New Canadian Media

In partnership with Apathy is Boring, New Canadian Media will be posting first-person accounts from the 150 Years Young Project, a campaign that highlights the positive impact youth are making throughout their communities.

Stephane Mukunzi, PACE Magazine

“It all comes back to the idea of bringing communities together. The spoken word collectives, the singers, the artists, the painters… they are all present in Ottawa. We just don’t have centralized spaces where people can go to see Ottawa artists and critical thinkers. And that’s what we are trying to achieve with PACE”.

As a twenty-three year-old videographer and photographer, Stephane Mukunzi was fed up with receiving the same old rejection letter after submitting work. After realizing there was no community of young artists in Ottawa’s art scene, Stephane decided to create one himself. He gathered together a group of young creatives and they developed PACE Magazine, a place where young artists and critically minded people could express themselves. Inspired by London’s DIY magazine culture, Mukunzi and his team wanted to maintain the classic element of print media while combining it with innovation and online presence. PACE aims to dismantle the hierarchical nature of art and ensure the representation of indigenous artists, black artists, artists of colour, women artists, immigrant artists, and anyone who may have turned away by the fine arts community.

The PACE team decided to give voice to those who haven’t had a chance to speak to Ottawa, and within the first year of launching, it is clear they have found voices that Ottawa is eager to hear. The magazine has published two print editions, created a website for creative content, and held two successful launch events that featured local photography, spoken word, and art pieces. After this continued foray into Ottawa culture, Stephane fully rejects the idea of Ottawa as a boring city and believes that the many creative scenes, are there to fill cultural needs if you are ready to integrate yourself into them. Looking for that first step? Check out the latest issue of PACE at http://www.pacemagazine.ca/

Khoebe Magsaysay, Artist/Filmmaker/Animator

“It’s really important to embrace and accept your disappointments and failures because they make a strong foundation for your future endeavours.”

Filipino-born Khoebe Magsaysay immigrated to Ontario when she was ten years old. After high school, she enrolled in the Honours Bachelor of Animation program at Sheridan College, and began a time of huge personal growth. At university, she learned to persevere through challenging times, cultivate her talent, and refine her skills as a filmmaker, animator, and artist.

Khoebe landed an internship in New York City for the summer between years three and four of her undergrad at Gameloft, a notable gaming company. Following her internship, Khoebe produced a short film, and the process of making it was very stressful and complex. The film, titled “NIHIL”, is about Adina, a character who is the epitome of perfection. Through a series of events, she comes to question her reality. The success of the film won Khoebe the Via Rail Award for Best Canadian Student Film at the Ottawa International Animation Festival (OIAF), which is considered one of the most prestigious international animation film festivals in the world. Khoebe has continued to excel in her field, working in Toronto at ToonBox Entertainment.


The 150 Years Young Project: In celebration of Canada's 150th birthday, Apathy is Boring is teaming up with community organizers and city ambassadors to recognize positive contributions by youth. Follow the hashtag #150yy for more!

Published in Arts & Culture

In partnership with Apathy is Boring, New Canadian Media will be posting first-person accounts from the 150 Years Young Project, a campaign that highlights the positive impact youth are making throughout their communities.

Mathura Mahendren, Toronto for Everyone

“I thought I was going to move away from the city, but something keeps drawing me back in. There’s a change for the better coming, and I want to be a part of that.”

Mathura has seen and had opportunities to learn about the strength of community-driven growth. While she proactively takes on roles and responsibilities that allow her to be the proverbial “fly on the wall”, the work she has done, and continues to do for community development, is difficult to dismiss for its impact. Over the past few years, Mathura was given the opportunity to work on Global Health initiatives in Malawi and The Gambia towards implementing sustainable and community-developed innovations in health promotion and education.

As someone who struggles with dichotomies and, instead, operates primarily within the grey-spaces, Mathura stresses the importance of embedded learning experiences in Global Health initiatives. She discusses this concern in the face of work being done with the intention of establishing a “one-size-fits-all” solution to Global Health problems. Her opportunities, she explains, have helped her appreciate the nuances and complexities of individual narratives and how they fit together towards large scale concerns.

