New Canadian Media The pulse of immigrant Canada Fri, 27 Nov 2020 19:58:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 New Canadian Media 32 32 Anti-Asian Racism Won’t Go Away After COVID-19 Fri, 27 Nov 2020 14:05:08 +0000 A wide-ranging national opinion poll that looks at Canadian attitudes towards Asians found that 78 per cent of those surveyed said policies should be in place to punish racial crimes.

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Most Canadians polled by the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada in its annual opinion survey say that anti-Asian racism existed in Canada before the pandemic, while more than half of them feel that it won’t go away after the COVID-19 virus is defeated.

The poll of 3,519 Canadian adults on their perceptions of the current and future state of Canada-Asia relations also found overwhelming support for policies that address racial crime as punishable offences.

In addition to posing new questions on topical issues, particularly around COVID-19, this year’s  Asia Pacific Foundation (APF) of Canada National Opinion Poll tracked legacy questions from the past 16 years on the warmth of feelings toward Asia, the perceived economic importance of Asia for the future of Canada, support for free trade agreements, and provincial policies to foster better relations with Asian counterparts.

Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada President poll on Asian racism
Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada President and CEO, Stewart Beck at the Vancouver Port.

“Given the current global geopolitical climate and the devastating impacts of the pandemic, it is perhaps not surprising to find Canadians’ perceptions of China and the United States at historic lows,” said APF Canada President and CEO, Stewart Beck. 

“But what is encouraging is that Canadians recognize the growing importance of Asia to our country’s future economic success,” said Beck. “They are keen for their governments to explore new partnerships, engage more vigorously in multilateralism and areas of mutual benefit like public health, climate change, and cybersecurity, and to encourage investment from Asia that would benefit this country.”

“Canadians clearly hold the view that Canada must move forward in Asia, but in a way that upholds our core values, respects human rights and sustainability, and provides economic benefits to all Canadians,” he said.

The APF poll comes in the wake of the federal government dramatically increasing its immigration quotas for the next three years which could see more than a million newcomers arrive at Canadian ports of entry.  

Highlights of the APF survey about Canadian Views on Asia include:

  • 38 per cent of respondents consider Canada a part of the Asia Pacific region, a five percentage-point drop from 2018.
  • 78 per cent said that their perception of the U.S. has worsened due to COVID-19, and 55 per cent for China.
  • 35 per cent of respondents agree that China’s growing economic power is more of an opportunity than a threat, down from a 60 per cent high in 2018.
  • 83 per cent feel that Canada should stand up to China as Canadian national values such as the rule of law, human rights, and democracy are on the line.
  • 58 per cent of Canadians think that the export of goods and services to Asia offers more of an opportunity than interprovincial trade.
  • Canadians support their government going forward on an FTA with India (63 per cent) and the Pacific Alliance (76 per cent ); 68 per cent also support entering into an FTA with ASEAN countries, a five per cent increase since 2018.
  • 68 per cent of respondents support Taiwan joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
  • 56 per cent of respondents felt that Canada’s topmost priority should be to align itself more closely with other like-minded democracies like Australia, Japan, South Korea, the EU, and the U.K.; 53 per cent ranked alignment with the United States as the fourth and last priority for the Canadian government.
  • Most Canadians feel cybersecurity issues (67 per cent), environmental and climate change (63 per cent), and public health issues (54 per cent) are “very critical” areas of engagement with Asian economies.
  • 78 per cent feel immigration from Asia positively impacts the Canadian economy, and 64 per cent feel that immigrants from Asia integrate well into Canadian society.
  • 72 per cent of Canadians believe immigrants should not be discouraged from maintaining their cultural identities, but newcomers should adopt core Canadian values, such as equality, democracy, and respect for minority rights.
  • 53 per cent of respondents think Canadians of East Asian origin have been negatively treated since the COVID-19 outbreak, and 84 per cent believe that anti-Asian racism existed in Canada before the pandemic.
  • 78 per cent of Canadians think the authorities need to implement policies that address racial crime as punishable offences.
  • 60 per cent or more Canadians support policies that would allow for added focus on Asia in the school curriculum and more funding for exchange and co-op programs for Canadian students to gain experience in Asia.
  • 52 per cent of Canadians support further investment from Asian countries in their provinces, while 39 per cent oppose it.

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“Our Touchy-Feely Instincts are Doing Us In” Thu, 26 Nov 2020 23:58:04 +0000 In Brampton, and more generally in Peel region, Canadians need to curb their desire to gather. Unless we take public health guidelines more seriously, the worst of COVID-19 may yet lie ahead, writes Surjit Flora.

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“A house made out of tissue paper” is the best way to describe the current lockdown restrictions introduced in Peel region on Monday. With the region currently in lockdown, it’s clear that residents are not doing enough to protect themselves from the virus. Guidelines are being flouted. 

Let me be clear when I say this: it’s not the fault of any one political party, not the region, not municipal governments, nor the province that the situation has escalated in this fashion. We’ve had eight months to come to grips with this virus, and yet, we have completely normalized a system of apathy regarding the ongoing social distancing directives, leading to plain ignorant behaviour from people who don’t know any better. 

In my opinion, various levels of government are doing and saying what they must, but my fellow-residents of Brampton just fail to follow the guidelines. The messaging from mainstream media has been confusing for average folk and one gets little useful information from multicultural media — which mainly translate news accounts from elsewhere and displays full-page ads paid for by the federal and provincial governments for COVID awareness. Locally, Peel Region mayors and health officials are urging residents to stay home.

