New Canadian Media

by Maryann D’Souza & Mourad Haroutunian (@MHaroutunianTO) in Toronto

In part two of NCM’s coverage of the reactions amongst the ethnic/immigrant communities to Ontario’s sex education curriculum changes, our reporters focus on South Asian and Arab Canadians. To read part one, click here.

Most South Asians are uncomfortable talking about sex. That’s it plain and simple. And living in another part of the world hasn’t changed that, especially for Generation X. There might be a few that are somewhat open-minded, but even those hesitate when the time comes to have ‘that talk’ with their children. No surprise, therefore, that many in the community have added their voices to the growing group that is protesting the new sex-ed curriculum being implemented in Ontario schools this September.

Too Much Too Soon

It’s too much too soon say some of the protestors. Seven is a “sensitive age” and “too early” to be discussing concepts like homosexuality with their kids. In a recent article in the Weekly Voice, Jotvinder Sodi (founder of the Home Owners Welfare Association in Peel Region) spoke out on behalf of a group of “concerned” Brampton parents who organized a meeting to gather support against the curriculum.

What many may not readily admit though is that, generally amongst South Asians, this discussion is not welcome at any age.

 

“We fear that the proposed subjects could be about homosexuality and anal sex and discussions about puberty and masturbation. We believe that these are age sensitive material, age five to seven is too young to be exposed with this type of knowledge,” wrote Sodi.

Discussion is Permission

What many may not readily admit though is that, generally amongst South Asians, this discussion is not welcome at any age. Shazia Malik captured this sentiment in her article in the South Asian Daily. She referred to a caller on the South Asian PULSE Radio who said that, “He, as a father cannot dare talk to his young son about these matters openly, how will those be discussed in the class?”

“Teaching small kids about sex means putting something in innocent minds which could backfire... it could have exactly the opposite effect than that it purportedly hopes to prevent." - Surjit Singh Flora

Surjit Singh Flora, whose protests are written in a number of community publications, made his feelings clear in a Can-India News article. “Teaching small kids about sex means putting something in innocent minds which could backfire. They might take it the other way around… and it could have exactly the opposite effect than that it purportedly hopes to prevent — more rape crimes and sex abuse on the streets, at home, clubs, schools, bars, etc.,” he wrote.

“We don’t want our kids to get the idea that we are giving them permission to go ahead,” one mother said, on condition of anonymity.

Angst Amongst Liberals and Conservatives

Within the Arab community, much like amongst South Asians, there is overwhelming disdain for the new curriculum, which hasn’t been updated since 1998. In fact, both Liberal and Conservative minded Coptic-Canadians teamed up this week to voice their opposition at a protest outside of Queen’s Park, initiated by various community organizations.

“Mississauga’s Coptic churches had a strong presence in the event,” reported Good News, a Canadian–Coptic newspaper, on its online platform. A number of buses transported protesters from Mississauga under the auspices of Father Maximos Rizkalla, the pastor of the Church of St. Mary And St. Athanasius, the paper added.

“It is utterly unacceptable to see the government overstep their boundaries to take on the parental role while failing to deliver to their mandate.” - Ghada Melek

Protesters held banners reading: “It’s a parent right to teach their children about sex,” “Math, not masturbation; science, not sex,” and “What’s next? Safe animal sex?”

“It is utterly unacceptable to see the government overstep their boundaries to take on the parental role while failing to deliver to their mandate,” Ghada Melek, one of many activists who called for the protest, wrote on her Facebook page on Feb. 24.

“Today's rally sent a loud and clear message to the Wynne government that we oppose her proposed sex education to our children,” added Melek, a Copt, who debuted her political career last year when ran (and didn’t win) for Mississauga Ward 6 councillor.

Political Leaders Speak Out

Sheref Sabawy, an influential Coptic activist from the Federal Liberal party, did not abstain from joining the consensus of his community and supporting his rivals, the Conservative party.

“I am adding my voice and efforts to all Ontario parents who are concerned with the new sex ed curriculum,” Sabawy wrote on his Facebook page. “There will be no new curriculum before full consultation with parents.”

Sabawy says he believes parents should be consulted through town hall meetings, questionnaires, or, if needed, written consent of parents. “Liberal values are clear to me and do not mean immorality,” he says.

