New Canadian Media
Sunday, 18 October 2015 15:06

Chinese-Canadians Not Swayed by Tory Site

by Samantha Lui in Toronto 

As Canada gears up for the 2015 federal election on October 19, the Conservative Party of Canada has launched a Chinese-language website as a strategic move to win the Chinese vote. 

But although the site attempts to speak to issues that will affect Chinese-Canadians, members of the community say that they’re not swayed by the party’s tactics. 

Melissa Fong, a Ph.D. candidate in geography at the University of Toronto, says that while she agrees that different languages should be represented in political parties’ platforms, she sees the website as being “really more about pandering to votes than content.”

The website, which includes a statement by multiculturalism minister Jason Kenney translated in Chinese, mentions the Conservatives' history of serving Chinese communities.

She sees the website as being “really more about pandering to votes than content.”

Such examples include the Conservatives having the first Chinese-Canadian Member of Parliament in 1950 (Douglas Jung) and when Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized for the head tax imposed on Chinese immigrants in 1885.

“The overall tone feels like the Conservative government is attempting to "guilt trip" Chinese voters to vote for their party based on those past deeds which were intended to strengthen relations between the government and the Chinese community,” says Calvin Tsang, a 23-year-old social work student from Toronto.

The effectiveness of the site 

While she says having a website dedicated to the Chinese may be enough to get votes, Avvy Go, the clinic director of the Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, hopes that voters will choose a government that will take leadership on issues that will affect their day to day lives. 

“[The website’s] not about speaking to a particular issue the community is concerned about. Like for instance, how are we going to address unemployment rate amongst the Chinese? How do you ensure newcomers have their international training accredited in Canada?” she says.  

“I think right now, the parties either ignore us or they use tactics such as reflected in the Conservative website and try to play up superficial kinds of things as opposed to trying to address issues that really impact our community.” 

For Fong, the recent government’s policies say more than the creation of a website ever could.

“The Conservatives are not good for racialized Canadians, not good for newcomers and not good for people of colour,” Fong says, giving mention to the Conservatives’ focus on the niqab, Anti-terrorism Act, second-tier citizenship and Harper’s recent reference to “old stock Canadians.”

She continues, “If they really cared about people of colour, Chinese voters, it would be demonstrated in the policy.” 

But strategies like the Conservatives’ website are not new in the world of politics. According to Nelson Wiseman, the director of the Canadian Studies program at the University of Toronto, ethnic communities have always been targeted with specific messages for them. 

“If they really cared about people of colour, Chinese voters, it would be demonstrated in the policy."

Having a Chinese-language website doesn’t mean it will have an impact on how the Chinese will vote, he explains.

“Let’s say you’re Chinese and on the Internet. Why should you go to that site? There are an infinite number of sites that you can go to. Just because anybody can put anything they want on the Internet, it doesn’t mean it captures any eyeballs,” he says.

The Conservatives have targeted the Liberals and the New Democrats on their website, but members of the latter parties agree that it detracts from discussing issues important to immigrants such as the economy and the well-being of their families.  

Arnold Chan, who’s defending his seat as a Liberal MP in the Scarborough-Agincourt area, says he feels the Conservatives’ Chinese-language website is just another example of the party's divisive campaigning.

“At the end of the day, it looks like this is a desperate measure by a desperate team,” he says. “This is part of a continuing narrative of negative campaigning.”

Olivia Chow, who’s running for a seat in the Spadina-Fort York area as an NDP, wouldn’t speak much on the subject.

In an e-mail statement, a member of her campaign wrote, “Like many Conservative tactics, it distracts from important discussions like affordable childcare, protecting the environment, and investing in transit.”

The Conservatives, who have 10 Chinese people running for office, could not be reached for comment after multiple requests to speak with several of their candidates.*

Real engagement with Chinese-Canadian communities

But while the accessibility of language is important in a diverse country such as Canada, having a website isn’t enough to educate the Chinese to be politically involved, according to Fong.

She stresses the importance of parties hiring people that can communicate in different languages.

