New Canadian Media

by Belen Febres-Cordero in Vancouver

There has been an increased demand for midwifery in Canada over the past decade, with now over 1,300 midwives registered in Canada, while in 2005, there were just 500.

Alix Bacon, elected president of the Midwives Association of British Columbia (MABC), attributes this growth to the personalized care midwives offer to mothers and their families, as they provide continuous support during pregnancy, labour, birth, and up to six weeks afterwards.   

While midwifery’s continuity of care principle can be valuable for all mothers in Canada, Manavi Handa, a midwife and activist focusing on serving immigrant mothers, believes that this model can have particular benefits for women new to the country and its medical system.

For instance, Ali Moreno, an Ecuadorian woman who had her baby in Vancouver, is particularly happy she chose midwives as her health care providers.

“They take the time to get to know you, understand your background.”

“With doctors, the clock is always ticking,” Moreno explains. “Appointments with midwives last up to 45 minutes. They take the time to get to know you, understand your background, and take care of your emotional and physical wellbeing.”

However, Handa explains, newcomers may not necessarily consider this option when first looking for maternal care in Canada.

“People come here expecting modern healthcare and they don’t always associate midwifery with that because they don’t know how well trained we are or what we do,” she says.

What is a midwife?

Midwives are specialists in low-risk maternal and newborn healthcare.

The midwifery practice in Canada differs from practice abroad in several aspects, such as the number of births attended annually and the level of contact with mothers throughout their pregnancy.

In Canada, midwifery is managed by each individual province and territory and is currently regulated in nine. Services are publicly funded in all regulated locations.

Midwifery in Canada requires all practitioners to have a bachelor’s degree. Handa, who teaches at Ryerson University, explains that the seven midwifery programs in Canada have theoretical and practical components, including two years attending to mothers under the supervision of experienced midwives.

“We empower women to make the decisions that are appropriate for them.”

People trained abroad can practise midwifery in Canada by completing shorter bridging programs, making it an attractive option for new immigrants.

According to information provided by the Canadian Association of Midwives (CAM), midwives in Canada are registered primary healthcare professionals that are fully trained and have access to all the necessary equipment, diagnosis services, and select medications to provide women and their babies the care they need from pregnancy to postpartum.

However, midwifery understands pregnancy and birth as healthy and normal aspects of life, and as such, aims for the least amount of interventions possible.

“Technology is great if you need it, but medical intervention when you don’t need it can lead to other risks,” Handa explains.

This consideration, together with the continuous support they provide, results in lower rates of medical interventions and shorter hospital stays for women who engage the services of a midwife, according to data from the Association of Ontario Midwives (AOM).

Cultural sensitivity

Midwifery is guided by the informed choice principle, which encourages women to be active decision makers in the care they receive. Handa explains that this principle respects individuality.

“This is of particular importance to immigrants because they may have their own cultural beliefs. We empower women to make the decisions that are appropriate for them.”  

She adds that because women primarily practise midwifery, newcomers from countries where only women attend labour might feel more comfortable under their care.

For Moreno, this was an important component during her pregnancy in Canada.

“The fact that midwives are women makes you feel safe and understood. They know how you’re feeling because they probably went through something similar themselves,” she says.

Organizations also try to eliminate possibly language barriers for new Canadian mothers to be.  Ontario Midwives includes information in different languages, and MABC offers help finding midwives that speak languages other than English inside the province.

The benefits 

Another principle of midwifery that increases the number of options for mothers is choice of birthplace. According to CAM, “people might have the misconception that midwives only attend homebirths, but they can actually choose to have their babies at hospitals or birth centres too.”

In Ontario, these cost savings are increased because women can access midwives’ care for free, regardless of their immigration status.

Engaging a midwife can also be cost effective. A study of birth costs in B.C., published on July 2015, reports more than $2,300 savings per birth in the first postpartum month among women who planned a homebirth with a midwife compared to a hospital birth with a physician.

In Ontario, these cost savings are increased because women can access midwives’ care for free, regardless of their immigration status.

For women in provinces such as B.C. where uninsured individuals cannot have the services for free, Bacon explains that it would still be more affordable for them to seek care through a midwife than a physician and to have a homebirth instead of staying in hospital.  

What if complications arise?

In specific cases of high-risk pregnancies, each province has guidelines for midwives to consult with or refer women to other health specialists.

Midwives can also provide shared care or transfer the care at any point, if needed.  

“If a more serious complication arises, the most responsible care provider would become an obstetrician, but we would remain in a supportive role,” explains Bacon.

This was what happened in Ali’s case.

She initially planned to have a homebirth, but she had complications during labour.

“I decided to go to the hospital. Midwives, nurses, and doctors were all great,” she remembers. “They worked together and they helped me choose the safest option.”


Journalist Leah Bjornson, through the New Canadian Media mentorship program, mentored the writer of this article.