Today, Mathura is working actively with the Toronto for Everyone initiative to jumpstart the city towards a more inclusive community that all can feel a part of. Spearheaded by the Centre for Social Innovation, the initiative organized a farewell event at the end of February to honour Honest Ed’s legacy as being an establishment of inherent inclusivity.

Salima Visram, Soular Backpack

“I believe that every human requires food, water, education, access to healthcare, and economic empowerment. I hope that Soular is able to become the catalyst for individuals and communities to develop these essentials for themselves.”

Salima was raised in Kenya and came to Canada for her university education at McGill where she studied International Development and Business. She founded Soular in 2014 after learning that kids were using kerosene to power the lights they used to study with in the evening. Kerosene, when exposed to in large quantities, increases the risk of cancer and several other health problems. These issues also lead to poor performance in school, with many kids unable to move on to secondary education.

Knowing this, and brainstorming several interventions, Salima presented the Soular Backpack – a backpack with solar panels, a battery, and now a lamp that is charged over the course of the day for students to use in the evenings. Her initial Kickstarter campaign was able to fundraise $50,000 towards making this project a reality and get the first 2,500 backpacks on the ground in Kenya. She is hoping that, by the end of May 2017, Soular is able to provide 4,000 kids across Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda with backpacks.

Salima believes that it is important to consider financial sustainability for not-for-profit organizations so that they are able continue working towards their mission independently. She is, therefore, using a one-for-one model to pair buyers from established economies to support the users in East Africa. Salima hopes that Soular is able to expand its impact to the rest of Africa and establish itself towards supporting the education of these students.


The 150 Years Young Project: In celebration of Canada's 150th birthday, Apathy is Boring is teaming up with community organizers and city ambassadors to recognize positive contributions by youth. Follow the hashtag #150yy for more!

Published in Arts & Culture
Commentary by Phil Gurski in Ottawa
 
The fight against terrorism is multi-faceted.  As we are seeing in Mosul as I write, forces from a number of countries, including Canada, are heavily involved in an effort to take back Iraq's second largest city from Islamic State. 
 
Security intelligence agencies such as my former employer, Canadian Security Intelligence Service, CSIS, play a vital role in carrying out investigations both domestically and internationally to identify terrorists and help to disrupt their plans. And. of course. law enforcement bodies are there to do their own work and bring terrorists to justice.
 
When it comes to CVE – Countering Violent Extremism – however, it is far from clear that the actors just described are the only ones, or even the best ones, to do this work.  It was my experience with the Citizen Engagement staff at Public Safety Canada that there is a role for government, but this role is best seen as a coordinating one and not one of control or direction. 
 
Indeed, the Canadian government's plans for an Office of the Coordinator for Counter Radicalization and Community Engagement reflects this notion. As for law enforcement and security intelligence partners, their involvement, while beneficial, has by definition to be limited since many people will not accept that their presence is NOT tied to intelligence gathering.
 
Start in communities
 
This entails then that there are other groups that need to get involved.  The logical place to start is with the very same communities where radicalization to violence happens as it is those communities which are usually the first to see it develop and are often best-placed to reach out and make a difference to head the process off before it gets worse.  
 
The U.S. government appears to be of this mind as it plans to launch a new program based on "local intervention teams" consisting of made up of mental health professionals, faith-based groups, educators and community leaders.  Part of the impetus behind this announcement is the criticism levied against law enforcement efforts in the past.
 
So, how can communities help with CVE?  As I already noted, they are the ones on the ground dealing with violent radicalization often before the CSIS' and the RCMPs of this world arrive on the scene and they are the ones that have to deal with the aftermath of attacks by members of their neighbourhoods, whether in terms of shattered families or the inevitable backlash from greater society. They thus have a strong vested interest in doing something about this problem.
 
Some beyond repair
 
There are caveats, though. The people that governments choose to partner with have to be the real deal. It is far too easy, and in my experience far too common, for some individuals who claim to be "leaders" in their communities to be nothing of the sort.  Choosing the wrong people can undermine what it is you are trying to achieve.  There is also a need to develop mechanisms to evaluate the programs you are delivering.  This is a difficult task and one that has yet to have received an adequate response.
 
