New Canadian Media
Friday, 14 April 2017 10:55

UA3411: On Being a Randomly Picked Asian

Commentary by Andrew Lam in San Francisco

In America, when a source of authority says it randomly singles you out, you should always be wary.

On Monday, video surfaced of a Vietnamese American, David Dao, being forcefully dragged from a United Airlines flight departing Chicago for Louisville, Kentucky. Dao, 69, had allegedly refused to voluntarily give up his seat on the overbooked flight. 

The video quickly went viral around the world, including in China, one of United’s largest markets, where it broke records for being the most widely shared video on social media. United stocks quickly plummeted, dropping 4 percent early Tuesday.

Many of the comments in China and elsewhere, meanwhile, questioned whether Dao, initially believed to be Chinese, was singled out for his ethnicity. His bleeding face is now the poster child for perceived racism in the friendly skies. 

“Reflecting on my three nightmare-like experiences with United,” Richard Liu, the CEO of popular online shopping platform JD.COM posted on the Chinese site Weibo. “I can say … that United is the worst airline, not one of the worst.”

Chinese media also drew attention to an online petition entitled #ChineseLivesMatter calling for a boycott of United Airlines. 

Reaction from the Asian American community has been equally swift and stinging. 

“There is no justification for inflicting violence on any American who poses no physical threat regardless of race, occupation, or other characteristics,” declared the advocacy group PIVOT, which works on civic engagement issues in the Vietnamese American community. “As an organization that aims to engage and empower Vietnamese Americans for a just and diverse America, PIVOT categorically condemns United Airlines and the Chicago Police for their violent actions.”

According to reports, Dao and his wife were among four passengers selected to involuntarily relinquish their seats to make room for United employees.  

In its response to the growing PR nightmare, despite a public apology, United’s CEO, Oscar Munoz added fuel to the growing fire after a leaked email was released showing Munoz referring to Dao as “disruptive” and “belligerent.” 

Few in the Asian American community are buying the airline’s defense. 

“How exactly were the four people selected to give up their seats on this flight? What is the method of ‘random’ selection?” asked blogger Phil Yu, better known as Angry Asian Man. “Do United computers come with a Random Passenger Removal Generator? Or does a flight attendant just take a quick glance around the plane and pick a poor sucker?”

In another online post, one gate agent wrote it is typically the agent that decides who to bump. “Usually, depending on the airline, it is determined based on the last passenger to check in for the flight.”

Reporting on the incident, Business Insider noted passengers can be “involuntarily denied boarding based on a number of factors.” These include “fare class of their tickets, frequent-flyer status, their itinerary, and when they checked in to the flight.”

Yet to be sure it is not all algorithm. 

Like others, Yu believes Dao was selected in part because United staff assumed that as an Asian he would be compliant. “If the ‘randomly selected’ passenger had been a blonde white lady, and she refused to give her seat, there's no way in seven hells that these cops would have dragged her ass out kicking, screaming and bloody,” Yu wrote. “Such indignities are apparently reserved for 69-year-old Asian physicians.”

He added, “Clearly, they were not counting on this guy to put up a fight.”

Asians, in other words, are often seen as passive and law abiding. But it turns out that the 69-year-old Vietnamese American physician and grandfather was a fighter. And a protester.


"I have to go home! I have to go home!" he was recorded as saying. "Just kill me. Just kill me."

Whatever the facts, clearly United failed to see the very real human and economic cost of treating a paying customer like a criminal

In addition, according to Philly.com, United “had no right to remove Dao.” The story quotes aviation law expert Arthur Wolk, a Center City attorney who read the 45-page “contract of carriage.” 

Dao “absolutely” had the right to the seat, and this was not a case of “overbooking,” according to Wolk, “because all the passengers had seats. What happened to Dao was assault and battery.” 

Vietnamese Americans are making their opinions known on social media. 

“A dumb move compounded by the CEO's dumber move. A PR nightmare that even Kellyanne Conway can't blame on Hillary. United needs to grovel publicly, settle the lawsuit with the passenger … then maybe the public will forgive,” noted Oakland resident Kevin Nguyen on Facebook.  