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

Published in Health

by Don Curry in North Bay, Ontario

Canada’s big city mayors have been vocal in their support for doing more to expedite the process of bringing Syrian refugees to Canada – as they should be.

Large cities have large capacities to do more – to raise more money and sponsor and settle more refugees. What I have not seen reported so far in the national media is the growing support in smaller communities to do more as well.

In our part of Northeastern Ontario we have two small cities, North Bay and Timmins, eager to sponsor refugees, but unfamiliar with the process.

North Bay Mayor Al McDonald started a Facebook campaign to fundraise the approximately $30,000 necessary to sponsor a family for a year and in its first couple of days he had $10,000 in commitments. 

The Syrian crisis has been going on for years and has been well documented, but this photograph hit a nerve around the world and changed everything.

In Timmins, City Councillor Pat Bamford plans to raise the issue at the September 14 city council meeting and propose that the city itself allocate funds toward sponsorship.

Our settlement agency, the North Bay & District Multicultural Centre and the Timmins & District Multicultural Centre, will provide guidance and support for both initiatives.

This recent municipal engagement is, of course, a result of the powerful photo of three-year-old Alan Kurdi, who drowned off the coast of Turkey. The Syrian crisis has been going on for years and has been well documented, but this photograph hit a nerve around the world and changed everything.

The small city challenge

Some may question the capacity of immigrant and refugee settlement agencies across Canada to settle and help integrate large numbers of refugees.

What they may not know is that many front-line settlement workers are immigrants or refugees themselves, and have the compassion, knowledge and resources to get the job done.

When I look at the names behind the Toronto group, Lifeline Syria, the ones I know – Ratna Omidvar, Naomi Alboim, Jehad Aliweiwi, Mario Calla, Carolyn Davis – have vast settlement sector knowledge, and I am sure have no doubts about the capacity of the sector to out-perform. Lifeline Syria is in capable hands.

Smaller cities don’t have the wealth of expertise that Lifeline Syria has, but they have knowledgeable leaders in the settlement sector and I hope they are being put to good use across the country.

Settling Syrian families in communities where there are no other Syrians will be a challenge.

This is a new issue for many smaller city municipal leaders and that’s good for the settlement sector in those cities.

Some settlement agencies in smaller cities have extensive experience settling refugees, while others have little or none. However, they have experience settling newcomers and this is an opportunity for them to provide leadership.

Settling Syrian families in communities where there are no other Syrians will be a challenge.

In North Bay we have none on our client list and in Timmins only one family. However, North Bay has a mosque (a high proportion of Syria’s population is Muslim) and Timmins has a group of Muslims actively trying to create one, so at least there is some religious commonality.

An Anglican minister dropped in to my office to see what she and her church could do to help, and North Bay’s mayor has approached the United Church for support. Ordinary citizens are e-mailing their moral and financial support, so it is gratifying to see communities come together.

Not everyone supportive

On the other hand, online comments about Mayor McDonald’s request for funds to support a family were not all positive.

The online world attracts the ill informed with strident opinions, and they were out in full force. Comments ranged from religion-based to ‘foreigners coming in and taking “our” jobs’ sentiments, and they were neither literate nor enlightened.

It will always be a work in progress to educate people about how immigrants and refugees make Canada a stronger nation. This work has been led by immigrant settlement agencies and local immigration partnerships and now there is an opportunity for others to get involved in the discussion.

Leaders have to lead, whether they are municipal politicians, church leaders, or settlement agencies. It is gratifying to see that in our corner of Canada, and in the big cities, they are doing just that.


Don Curry is the Executive Director of the North Bay & District Multicultural Centre, Co-Chair of the North Bay Newcomer Network Local Immigration Partnership Initiative, Timmins Local Immigration Partnership and northern region board member for OCASI. He is also a board member of Pathways to Prosperity, a national immigration research organization.

Published in Commentary
Wednesday, 02 September 2015 18:12

What Makes Brampton Voters Tick

by Surjit Singh Flora in Brampton, Ontario

With campaigning for the 42nd Canadian federal election on October 19 gaining momentum, the issues uppermost amongst voters in the ridings of Brampton, a city in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), are no different than that of others across the country. 

In 2011, the Conservatives had a strong showing in the GTA and its surrounding areas by winning 19 new seats. This boost effectively secured the party its 11-seat majority in the House of Commons.

This breakthrough may be giving the Tories an edge this time around, as well as the ridings they won a special status on the hustings.

In particular, the five ridings in Brampton – Brampton North, Brampton Centre, Brampton South, Brampton West and Brampton East – are considered the best to micro-target and win.

With a population over half a million, Brampton’s growth of late has been fuelled by immigrants who now account for half the number of people living there. 

[A]ll the three major parties ... are paying careful attention to Brampton ridings, with leaders making multiple campaign stops over the past few weeks.