“I think it’s really important for representatives to hire people that speak multiple languages, and not expect it of people that they should know English or French. Canada was founded on many more languages than English and French.” 

Organizations such as the Chinese Canadian National Council (CCNC) also offer programs such as the civic literacy project, which educate participants about the election process, how governments work and how to engage the community through civic engagement activities.

Chase Lo, the executive director at the CCNC’s Toronto chapter, says the group even holds field trips to local MPs' offices within the Scarborough-Agincourt area so people can ask questions directly about specific election issues.   

In doing so, he says he hopes he can help ethnic communities such as the Chinese go out and vote.

“People have the choice to be involved and [...] their voice matters,” he says. “If they want to see change, if they want to see that there’s injustice in terms of how things are operating, they have the power to be able to come together with other people and influence some change.”   

*Requests for comment were made to Conservative candidates Bin Chang, Alice Wong and Andy Wang.  

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 Politics

by Anita Singh in Toronto

During an election, ethnic media is a double-edged sword. 

On one hand, they provide an outlet for parties to target their messaging towards immigrant groups. 

Recognizing the interests and issues that affect Canada’s largest minority groups, political parties can develop policies and ideas that relate to a specific community and have them translated into Punjabi, Chinese, Tagalog or Vietnamese. 

But herein lies the second edge of the sword.  

In a day and age where all media can become mainstream, ethnic media has changed the landscape for what parties say and how they say it in these mediums. 

While in mainstream media this campaign, parties have kept a tight lid on their messaging, barriers such as language limitations have resulted in less effective message management in ethnic media.    

[P]arties have had a difficult time keeping track of the messages proliferating from candidates and supporters in [ethnic media].

Thus, parties have had a difficult time keeping track of the messages proliferating from candidates and supporters in this medium. 

This lack of oversight from the party is likely one reason why former-Conservative candidate for Mississauga-Malton, Punjabi Post editor Jagdish Grewal felt comfortable using his paper as an outlet for his comments that fell outside the careful Conservative messaging on homosexuality.   

Grewal was removed from the Conservative slate shortly after a statement he made in an article in the Punjabi Post asking, “Is it wrong for a homosexual to become a normal person?” went public. 

While instances like the Grewal issue has been limited, there is evidence that the Conservative party deliberately uses ethnic media in a way that has similar undertones. 

This past week, the Conservative party struck out again with ethnic media, defending an attack ad they released about Justin Trudeau in Chinese and Punjabi media. 

In this series of ads in a Chinese-language newspaper the Conservatives allege that Trudeau would legalize brothels and drugs in Canada. Yet, in this case, instead of a retraction, Prime Minister Harper defended the decision to run the ad. 

These two examples show how complex the role of ethnic media has become in electoral politics. 

The good, the bad and the ugly

The good 

The main benefit of ethnic media during election campaigns is their democratizing effect. They continue to make elections accessible to people who would normally not be involved or have an opportunity to learn about politics. It is this access to information that allows communities to have discussions, rallies, and debates about the political issues of the day.

The bad

Particularly when it comes to the Conservatives this week, the politics around ethnic media during election campaigns has become manipulative at best and nefarious at worst, taking unfair advantage of those that, for language or accessibility reasons, cannot tap into alternative sources of elections information. 

These stories and advertisements in ethnic media will only be entertained by certain sections of the community. Second and third generation immigrants, who may rely more on mainstream media outlets or are less interested in news translated into their mother tongues are not the main audience of ethnic media. 

Often the target is those that are more comfortable in mother tongues and those connected to their ethnic communities that engage with this media. And language barriers limit who can legitimately access the news in ethnic papers. 

[T]he Conservative party has hidden behind the limited readership of these media outlets.

The ugly 

The lack of oversight and public accountability has allowed parties to think that they can do anything with ethnic media. 

To suggest that a Liberal government would open brothels “on every street corner in Canada” borders on libelous. 

