by Florence Hwang in Regina
Communities across Canada are ramping up their efforts to link their local settlement services to meet the needs of newcomers through the federal Local Immigration Partnership (LIP) program.
The idea behind the program is to enhance existing partnerships by building networks upon existing networks to make sure Syrian refugees and other newcomers get connected with the resources they may need in their new communities.
Recently, the Sarnia-Lambton Local Immigration Partnership in Ontario helped 20 families of Syrian refugees settle into its community, while Moncton, New Brunswick also found out that it would receive funding to start its own LIP.
Across the country, more cities are getting on board with this model. Here’s a look at two examples:
Brooks, Alberta: Envisioning stages
Even prior to it signing up for this program in the fall of 2015, immigration was a major part of this city.
Shannyn Creary is the coordinator for the Brooks Local Immigration Partnership (BLIP). Creary estimates that immigrants make up 20 to 25 per cent of the city's population, which includes temporary foreign workers employed by the JBS Food Canada packing plant.
One selling point that draws immigrants to a small community like Brooks is the low cost of living.
Even though it isn’t one of the main centres where immigrants tend to gravitate, Brooks meets settlement needs, including housing and education.
“We are very equipped to receive newcomers,” says Creary.
On Jan. 26, Brooks held a forum to introduce the BLIP to the community, during which many questions were raised.
“We’re in that envisioning stage. What can we do? Where is our community at? Where would [residents] like to see this go?” Creary explains. “If we were to embark down certain paths, how would the community rate the project as a success?”
One of the first things the BLIP has to do is establish a baseline in terms of statistics. In order to do that, it needs to figure out how to collect data in a formal manner. However, Creary notes that there are already partnerships within the community.
People are used to having an informal network. LIPs can help formalize these networks and provide structured means of collecting information or doing research for community projects.
One service she says needs to be met is mentorship, as there aren’t many established immigrant families who can formally mentor newcomers.
The next step is to have the BLIP council established so the program’s steering committee can begin work by March.
Simcoe County, Ontario: Rapidly growing
Even in cities where LIPs have been long established, newcomers continue to seek new ways of connecting to services, requiring the programs to keep up.
Shelley Sarin says that when she moved to Toronto from India as a 21-year-old student, she felt included. But 10 years later when she moved to Barrie, Ontario, she says she was isolated in a place where she didn’t feel a sense of community.
That led Sarin to start the non-profit South Asian Association of Simcoe County four years ago. Since then, the association has grown. Diwali, which people primarily used to celebrate in their own homes, is now marked with an event Sarin’s organization puts on that attracts 400 people.
Sarin started working with the Simcoe LIP when it formed in 2011.
“As I talked with them, I went to more of these meetings, I realized it wasn’t just the South Asians that were feeling that way,” she recalls. “It was the Spanish people involved, the Filipino community was there, the Chinese group was very active, so there are a lot of ethnicities within Simcoe. And they were in the same place as we were.”
Sarin noticed these other ethnicities also didn’t have formal organizations that brought them together.
Simcoe LIP worked with each of these groups to provide them with guidance and mentorship.
“They showed us we had to register as a non-profit organization and we had to do things the proper way and [showed us] what’s out there and what kind of funding we can ask for,” Sarin says.
Today, about 7,000 new residents are coming into the Simcoe County annually, according to the Rural Ontario Institute, says Sandra Lee, project manager of the Simcoe LIP.
Syrian refugees are among the recent new arrivals who are benefiting from the network – and forcing its expansion.
To connect immigrants face-to-face with the services offered by the community, Simcoe LIP added libraries as information and referral mechanisms, because previously there were only two physical buildings within the county where immigrants could access settlement services and community information.
The libraries create 32 more points of access across Simcoe County, which is spread out over 18 municipalities.
“We have had time to prepare for [the Syrian refugees],” says Lee. “The new Syrians can benefit from the pilot projects we have in place with the local libraries.”
Simcoe LIP is also working towards building a multicultural centre where various ethnic groups can host their respective celebrations.
“We’re hoping to have inclusiveness,” says Sarin. “We’re painting the stage of Simcoe to be more colourful and being more actively involved in the festivals and embracing the different dynamics that we have within Simcoe.”
This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org
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It’s Saturday afternoon, and the Australians are everywhere. There’s one crouched behind me, nine spread across the field, and one straight ahead, whipping a ball at my face.
I swing at the ball. I miss, hard. I yank my shoulder, scream in pain and close my eyes as everything goes white. Cringing, I drop the bat, and it clatters to the frozen plywood—I let my team down in a double-whammy of physical and emotional pain. My eyes open but everything stays white—because this is snow cricket.
The Link Newspaper
by Belen Febres-Cordero in Vancouver
New approaches to immunization may help newcomers get the information they need to ensure their children’s records are up-to-date, though barriers still exist across the country.