So why is the system not working to control the virus? Public health data offers compelling evidence that positivity rates are soaring in these communities, which have a high concentration of visible minorities, especially South Asians. According to a report from early August, socioeconomic data shows South Asians have been disproportionately impacted by COVID in Peel Region, accounting for 45 per cent of cases but comprising only 32 per cent of Peel’s population.

A personal choice

Why South Asians? To me, the answer is straightforward and clear. The best example might be the recent Diwali celebrations where social distancing guidelines were not followed. Officials urged the Indo-Canadian community to celebrate the festival “virtually”, stay home and avoid using long-range fireworks. Despite this, 57 people were charged in Brampton for setting off long-range fireworks.  

The management of a Gurdwara (place of worship for Sikhs) was summoned to appear in Ontario Court for allowing big crowds and not following social distancing rules. I was at one Gurdwara where the management appeared to enforce the guidelines, but outside in the parking lot, crowds mingled freely causing police and bylaw officers to step in.

Diwali Brampton Peel region COVID-19
More than 300 people crowded outside Gurdwara Nanaksar Sikh Center, forcing the Gurdwara’s management to call the police.

Another issue the Peel region is facing is residents not showing up for testing. Peel’s medical officer of health, Dr. Lawrence Loh, said the region’s testing partners have reported many no-shows and are asking people to call and cancel tests rather than just not showing up if they start to feel better. Another issue: calls informing people of potentially being exposed (“contact tracing”) to the virus are being ignored.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis in March, the virus spread in Peel has been driven by outbreaks in non-public facing workplaces, multi-generational households and private social gatherings. 

Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown has said the city’s high incidence is due to the nature of its workforce. “These are unsung heroes, essential workers, truckers, and people working in a food packaging plant. Without them going to work, we wouldn’t be able to maintain Canada’s supply chain,” said Brown. “They go to work [with the] knowledge of the higher risk, and we see that in the numbers.” 

He might be right, but I know my South Asian community very well. They can’t sit in one place or stop gathering in large groups.

In supermarkets, people stand on the mandated distancing markers only to crowd at doors and in aisles, walking in clumps past each other like a game of Tetris. Stand inside Square One Shopping Center or Bramalea City Center for an hour and watch as people stand around and eat food, even after walking past signs telling them that the food court is closed and asking them to carry food and drink outside designated areas to limit the spread. Others pull down their masks while chatting with their friends and family. The unseasonably warm weather in early November brought people together. 

The human toll 

COVID-19 has robbed people of a chance to say goodbye to their loved ones or hold proper funerals. The virus is overwhelming the hospital system.

Anthony Dale, the president of the Ontario Hospital Association, called Peel’s earlier decision to re-open while in the red zone “reckless,” citing a shortage of beds at Brampton Civic Hospital.

“The situation is precarious and fragile, and a significant surge in COVID patients would greatly destabilize [the hospital network’s] operations,” said Dale earlier this month. “We’re in a situation where the circumstances could change very quickly… and we may have the illusion of control, but all of the jurisdictions in the world that have made that assumption have paid the price.” 

The whole situation reminds me of a poem noted author and former NHL goaltender Ken Dryden wrote back in March, at the onset of the pandemic, which states, “We can read what we want to read, believe what we want to believe, hope what we want to hope, say what we want to say… We can want what we want, do what we want. COVID-19 is not impressed.”


Photos by: Surjit Flora.

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On a Mission to Add More Colour to Vancouver’s Film Industry Thu, 26 Nov 2020 15:17:12 +0000 It’s time to change the narrative, says Jason Mackay, founder of Collective Bunch, a new initiative to promote the participation of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour in Vancouver’s film industry.

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Growing up in Vancouver in the early ’80s as a mixed-race kid with a Black mother and White father, was not easy for Jason Mackay

“I remember on many occasions hearing the word ni**er and told to ‘go back to where we came from’.. I’m quite light-skinned so perhaps it was my little afro that set them off,” said Mackay, the executive producer for the Kid Carson Morning Show on Z95.3FM in Vancouver.

To overcome the hate he encountered in his younger years, Mackay took to building connections with people of different backgrounds to come together and learn from each other.

“This approach stuck with me throughout my early adult life which led me to gain experience in putting together different projects while negotiating budgets, resources and services within the marketing and advertising industry for the past 20 years,” said Mackay.

A few months ago Mackay reached into his past to create a new platform for Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) in Vancouver, dubbed Hollywood North.

Called the Collective Bunch, Mackay’s venture is primarily an industry-wide roster of culturally diverse professionals working in screen-based industries that are being made available for Canadian and American productions and media companies to hire.

black indigenous poc people of colour jason mackay collective bunch
Jason Mackay, founder of Collective Bunch, saw the need to promote inclusion of Vancouver-based Black, Indigenous, people of colour in the film industry.

“I’ve always been acutely aware of how advertising and movies can be very stereotypical in the roles they cast and when I eventually became involved in the industry as a partner in a production company, I noticed how the film crews were not diverse at all,” Mackay said. “It’s time to change that narrative.”

“Not only does more diversity and inclusivity contribute to a more aligned society, but there is also a strong business case for it as it allows companies to target new populations and increase response rates with relatable messaging, helping boost their bottom line,” said Mackay. “My personal mission is to showcase all the diverse talent in the film and creative industry in Vancouver, help support each other and drive business to everyone involved.”

