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Canadian Iranian Professor Homa Hoodfar teaches in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Concordia University. She has been in the notorious Evin prison in Iran for over three months without charge supposedly under investigation for "dabbling in feminism and security matters". Her students and fellow academics, as well as friends and human rights activists have been rallying to see her set free. To learn more about Hoodfar's situation and how you can help, please visit the website Free Homa here

 

Vancouver writer and poet Rahat Kurd recounts her experience of working for Professor Homa Hoodfar as a young assistant in the Ottawa academic feminist community in the early 1990s. 

Muslim Link

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Published in Top Stories

by Justin Kong in Toronto

The results of the recent federal election shows that we need a better understanding of how immigrant groups are mobilized and integrated into formal spheres of Canadian politics. This two-part series focuses on the Chinese community in metropolitan areas of Canada. Part II examines the new Chinese working class, how conditions are ripe for the development of a Chinese left and what this all means for the Canadian left.

With the devastating electoral defeat of the New Democratic Party last month in the 2015 Federal Elections, it’s clear that the Canadian left must adjust their strategy. The new strategy needs to support the development of a progressive, grassroots immigrant power to counter the presence of more conservative and moderate elements within these communities.  

In the Chinese diaspora, while there are a number of strong progressive leaders at various levels of government and in the community at large, the presence of a mobilized, grassroots Chinese immigrant left has yet to be felt in recent years.

This lies partly in the fact that one group has long been unengaged: the Chinese immigrant working class. 

New wave of Chinese immigrants, new attitudes towards labour

Contrary to the common trope of the rich Chinese investor immigrant, one merely has to look around the many Chinese ethnic neighbourhoods in Toronto and Vancouver to see that there are actually tremendous populations of workers labouring in the ethnic economy. These workers are often engaged in the food and services industry in precarious conditions and without the full protection of employment laws and standards.

This population has long been here and has remained relatively unengaged by the mainstream left and organized labour. A small group find themselves in the progressive political spaces of community labour organizations such as the Workers Action Centre in Toronto. 

What has changed in recent years, however, is the composition of this Chinese working class and the increasing maturity of the Chinese diaspora in Canada. These two conditions have important ramifications for the possibility of a progressive Chinese element and the Canadian left at large.

In the past two decades the flow of Chinese immigrants, which had previously been largely dominated by those from Hong Kong and Taiwan, has shifted to a flow that is increasingly dominated by those from mainland China. 

Given that immigrants from Hong Kong and Taiwan have likely been here for a longer period of time it is more likely that they have attained more upward mobility with less ‘working class’ members. More importantly these groups have radically different pre-migration attitudes towards the left and labour politics than the new wave from China. 

This population has long been here and has remained relatively unengaged by the mainstream left and organized labour.

In Hong Kong, family histories of communist persecution, the infamous 1967 riots which linked trade unionism with social instability and communist insurgency, combine to stifle the possibility of broad labour politics amongst the Hong Kong populace. It should be no surprise then that Canadian labour politics will find it difficult to engage this group.

On the other hand, the new Chinese immigrant working class is largely composed of skilled professionals from mainland China who grew up in very different conditions. Growing up and living in Mainland China means this group has at the very least a basic understanding of concepts of class, capitalism and exploitation — important preconditions to any progressive and labour politics. 

With the economic rise of China and the proliferation of consumer culture, leftist politics may have had little salience amongst this population when they were still living in China. 

After immigrating the situation becomes different. Labouring in the deskilling, dehumanizing and precarious Canadian economy reignites in the Chinese worker the earlier internalizations of working class consciousness and left politics.

Due to these factors, this new Chinese working class, more than any previous Chinese wave, has the potential to constitute a progressive, left element within the Chinese diaspora in Canada.

Bridging the ethnic and the mainstream

As waves upon waves of Chinese immigrants have settled in Canada, the Chinese diaspora as a whole has become increasingly mature. This maturity manifests in an increasing number of potential progressive political leaders who are able to connect the mainstream with the ethnic.

