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Seoul/Ulsan (IANS): Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday outlined his vision of an inclusive Asian century fuelled by India’s progress and wooed South Korean businesses to ‘make in India’ in a big way. Winding up his two-day visit to South Korea, the final leg of his three-nation visit, Modi addressed the Asian Leadership Forum and […]

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Seoul (IANS): Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said it was “wonderful being in Seoul” as he arrived to an enthusiastic welcome from the Indian community. “Wonderful being in Seoul. My gratitude to the Indian community here for the very warm welcome,” the prime minister tweeted. Indian community members in large number, waving small tri-colour […]

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Ulan Bator (IANS): India and Mongolia forged a strategic partnership, building on the “bonds of hearts and minds” over the “barriers of distance”, as Narendra Modi on Sunday became the first Indian prime minister to visit the landlocked northeast Asian nation which has declared India as its “third neighbour” as well as “spiritual neighbour”. The […]

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Shanghai (IANS): Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday stressed the shared legacy of Buddhism between India and China and their commonalities, including their large population, and said the two countries together could not only solve their problems but also be a force of good for the entire world. Modi, who wound up his three-day visit […]

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After signing as many as 24 agreements with China in Beijing on Friday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi did something that is unheard of with stiff Chinese leaders. Modi posed for a

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Xi’an/Beijing (IANS): With China’s rich cultural heritage and the ancient links of Buddhism forming a grand backdrop, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday held “extremely productive” summit-level talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping during which the border issue, the widening trade imbalance and “strengthening trust” were high on the agenda. Modi, who arrived in Beijing […]

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by Ted Alcuitas (@Ted_Alcuitas) in Vancouver

After a whirlwind of quick stops that took him first to Chicago and then to Ottawa and Toronto, President Benigno Aquino III ended his first North American visit in Vancouver Saturday.

But the small audiences that came to see him on the west coast marred whatever political mileage his host, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, was clearly aiming for.

Even more disconcerting were the dogged persistence of a small, but militant, advocacy group, Migrante Canada, which describes itself as "an active defender of the rights and welfare of overseas Filipino migrants" and in some ways was able to distract attention from Aquino during the Toronto and Vancouver visits.

According to a pamphlet the organization gave out during the protest, Migrante B.C. is deploring the President's visit as a, “ploy to create a fictitious image of the Harper government’s harmonious relationship with our community in Canada, which at this very moment is reeling from the recent changes to the Temporary Foreign Workers’ Program and the overhaul of the former Live-in Caregiver Program.”

To be fair to Aquino, his ‘kababayans’ (countrymen) across Canada were more than eager to meet him – the legacy of his mother and father’s assassination still lingering in their minds.

Immigration Minister Chris Alexander announced the changes to the program last year affecting temporary workers and caregivers under the ‘four in and four out’ rule. A worker must work in Canada for fours years and return to the country of origin for fours years before applying again. Those affected by the rule were deported starting April 1 this year.

Vancouver protesters were actually duped by the visit organizers, as they were under the false impression the event would be held at the Pan Pacific Hotel – just a block away from the Vancouver Convention Centre.

When the protesters arrived at the hotel they had to regroup in front of the Vancouver Convention Centre.

Police told them to move their demonstration to a nearby street but they refused, moving just a few metres from the front of the convention centre.

By this time almost all of the people attending were already inside the building and did not notice the demonstration.

Most of the people who stopped to listen to the speeches of the protesters were tourists who were walking around the Coal Harbour seawall, as two cruise ships were at the dock.

Except for the CBC, all of the mainstream media and local Filipino media were inside covering the reception. It is doubtful if Aquino himself knew about the protest, although a couple of TV camera men with the presidential entourage quickly passed the demonstrators and hurried back inside the centre.

Not the Media Frenzy of Modi

To be fair to Aquino, his ‘kababayans’ (countrymen) across Canada were more than eager to meet him – the legacy of his mother and father’s assassination still lingering in their minds.

Attendance was far lower than the 10,000 earlier media reports said the Toronto Consulate was initially aiming for. The crowds did not have the same intensity or the media frenzy that greeted India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi before Aquino.