Yet, the Conservative party has hidden behind the limited readership of these media outlets, becoming less democratic in the long run by identifying a platform position of the Liberals that they had not articulated.   

This differs from issues the niqab controversy, because niqab messaging was consistent from the Conservative party across both mainstream and ethnic media.  

Democratizing ethnic media is an important function of social media.

Recent attack ads targeted the social conservative elements of ethnic communities in Richmond and South Vancouver in B.C., and Richmond Hill and Markham in Ontario. However, this appeal to conservative sentiments was based in fallacy, rather than legitimate party platforms or positions. 

In this way, the Conservative’s attack ads were insulting to the communities they target. In an interview to the CBC, Rattan Mall, editor of the Indo-Canadian Voice newspaper, said “It is quite insulting to the community that the Conservative party might think that people can be manipulated.” 

‘We cannot trust everything we read’ 

Just like with any media outlet, audiences of ethnic media must push these outlets to adhere to a standard for reporting, which includes the type of ads they accept from political parties. 

Individuals should be encouraged to engage with various news media, even if they are all ethnic media sources, to get a varied and nuanced view of the political messages targeting the community.

Also, wherever possible readers should use social media to call attention to unethical reporting standards. Democratizing ethnic media is an important function of social media as it allows the mainstream to be made aware of the misinformation perpetuated by the parties through ethnic media. 

Finally, Canadians have to use good judgment to make up our minds. As shown in the final days of this election, the sad truth is that we cannot trust everything we read.


Anita Singh is a founding partner of Tahlan, Jorden & Singh Consulting Group and a Research Fellow at the Centre for Foreign Policy Studies at Dalhousie University. Her research examines the role of diaspora groups and their influence on foreign policy (particularly the Indo-Canadian community) and Canada-India relations.

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Commentary

by Ranjit Bhaskar in Toronto

As Oct. 19 is only days away, a quick look at ridings with interesting ethno-cultural dynamics at play will give you an idea of what to watch out for on election night.

It is highly likely that there will be 50 or more minority legislators in the newly elected House of Commons – made possible in part because all three major parties have fielded candidates who share the cultural heritage of dominant populations in several of Canada’s 338 ridings.

While ethnicity is not the only influence on voting behaviour, ridings that have 20 per cent and above of people from a single group are indicative of the effectiveness of micro targeting by the parties. For one, these are large, but focused, groups that can be easily reached through advertising, often in languages spoken at home.

South Asians

The Conservatives targeted South Asian groups in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and Greater Vancouver Area (GVA) in 2011 with significant success. But there are many indications to suggest that large sections of this heterogeneous group may vote Liberal as the party’s emphasis on issues like family reunification resonate with them.

Ridings to watch in the GTA are all five Brampton ridings and the five Mississauga ridings of Mississauga Centre, Mississauga East-Cooksville, Mississauga-Erin Mills, Mississauga-Malton and Mississauga-Streetsville. Many of them are three-way and two-way fights between candidates of South Asian heritage.

[T]here are many indications to suggest that large sections of this heterogeneous group may vote Liberal as the party’s emphasis on issues like family reunification resonate with them.

Ridings of interest in the Toronto suburbs are Scarborough Centre, Scarborough North, Scarborough Southwest, Scarborough-Guildwood, Scarborough-Rouge Park and Etobicoke North. The NDP’s Rathika Sitsabaeisan and Liberal’s Bill Blair are the prominent candidates here.

Further west in Alberta, the ridings of Edmonton Mill Woods and Calgary Skyview are the ones to watch as they will decide the fate of Conservative incumbents Tim Uppal and Devinder Shory respectively in three-way fights amongst candidates of South Asian heritage. Calgary Forest Lawn will also be of interest as Deepak Obhrai, a prominent Conservative incumbent, is contesting from there.

In British Colombia, Surrey Centre and Surrey-Newton will witness three-way races between candidates of South Asian heritage. The other ridings to watch are Fleetwood-Port Kells, where Conservative incumbent Nina Grewal is contesting, and Vancouver South, where the Liberals have fielded star candidate Harjit Sajjan.

