New Canadian Media

by Brad Dunne (@BradDunne1796) in St. John’s [Part 2 of an in-depth investigative series]

The face of Canada’s immigration system has been changing drastically. With the federal government scaling back on settlement service funding in parts of central Canada, the situation is even bleaker in the Atlantic region, where funding is hard to come by.

The Refugee and Immigrant Advisory Council (RIAC), for example, is on life support. With the recent uncertainty in the value of oil, the private businesses who were RIAC’s prominent donors were forced to cancel their regular donations. The non-profit NGO has had to lay off its staff and is surviving month to month on private donations and volunteers.

“The drop in oil has affected us all,” says Jose Rivera, executive director of RIAC. Much like Alberta, oil is the dominant force in Newfoundland’s economy.

RIAC’s decline comes at a precipitous time for the province. According to a recent article in the Globe and Mail, by John Ibbitson, jobs are disappearing, young people are leaving and the population keeps getting older.

As a solution, Ibbitson urges the province, and other regions in Atlantic Canada facing similar challenges, to “aggressively recruit immigrants, to slow the aging of the population while injecting new energy and ideas.”

“In fact, newcomers are happy to be here, but they don’t get the support they need. They leave for the big cities because they think that’s where they’ll get help.” - Jose Rivera, Refugee and Immigrant Advisory Council, Newfoundland

Traditionally, however, Atlantic Canada has not been a hub for newcomers. Governments have been sluggish in developing recruitment strategies.

“Conventional wisdom is that newcomers would rather go to cities like Montreal, Toronto, or Vancouver,” explains Rivera.

“In fact, newcomers are happy to be here, but they don’t get the support they need. They leave for the big cities because they think that’s where they’ll get help.”

While settlement services in central Canada are far from ideal, they do seem to be more of a priority there than with the Newfoundland government. This is presumably because the number of newcomers settling in the Atlantic province is low. According to Stats Canada, in 2014, Newfoundland only took 0.4 per cent of Canada’s total immigrants.

However, Rivera believes that if Newfoundland were to commit to immigration, the numbers would increase.

Rivera came to St. John’s, Newfoundland, as a refugee from Columbia in 2002. He started working with RIAC in 2004.

In the last 10 years, the organization’s annual budget has grown from $5,000 to $100,000. RIAC has come to play an integral role in helping immigrants and refugees in a province that has historically struggled in retaining newcomers.

“We are in danger of losing all the work and progress we’ve accomplished,” Rivera says.

“There is no manual [newcomers] can just pick up at the airport. It’s our job to fill that gap of knowledge.” - Jose Rivera, Refugee and Immigrant Advisory Council, Newfoundland

RIAC receives no government funding. In fact, The Association for New Canadians is the only organization that offers government funded services in Newfoundland. Rivera says this is insufficient, as in other parts of Canada the government makes much more significant investments in settlement.

Newcomers need more robust services when they come to Newfoundland.

“There is no manual they can just pick up at the airport,” Rivera says. “It’s our job to fill that gap of knowledge.”

A Leading Example

As Ibbitson points out in his article, Prince Edward Island (PEI) is bucking the trend in Atlantic Canada.

By making extensive use of the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) and a sophisticated coordination of its settlement services, PEI has been able to attract and retain newcomers in droves.

According to PEI’s Association for New Canadians (ANC), PEI has 0.4 per cent of Canada’s population and it attracts 0.5 per cent of the nation’s immigration. Meanwhile, Newfoundland, with 1.4 per cent of the country’s population, attracts only 0.4 per cent of its immigrations.

“We still haven’t gotten over ‘Islander’ mentality. That people born in the province are ‘Islanders’ and that newcomers are ‘Come From Aways.’ We are all Islanders.” - Craig Mackie, PEI Association for New Canadians

As well, in the past eight years, PEI’s retention rates have improved from approximately 20 to over 40 per cent.

The secret to PEI’s success is how the province integrates its settlement services with various stakeholders, a strategy it developed in 2010 (seen below).