The Philippine Inquirer put the crowd at Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall at 2,000, while Luisa Marshall of Vancouver’s Simply the Best television show estimated that “about 300 to 400 people” were in the Vancouver Convention Centre.

Attendance was far lower than the 10,000 earlier media reports said the Toronto Consulate was initially aiming for. The crowds did not have the same intensity or the media frenzy that greeted India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi a few weeks before the Philippine leader's arrival.

It was the Philippine Embassy officials’ failure to prepare adequately for a state visit that followed such a ‘celebrity visitor’ (Modi).

Perhaps the Philippine planners were tired and weary after the defeat of their icon Manny Pacquaio at the hands of Floyd Mayweather a week before, which resulted in the confusion.

Harper’s strategists underestimated the political strength of the Winnipeg community, which continues to put Filipinos on the political map.

Nonetheless for those who did show up, Aquino tried his best to entertain.

According to The Inquirer, the President began his speech in English, but shifted to Tagalog a couple of sentences after.

Aquino talks in ‘Taglish’ (a combination of English and Tagalog), or in straight Tagalog depending on his audience – the first and only Filipino president to do so. 

The Inquirer reported that in Toronto Aquino apologized to the non-Filipino speakers for the shift, saying that there are nuances in the language that get across concepts better to a Filipino than a foreign language can. 

“He then launched full tilt into a very smooth and polished delivery of a progress report on the Philippine economy, peppered here and there with jokes that brought down the house,” stated Inquirer writer Marisa Roque.

Underestimating Winnipeg

If there were kababayans disappointed about this historic visit, it was the Filipinos in Winnipeg who felt betrayed by their city being skipped in the itinerary.

Harper’s strategists underestimated the political strength of the Winnipeg community, which continues to put Filipinos on the political map.

Winnipeg elected the first Filipino Member of Parliament – Dr. Rey Pagtakhan – who was elected in 1988. Dr. Conrad Santos, the first Filipino member of the Manitoba Legislative Assembly, was elected in 1981 and served non-consecutive terms up until 2007.

There are now two Filipino members of the legislative assembly – Flor Marcelino and Ted Marcelino – as well as City Councillor Mike Pagtakhan. Several Filipinos are also elected school board trustees.

British Columbia is the only other province to elect a Filipino member of the legislative assembly with Mable Elmore of the New Democratic Party first being elected in 2009.


Ted Alcuitas is former senior editor of the Philippine Asian News Today and currently publisher and editor of philippinecanadiannews.com.

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
Thursday, 07 May 2015 20:33

President Aquino Arrives in Ottawa

by Priya Ramanujam (@sincerelypriya) in Toronto

Just days after Filipinos worldwide suffered the blow of boxer Manny Pacquiao’s loss to American Floyd Mayweather, the Philippines’ President Benigno Aquino landed in North America, first in Chicago yesterday, and then in Ottawa today, for a three day Canadian state visit.

Though the visit didn’t generate quite the media frenzy as last month’s visit from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Aquino was met with a warm, but fairly private, welcome in the nation’s capital.

The visit, which sparked mixed reactions from the Filipino-Canadian community, is aimed at strengthening the relationship between both countries and their respective leaders.

The Philippines is Canada’s third largest source of immigrants from Asia, right after India and China respectively. And while Winnipeg, Toronto and Vancouver have large Filipino Diasporas, the growing community of 700,000 plus extends as far as up north in the Whitehorse, Yukon and Yellowknife, Northwest Territories.

"Canada aims to support the Philippines through a variety of programs and responses. We are good friends and partners, working together to provide humanitarian assistance, development aid, sustainable economic growth, improved investment climate, and more opportunities for underprivileged men and women." - Governor General David Johnston

For Aquino, he left his home country making vows that this visit is about establishing closer ties between Canada and the Philippines when it comes to trade and investment, and hopefully increasing tourism to the Asian-Pacific nation.

And while Stephen Harper expressed a similar interest in improving bilateral relations in the weeks leading up to today’s visit, some think both Modi and Aquino’s visits are well-timed attempts to increase support for the Conservatives in the Indo- and Filipino-Canadian communities.