Politicians in the South Asian community also spoke out against the curriculum. The Weekly Voice and South Asia Mail reported former MPP Harinder Takhar (who served under Premier Dalton McGuinty) as saying that he had advised McGuinty against implementing the curriculum in 2010. He maintains this view stating that, “a serious debate is required in the community on this issue.” The same report also states Conservative MP Parm Gill’s apprehensions. Gill said that being the father of three children, the new syllabus is a cause of concern for him. He was of the opinion that the Liberal party had, “destroyed the institution of marriage and now it is (sic) on its way to put our children on the wrong track.”

Not All Opposed

There are some who support the provincial governments move, though their voices may be barely audible amongst the loud clatter of all the protestors. Two of the five parents interviewed by Can-India News thought it was, “about time.”

“Parents opposing the new sex-ed curriculum are living in denial. Schools should be discussing these issues and giving students the information they need,” said one parent, identified only as Parineet. “They should know about these things because everyone talks about it in schools and it is easy for them to get the wrong idea or information from friends or the Internet. The school would do it scientifically and professionally.”

Irrespective of how parents feel, Premier Kathleen Wynne is determined that the new sex-ed curriculum will be implemented this time. How much of a difference it will make is another matter though, as parents will have the option of pulling their children out of sex-ed classes.

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
Friday, 27 February 2015 08:53

NCM NewsFeed: Weekly Newsletter Feb. 27

Our headlines this week: Ontario's new sex-ed curriculum + racism in Winnipeg + feds crack down on former refugees + fighting ISIS + niqab controversy


 

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Here and Now

We break new ground this week with the first of our NCM 360° in-depth investigative series, and the Immigration Watch feature to stimulate debate and discussion around policy changes.

Confronting the race divide in Winnipeg: In the first of a three-part NCM 360° report, Abbas Somji investigates what prompted a Maclean’s cover story to call Manitoba’s capital “Canada’s most racist city.” By bringing cultural context to the story, Somji shows how Winnipeg’s racism begins with its colonial roots.

Immigrant parents feel undermined by new Ontario sex-ed curriculum: Ontario’s new sex-ed program has many immigrant parents upset, write Mark Cadiz and Shan Qiao. Parents’ reactions to the curriculum include anger over not being included in its development (“As if we didn’t exist,” complains one parent) to concern that it will expose young children to too much information.

Express Entry likely to boost economic competitiveness: Kareem El-Assal, a research associate for the Conference Board of Canada, says that the new immigration system introduced on Jan. 1 represents a marked departure from Canada’s previous ‘first come, first served’ way of processing applications. The new system can be expected to improve Canada’s global economic competitiveness and usher new immigrants into well-paying jobs, says El-Assal.

Nissan Canada hits a bump on the multicultural marketing road; A friendly word in someone’s mother tongue is a great way to make a connection — but you have to get it right. With that in mind, Robin Brown, a senior vice-president at Environics Research Group, shows us a recent Nissan Canada print ad intended for South Asians in Canada. The ad was a flop.

Stop intervening in Middle Eastern conflicts’: The West needs to stop meddling in the Middle East and allow Bashar al-Assad to regain control of Syria if it wants stability in the region, said a panel of diplomats and policymakers at the Conference of Defence Associations (CDA) Institute’s summit in Ottawa last week. Amanda Connolly of iPolitics reports that the experts say Western intervention against ISIS will succeed — but only in the short term.

Arab world — what you didn’t read in the mainstream: Mourad Haroutunian calls for caution over the federal government’s proposed anti-terror bill, and praises Canada — in contrast to European countries after the Charlie Hebdo attack — for its plurality and tolerance.

China — what you didn’t read in the mainstream: Shan Qiao writes about Chinese-Canadians’ request that Beijing allow extended visas for would-be travellers to China, and explores the difficulties that Chinese academics face in trying to work at Canadian schools.

Ripples

Creating ripples this week is a new report from Amnesty International that says Canadian mining firm Turquoise Hill Resources knew that its investment in a mining project in Myanmar would lead to the eviction of thousands of villagers. Amnesty also alleges that the company broke international sanctions when it sold its 50% stake in the Monywa copper complex. Its stake was later sold to a junta-controlled conglomerate and a Chinese weapons maker. “Myanmar offers the perfect storm of a rich natural resource base, a weak legal system and an economy dominated by military and special interests,” says Amnesty’s Meghna Abraham in the report.