Chinese

In 2011, like with South Asians, the Conservatives were able to woo the ethnic Chinese vote successfully. And like the South Asians, some sections of this heterogeneous group are riled by changes in immigration and citizenship policies.

The new Express Entry program and the elimination of the immigrant investor program in 2014 have made Chinese immigration to Canada harder. Expect this dissatisfaction to be reflected in the way the community votes.    

In British Columbia, the Vancouver area ridings to watch are Richmond Centre, Steveston-Richmond East, Vancouver South, Vancouver East, Vancouver Granville, Vancouver Kingsway, Vancouver Quadra, Burnaby North-Seymour and Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam.

[L]ike the South Asians, some sections of this heterogeneous group are riled by changes in immigration and citizenship policies.

Further to the east, the riding to watch is Calgary Nose Hill in Alberta where prominent Conservative incumbent Michelle Rempel is seeking re-election.

In the GTA, the ridings to watch are Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill, from where Costas Menegakis, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship & Immigration, is contesting; Markham-Stouffville, where Paul Calandra who served as Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s parliamentary secretary, is contesting; Markham-Thornhill, from where Liberal immigration critic John McCallum is contesting; Markham-Unionville; and Richmond Hill.

In the Toronto suburbs, the ridings to watch are Scarborough-Agincourt, Scarborough North, Willowdale and Don Valley North, where Conservative Joe Daniel is facing a strong challenge from Liberal Geng Tan.

Daniel has stirred controversy by speaking out on “so-called” refugees fleeing Syrian violence, criticizing Saudi Arabia for inaction on the crisis, and suggesting a Muslim “agenda” is pushing refugees into Europe.

Ukrainians

As Harper has made support for Ukraine a key part of his foreign policy initiatives, it would be of interest to know how it translates into keeping ridings with significant Ukrainian populations safely within the Conservative fold.

The ridings to watch are Lakeland in Alberta, Yorkton-Melville in Saskatchewan and the Manitoba ridings of Kildonan-St. Paul, Elmwood-Transcona and Selkirk-Interlake-Eastman.

Italians

The two ridings with a high concentration of Italian voters are in the GTA: King-Vaughan and Vaughan-Woodbridge. Both elected Conservatives in 2011, along with the other Ontario riding in play, Sault Ste. Marie.

The ridings to watch in Montreal are Saint Leonard-Saint Michel and Honoré-Mercier.

Non-Christian groups

When it comes to religion, no non-Christian community is in majority in any of the ridings.

The highest proportion is in Surrey-Newton with 44 per cent Sikh, followed by 34 per cent Sikh in Brampton East.

Sikhs have been able to rally together to ensure that fellow community members get elected to parliament from ridings where they are predominant.

Being a close-knit religious community, Sikhs have been able to rally together to ensure that fellow community members get elected to parliament from ridings where they are predominant.

The current House of Commons has six Sikh MPs, a ratio well above their population figures.

“Jewish” ridings

The GTA suburb of Thornhill has the next most populous religious group in one riding with 37 per cent Jewish, followed by Montreal’s Mount Royal with 31 per cent. In Toronto, 25 per cent of both Eglinton-Lawrence and York Centre are Jewish. 

Eglinton-Lawrence is of added interest as Conservative Joe Oliver is in a tough three-way fight against Liberal Marco Mendicino and NDP star Andrew Thomson.

Oliver is one of the most senior Jewish parliamentarians. If he loses, it would be only the third time since Confederation that an incumbent finance minister is defeated.

[T]he days of any one party monopolizing certain ethno-cultural votes have ended.

The Muslim vote

Statistics Canada says Muslims comprise between 12 and 19 per cent of the population in 19 federal ridings – 11 in Ontario, six in Quebec and two in Alberta.

In the 2011 elections, 21 ridings in Ontario with notable Muslim populations were won by the smallest of margins.

According to non-partisan organization The Canadian Muslim Vote, had Muslims voted in greater numbers they could have been a deciding factor in determining who got elected.