“While there are already similar initiatives in Toronto like Reelworld, the Indigenous Screen Office, and Black Women in Film, there is nothing here on the West Coast and this is why I’m making Collective Bunch Vancouver focused,” said Mackay.

Digital destination for new Canadians

Sharad Khare, a Vancouver-based digital storyteller and legacy documentarian is among the 50 people who have joined the Collective Bunch so far.

“The Collective Bunch is a symbol for inclusivity in an industry shaped by diverse cultures,” said Khare.

“As a producer, content creator, and storyteller, I am truly influenced by the perspectives of many narratives,” he said.

D.I. Lee. the publisher of Korean News in Metro Vancouver, producer of KNTV for Shaw and NCM Collective member, said the Collective Bunch initiative will help him showcase talent from the region’s Korean-Canadian community.

“Much of the recent efforts for inclusion and diversity in film have been targeted at on-screen representation…but behind the camera, in the studio and in crewing, it is still a very white business,” said Lee.

“Collective Bunch is a great way to increase diversity not only on screen but behind the screen,” he said.

Jamal Abdourahman, founder of Vancouver Fashion Week, which just concluded its 21st year said the Collective Bunch is a prime digital destination for new Canadians interested in working in B.C.’s film industry.

“It has great potential for delivering on-screen and off-screen opportunities for new Canadians,” he said.

According to the Motion Picture Association of Canada, more than 180,900 people—from special effects technicians to make-up artists and sound editors— worked in the industry last year, which generated $12.8 billion for the Canadian economy.

Mackay’s initiative is gaining traction with new members joining every week, as BC’s film industry, hit hard by COVID-19, is bouncing back.

There were about 40 productions in BC when it was ordered shut down. Today there are about 60 productions either currently filming or in pre-production, according to the Vancouver Film Commission, which estimates the industry spent about $4 billion spent locally in 2019.

Nationally, the Canada Media Fund (CMF) earlier this month said it has doubled funding to $8 million to support screen-based creators, organizations and businesses from racialized communities, who have been impacted by the pandemic.

“We recognize many historically marginalized communities within the industry are disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 crisis and were not eligible for other CMF emergency relief funds,” said Valerie Creighton, President and CEO, CMF. 

“Support to these organizations will help our industry become more inclusive and representative of all the talent Canada has to offer.”

Vancouver scene at a glance

Known worldwide for its 40 years of quality, creativity and innovation, Vancouver is the third-largest Film & TV production centre in North America

  • Vancouver has a number of world-class Film & TV studios located within its boundaries including Mammoth, Vancouver, North Shore, Ironwood Studios, Canadian Motion Picture Park, and The Crossing Studios. 
  • On average the city is home to approximately 65+ movies and 55+ TV series annually, as well as hundreds of other filming days for commercials, TV pilots and other features
  • Direct spending on Film & TV production in British Columbia (BC) totalled more than $3.8 billion in 2017, making Vancouver the 3rd largest production centre in North America
  • The industry has a strong balance of international and domestic production activity, with foreign productions accounting for three-quarters of total production dollars spent in BC. Meanwhile, many home-based studios work with strategic foreign partners on co-productions with the mandate to make quality, commercially viable feature films and TV shows for a global marketplace.
  • Access to experienced post-production facilities that serve the industry by providing colour correction, composing, sound and other services.

Over 42,000 direct and indirect jobs are generated by film and TV production in B.C., with more than 80 per cent located in Metro Vancouver alone. 

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Interest in Immigrating to Canada High Despite Pandemic, Report Finds Wed, 25 Nov 2020 18:13:38 +0000 Global travel is depressed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but despite this Canada has remained an attractive destination for those hoping to start a new life in a new country.

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Despite a global pandemic that has made the public be warier of world travel, there is still a high degree of interest from abroad towards moving to Canada, states a survey published Friday by World Education Services (WES), a non-profit specializing in advocating for recognition of international qualification.

The Government of Canada closed the border last March to all entrants except for essential travellers like those in food logistics. Since then, small corridors have been opened in order to allow some people to come to Canada. As of Oct. 20, international students were allowed to enter the country in order to attend classes at Canadian post-secondary institutions. The feds are also planning on leveraging increased immigration as part of the national post-COVID-19 economic recovery plan. All of these factors create an increased interest in coming to Canada. 

But the study draws attention towards a different factor behind the high level of interest. Just under 28,000 WES applicants with a foreign credential evaluation, who lived outside Canada were asked between 12 to 14 questions to understand their reasons for wanting to move to Canada. Overall, those questions showed that while only 38 per cent of respondents were interested in Canada in April, that number increased to 46 per cent by August, with an additional 48 per cent saying COVID-19 had no impact on their level of interest. One of the questions, “To what degree do you expect COVID-19 to positively or negatively impact economic conditions?” provides the reader with a clue into the level of interest in Canada. Between April and August of this year, 80 to 81 per cent of those surveyed expected economic conditions in their country to be worse than in Canada. Conversely, between 56 and 68 per cent of respondents expected conditions to be worse in Canada.

It is a similar story with the perception of job availability in Canada versus their home countries. In August, 60 per cent of potential newcomers said that COVID-19 will impact the job market in their country of origin. This was a dramatic increase from April, 47 per cent, and June, 57 per cent. But the perception of Canada remained comparatively steady. There was only a slight increase in people saying the job market would be negatively affected in Canada, from 44 per cent in April to 47 per cent in August.

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What Colour is Your Reader? Tue, 24 Nov 2020 22:59:43 +0000 Dear Journalism: Audiences of national media have too long been presumed to be white. A New York Times editor argues it’s time to change that.