A Chinese ban on ‘western values’ in textbooks could be a boon for schools in Canada, say experts. “This ban ... will have a positive impact on luring Chinese students to Canada,” says a B.C.-based education entrepreneur who has schools in Beijing. “The students there are unhappy. They want to expand their horizons, and online courses from western universities or going to Canada, the U.S. and Australia are being looked at increasingly as options.” Chinese Education Minister Yuan Guiren announced the ban late last month, adding that universities should “promote the ideas of Chinese President Xi Jinping in teaching materials, classrooms and our minds” to create an ideologically sound workforce.

Somaya Amiri, a 17-year-old Afghan immigrant studying in Vancouver, is among 30 Canadian high-school students named Loran scholars. Under the program, she will receive up to $100,000 for four years of tuition. The scholarship also includes a mentorship program and money for summer internships. According to the Globe and Mail, Amiri didn’t speak any English when she arrived in Canada with her family in 2011. On her first day of Grade 9, she needed someone to translate her communications with her teachers into Farsi, which is similar to her native language of Dari.

The Toronto Star, meanwhile, reports that Ottawa has quietly stepped up efforts to strip permanent resident status from former refugees who have travelled to their countries of origin. Wielding new powers granted by immigration-law reforms in 2012, the federal government is now reopening asylum files under what’s known as a ‘cessation application.’ 116 people had their protection ‘ceased’ in 2014, up from 24 in 2012, according to the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB).

Rounding out this section is the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada’s summary report of the group’s conference held in Calgary in October 2014. (The full report can be found here.) According to APF Canada, the aim of the conference was to build a more Asia-aware, Asia-competent Canada, especially among youth. A follow-up conference is planned for early 2016.

Harmony Jazz

An insightful piece by Bessma Momani and Lorne Dawson looks at the challenges faced by returning ISIS fighters and the need for de-radicalization programs similar to those in Germany and Denmark. And here’s an article by William Saletan on the logic and nuance of President Obama's refusal to equate ISIS with Islam.

There is a similar debate here in Canada on how to approach the threat of ISIS and other radical groups. Most pundits agree that ramping up rhetoric is counter-productive. Margaret Wente, Stephen Maher, and Andrew Coyne all come down on the same side. Salim Mansur, writing on the niqab citizenship controversy, takes another tack and defends the Conservatives’ stance on the issue.

For Downton Abbey fans curious about the theme of anti-Semitism in the current season, here’s a good interview with series creator Julian Fellowes on how his own perspective influenced the storyline.

Two interesting articles this week provide examples of Muslims pushing for dialogue within and beyond the Muslim community. First, the effort by Tariq Ramadan and Anwar Ibrahim, among others, to write a Muslim manifesto for reform. Second, the account of Professor Mehnaz Afridi on how a Muslim can teach about the Holocaust.

Back Pocket

To add perspective to our investigation into racism in Winnipeg, here’s an article by Sharon O Nyangweso: Guest in a stolen house: On immigration, colonialism and Canada. Sharon says indigenous people in North America have suffered far-reaching discrimination, violence, silencing and psychological damage, but white Canadians have often denied this. ”My childhood in Kenya had introduced me to the first occupants of this land only [by] playing ‘Cowboys and Indians,’” she writes.



With that, have a great weekend and don’t forget to look up the next edition of NCM NewsFeed every Friday! If you’d like to subscribe to our e-newsletter, please click here.

Publisher’s Note: This NewsFeed was compiled with input from our Newsroom Editors and regular columnist, Andrew Griffith. We welcome your feedback.

 

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Published in Top Stories

by Mark A. Cadiz @markacadiz & Shan Qiao in Toronto

Many parents throughout Ontario were up in arms about the new sex education curriculum announced Feb. 23, feeling they were excluded as part of the process.

The new curriculum, which is expected roll out in September, has received harsh criticism from some parents in various communities across Ontario.

“We feel that our role as parents [is] being undermined and this is one of the problems… they are going ahead as if we didn’t exist.” - Firas Marish, Parents Against Ontario Sex-Ed

Firas Marish from Oakville, Ont. is one of the community leaders behind Parents Against Ontario Sex-Ed (PAOSE), a Facebook community group, which launched yesterday. He isn’t holding back with his discontent, and he isn’t alone. The page, in the last 24 hours has already gathered 1200 likes.

“We feel that our role as parents [is] being undermined and this is one of the problems… they are going ahead as if we didn’t exist,” Marish said. “The goal is to protect our kids and we appreciate that move and we support it, but what we are seeing doesn’t serve that goal.”