Perhaps, most importantly, there has to be a recognition within communities that in some cases, hopefully rare ones, law enforcement and security intelligence have to be called in.  Some people are beyond help and no amount of mentoring or counselling is going to get them to abandon terrorism.  This small number of individuals remains a threat to national and public security and must be treated as such.  Communities need to get past their distrust – or dislike – of CSIS and the RCMP.
 
CVE is therefore a multi-player effort with a strong local lead.  Working together there is a good chance that some wayward souls can be diverted from the path to violent extremism.  We owe it to ourselves to give it a shot.

Phil Gurski worked for more than  three decades in Canadian intelligence, including 15 at Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), and is the author of the Threat from Within and the forthcoming Western Foreign Fighters (Rowan and Littlefield). He blogs at http://www.borealisthreatandrisk.com/blog/

Published in Commentary

UNIVERSITY of Alberta student Annika Roren—Scottish and Norwegian in ancestry—was eager to have her long blonde hair bundled into a green turban Tuesday, and learn about the Sikh culture.

Dismayed like the rest of the community about racist posters discovered on campus last week sporting the image of a man in a turban, Roren made a point of attending the “tie-in” event on campus today.-- 

Indo-Canadian Voice

Read Full Article

Published in Top Stories

by Samaah Jaffer in Vancouver

Nearly two years after the 100 year anniversary of the Komagata Maru arriving in the Burrard Inlet, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will offer an official apology in the House of Commons on May 18 for Canada’s discriminatory conduct in turning away over 300 potential immigrants.

The Komagata Maru was a chartered Japanese steamship that sailed from Hong Kong to Vancouver with 376 passengers, most being immigrants from the province of Punjab, India. For two months, the ship was not allowed to dock and the passengers were not allowed to disembark.

Eventually, only 24 returning residents were allowed onto Vancouver’s shores. The rest were turned away for failure to arrive in Canada by way of a “continuous passage.” The Continuous Passage Act was passed in 1908 in response to a slow increase of immigration from India, which was referred to as “the Indian invasion” or “the Hindu invasion,” and remained in effect until 1947.

When the Komagata Maru returned to Budge Budge, India, 19 of the passengers were shot to death.

Apologies from the government

In the week leading up to the annual Sikh celebration of Vaisaki — a commemoration of the birth of the Khalsa and the spring harvest — Trudeau announced that he would be offering an official apology for the incident in Parliament on May 18.

"The passengers of the Komagata Maru, like millions of immigrants to Canada since, were seeking refuge, and better lives for their families,” said Trudeau. “With so much to contribute to their new home, they chose Canada and we failed them utterly.”

The Professor Mohan Singh Memorial Foundation, nonpartisan advocacy organization based in British Columbia, has been actively petitioning the federal government for an official apology since 2002.

When the Komagata Maru returned to Budge Budge, India, 19 of the passengers were shot to death.

Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered an apology for the incident in 2008 at a gathering in Surrey, BC. However, many members of the audience immediately expressed that the informal gesture was inadequate. The secretary of state for Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity at the time, Jason Kenny, was accompanying the Prime Minister and stated, "The apology has been given and it won't be repeated."

Vancouver-based activist Manveer Singh believes Harper’s apology “did not deliver justice, as it did not acknowledge the fact that the event happened as a result of the racist attitudes in Canada's federal and provincial legislative houses.”

Significance of the apology

“The significance of this apology is one of closure and one of accountability. There seems to be an idea — a myth — that Canada's formative years were set on concepts of equality and oneness, when the reality is that there was rampant discrimination in place,” explained Singh.

“This apology will be a step towards mending Canada's race relations, because we do still have problems with racism. However, the apology itself is only words if we do not address the racism that still occurs today.”

His sentiments were echoed by Naveen Girn, cultural researcher and digitization specialist of the Komagata Maru Memorial Project at the Simon Fraser University Library, and curator of a number of other commemorative exhibitions around Metro Vancouver. Girn said to the Globe and Mail, “The apology being given in Parliament is a circling back to rectify that original wrong,” referring to the discriminatory laws passed in Parliament.

Manveer Singh believes Harper’s apology “did not deliver justice."