High Muslim voter turnout could make a significant difference not only in ridings with high Muslim populations such as Don Valley East and Mississauga Centre, but also in key ridings in Calgary and Edmonton.

No monopoly on ethno-cultural vote

Other ridings with significant ethno cultural factors at play include Spadina-Fort York in Toronto, where Liberal star Adam Vaughan is fighting NDP star Olivia Chow.

The three Etobicoke ridings in Toronto are also significant as Ukrainian, Somali, South Asian and Ahmadiyya Muslim groups have influence in the area.

For the Conservatives, winning these ridings is important to maintain presence in a city that has been traditionally carved out between the Liberals and the NDP.

But the electoral fights in all of the above ridings indicate that the days of any one party monopolizing certain ethno-cultural votes have ended. These groups are now voting like the rest of Canadians without regard to narrow cultural or ethnic identities.

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 Top Stories

 

TORONTO—Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne kicked up a small media storm by excluding the press from her meeting with a man accused of presiding over torture...

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Published in National
Wednesday, 14 October 2015 22:01

Why the Chinese Market in Toronto Matters

When Barbara Lawlor joined Baker Real Estate Inc. 23 years ago, there wasn’t much of a condominium market to speak of in Toronto. But there...

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Published in Economy

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
Wednesday, 07 October 2015 11:19

30% Growth in Candidates of Chinese Heritage

by Shan Qiao in Toronto
 
The number of Chinese Canadian political candidates contesting in the federal election this year is up about 30 per cent from 2011.

Of the 23 politicians running, the two most high profile are the New Democratic Party’s (NDP) Olivia Chow running for Spadina-Fort York in Toronto and Conservative incumbent and Minister of State for Seniors, Alice Wong, running for Richmond Centre in British Columbia.

Michael Chong is also popular in the Chinese community, as he is of partial Chinese heritage. The Conservative incumbent of Wellington-Halton Hills in Ontario serves as the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and Minister for Sport.

A scan of the parties

In this election, the Conservative party has the most Chinese candidates running from Ontario and British Columbia, which is representative of both provinces’ large Chinese populations.

Besides the aforementioned candidates, others include incumbent Chungsen Leung for Willowdale; Bin Chang for Scarborough-Agincourt; Henry Lau for Windsor West; Andy Wang for Nepean; incumbent Wai Young for Vancouver South; Kenny Chiu for Richmond East and James Low for Vancouver East.

Jimmy Yu, running for the Saint Laurent riding, is the only Conservative Chinese candidate from Quebec. 

NDP candidate Jenny Kwan rounds out the Vancouver East riding, making it a race between all Chinese candidates representing the three leading parties.

The Liberal Party, on the other hand, has come up with Greater Toronto Area (GTA) candidates from Mainland China such as Bang-Gu Jiang for Markham-Unionville and Geng Tan for Don Valley-North.

Similarly, Liberal candidate Steven Kou running for Vancouver Kingsway is also from the Mainland.

Other Chinese candidates for the Liberals are familiar faces such as incumbent Arnold Chan for Scarborough Agincourt and Shaun Chen for Scarborough North.

In Richmond Centre and Vancouver East where Liberal candidates Lawrence Woo and Edward Wong are up against Conservatives Alice Wong and James Low, respectively, all of the candidates come from a Cantonese speaking background. With the exception of Low, who was born in Canada, they were all born in Hong Kong.

Olivia Chow has been with the NDP and one of the most popular political figures in the Chinese community for years.

Born in Hong Kong, Chow came to Canada in her teenage years. She was the wife to the late Jack Layton, who was the former NDP party leader. She served as a Toronto city councillor for 14 years before becoming a federal MP in 2005.

In 2014 Chow quit her Parliament job to run in Toronto’s mayoral race, but lost to John Tory. She is one of few Chinese candidates who speak fluent English, Cantonese and Mandarin. 

“The more Chinese Canadian politicians going to the Parliament, the more voices from the Chinese community can be heard by the government."