Marish says with these new changes the government is trying to impose a certain ideology or lifestyle upon his children without his consultation. He, like many other parents, says he believes it is his right to educate his children about sex when he deems it is appropriate. To him, the school’s role is a secondary one on the issue.

He adds that to his knowledge, even school trustees were not informed properly.

What Will Be Taught

Many in the Chinese community agree on sex education being taught, but not as early as Grade 3. Many parents are even more angry when they know content like same-sex relationships will be discussed under the new curriculum. 

Jessica Gao, a mother who has a four-year-old boy and a newborn daughter, appealed to all her parents’ friends on the popular Chinese social app WeChat to sign an online petition and oppose the new Ontario sex ed curriculum. 

“Growing up in a typical reserved Chinese family, I know how important it is to have sex education and safe sex prevention before we enter our adulthood,” said Gao, who currently stays home taking care of her one-month-old daughter. “Lacking of proper sex education in China results so many teenage abortions. However, do I want my children to learn sexual orientation before he even turns 10 years old? I don’t think so. 

“I wish Catholic schools will not use this curriculum. I think Grade 8 is still too young to understand what they feel… discussing sex orientation will confuse them more or less.” - North York mother

Gao, like many other parents, is concerned about when Ontario sex ed curriculum when particular content will be introduced to her children, not to mention, some content will be accompanied with offensive graphics related to masturbation and sexual intimacy. 

Catherine Fang, a North York mother who sent her six-year-old boy to a Catholic school, opposes the new sex ed curriculum for introducing sex orientation in Grade 8. “I wish Catholic schools will not use this curriculum. I think Grade 8 is still too young to understand what they feel… discussing sex orientation will confuse them more or less,” she says. 

Other parents like Markham area resident Jason Huang wonders whether private schools in Ontario will adopt the curriculum or not. “I think it is too aggressive to introduce subjects such as homosexuality. I have no problem to support the rights for homosexual people, but where is the right to not know this at a fairly young age for heterosexual children like mine?” he asks. 

Chinese media, on the other hand, have been covering this sensitive matter without any sensitivity. Words such as “anal sex” and “oral sex” appear frequently on headlines for the story, including in Singtao Daily News and Mingpao Daily News and on Fairchild TV. The coverage focuses mostly on those who oppose. 

“It depends how it will be handled by teachers, because if it’s not handled properly it could be destructive for children.” - Linda Javier, Filipino Centre of Toronto

Mingpao Daily News interviewed several parents from Hong Kong and Mainland China who went to Queen’s Park to oppose on Monday. All of them express their wariness to the new sex ed curriculum as “too much” and “too early”. 

“We believe in one man and one woman marriage. We want the Ontario sex ed curriculum to cover more on this part as well,” Dr. Peter Chen, Spokesperson of Toronto Chinese Catholic Task Force told Fairchild TV at Monday’s rally against the curriculum. 

How It Will Be Taught

Retired junior high teacher and now president of the Filipino Centre of Toronto, Linda Javier, is more concerned about the delivery of the new sex education curriculum, not the material itself.

“It depends how it will be handled by teachers, because if it’s not handled properly it could be destructive for children,” Javier said. “The success will largely depend on the training that the teachers will get, in order to deliver this curriculum in such a way that it’s taught to the children properly.”

She says the intention of the program is helpful considering the advancement in digital technology, however, she doesn’t believe that from now until September will be sufficient time for teachers to be trained accordingly.

“Whatever is included in the new curriculum is intended to be helpful, it wasn’t intended to harm children,” she said. “But there are ramifications, there needs to be constant follow-ups and analysis to see if it is working.”

And this is the problem for Marish, there is no proof that this will actually make a positive difference, “it’s just trial-and-error,” he said.

In Marish’s culture, pre-marital sex is not promoted and he plans to pass those cultural values to his six-year-old daughter and two-year-old son.

“For my culture we don’t have sexual relationships outside the constitution of marriage, but now all of a sudden it’s being heavily promoted by schools, and not just sex, but different forms of sex… oral sex and anal sex,” Marish said.

This promotion of sex at such a young age does more harm than good and contradicts what he would teach his kids at home Marish continued.

Common Ground

What Marish would like to see is an immediate suspension of the new sex education program and a true inclusive consultation with parents from a variety of backgrounds.

“We want to sit down with educators and people from different backgrounds, different lifestyles and different beliefs and play it fair… I’m sure that we can sit down and come up with something that is satisfactory and protects everybody, we’ve done it before in this country and we can do it again,” he said.

