New Canadian Media
Tuesday, 10 April 2018 20:15

White Helmets in Vancouver

By: Deanna Cheng in Vancouver, BC

Sniffles came from the crowd. Even the children present knew to remain quiet.

Syrian journalist Maisoun Almasri said she saw her younger brother get shot by a Syrian government sniper. That sniper prevented anyone from trying to rescue the little boy.

Through a translator, Almasri said no one had any experience doing first aid.

“So my brother lost his life in our arms. We can’t do anything. Looking at me, looking at our mother, all those surrounding him, and we can’t do anything. I was haunted by the look in his eyes.”

She said that look haunted her every night. “The feeling of helplessness will kill you. The guilt of doing nothing will kill you.”

Almasri joined the White Helmets after that moment in 2013.

“The feeling of helplessness will kill you. The guilt of doing nothing will kill you.”-Maisoun Almasri

She uses that first memory as a reminder of what it means to be part of the organization and to prevent it from happening again.

In total, she has lost two younger brothers.

Three White Helmets volunteers shared personal stories of their lives in Syria, through Mohammed Alsaleh and two other translators, to a packed hall at Simon Fraser University. Those three volunteers wished for Vancouver residents to understand the daily tragedies happening abroad, to have a better understanding of what the organization is about, and to pressure the Canadian government into helping them build a democracy similar to the one Canadians enjoy.

Syria Civil Defense

White Helmets, known officially as the Syria Civil Defense, is a formal emergency response team of civilian volunteers and an apolitical organization. Its four principles are humanity, objectivity, neutrality and independence.

Almasri said 112,000 lives have been saved by the White Helmets.

Nedal Izdden, one of its board members, said, “We are the only non-armed group doing this kind of work in Syria.”

He adds that 233 volunteers have lost their lives from this war.

By doing this humanitarian work of easing people’s suffering, Izdden said, the volunteers are sending a clear message that violence can only produce violence.

“We strive for stability in the area.”

The ultimate goal is peace, he said. Rebuild the cities and the country.

“We are the only ones praying to lose our jobs,” he joked.

In contrast to the quiet sounds of a little toddler burbling on her father’s lap in the room, Mustafa Almahamed talked about his 10-year-old nephew dying in his arms on December 15, 2012.

Turning to Almasri on the panel, he said, “That look haunted me too.”

Today, Almahamed is the Syria Civil Defense manager for Daraa, a city in southwestern Syria. He continues to face the results of cluster and barrel bombs.

In the last year and a half, the organization started helping people find places to hide when the bombs hit.

Breaking down Gender Barriers

Almasri shared what women have contributed to the cause.

When White Helmets was first established, she said, there were no more than 10 women.

Now there are over 400 female volunteers and more than 45 women centers.

“We provide the same service as men. This includes carrying people to the ambulances and search and rescue.”

The difference they have made are noted in certain conservative groups where women were uncomfortable being helped by men.

Almasri said gender was a barrier. “Women were able to fill the gap and provide support.”

The women centers provide first aid training, search and rescue efforts and trauma support for children, she said. Outreach programs have volunteers doing demonstrations at schools and in people’s homes.

The goal is one rescuer in each home.

“In six months, we have closed more than 30,000 cases,” Almasri said.

Currently, the organization is training women on how to work with unexploded devices and identify non-traditional weapons such as barrel bombs.

Remaining Apolitical

When asked how White Helmets remain apolitical and how to ensure it remains that way, Izdden said, “We all know countries have a humanitarian side to them and it is the side we are talking to.”

He said the organization is lucky to be recognized by countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Japan and the Netherlands.

In response to the second part of the question, Izdden said the 4,000 White Helmets are not angels.

“We are everyday people. Our work, like schools and institutions, is dedicated to a code of ethics and a code of conduct.”

He said when they recognize a member who isn’t committed to the organization’s four principles or to its code of ethics and conduct, they simply stop their association with the person and he or she is no longer a member.

Reasons for expulsion include using a gun or an affiliation with a political group.

“Mistakes do happen,” Izdden said. “We do our best to address them when they happen.”

Almasri still reports on life within Syria, issues such as safety and socio-economic affairs, in between her duties as the head staff of women’s affairs. She plans to commit fully to journalism after the White Helmets are not needed anymore.

Same as Izddan with dentistry. Same as Almahamed with auto mechanics.

The event was co-hosted by SFU International, PeaceGeeks and the British Consulate-General Vancouver. The three Syrians visited Ottawa with the assistance of Global Affairs Canada before coming to Vancouver.


Deanna Cheng is a member of the NCM Collective based out of Vancouver.

Published in Top Stories
Sunday, 29 November 2015 16:14

Sato Cup Showcases Growth of Karate in B.C.

by Deanna Cheng in Vancouver

Karate practitioners from Saskatchewan and Quebec came to B.C. recently to compete at the Sato Cup Invitational Karate Tournament on Nov. 14.