“I am boycotting United for life! I think Asians and Asian Americans should, too ... China in particular should too, considering United sees China and the whole of Asia as its cash cow for the foreseeable future!” read another Facebook post by a Vietnamese American woman. Her voice was echoed by many others. 

“Totally inhumane & inexcusable,“ wrote Thuy Linh of San Jose. “I pray the victim will stay strong and take UAL to the bank.”

Neither Doctor Dao nor his wife are talking to the media at the moment. Surely he’s busy picking a team of talented lawyers, no random algorithm necessary.

Andrew Lam is an editor with New America Media and the author of Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora and East Eats West: Writing in Two Hemispheres. His latest book, Birds of Paradise Lost, was published March, 2013. This commentary has been republished with permission. 

Published in Commentary

SURREY – British Columbians are invited to nominate places of historic significance to South Asian Canadians for recognition.

Minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services Amrik Virk made the announcement Friday with representatives from the Royal BC Museum, and Centre for Indo Canadian Studies at the University of the Fraser Valley.

South Asian Canadians have ancestral connections to India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan, the Maldives and Sri Lanka.

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Published in Arts & Culture
Wednesday, 07 September 2016 03:00

Canadian Support for Asian Partners Growing

Canadians feel more connected and positive toward Asia than they did two years ago, and are more optimistic about future relations with the region, the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada’s 2016 National Opinion Poll: Canadian Views on Asia finds.

Across a number of key metrics – from trade agreements to collaboration on education – Canadian support for co-operation with Asian partners has increased.

And in the case of China – Canada’s largest trading partner in Asia and its second largest globally – Canadians have warmed to the country since 2014.

Nearly half of Canadians (49%) see the growing importance of China as more of an opportunity than a threat, while one-quarter (24%) say the Canada-China relationship is improving. Furthermore, 50 per cent of Canadians say they could probably be persuaded to support a closer economic relationship with China if more information was available.

Meanwhile, Canadians feel more connected to the Asia Pacific region than they did in 2014.

Over one-third (34%) of Canadians consider Canada part of the Asia Pacific region, up from just 22 per cent in 2014. This feeling of belonging to the Asia Pacific region translates into increased support for Canadian policies that advance economic and cultural engagement with Asia.

Our 2016 National Opinion Poll describes a Canada increasingly positive about trade and collaboration with partners in Asia. Canadians report warmer feelings than they did in 2014 toward China, India, Japan, and South Korea, while 61 per cent of Canadians agree we should open more provincial trade offices in Asia, up from 45 per cent in 2014. Similarly, support for cultural exchanges and education on Asia has jumped in the past two years – up from 53 per cent to 69 per cent for exchanges, and from 43 per cent to 59 per cent for education.

Overall, Canadians are more optimistic about Asia, its growth, and Canada’s relationships with its member economies than they were two years ago. In 2014, for example, only 46 per cent of Canadians said Asia was important to their province’s prosperity; in 2016, that number jumped to 60 per cent. And 48 per cent of Canadians believe economic and political relations with Asia should be Canada’s top foreign policy priority, up from 37 per cent two years ago. On the trade front specifically, almost half (46%) of Canadians support a free trade agreement (FTA) with China, up from 36 per cent in 2014. Support for FTAs is even higher for Japan (2016: 72%; 2014: 56%), India (2016: 55%; 2014: 38%), and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (2016: 54%; 2014: 37%).

While optimism informs much of Canadian views on Asia in 2016, there are some aspects of engagement with Asia that Canadians still find disconcerting, particularly in connection with the Chinese government’s policies at home and abroad. Nearly half of Canadians (46%) believe there will be a significant military conflict in the Asia Pacific in the next 10 years (up from 43% in 2014), with 65 per cent of Canadians citing China’s growing military power as a threat to the region (up from 60% in 2014).

And while Canadians are relatively positive on private investment from Asia, they remain distrustful of foreign state-owned enterprises (SOEs) investing in Canada. That feeling is highest with China (only 11% support investment by Chinese SOEs in Canada), followed by Malaysia (13%) and India (20%).