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
Saturday, 07 February 2015 00:01

Ontario launches updated plan for health care

Ontario is introducing the next phase of transformation to the province’s health care. The new plan – Patients First: Ontario’s Action Plan for Health Care – outlines how the province will increase access to better and more coordinated care, and ensure the health care system is sustainable for generations to come.
This action plan focuses on four goals:

Salam Toronto

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Published in Health
Friday, 06 February 2015 09:44

Ontario’s First Black MPP Gets Results

by Yamina Tsalamlal of iPolitics.ca

Fifty-one years ago this week, a decade after the U.S. Supreme Court called segregated schools unconstitutional, one Ontario member of provincial parliament tried to convince his colleagues that black and white students could learn in the same classroom.

The Common Schools Act, passed in Ontario in 1850, created separate Catholic and black school systems. The schools for blacks received poorer funding and were understaffed. It was February 4, 1964, and Canada’s first black MPP, Leonard Braithwaite, used his first speech in the Ontario legislature to criticize the law that allowed for segregated schools in the province. One month later the education minister introduced a bill that repealed this provision.

Leonard spent most of his public life working to provide more opportunities for minorities.

Braithwaite had been exposed to racism growing up in Toronto during the Great Depression. After initially being rejected from the air force based on his race, he finally enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1943 and was stationed in Britain.

After the war he earned a commerce degree from the University of Toronto, an MBA from Harvard and a law degree at Osgoode Hall.

He spent most of his public life working to provide more opportunities for minorities. He was a major player in the decision to allow female pages in the legislature for the first time in 1971.

In 1997 Braithwaite became a member of the Order of Canada and later earned the Order of Ontario. He died in 2012.

While the last segregated school in Ontario was closed in 1965, separating students based on religion or race continues to be discussed. In Ontario for example, Catholic schools are still publicly funded.

In 2008, the Toronto school board approved the first africentric elementary school. Advocates argued that a more culturally relevant approach to education would fill the graduation gap between black and white students in Toronto.

In 2012 a similar program was introduced at Winston Churchill Collegiate in Toronto. Named after the trailblazer, the Leonard Braithwaite Program offers grade nine and ten students an “africentric” approach to learning. An example of the approach was to use coral reefs of the Caribbean — where many students have roots — as the subject matter in a science class instead of the usual focus on Canadian bio-systems. The approach continues to grow with more schools in the city looking to adopt the program.


Re-published with permission.

Published in Top Stories

Indian-born Dr. Dhun Noria, the Scarborough Hospital’s chief of laboratory medicine and medical director of laboratories, was presented with the Order of Ontario by the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario Elizabeth Dowdeswell, at a ceremony, Feb. 3.

Dr. Noria was recognized with this prestigious honour due to her unwavering commitment and steadfast dedication to the hospital, Scarborough and the Ontario medical community.

Canadian Immigrant

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Published in Health
Tuesday, 20 January 2015 10:32

The Case of Canada’s Imaginary Muslims

by iPolitics.ca

The number of Muslims in Canada is not nearly what Canadians imagine it to be.

In the aftermath of this month’s terrorist attacks in France, last week The Economist reviewed the gap between the imagined and real sizes of Muslim populations in European countries. They found Europeans wildly overestimate the proportion of their populations that are Muslims. So what’s the Canadian case?

Whether born of xenophobic angst or pluralist exuberance, the average figure given by Canadians when asked for Muslims’ share of the general population is 20 per cent, according to a survey conducted last autumn by Ipsos Reid (with a margin of error of 3.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20). This imagined figure exceeds the actual one — 3.2 per cent — sixfold.

Canada … does not have any major political constituency devoted to the mistrust or hatred of religious minorities. In fact, all of the major political parties are quite explicitly committed to the inclusion and tolerance of minority groups.

“People who hold mythical ideas of Muslims in the West — including the one which holds that they’re expanding at an exponential pace and are poised to become a majority — (are not) necessarily racists or bigots or xenophobes,” says Doug Saunders, author of The Myth of the Muslim Tide. Instead, they are “often ordinary Canadians confused by the newcomers around them” and easily swayed by media narratives of a “large and fast-growing population that is not loyal to the countries it inhabits or refuses to integrate.”

Ontario, the province with the highest average guess in the Ipsos Reid survey — over 25 per cent — has the highest actual percentage of Muslims, but even this is just 4.6 per cent.

