New Canadian Media
Thursday, 28 August 2014 20:05

Sikhs Vow to Litigate Helmets Issue

The Canadian Sikh Association says it will consider whatever legal options remain, if lobbying efforts fail to reverse a decision by Ontario last week to reject a motorcycle helmet exemption for devout Sikhs. The CSA has been working on the exemption for years. It argues the law indirectly discriminates against devout Sikhs, who do not remove their turbans outside the home.

As a result, the law indirectly prevents them from riding motorcycles, according to the Canadian Lawyers Magazine. In a letter dated Aug. 14 and sent to the CSA, Premier Kathleen Wynne sums up the province’s decision: “After careful deliberation, we have determined that we will not grant this type of exemption as it would pose a road safety risk. Ultimately, the safety of Ontarians is my utmost priority, and I cannot justify setting that concern aside on this issue.”

Manohar Singh Bal, the CSA’s secretary, says he was dismayed by the decision, particularly given the years of work and promises made by the Liberal Party that it would work with the community to resolve the issue. “Last year, when we met with the minister of transportation,” says Bal, “he himself suggested that he had two bills ready in his drawer.” One bill would offer a general exemption to Sikhs; another would provide an exemption for all roads except 400-series highways. Bal says the organization would have been comfortable with such a compromise, but was told, given the Liberal party’s minority position, they would also need the support of the New Democrats and the Conservatives. Now Bal says the province has flip-flopped — despite being handed a majority government and having received support for the exemption, in writing, from the other political parties.

First challenge

In Ontario, the helmet law as it applies to Sikhs was first challenged in 2008, when the Ontario Human Rights Commission took up the cause of Baljinder Badesha, who was fighting a $110 ticket he received a few years prior for refusing to wear his motorcycle helmet. Scott Hutchison, a constitutional lawyer at Henein Hutchison LLP, represented the OHRC in that case, arguing reasonable accommodation is justified for Sikh motorcyclists, given that observant Sikhs would otherwise be unable to access a standard mode of transportation. Ontario Court Justice James Blacklock, however, ruled against Badesha and the OHRC, issuing a 35-page decision. In it, he writes an exemption would render the helmet law unwieldy, since anyone violating it could simply claim they were devout. 

“The officer wouldn't know if he was dealing with a devout Sikh or not, unless he took the word of the accused.”

The original challenge brought by the Ontario Human Rights Commission in 2008 sought an accommodation exemption based on the province’s Human Rights Code. A subsequent appeal of the decision to the Ontario Superior Court in 2011 upped the ante, focusing on Charter rights violations. In the end, Justice John Takach found no error in the lower-court ruling.

In Wynne’s letter to the Canadian Sikh Association, she was quick to bolster the legality of her decision by referencing the previous rulings: “As you know, the issue of balance between religious accommodation and public safety has been considered by the courts in Ontario which, on this issue, have found that Ontario’s mandatory helmet law does not infringe on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, nor the Ontario Human Rights Code.”

But exemptions to the helmet law already exist in British Columbia, Manitoba. and the U.K., so there’s some question as to whether the province’s decision will stand up to political pressure.

But exemptions to the helmet law already exist in British Columbia, Manitoba.

Compelling arguments

Hutchison believes the issue will be litigated if it can’t be resolved at a political level. Reasonable accommodation, he says, is based on the idea that if you can, without undue hardship, allow somebody to have an exemption from the general rule, then you are normally expected to do that. “Keep in mind that all of the things that are being said about why it’s so important that we deny this exemption were said 25 years ago — that you couldn’t be a Mountie and wear a turban, or you couldn’t be a construction worker and wear a turban.”

He says a Sikh helmet exemption poses a minimal risk. “Listen, there’s a compelling argument to be made that nobody should be allowed to ride motorcycles at all,” says Hutchison. “Or nobody should smoke cigarettes. Or any number of things that are dangerous activities that are engaged in by a relatively small group of people. You could make that argument, but that’s not really the way we’ve decided to organize ourselves as a society.”

Still, Hutchison says a political solution would be preferable to some kind of new appeal. “Pursuing it in the courts is an expensive and time-consuming way of advancing public policy,” says Hutchison. It’s a sentiment shared by Bal at the CSA: “Maybe one of the political parties will introduce a private member’s bill. That would be one possibility,” he says. “If we see light at the end of the tunnel, we will continue to pursue that. Failing that, we will have to look at legal options. . . . We will simply challenge the law as they have done in British Columbia.” 

This report is published in New Canadian Media with permission from South Asian Post, where this story first appeared. 

Published in Top Stories

TORONTO – Ontario’s openly gay premier Kathleen Wynne has no sympathy of other visible minorities as she this week refused to provide an exemption on the Helmet law for turbaned Sikhs which has been place in other Canadian provinces, including here in BC, as well as many other countries around the world.

In her haste decision, Wynne has washed all the hard work the Sikh community has done in getting the helmet law exemption in Canada down the drain.

The Link

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Published in National
Monday, 25 August 2014 20:00

Ontario student group backs BDS

The Ontario branch of the Canadian Federation of Students, representing more than 300,000 university students, has passed a motion to boycott Israel.

