who were touring Parliament. He spoke with iPolitics between tours. 

“Most Canadians are a bit concerned,” he repeated, adding that sometimes the government has to make decisions that are unpopular. 

Repeating what Justin Trudeau has said, it’s better than spending $30-$40 million down the road, Arya noted, admitting he too “is a bit concerned.” 

He thinks it’s good that Scheer wants to bring forward the debate because the House of Commons is the right place for it and he’d rather debate the issue with his colleagues across the aisle than read their comments in a newspaper. 

Arya’s passion for Parliament was evident in his brief talks to the tours. 

“This is the most important institution in Canada. What happens here affects us all. This is what Canada is about,” he told the Nepean high school students. 

“When I sit in the House of Commons and I look at all 338 members of Parliament I realize that I don’t have to go to every nook and corner of Canada because (the people) here, they represent Canada,” he said. 

“I love (being an MP), I love every morning. Honestly I get up and feel I’m blessed.” 

The former business executive, who moved to Ottawa from India about 14 years ago with his wife and son, said the highlight of his two-year political career has been seeing his private members bill C-305 pass unanimously in the Commons. Arya’s bill would expand the scope of hate-based mischief relating to places of worship to also include schools, universities, community centres, sports centres, senior residences, or any building or place used for educational, cultural, social or sporting events. 

Currently, hate-based mischief against churches, mosques, synagogues and temples can result in a sentence of up to 10 years – whereas sentences for general mischief to other properties are up to two years. 

Arya’s “quite happy” about the bill – which is currently stuck at third reading in the Senate – and expects it to pass and become law in the fall. 

Given that only five per cent of private members bills become law, he picked this area to champion because he said it’s close to his heart. 

“I’m from India, I’m a Hindu. We know the clashes between the religions and the discrimination that’s there … in other parts in the world, but this is Canada. Here we don’t tolerate that.” 

After the Quebec mosque attack in February, Arya rose in the Commons and said the attack was a direct result of Conservative and PQ policies. 

“The recent killings of Muslims praying in the mosque in Quebec City is not an accident,” he said. “This is the direct result of dog-whistle politics — the politics of fear and division.” 

On Monday, Arya said Conservative MP Michael Chong has been more specific than he was on the issue and consequence of rhetoric. 

“Words they are important and they can really hurt,” he said. 

While all of the political leaders have “really good intentions,” what he was suggesting in February was that the rhetoric had to be toned down. Members of political parties may misconstrue rhetoric and some have extreme views, but he doesn’t think any current MPs have extreme views. Not even Kellie Leitch. 

“She wants much more scrutiny of the Canadians coming in, but I don’t think she’s a racist.” 

Arya used to publish a newspaper called The Ottawa Star before running for office. Initially it was weekly and then bi-weekly, but he started the paper for new Canadians because he found that the mainstream media was not covering new Canadians’ events well. 

When he became the candidate for Nepean, he shut it down because as he put it, “You know, I was funding it from my pocket.” 

Now, in the dog days of summer, the Nepean MP spends most of his time in his constituency office or at events. 

He said he’s fortunate to represent the riding because the income is above average, unemployment is quite low and there are not many major issues, apart from public service employees who have had issues with the Phoenix payroll system. 

“Ottawa-wide issues also affect us of course.” 

When asked if he considers the summer a break at all, he laughed. 

“No. No way. Last week there were four days I left at 8:15 a.m and was back home at 9:30 p.m.” 

That said, for him it’s not a job where he puts on a suit and stares at the clock. 

“This is life and I love it.”

By arrangement with ipolitics.ca

Published in Politics
Saturday, 05 November 2016 13:11

Sex-Ed Front and Centre — Again

by Ainslie Cruickshank in Ottawa

Social conservatives are hoping two anti-sex education candidates will split the vote in the upcoming Ottawa-Vanier byelection, leaving Progressive Conservative Andre Marin out in the cold.

“I don’t think it’s realistic that they will win without a large party machine behind them but they can certainly get enough votes to cause the pro-radical sex-ed PC candidate to lose if it’s a close race,” said Jack Fonseca, a senior political strategist with Campaign Life Coalition.

The coalition is a national anti-abortion organization and a vocal opponent of Ontario’s new sex education curriculum. It’s putting its support behind both Elizabeth de Viel Castel, a candidate running for the new single-issue political party Stop the New Sex Ed Agenda, and Stephanie McEvoy, who is running for the Canadian Constituents’ Party and also opposes the sex-education programming the Wynne government introduced last year — the first update to the sex-ed curriculum since 1998.

The new curriculum includes updates on healthy relationships, same-sex relationships, consent, mental health, online safety and the risks of “sexting”.

Marin has expressed support for the new sex-education curriculum, telling the Toronto Star that PC leader Patrick Brown “fell on the right side of the issue” after the party flip-flopped on it in the run-up to the Scarborough-Rouge River byelection. Requests for comment from Brown and Marin were declined Friday.

“The goal is to send a message to the PC establishment that you can’t win by alienating social conservatives. The social conservative wing of the party is very important and this is an issue you can win on,” Fonseca said.

The new curriculum is “age-inappropriate” and will put children in “harm’s way,” he said.

“Candidates owe it to the public to be open and honest and forthright on their position on such issues,” said Liberal campaign co-chair and Advanced Education Minister Deb Matthews.

While Matthews said she disagrees with their position, she added she gives members of the new anti-sex ed party credit for making their views on the issue clearer than Brown has.

“Parents want their kids to learn how to protect themselves from sexual predators, from online predators. We want kids to understand what healthy relationships are. And I think the public is with us on that,” she said.

In Ottawa-Vanier, Fonseca said Campaign Life Coalition will encourage its supporters to not only vote for either de Viel Castel or McEvoy, but also to volunteer and donate to their campaigns.

Queenie Yu, the force behind the new Stop the New Sex Ed Agenda party, is running under its banner in Niagara West-Glanbrook. She previously ran as an independent on an anti-sex ed platform in the Scarborough-Rouge River byelection, coming in fourth with 575 votes.

While some parents do support the new curriculum, many have concerns, Yu said.

“Each child is unique. Just because a child reaches a certain age doesn’t mean they’re ready to learn about certain subjects. Parents know their kids best. Parents – not the government – should be deciding when, what and how much their children should be learning about sex,” she said.

In Niagara West-Glanbrook, Fonseca said Yu is a “supportable” candidate but Campaign Life Coalition would be happy to see Sam Oosterhoff, the PC candidate, win the seat given the support he showed for parental rights during his nomination campaign.

While Yu said she hasn’t spoke with Oosterhoff, she said she has been assured by mutual friends that the 19-year old candidate shares her values.

“I’d vote for him if I lived in the riding,” she said, noting her goal for the anti-sex ed party isn’t necessarily to win seats but rather to keep the issue in the public eye.

Charles McVety, the president of the Canada Christian College, warned a split with social conservativescould cost the PCs the 2018 election after Oosterhoff won the nomination over party president and former Conservative MP Rick Dykstra and Niagara regional Councillor Tony Quirk.

That’s a message Fonseca repeated Friday.

Pursuing a more liberal approach to social issues risks alienating the conservative base and invites the creation a new, “formidable” conservative party in the province, he said, adding that could result in Liberal governments for years to come.

By arrangement with ipolitics.ca

Published in Politics
Page 1 of 7

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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