Some competitors traveled from outside the country to test their skills. They came from places such as Japan, India, Grand Cayman Island and the Philippines.

They also came to pay respect to the tournament's namesake, sensei Akira Sato.

A karate master who often travels to teach at other dojos, Sato is an eighth-degree black belt who came to Canada in 1970. He founded his dojo in Vancouver with affiliated dojos across North, Central and South America.

Amid the cheering and sportsmanship, Vancouver showed off some of its local talents.

Darbyanh Lee Heenan, 16
Dojo: Odokan Kingsway Shito-Ryu Karate Club

This half-British, half-Chinese karate-ka has been training since she was eight years old. In her fourth year with the B.C. team, Darbyanh Lee Heenan uses karate to release the stress from homework and exams. "Since, in grade 11, grades really count."

The martial art instills a sense of discipline and calms her hyper personality.

Heenan's karate goal is to win gold at Karate Canada national championships in both free sparring and kata, a series of forms, techniques and transitions.

With school, she'd like to study dentistry, which is something she was interested in since she was a little girl.

"I really liked my dentist and saw him as an inspiration."

"When I was younger, my biggest hurdle was difficulty getting onto the kumite (sparring) team."

Evan Kwong, 19
Dojo: Vancouver Shito-Ryu

Evan Kwong has been with the B.C. team for the last five years and is on the national team roster.

The University of British Columbia (UBC) student finds karate helps develop him into a well-rounded person. "When I was younger, my biggest hurdle was difficulty getting onto the kumite (sparring) team. It was a big roster."

Going into a new division now (age 18 to 20), he's debating whether to take some time off to train for the international stage or head straight into it. When faced with better opponents, he's driven to beat them.

Kwong wants to medal at the Pan-American Karate Championships one day.

Nia Laos-Loo, 19
Dojos: Burnaby Mountain Karate, Nekkei Karate

This pink-tip-haired fireball was introduced to karate by her younger sister. "It was something to do together and my sister Claudia, and I have become best friends. She's my role model."

"Karate is a chance for me to express myself. Before, I wasn't expressive. I wasn't sporty either."

Even though Nia Laos-Loo has been training for two years, she's currently part of the B.C. squad.

"Karate is a chance for me to express myself. Before, I wasn't expressive. I wasn't sporty either."

The Simon Fraser University student is studying mechatronic in engineering and when she graduates, she wants to invent new things in software and mechanical engineering.

Dheva Setiaputra, 26
Dojo: University of British Columbia Karate Club

Dheva Setiaputra has been practising karate for the last two years. Before karate, he studied kendo, the Japanese martial art of the katana.

Karate makes him strive to be better. "You can tell when you improve."

The training mentality spreads to the rest of his life.

Setiaputra said respect is paramount within the martial art culture. "To competitors, colleagues. Everybody. You don't trash-talk anyone."

Arriving from Indonesia in 2000, Setiaputra is working on his PhD in biochemistry at UBC.


Re-published in partnership with Asian Pacific Post.

Published in Arts & Culture

by Deanna Cheng in Vancouver 

An advocate for Vancouver’s Chinatown has started a petition against rezoning a central block in the district because she says it would cost the site its heritage designation and distinct character. 

Nicole So, a graduate of the University of British Columbia (UBC), says the rezoning of the 105 Keefer site from a historic area to a development district doesn’t create space for cross-cultural, intergenerational experiences. 

The 23-year-old advocate says the revised 105 Keefer plan is what “everyone” doesn’t want.

The revised rezoning application is for a 13-storey building by the Beedie Development Group that includes 127 residential units and 25 seniors social housing units on the second floor. It also has commercial space on the ground floor. 

The petition asks for more senior housing, as well as more community and cultural spaces. So aims to have at least 1,000 signatures e-mailed to the City of Vancouver by Dec. 1. 

Most participants want a “real” community and not something created solely for the benefit of tourists and visitors.

“Chinatown already has a vision,” So explains, referring to a 2002 Chinatown revitalization report. 

The 14-page city document stated most participants want a “real” community and not something created solely for the benefit of tourists and visitors. 

“There was frequent mention of the importance of inclusiveness of Chinatown – for Chinese of various linguistic and cultural backgrounds as well as non-Chinese speakers, for young and old,” states the report. 

The report showed community members wanted a sense of festivity in Chinatown and to make it a “cool” place to visit, especially for youth. 

So mentions the Nikkei National Museum and Cultural Centre in Burnaby as an ideal example of culturally sensitive space. The centre focuses on preserving and promoting Japanese Canadian culture. 

Not interested in another ‘yuppie’ area 

Houtan Rafii, vice-president of residential development at Beedie Living (the home-building division of Beedie Development Group), said in an e-mailed statement that the company would work with the city on expanding and enhancing the nearby Memorial Plaza, a space with a monument for Chinese Canadian soldiers who represented Canada in past wars.

The statement said many Chinatown stakeholders received the amendments Beedie Living made favourably. 