As two-thirds of the immigrants are visible minorities, hearing Punjabi or Urdu is as common as English. Other languages heard in the city are Portuguese, Gujarati, Spanish, Hindi, Tamil, Tagalog, Italian and Polish. 

The babel of languages combined with a significantly younger population at times makes Brampton an enigma for outsiders. And it is no different for political parties. 

To crack the code, all the three major parties have fielded a large number of visible minority candidates and are paying careful attention to Brampton ridings, with leaders making multiple campaign stops over the past few weeks. 

But exactly how easy is it to win over Brampton voters?

“Many times I have heard our political leaders making sweeping statements, particularly when an election draws near,” says Solomon Naz, a professional writer and author.

“They say come to me any time with problems of the riding. But as voters we need to go beyond that and start asking candidates about their political agenda and party manifesto.” 

Naz says candidates should be aware of problems facing a riding instead of soliciting them from constituents. “If they simply tell us what they have done over the years for a riding, they do not have to beg for votes and canvass.” 

Federal support 

Many in Brampton see the sinking value of the Canadian dollar against its U.S. counterpart as a sign of a weakening economy and the inevitable increase in prices of imported food and fuel. 

The delivery of the expanded Universal Child Care Benefit cheques to parents, just before the start of the election campaign, doesn’t seem to have softened the blow.   

“We were so happy when we got [the] big cheque and we thought [the] Harper government is really helping the poor people, and thinking about Canadian families,” recalls Surjit Gunraj, a mother of two, who lives in Brampton West. 

“But just after a week or so we come to know from TV and newspapers that much of the money would be taken back as tax.”

“To improve standards, federal, provincial and municipal governments need to work together for Bramptonians.”

Macro economic issues are not the only ones to bother Brampton residents. There are a host of local issues too.

“No matter which party comes to power, as a Brampton resident, I want to see more nurses, more doctors in our hospitals, better and safe service,” says Ajinder Singh, expressing distress at the current state of medical services in the city.

“To improve standards, federal, provincial and municipal governments need to work together for Bramptonians.”  

Singh’s sentiment resonates with Mayor Linda Jeffrey.

“City council and residents are keen to know how the federal government will be supporting growing cities like Brampton as our transit and infrastructure demands continue to be a burden on the property taxpayer,” says Jeffrey.

She says the federal government has an important role to play in providing affordable housing. 

“Along with my large urban mayor colleagues I am concerned by the gradual and systematic withdrawal of federal financial support of new projects as well as the maintenance of existing facilities. I would like to see all party leaders commit the federal government to take on a leadership role in affordable housing and working closely with municipalities across Canada and more specifically Peel Region to address this growing backlog.”

Immigration matters

Brampton being what it is today because of its new Canadian demographics, issues around immigration remain on community members’ minds.

“We have seen the Liberals in the past and now the Conservatives proclaim themselves as best for immigrants,” says Gurvinder Kaur Virdi, a long-time Brampton resident who runs her own graphic design shop. 

“But they are not. The current government has made its immigration rules so tough that even sponsoring a spouse is a difficult process. Yes, they need to put a cap on fake marriages, but because of just a few cases, everybody is suffering. Put something else in place to detect fraud, instead of making it difficult for everyone.”

“There must be a clear and well defined policy to guide the way Canada accepts immigrants.”

Dr. Balwinder Singh, host of the local Sargam Radio, says the immigration system should not be run on an ad hoc basis.

“There must be a clear and well defined policy to guide the way Canada accepts immigrants,” he says. “Obviously, people expect more officers deployed for timely disposal of the applications.”

Gursimrat Grewal, the editor of Punjab Star weekly newspaper, maintains that Brampton constituents must elect the party that can best look after immigration matters.

“Because the Liberal government made the Canadian system so liberal, the Conservatives made excuses about needing time to clean up the mess left behind by the Liberals. Now everybody can see what they have done to immigration policies and some other sectors,” says Grewal.

“It is inevitable that we now give the NDP a chance.”

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

Published in Politics

by Ranjit Bhaskar (@Ranjit17) in Mississauga, Ontario

It was dubbed an Eid party. But for the small group of people gathered inside the party hall of a Mississauga condo building, it was another meeting to rally support for Farheen Khan, the NDP candidate from Mississauga Centre for the upcoming federal elections.

Apart from the absence of any shade of orange, the people in the room are not typical supporters of the New Democrats though.

“In fact, most of us come from families who were till the other day hard-core Liberal supporters who saw Justin Trudeau as God-sent,” said Faisal Khan, a small business owner and fundraiser for Farheen Khan’s campaign. “Till the NDP approached Farheen to become a candidate, we saw the NDP as a party of left-wing hippies.”