Girn expressed that he hopes Trudeau’s statement addresses the history of wrongdoing against South Asians in Canada, and pointed to the “living legacy” of the Komagata Maru in relation to the lack of security offered for temporary foreign workers today.

Professor of Cinema and Media Arts at York University, Ali Kazimi, believes Prime Minister Trudeau’s apology needs to thoroughly address and recognize Canada’s history of systemic racism, not simply as a “closed chapter.”

Kazimi, who produced “Continuous Journey,” a film about the Komagata Maru, and subsequently authored “Undesirables: White Canada and the Komagata Maru,” told The Star the apology should recognize that “that Canada for the first 100 years of its existence had what was effectively a ‘White Canada’ policy.”

“Trauma and pain are passed down generation to generation,” added Singh, who believes further to the apology, the immediate family members of Komagata Maru survivors should be given reparations.

Commemorating the Komagata Maru

Coinciding with the Prime Minister’s official apology on Wednesday, Carleton University’s Canada-India Centre for Excellence will be hosting the grand opening of the Komagata Maru Exhibition.

Through the depiction of the plight of the passengers, the exhibit attempts to represent “a quest for truth and justice.”

“This apology will be a step towards mending Canada's race relations, because we do still have problems with racism."

On May 23, Girn will be hosting the annual Komagata Anniversary Maru Walking Tour, which enables participants, accompanied historians, artists, and community members, to learn about the incident by visiting historical landmarks in downtown Vancouver.

Simon Fraser University, which developed and launched an interactive digital archive for the one-hundredth anniversary of the Komagata Maru, will also be opening the doors of its Surrey campus to the community for a live webcast of the Prime Minister’s apology.

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 History

SURREY – Lower Mainlan’s Sikh Societies have come to the support of those who have been devastated by the wild fires in Fort McMurray, Alberta, where all 80,000 inhabitants have been evacuated from their homes and some neighbourhoods have been completely destroyed.

The Sikh Community, who has a history of helping people in need across the world, is praying for their strength, aid, and healing for the all those that have been and continue to be displaced and affected by these terrible events.

The Link

Read Full Article

Published in Top Stories
Thursday, 17 March 2016 11:24

Breaking Silence Around Elder Abuse

by Beatrice Paez in Toronto

Asking seniors subtle questions about their daily routines opens up dialogue – and can point to signs of elder abuse, which rarely reveals itself in obvious ways.

Nirpal Bhangoo-Sekhon often asks seniors she meets about what they’ve been eating, who handles their finances and if their basic needs are being met. It is her job as case manager of the Punjabi Community Health Services (PCHS) to be curious.

“Unfortunately, if we don't ask those questions, we wouldn't know what's happening,” she says. “It gives you a better picture of what goes on at home.”

Abuse isn't limited to physical violence; it can extend to the withholding of financial resources, verbal threats and isolation from the household.

In a 2009 report, Statistics Canada found that two-thirds of seniors who experienced family violence – physical force or threats – didn't sustain injuries. Seniors most at risk, based on reports to the police, are between 65 and 74.  

During her one-on-one meetings with seniors, Bhangoo-Sekhon will also illustrate scenarios to raise awareness of how common an issue elder abuse is. Holding such conversations regularly helps ease reservations about breaking their silence, which can take months, if not longer, she says. 

Reluctance to speak up

While elder abuse cuts across different cultural groups, they may contend with different obstacles. 

Language barriers and distrust in the police – mostly worries about being deported – aren't the only concerns stacked heavily against the decision to come forward, says Kripa Sekhar, the executive director of the South Asian Women's Centre (SAWC) in Toronto.

There's the perception that speaking out would fracture family ties and bring shame on the community. 

“I don't think they want to be seen as a community that's going to expose their families or seen as betraying their families," says Sekhar. "They've almost accepted that ‘this is what's meant for me.’”

Cultural groups have different attitudes about what constitutes abuse.

Burial customs can also play a role in the struggle to come forward for seniors of certain faiths.  

With funeral rites traditionally being the responsibility of the son or a male family member, some express concern that their spiritual needs will not be looked after if they speak out, says Sekhar. “They're not worried about today. They're worried about the afterlife. It's hard to understand that – you're struggling in this life, but it's such a part of who they are.”