In June 2015, Ottawa implemented the immunization strategy Every Child, Every Year. Marie-Claude Turcotte, manager of the vaccine-preventable disease program at Ottawa Public Health (OPH), explains that it is parents’ responsibility to provide updated immunization records to OPH. “We do not receive the information directly from the doctor’s office,” she says.
Through this strategy, parents are informed if their children’s immunization records do not meet the requirement of the Immunization of School Pupils Act (ISPA). They have a month to send the updated information to OPH. If they do not want to immunize their children for religious or medical reasons, they can provide an exception.
“We try to make this process as easy as possible. Parents can give us the information by phone, fax, online, mail or in person,” says Turcotte. They also provide information in different languages and they have translators available. In addition, they offer immunization clinics for individuals who do not have a family physician, where health insurance is not required.
If parents do not provide the update on time, the child can be suspended for up to 20 school days.
According to data OPH provided by email, between December 2015 and January 2016, OPH has issued suspensions to approximately 3,100 students. As of January 21, parents and guardians of 99% of students who were suspended between the same period have updated their immunization records, and these students have returned to school.
“It is crucial to have the system up-to-date because if there is an outbreak of a disease, we can see which children could be at risk and we can intervene on time,” says Turcotte.
National and provincial policies
Most Canadian provinces do not meet national immunization targets for key diseases. Different efforts aiming to achieve these targets have been implemented across the country, but the approaches vary from province to province.
While in Ontario immunizations are usually given at doctors’ offices and data is not officially recorded until a child enters school, provinces like Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador have a nurse-led model focusing on early interventions that start at birth, says Colin Busby, senior policy analyst at the C.D. Howe Institute.
Sofía Vargas emigrated from Chile and had her baby in Vancouver. She notes that in British Columbia interventions also start promptly. “There is a preoccupation to motivate parents to immunize their children,” she says. “As soon as the baby is born, the doctor explains why you should do it.”
Busby clarifies that each province has its unique features, and a policy that works in one is not necessarily effective in another. However, he believes that compelling parents to make a vaccination decision is an initial step to be considered nationally.
Challenges unique to newcomers
Improved access to clean water and vaccinations are the main reasons why longevity has increased over the last century, Busby explains. However, finding accurate and timely information about immunization can be difficult for newcomers.
“In a study conducted among immigrant women in Edmonton, we found that the reason why their children are not being immunized is that mothers are not being told where, when or how to receive vaccinations,” says Stephanie Kowal, knowledge translation coordinator in the School of Public Health at the University of Alberta.
Dr. Ubaka Ogbogu, assistant professor in University of Alberta’s faculties of law and pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences, identifies language barriers and challenges accessing health care as other difficulties newcomers may face.
Moreover, vaccines used in Canada are not always part of immunization programs globally, and immigrant families may have lived in circumstances where health care is limited or unreliable, explains Dr. Noni MacDonald, professor of pediatrics at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia.
She highlights the need for addressing this issue. “Immunizations are safe and effective ways to prevent diseases. There is no effective treatment for many of them once they are contracted, so prevention is our only strategy.”
Ways to get informed
However, Kowal believes that comprehensive information, communication and delivery services tailored to immigrants’ needs are lacking.
Although there are some resources provided in languages other than English and French, Dr. Ogbogu says that most of the information available is not translated.
Another challenge is that most information is online, leaving families without internet access behind, explains Kowal. She suggests seeking information through local libraries or family doctors; not being afraid of asking questions; and looking for translation services, available at some clinics and hospitals at no cost.
Vargas adds that there are provincial phone numbers people can call to ask for medical information. She encourages parents to look for resources and get involved. “Vaccines are a remarkable milestone in public health,” she says. “It is our duty as parents to be responsible in this scientific development that translates into the safety and health of our children.”
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by Florence Hwang in Regina
Experts say revoking the law that allows parents to spank their children can help clarify for newcomers the "mixed messages" they receive about corporal punishment in Canada.
Parents want to understand the law in Canada and how it fits in with their parenting style, notes Jean Tinling, the family program director at Mosaic Newcomer Family Resource Network.
“Their worries are reduced when they realize that they have a choice about keeping the best from their culture, adding in the best from Canadian culture and creating their own new third culture here in Canada,” she says. “They relax when they gain a better understanding of the law and when they realize that CFS [Child and Family Services] does not want to take their children or destroy their culture.”
Tinling feels this confusion for all parents can be done away by changing section 43 of the Criminal Code.
The Liberal government has agreed to remove a section of law that allows parents to spank their kids following the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was set up to inform Canadians about the experiences of indigenous children in residential schools.
Researchers and parenting experts agree that overhauling section 43 is long overdue, as it infringes on the human rights of children.
“It’s overwhelming talking about the harm of physical punishment,” says Ailsa Watkinson, Faculty of Social Work graduate studies coordinator at the University of Regina’s Saskatoon campus.