KEY FINDINGS

Canadians are feeling more connected to the Asia Pacific region than they were two years ago, with one-third (34%) of Canadians identifying Canada as part of the Asia Pacific region, up from just 22 per cent in 2014.

Canadians also view Asia as increasingly important to their economic prosperity. In 2014, for example, only 46 per cent of Canadians said Asia was important to their province’s prosperity; in 2016, that number jumped to 60 per cent.

Support for provincial trade offices in Asia, for instance, is 61 per cent, up from 45 per cent in 2014. Likewise, support for placing emphasis on teaching Asian history and culture in schools is 59 per cent, up from 43 per cent in 2014.

Almost half (46%) of Canadians support a free trade agreement with China, up from 36 per cent in 2014. Support for an FTA is even higher for Japan (2016: 72%; 2014: 56%), India (2016: 55%; 2014: 38%), and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (2016: 54%; 2014: 37%).

Canadians strongly (69%) support efforts by universities in their home provinces to increase exchanges and education ties to Asian schools.

There is also majority support for placing more emphasis on Asia in the classrooms of provincial education systems. Fifty nine per cent of Canadians support increased content focused on Asia, up from 43 per cent in 2014.

In Atlantic Canada, 74 per cent of respondents support increasing the number of student exchanges.

On the other side of the country, British Columbia is the most in favour of emphasizing education about Asia in the provincial education system, with 63 per cent of respondents supporting Asian content in the classroom, and more than 50 per cent supporting teaching Asian languages to high-school students.

Canadians’ views on China are increasingly optimistic on economic matters. Canadians have warmed on China since 2014, with almost half (49%) agreeing that China’s rise is an opportunity more than a threat (43% disagreed), up from 41 per cent in 2014 (when 47% disagreed).

Canadians are also open to a closer economic relationship with China. Twenty per cent say they are supportive of Canada having a closer economic relationship with China, while half (50%) say they would be open to persuasion on closer co-operation if they had more information.

Close to half (48%) of Canadians think that strengthening economic and political relations with Asia should be Canada’s top foreign policy priority, up from 37 per cent in 2014. However, Canadians are more comfortable engaging with Asia on some issues than others. Although most Canadians think a military conflict in the Asia Pacific will affect Canadian security, only four in 10 Canadians agree that we should commit to being more involved in regional security initiatives.

When it comes to human rights, however, Canadians are broadly supportive of Ottawa incorporating the promotion of human rights into foreign policy. Three-quarters (76%) say the government should raise human rights issues, rather than leaving these issues as a local concern for countries to address on their own. Also, most Canadians are willing to risk lost commercial opportunities, to some degree, if human rights concerns exist – 51 per cent say Canada can afford to stop doing business with Asia over human rights concerns. Not surprisingly, a majority (59%) of Canadians agree that promoting democracy in Asia should be a major priority for the Government of Canada.

By arrangement with the Asian Pacific Post

Published in Top Stories
Tuesday, 09 August 2016 07:01

South Asian Gay Activist makes History

  For one thing, it was the first time that the local parade was joined by the Prime Minister and his wife. Justin Trudeau and Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau, and their three children, marched proudly with members of the LGBT community at the showcase event.
They were joined by, [...]

 

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Published in South Asia

by Elvira Truglia in Montreal

Kim Thuy’s fourth novel continues the author’s style of recalling her own journey to Canada and crossing linguistic and cultural boundaries.

“I don’t mind at all being considered as migrant literature, Asian literature, Canadian literature, or Quebec literature,” says the award-winning author, who just published Vi. “It depends on the person who’s reading it and what the person sees in it.”

Vi tells the story of a woman, Vi, who returns to Vietnam after growing up in Canada. Vi is on a journey to discover the vastness of life, or 'vie' in French. At the same time, in Vietnamese, vi means microscopically small.

“Like we say in Vietnamese, [with] every single step that we make, we come back with a basket of knowledge,” says Thuy. “To me, Vi is about learning to become a person, to become a human.”