Much of this is achieved by Island Investment Development, Inc. (IIDI), a crown corporation that develops, implements and manages programs and services focused on increasing PEI’s population. 

Craig Mackie, executive director of PEI’s ANC, explains, “The three keys to integration and retention are learning the language, employment and social inclusion.”

The province offers free English language classes – funded by the federal and provincial governments – for permanent residents.

In regards to employment, PEI’s PNP has two main categories to address its economic needs: the labour impact category and the business impact category.

The former is geared towards attracting skilled or temporary workers and is employer-driven. The latter is meant to attract foreign nationals to invest and manage a business in PEI.

Applicants who meet the criteria enter into an escrow agreement with the province to 100 per cent own, partially own or begin investing in a business in the province.

From 2013-14, PEI had 389 applicants for the 100 per cent ownership stream.

Mackie says the ANC is busy working on the third element, social inclusion. To that end, the ANC recently organized a gathering of over 100 people to discuss ways to make the province more welcoming to newcomers.

“We still haven’t gotten over ‘Islander’ mentality,” Mackie says. “That people born in the province are ‘Islanders’ and that newcomers are ‘Come From Aways.’ We are all Islanders.”

Missed Opportunity

Like PEI, Newfoundland also struggles with an “Islander” mentality.

“Friendly people don’t necessarily make friends,” remarks Lois Berrigan, settlement services manager at the ANC in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

Though Newfoundlanders have a reputation for hospitality and friendliness, “Come From Aways”, or “CFAs”, are terms that are heard often. Though rarely intended with malice, the separation is obvious.

Ben Waring, the diversity coordinator at the St. John’s ANC, agrees. “The population has been homogenous for so long. There’s going to be growing pains.”

Nonetheless, there have been high profile success stories of integration in the province. The CBC series "Land and Sea" ran an episode entitled “The Southern Shore Sri Lankans,” which profiled two Sri Lankan mechanics and their families, who’d immigrated to the rural town of Cape Broyle.

Rural, or “outport,” Newfoundland is the sort of homogenous area that would presumably struggle with newcomers, so stories like these illustrate how the province may be ready to embrace multiculturalism.

Furthermore, of the Atlantic region, Newfoundland is best positioned economically to invest heavily in a more robust settlement network. It is also arguably the most in need of immigration.

Oil revenue has helped fill government coffers, but unemployment remains high at 15.6 per cent.

And, by 2020, the province anticipates that 70,000 jobs will be available, most of which will be the result of attrition, but 7,700 of those will be new positions. Of these positions, 66.7 per cent will be in management occupation and will require a post-secondary education.

“We need to increase our population. Soon, we’ll fall back to ‘have-not’ status. We’ve got to do something.” - Lois Berrigan, Association for New Canadians, St. John's, Newfoundland

Moreover, Newfoundland is old and getting older. According to the 2014 census, Newfoundland had the highest median age (44.6) and it is projected that 31 per cent of the population will be 65 years and older by 2036.

By mimicking PEI, Newfoundland could lower its unemployment by injecting the economy with new investors and entrepreneurs, while simultaneously rejuvenating the population with young families.

“We need to increase our population,” says Berrigan. “Soon, we’ll fall back to ‘have-not’ status. We’ve got to do something.”

Rivera agrees. “For our needs, the province needs at least five settlement services working together.” At present there are three, the ANC, RIAC, and the Multicultural Women’s Organization of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Nonetheless, the issue right now is quality, not quantity. There is a lack of cooperation among stakeholders and services. Newcomers are not able to cut through the red tape and access the services they need; Newfoundland needs it own Island Investment Development, Inc. of sorts.

That is not to say that all is bleak in the region. For instance, the Connector program run by the Halifax Partnership has received country-wide acclaim, most recently at the Metropolis conference in Vancouver. The program is serving as a "best practice" for other immigrant settlement organizations, including in Toronto.

The New Brunswick Multicultural Council continues efforts "to make New Brunswick the province of choice for ... newcomers" and even tiny Cape Breton in Nova Scotia is "dreaming big". 