One of the NDP’s incumbents, Laurin Liu, set a record in 2011, becoming the youngest woman ever elected to the House of Commons. She was elected at 20 years old while still a student in McGill University. Liu’s family was from Mainland China, yet she has indicated that she isn’t able to speak Mandarin.

NDP candidate Jenny Kwan rounds out the Vancouver East riding, making it a race between all Chinese candidates representing the three leading parties. 

Chow, Liu and Kwan contribute to the NDP’s make-up of 43 per cent women – a new record for any political party.

The Green Party has three Chinese candidates from heavily populated Chinese ridings: Elvin Kao in Markham-Unionville, Vincent Chiu in Richmond Centre and Peter Tam in Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge.

Increasing Chinese voices in Parliament

Chinese Canadian Civic Alliance (CCCA), a community organization that promotes Chinese participation in politics, has been actively organizing several community events such as a recent federal election forum held at Market Village shopping mall in Markham last Saturday. 

"[T]he more that the Chinese vote, the more attention government will pay to us.”

President Tony Luk says the CCCA’s goal is to encourage Chinese Canadians to vote and get involved in politics to effectively increase the Chinese influence on government decisions. He stresses the organization is not affiliated with any political party.

“We have 11 Chinese Candidates from Ontario running for office,” Luk explains. “The more Chinese Canadian politicians going to the Parliament, the more voices from the Chinese community can be heard by the government. Furthermore, the more that the Chinese vote, the more attention government will pay to us.”

Wooing Chinese voters

The forum asked the three candidates who were in attendance two questions: “As a Chinese candidate, what do you expect your Chinese voters to [do to] help and how will you serve them if elected?” and “How does the federal government’s immigration policy affect the Chinese community?”

These are the typical questions that a portion of the community – mostly older individuals who have limited resources but read Chinese newspapers – have for Chinese candidates.

But, another part of the community is reluctant to be stereotyped as a monolithic group. 

Similar events have been held by different Chinese organizations at various shopping malls since early September. Low attendance and the public’s lessening interest in the political parties’ platforms has been an inconvenient truth for many of these events.

That wasn’t the case though at the Chinese Mid Moon Festival gala held last week at the Premiere Ballroom and Convention Centre in Richmond Hill. More than 2,500 people were in attendance and even Stephen Harper showed up to woo the Chinese community’s support and get in a photo-op with picture-hungry gala goers.

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 Politics

The Honourable Minister of Information and Communications, Alhaji Alpha B S Kanu (photo) has provided the press with a comprehensive update on the president's trip to New York where he attended the 70th Session of the United Nation's General Assembly highlighting some of the advantages the country will benefit due to the astute representation President Koroma made for the people of Sierra Leone.
The Minister provided the updates at the usual press conference of the Ministry of (...)

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Published in Africa
Saturday, 03 October 2015 14:53

Art Exhibit Explores Loss and Language

by Deanna Cheng in Vancouver

Hidden behind red solid pillars in a tranquil space nestled on the edge Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, a new exhibition at the Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Vancouver explores how artists move past the voids in life to produce artwork full of vitality. 

The exhibition, "Realm of Possibilities,” features the work of painters Wai Yee Chiu and Synn Kune Loh as well as photographer Hailien Tam. 

For Chiu and Tam, their artwork was inspired by their connections with nature and their experiences with the cycle of life. Loh takes his inspiration from the Chinese language, exploring what is found in the "empty space between conversations.”

Finding beauty in loss

Chiu began painting her series, "Gone Winter, Come Spring,” about six months after her husband's death in 2008. The Hong Kong-based artist was morose and sick at the time and spent most days watching the sun set and rise.

The artist said her doctor suggested she use her art to help with her sickness, and from that advice the series was born. "After watching [sunsets and sunrises] so many times, I became one with nature. I felt the rhythm and became more peaceful,” Chiu explained.