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By: Marc Lacey, National Editor at The New York Times

Every journalist needs to imagine a reader, someone to tell the story to. Of course, we all want many, many readers but keeping at least one person in mind during the writing process can help keep engaging prose from veering toward boilerplate.

If you work for a local newspaper, your reader is probably from the city where your publication circulates. If your newspaper is national in scope, your reader could be living in New York or Los Angeles or anywhere in between. Your reader — or listener or viewer — may be professional or working class, worldly or parochial, retired or hipster. As you mull whom you write for, it is worth considering this question:

What is the race of your reader?

For too long, readers in the mainstream media have been presumed to be white. I notice it regularly as I survey the news. White is the norm. And the writer helpfully lets us know when someone or something strays from that norm. The writer points out that the mayor is Black. But the city councilman’s race is left unstated two paragraphs later. A neighborhood is described as predominantly Hispanic but another area has no racial identifier at all. Someone is described as being classically beautiful or having all-American looks. Hmm.

With all the attention being paid to structural racism and anti-racism these days, let me say that what I’m describing I don’t consider to be racism at all. Rather, it’s a blind spot that lingers from the days when newsrooms were all white and readerships were presumed to be the same. As newsrooms become more multicultural, I look forward to the day when the subtle hints fade that a particular piece is meant for white readers, caught by the writer, excised by the editor.

As I read an article in The New York Times the other day about the many potential candidates that Governor Gavin Newsom might choose to replace Kamala Harris as a senator in California should she become vice president, I knew race was legitimately going to be a factor and I braced for something to strike me as off. But I couldn’t find anything. One reason was because Mr. Newsom’s race was acknowledged as a factor: “In fact, political strategists say, the choice will be tricky for Mr. Newsom, a white man who would be replacing a female senator who is Black and of Indian and Jamaican descent in a heavily Democratic state with no ethnic majority and innumerable factions.” Often, it is appropriate to acknowledge that whiteness is a factor, however uncomfortable it can make us.

One of my former colleagues used to encourage Times correspondents to write their articles in the same voice they would use at a dinner party full of intellectually curious guests. He meant that we should be engaging and concise in our writing and that we should use language that is both conversational and highbrow. I found that advice useful but I’m going to add an addendum: imagine that your dinner party guests are a diverse lot — which ought to be far more common than it is in America — and that your goal is not to have any of them flinch during the main course as you hold court.

This article was originally published by: Nieman Reports.

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A Seat at the Table: Black Women in Politics Tue, 24 Nov 2020 19:49:05 +0000 Column reviews the trajectories of three Black women politicians who have recently been in the news and looks to the future with optimism.

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In the years that I’ve been a journalist, I’ve met 13 per cent of the current Black politicians in this country. I’m not trying to flex my political muscle by stating that, in truth, I’m disappointed. 

Across all three levels of government, and all the provinces and territories, there are currently only 30 Black elected officials in this country, according to Operation Vote Black Canada. The 13 per cent that I’ve spoken to adds up to a grand total of four people. For context, each municipal government has roughly 10-20 city councillors plus the mayor. The lack of political representation of Black people is particularly troubling considering that Canada’s Black population is roughly 1.2 million. Among those four people is one woman who was elected to the House of Commons less than a month ago. 

Award-winning journalist and former CTV broadcaster, Marci Ien, won the federal Toronto-Centre by-election on Oct. 26. With the victories of Ien and Ya’ara Saks, who won the York-Centre by-election, there are now a record 100 female MPs on Parliament Hill out of the total 338 seats. And while this is an important milestone to acknowledge and celebrate, there is clearly more work that needs to be done in order to diversify the political landscape. 

Identities Matter in Politics

One of the other candidates in the Toronto-Centre by-election was Annamie Paul. Paul, like Ien, is a second-generation immigrant whose parents came from the Caribbean. And like Ien, Paul is also a Black woman. Despite not becoming an MP, Paul was still riding a victory wave after being voted as the new leader of the Green Party of Canada on Oct. 3. With Paul’s appointment, she became the first Black person to lead a major political party and only the second Jewish person to have that distinction. The cultural significance of her appointment is not lost on Paul, but the fact that her win was so historic came as somewhat of a disappointment.

“One person should not embody so many firsts in Canadian politics, especially because we have such terrific diversity in this country. Especially because we pride ourselves on being an inclusive society,” Paul said in an interview on the CBC podcast, Front Burner

Had things gone differently, Paul could’ve been the second Black female to lead a major political party. Earlier this year Toronto-based lawyer, Leslyn Lewis, ran to lead the Conservative Party of Canada. Lewis, an immigrant originally from Jamaica, was the first visible minority woman vying for the party’s leadership position. Ultimately, Lewis lost to Erin O’Toole but her candidacy was significant nonetheless.  

Lewis finished a strong third, which is not something you can usually say about a four-horse race. She did remarkably well for someone who’d only once before run for office, and many saw Lewis’ leadership campaign as a much-welcomed breath of fresh air.

A Diversity of Perspectives

One of the defining features of Lewis’ leadership bid was her unabashed stance on socially conservative issues like abortions and gay rights. Critics have said that because of Lewis’ position on a number of issues, she doesn’t reflect the position of other Black Canadians. Others argued that as a Black woman, she shouldn’t have conservative beliefs at all. That kind of thinking is exactly the problem. 