Although “the family situation of Vi is not me, the vision of Vi is a lot like I see life,” says Thuy. The character Vi studies translation and then law, much like Thuy who has reinvented herself throughout her life – first as an interpreter, then a lawyer and restaurateur, and now an author.

“To me, Vi is about learning to become a person, to become a human.”

Life provides a springboard

In her 2009 novel, Ru, the author traces a young woman's trek from her home in Saigon, Vietnam, during the Vietnam War, to a Malaysian refugee camp, and then to Quebec where she struggles to adapt.  With a plot line based on her own life chronology, Thuy writes what she knows. She says this is the only writing process that works for her.

”I stick with women . . . because I think women are so extraordinary and many of us are misunderstood or underestimated,” says Thuy. “Vietnamese women are often considered submissive or obedient or kind and attentive,” she adds. “I wanted to show that . . . social codes sometimes mislead our interpretation of the person.”

Thuy says paintings of Japanese, Chinese and Vietnamese women portrayed, “with a little tiny dot of red for the mouth,” act as a cultural metaphor.

“Women are not supposed to speak if they want to be elegant and dignified women . . . so that’s why they are very often misunderstood.“

A story that resonates

In many ways, Thuy speaks for those unable to tell their own stories.

“She was one of the boat people,” says Jenny Lam, referring to her mother and the Vietnamese refugees who fled to Canada after the Vietnam War. Lam says that while literature is not her thing, she does read Kim Thuy and even attended a recent launch for Vi featuring Thuy in Montreal.

Thuy says paintings of Japanese, Chinese, and Vietnamese women portrayed, “with a little tiny dot of red for the mouth,” act as a cultural metaphor.

Reading Thuy’s novels is like reading her mom’s story, she says.

Sabrina Cordy says she also seeks to feel connected through Thuy’s “spontaneous” writing. Adopted by Belgian parents, the 24-year-old of Korean descent now lives in Montreal and says Thuy’s writing “reminds me of my culture.”

Thuy says she is “touched” that so many Asian Canadians read her novels and attended the launch of Vi, and notes that many of them are young women.

“Most parents don’t talk about their experiences,” she says. She adds that Ru “triggered a conversation between the parents and the children about that episode in their life.”

Accessing immigrants’ stories 

A best seller in Quebec and in France, her first novel, Ru, has sold more than 235,000 copies abroad and has been translated in 25 languages.

The popularity of her books is partly due to their poetic and accessible style, or what Francois Godin of Quebec publisher Libre Expression calls her ability to “create literary bridges.”

“Thuy’s books are educational about the immigration story.”

“I like the images, the simplicity, the human element of her writing,” says Catherine Emond, who has read all of Thuy’s books, adding that as a “dyed-in-the-wool Quebecois [a Quebecer of French Canadian descent], Thuy’s books are educational about the immigration story.”

In 2015, the English translation of Ru won CBC Canada Reads as the Book to Break All Barriers thanks to Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director of the Toronto International Film Festival, who championed the book.

“A lot of Canadians have grown tired of being nice to newcomers. That’s the barrier that we’re trying to break and Ru reminded me why migrants matter,” Bailey said in 2015.

Ru did that with a deep and moving beauty. It’s a hopeful book. It invites compassion and draws a wide circle of readers in.”

Reflecting on the competition, Thuy says she is happy she won, but wasn’t out to break barriers when she wrote Ru.

“When we arrived here, people welcomed us with open arms . . . And if I wrote Ru, it was to thank all these people who have given me access to everything,” says Thuy. “In Ru, it’s about how life is perfect after all, even though it is hard and there are so many challenges, it is still perfect in the end.”

Thuy says life is beautiful because it is difficult.

“You cannot have one without the other,” she says. “You cannot appreciate white without knowing black.”


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 Books
Wednesday, 20 April 2016 18:01

2016 Census and the South Asian Community

 BY RATTAN MALL  

IN the next couple of weeks, you should expect to see a notice in your mail inviting you to respond online to the Census 2016 questionnaire. The official Census Day is May 10, but you will receive the invitation to respond online in the first week of May.