“One amendment in particular that is resonating positively with people is our voluntary inclusion of 25 seniors’ homes."

“One amendment in particular that is resonating positively with people is our voluntary inclusion of 25 seniors’ homes, which will be a $7 million asset to Chinatown and represent 20 per cent of the entire building,” Rafii said. 

The City of Vancouver said in an e-mail to New Canadian Media that an increase in the building’s height from 90 feet to a maximum of 120 feet to support public benefits including heritage, cultural, affordable and social housing projects is under consideration. 

The city encourages concerned individuals to provide feedback by early January. 

Community members have repeatedly said to the media and city hall that they don’t want another Yaletown, a ‘yuppie’ section of Vancouver with dog salons and condos galore. 

A fading Chinatown

Toronto realtor Vivian Kim visited Vancouver in July for four days and wrote to someone in a Facebook group, “You must eat the garlic wings at Phnom Penh in Gastown!” 

Phnom Penh, a well-known Cambodian-Vietnamese restaurant, is actually located in Chinatown. 

“In my memory, Gastown and Chinatown all melded into the same kind of look,” recalls 33-year-old Kim during a phone interview. 

“It didn’t jump out to me as a big Chinatown,” she adds. 

“It didn’t jump out to me as a big Chinatown.”

Kim says in comparison Toronto has a handful of Chinatowns with distinct neighbourhoods. She describes the one downtown as having an abundance of Chinese signage in red and gold, outdoor food markets and local mom and pop businesses. 

Susanna Ng, co-owner of New Town Bakery & Restaurant in Vancouver’s Chinatown, says people often complain about Chinese businesses closing down and moving out due to changing economy and residents. 

From her perspective though, business is good. She says her clientele tends to be more Caucasians and young people. “[I] don’t see many old people now. They’re in nursing homes or passed away.” 

As Chinese business owners are getting older, they are retiring, Ng adds. “Their kids, the second generation, don’t want to take over the place. They sell it instead, so no more local businesses.” 

Ng even struggles to find replacements for her restaurant staff, having had two cooks who retired recently. “In the Chinese newspapers, every time I open [them], the ads for ‘cooks wanted’ grow bigger and bigger. This is what I have to fight with.” 

[A] new Chinatown in Vancouver is being rebuilt and young Chinese students are eager to be part of the vision.

Rebuilding Chinatown

While the past fades away, a new Chinatown in Vancouver is being rebuilt and young Chinese students are eager to be part of the vision. 

International student Jane Jing Yi Wu is studying visual arts at UBC and she is working on a blueprint for the Keefer block. 

The 22-year-old Chinese national pulls ideas from her home, the China she knows. Wu wants to incorporate space for community art, family-oriented nightlife and food markets. 

When Wu first came to Vancouver three years ago, she was neutral about Chinatown. After learning about Chinatown’s history in an Asian migration course, Wu started to care more. 

Walking through the area, she thought of how the Chinese people paid the head tax, fought for their rights and survived in a new country years ago. 

She said that even though she’s an “outsider”, she wants the city to know that she cares. 

“I’m not Canadian, but I feel it’s time for us to do something for [future Chinese migrants].”

Editor's Note: This article has been updated from the original published version which incorrectly reported Beedie Living was working with the city to expand and enhance the 105 Keefer site instead of the nearby Memorial Plaza. 

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 Deanna Cheng in Vancouver

During the 2015 election campaign, one issue remained imminent for many Canadians: how will the newly elected government improve the economy? But, a question less pondered, of interest to many immigrant communities is how will the government improve economic inequalities.

One economics professor from British Columbia’s Simon Fraser University recently pointed out which promises made by the major political parties in Canada made would lower inequality.

“Inequality is more about wealth than income,” professor Krishna Pendakur said during a public lecture in Burnaby earlier this month.

Wealth, he said, is money generated from stocks, bonds, etc., and income is based on labour.

Economic platforms

Pendakur said the Conservatives’ plan is vague when it comes to economic inequality  – more commonly referred to as the gap between the rich and the poor.

“They promise to grow the economy, to have a bigger pie, then a trickle-down effect,” he explained. “Whatever crumbles from this pie and falls down to the rest of the 99 per cent, that’s it.”

Pendakur said the Conservatives’ plan is vague when it comes to economic inequality.

Pendakur noted though that some trickle-down effect did happen with previous policies of low tax rates, low revenue and low public spending. “There was high skilled blue-collared incomes in Alberta while the party lasted.”

Looking to the Liberals and New Democrats, Pendakur said both parties promise to increase guaranteed income supplement, which is a good thing. The income supplement provides a monthly non-taxable benefit to Old Age Security recipients who have a low income and are living in Canada.

To get the supplement, the recipients must be legal residents in Canada and receiving the old age pension.

Addressing national inequality

Pendakur pointed out which policies each party promised would likely be most effective in addressing national inequality.