It’s reductive and insulting to insinuate that as a Black woman, Lewis isn’t entitled to her own opinion. The Black community is not a monolith. A diversity of opinions should be welcomed as it is the whole point of politics; you take people with diverse opinions, differing needs, and they work together to come up with the best solutions. So, while I don’t agree with many of Lewis’ beliefs, I support her right to have them. 

The more Black people involved in politics, the more diverse opinions we’re bound to see. Those unique perspectives inform how politicians do their jobs. For example, Ien explained that being a Black woman, a Black mother, and the fears and challenges associated with her experiences motivated her to run for office.

“I thought, it’s one thing to talk about these issues and raise awareness to life experiences, and it’s another to have the capability to put some action to the words,” she said.

Symbols are Important

In some ways, it’s unfortunate that Ien and Paul were pitted against each other in the Toronto-Centre by-election. Two strong, confident and competent Black women competing for the same seat at an exclusive table. When I asked Ien to reflect on the by-election and Paul as a politician, she responded “the more of us, the better.” Paul echoed the remark, saying seeing people who look like you reflected in politics and in the media gives marginalized people confidence. 

“Symbols are important. A lot of research tells us that when people do not see themselves reflected in their politicians, they disassociate themselves, they can’t envision themselves in those roles. And so having more Black politicians will actually breed more Black politicians,” Paul said.

Paul mentioned that it’s important for people to note that “Black people are just as electable as anybody else,” we just need the right opportunities. 

According to Ien, part of her new role is setting a good example and opening doors to help more Black get involved with politics in the future. 

“The key I think is doing an excellent job once you get there. We carry as Black people, when we’re blazing trails, we’re carrying the community and you’re representing more than just yourself. So it’s knowing that and doing your best at all times, and breaking more ground. It’s also mentoring, and I always have an eye on who’s next. So here I am now as MP-elect but it’s about who can I mentor to get here? It’s encouraging people to run, it’s encouraging people of color to think about politics and for them to see it as viable. That’s important too.”

A Look to the Future 

After Lewis’ campaign began to pick up steam earlier this year, pundits and media figures wondered if Lewis was a blip or the beginning of a trend of having more Black people run for office. It’s still early but if Ien and Paul’s election victories are any indication, it looks like we’re headed in the right direction. Lewis already signalled her intention to run in the next election.

But it’s important to not get complacent and to continue to push for change and inclusion. Ultimately, it makes society better for everyone. Paul said, “If we want a healthy democracy, particularly in a country as demographically diverse as Canada, then our representation at the highest levels has got to reflect that diversity. Otherwise, people will continue to disengage.”

While the levels of representation needed in the political arena aren’t where they need to be yet, one note of encouragement to take away from Paul, Ien and Lewis is that what once seemed impossible now feels doable thanks to how they’ve performed.

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Program Helps Refugee Women Resettle in British Columbia Mon, 23 Nov 2020 15:08:04 +0000 YWCA Metro Vancouver launched a program focused on helping refugee women with their resettlement process in the Lower Mainland.

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YWCA Metro Vancouver, a non-profit focused on helping women and families, is running a three-year pilot employment program, funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, for skilled refugee women.

In partnership with the Federal Research Data Centre, YWCA program manager Trang Nguyen said the data centre has realized newcomers will account for the net increase in the labour force. YWCA Aspire is part of a series of projects the federal government started to assist newcomers and this one targets specifically refugee women and their resettlement in the Lower Mainland.

The 2020 annual federal report on immigration said, “Immigration will continue to be a key driver in advancing Canada’s economy, especially in the context of low birth rates and its vital role in growing the working age population, and it will remain so into the future.”

The report added, “By the early 2030s, it is expected that Canada’s population growth will rely exclusively on immigration.”

YWCA filling gap for refugee women 

YWCA Aspire is a 22-week program focused on assisting skilled refugee women getting Canadian work experience in Metro Vancouver. Program manager Trang Nguyen says it’s part of a series of projects funded by the federal government to assist newcomers with resettlement in Canada.

Nguyen said the 22-week program is one of the multiple projects to address the barriers the data centre has found, which includes employment, race and gender discrimination.

One of the program’s goals is to help these women identify their strengths and prepare them for Canadian workplaces, she said.

The program helped Nori Anani* define “Canadian culture” and participants learned to refocus on different skill sets.

With a degree in engineering and a decade of experience in her field, Anani is used to technical questions that ask what she ought to do and how to troubleshoot specific situations. “If they put me in this position, they want to know I would be able to run these things in the correct way.”

In Canada, she has discovered a different mentality where interviewers focus on your personality and what one would do in hypothetical social situations.

The program also taught Anani how to write a cover letter. She said we don’t use cover letters in my region and they still don’t use it.

Participants practiced by writing cover letters and getting written feedback from the instructors and facilitators. “After a couple of times, I was, ‘OK, I am sure this one is good.’”

She expected to receive comments such as “Bravo, Nori, you did a good job.” Anani laughed, “But then I received it. And still, there were so many comments and things I needed to change.”

She embraces the challenge though, saying it’s important to keep improving. Through the program, she has found a permanent job in the tech industry and said she laughs a lot in the new friendly work environment.

From her experience, Anani’s advice to other refugee women is to never give up even when you’re disappointed or frustrated with the results and expectations. “Open any door and look behind it before deciding you’re not good for it. Try everything.”

Anani also wants them to know there is no shame in seeking help. “If you ask for help, people will help. If you don’t, people will assume you already know and you’re OK.”

She said, “Don’t feel shy or less than. Don’t let pride stop you.”