Abuse isn't limited to physical violence; it can extend to the withholding of financial resources, verbal threats and isolation from the household, she explains. 

Statistical profiles on elder abuse as it relates to the South Asian community aren't traced by front-line agencies such as the police and social services. Statistics Canada instead analyzes the prevalence of family violence along gender lines, while acknowledging that cultural groups have different attitudes about what constitutes abuse.

Possibilities for intervention

The immediate response to cases of physical abuse might be to find alternative housing, but in other instances, intervention through education is crucial, says Bhangoo-Sekhon.  

"If we can go in and educate the families – that, in the end, would be much more helpful and useful for the community than just pulling seniors out [of the home] and placing them in shelters," she says. 

Finding subsidized housing or placing elders in shelters isn't always the most feasible solution in cases of neglect or isolation, particularly if they're not used to living independently and are in need of a personal support worker, she says. 

PCHS has a caregiver support program, an extension of its efforts to address elder abuse, which is offered to those who are caring for family members. It is intended to relieve the strain of household demands. The program attempts to engender a culture of empathy, recognizing that the caregiver may be stressed, while getting him or her to understand the vulnerabilities that seniors face. 

"We help them understand the aging process," says Bhangoo-Sekhon, adding that changes in a senior's behaviour may create friction within the family if it's not recognized as a health issue.

"Housing for seniors should be guaranteed. They need enough funding to live in dignity."

"[It's to help] them understand what's happening to their body, their brain, and that's out of their control."

Networks for seniors living alone

SAWC, through its community network, tries to locate housing for seniors so they can live independently, but finding affordable housing can take an average of seven years, according to the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association. Thirty per cent of seniors make up the wait list, as cited by the Toronto Star from the organization's 2015 report.

Sekhar communicates regularly with seniors who live independently and tries to ensure that their landlords are responsive to building safety issues. "Many say they do that, but their concerns aren't always attended to," she says. 

SAWC holds a seniors’ workshop every Thursday where they can gather to discuss health and safety issues, along with abuse. It's a support network for seniors who live on their own, where they feel comfortable conversing in their mother tongue, says Sekhar. 

"Housing for seniors should be guaranteed," says Sekhar. "They need enough funding to live in dignity."

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 Health

By Balwant Sanghera
A number of Indo-Canadian seniors enjoy their time at India Cultural Centre of Canada’s Gurdwara Nanak Niwas. Jointly sponsored by the Gurdwara and Richmond Multicultural Community Services (RMCS), the Chai Chaupal program encourages them to meet at the Gurdwara every Monday morning.  Some of them participate in a yoga session conducted by instructor [...]

-- Delivered by Feed43 service

The Link

Read Full Article

Published in Health

by Rosanna Haroutounian in Quebec City 

A group of citizens is accusing Videotron, one of Quebec’s largest telecommunication companies, of failing to provide mandatory community television service in the province. 

“Videotron is required to provide access to training, equipment and studio space for community members to create community-produced content,” says Laith Marouf, the project co-ordinator of Independent Community Television (ICTV), the group making the complaint. 

Marouf says community television must also represent the linguistic, ethnic and aboriginal composition of the community. 

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) requires every satellite or cable television provider in Canada to allocate five per cent of its revenue to Canadian content. 

“They can take two of that five per cent and put it towards their own community media channel, which is what a lot of them do because they have a bit more control over it,” explains Steve Faguy, a Montreal-based media blogger.  

Marouf says community television must also represent the linguistic, ethnic and aboriginal composition of the community.

In Montreal, 50 per cent of the content on community channels must be access programming, or content produced by members of the community. 

After ICTV’s first complaint against Videotron, the CRTC decided in 2015 that the company had failed in its mandate and told Videotron to bring its community channel MAtv Montreal into compliance by August, 2015. 

In November, ICTV filed another complaint of non-compliance, claiming Videotron fails to provide the required 50 per cent minimum access programming, not only in Montreal, but in eight of MAtv’s nine distribution zones across Quebec. 

Defining community TV 

As part of its 2015 decision on MAtv Montreal, the CRTC also asked Videotron to set up a citizen advisory committee by March, 2015. 