For now, though, Newfoundland, and the rest of Atlantic Canada, would be wise to imitate PEI – the overachieving sibling.


In the previous 360º instalment, NCM looked at settlement services in Ontario. The final piece in this series will move westward to examine the state of settlement in provinces like British Columbia and Manitoba.

 

Published in Top Stories
Tuesday, 24 March 2015 12:22

Restoring a True Canadian Narrative

by Danica Samuel (@danicasamuel) in Toronto

It is time for Aboriginals to reclaim their power and influence in Canada. 

This is what author, essayist and president of PEN International John Ralston Saul is advocating for. Host of ‘A New Conversation: Indigenous and New Canadian Perspectives on Canada’ held at Ryerson University Monday night, Saul aims to bring this message to the forefront. He has already sparked a lot of global and national attention on citizenship and the public good with his books A Fair Country: Telling Truths about Canada and The Comeback.

“Here we are in the new Canadian city with the majority of its population unborn here, it is also the biggest reserve in Canada,” says Saul (pictured to the right). “There’s 75 to 100 thousand Aboriginals and there’s basically no conversation going on, between the people who are from here and the people who are coming here.” 

With both the Native and newcomer voice present, event panellists include: Indigenous author and poet, Lee Maracle, senior advisor to the president of the University of Manitoba, Ovide Mercredi, director of zone learning at Ryerson University, Randy Boyagoda, and executive director of the Global Diversity Exchange, Ratna Omidvar. 

After an opening prayer from Cree elder, Joanne Dallaire, panel members deliver individual opening statements, all underlining the main point: reissue the Canadian narrative back to its original state and find out what the original conversation surrounding Aboriginals consisted of. Furthermore, once the original conversation and narrative is brought to life, share it consistently.

Understanding History 

Mercredi says the lack of knowledge on the issues that Indigenous communities face stems from people not having an understanding of Canadian history. He then alludes that the majority of Aboriginals’ history was spent protecting themselves and avoiding poverty as an essence for survival. 

“The conversation between the first peoples of Canada and the newest people of Canada is a vacuum, it does not happen.” - Ratna Omidvar, Global Diversity Exchange

“Historically, the conversation between [Aboriginals], French and the English, didn’t go too well, because once they got a foothold of our territory they were dismissive of our people our culture and our own sovereignty,” explains Mercredi. 

“Then, began a process of displacement and a process of non-engagement. So, most of the history has been about trying to protect our history.” 

In parallel to Mercredi, Maracle states that European’s colonization over Canada has been nothing, but detrimental.

“Things changed when the British lost their rights to automatic citizenship. It changed because the people coming from the other parts of the world were people of colour,” she explains. “Although, the [British] didn’t lose their place as the dominant white male.” 

Dialogues Without Barriers

The panellists emphasized that the conversation around the land people come to needs to be accurately taught. Boyagoda explains that growing up in the ’70s and ’80s, the talk of native people in Canada was greatly circumvented.

“I probably lived through what I would describe as the institutionalization and professionalization of the conversation around Indigenous rights and relations with the rest of Canada,” he says. He adds the continuation of raw, in-depth conversations would be considered a “luxury good” to a lot of immigrants he knows..

But, Omidvar claims the issue is far more deeply rooted.

“The conversation between the first peoples of Canada and the newest people of Canada is a vacuum, it does not happen,” Omidvar says, passionately. “I think this is a result of the way the country has constructed itself, which encourages people to stay separate as opposed to coming together. It’s the way we have constructed our national narrative.”

“We have a short history as far as the nation states is concerned, it will be about 150 years old in 2017, when you’re celebrating these years, look around you, how many Indigenous people will be celebrating with you?” - Lee Maracle, University of Manitoba

Maracle adds her narrative began with her not being a citizen at all.

“I am not a Canadian, because to say that I would have to say I colonized myself and I was happy doing it. I was under immigration until I was 12 years old and then one day they said you’re a citizen… of what?” she asks. “Who said [Aboriginals] wanted to be [‘Canadian’]. Nobody asked us.”

Making note of Maracle’s maltreatment, Mercredi encourages audience members to think about where their pride for the Canada they know comes from.  