Watkinson says she thinks children should be treated like any other human being. It’s important to maintain warmth and connection between parent and child and to build on mutual trust while understanding the child’s stage of development, including physical, mental and emotional, she adds.
Dr. Joan Durrant, Social Studies professor at the University of Manitoba, says that mild physical punishment has consequences for some children, and cites research that shows it is linked to aggression and mental health problems that can continue into adult life.
Durrant has been studying the physical punishment of children for about 25 years. She points out that spanking raises the risk of injuring the child, makes the child fearful of the parent, and affects the child’s brain.
In Saskatchewan, the Victims of Domestic Violence Act protects those who are abused by their partners. If there is a child who observes their mother is being beaten, that child is considered in need of protection; but if that child is being beaten, he or she is not protected under the Act, says Watkinson.
Already, 48 countries have banned all forms of corporal punishment of children. Canada and the U.S. are not on that list.
Most parents – newcomers and Canadian born – parent the way they were parented, unless they learn and believe there is a more positive alternative, says Tinling. Physical and humiliating punishment is a very common method used to control children’s behaviour around the world, she adds.
“However, worldwide, it has been my experience that all parents love their children and want what is best for them,” says Tinling. “They want their children to learn to be respectful, to have positive social skills, and they also value having a positive relationship with their children.”
“Using aggression against a person does [the] exact opposite,” says Durrant.
She says she finds section 43 illogical, as there are laws that protect all other segments of society from physical harm, but not children.
“When it comes to your child, the law gives you a green light. There’s a message to parents that it’s not only OK, but actually the law says it’s justified,” she says. “It’s placing children at risk. And I find that absolutely unjust.”
Every culture thinks it is their tradition to spank their children, she notes. Durrant feels it isn’t a tradition, but an entrenched habit that people have a hard time giving up because they haven’t seen viable alternative solutions.
“There’s an assumption there that they are incapable of change,” notes Durrant, who doesn’t believe this assumption is correct.
Judy Arnall is an author and parenting expert. She takes issue with section 43’s wording of “reasonable force,” which she feels is very subjective.
“That’s why we need a very black-and-white law saying don’t do it. Ever. At all,” she says.
It’s an age-old issue.
“I remember talking to reporters 20 years ago and not much has changed. I think it is time [for this law to be abolished]. I tell my kids, ‘In your lifetime, I’m sure we’re going to change the law on this, because 48 countries have,’” she says.
by Daniel Leon Rodriguez in Calgary
For some, Alberta’s history is just about cowboys, oil, and Conservatives, but a new television series is shedding light on the many contributions that minority groups have made in the province.
An Omni TV magazine-style series, “Alberta Roots”, goes under the surface to tell the stories of immigrant communities and their contributions to the wild rose province, since the time of their early settlement to the present.
Gingi Baki, the executive producer of the show, says immigrants with their kind spirit have defined Alberta since its beginning – defying the intolerant redneck stereotype many hold of the province.
“Generosity is a common theme among all immigrants,” said Baki, who adds that throughout Alberta’s history when immigrants did well, they also helped others in their communities.
The province’s first pioneers were from Great Britain, the U.S., Germany, Ukraine, Scandinavia and other parts of Europe.
Among the first immigrants to come to Alberta from the U.S. were black farmers who were denied equal rights in Oklahoma. Many Chinese workers made Calgary home as well after the national railway was built.
“There have been small pockets of immigrants through all our history,” says Baki.
Many immigrants have also come to Alberta because of the good economic times – from the gold rush to the first oil booms. However, many of them stayed after because of the beauty of the province, Baki suggests.
“The openness, the skies and the sunsets stay in your soul.”
Facing racism in the pioneer years
Kirk Niergarth, a professor of Canadian history at Mount Royal University in Calgary, says it was hard for minority groups to settle in Alberta right up to the early 20th century.
In 1911, a white teenager, Hazel Huff, lost her mother’s diamond ring and blamed it on a “big, black, burly nigger”* who broke into her home and assaulted her.
Media hysteria broke in Edmonton, and her assault was blamed on black people immigrating to the province, according to historical archives.
When Huff later told the truth, it was too late. “The damage was already done,” says Niergarth.
In 1892, a Chinese man fell ill with smallpox in Calgary. To contain the disease, city officials burned the laundry where he lived, and put all of its occupants under armed quarantine.
A mob of 300 people tried to run the quarantined individuals out of Calgary when they were released – and the RCMP had to control the situation.
Niergarth explains that Alberta – like the rest of Canada – felt troubled by the changes newcomers were bringing to society.
“The waves of immigration created anxiety of the unknown.”
Alberta’s changing fabric
It is not a secret that Alberta is growing rapidly. Part of this growth is that more minorities are moving into the province.