For the New Democratic Party (NDP), he said the two major ones are national subsidized childcare and national universal drug coverage. “Both are long term commitments and [Tom] Mulcair will need more than one election to see it through,” he commented.

"[F]or some, even if they’ve seen a doctor and the doctor has written the prescription, sometimes people can’t afford the treatment at the pharmacy. It’s the biggest cost to someone’s health.”

Pendakur said political parties are careful about what they can claim because there are certain jurisdictions which federal governments don’t have a lot of control over.

Health care is decided at the provincial level, so that is why the NDP chose pharmaceuticals, he said.

“It’s good because, for some, even if they’ve seen a doctor and the doctor has written the prescription, sometimes people can’t afford the treatment at the pharmacy. It’s the biggest cost to someone’s health.”

Minimal wage is also a provincial jurisdiction, Pendakur explained, which is why the NDP promised a minimum wage of $15 per hour for federal workers. “100,000 workers will be affected.”

Turning to the Liberals, he drew attention to the party’s promise to increase child benefits with lower implicit tax rates on them.

The party also said it would raise tax rates on personal income over $200,000 by four per cent and lower income tax rates for the middle class from 22 per cent to 20.5 per cent.

Privileging particular demographics

During the Q-and-A session, an audience member asked Pendakur what he thought about the Conservative party’s income-splitting tax plan.

“Income splitting is awful,” Pendakur replied.

[Pendakur] said [income splitting] values two-parent, two-income families and ignores every other demographic in the country.

He said the plan values two-parent, two-income families and ignores every other demographic in the country. “Why is this particular demographic worth more than others?”

University of Fraser Valley student Anoop Tatlay agreed with him.

“I couldn’t pinpoint what it was about the [income-splitting tax] proposal that bothered me, but once he said it, it clicked,” stated Tatlay, who is a single mother. “I’d thought the same thing.”

Pendakur presented complex information in an engaging manner, said Tatlay. The newfound knowledge she gained motivated her to look more closely at the federal budget and public spending and try to understand it better.

As a Canadian citizen, the 37-year-old resident of Mission, B.C. said she plans to vote on Oct. 19.

 

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 Economy
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
Thursday, 17 September 2015 07:05

Youth Volunteers Support Chinatown Seniors

by Deanna Cheng in Vancouver

One outreach worker is creating a bilingual volunteer program because there's not enough support for Chinese seniors, especially those in Vancouver's Chinatown.

Chanel Ly, a 23-year-old outreach worker who is part of the Downtown Eastside SRO Collaborative, initiated the Youth for Chinese Seniors program because when she sees all these seniors – who are predominantly female – she thinks of her grandma. She cannot imagine not helping them out.

"I can't stand seeing seniors being neglected. It's disrespectful."

She points out that it's part of the Chinese cultural values to care for elders.

Ly will connect bilingual youth volunteers to seniors in the Strathcona area, the city's oldest neighbourhood.

Tasks for volunteers include translating legal documents, taking seniors to the doctor's office or the pharmacy, and informing seniors about their rights as tenants.

The biggest problem for Strathcona seniors is affordable housing.

One of the biggest challenges Ly faced while building this program from scratch was the amount of work required because there was no previous infrastructure, despite the demand for service that was culturally appropriate and in Chinese.

The program will run from this month to March next year, Ly says, because that's when grant funding ends.

"The goal is to improve the quality of life for Chinese seniors."

Addressing Chinese seniors’ challenges

The biggest problem for Strathcona seniors is affordable housing. With condo developments in the area, rents are going up and pushing out the original residents.

Vancouver activist Sid Chow Tan believes the Chinese benevolent and clan associations should contribute to Chinatown by providing their buildings and property for social housing. These associations, grouped either by provinces in China or last name "clans," were community centres.

Historically, most of the association buildings were community homes and bachelor suites for Chinese immigrants, a demographic regularly ignored by the government and institutions, Tan says. "It's sad to see space that used to house hundreds and hundreds of bachelors are now used for mahjong and ping-pong."

Another concern for seniors is health, says Ly. "Doctors are not always accessible. Drop-in clinics are not always available. Or opened only during certain hours."

Volunteers will help by accompanying seniors to the doctor's office and translate if needed.

"We want to fill in the gaps between the generations." - Chanel Ly, Downtown Eastside SRO Collaborative

Racism against Chinese seniors does happen at community centres, due to an unfounded belief that there's no such thing as poor Chinese people.

"There are poor Chinese," Tan said at a July event where bilingual volunteers and seniors met. "The Chinese poor doesn't want to be seen as poor. They just bear it."

Tan says they don't want to "lose face." In Chinese, the phrase means losing a combination of self-respect, honour and reputation.

Community survival

Despite the barriers they encounter, these seniors survive by banding together. "They're always self-sufficient and resourceful. They have their own networks," Ly says.

However, Mandarin-speaking seniors are even more marginalized, she says, because what little support there is, it's usually for Cantonese speakers.