“We have a short history as far as the nation states is concerned, it will be about 150 years old in 2017, when you’re celebrating these years, look around you, how many Indigenous people will be celebrating with you?” he asks. “If poverty remains the result of Canada becoming a nation’s state and the only opportunity we have on our traditional homelands there really isn’t much to celebrate. We have to envision a better country.”

Developing a Better Country

The panellists all put forth various ideas for how to move the Canadian narrative forward. Ratna says developing a better country involves all provinces working together, as some are progressing faster than others. According to Saul provinces like British Columbia, Quebec, Saskatchewan and Manitoba are ahead in the discussion, but the Maritimes and Ontario fall short.

“Stop using the languages that have been forced upon us by universities, because they teach European [education].” - John Ralston Saul

Mercredi says that political parties should not dominate the conversations surrounding Indigenous and newcomers – a sentiment the audience applauds.

Saul says the first step in generating a new conversation is changing linguistics.

“Stop using the languages that have been forced upon us by universities, because they teach European [education],” he says. “All of the terminology like ‘nation state’ and ‘sovereignty’ come out of Eurocentric societies and are designed to create monolithic states. This is the fundamental contradiction in the conversation.”

Perhaps most poignant is elder Dallaire, who as she closes the event in prayer, encourages a simple way to start: take the conversation outside academic settings.

“When you meet up with your friends for a drinks bring this discussion to them, and let the conversation spread.”

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 Education

TORONTO – When it comes to setting money aside, Chinese and South Asian newcomers to Canada place a much greater emphasis on savings than residents who were born in Canada, according to new research from RBC.

The Link

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Published in Economy

by Don Curry (@DonDoncurry) in North Bay, Ontario

For more and more new Canadians arriving in Ontario, Toronto and Ottawa are no longer the desired destinations. Newcomers seem to be moving further north in the province. As such, an innovative project is under way to assist them in the settlement process and create welcoming communities at the same time.

In North Bay, which is a three-and-a-half hour drive north of Toronto on a four-lane highway, and four hours northwest of Ottawa, staff at the North Bay & District Multicultural Centre (NBDMC) counted 66 businesses owned by newcomers. In fact, there are enough cricket enthusiasts in the newcomer community to form two teams to compete with teams in Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay.

There is now a Filipino community in Moosonee on the James Bay Coast, with entrepreneurs, health care professionals and skilled trades’ people.

The Timmins & District Multicultural Centre, four hours north of North Bay, is seeing a similar phenomenon. To a lesser degree, it is starting to happen in smaller centres, such as South River, Temiskaming Shores and Cochrane. There is now a Filipino community in Moosonee on the James Bay Coast, with entrepreneurs, health care professionals and skilled trades’ people.

Increased immigration is new, even for the larger centres like North Bay (population 54,000) and Timmins (population 48,000.) The North Bay immigrant settlement agency opened in 2008 and expanded to Timmins in 2011. Between the two offices the agency serves the region from Parry Sound in the south to the James Bay Coast in the north – some 20 per cent of Ontario’s land mass.

A two-year project, led by NBDMC, to reach out to smaller communities began in September 2014. With almost $300,000 in funding over two years from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation, FedNor (Industry Canada) and the participating municipalities, the project is administered in partnership with Pathways to Prosperity, a national immigration research body, providing advice and evaluation services.

The project began to formulate when James Franks, Economic Development Officer for Temiskaming Shores, approached the centre for assistance. That conversation developed into an immigration symposium in Temiskaming Shores in October 2013, and the project evolved from the symposium.

“We had no expertise in settlement services and we were starting to see newcomers arrive in the community,” Franks says. “Now, through this project, we have monthly visits from a qualified settlement worker from North Bay, and other community agencies know they can now refer newcomer clients.” Temiskaming Shores, population 10,500, is on the shore of Lake Temiskaming, the headwater of the Ottawa River and 90 minutes north of North Bay.