Businesses benefit from diversity

The program also provides a 25 per cent wage subsidy for up to 12 weeks for employers, Nguyen said. This feature is to provide these refugee women meaningful work experience within Metro Vancouver.

After work placements, Nguyen said, it’s up to the employers if they want to keep the program graduates or not.

One tech company is always on the lookout for newcomers, women and marginalized people to offer training and permanent staff jobs.

When Vitro’s president and chief learning strategist Lee Brighton heard about the program, Brighton reached out and eventually hired some graduates.

“We always look to hire people based around their attitude, their aptitude and their ability to adapt,” Brighton said. “We’re right at the leading edge of technology, right at the coalface. So our industry moves very quickly.”

Vitro’s president and chief learning strategist Lee Brighton has hired graduates from the YWCA Aspire program and says one benefit from having a diverse staff is getting a better understanding of a global market.

Vitro creates learning experiences with virtual humans, the Australian explained. “Virtual humans are artificial intelligence characters that can have a conversation with you.”

When one takes an online course and has a question, the person usually has to look up their notes or hang onto their question until they have access to the course instructor. With a virtual human, Brighton said, the content would already be trained in the virtual human prior to the session so one could get the answer without any interruptions.

“We use virtual humans for simulations.” For example, they can be used for practicing English or interviewing skills.

Anyone with an engineering or computer science degree will not have learned the technology Vitro has, Brighton said, so we’re used to training people up.

“You need someone in this position who is a good problem solver,” Brighton said. “They have to have a good attitude and good aptitude. They have to be open to learning new things and really adaptable.”

And if you think about a newcomer, Brighton said, they fit exactly that profile.

To have picked up their entire world and move to another country, they’ve solved countless problems and overcome obstacles such as paperwork and entry levels, Brighton said. If they’re also English language learners in Canada, then they’ve also overcome the challenges of a new language on top of new cultures.

“The more we thought about it, the more we went, ‘these are the kinds of people that would add value to our organization.’”

Brighton said one benefit to having a diverse staff is getting a better understanding of what the market looks like. “It doesn’t really matter what product we’re building because I’m going to be selling the product globally.

“I have people that go, ‘No, no, no, no, no, that won’t work in my culture.’ Or, ‘hey, there’s this opportunity where you can twist it and it could be useful in this space.’”

As a business, especially a startup, it’s important for everyone to contribute and feel valued.

“And that’s been our experience. If you create an opportunity for someone to be successful, inside of that space, they most often are successful.”

And, Brighton said, you as a company and a person end up winning from it.

The next YWCA Aspire program start date is January 18, 2021.


*Name changed for privacy

Photos provided by Trang Nguyen and Lee Brighton.

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“Employability” is Key to Canada’s Foreign Student Recruitment Drive Sat, 21 Nov 2020 21:23:38 +0000 Canada should look beyond easy student visas, granting work permits and a path to citizenship if it wants to stay ahead of the game, says an expert on international graduates’ career outcomes in Asia.

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Canada should make “employability” a key pillar of its foreign student recruitment drive if it wants to remain a top destination for higher education, says an expert on international graduates’ career outcomes in Asia.

Put the focus on employability, both for students that remain in Canada, the majority of whom are from South Asia, and those who return home, said Louise Nicol, director of the Asia Careers Group.

“With robust data on international graduate outcomes, Canada would be the first nation to put employability at the heart of their National Inbound International Student Recruitment campaign and lead the pack in terms of evidencing the return on investment of a Canadian degree,” she said.

This will differentiate and maintain Canada’s growth in the international higher education sector during and following the global pandemic, said Nicol, referring to a recent article she authored on the shifting dynamics of foreign students in University World News.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada amended travel restrictions to allow international students to enter the country last month, provided the institution they are studying at has a CVOID-19 readiness plan approved by their local provincial or territorial government.

There are currently over 600 Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs) in Canada that have reopened to international students, with the next update on the approved list expected this week.

Canada and international education

The Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada estimates that in recent years, international education has been Canada’s fourth-largest export sector, with international students contributing between $15 billion and $26 billion to the Canadian economy in tuition fees (which are considerably higher than domestic student fees), accommodation, and other local expenses.

In 2018, India surpassed China as the single largest source of international students in Canada. Over a 10-year period, the number of Indian students skyrocketed from roughly 5,000 in 2008-09 to 172,00 in 2018. In addition to India, several Southeast Asian countries – Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam – have been identified by Canada as very promising new “markets” for international students.

Overall, Canada’s international student population has grown six-fold over the past 20 years. In the last decade alone, it has tripled. At the same time, Statistics Canada is warning that Canada’s 147 universities (not including colleges) could lose as much as $3.4 billion this year, mostly due to the plunge in foreign students, who last year numbered 642,000.

Sustaining Canada’s advantage

Nicol said no one can fail to be impressed by Canada’s meteoric rise in the realm of international education. “But past gains are no guarantee of future success, and the shifting tides of international student mobility can rapidly change direction,” she said.

“We are beginning to see Canadian institutions under financial pressure…But the marketing machine continues to offer easier visa channels, post-study work opportunities and routes to citizenship – none of which is a sustainable advantage if other countries choose to compete. A lack of jobs due to the global recession may lessen the attractiveness of Canada in terms of post-study work and a route to immigration,” she added.

Nicol warned that with the UK, Australia and the US all making new plans to boost international student recruitment, “Canada may only have a six-month window to differentiate its offer” by making employability a key pillar in its foreign student recruitment drive.