Tan says the boomer generation couldn't leave Chinatown fast enough, but the "echo-boomers" came back. "They see something to save and protect. It's sacred ground to Chinese people.”

"It was where people organized to vote, worked to send money home," he says. "Now it's sullied by market forces, economic greed and political entitlement within the community."

Three in five Canadians say their families are not in a good position, financially or otherwise, to care for older family members requiring long-term health care.

Connecting generations

The program also promotes intergenerational interactions. Says Ly, "We want to fill in the gaps between the generations."

Ly started collecting volunteers before the summer and will have check-in meetings with youth once a month. At the moment, she has 15 dedicated volunteers lined up.

The online volunteer form is comprehensive, even asking for preferred pronouns. The program organizer says she wanted the volunteers to feel comfortable.

When asked if seniors – especially those with a traditional mindset – would be upset with transgender volunteers, Ly says the seniors might accept them.

She says they'll notice more that the volunteer is a young, Chinese-speaking person. They'll be grateful for the assistance, and would get to know them as human beings with good intentions.

Seniors’ health care: the numbers

A report titled "2015 National Report Card: Canadian Views on a National Seniors' Health Care Strategy" by Ipsos Reid Public Affairs for the Canadian Medical Association said seniors today represent 15 per cent of the population. In 1971, seniors only represented eight per cent of the population.

Three in five Canadians say their families are not in a good position, financially or otherwise, to care for older family members requiring long-term health care, the report said.

Respondents 55 years of age and older indicate they want more home care and community support to help seniors live at home longer as a key priority for the government.

Ninety per cent of Canadians surveyed believe we need a national strategy on seniors' health care that addresses the need for care provided at home and in hospitals, hospices and long-term care facilities, as well as end-of-life care.

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
Thursday, 27 August 2015 04:40

Richmond Residents Divided on Immigration

by Deanna Cheng (@writerly_dee) in Richmond, British Columbia

If Joseph Martinez was given the option, he would “export half of the population of Richmond back to China.”

Owner of Little Paws Animal Clinic and resident of the newly created federal riding of Steveston - Richmond East in British Colombia, Martinez is upset by the “arrogance” of immigrants.

His is part of a growing undercurrent of anti-immigrant sentiment in the riding.

Along with contiguous riding of Richmond Centre from which it was partly carved out, this area near Vancouver has a high concentration of visible minorities.

The debate around immigration has long-since been a hot button issue in the area.

According to the recently published Multiculturalism in Canada: Evidence and Anecdote book by former director-general of Citizenship and Multiculturalism, Andrew Griffith, 43 per cent of Steveston - Richmond East identifies itself as ethnic Chinese and 11 per cent as South Asian, while in Richmond Centre the split is 51 per cent Chinese, five per cent South Asian.

Martinez says for him it isn’t about race per se as he would prefer to have Taiwanese immigrants around because “they’re more respectful.”

In fact, he wants “nice Chinese” people who he defines as anyone who isn’t from Hong Kong and makes an attempt to learn English and “greet other races instead of ignoring them.” He also wants newcomers to respect the rules of the road and not drive recklessly as they do in Asia.

A community divided

The debate around immigration has long-since been a hot button issue in the area, and a letter to the editor in last week’s Richmond News brought it to the fore at the start of the election campaign.

In her letter, reader Emilie Henderson expressed her frustrations on reading letters from other residents about their dislike of new immigrants and the change that comes with them.

I read these letters and feel anger at the pure ignorance and lack of perspective of these ‘locals’, descendants of immigrants who likely faced similar hurdles in their adaptation to this country.

“Week after week, I read these letters and feel anger at the pure ignorance and lack of perspective of these ‘locals’, descendants of immigrants who likely faced similar hurdles in their adaptation to this country populated by immigrants,” she wrote.

Henderson goes on in her letter to say Richmond is a wonderful place to live because of its diversity, not in spite of it.

Steveston resident Lori Crump says she is inclined to partially agree with Henderson as immigration has its good outcomes too.

Out on an evening bicycle ride by the water, Crump says her relative’s property value going up is one such positive. “You also learn more about other cultures. There were some Russians who came in. Mandarin. It’s all over the map.”

However, she says more regulation on immigration is needed – something electoral candidates Kenny Chiu (Conservative), Joe Peschisolido (Liberal), Scott Stewart (New Democratic Party) and Laura-Leah Shaw (Green Party) should debate on in the coming weeks.

The decision to stop businesswoman Wendy Yuan from seeking nomination seems to have upset many ethnic Chinese supporters of the [Liberal] party.

But the Liberal nomination in the riding itself had its own share of controversy. The decision to stop businesswoman Wendy Yuan from seeking nomination seems to have upset many ethnic Chinese supporters of the party.

The acclamation of Peschisolido, a former Richmond MP who was elected in 2000 under the Canadian Alliance banner, is seen as an attempt by the Liberals to field someone with sufficient right-wing credentials to breach a Conservative stronghold.