These two developments together represent the fertile conditions for the development of a left grassroots counter presence in the Chinese community. In the absence of sustained engagement, this new Chinese working class may remain inactive in formal politics and quite possibly bolster the ranks of the political right and moderates.

Chinese churches, for example, appear to be making in-roads with this new Chinese working class. Grounded in the ethnic community through their ‘service’, Chinese churches in Toronto have initiated sermons and fellowship groups catered specifically to Chinese restaurant workers. For the left, such a development is illustrative of the extensive vacuum that exists.

This new Chinese working class has the potential to constitute a progressive, left element within the Chinese diaspora in Canada.

If we look throughout Canada’s history we will see that incorporating immigrant workers has been central to the power of organized labour and the Canadian left. However, that this incorporation has often excluded immigrant workers who are not white has always been an overarching, strategic misstep.

In order for the Canadian left to establish a foothold in immigrant communities for electoral struggles or otherwise, the establishment of grassroots strength within these communities is essential. To do this the immigrant working classes and political leadership of immigrant communities must be mobilized and connected with the mainstream left.

By supporting and building the emerging immigrant left is to reverse the decades of decline of the Canadian left. The conditions for an immigrant left is ripe in the Chinese community and it may likely be the case in other immigrant communities as well. All that remains for us to do is to come together and figure out how we can make it a reality — and that, of course, is the hard part.


Justin Kong studies sociology and is involved with community and labour organizing in Toronto.

Journalist Ranjit Bhaskar mentored the writer of this article, through the New Canadian Media mentorship 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 Commentary

Are you socially driven? Do you want to be part of an organization that makes the world a better place? Then a career in the non-profit sector may be for you.

Canada’s non-profit sector is as vast as it is diverse. Employing more than two million Canadians, the sector encompasses many fields including education, health, the arts and human services, to name a few. And with a variety of positions ranging from administrative to executive, there’s something for every skill level and interest. In addition to being dynamic, the non-profit sector is also one of the most rewarding to work in.

Canadian Immigrant

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Published in National

The Canadian government defended sharing information with foreign countries including Sri Lanka saying the move was necessary to prevent “cheapening of Canadian citizenship.”

The Sri Lanka Reporter

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Published in International

 

Flashback 15 years earlier, I’d be in my karate outfit, talking to my family in English and broken Lebanese Arabic, and designing all of my school projects into acting scenes to prepare myself for my future acting career. I grew up with friends from all over the world, and we called ourselves “the real United Nations”. I didn’t know much about my culture or about my religion, but never missed an opportunity to brag about how Lebanese food was the best!

15 years later, I have grown to love my religion and Lebanese background. At the same time, and more than ever, I am so proud to be Canadian. Discovering my roots influenced my interests and career choices.

I pursued a degree in Political Science and International Relations at Carleton University. All of my essays focused on the Middle East and everything I learned fascinated me. But the educational component wasn’t enough. I wanted to engage with people who had similar interests. That’s where the National Council on Canada Arab Relations (NCCAR) entered the picture.

The Muslim Link

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Published in Commentary

 By TOM GODFREY   Mayor Rob Ford is fending off blows from all corners.   Some residents have resorted to placing anti-Ford signs in areas of the city with one alleged candidate vowing to “smoke pot as Mayor, not cr

Share News

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Published in Commentary

 

Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander and Alberta’s Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour Minister Thomas Lukaszuk co-chaired the meeting of FPT ministers responsible for immigration

Canadian Immigrant

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Published in Policy

 SURREY – The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) busted at least four international students from India believed to be working illegally in Surrey.
The students were arrested CBSA officials on Monday and could face removal from Canada.
“Members of the CBSA’s Enforcement and Intelligence Division arrested a number of foreign nationals in Surrey, believed to be working [...]

 

The Link

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Published in National

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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