International employability is already a key part of Canada’s foreign student recruitment strategy, said Cindy McIntyre, Assistant Director of International Relations at Universities Canada. “(But) we do not have data on the employability of international students who do not stay in Canada after graduation,” McIntyre told NCM. 

Universities Canada is a national association which advocates for Canadian universities at the federal level. It has 96 members.

“A degree from a Canadian university has world-wide recognition and opens many doors for international students after graduation, whether they choose to stay and work in Canada or pursue opportunities elsewhere in the world,” said McIntyre.

“International students make excellent candidates for permanent residency, as they are usually proficient in at least one official language, have Canadian educational qualifications, and possess in-demand skills that can help address Canada’s labour market needs,” she said. “Given these advantages, it is not surprising that 53,700 international students became permanent residents of Canada in 2018.”

According to Universities Canada,

  • in 2015, one-third of international graduates who graduated from a post-secondary program remained in Canada and were working six years after graduation. 
  • between 20 and 27 per cent of international students at all levels of education became permanent residents within 10 years of receiving their first study permit.
  • in 2015, 49 per cent of international students worked while studying in Candida, though this figure is likely to be higher today. Prior to June 1, 2014, international students had to obtain a permit to work off campus, and had to study for a period of at least six months before doing so. As of June 1, 2014, these rules are no longer in place.
  • in terms of earnings after graduation, the mean earnings of former international students who remained in Canada were lower than those of Canadian citizens one year after graduation; however, they rose comparatively faster over the following five years. 
  • by 2016, the mean earnings of former international students were $59,890 compared with $58,708 among Canadian citizens who also graduated in 2010.

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International Students Call for Renewal of Work Permits, Reduction of Tuition Fees Fri, 20 Nov 2020 17:54:02 +0000 As COVID-19 creates difficulties for those hoping to settle in Canada, Migrant Students United advocates for the renewal of post-graduate work permits of international students.

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When Valery Peña and his family landed in Toronto early in January, little did they know that the cold weather would be the least of a string of challenges awaiting them. Armed with their life savings, the family of three from Colombia were raring to start living their Canadian dream. But then, COVID-19 struck. 

Peña, 36, came to Canada as an international student, in hopes of later applying for permanent residency. Now, he worries where he will find the funds to pay for this coming winter’s school fees, and next month’s rent and groceries.

Braving fall’s cold temperature on October 25, the Peñas joined other international students in a symbolic protest to ask the Canadian government for help to cope with the pandemic. The protesters installed a giant symbolic post-graduate work permit (PGWP) in front of an immigration office in downtown Toronto. Among others, they were asking the federal government to renew the expiring permits, as during the pandemic many PGWP holders are unable to complete the job requirements to apply for permanent residency. 

The protest was led by Migrant Students United, a project of Migrant Workers Alliance for Change that is fighting for the rights of migrant students and workers. The group claims that over 17,000 one and two-year work permits were issued between September 2019 and June 2020. 

“Migrant students are also calling for access to emergency income support, health care, and lower tuition fees to help them cope with the impact of COVID- 19,” the group said in a press advisory. 

international student study permit migrant student canada immigration
The Peña family from Colombia join other international students in calling for support from Canada to help them cope with COVID-19.

“It’s a difficult time,” said Valery. “Because of pandemic, [the school] deferred first semester from April to fall, but we had to pay tuition for five months in April despite all classes being online. We had to pay six months of rent in advance. It’s a lot of money.” 

Contribution to the economy 

International students pay up to three times more than Canadian citizens and permanent residents in tuition fees. The 524,000 international students in 2016 contributed more than $15.5 billion to the Canadian economy in tuition and other spending, such as living expenses. 

Despite high costs, Canada remains attractive to international students. According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), there were 642,480 study permit holders by the end of 2019, an increase of 13 per cent from 568,130 in 2018. 

In the academic year 2017-2018, Statistics Canada said there were almost 297,000 international students in Canada’s public colleges and universities, representing 14 per cent of enrolment. 

But even after investing their life savings in Canada, the future is not exactly bright for international students. 

Bumpy road to permanent residency 

Alina Przybyl from Poland recently completed her Ontario college diploma in women’s social services at George Brown College. While she has a post-graduate work permit that allows her to gain work experience needed to earn the points towards permanent residency, the pandemic has posed a challenge. 

“I invested my savings and everything I have into paying my tuition fees, and the plan is to stay [in Canada],” said 30-something Przybyl.  

Achieving this plan, however, “is always very difficult for international students. We have a plan, but sometimes it doesn’t work out because of the job market and points required, so it’s always a risk,” she added. “But now with COVID-19, it seems like it’s impossible.” 

“Because of COVID-19, there are no jobs, especially jobs that qualify for P.R.,” said Sarom Rho, coordinator for Migrant Students United. Ordinarily, it is difficult to find these high-wage qualifying jobs, and more so during a pandemic, she added. For international graduates applying for permanent residency, some jobs in essential services, such as grocery jobs, don’t earn them the points. 

international student migrant student study permit canada immigraotion
Alina Przybyl, an international student from Poland who recently completed her Ontario diploma program, says it is difficult to find a full-time, highly technical permanent job that would allow her to earn points to apply for permanent residency.

To be eligible to apply for permanent residency after completing their programs, international students need work experience in qualifying jobs in levels 0 (zero), A or B of the National Occupation Classification (NOC). These job levels are managerial, professional or in technical and skilled trades, respectively. The length of work experience required is from 12 to 24 months of full-time work or equivalent in part-time work.  