Alice Wong, the Conservative incumbent in neighbouring Richmond Centre, won her seat in 2011 with over 58 per cent of the votes. This time around she will be competing for votes from her own ethnic group as the Liberals have fielded Lawrence Woo and the Greens Vincent Chui. Jack Trovado is running for the NDP.

More accepting than Vancouver 

But whether attitudes around immigration will shape the election outcome in both the Richmond ridings remains a moot issue.

When New Canadian Media hit the streets for a straw poll, it found most people were welcoming and open to immigrants.

Simon Fraser University (SFU) student Fran Li, who grew up in Steveston before moving into a suburban neighbourhood of Richmond, said the city had a “pretty good attitude” towards immigrants.

“It was important to have a bigger perspective of the world.”

Based on her experience of travelling between Vancouver and Richmond to attend SFU’s downtown Vancouver campus, the 19 year old feels more accepted in Richmond. She shared an example of a panhandler in Vancouver telling her to go back to Asia when she ignored him.

Li says her high school had more multicultural events due to international transfer students. It even had a multicultural club, which she enjoyed.

Those school events helped her learn more about the world as opposed to just what’s happening locally. “It was important to have a bigger perspective of the world.”


 

Published in partnership with Asian Pacific Post

Published in Top Stories
Friday, 14 August 2015 19:08

S.U.C.C.E.S.S. Goes to China

by Deanna Cheng (@writerly_dee) in Vancouver, British Columbia

Vancouver-based immigrant-settlement organization S.U.C.C.E.S.S. will be opening a new centre in Beijing, China, to help newcomers with the transition to Canada. This makes it the first non-profit to have an overseas pre-arrival centre in a major immigrant source country. 

According to a news release, the Active Engagement and Integration Project (AEIP) service centre will provide pre-arrival services such as information on Canadian history, culture, healthcare, transportation, employment, foreign credential recognition and the education system.

The organization has had pre-landing services at overseas offices in South Korea and Taiwan since 2008. This centre will be its first in China and is funded by Citizenship and Immigration Canada for the next two years.

Four stages of support

Johnny Cheng, director of AEIP, said services are provided in four components and the end goal for each section is to plan and prepare people for integration.

“For the immigrants from South Korea and Taiwan, they couldn’t tell what Canada is like. To them, there was no difference between B.C. and Ontario.” - Johnny Cheng, director of AEIP

The first part is an assessment of the challenges each newcomer would face, which allows an action plan to be developed. 

“Every immigrant has their own reason for coming to Canada,” Cheng said. “Some may not need a lot of support. Some need information on education because they want to bring their kids to Canada. Others want another career.”

The second part is providing accurate information about a settlement location, its culture and laws.

The director said most people in other countries only understand it’s a free country and it’s why they do as they wish when they arrive.

“For the immigrants from South Korea and Taiwan, they couldn’t tell what Canada is like. To them, there was no difference between B.C. and Ontario.”

The third section is an appointment to go over academic and professional credentials.

Professionals can prepare their paperwork – including translation if necessary – ahead of time and submit them to corresponding trade associations. The organization helps clients put together a resume and provides training on how to do interviews.

Cheng said they also have a program to connect immigrants with potential employers to understand business expectations and facilitate online interviews.

“Many prospective employers don’t give international work experience the same weight as local work experience.” - Vancouver Immigration Partnership

A Vancouver Immigration Partnership document titled "Immigration Matters in Vancouver" said immigrants with specialized professional skills and high educational credentials often have trouble landing jobs in the city.

It said it could be due to lack of information about business practices or credential recognition in Canada.

“Being an immigrant can also mean they lack local Canadian work experience,” the document said. “Many prospective employers don’t give international work experience the same weight as local work experience.”

The work relationship goes both ways as it also said many regulatory organizations struggle to evaluate foreign credentials and work experience.

The final component aims to connect immigrants to community resources. “We link them to the school board, community centres, city government and libraries,” said Cheng. “We also connect with cities to arrange tours for new immigrants to learn more about the city.”

Cheng said a survey on the organization’s services in South Korea and Taiwan showed more than 90 per cent of the immigrants were able to successfully settle down in their selected Canadian neighbourhood within one month of arrival. “They were able to participate in the community and enrol their kids immediately.”

Increasing pre-arrival settlement beneficial for Canada

Over the 40 years the organization has been helping immigrants, Cheng said many people have arrived saying they wanted to find a job and didn’t know they needed specific accreditation, certificates or to obtain a certain level of language proficiency.

“It’s best to do it all before coming to Canada. If they understand the language requirement, some can practise for several months – maybe even a year – before arriving.” - Johnny Cheng, director of AEIP

“It’s best to do it all before coming to Canada,” he said. “If they understand the language requirement, some can practise for several months – maybe even a year – before arriving.”

This will help them find work faster and become a taxpayer sooner, the director explained, which is a benefit to Canada.