“The committee was formed because MAtv wanted to be sure that the choices that are made in their programming really respond to the needs of the multiple communities on the ground,” says Aïda Kamar, a committee member and president of Vision Diversité, an organization that supports artists and cultural events in Montreal. 

Kamar says the committee reviews program proposals from the community and decides which ones are ready to be produced. According to her, since the committee was formed, MAtv has started providing training to the community. 

“We have a big problem in Montreal, because when you look at TV, it doesn’t always resemble what’s on the street.”

Prior to the first complaint, “Couleurs d’ici” was the sole program on MAtv Montreal focused on immigrant communities.  

Three shows about ethnic communities in Montreal have since been added to MAtv’s programming.

“We have a big problem in Montreal, because when you look at TV, it doesn’t always resemble what’s on the street,” says Kamar. She explains that adding programming focused on ethnic communities is not the solution. 

“We don’t want to separate programs for immigrants and programs for non-immigrants,” she says, adding all programs on MAtv should reflect Montreal’s ethnic diversity, as well as its official languages. 

Fifteen per cent of ICTV’s programming model includes programs in third languages. Currently, all programs on MAtv Montreal are in English or French. 

“Not allowing ethnic communities to produce in third languages is part of the racist problems we see here in Canada, and especially in Quebec where we see the rise of new nationalism,” says Marouf. 

Kamar, who directed her own Lebanese television program for 10 years, has a different view. She says that while her show was in Arabic, she also included a French segment in each episode. 

“I wanted Quebecers who do not speak Arabic to understand what we were saying, to understand that while I was Lebanese, I was also a Montrealer,” says Kamar. 

Programs in third languages separate Montrealers rather than bring them together through their common languages, she explains. 

“This absence translates into a feeling of not belonging for immigrants especially."

Support for ICTV 

In 1982, AMEIPH, a non-profit, multiethnic organization supporting people with disabilities in Montreal, started producing a program called “Nous Sommes Encore Là” (“We Are Still Here”). In 1998, Videotron discontinued the program.   

AMEIPH sent a letter of support for ICTV to the CRTC, stating that requests to restart the program on MAtv were rejected, leaving the people represented excluded from the media.

“This absence translates into a feeling of not belonging for immigrants especially, and ignorance of what represents today a very large segment of the population of Montreal and Quebec in general,” says Teresa Peñafiel, AMEIPH’s spokesperson.

She says this causes people from ethnic communities to turn to television from their countries of origin, contributing to their isolation.

ICTV’s complaint also has the support of the Canadian Association of Community Television Users and Stations (CACTUS). 

Andre Desrochers, a CACTUS board member, is leading a class-action lawsuit with other Videotron subscribers in Montreal against the corporation. 

CACTUS recently filed complaints of non-compliance against 47 community cable channels across Canada. It also asked the CRTC to take away control of community television from private corporations and give it to non-profits. 

ICTV’s complaint also comes in the midst of the CRTC’s public forum on the future of community television across Canada. 

The public has until Apr. 15 to submit comments to the CRTC regarding this complaint. 

Marouf says there will be a 10-day period for Videotron to reply to the complaint, after which ICTV will have 15 days to respond. It will then be up to the CRTC to decide whether Videotron is in compliance with the regulations. 

Attempts to contact Videotron for comment in this article were unsuccessful.

 

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
Wednesday, 21 October 2015 22:16

Volunteering Benefits Newcomers' Well-Being

by Maria Ikonen in Ottawa

Moving to a new country can be stressful. It means leaving familiar places, people and aspects of everyday life behind. Whether arriving in Canada with their family or alone, adjusting to a new and unfamiliar environment for many newcomers is difficult.

Volunteering and getting involved in social activities has helped many adapt, and had positive effects on their overall well-being.

Originally from Pakistan, Shahnaz Ali, 44, lived in Saudi Arabia and the U.S. before coming to Canada in 2002. Encouraged by the principal, Ali began volunteering at her daughter’s school, and then later with the YMCA and a Sunday school.

She remembers the value of volunteering during those early days in Canada.

“Newcomers can get the opportunity to socialize and meet new people and get a better understanding of Canadian culture,” says Ali, who now volunteers with The Ottawa Hospital.  