“Skills shortages, the need to market the region to newcomers, business succession planning and the need for more rental accommodation to attract new residents are common priorities identified by (some Northern Ontario regions).” - Garvin Cole, HR North

Many key players from Northern Ontario attended the symposium. For example, Jean-Pierre Ouellette, Chief Administrative Officer for the Town of Cochrane, population 5,340, who got his community involved with the follow-up project and Adam Killah, Economic Development Officer for the Central Almaguin Economic Development Association, south of North Bay, who represents the third municipal partner group. The Almaguin Highlands area has 15 municipalities with a total population of 23,570.

“Skills shortages, the need to market the region to newcomers, business succession planning and the need for more rental accommodation to attract new residents are common priorities identified by the three regions,” says Garvin Cole of HR North, a project of the North Bay Newcomer Network and NBDMC, which uses the skills database of internationally trained professionals, augmented by resumes of recent university and college graduates from Northern Ontario to fill positions for employers. Originally conceived as a human resources service for small businesses in the north, he finds that even large employers seek his services. Cole helped create employers’ councils in each of the communities and these priorities came from the first round of meetings. They will all meet again in March.

The project is also addressing settlement needs of newcomers, by having trained settlement workers from the North Bay and Timmins offices visit each community monthly.

“It is so important to have personal contact,” says Deborah Robertson, NBDMC program coordinator. “Some follow-up can be done remotely but trust is developed in person.”

"I see other parts of Canada being interested in how this project turns out. It could be a model for rural Canada.” - Meyer Burstein, Pathways to Prosperity

Creating events so newcomers can meet one another, as well as long-time residents, is another facet of the project. First up is a bowling event for newcomers and volunteers in Temiskaming Shores in March.

NBDMC receives core funding from Citizenship and Immigration Canada and Ontario’s newcomer settlement program, but it seeks supplemental funding for projects such as this one.

Meyer Burstein of Pathways to Prosperity (P2P), who attended the Temiskaming Shores symposium and was involved in the formation of the project, is now leading the P2P evaluation team and is serving on the project executive committee. “I see other parts of Canada being interested in how this project turns out,” he says. “It could be a model for rural Canada.”

By the end of the project, its leaders will produce a bilingual “how-to” document. That, along with the P2P evaluation and articles published during and after the project will help disseminate the learned information nationally.


Don Curry is a journalist and former college journalism teacher. He is the executive director of the North Bay & District Multicultural Centre, a member of the board of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants and a board member of Pathways to Prosperity.

 

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

Settlement Spotlight Founded in 1983, the Mennonite New Life Centre of Toronto (MNLCT) has worked to “build a caring and inclusive community, where the ideas and contributions of newcomers are respected and valued,” says Shelly D’Mello, executive director. “We show our compassion for newcomers in practical ways by answering questions, helping with immigration needs, and […]...

Canadian Immigrant

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Published in Health

Starting in January 2015, Canada’s immigration system will undergo its greatest change this century. Called “express entry,” the new system will allow Canadian employers to select skilled workers from a pool of candidates to fill jobs for which there are no Canadian citizens or permanent residents seemingly available. Candidates who are offered jobs will be […]

Canadian Immigrant

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Published in Policy

by Our Special Correspondent (@NewCdnMedia)

Canada’s most seasoned academic on immigration, Prof. Jeffrey Reitz, suggests that the decision of the government to postpone and reduce reliance on employer participation in the Express Entry system that takes effect Jan. 1 is simply a recognition of reality. Maintaining a leading role for government selection is the only way to ensure that Canada continues to receive an average of 250,000 new immigrants every year, he said in comments over the weekend.

In his view, short-term employer needs are not a good enough or efficient substitute for a system that has so far largely relied on the general employability of newcomers – also called the “human capital” model. Faced with mounting evidence that successive waves of immigrants are faring badly, the Conservative government has put in place a series of moves designed to increase employer participation to determine who gets in.

The eventual goal of this approach is to grant permanent residence under the “economic class” only to those who have a pre-arranged job offer in Canada. Reitz, affiliated to the University of Toronto’s prestigious Munk School of Global Affairs, though, has his doubts about relying on employers as a proxy for government or a neutral points system to fulfill the bulk (60 per cent) of Canada’s immigration needs.