The consensus around the room was that the Liberal Party’s support for Bill C-51, the Anti-Terrorism Act passed recently, has proven to be a deciding factor in this shift in alliance away from a party that had a mythical hold on their collective conscience. While the Liberals have promised more oversight in its implementation if elected, the NDP has pledged to repeal the entire law if it comes to power.

“We will show the Harper Conservatives that we can have a safer Canada without trading in our individual freedoms. It’s not one or the other.” - Farheen Khan

Farheen Khan has been at the forefront of “Days of Action” against C-51 in Mississauga in recent months, including a protest that drew 400 people onto the streets and a door-knocking campaign.

“It is so important that, at a time of heighten[ed] tensions amongst various cultures, we unite together and show the rest of world that Canada will not be fazed by fear,” said Khan about her opposition to the bill, which was also influenced by an Islamophobic attack on her by a stranger. “We will show the Harper Conservatives that we can have a safer Canada without trading in our individual freedoms. It’s not one or the other.”

Firsthand knowledge of immigrant hardships

Khan is also running on a platform of affordable living and building a stronger economy, not altogether dissimilar from that of her main rival, Omar Alghabra of the Liberal Party. A veteran Grit, Alghabra served as an MP from 2006-08 in Mississauga Erindale. Like Khan, her Conservative rival Julius Tiangson is another rookie to electoral politics.

Born and raised in Mississauga, Khan comes from a large family of nine. She says she has firsthand knowledge of the hardships immigrant families face. Her father, who emigrated from Hyderabad city in India, and worked for the Toronto Police Service, was the family’s single breadwinner.

Before entering politics, Khan was a senior manager with Peel’s women shelter, a fund development consultant and a published author. “Now that I am a politician, I am taking my activities to another level where I can influence change not just at the local level, but also at the federal level.”

[Bill C-24], which became law last month, is another hot-button issue in Mississauga with its high number of recent immigrants and new citizens from South Asia and the Middle East.

She pointed out that her party is promising more funding for city infrastructure, including road and transit improvements, and creating a new Minister of Urban Affairs to oversee investments. “We’re talking about transit, better roads, creating better jobs, as well; so it’s a combination,” said Khan. “Such infrastructure will also help wean people off cars and onto greener forms of transit.”

Khan also talked of the need to repeal Bill C-24, which gives a government minister unchecked powers to revoke the citizenship of dual nationals. Previously, only an immigration judge could strip someone of his or her citizenship. The bill, which became law last month, is another hot-button issue in Mississauga with its high number of recent immigrants and new citizens from South Asia and the Middle East.

The riding of Mississauga Centre, home to nearly 120,000 people, was carved out of the old constituencies of Bramalea-Gore-Malton, Mississauga-Brampton-South, and Mississauga Streetsville, as part of the federal boundary redistribution to keep up with population increases.

In 2011, Conservatives won all six ridings then covering the Mississauga area. Liberal fortunes in the area received a boost early this year when Mississauga-Brampton-South MP Eve Adams crossed the floor to join Trudeau’s party. Looking at Mississauga Centre’s redistributed results in 2011, the Conservatives won 41.7 per cent of the vote compared to 36.7 per cent for the Liberal Party and 19 per cent for the NDP.

‘Tom is a balanced man’

It remains to be seen how Khan’s left-field challenge will go down in a riding, which is essentially “small c” conservative given its demography. “We’re very much the middle party now and Tom [Mulcair] is a balanced man,” said Khan.

During a recent campaign swing through her riding, when Mulcair asked Khan what she was hearing in the riding, she told him: “They are telling me: ‘I like Tom. He’s angry. He’s strong.”

It is on the crest of these twin sentiments she is hoping to swing people her way in terms of finding solutions and bringing about change.

“The NDP is emotional no more. Mulcair is a fair-minded person who has the experience to be a responsible prime minister.” - Farookh, South Asian immigrant

Some of her constituents have already aligned with the NDP’s message.

Farookh, a South Asian immigrant who did not want to be identified with his second name, said the path from immigration to integration has become muddled over the years.

“Where has the integration element gone?  We feel excluded. The Liberals have been silent. The NDP is emotional no more. Mulcair is a fair-minded person who has the experience to be a responsible prime minister.”

Khan is aware that her path to victory will be an arduous one in the days to come. “I have more doors to knock. I need 17,000 votes to win.”

Her rookie status seems to be doing her a favour, with more seasoned campaigners pitching in with support. People like Michelle Bilek, the NDP’s Mississauga Erin Mills candidate, who dropped in at the Eid party dressed from top to bottom in orange. She was upbeat about Khan’s success, especially because as a party, Bilek said, “We have got our ducks in a row.”

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

Published in Politics

by Surjit Singh Flora (@floracanada) in Brampton, Ontario

It is surprising that the Ontario government has launched an advertising campaign about the controversial sexual-education curriculum, instead of engaging parents more directly and responding to their concerns.
 