The greatest relative overestimation is in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, where the combined average guess — inflated perhaps by the prairies’ emerging status as a preferred destination for immigrants, or maybe just too much Little Mosque on the Prairie — is 20 per cent, but in the 2011 census Muslims accounted for just one per cent of the population in both provinces.

And Quebec, wrought last year by debate over a proposed Charter of Values, spurred in large part by the presumed cultural threat of a ‘Muslim tide’, is just 3.1 per cent Muslim, although the average Quebecer thinks the figure to be above 17 per cent.

These popular overestimations are unlikely to affect Canadian federal politics in the foreseeable future, according to Saunders, as “Canada … does not have any major political constituency devoted to the mistrust or hatred of religious minorities. In fact, all of the major political parties are quite explicitly committed to the inclusion and tolerance of minority groups.”

“All the major parties want to get Canadians of immigrant descent to vote for them and to become loyal adherents to the party. The Conservatives have put a lot of effort into becoming the party of diversity; Harper and Kenney spend a lot of time at Sikh temples and Muslim gatherings.”

The gap between actual Muslim Canadians and those who exist only in the public imagination is over 5.5 million people — roughly equal the population of Toronto. Fears of Islam’s demographic triumph are greatly exaggerated.


Re-published with permission and under arrangement with iPolitics.ca.

Published in Top Stories

Che Marville, the Oakville New Democratic Party (NDP) candidate in this year’s provincial elections, has been elected the Ontario NDP’s vice president.

The Share News

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Published in Politics
Wednesday, 26 November 2014 11:22

Research Watch: Studies Paint Depressing Picture

by Priya Ramanujam (@SincerelyPriyain Toronto

It may not be time for report cards in school just yet, but when it comes to research, several annual report cards are in. In this edition of Research Watch we take a look at three recently released reports that speak to how immigrants and visible minorities are faring in various aspects of Canadian life from child poverty to employment in the public sector to corporate boards. The overall grade in each instance: F.


Immigrant children getting left behind

Not having lunch at school. Not being able to participate in extracurricular activities. Being made fun of for being on welfare. When asked what poverty feels like, these were some of the responses that some of Ontario’s children provided, in a recently released report administered by Campaign 2000 and Family Services Toronto. And for 50 per cent of the province’s children born to immigrants this feeling is part of daily life, states the report. This is in comparison to the 20 per cent of children overall that live in poverty across Ontario.

The report, which used Statistics Canada data from 2012 income tax returns, brings attention to not only this startling information, but to the fact that in 1989 the federal government put forth a strategic plan to eradicate child poverty by the year 2000. Twenty-five years later, the problem has only increased, particularly for children of new immigrants, with racialized and First Nations children next in line.

“There’s plenty the government could do to end poverty, but I don’t understand why they aren’t doing that,” an anonymous Ontario grade school student says in the report. And the words hold much weight. Essentially, everything the government could, and should, be doing is outlined in the report. Perhaps the most insightful though: “Eradicating child poverty in Ontario requires addressing and dismantling long-standing systemic inequities.” Without this key element, no matter how many tax benefits or increases to social assistance are made (all of which was cited as part of 1989’s plan, then again in 2008 and again in 2014), real change will not be brought about. The various levels of government must address the root causes of this poverty, versus placing bandage solutions on the complex issue. 

Along these lines, the report calls on the government to, for example, legislate Employment Equity to remedy discrimination in Canadian workplaces, repeal the three month waiting period for immigrants to receive Ontario Health Insurance coverage, create equity and anti-racism boards to address inequities and take a proactive approach to enforcing employment standards to provide equal protection for people employed under the temporary foreign worker program. These specific recommendations speak to some of the unique challenges facing individuals of immigrant and racialized backgrounds and are in addition to more blanket proposed solutions of raising minimum wage to $15 an hour and ending the deduction of child support and the Ontario Child Benefit from social assistance funds.

“There’s plenty the government could do to end poverty, but I don’t understand why they aren’t doing that,” an anonymous Ontario grade school student says in the report.