[Broadly speaking, Canada’s quarter-million newcomers fall into one of three classes – economic, family unification and refugees, split traditionally at 60:30:10 per cent, respectively.]

The U.S, he said, attracts from 150,000 to 175,000 a year under a ‘pre-arranged job’ category, while Canada can expect 15,000 to 17,000 annually – almost certainly causing a huge gap in Canada’s annual target of attracting 250,000 new immigrants every year. Of the 250,000 new arrivals, 60 per cent fall under the economic class (including immediate family members), with roughly 65,000 being “principal applicants” who qualify based on their work experience, language skills and general employability criteria.

Interestingly, Reitz points out, a number of changes introduced in recent years have been modelled on Australian reforms introduced by the then John Howard government a decade ago, in the hope that more new immigrants will be employed from the day they land in Canada. “[T]he evidence for the success of the Australian initiatives was based primarily on short-term outcomes, and analysis of the overall performance of immigrants in Australia does not suggest that the new policies produced any overall improvement.”

Global experience

New Canadian Media interviewed Reitz in the context of the 2014 edition of Controlling Immigration: A Global Perspective (Stanford University Press), an academic publication that is now in its third edition and includes policy reviews on every major immigrant-receiving nation.

“Nobody has had success” with this sort of employer-driven immigration system to produce large-scale immigration, the academic who has been tracking immigration trends in Canada and globally for four decades, said. The book has a chapter devoted to Canada, and in this Reitz writes: “Indeed, the Australian government has greatly reduced visa opportunities for international students and is reviewing its selection policy more generally.”

Overall, he writes in the book, “... it is far from clear that the new policy directions [in Canada] will actually improve the prospects for and impact of immigration.”

The UofT professor points out that while the jury is still out on the key question of net economic gain, Canadian newcomers can be expected to reduce income inequality mainly because they tend to be employed in high-skills jobs rather than at the lower end. “Immigrants compete for more highly skilled work in Canada, so the labour market impact is at levels of employment higher than the impact of relatively less-skilled immigrants in the United States.”

Income inequality has been a hot topic of political debate in both the U.S. and Canada in recent months. 

Immigrant credentials

Reitz also attempts to mathematically calculate the extent to which immigrant credentials are discounted in Canada: “[I]mmigrant skills in terms of both education and work experience have only about two-thirds of the value of corresponding skills held by native-born Canadians, and occupational under-employment is a significant reason for this imbalance.” This is based on a statistical calculation made by labour market analysts on the return on investment (ROI) that Canadians gain from every additional year of education.

Studies have shown that while mainstream Canadians gain five per cent in added earnings for every year of education, newcomers boost their average pay by just 3.5 per cent. “Some analysts have noted a decline in return for foreign experience as well, although no explanation for this trend has been found.”

The book chapter on Canada notes that the issue of immigrant credentials is today no closer to resolution: “There is as yet no overall plan to address the problem, which is certain to remain significant for many years.” Acknowledging that the availability of credential assessment services and bridging programs may be making a difference, Reitz, however, points that there has been “no effort to evaluate the overall impact of all these programs in relation to the problem of immigrant skill under-utilization.”

Further, Canada’s been receiving even more qualified immigrants in recent years. “If anything, the problem of immigrant employment in Canada has become more difficult over time, and it is more serious today than it was when it was first identified in the 1990s.”

Support for immigration

The 10-year retrospective in the book also has a section devoted to public opinion on immigration and politics. It points to the creation of the Centre for Immigration Policy Reform and the presence in Canada of a “distinct minority” that opposes the current level of immigration. Reitz takes issue with those who claim that majority support for immigration levels is a “myth”. Further, he adds, “Those who want to reduce immigration levels in Canada are very clearly the minority and have been for some time.”

In separate comments, the academic believes Canada has built up a “resilient base of support” for immigration and he does not foresee a shift in attitudes happening any time soon.