Queen’s Park is using electronic and print media and some advertisements have already been released. The government surely hopes the campaign will lay to rest any remaining questions on the controversial curriculum change, but in my view, parental concerns run much deeper.
 
“It’s a sign that we understand that there’s a lot of misinformation out there,” Education Minister Liz Sandals was quoted as saying.
 
The government’s curriculum has many shortcomings, written in a language that makes it difficult to forecast the outcome – all in the name of “education”. Protesting organizations have called this curriculum "indoctrination". But at this juncture, the government sees the advertising campaign as the solution, adding more public spending to an already indebted government.
 
Not listening
 
“It’s a sign that we understand that there’s a lot of misinformation out there,” Education Minister Liz Sandals was quoted as saying. “This is a case where there’s enough misinformation out there that we believe that we actually need to get more accurate information into the public discussion.”
 
The government has shown that it is incapable of paying heed to the many parents who consider this curriculum a risk to the raising of their children. Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government appears keen to implement its agenda by all means. There is a chance this fight will be waged over a long time.
 
website advocating for parents claims it has been threatened with legal action by the Peel District School Board, which I find condemnable. This raises the following question: will the right of freedom of expression be taken away? Will legal action be taken to silence the voice of those who oppose this controversial curriculum?
 
Trust in the public school system has weakened over the last several months. The people’s trust in public institutions is much more important than the stick of law-and-order. The people’s trust can be regained through transparent dialogue and consultations, not through advertisement campaigns and the threat of legal action.
 
Mainstream media bias
 
The discriminatory behaviour of the mainstream media is also worthy of condemnation. In my experience, the mainstream media are so biased that they do not want to listen to anything or cover anything against the curriculum, with many journalists aiming to completely bury opposition.
 
Whenever protests were held, the mainstream media either failed to report them or have tended to downplay coverage.
 
Is the protection of our children “homophobia”? Will this topic that is of crucial importance to immigrant parents now be left in the hands of the government and mainstream media?
 
The mainstream media may have different perspective on other subjects, but they seem united in opposing the protesting parents and favouring the government on the matter of the sex-ed curriculum.
 
At this point, it seems clear to me that the Wynne government and mainstream media want to suppress the voices of parents who oppose the curriculum, labelling their objections as “homophobic” or motivated by sheer ignorance.
 
Is the protection of our children “homophobia”? Will this topic that is of crucial importance to immigrant parents now be left in the hands of the government and mainstream media?
 
The government and mainstream media are ignoring a petition that has 185,000 signatures.
 
The same media ignored the “cultural genocide” of Indigenous children because it was considered an Indigenous matter; similarly, opposition to this controversial curriculum is being presented as driven by new immigrants only. In fact, all communities have been opposing it and the protest held at Queen’s Park on June 7, 2015 is proof enough.
 
Even if we were to grant that the issue is primarily a “new immigrant” concern, are new immigrants not also parents? Don’t they have a right to safeguard the well-being of their children?
 
Dubious authors
 
It is a matter of shame that the overseer of this curriculum, Benjamin Levin, has recently been convicted on charges related to child pornography. Levin was Ontario’s deputy education minister from 2004 to 2007 and a Wynne supporter, playing an important role in her transition team.
 
Levin frequented a website with discussion forums on the sexual exploitation of children and police found numerous images of child pornography on his computer. On July 8, 2013, Toronto police charged him with child exploitation and on May 29, 2015 the court sentenced him to three years in prison.
 
The mainstream media did not consider it reasonable to ask the government about the relationship between Levin and this sex-ed curriculum. The government repeatedly claims the curriculum will protect children from sexual exploitation and diseases, but more likely it is a case of “Jackals guarding the hens” as a Punjabi saying goes.
 
The government should immediately withdraw this sex-ed curriculum or make the necessary changes requested by parents. Further, all information about the people who helped draft the document should be made public. This issue is crucial to the security and future of our children. It is the government’s duty to reassure parents that this revision is in the kids’ best interests.

Surjit Singh Flora has lived in Brampton, Ontario for the last 25 years. He is a guest-column writer, news reporter and photographer who has been published all over the world in more than 100 newspapers, magazines and online. He is also the editor and publisher of the weekly English news magazine Asia Metro Weekly.
 

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

CASTLEMORE, Ontario seniors raised their hands in support of parents’ agitation to protect young children from “age inappropriate / irresponsible sex education agenda of Ontario Government being forcibly implemented this fall with the support of opposition parties.” Seniors and parents promised to participate in upcoming events. Jotvinder Sodhi of HOWA thanked Harbans S Thind, president, […]

-- Delivered by Feed43 service

Indo-Canadian Voice

Read Full Article

Published in Education
Friday, 03 July 2015 15:19

Chan and Confucius

by Simon Li in Hong Kong

You've probably never realized that Ontario cabinet minister Michael Chan is a highly polarizing figure within the Greater Toronto Area's (GTA) Chinese communities until the Globe and Mail's recent coverage.