Indo-Canadian Voice

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Published in Top Stories

 BY RATTAN MALL  

THERE is anger, if not rage, in Surrey at 32 shootings so far that have resulted in nine injuries, including one death. At this point in the investigations, eight of the shootings are related to a conflict over the drug turf.  Although none of the victims have been innocent bystanders, this could change any moment as what happened in Abbotsford last September.

And the blame is being apportioned to police, politicians as well as parents, family members and friends of those involved in the various drug-trafficking conflicts – and even judges who many accuse of being too lenient to offenders.

Indo-Canadian Voice

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Published in Commentary

By R. Paul Dhillon

VANCOUVER – Vancouver will be dazzled with a spectacular eruption of South Asian and Bollywood fashion at the Bridal Fashion Week taking place from April 8th-10th. The three-day fashion extravaganza is the brain-child of designers Parvesh-Jai, who recently opened their fashion boutique in Surrey.

Vancouver is emerging as the North American epicentre of South Asian and Bollywood fashion and culture and this will be first of an annual celebration, the designers announced in a press release.

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Published in Arts & Culture

by Dalia Hashim in Toronto

When Canadian filmmaker Elisa Paloschi decided to embark on a new film project in India, documenting the life of Karnataka’s first female taxi driver, she had no idea it would be a decade in the making.

“At the beginning of the filming I didn’t think I’d be filming for 10 years […] but Selvi’s story was constantly developing and I had to go back [to India several times],” explains Paloschi.

The result of Paloschi’s work was Driving with Selvi, which follows a young woman’s journey running away from an abusive marriage she was forced into at age 14 and becoming a taxi driver. The inspirational full-length documentary will open up the 19th edition of the Reel Asian Film Festival (RAFF) in Toronto this year.  

Paloschi says the driving force behind her documentary was Selvi herself.

Selvi was only 18 when her and Paloschi first met and since then the two of them have grown to know each other very well.

Paloschi says it was an honour to watch and document Selvi’s healing process. “I got to see her transform from being afraid and timid to taking ownership of her life.”

“I got to see her transform from being afraid and timid to taking ownership of her life.”

Paloschi mentions she is particularly excited to be part of a Toronto festival and have Selvi in attendance for the screening, since 500 Torontonians donated to Paloschi’s online fundraising campaign to make this documentary possible.

Diversity in titles, attendees

Driving with Selvi is one of 72 titles featured in this year’s festival, which received a record number of 1,000 submissions from more than 10 countries.

Since 1997 the festival has aimed to showcase the wide variety of Asian films from East, South and Southeast Asian filmmakers from Canada, the United States, Asia and other parts of the world.

This year includes the most diverse lineup of films to date, coming from regions like Afghanistan, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Canada and the U.S.

Of the 72 titles being shown, 42 per cent are by Canadians and women have directed 50 per cent of the short films.

This year includes the most diverse lineup of films to date.

It’s the festival’s ability to engage and attract diverse audiences that keeps California native Aram Collier coming back every year since 2005 when he first volunteered.

“It’s quite challenging to reach out to diverse crowds around the [Greater Toronto Area], so we are hoping this year by having screenings in Richmond Hill and North York that we will be able to reach wider and more diverse audiences,” said Collier, now the Director of Programming and Education for RAFF, during the festival’s media launch event.

He spoke of how both the festival’s titles and attendees have changed and diversified since he first began his tenure with the organization.

This has particularly been the case since 2013 when RAFF opted to include South Asian titles in the lineup. Previously only included East Asian films so as to not compete with the other South Asian Canadian film festivals.

The move to include films from all across the Asian continent has “brought a lot of diversity to the festival.”

The move to include films from all across the Asian continent has “brought a lot of diversity to the festival” Collier pointed out.

He added that in the future he hopes this diversity will continue to grow and the festival can be an avenue to bring communities from all over Toronto together.