Here are some more nuggets from the book chapter entitled “Canada: New Initiatives and Approaches to Immigration and Nation Building”:

  • On immigrant settlement: Government statistics indicate that each immigrant receives about $3,000 worth of settlement services
  • On the politics of immigration: The Focus Canada survey showed that Conservative party supporters are significantly less likely to support immigration, based on their socially conservative values.
  • Ethnic vote: “The Conservatives have sought support among immigrants based on [socially conservative] values and, despite some success, have experienced difficulty because some of their related policies on multiculturalism and citizenship portray immigrants as a threat to traditional Canadian values.”
  • Immigrant integration: most analysts attribute successful integration to the fact that newcomers tend to be highly educated and skilled, and not necessarily to multiculturalism. Conversely, a decline in skill and education levels can be expected to have the opposite effect.

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 Policy

by Themrise Khan in Ottawa

The Canadian Race Relations Foundation (CRRF) held its 8th Bi-annual Symposium and Awards of Excellence in Ottawa, November 17-19. This year’s event was entitled, “Building on Citizenship, Building for Citizenship”. As the title indicates, the symposium chose to further the understanding of race relations in Canada, in the context of Canadian values, identity and the mutuality of citizenship rights and obligations.

The symposium focused on 10 key questions in regards to Canadian multiculturalism and belonging. Each of these 10 questions was the focus of specific presentations which included explorations of the impact of the “multiculturalism” label on Aboriginal peoples, the evolution of language and terminology in the context of changing demographics and settlement trends, how the story of Canada’s history has evolved, and is told, and quite obviously, how extremism is gradually beginning to creep into this story.

The proceedings this year were overshadowed by the unfortunate events on Parliament Hill this past month, as the idea of tolerance and belonging were both reinforced and questioned by presenters and audience alike.

The 10 Questions

Q1: How do Aboriginal Peoples retain their distinct status in a multicultural society?

Q2: How does multiculturalism influence relations between Canadians connected to different sides of overseas conflicts?

Q3: How do we accelerate the practice of inclusion at the leadership level?

Q4: Is our lexicon a positive force or part of the problem?

Q5: Is accepting differences unique to Canada and Canadians?

Q6: What are Canadian values in the context of faith, identity and belonging?

Q7: Are Canada's youth ready for the challenges if the next century? 

Q8: How do we tell Canadian stories?

Q9: What is the media’s role – and responsibility?

Q10: What will it mean to be a Canadian in 2017 and beyond? 

The most powerful presentation of the proceedings was given by Mohawk activist Roberta Jamison. Her message was clear: “Until we have reconciled ourselves to be a country in which indigenous peoples play a fundamental role and are a fundamental part of Canadian identity, the current problems [faced by Aboriginal peoples] will grow and become much more difficult to handle.” Despite being Canada’s fastest growing demographic group, Aboriginal people’s have been forced to occupy a less than human space in someone else’s culture and until Canada accepts this as a reality, change will not be imminent.

Meaning of citizenship

The focus of the symposium was clearly on the meaning of Canadian citizenship and the role of Canadian identity in the context of immigrants and newcomers to Canada. This was discussed in several sessions, such as whether new Canadians were “importing conflict” from other regions into Canada, if multi-faith based organizations were impacting positively on greater co-existence between different communities, the role of the media in reflecting diversity, and most controversially, the role of religion, most notably Islam, and the rise of extremism in Canada.

Divisions were clearly etched in this latter discussion, where there was both a call for greater awareness raising and education among both adults and the youth on issues of extremism and racial discrimination, as well as accepting the reality of a changing global security scenario. Law enforcement agencies such as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and provincial police forces have particularly been the focus of attention in trying to sensitize their officers in working with diverse and multi-faith communities in countering cases of radicalization. From a psychological and human perspective, speakers suggested that violence should be seen as a function of human vulnerability and personal behaviour, rather than associated with a particular group or belief system. Almost all presenters belonging to various diverse communities had personal stories to share about their experiences in Canada with racial discrimination. However, it was clear that there is still far to go in bridging this divide.