That's the case at least for my non-Chinese friends in the city, perhaps because the 64-year-old gentleman's appearance seems rather gentle; not the controversial type. During his eight years in Cabinet, opinions about Chan among Chinese Ontarians have remained sharply divided.
 
Three Little Surprises
 
Three little things have actually surprised me since the Globe ran the story on the only Chinese Canadian in Premier Kathleen Wynne's cabinet. (The minister threatened on the eve of Canada Day to take further legal action against the Globe if the paper does not apologize and immediately retract the story within 72 hours.) 
 
The Confederation of Toronto Chinese-Canadian Organizations, making a similar demand on Canada Day, has just asked the Globe to apologize not only to them but to the Chinese community and Chan. Apologizing to the Chinese community? This sounds like the whole community of Chinese Ontarians are homogenous while sharing a single view on the Globe story.
 
This is the very first thing which surprises me as a scholar of Chinese Canadian history. Time after time, the Chinese-Canadian community is intentionally being misrepresented by some (and hence mistakenly seen by the mainstream society and governments) as a homogeneous group, while it certainly is not. It is much more heterogeneous than one can imagine.
 
Even if you don't pay close attention to security matters, you may still have noticed that Canada's spy agency, Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), has been paying awfully close attention to one country in particular these days: China.
 
Although some associations’ names may sound like they are sole spokespeople for Chinese Canadian society, the reality is that there is not a single group that can speak on behalf of the whole Chinese community on the Michael Chan matter or any other issue.
 
Second, while it would not be difficult to hear polarizing views about Chan in the community, a good number of the province's Chinese-language media have strangely selected interviewees from just a particular side since day one -- that is, views that simply side with Chan -- instead of professionally reporting multiple views, including those that are other than pro-Chan's. Why? 
 
The third surprise has to do with the controversy surrounding Chan and Confucius — an unexpected pairing and the focus of this commentary.
 
The Background
 
Even if you don't pay close attention to security matters, you may still have noticed that Canada's spy agency, Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), has been paying awfully close attention to one country in particular these days: China.

Apart from the Globe's coverage of the CSIS revelations that Chan may have been under the influence of a foreign government and had "unusually close ties to Chinese officials," what catches some community members' attention is actually facet of the paper's reporting.
 
The Globe story suggested that Chan once lobbied for a deal between the Toronto District School Board and the Confucius Institute (CI), named after the ancient Chinese philosopher. This Institute has now been banned from a number of universities and school boards across Canada amid concerns about interfering with academic freedoms. Those which officially cut ties with the Confucius Institute include McMaster University, the University of Manitoba and the University of Sherbrooke.

Let's zoom out a bit here: What are Confucius Institutes? And why would the Liberal minister, as the Globe report disclosed, lobby the controversial Institute to make a deal with Canada's largest school board? 

Many wonder.
 
Digging deeper, these are the legitimate questions a journalist should ask. While the Chinese press has also been following the Chan story in the past two weeks, none of these questions have really been put forward to the minister.
 
The Chinese government says the Confucius Institutes, the brainchild of Beijing's Ministry of Education, are simply promoting Chinese culture and business ties. However, according to a declassified CSIS brief which was obtained earlier by media under the Access to Information Act, Canada's spy service believes China has enlisted the institutes to advance China's power behind the scenes. The secret intelligence report, portions of which were blacked out, states, "In other words, China wants the world to have positive feelings toward China and things Chinese."

"Soft power" is the keyword here. CSIS warns that Confucius Institutes are not as benign as they pretend to be because they are a part of -- albeit a relatively small part -- of China's strategy of "soft power".
 
Chinese "soft power"

While Chan’s spokesperson replied to the Globe that the minister only “wrote one letter offering his personal support to the TDSB in pursuing a dialogue to establish a Confucius Institute in Toronto,” there is still a puzzling question: Why would then-TDSB chair Chris Bolton actually deem Chan’s support of the establishment of the Confucius Institute in Toronto as crucial?

As Bolton publicly disclosed during last summer's gala to celebrate the CI-TDSB arrangement, "I'd like to take a moment to thank the people who were directly involved in the establishment of the CI. Right from the beginning, an MPP (Member of Provincial Parliament) by the name of Michael Chan has supported the establishment" -- it keeps one wondering: what precise role did the Ontario cabinet minister play in this whole deal involving a CI establishment which the CSIS refers in its report as a calculated part of China's "soft power" campaign?

Another essential question would be: what motivated him to be so "directly involved" (using the ex-TDSB chair's choice of words) in supporting the Beijing-sponsored institute which would be in charge of the curriculum and the hiring of teachers instead of the public-secular school board for Toronto? Chan represents Markham-Unionville, which does not fall under the Toronto school board, and his portfolio in Cabinet has nothing to do with education. 