According to Statistics Canada census data, the growth of Alberta visible minorities has skyrocketed. In 1991, visible minorities made 9.4 per cent of Alberta’s population. As of 2011, they represented 18.4 per cent.
Of those visible minorities, a 2008 report shows 91 per cent settled in the major cities – Calgary and Edmonton. But that also appears to be changing.
Presently, the city of Lethbridge attracts many visible minorities thanks to its low cost of living and good job market. The city is home to the biggest Bhutanese community in Canada.
Surya Acharya, an agricultural research scientist and immigrant from India, moved to Lethbridge from Edmonton in 1989. His friends told him that he was moving into “redneck country.” They said he wouldn’t survive too long in the small southern Alberta city.
It has been almost 30 years, and Acharya says he has been comfortable in Lethbridge since he arrived.
“They were wrong,” he adds.
Today, he is the president of the Southern Alberta Ethnic Association, where 32 different ethnic groups from four different continents are represented.
Acharya says things have changed extensively since he moved into Lethbridge. “It is more common these days to see visible minorities in Southern Alberta.”
Acharya says the reason why there aren’t more visible minorities in rural Alberta isn’t because of intolerance, but lack of resources and entertainment opportunities.
“Jobs only keep them busy for 40 hours,” he says.
Alberta’s immigrant spirit
Acharya says that the redneck stereotype is untrue in modern Alberta. For him the pioneer immigrant spirit is what represents the province.
“It doesn’t matter where you came from, people only care that you work hard – it doesn’t matter your colour or religion,” he shares.
Niergarth says the stereotype of Alberta being a redneck province comes from the interpretation of its culture and politics in other parts of Canada.
Things like the Calgary Stampede and the platform of the Reform party were associated with the redneck image, he explains.
However, these views of Alberta aren’t always accurate. “It is not based in research, so proceed with caution,” Niergarth says.
If Alberta was really intolerant there would be no immigrants in the province, he adds.
“Maybe the proof is in the dough.”
“Alberta Roots” is being aired on Omni TV in Alberta and British Columbia. In the future it will be aired in Ontario, and it will be available on the Omni website.
*Editor's Note: "The racial slur, albeit disquieting, was quoted precisely from a historical context to establish the type of mentality that existed among some people."
by Sukaina Jaffer in Toronto
A tax cut introduced by the new federal government looks to strengthen the middle class, but some Canadian immigrants disagree about how it will help newcomers.
The new change will provide about $3.4 billion in tax relief to nine million individuals, according to Stéphanie Rubec, a communications officer from the Department of Finance in Ottawa.
Canadians earning between $45,282 and $90,563 will see taxes drop from 22 per cent to 20.5 per cent.
Single individuals who benefit will see an average tax reduction of $330 every year. Couples that benefit will see an average tax reduction of $540 annually.
A mixed bag for newcomers
Rida Zeeshan and her husband, who works as a senior analyst at CIBC Mellon, emigrated from Pakistan six months ago. They see both advantages and disadvantages to the changes.
“[It’s] a good move for middle-class families who are earning above $45,000; however, it won't help lower-class families because tax rates for [the] first taxable income threshold ($45,282 or below) haven't changed at all,” Zeeshan wrote in an email interview with New Canadian Media.
According to Canada Revenue Agency’s most recent tax-filing data and income statistics for the 2012 tax year, around 66 per cent of people had income below $45,000. This group would not benefit from the tax cut.
Although she says the benefits of living in Canada are much better compared to Pakistan, Zeehan says there is no clear information available specifically for new immigrants.
“There should be a website or printed brochures that describe benefits available to new immigrants.”
Zeeshan mentions that they do not utilize any government benefits. They took advantage of just one when her husband bought professional attire through an employment centre.
As for Basim Al-Ali, who relocated from Dubai to Canada in 2011, he says he feels the taxing system in the country is fair. “The government here gives more benefits to people.” Al-Ali mentions that in Dubai, non-nationals do not pay tax.
Syed Furqan Zaidi, an inventory controller in a manufacturing company, says that by paying his taxes regularly here, he is able to take advantage of the government’s benefits, such as the child tax benefit, GST/HST premium benefit, universal childcare benefit and the Trillium benefit. He moved from Pakistan to Canada three years ago.
The government also intends to introduce the Canada Child Benefit – a tax-free and more generous benefit to help families raise their kids.
Faheem Mazher, a senior tax analyst with Deloitte LLP in Toronto, says that this benefit will help families for a longer time than the previous Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB).
In addition, the government plans to repeal income splitting for families with children. Zeeshan says this is “not a good move because this was the only tax relief available to lower-class families, which has now been relinquished.”
For newcomers to Canada to be able to access benefits, income tax forms must be filed. Volunteer tax clinics, like the one at Northwood Neighborhood Services (NNS) in Toronto, are available to help people complete their tax forms.
“In a year we serve an average of 400 people whom we help to file income tax returns,” says Francois Yabit, executive director of NNS, a non-profit organization running for more than 10 years.