“Simply put, it feels great to give back to others through volunteerism, plus there are opportunities to develop new skills.”

Sherri Daly, manager of volunteer resources at The Ottawa Hospital, describes volunteering as an effective way to learn about social norms in Canada.

“It is vital to get out of your house when you are new to a community or job hunting. Having meaningful things to do can be a way to build self-esteem and connections,” says Daly.

Gaining valuable work experience

Having local work experience may be vital when looking for new employment. In such a situation volunteering can be beneficial, explains Annmarie Nicholson, director of volunteer services at The Royal, a mental-health research and care facility in Ottawa.

“Simply put, it feels great to give back to others through volunteerism, plus there are opportunities to develop new skills,” says Nicholson. “Work experience as well is a very practical benefit to volunteering, and having a local reference person when applying for jobs is a big benefit as well.”

Besides learning about Canadian culture and creating new resume material, being active is a chance to help others, adds Andrea Tatarski, coordinator in humane education at the Ottawa Humane Society.

“Volunteers have the opportunity to give back to the community by making positive differences for the animals in our care, as well as the people we serve through our various programs and services.”

Improving mental health

Sinthuja Krishnamoorthy works in the Newcomer Youth Program at East Metro Youth Services, an adolescent mental-health and addictions centre in Scarborough, Ontario.

Some newcomers may be interested in volunteering, but are unsure of where to start or are hesitant to get involved.

The program is geared toward engaging young refugees and those who have permanent residency in Canada in social and volunteering activities.

“Becoming lonely in a new country and being away from family can cause anxiety,” says Krishnamoorthy. “We help these newcomers discuss their issues in a safe environment.”

The biggest challenge for youth is often feeling confident in their language skills, Krishnamoorthy explains.

“They might not learn English as a second language in their home countries, or aren’t comfortable using it. This is where our daily conversations and interactive activity component comes in handy.”

Once program participants feel more comfortable, Krishnamoorthy says they have an opportunity to volunteer.

Participants have made mattresses from used milk bags to send to developing countries, for example.

“We want to keep youth active and interested,” says Krishnamoorthy. “We ask the youth what they would like to achieve by being in the program.”

Krishnamoorthy also has success stories to share. “One youth was shy at the beginning, but now he is going into his second year of medical school. Another young man [shared] in a television interview his understanding of what mental health is. [He said] speaking of it and seeking help has greatly improved his relations with his family and helped to improve his own mental health.”

Taking the first step

Many things may prompt a person to decide to volunteer.

I believe volunteering my time is the best way [to] appreciate all blessings in my life.”

One reason might be positive encounters with a particular organization.

“I had a friend who had a very good experience with the nursing staff when her father stayed at [The Ottawa Hospital], and she committed to volunteer to give something back to the cause,” shares Ali.

For others, the decision to start volunteering may arise from a personal situation.

“I lost my hearing about six years ago, and as that happened, my employer refused to accommodate my disability,” says one volunteer from The Ottawa Hospital who wishes to remain anonymous. “Volunteering at the hospital allows me to gain experience so that in the future I can find an employer who will accommodate [me].” 

Some newcomers may be interested in volunteering, but are unsure of where to start or are hesitant to get involved.

Nicholson says that the best time to start is now.

“Facing all of the massive changes you have already faced through immigrating to our country has allowed you to build resiliency you may not recognize,” she says. “Share your concerns honestly with the agency you are considering volunteering with, and that agency will find ways to overcome the barriers that are contributing to your hesitancy.”

Says Ali: “I believe volunteering my time is the best way [to] appreciate all blessings in my life.”


Journalist Priya Ramanujam 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 Health
Page 1 of 8

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

Zo2 Framework Settings

Select one of sample color schemes

Google Font

Menu Font
Body Font
Heading Font

Body

Background Color
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image

Top Wrapper

Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image

Header Wrapper

Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image

Mainmenu Wrapper

Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image

Slider Wrapper

Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image

Scroller Wrapper

Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image

Mainframe Wrapper

Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image

Bottom Scroller Wrapper

Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image

Breadcrumb Wrapper

Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image

Bottom Menu Wrapper

Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image

Bottom Wrapper

Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image
Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image