In the wake of the high-profile CI crisis to date, why did the minister say earlier that he had "not paid attention at all, in terms of the curriculum” during the lobbying process? As a matter of fact, different concerns surrounding these controversial Confucius institutes and their curriculum have been extensively reported in Canada in as early as 2007.
 
Legitimate questions
 
Digging deeper, these are the legitimate questions a journalist should ask. While the Chinese press has also been following the Chan story in the past two weeks, none of these questions have really been put forward to the minister.

So at this point, only Chan knows the true answers.

Confucius too, maybe?  

The Chinese master of enduring wisdom once counselled, "Study the past if you would define the future."  And while our country's spy service believes China has enlisted its ancient politician-philosopher in its quest for power, don't be surprised by the fact the Communist Party of China has never quite been supportive of Confucian ideals (there was even a "Criticize Confucius" campaign in the People's Republic in the mid-1970s).

The past is ironic. 

So is the controversy surrounding the cabinet minister and the Chinese master.  

The clock is ticking. Let's see what happens when Chan’s 72-hour ultimatum expires. 
Simon Li, a former Canadian political journalist, currently teaches political science and investigative journalism in Hong Kong. Before entering an academic career, he was a political host on AM 1540 in Toronto and guest hosted The Current on CBC Radio. He previously researched Canada-China relations and Chinese Canadian history at Queen’s University.
 

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, 02 July 2015 23:01

$55M to Support At-risk Youth

By Gerald V. Paul Ontario is investing $55 million over three years under the enhanced Youth Action Plan to support more high-risk and additional high-needs communities across the province. “With…

-- Delivered by Feed43 service

The Caribbean Camera

Read Full Article

Published in Caribbean
Thursday, 02 July 2015 21:53

The Yin and Yang of Ties with China

by Ng Weng Hoong in Vancouver

Amid the growing debate over China’s influence in this country, some 200 delegates attended the inaugural Pacific Finance and Trade Summit in Vancouver on June 16 to promote Canada as a trading and clearing hub for the Chinese renminbi (RMB) currency.

News soon filtered in that an Ontario cabinet minister, in promoting increased trade ties with China, had or has been under surveillance for at least five years for being “too close” to Beijing. “Treason” and “espionage” were mentioned in a sensational Globe and Mail story about Michael Chan, a China-born naturalized citizen who has risen within Ontario’s Liberal Party government. But no charges have been laid, and two days after the June 16 story, the Federal Justice Minister punctured the newspaper’s claim that he had confirmed Chan was under investigation.

Nevertheless, given the prevailing anti-China sentiment in Canada’s newsrooms, the centrist Globe found rare support from its right-wing National Post rival. Diane Francis, a noted China critic, added to the Globe’s narrative by stating that Canada could suffer “long-term pain” if its business elite continues to cozy up to Beijing. She also suggested that Chinese migrants are really aiding Beijing’s takeover of Canada’s natural resources and hurting less well-off citizens by inflating real estate prices.

Earlier, in a three-part series on booming Richmond city, the Vancouver Sun’s Douglas Todd reprised some of his criticisms about Chinese migrants: ethnic enclaves, proliferation of Chinese language signs, rising housing unaffordability and weakening community cohesion.

Long suspicious of China, The Tyee, a left-leaning online publication, weighed in with a new critical report on how Prime Minister Stephen Harper sold Canada off to Beijing through the Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA).

Rarely has the breadth of Canada’s ideological media divide been so united on a single topic: the fear of China and things Chinese.

The curse of interesting times

While both sides have matching economic imperatives -- China needs natural resources and services, Canada needs markets -- domestic politics in both countries along with strained interactions between new Chinese migrants and Canadians are having an unpredictable impact on bilateral relations.

With Canada’s economy veering towards recession amid the prolonged oil-and-gas price collapse, its leaders recognize the need for expanded long-term economic ties with China and Asia to reduce dependence on the U.S.

Among those at the June 16 event were China’s Vancouver-based Consul General Liu Fei, B.C.’s Trade Minister Teresa Wat, Finance Minister Michael De Jong, two of his predecessors, former finance ministers from Alberta and Ontario, as well as representatives from some of the world’s largest banks. Four of those banks are from China, led by the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), which has more than US$3 trillion in assets and the role of clearing RMB trades for the Americas.

In over three years as consul general, Liu said she has travelled across B.C. to meet with the mayors and business people of more than 30 cities and towns who are eager to increase trade ties with China.

Despite bilateral trade reaching a record (C$77.43 billion) last year, she said both countries are fulfilling a mere fraction of their export potential. Canada has room to substantially increase export to China’s 1.4 billion people after selling just C$18.8 billion worth of merchandise last year.