This service is provided for low-income community members who qualify and assists a diverse clientele of Chinese, Spanish, South Asian and African newcomer Canadians.
The organization offers income tax clinics from March to April by appointment. However, during the year, they offer services to those who face problems such as forgetting to file their tax forms on time.
“If you do not file tax forms, then you cannot get benefits from the government,” says Yabit.
Some taxpayer benefits include the child tax benefit, GST/HST premium benefit, disability support, universal childcare benefit, medical credits, children’s fitness and art credits, tuition credits and the Trillium benefit.
But to ensure that one is eligible for such benefits, Mazher says newcomers need to be “transparent” and to “not cheat the system in any way, shape or form” because the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) can enforce heavy penalties.
In addition, Mazher points out, “Many newcomers don’t realize that they have to pay taxes on overseas income.” This may include property overseas or accounts, stocks, investments and bonds that are generating interest.
Tax-filing for newcomers
Mazher advises newcomers to retain their receipts, transit passes and donation receipts and to file their taxes even if they have no income so they can get tax credits to carry over.
He also recommends people to retain their receipts for six years in case of an audit by the CRA.
“It is essential that tax forms be filed by the end of April or one can accrue penalties and interest from the CRA,” states Mazher.
But while the new tax cut is set to benefit the middle-class population, it still may not help many immigrants who are struggling to make ends meet in low-income jobs.
Zeeshan has a couple of suggestions for ways the government could help those who may need a little more support.
“We think the government should also introduce a tax relief or discounted tax rates for new immigrants living in Canada for two years or less,” she says.
“This will help them to decrease their expenses and to get settled here quickly.”
by Tazeen Inam in Mississauga, Ontario
According to the 2015 child poverty report for Toronto, newcomer children, children of colour and children with disabilities are among the largest groups living in poverty. Families that fall into more than one of these groups face even more grim circumstances.
Sean Meagher, Executive Director of Social Planning Toronto suggests that immigrants with non-European backgrounds taking care of children born with disabilities face financial crises often.
“English speaking [people], compared to the significant number of immigrants who are not from that background, are successful in getting jobs and we do have a racially segmented employment market [that] people with coloured skin face.”
Sacrificing to take care of family
Those taking care of someone with a disability often relinquish their own plans, as is the case of Ottawa resident Maryem Hashi (name changed for privacy).
Hashi has three younger siblings between the ages of 22 and 26 years old who all have disabilities. She gave up her university studies and a full-time job to fulfill her responsibilities at home.
Hashi, who moved here from Pakistan, recalls her initial days in Canada, when her mother had to face the ordeal of raising her siblings, without much access to Internet. With difficulty in speaking and understanding English, she had to navigate things like funding, health care and programs that suit the needs of her children.
“My siblings didn’t receive any government funds and didn’t go to any specially designed programs to cater to their needs as my parents were not aware that some services were available,” explains Hashi.
Hashi’s siblings have delayed development, which usually starts showing up after a child is two to five years old. It is a “mild” condition that affects their ability to do things “independently.”
“They tend to forget things easily and [have an] inability to do things on a daily basis like managing money, packing a [backpack], remembering directions, etc. and the challenge is to keep them in conversation,” shares Hashi.
Today, Hashi is a program assistant and works part-time in occupational therapy, serving children with disabilities under the age of three to five years old.
What happens after 21 years old?
For Hashi’s siblings, a crucial time came when they each turned 21, as that is the cut-off age for school programming for kids with a disability.
“Due to the lack of government funded after school programs, people with disability after 21 years of age usually stay at home as there is a long waiting [lists] to get into programs suitable to their needs,” says Hashi.
She says that such programs are a support for caregivers too, and allow the young person not to lose what they have learned from school.
“My siblings [have been] home for a couple of years, and [are] alone with depression and low self esteem; it’s hard to deal with their ordeal,” she shares. “If we take programs privately, it starts at $90 a day, which is unaffordable with multiple siblings [with a] disability.”
Rabia Khedr, executive director of the Canadian Association of Muslims with Disabilities, runs a program in Mississauga, Ont., DEEN (Disability Empowerment Equality Network) support service, which is an extended-hour day program and works on the capacity building of individuals with disabilities who have aged out of school programs.
“It will be an 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. program,” explains Khedr, “and gives enough time range to caregivers – particularly those who are striving to earn.”
The school has a sliding scale fee structure and the rest is fundraised through charitable donations.
In the long run, Khedr is planning a residence service, especially for people with disabilities who do not have caregivers. She shares that in Ontario alone 12,000 people with intellectual disabilities are waiting for housing.
Khedr’s extension of the school in Ottawa, where Hashi will provide some of her services too, is at the initial stage and individuals with disabilities will get three hours of activities on Sunday only starting in the new year.