Beijing was selected for a pre-landing centre because it’s the capital city with easy access from neighbouring provinces.

Based on B.C. Stats immigrant landings data obtained by journalist Ian Young, the number one immigrant source country from 2005 to 2013 was China, consistently followed by India (second) and the Philippines (third) during those eight years.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada said out of 258,953 permanent residents in 2013, about 34,000 of them were from China. Again, the data shows the same ranking order between China, India and the Philippines.

Cheng said it’s not easy to have an office in China, especially for a non-profit organization. When applying, the organization had to be clear its objective was to help Chinese people plan for immigration – ones who were already approved – and not recruit people to move to Canada.

Despite this, another AEIP centre is scheduled to open in Shanghai later this year.

After expanding in China, Cheng said the organization would look to expand pre-landing services in Japan, India, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Australia.

The grand opening of the Beijing centre is scheduled for September 2.

Published in Top Stories
Thursday, 06 August 2015 22:04

B.C. Festival Energizes Historical Japantown

by Deanna Cheng (@writerly_dee) in Vancouver, British Columbia

Taiko drums vibrate through the trees across Oppenheimer Park in Vancouver, B.C. The older generations relax in the seniors’ tent as young ones in blue and pink kimonos toddle in front of the stage. Some of them hold colourful striped balloons hanging down from strings.

The 39th Annual Powell Street Festival celebrating Japanese Canadian culture, traditions and identity is under way with entertainment, costumes and music. It has also returned to its usual location.

Last year the festival had to temporarily relocate when many of the city’s homeless set up a tent city at the park to protest against Vancouver’s social housing solution.

Last year the festival had to temporarily relocate when many of the city’s homeless set up a tent city at the park to protest against Vancouver’s social housing solution: gentrification and ‘renovictions’ in the downtown eastside. Oppenheimer Park, located in the centre of the city's Japantown, was one of many internment camps during World War II when Canada declared war on Japan.

Some of this year’s festival highlights include: a talk from well-known environmental activist David Suzuki about his book Letters to My Grandchildren and for the foodies, a modern interpretation of the ever-so-popular SPAM musubi from Hawaii. Yes – it’s a slice of fried SPAM meat on rice, secured with a strip of dried seaweed called nori.

The festival’s barbecue salmon booth, which sells this option, even offers a SPAM musubi kit – a can of SPAM, a SPAM sushi press, soy sauce, rice and nori.

A closer look at the art of kyudo

While a sumo competition is being set up in the middle of the park, Mike Nakatsu (pictured right) is shooting arrows at the nearby Vancouver Japanese Language School, where part of the festival is held indoors. The kyudo demo is over, but practitioners remain.

Kyudo means “way of the bow” and is described as the Japanese martial arts of archery. Historically, archery was used for war or hunting, explains Nakatsu. “Every single culture had the bow and arrow. With the use of gun powder, it died off.”

The Vancouver Kyudo Club founder says modern practice is for spiritual, moral and social development. “I get to meet people all over the world because of kyudo.”

When it comes to spiritual development, whatever you put into it is what you get out of it, he explains. Moral development, he adds, creates discipline and also requires discipline.

“From a practical point, you want to hit the target. But if you’re so focused on hitting the target that you forget everything else, you’re gonna miss the target.”

Vancouver Kyudo Club founder, Mike Nakatsu, says kyudo is a metaphor for life.

Kyudo is also commonly seen in an annual memorial ceremony in Japan during the Coming Of Age Day.

Nakatsu says kyudo is a metaphor for life.

“First, you’ve got to fix what’s here – your stance, your psychological mindset – before you can even care what’s going on [with the target]. You’ve got problems in your life, right? You can’t fix what’s out there, but you can fix what’s in you. So if you fix what’s in you, usually what’s out there fixes itself.”

Thunk! Thunk! Arrows fly into the bull’s eye targets as Nakatsu emphasizes his point.

“If you have good stance, good form, good mindset, you should hit the target. If you don’t, there’s nothing you can do out there except come back, redo your stance and change your mindset.”

Attendees were asked “What do you hope to see in the area that was historically the heart of the Japanese Canadian community in the current context of the downtown eastside?”

Nakatsu says competition judges look for the tatesen, the cross in the body with one vertical line of the shoulders and arms and one horizontal line with the head and spine. He says they’ll also look at the breathing, mezukai, which are the eyes, the gaze, fluidity of movement and leading of the hips when shooting.

“There’s also working of the spirits,” he adds. “It sounds rather general but when an [eighth-degree black belt kyudo practitioner] does it, you can feel it. You can feel the presence.”

Nakatsu says kyudo has made him a better person in society.

“If you can have complete control and composure when someone is kicking you in the head, you can probably do it throughout your life,” he shares.

Reviving Japantown

Back on the streets, crowds of families with their dogs remain lined up in front of smoking food booths. As supplies dwindle, more items are crossed off the menu. One booth ends up with only black sesame ice cream left for people with a sweet tooth.