Many mitigating factors point out that this issue is only going to get worse if those in power don’t sit up, take notice, and most importantly, take action. The Ontario job market is bleak. Manufacturing jobs, once a major employer for women, racialized and recent immigrant populations, make up only 11 per cent of the market now, in comparison to a previous 18 per cent. Recent legislation, Bill C-583, if passed, may limit access to social assistance for refugee claimants. The generation born since 1989, when the vow of eliminating child poverty was made, is up against more unemployment than ever before, coupled with rising tuition, cost of living and limited affordable housing. Add to that mix being a young person who is of colour, new to the country, suffers from mental health challenges or is homeless and the odds only stack higher. All the while, the gap between the highest and lowest income families continues to widen.

What does all this mean? It means that the time is now for change. However, the most telling aspect of the report may also be the most discouraging. In 2008, a commitment was made to develop tailored solutions to the unique needs of women, racialized communities, newcomers, people with disabilities, and Aboriginal peoples, among others at higher risk of poverty. As of November 2014, while some investments for Aboriginal children and those with disabilities have been made, and some employment programs for newcomers have been implemented, no specific solutions have been outlined or reported, for racialized communities, nor has any commitment to tracking impact in this community been made. 

Having set a new goal in 2008, to reduce child poverty by 25 per cent in five years, and still fallen short – as of 2013 the rate had declined just over nine per cent – it is clear the work is far from over, and attention must be paid to Ontario’s most marginalized.

Eradicating child poverty in Ontario requires addressing and dismantling long-standing systemic inequities.

Skilled immigrants missing in civil servant jobs  

It’s somewhat ironic. Multiculturalism and diversity are often promoted as two of Canada’s most redeeming qualities. But within its own three levels of government there is a gap in employment diversity that needs to be addressed says a recent study released by ALLIES (a Maytree affiliated organization). That gap is one of skilled immigrants – noticeably underrepresented in public sector jobs. Titled Government as Employer of Skilled Immigrants, the study aims to encourage government to become leaders in the area of hiring immigrants, while providing context to the challenges and conditions at play within the current work force. This isn’t just of utmost importance because the public sector represents a huge job market – the government currently employs 3.6 million people at its varying levels – but authors Sarah Wayland and Dan Sheffield write that it is also worth paying attention to because the government holds great influence over the rest of the market. Whether public or private, if other employers see the government taking greater strides to purposely hire skilled immigrants, they just may follow suit.

“By bringing in fresh perspectives whether from youth or immigrants or others, there is labour force advantage to be gained,” said Susan Brown, an employee of City of Toronto, in the report. “Moreover with an aging workforce, governments need new employees, even if overall numbers continue to decline. Prioritizing immigrants into the future gives us a great opportunity to diversify our workforce and address imbalances.”

This only makes sense for a country that has made a commitment to increasing focus on immigrants as skilled workers – in fact, it is expected that over the next 10 years, close to 100,000 recent immigrants will be added to the labour market annually. Not only will these individuals add to the diversity of the government bodies, bringing with them international perspectives and connections, but they also bring an element of lived experience which is beneficial in serving the immigrant population, which generally represents 20 per cent (in some areas much higher) of Canadian society.

The report cites several barriers that stand in the way of recent immigrants gaining employment with the government (the rates increase the longer individuals are in Canada), including lack of supports in smaller communities, bilingual and citizenship qualification criteria, seniority and a lack of data focused on the immigrant experience in the application, interview, hiring and retention stages of employment.

“By bringing in fresh perspectives whether from youth or immigrants or others, there is labour force advantage to be gained,” said Susan Brown, an employee of City of Toronto, in the report.

Some organizations are more intentional with efforts to hire immigrants, than others, according to the report. Leading the pack is the City of Ottawa, recognized as one of the Best Diversity Employers in Canada in 2013, which has an active plan in the works to include immigrants in its organization as an effort to better reflect the community it serves. Using a strategy coined the Equity and Inclusion Lens since 2009, the City of Ottawa is proactively taking steps such as providing training to city councillors and staff, to remove systemic barriers and promote inclusion internally.

As it stands overall, while a shift in hiring culture is being cultivated in some areas across the country, immigrants are half as likely as their Canadian-born counterparts to land a job in public administration, but far more likely than Canadian-born residents to be working in manufacturing, accommodation and food service. In order for this to change, the report indicates it is crucial for a government organization to embed diversity into its day-to-day culture instead of having it as an “add-on”. 

Minorities barely visible on corporate boards

The country’s corporate boards are in need of some more diversity – visible diversity that is. It seems that while there have been positive increases in the area of women sitting on corporate boards, visible minority representation is at an all-time low. This is according to The Canadian Board Diversity Council (CBDC) annual report card, released this month.