Colin Hansen, a former B.C. finance minister who now heads up AdvantageBC, describes the RMB hub as a huge opportunity for Canada to create new business to serve companies throughout the Americas who are planning to or are already doing business with China.

With China globalizing its currency, Hansen said Canada with its strong physical, banking and legal infrastructure and stable political system is well-positioned to succeed as a RMB hub. Vancouver and Toronto have the added strength of their diverse populations, in particular their ready pool of Canadians fluent in English, Mandarin and Cantonese.

Range of fears

But not everyone wants Canada to become China’s currency booster, or have more Mandarin or Cantonese speakers in the population mix.

Disregarding their country’s gloomy economic outlook, 49 per cent of Canadians recently told the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada (APFC) they don’t want any investments from China, citing a range of fears from loss of control of strategic assets, to environmental, health, safety, security and labour challenges. Politically, the RMB hub faces a hard sell as Canadians are becoming increasingly negative towards their country’s second largest trade partner.

Canada’s mainstream media have played to the public’s anti-China mood by highlighting Beijing’s territorial bullying of its neighbours, its disastrous environmental record, and human rights abuses. The reports also focus on how new Chinese migrants in Greater Vancouver and Toronto are not integrating well due to their lack of English or French language fluency.

Canada’s mainstream media have played to the public’s anti-China mood by highlighting Beijing’s territorial bullying of its neighbours, its disastrous environmental record, and human rights abuses.

Some 64 per cent of Vancouver residents blame Chinese-led foreign buying for causing the city’s rising real estate cost, according to a Angus Reid survey. The media has focused on Chinese buying of expensive high-end homes, but have hardly investigated other causes of Vancouver’s rising housing unaffordability.

Also, less widely reported is Chinese contribution in boosting the economies of many countries around the world, including the revival of Canada’s previously depressed resource towns.

The spread of Chinese influence

Richmond city stands out as the symbol of what’s not to like when Chinese migrants and money become dominant, in particular in the proliferation of Chinese language signs in the downtown core.

“If all they’re bringing in is money, they won’t become a true part of Canada. The new migrants must make an effort to learn English or French,” said Stewart Beck, the APFC’s president and CEO, in an interview.

Canadian suspicions have also been aroused by Beijing’s eagerness to “splash the cash”. In 2012, state-owned China National Oil Corp (CNOOC) paid a very generous 61 per cent premium of more than C$15.1 billion for a medium-sized oil and gas company with little growth prospects.

That record deal for both countries has ended badly for the acquired Nexen Inc., leaving behind a trail of job cuts, broken promises and unfulfilled expectations. With that deal’s failings still unfolding, many wonder if the potential benefits of the RMB hub project could just be as over-stated, and its problems under-rated.

“If all they’re bringing in is money, they won’t become a true part of Canada. The new migrants must make an effort to learn English or French,” said Stewart Beck, the APFC’s president and CEO, in an interview.

Missing the big story

Despite his political aversion towards China, Prime Minister Harper signed two major agreements with Beijing last year: FIPA and the RMB hub deal.

There are concerns the RMB hub could be used for remitting “funny money” amid reports that Vancouver is a popular destination for criminals and corrupt officials fleeing China.

However, Jimmy Mitchell, AdvantageBC’s vice president for business development, sees the RMB hub as aiming to promote and facilitate legal and legitimate trade between China and the Americas.

“Given that the RMB hub represents a new channel and a new relationship to handle an unprecedented amount of money, we will focus on building the trust and processes to make it work,” he said.

By promoting the RMB hub and FIPA, Canada will be helping to expand China’s influence in the region. In targeting Chan for allegedly doing Beijing’s bidding, the Globe and Mail has clearly missed the bigger stories.


Ng Weng Hoong is a Vancouver writer who has been covering energy and economic issues in Asia and the Middle East for over three decades.

Published in Commentary

TORONTO — It looks as though consumers of kosher chickens will have to wait a bit longer for a made-in-Ontario option. Chicken Farmers of...

-- Delivered by Feed43 service

The Canadian Jewish News

Read Full Article

Published in National

Poll Question

Do you agree with the new immigration levels for 2017?

Yes - 30.8%
No - 46.2%
Don't know - 23.1%
The voting for this poll has ended on: %05 %b %2016 - %21:%Dec

Featured Quote

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

Zo2 Framework Settings

Select one of sample color schemes

Google Font

Menu Font
Body Font
Heading Font

Body

Background Color
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image

Top Wrapper

Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image

Header Wrapper

Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image

Mainmenu Wrapper

Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image

Slider Wrapper

Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image

Scroller Wrapper

Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image

Mainframe Wrapper

Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image

Bottom Scroller Wrapper

Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image

Breadcrumb Wrapper

Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image

Bottom Menu Wrapper

Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image

Bottom Wrapper

Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image
Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image