The Powell Street Festival Society booth has a board (pictured left) with the question, “What do you hope to see in the area that was historically the heart of the Japanese Canadian community in the current context of the downtown eastside?”

The organization’s office is not located near historical Japantown, but one volunteer says the society wants to move its office to somewhere on Powell Street.

Before doing so though, the organization wants to know what community members are looking for from the space it’ll provide.

Most of the notes with feedback read: “affordable housing”.

Youth space, museum, a Japantown ‘revival’ and traditional food workshops are other popular suggestions.

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 Deanna Cheng (@writerly_dee) in Vancouver, British Columbia

Twelve tables of mahjong (Chinese tile game) in Vancouver’s Chinatown Memorial Square fill up with fervent game-goers within 15 minutes. Silence quickly turns into chatter mixed with the clickety clack of tiles. A diverse pocket in British Columbia's largest city comes to life.

Last Saturday, a local group called the Youth Collaborative of Chinatown (YCC) hosted a public games night titled, ‘Chinatown Mahjong Social: A Hot and Noisy Night’. The games night was the first to kick off a series of events to regenerate public spaces in Chinatown.

‘Hot and noisy’ is a play on the Cantonese word yitnaau and the Mandarin word renao and loosely translates into a measure of liveliness in an atmosphere.

Mahjong is a game played between four players with a set of 144 tiles inscribed with Chinese characters and symbols. The game is one of skill, strategy and calculation. It also involves a degree of chance – or what some seniors would call luck.

‘Bring Your Own Poh Poh

‘BYOPP – Bring your own poh poh (grandmother)’ called out the youth group’s Facebook post advertising the June 20 event.

Mark Lee did more than that. Along with his grandmother, he brought his boyfriend, his sister and her husband.

The 24-year-old is half-Chinese and half-British; his connection to Chinatown stems from a deep connection to his grandmother.

“When I was little, she’d pick me up from preschool. When we were sick, she was there to make us feel better … and also, make us drink soups.” 

As a kid, Lee would ask her to teach him how to write Chinese and she showed him simple words. When he asked her to teach him Cantonese, she told him to go learn Mandarin. So he did.

The University of British Columbia graduate now has a major in linguistics and a minor in Chinese. He’s also fluent in Mandarin and has a basic understanding of Cantonese.

“The whole reason I’m involved with Chinese was to communicate with Grandma,” Lee says. “It’s been nine years and I still can’t.”

“This is ideal … seeing old folks with young people learning how to play mahjong.” - Mark Lee

One of his goals is to learn Cantonese. Another one is to be part of the revitalization effort of Chinatown and to prevent gentrification.

“I hear stories about people with family in Chinatown, but [they] never come here,” he says.

Lee wants to do more than organize just social events with the YCC. He wants an intergenerational connection. He admits the language barrier can be an obstacle, but points out that there are others who can translate – and that it’s an opportunity to learn the language. All that’s required, he says, is for people to show up to their events.

“This is ideal … seeing old folks with young people learning how to play mahjong.”

Players of All Ages and Ethnicities

Colourful paper lanterns hang on the trees next to where local artist Yule Ken Lum has set up his cart doubling as a makeshift studio. He invites the public to finish decorating the last tiles of his 300-piece mosaic. It depicts the words ‘CHINATOWN’ in a giant heart stencil.

Lum says he is surprised by the age and diversity of the turnout. “At the Chinese chess table, it was good to see a poh poh sitting by a Caucasian girl, like a team.”

“Our goal is to engage youth to take part and do what they’d like to see instead of listening to the ‘doom and gloom’ about Chinatown in the media.” - Doris Chow, Youth Collaborative of Chinatown

Meanwhile, on a board with neon sticky notes, participants write suggestions for future events. Some ideas include: tai chi, line dancing and outdoor film screenings.

As all the tables of mahjong fill up, passersby appear disappointed so event organizer Kathryn Gwun-Yeen Lennon (pictured above on the right) offers to set them up with Chinese chess and Chinese checkers. They choose to watch instead.

Resisting Chinatown’s ‘Doom and Gloom’

Vancouver’s Chinatown spans about a nine-block radius, not including the residential area. It is part of the downtown eastside, one of the city’s oldest neighbourhoods and is commonly referred to as ‘Canada’s poorest postal code’.

In recent years, Chinatown has undergone large and rapid development projects, including sky-high condominiums occupied with young urbanites that don’t speak Chinese, construction plans for water main upgrades along Pender Street, located near the centre of Chinatown and the end of the Chinatown Night Market. But there is still more work to be done.

“Our goal is to engage youth to take part and do what they’d like to see instead of listening to the ‘doom and gloom’ about Chinatown in the media,” explains YCC member Doris Chow (pictured above on the left).

Seniors often want to communicate their history with youth, but don't know how to go about it, she adds. “The YCC can work as translators to help shrink the intergenerational gap.”

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

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

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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.

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