One piece of the artwork consists of four resin-coated painted circles representing the life cycle of a lotus plant: the leaf, the flower, the seed and the root. Brushstrokes show the outline of each part. It also correlates to the four seasons: spring, summer, autumn, winter.

Chiu was not the only artist featured in this exhibit who has experienced profound loss. Tam lost her best friend two years ago. They were the same age — 31 years old — and her friend’s death hit her especially hard. "It was sudden. Overnight,” Tam said.

Chiu began painting her series, "Gone Winter, Come Spring,” about six months after her husband's death in 2008.

Every time Tam felt any negative emotions, she channeled those feelings into her art and took her camera outside. "I looked for beauty,” she said.

Earlier in her life, Tam had worked as a lawyer in Hong Kong where she provided "legal advice in black and white, within strict rules and precedents, trying to find order in chaos.” Photography became her emotional and artistic release.

Tam moved to Vancouver in 1996 and now spends most of her free time hiking and photographing what she finds.

Chiu encouraged Tam to use photography to create art instead of documenting daily life; each moment was an opportunity to look beyond the superficiality of an image and explore it as a piece of art. As Tam put it, "The possibilities are endless.”

In her still life photography, Tam positions the light to stroke the curve of an indigo sun tomato or the crevices of a dried shiitake. The organic shapes are treasured and cushioned by the space around each item.

Tam said she uses these methods and more to make "life" be visible through her work. It can be seen in her series, as the photographs in warm hues emit a quiet beauty while the cooler shots carry a greater sense of liveliness and movement. 

Bringing words to life

In his section of the exhibit, Loh, a visual artist and international speaker on the evolution of consciousness, examines how words are born in the silence between conversations.

The pieces are hand-painted with beautiful, traditional calligraphy — not the simplified versions that China's education system uses today. Some of the pieces depict specific, single words while others recite passages from classical Chinese literature.

Each artwork has tiny white dots, which Loh says were intended to give the pieces a spiritual feeling of cohesion. "I wanted to use the molecular form to create art," he said.

Loh explained that the square and rectangle shapes imply a man-made form, reflecting how language itself is man-made.

One of the pieces, ”Unbidden Memories Had Surfaced” (pictured right), takes inspiration from the Chinese character for promise or vow, which is represented in the centre of the canvas. The word itself means "origin" and "paper" put together, which are also depicted in their own panels on either side of the painting.

"Simplified, [it] takes away the spirit of the culture.”

The piece comes from one of Loh’s many musings. He describes it as an exploration of the words themselves as pieces of separate entities and how they can possibly join together to become something.

Another piece, titled "What's Next," incorporates characters from the classical Chinese tale "Yellow Emperor," a story about the origins of Chinese civilization. Loh said the two tiny stick figures standing on the Chinese character "mountain" alludes to this story.

Loh likes the traditional characters because they have a history or story of evolution behind them. "Simplified, [it] takes away the spirit of the culture,” he said. 

"Realm of Possibilities” is currently on display from September 19 until October 24 at the Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Vancouver at 555 Columbia Street.

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

by Paul Barber

Waves of immigration throughout Canada’s history have made ethnic sub-populations key targets for Canadian election campaigns.

Historically this has benefited the federal Liberals; the party supported mass immigration while governing Canada for two thirds of the 20th century, making ethnic voting a staple of Liberal politics. Challenges have come in recent years, notably from the Conservatives — who achieved considerable electoral success in immigrant ridings in 2011 — but also from the NDP.

It’s largely forgotten now, but at one time Canadians of British origin were openly suspicious of immigrants’ politics. In 1924, one prominent Winnipeg businessman said of newcomers: “We welcome all good citizens from foreign lands, but if they do not believe in the Christian religion, nor intend to keep our laws, they should be asked without delay to return from whence they came.”

Let’s look at some constituencies where there are large concentrations of Canadians from various ethnic backgrounds.

Ukrainians

Many of the immigrants that Winnipeg businessman was talking about came from Eastern Europe, particularly the Ukraine. Most came prior to World War I and settled on margins of the good farmland in the prairie provinces.