The takeaway from the symposium was that change, especially positive change, takes time. For the 250,000 immigrants welcomed to Canada annually, the message from the government was one of integration.  But the message was not limited to only newcomers. Those born in Canada also need to be aware and understand the responsibilities associated with citizenship. For this, the work of both small community groups and large government organizations were considered to be equally important in creating a tolerant and secure Canada.

The symposium was opened by Minister for Citizenship and Immigration Chris Alexander and also included keynote addresses by Minister of State for Multiculturalism Tim Uppal, Senior Citizenship Judge Renata Brum Bozzi and Minister for Employment and Social Development Jason Kenney, who presided over the Awards of Excellence. This year, recipients of the Awards of Excellence included, We Are All Treaty People, Office of the Treaty Commissioner, Saskatoon; the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI) Accessibility Initiative, and the Welcoming and Inclusive Communities Initiative of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association, Edmonton. 

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
Wednesday, 29 October 2014 12:30

New Canadian Immigration Gallery at Pier 21

by Gerry Maffre in Ottawa

The head of the Canadian Museum of Immigration History at Pier 21 in Halifax was visiting Ottawa earlier this month and offered a glimpse into the future of the museum which is currently closed for renovations and will reopen in 2015.

Marie Chapman, the museum’s chief executive officer, delivered her remarks at the Annual General Meeting of the Canadian Immigration Historical Society (CIHS) in the nation’s capital. The society has a long-standing relationship with the museum located at Pier 21 where over one million immigrants, including post World War II ‘war brides’, first entered Canada between 1928 and 1971.

In her speech, Chapman spoke about the importance the museum attaches to gathering the stories of those who have made new lives in Canada and of the immigration staff who, over the years, have helped newcomers come to and settle in Canada.

“Each immigration story that Canadians have entrusted us with is a tremendous source of inspiration and learning. These stories are a reflection of the diversity of the Canadian immigration experience. Our collection is enriched by stories of immigrants from seven continents, who now call communities across Canada home,” she said.

One element of the forthcoming changes will be the Canadian Immigration Story gallery and its four themes: Journey; Arrival; Belonging; and Impact. One of the highlights in the ‘Belonging’ section will be a Canadian flag donated by the society and which was affixed to a hotel door of a Ugandan Asian family while they were being processed for evacuation to Canada in 1972. For that family, the flag was a symbol of safety and hope.

The expanded exhibitions will be complemented by educational and public programming aimed at developing empathy and understanding for the immigrant experience, as well as fostering a sense of Canadian identity. As well, digital technologies will encourage users to share their impressions and memories, and to collaborate via a social learning environment. The aim is to make the museum an inspiring national icon for Canadians. That goes for its website.

 “Each immigration story that Canadians have entrusted us with is a tremendous source of inspiration and learning. These stories are a reflection of the diversity of the Canadian immigration experience."

Michael Molloy, the society’s president, presented Chapman a collection of papers related to discussions that took place in Ottawa about the need for such a museum. For Chapman, the donation was further evidence of the importance the museum attaches to reflecting the role of immigration personnel in Canada’s on-going immigration story.

The society also welcomed Patti Harper, Head of Archives and Collections Services at Carleton University, who spoke about the school’s Uganda Archive to which CIHS was able to make significant contributions including a very large number of press clippings from Canadian and international newspapers about the expulsion of the Ugandan Asians and their move to Canada.

Gerry Maffre is a member of the Canadian Immigration Historical Society executive.

Published in History
Wednesday, 01 October 2014 18:02

What newcomers need in the grocery aisle

Even Asian migrants who didn’t have servants in their countries of origin are more likely than the average North American working-age adult to have had live-in parents or in-laws who helped substantially with groceries and meal preparation. This kind of multi-generational labour-sharing is particularly common in Chinese households. The sudden withdrawal of such support, combined with new products and conventions of shopping, can make the mundane task of buying groceries a very daunting one for newcomers.

Canadian Grocer

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Published in Economy

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Do you agree with the new immigration levels for 2017?

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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.

-- Canada's economic development minister Navdeep Bains at a Public Policy Forum economic summit

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