“Canada and the Philippines enjoy a close friendship based on shared democratic values and strong people-to-people ties,” said Harper in an official statement leading up to Aquino’s arrival. “I look forward to meeting with President Aquino to further strengthen the bonds between our two countries, including in the areas of trade, investment, development and security, benefitting the citizens of both nations.”

Aquino’s Stay

It wasn’t all handshakes and trade talk for Aquino today, who met with Governor General Dave Johnston upon arrival.

Following the meeting Aquino took part in a tree planting ceremony – 26 years after his mother, Corazon Aquino, planed a red maple on Rideau Hall, he continued the tradition planting seeds for a red spruce.

“The Philippines is an important member of ASEAN, a dynamic and growing region with a GDP of almost $2.5 trillion that offers a wealth of opportunities for Canadian businesses.” - Stewart Beck, President and CEO of Asian Pacific Foundation of Canada

"As you know, President Aquino, our two countries have so much in common," said Johnston in his welcoming speech. "Yours is one of the most vibrant and rapidly developing regions in the world, with great opportunities to achieve success and some new challenges to overcome. Canada, in turn, is pleased to support the Philippines’ long-term commitments in areas of security, disaster management, development and humanitarian aid." 

In the evening, a special dinner at Rideau Hall was arranged for President Aquino by Johnston and his wife.

"Canada aims to support the Philippines through a variety of programs and responses," Johnston said at dinner. "We are good friends and partners, working together to provide humanitarian assistance, development aid, sustainable economic growth, improved investment climate, and more opportunities for underprivileged men and women."

Johnston pointed out that the steady growth in commercial ties, with bilateral trade reaching an impressive $1.8 billion in 2014, a 2.5 percent increase over the previous year, adds to already strong "people-to-people ties".

"Your visit goes a long way toward advancing the relationship between Canada and the Philippines. Thank you and the members of your delegation once again for coming. Now, let us raise a glass to the many ties that bind our two countries in friendship."

On tap for Aquino tomorrow is a roundtable in Toronto with prominent members of the Canadian business community hosted by the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada (APF Canada), with support from Sun Life Financial and in association with the Canadian ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Business Council. Its purpose is to explore opportunities for trade and investment with the Philippines.

“The Philippines is an important member of ASEAN, a dynamic and growing region with a GDP of almost $2.5 trillion that offers a wealth of opportunities for Canadian businesses,” said Stewart Beck, President and CEO of APF Canada.

On Saturday, Aquino will close out his Canadian visit on the west coast where he is expected to hold a reception at the Pan Pacific Hotel in Vancouver.


 

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

by Anita Singh (@tjsgroupca) in Toronto

Following Indian Prime Minister Modi’s successful tour of Canada, President Benigno Aquino of the Philippines is due to visit this week.

Modi’s trip was a landmark visit – four decades since the last visit to Canada of a sitting Indian Prime Minister. With a deal on nuclear trade, renewal of bilateral trade relations and promises made on counter-terrorism, this trip can be hailed a massive domestic and international success for Stephen Harper. 

Harper could only hope for the same type of success with President Aquino.

Yet, with visits from these two leaders – who represent countries with high levels of immigration to Canada – an important counter-narrative has also emerged. 

With Prime Minister Modi’s visit, speculation has been rife about the ­“Modi-effect” on Conservative electoral chances in Indo-Canadian populated regions in the country, arguably some of the most heavily contested ridings in Canada.

For example, Tim Harper at the Toronto Star has suggested that the “real payoff for Harper might come when Indo-Canadian voters go to the polls in October.” 

Others have wondered if Harper’s overtures may also have an electoral motive with the large diaspora groups settled in Canada from these two countries.

With Prime Minister Modi’s visit, speculation has been rife about the ­“Modi-effect” on Conservative electoral chances in Indo-Canadian populated regions in the country, arguably some of the most heavily contested ridings in Canada.   

Modi’s trip to Canada certainly was diaspora-focused.