Making ends meet
Every year on Dec. 3 is the International Day of Persons with Disability. The theme in 2015: Inclusion matters, access and empowerment of people with all abilities.
Still for some, medications, dental care and eye check-ups are not included. And in the cases of people with disabilities things like electronic gadgets, crutches, wheelchairs and scooters to assist in daily life are also not fully covered.
“They have to hire special vans to take these individuals from place to place. This all has a cost,” says Hashi. “And we want at least medication to be cost-free for all.”
Khedr says that people who don’t have the experience of poverty won’t understand how choices can become increasingly limited when a person is on welfare assistance.
She suggests, “The solution lies in a combination of a few hours of activity and government funds.”
by Maria Ikonen in Gatineau, Quebec
Growing up in a small village in Iran near the Caspian Sea, Maria Rasouli felt the rush of freedom as she explored her surroundings riding her bicycle.
Despite being able to provide her with great joy, the activity was seen as inappropriate for an 11-year-old girl.
Things changed when she moved to Canada at age 24. Here, she was finally able to make her dreams of exploring the world on two wheels a reality.
Today, she is the founder and operator of Escape Bicycle Tours, a company that gives tourists and adventure seekers bike tours around Ottawa.
Her company was one of three winners of an Immigrant Entrepreneur Award this year from the City of Ottawa.
“A true source of inspiration [for my business] was my life in Iran as a woman where I was not allowed to bicycle,” she says.
She adds that Escape Bicycle Tours was the result of two years of self-reflection that finally gave her the courage to pursue her dreams of riding a bicycle. Her passion for the sport is what she aims to provide for her clients.
“I have had guests who said they did not remember the last time they were on a bicycle or they had not bicycled for over 30 years,” she shares. “They were so happy that they took a bicycle tour with Escape.”
Challenges of an immigrant entrepreneur
Despite the motivation to take an entrepreneurial path, new Canadians may find obstacles in things like time-consuming bureaucracy and a lack of local networks.
According to David Crick, an international entrepreneurship and marketing professor from the University of Ottawa, a newcomer’s existing skill set or business model from overseas is not guaranteed to work well in Canada – there may be more competition already here.
“They may have to look towards something that offers value [to Canadians like] lower costs,” he says.
Another issue may rise from having no local banking history.
“Even getting lines of credit from banks may be hard,” Crick explains. “[It is] a high risk to banks. This makes starting a business problematic.”
Moe Abbas, founder of Ottawa General Contractors and another winner of the Immigrant Entrepreneur Award this year, points out other difficulties such as prejudice.
“[There] are still many people who put immigrants into a box, and this is not something that will be changed quickly,” he says.
“We must all understand how we are viewed in the eyes of the clients we serve. That judgement may not be a bad thing if we know what it is, and can work with it.”
Rasouli also mentions the challenge of being in unfamiliar territory when new to Canada. She had to take some time to establish herself and gain a better understanding of how business is conducted in Canada.
“I actually think it is a good idea for immigrants to work in Canada for a few years before starting their own business. There are lots of things that an immigrant can learn from co-workers and how organizations are run in Canada by being in a workplace,” she says.
“That knowledge could later on be used for starting a business, building partnerships, marketing, sales and customer service.”
She adds that the absence of family members in Canada can result in the lack of a support net, but may create a platform to improve as an entrepreneur.
“I do not have the emotional, psychological, and sometimes financial support that family members could provide. This has led me to build strong professional and support networks and work harder to succeed.”
Tips for immigrant entrepreneurs
Despite the challenges many newcomer entrepreneurs face, networking with similar ethnic groups could be something beneficial to try, Crick says.
“They may have networks overseas that can help in self-employment practices,” he explains. “For example, depending on the nature of the business model employed, some may have access to import or export linkages that domestic Canadian firms may not have.”
Abbas, who is in the process of working on a social media start-up, Bumpn Inc., highlights the importance in understanding the consumer’s mindset.
“If you are an entrepreneur selling to a demographic, you must look and behave, or at least understand deeply, the demographic you are serving,” he says.
“People buy from people they trust. They usually trust people like them.”
Rasouli emphasizes the value of making connections.
“Network, network and network: people are often very kind and try to help if you ask them,” she says. “So, make sure that you have a diverse, solid network of professionals and friends who could help you with various aspects of your business and life.”
Success is mostly in an entrepreneur’s hands, Rasouli adds.
“Your success is … dependent on the amount of work you put into your business. You don’t have to wait for a performance appraisal or a manager to acknowledge or approve your work. The harder and smarter you work, the more success you bring to your business.”
by Belén Febres-Cordero in Vancouver
Immigrants from Asia are three to 12 times more likely to get hepatitis B than their Canadian-born counterparts, says a new public education campaign launched by S.U.C.C.E.S.S., an immigrant-serving organization in British Columbia.