Przybyl said she has lost two jobs since March. 

“Even though I have been applying for a job, it’s so difficult to find a job that meets requirements [for permanent residency]. I am required to have a highly qualified, permanent and full-time position, which is just not a reality in the job market,” Przybyl said. 

She needs to find work in social services, but the field is currently underfunded, as it has also been affected by COVID-19. 

“Most of the positions that I’m seeing are shift work. I really want to work and contribute to the economy, but the government doesn’t see it that way,” said Przybyl. 

“Easy fix” available

“It is a very dire situation. I don’t know if it makes any sense to stay. I haven’t seen my family in many years. I don’t know if I will be able to see them [family]. I don’t know, if I leave, if I will be able to come back.” 

Family reunification is another appeal of international students and migrant rights groups. In an open letter to the Canadian government, they are asking for permanent status upon arrival in Canada. 

Rho says migrant students have already built families in Canada and developed deep relationships in their communities. 

“They should not have to leave and face deportation for something that can be easily fixed. Renewing the work permit is an easy fix … It will ensure how we can survive this pandemic more fairly,” said Rho at the protest on October 25.  

Despite these struggles, the Peña family, including wife Lina and elementary school-age Luciana, remain committed to their Canadian dream. 

“The idea is when I finish the college, [I get] work permit, apply for permanent residence to improve our careers and Canadian economy. The good way for a good life for us is all these things,” said Valery. “For now, it’s the same dream. But sometimes we find some difficulties because we don’t have any benefits in health care, income or fast approval of permits.” 

In 2018, nearly 54,000 former students became permanent residents in Canada, according to IRCC.  

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino has recently indicated that retaining temporary residents would be part of Ottawa’s plan to bring in over 1.2 million immigrants in the next three years, but details are missing.

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Nigerian-Canadians Condemn Crackdown on Protestors Thu, 19 Nov 2020 15:53:36 +0000 A coalition of Nigerians in Canada calls on Ottawa to intervene after deadly attacks and crackdown on anti-police violence protestors.

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Members of the Nigerian community in Canada are calling on Ottawa to condemn their home country’s decision to freeze 20 bank accounts linked to recent protests against police brutality.

The bank accounts, linked to prominent participants of the #EndSARS protesters have been restricted following a federal court ruling in Abuja and an investigation by the Central Bank of Nigeria.

Amnesty International said it has been monitoring developments across Nigeria since the #EndSars protest began last month.

Nigerians have been taking to the streets, peacefully demanding an end to police brutality, extrajudicial executions and extortion by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a unit of the Nigerian police tasked with fighting violent crimes, the human rights group said.

According to Amnesty International, at least 56 people have died across the country since protests began. In multiple cases, the security forces have used excessive force in an attempt to control or stop the protests. 

The government says 51 civilians and 22 policemen died as the initially peaceful protests against the excesses of the police’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad, degenerated into days of rioting and looting across most of the country of more than 200 million people.

The Coalition of Nigerians in Canada (CONIC) said the decision to freeze the bank accounts is “obnoxious and a confirmation that it (Nigerian government) had resorted to intimidation and harassment of real and imaginary enemies.”

Growing interest in emigrating to Canada

In a statement carried by Nigerian news portals, CONIC said Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had been turned into an agent of intimidation and could now “frivolously” secure an order to freeze the accounts of the government’s perceived enemies and those they see as the brains behind the #EndSARS movement.

“As Nigerians living in Canada, we do not believe that it is against the law for Nigerian citizens to protest any perceived injustice against police brutality, corruption, and government’s inaction, insensitivity, and fiscal irresponsibility of governments at all levels,” the statement said.

“We, the Coalition of Nigerians in Canada (CONIC) join the other groups of Nigerians in the Diaspora to condemn the government’s action in freezing the bank accounts of free Nigerian citizens while the bank accounts of rogues and bandits in government are left untouched, and are free to enjoy their loots.”

“CONIC will be calling on our host government to intervene and impose economic and diplomatic sanctions if need be. In this age and advancement of democracy all over the world, Nigeria cannot reverse into militocracy by unleashing terror on its people, as is currently apparent,” read the statement, which was signed by CONIC coordinators, Yemi Adegbite, Kemi Amusan and Femi Boyede.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) has also lent its voice to condemn the attacks on the protestors in Nigeria.

“We condemn this violence. The protesters are demanding an end to police brutality; accountability for extrajudicial killings, rape, torture and extortion by police officers; and policing reforms. These demands must be heard and acted upon,” CUPE, Canada’s largest union with over 700,00 members, said in a statement.

“We further join the international community in calling for an impartial, thorough and transparent investigation into all cases of human rights violations by the police, and for access to justice and effective remedies for the victims and their families.” 

Meanwhile, the Canadian High Commission in Nigeria, in a notice posted on Twitter, said it has been receiving “great interest” in Canadian immigration programs, in the wake of the unrest.

It clarified that Canadian Embassies, High Commissions, Consulates, Consulates General or Honorary Consulates do not accept refugee applications directly from people.

The High Commission also warned Nigerians not to be taken in by people who claim they can fast track immigration and refugee applications to Canada.

 Nigeria is the fourth-leading source country of new arrivals to Canada, behind India, China, and the Philippines. A total of 12,600 Nigerians gained permanent residence in 2019, a tripling of Nigerian immigration to Canada since 2015.

Nigeria is also a hotbed for corruption and visa scams according to reports posted by the Research Directorate of  Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.

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