Speaking in Toronto, he commanded a 10,000-strong audience of largely Indo-Canadians keen to get a glimpse of India’s new “Rockstar” PM. This event marked the halfway point in a four-day Canadian tour, which included a whirlwind of photo ops at Parliament Hill, Rideau Hall and the Air India Memorial in Toronto.

This was followed by visits to Vancouver and a trip to a Hindu temple and Sikh gurudwara in Surrey, BC – one of the most densely Indo-Canadian populated cities in the country. 

Yet, we should be wary of making tall claims about electoral gains. If Conservatives see electoral gains in these ridings, it won’t be because of Modi or Aquino necessarily. 

More Required to Sway Votes

As shown by Prime Minister Modi’s trip, these visits do not do enough to differentiate Stephen Harper’s foreign policy from other candidates to be an election issue, particularly the Liberals' Justin Trudeau. 

Trudeau’s sit down with Modi also articulated the importance of India for his party, suggesting Canada-India relations would not be damaged by a Liberal victory this fall. 

Similar to Harper’s army of ministers traveling to India in droves, Trudeau’s Liberal party has also made its presence known in India. There is precedent for this – it was, after all, Liberal Prime Ministers Chretien and Martin that led Team Canada delegations to India in the late 1990s.

On the other hand, Tom Mulcair didn’t seem to think Modi’s visit would change his electoral fortunes. He did not take an opportunity to meet with Modi, citing scheduling challenges.

Harper seems to assume that immigrant voters are not particularly complex. He appears to believe that a few photo ops and press conferences with foreign leaders will sway ethnic Canadians to the Conservative party.

Meeting with Modi might not be electorally important to Mulcair – two large Indo-Canadian communities in Canada, Brampton East and Surrey North, are already held by NDP MPs, despite the party’s limited stance on Canada-India relations.

Further, Harper seems to assume that immigrant voters are not particularly complex. He appears to believe that a few photo ops and press conferences with foreign leaders will sway ethnic Canadians to the Conservative party. 

However, like all other voters in the country, immigrant communities have complex reasons for how they vote – there is no electoral proof that ridings with large ethnic populations will elect one party over another on the basis of foreign policy. 

MPs from all parties are elected in ridings in Brampton, Mississauga, Scarborough, Abbotsford, Surrey and Richmond – all highly diverse communities across Canada.

Immigrant Vote is Complex Terrain

My research rejects this developing narrative. It has found that Canada’s immigrant communities are driven by all of the same factors as other voters, including quality of social services, investments, health care, education and economic benefits such as tax relief.  

They may vote Conservative because of their social values, NDP for their environmental policies, or Liberal because of their social policies, but explanations should not be isolated to one set of beliefs.

[T]hese communities are composed of second- and third-generation immigrants, women, linguistic and religious minorities, none of whom necessarily vote for or identify with homeland politics. 
 

In a review of electoral outcomes, my research found that votes are often split between parties in largely ethnic ridings, regardless if opposing candidates are from the same or different immigrant groups. This research is supported by significant scholarship in Canadian Foreign Policy that has acknowledged that foreign policy has little salience in electoral politics. 

Similarly, this narrative does not account for differences and complexities within immigrant communities. It ignores the idea that these communities are composed of second- and third-generation immigrants, women, linguistic and religious minorities, none of whom necessarily vote for or identify with homeland politics. 

Prominent India-watchers in Canada, such as Kasi Rao have noted that the “Indo-Canadian community has made strides in all parties in Canada, federally and provincially and I think the community has now deepened in Canada.” 

Given the religious, ethnic and nationalist divisions within the Indian diaspora, it cannot be assumed that they vote as a unified entity. 

With President Aquino’s visit upon us, expect numerous photo opportunities, important speeches and a number of well-timed handshakes. But if Prime Minister Harper believes that this will have a positive effect on the upcoming election, he may have another thing coming.


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

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Washington: A new US report has slammed politicians linked to India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for making derogatory comments against religious minority communities, but praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his statement in support of religious freedom. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), at whose recommendation the State Department had revoked Modi’s […]

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