Dr. Eric Yoshida, professor of medicine at the University of British Columbia and head of the division of gastroenterology at the Vancouver General Hospital, explains that the high prevalence of the hepatitis B virus (HBV) among newcomers can be attributed to mother-to-child transmissions at birth or early childhood in countries where infection rates are high, and where vaccination is uncommon.
Infection rates are also impacted by the lack of systematic testing and treatment for new immigrants arriving to the country, as well as high costs of medications, lack of awareness, and difficulty accessing medical care.
“I know many HBV carriers who ignore the infection because they can’t find a stable doctor or a doctor who speaks their language,” says T.H., who migrated to Canada from Taiwan when he was 12 years old and is an HBV carrier.
Another difficulty he recognizes is that the resources available are mostly provided in English, or are too technical.
Urgent need for education
Aiming to reduce the barriers that newcomers may face when accessing these resources, S.U.C.C.E.S.S. carried out the Let’s Talk About B: Hepatitis B (HBV) Public Education Program.
“We recognized the urgent need for the program after conducting 1,000 surveys among different groups, through which we discovered that most people don’t know much about hepatitis B,” explains Queenie Choo, CEO of S.U.C.C.E.S.S.
Financed by a grant of the provincial government, S.U.C.C.E.S.S conducted 68 educational workshops and participated in 105 community and outreach events to raise awareness about the risks, prevention, diagnosis, treatment options, and self-management tools of hepatitis B among the general public and Asian immigrants in particular.
It reached almost 30,000 individuals of all ages among Chinese, Korean, Filipino and South Asian communities in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland.
“Every community is unique and each one requires different information. The resources available need to adapt to each population so that people are more likely to engage with them,” says Alan Huang, S.U.C.C.E.S.S. HBV program manager.
“For this reason, the materials we created were culturally appropriate,” he adds. The workshops were given by facilitators who spoke the language of the communities they focused on, were provided in places where these populations usually congregate, and addressed cultural beliefs that could prevent people from getting involved.
Huang also says that they focused on Asian populations because they tend to have a higher risk of getting hepatitis B. There are approximately 60,000 to 100,000 chronic carriers in B.C. Near 70 per cent of them are immigrants, and among those, over 85 per cent are of Asian descent.
Dr. Yoshida explains that while several factors increase immigrants’ risks of getting infected, HBV is also prevalent in other regions of the world. T. H. considers that educational programs such as Let’s Talk About B “can raise awareness and help people understand that HBV is not just an immigrant disease, but something we should all be aware of and encourage people around us to get tested.”
According to a S.U.C.C.E.S.S. press release, around 75 per cent of the participants discussed HBV with their primary care providers and/or got screened. The organization continues engaging community-based organizations and public health officials to promote and deliver health campaigns among other populations across Canada in the future.
Hepatitis B (HBV) is a type of liver disease caused by a virus. Billie Potkonjak, director of health promotion and patient services of the Canadian Liver Foundation, explains that one of the main risks of HBV is that if it is not diagnosed and treated on time, it can increase patients’ chances of developing liver cancer and other chronic conditions, such as cirrhosis.
However, HBV is a “silent killer,” according to Choo. Dr. Jessica Chan, family physician and chair of the Hepatitis Medical Advisory Committee for S.U.C.C.E.S.S., says that the condition is likely to go undiagnosed because symptoms do not appear immediately.
HBV is diagnosed through a simple blood test that can be performed for free at family doctors’ offices and walk-in clinics. Nevertheless, as Dr. Chan points out, unless people specifically tell their doctor that they want to be tested, physicians will assume that somebody else has already performed the screening.
Hence, Potkonjak highlights that “it is extremely important to talk to your doctor, so that they can diagnose the disease if you have it, and prescribe appropriate medication to stop the virus from destroying your liver.”
Stigma can prevent people from seeking appropriate care. “HBV is somewhat of an unknown disease in Canada. It is not a topic I like to discuss openly, in fear of being rejected,” says T.H.
One of the myths around HBV is related to its transmission. Dr. Chan explains that although hepatitis B can also be transmitted by blood or body fluids, the majority of people worldwide get infected during childhood or infancy.
Dr. Yoshida adds that it cannot be transmitted through food, coughing, or casual contact. “It is not contracted because you had lunch with somebody or sat on a crowded bus.”
The difference between hepatitis A, B, and C may also be unknown to the general public.
Fear of deportation is present among immigrants, but Canada does not deport people because of the disease, and individuals should not be discriminated based on health status in the country, explains Dr. Yoshida.
A person who migrated from Hong Kong and has lived with HBV for 35 years recommends people to engage with projects such as the Let’s Talk About B Program and the Living with Liver Disease Program offered in different provinces by the Canadian Liver Foundation.