Based on the 2013 redistribution, in 2011 the top five federal ridings with the highest concentration of ethnic Ukrainians would have elected Conservatives, all but one by comfortable margins, all in Manitoba or Alberta. Most of this population is made up of Ukrainians whose families migrated to Canada prior to World War I or shortly thereafter and no longer speak the language.

The federal Liberals were successful at first with this vote, winning strong Ukrainian ridings in the '20s, '30s and '40s. But the Liberals were displaced on the prairies by the Progressive Conservatives under John Diefenbaker in the 1950s.

Harper has made support for the Ukraine in its struggle with Russian-backed secessionists a key symbolic foreign policy priority — no doubt partly for its domestic political benefit, even if many diplomats remain unimpressed. However, in 2015 Conservative support has slipped even in the party’s strongholds — and that includes ridings with significant Ukrainian populations.

Ethnicity is not the only influence on voting behaviour.

Four out of five of these ridings would be retained by the Conservatives today, but current polling suggests one (in urban Winnipeg) could go to the NDP. Note that this constituency, Elmwood-Transcona, is about 21 per cent Ukrainian heritage. A majority voters are from other backgrounds. Ethnicity is not the only influence on voting behaviour.

(Data on the ethnic composition of electoral districts comes from the 2011 National Household Survey, which replaced the long form census.)

Italians

Large numbers of Italians settled in Ontario and Quebec after the Second World War, mainly in Toronto and Montreal. They reliably supported the Liberals. That may be changing.

The example of Toronto’s designated ‘Little Italy’ neighbourhood is a good illustration. The neighbourhood is located in University-Rosedale, a constituency with the 46th-largest Italian population in Canada (7.6 per cent). But many Italian-Canadians have long since moved to the suburbs.

The two constituencies with the highest concentration of Italian voters are relatively prosperous GTA ridings just north of Toronto (both King-Vaughan and Vaughan-Woodbridge rank among the top 25 most affluent constituencies in Canada).

Both would have elected Conservatives in 2011. Current polling suggests the Liberals could win back one of the two (and also pick up an NDP seat in Montreal). And the northern Ontario riding of Sault Ste. Marie, which elected a Conservative in 2011, is likely to go NDP.

South Asians

More recent years have seen large-scale immigration from Asia. The Conservatives targeted these ridings in 2011 and achieved significant, but not universal, success.

Over time, new Canadians become more integrated into Canadian society. As they do, their ethnic identities become less important in determining how they might vote.

Again, using the redistributed vote we find that half of the top 10 South Asian constituencies would have elected Conservatives in 2011, although the NDP would have won four and the Liberals two.

With the considerable improvement in Liberal support during the current election, it is likely that the Conservatives would retain just a third of these constituencies; the NDP would drop two and the Liberals would make significant gains.

Chinese

We see a similar pattern among constituencies with substantial Chinese populations: considerable Conservative success in 2011 with likely large-scale losses, mainly to the Liberals, but also one to the NDP, anticipated in 2015.

Over time, new Canadians become more integrated into Canadian society. As they do, their ethnic identities become less important in determining how they might vote.

As second, third and fourth generations replace the original immigrants they develop political views they share with others outside of their ethnic sub-groups. Whether they are environmentalists or social justice advocates, free traders or anti-tax conservatives, their ethnic identities have progressively less influence on how they vote and view politics.

Although the Liberals continue to do well among ethnic minority voters, political support from Canada’s minorities has diversified. The efforts made by the Conservatives in 2011 met with considerable success and the NDP has made its own gains. The days of monopolizing the immigrant vote are over, and the political importance of ethnic identity clearly fades over time.


Paul Barber is a retired former public servant and journalist. He worked for the governments of Ontario and Manitoba, mainly in intergovernmental relations, and as a TV current affairs documentary producer in Winnipeg and for the program The Journal in Toronto. He offers his opinions on politics and media at the blog: tcnorris.blogspot.com

Published in partnership with iPolitics.ca.

Published in Commentary

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