What to expect

The RAFF will run from Nov. 5 to 15 with screenings in downtown Toronto, North York, and Richmond Hill. The festival will include galas, screenings, forums, workshops and parties featuring prominent actors, musicians and filmmakers.

This year will feature four new categories of film.

The Marquee genre will include gala presentations with notable directors, actors and writers who have made their rounds on the international film circuit. The Royal Tailor, a South Korean film about a young designer aiming to catch the queen’s attention with his renditions of traditional clothing, is featured in this section.

The Vista genre is reserved for critically acclaimed contemporary Asian titles such as Mina Walking an Afghani-Canadian title about a 12-year-old girl who is left to care for her family after losing her mother to a Taliban attack.

The Pulse genre will focus on short films from around the world, of which there are several titles participating in this year’s festival.

Finally, the Reel Asian:X genre will focus on exploring what the festival calls the Asian diaspora “beyond the traditional”, with titles such as Retrospective on Randall Okita, a series of short films by Japanese-Canadian artist Randall Okita.

These additional genres hope to bring to the audience a wider variety of titles and encourage differing types of film projects for future submissions.

This year’s edition will also include eight awards totaling over $46,000 in cash and in-kind prizes for films and filmmakers. Awards will be presented for categories such as best feature film, best first feature film, best short Canadian film and best films by GTA- based female artists.

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 Arts & Culture

Abundant opportunities exist for Canadian small and mid-sized businesses in Asian markets, despite slowing growth in the Chinese economy, according to a pair of leading international business experts.

“We remain bullish on China,” said Geoff Chutter, President and CEO of Whitewater West Industries, the world’s leading supplier of waterparks and attractions based in Richmond. “We do not see our sales dropping at all.”

Scotiabank Chief Economist Warren Jestin echoed Chutter’s optimism, noting that economic growth in China still remains good at 6-7 per cent annually, even as it has slowed from the typical 10 per cent annual growth rate of recent years.

”China is a huge opportunity for Canadian businesses.”

”China is a huge opportunity for Canadian businesses,” said Jestin, noting it is still the largest market in the world, with lots of opportunities for smaller and mid-sized companies selling high value consumer products and services.

Recognizing Asian market potential

Jestin and Chutter were the keynote speakers recently at the City of Richmond’s 4th annual Business and Partner Appreciation event.

Chutter said Whitewater West has grown by building on a reputation for product excellence, diversifying both its market and operations internationally, expanding its product lines and putting increased emphasis on customer service and relationships.

[E]xport companies should not “fixate” on the American market at the expense of losing out on the long-term potential of the Asian market.

The company has been involved in more than 4,000 projects worldwide and is represented in 19 of the world’s top 20 waterparks. Even though global expansion meant outsourcing some of the company’s operations internationally, the resultant growth in business has seen his local workforce double in size to more than 600 jobs.

Jestin noted that while the U.S. market should enjoy the best growth in the short term, export companies should not “fixate” on the American market at the expense of losing out on the long-term potential of the Asian market.

Overall, Jestin said the forecast for the Canadian economy is sound with continued low interest rates and a generally favourable value for the Canadian dollar. He said B.C. should continue to lead economic growth among provinces due to its balanced economy and global focus.

Richmond's economy blossoming

Mayor Malcolm Brodie opened the session by highlighting Richmond’s economic growth.

"Our business outreach campaign of the last three years has facilitated the retention and addition of over 3,500 jobs.”

“Our business retention, expansion and attraction efforts continue to yield results,” he noted. “Over 130 companies have accessed the city’s economic development information and services dedicated to business. Our business outreach campaign of the last three years has facilitated the retention and addition of over 3,500 jobs.”

The city’s annual Business and Partner Appreciation event provides an opportunity to strengthen ties among stakeholders with a joint interest in economic development in Richmond. It is also an opportunity to recognize the corporate partners who’ve helped directly support city programs and events.

In appreciation of the two keynote speakers, the city will make a contribution to the Young Entrepreneur Leadership Launchpad (YELL) program.


Published in partnership with Asian Pacific Post.

Published in Economy
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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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