In 2010, when the council was established, the percentage of visible minorities sitting on the boards of the companies studied, which range in industry from Finance and Insurance, Utilities and Retail/Trade to Manufacturing and Mining/Oil/Gas, was just over five. This year, visible minorities clocked in at less than half of that – two per cent.

Part of the underlying problem – when board members retire or step down, the remaining members tend to look to personal circles to fill the positions, and well, if visible minorities, Aboriginal people or people with disabilities aren’t in their circles, they lose out.

While the report indicates that the majority of directors surveyed believed diversity was important on boards, it also stated that many groups feel they are already diverse, and only a quarter of the boards in most industries have diversity policies in place. This, of course, is indicative of a broad definition of diversity. It seems the boards studied have substantial diversity in areas of expertise and education, moderate levels of diversity in areas of age, gender and geographic location, but are significantly lacking in areas of diversity relating to visible minority and Aboriginal populations and those with disabilities. 

Part of the underlying problem – when board members retire or step down, the remaining members tend to look to personal circles to fill the positions, and well, if visible minorities, Aboriginal people or people with disabilities aren’t in their circles, they lose out. The CBDC has put together a database, Diversity 50, to help counter this. The database, which now has 150 individuals listed, includes the names and faces of eligible board members. Come this time next year, we will see if the database effectively helps more visible minorities into those board seats, or not.


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

Published in Top Stories

by Mohsin Abbas (@MohsinAbbasEh)

The majority of Pakistani candidates running for various offices in the recent Ontario municipal elections continued their losing streak.

Only two Pakistani candidates emerged victorious in the polls, whereas hundreds of others did literally nothing but blabber and distribute their pamphlets all over the place.

Most of these candidates suffered from a glaring deficiency in English language skills and in their knowledge of the Canadian system. Many seemed utterly indifferent towards the problems in their constituencies, and had no recourse but to play up already familiar topics to scrape up a handful of votes.

Not only did they plan their election campaigns poorly, but several of them were also involved in personal conflicts with other Pakistani candidates.

In many areas, several Pakistanis filed their nomination papers from a single constituency, effectively dividing the Pakistani vote several times.

It is fair to say, then, they had it coming.

Peoples' representatives

Pakistani candidates running for office in Canada are no more an unprecedented feat. Every four years, a large number of Pakistanis — never seen before at any community gathering — show up from nowhere, and portray themselves as ‘peoples’ representative’.

Many a candidate get their pamphlets printed in Pakistan as early as a year before the elections, and transport them to Canada with their luggage. When these flyers are distributed among people, the poor chaps are clueless about the candidate, because these candidates neither engage, nor serve the community, and hence remain unknown to a large number of people.

Indian Canadians also compete in the elections, but in contrast to Pakistanis, their success ratio is higher as they make efforts to engage with their community. On the other hand, Pakistani candidates are confined only to photo sessions for local Urdu newspapers, association with Pakistani political parties, and seeking votes on the basis of caste and clan.

Pre-poll surveys this year showed that the victory of Pakistani candidates was highly unlikely, as the results later proved. The causes for this are not too hard to comprehend.

Election manifesto

I asked one Pakistani candidate, “What is your manifesto?” only to be hear this shameless reply: “Umm … I am jobless nowadays … I’ve heard that the councillors have handsome remuneration, so I am trying my luck there …”

Every four years, a large number of Pakistanis — never seen before at any community gathering — show up from nowhere, and portray themselves as ‘peoples’ representatives’.

These candidates include a Pakistani grocery store owner of my area as well. The lies on his website were traced and duly rebuked by his Canadian rivals – what a defamation of our country.

There was another candidate, a self-proclaimed business tycoon from Sialkot, Pakistan. Having no experience of business, literature and politics, this man has made a mockery of Pakistan overseas.

This business tycoon, named Riazuddin, is also known as Malik Riaz of Mississauga.

The election flyer of this candidate was printed in Pakistan. The flyer reads that Riazuddin has been member of chambers of commerce in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Britain, Australia, Sweden, France and the Netherlands, and has served as vice president at Chamber of Commerce in Sialkot, Pakistan.


Mohsin Abbas is an award-winning Pakistani-Canadian journalist, filmmaker and press freedom activist. He is the editor of Diversity Reporter, a multilingual weekly newspaper for newcomers and immigrants in Canada.

This post was republished with permission from Diversity Reporter.
Published in Commentary

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

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