“It is important to stay positive and get in charge of your own health,” he says. “Don’t be afraid of talking to your doctor, getting tested, and receiving treatment if you need it. There is nothing to be ashamed of, and this can save your life.”
by Andrew Griffith in Ottawa
Robin Higham’s What Would You Say? ... as guest speaker at the next Canadian citizenship ceremony is an anecdote-based approach to understanding the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.
His latest book builds upon his thoughts on integration, first expressed in his earlier work, Who Do We Think We Are, which focused on reasonable accommodation.
As before, Higham uses archetype-characters – both Canadian-born and immigrants – to express a range of perspectives, ranging from ‘old-stock’ (indigenous, francophone, anglophone) to ‘new-stock’ (East European, Latin American, Indo- and Muslim) Canadians through a conversation about the responsibilities of integration and citizenship.
While this is an effective technique to outline some of the issues involved and capture different perspectives, it has a number of weaknesses, starting with how the discussion is framed.
Complexities of integration and accommodation
Higham’s underlying bias and ideology are clear.
His choice of Gilles Paquet’s apocalyptic frame — political correctness, reluctance to confront, culture of entitlement and unreasonable accommodation — and how these are interpreted, reflect a distinctly conservative perspective, focused on social cohesion more than inclusion.
But this frame is more asserted than demonstrated through evidence, along with his underlying premise that integration is the responsibility of the newcomer. His characters all largely assert this, with the anecdotes selected to buttress his argument.
In reality, there is a more complex dynamic of integration and accommodation. Integration is not one-way, but multi-dimensional. Debates over what kinds of accommodation are reasonable and what are not illustrate this.
There is an abundance of evidence from Statistics Canada, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and other international organizations that indicate Canada is remarkably successful overall compared to other countries in building an integrated society that recognizes the diversity of different groups.
It is a society most Canadians are comfortable with.
A large part of this success reflects precisely our ability to be flexible and accommodate difference, allowing integration to take place over time, but within the overall Canadian constitutional and legal framework.
Considering old and new Canadians alike
Anecdotal evidence suggests that ‘political correctness’ and a ‘reluctance to confront’ can be seen as civility and that the alternative, as seen in the recent Canadian election (e.g., the wedge politics of the niqab), the USA (e.g., the Republican primary) and Europe is not helpful to integration or belonging.
This is not to say that Canada is without challenges, whether it be with respect to finding the right balance between integration and accommodation, or the declining rate of citizenship.
But given this, where does Higham end up on citizenship rights and responsibilities for newcomers?
1. Be mindful of what wasn’t working when you left home – emigrated – and also remember why you chose to come to Canada.
2. Exercise civility even towards the ‘others’ in your community. You should also find that there are many fewer ‘others’ around you once you join the ‘otherness community.’
3. We need your engagement and investment in our democratic processes and institutions. They are our default complaint-management mechanism.
4. Strive for low maintenance citizen status, especially, but not only, with respect to government and community-funded social support programs.
5. Build trust amongst citizens, all citizens. Always talk to strangers.
6. Be sensitive to those obvious 'un-Canadian' transgressions. Know what kinds of things it is best to avoid.
7. At home, be alert to your responsibility to respect and protect each of your family members’ rights. Monitor and coach the youngsters in your entourage.
8. Accept that there are limits to the capacity of society to accommodate new expressions of values, beliefs and traditions. Expect to have to make adjustments in order to prosper.
To Higham’s credit, these are expressed with respect, modelling how one can overcome the ‘reluctance to confront’ in a manner that encourages dialogue, rather than shutting it down. But it does beg the question: how would one construct such a list that applies to both old and new Canadians?
My take, drawing on Higham’s list, suggests that this is not difficult:
1. Be mindful of what wasn’t working when you or your ancestors left the country of origin and chose to come to Canada.
2. Exercise civility towards all, whether new or old Canadians, whether from one’s ethno-cultural, racial or religious group or not, whether male, female or transgender, whether gay or straight, etc.
3. Engage and participate actively in wider Canadian political life and debates, not just ones of immediate interest to you.
4. Used our social safety net when needed, do not abuse.
5. Be trustful of others and forgiving of misunderstandings.
6. Be understanding of others and their sensitivities, whether cultural, religious or other. Accommodate where feasible and treat accommodation requests with respect.
7. Be mindful of one’s biases and prejudices before acting or opining.
8. Apply these in the home, workplace and wider society.
I encourage those interested in citizenship and multiculturalism issues to read Higham’s book for his modelling of respectful dialogue. But I would also encourage all to consider how to frame such discussions in a manner that includes old and new Canadians alike, and offer my list above to continue the conversation.
Andrew Griffith is the author of Multiculturalism in Canada: Evidence and Anecdote and Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias: Resetting Citizenship and Multiculturalism and is a regular media commentator and blogger (Multiculturalism Meanderings). He is the former Director General for Citizenship and Multiculturalism.
-- Canada's economic development minister Navdeep Bains at a Public Policy Forum economic summit