The Canadian Jewish News

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Published in Education
Monday, 25 August 2014 18:01

Ontario Borrowing Its Way To Bankruptcy

 Vancouver: Or are we all showing off on a mountain of debt? An interesting study that came recently called The Cost Of Government Debt In Canada, has some stunning facts and figures that when added with individual indebtedness, certainly paints a confusing picture of a so-called wealthy nation. Interest payments on government debt in Canada […]

The Weekly Voice

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Published in Economy
Friday, 22 August 2014 00:00

NCM NewsBriefs: launch edition

by Maria Assaf (@MariaAssaf) in Toronto


Punjab teachers graduate from training program

Fifty teachers from the Indian state of Punjab who came to Canada for a teaching development program at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) picked up their diplomas today and are getting ready to return to India.

The teachers, who were carefully selected from public schools, spent four weeks in Toronto taking courses at OISE designed to give them tools to improve the educational system back home.

For many of these teachers, the experience was unique in their lives. 

“This is the first overseas program we are coming to,” says Nutan Sharma, an English teacher of grades 11 and 12 in India. “We like Canada very much. We have learned so many new strategies to teach. Critical thinking and community learning. And the people were very nice, very nice and cooperative to us. We liked it,” she says.

The program also promoted collaboration in teaching methods between India and Canada, offering lessons for each side to make teaching more effective.

“It was really four weeks of sharing our knowledge on how we do things,” says Elizabeth Coulson, program organizer and internship coordinator at OISE. “Just as businesses are globalizing, education is also globalizing in many ways,” she says.

While Canada provided training in classroom technologies and critical thinking exercises for students, Indian teachers shared their expertise in language and grammar teaching, says Coulson.

“The kind of technology these Canadian schools and universities use are really state of the art and these were something novel for us,” says Rajiv Kumar Makkar, a political science teacher from India.

One of the main problems Indian education is facing is not having enough funding from the government to be able to use technologies such as projectors in every classroom, says Makkar.

He adds that one of the main differences between the Canadian and the Indian system of teaching is the number of students per classroom and the degree of teacher participation. In a lot of public schools in India, classes can have 100 students, while in Canada, the average class size is 35 students. 

Doctor doesn’t lose hope

Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, the Palestinian doctor in Toronto who is trying to bring 100 children from Gaza to be treated at Ontario hospitals, is heading to Gaza tonight, while he still waits for the government to respond to petitions to reconsider refusing his initiative.

“I feel these children are my children. I feel sad, I feel outraged. I want everyone to look in the eyes of these children and to see them as if they are theirs. If you have a child suffering, would you like others to help? We need to think of these children as ours.”

He and his supporters have sent letters to members of the Canadian government including Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Chris Alexander, petitioning for bringing these children. He has also met with the leaders of other parties including Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau, as well as with representatives from the Green Party.  But, so far, he has received no reply at all from the federal government.

“People are waiting just to act. The public, the community, the people from everywhere, throughout all of Canada, who were writing me hundreds of emails asking me what can we do, we are ready to open our houses and to host these children when they come. We want to cure them, to help them and [for them] to leave Canada with a smile on their face. We are not planning for these children to stay here. They have their country, they have to go there. But we want them to leave functioning well, happily and healthy,” says Dr. Abuelaish.

 “Where is our humanity? We need to save lives and these are children I am talking about. Children.  Children who are the life, who are the future, who are the hope. These children will be disabled and most of them, they lost their loved ones. We need them to be independent, to run a normal life. We can make a difference,” he says.

But without the government’s approval, these children will not get the help they need. “At the end of the day, these children they need visas,” says Dr. Abuelaish.

If his initiative fails, he says, “I will feel sad, I will feel in pain. I will feel angry about it. But I tried, I tried my best.”

Dr. Abuelaish saw three of his daughters getting killed by an Israeli shell that fell on his home. He is a promoter of peaceful discourse and has been nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Writing to inspire

Nick Noorani, managing partner of “Prepare for Canada” is embarking on yet another community enterpise. His “What’s Your Secret” contest is awarding $1000 every month from March to November 2014 to an immigrant who shares their success story.

The best stories and those with the most votes will win the cash prize.

“All they have to do is write a story and get their friends on Facebook to vote for them. Now it’s not necessarily that the person with the most votes will win, but the quality of the story is very important,” says Noorani. 

He is also the author of a seminar titled 7 Success Secrets for Canadian Immigrants. “This year, what we decided was to turn the focus and talk to immigrants and ask: what is it that helped them? They can write their own stories, they can use the points of 7 Success Secrets or they can come up with their own points. I want to hear from immigrants,” he says. 

The founding publisher of Canadian Immigrant magazine thinks there needs to be more success immigrant stories in the media. “I need to know that there is hope. You know it’s so hard when you come to Canada as an immigrant.”

There have been two winners so far, the first one was Nonita Mole (pictured), originally from the Philippines and now living in Winnipeg. 

He also talks about the challenges immigrant professionals face when trying to make it in their field in Canada. “The number one problem, of course, we all know is the problem of credential recognition. But it’s beyond that,” he says. “There’s a work culture, you know. In Canada, you’re expected to work independently. In a lot of other countries, including India, I know for a fact, you are working very closely with a boss who monitors your movement from one place to the other.”

Other problems, he says, includes a lack of “soft skills” that immigrants from some countries face. “In Canada, doing presentations in public, making presentations is very important,” says Noorani.

“Immigrants are coming from parts of the world where technical skills are being taught rather than soft skills. So these are challenges. This is part of this journey.”

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 News

 OTTAWA, Ontario— A former “Canadian Idol” contestant was acquitted on Tuesday of conspiring to facilitate terrorism, with the judge finding insufficient evidence that he intended to join a plot.

Epoch Times

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Published in Top Stories

  TORONTO – A $23 million settlement for people affected by the Sunrise propane explosion six years ago — which killed an Indo-Canadian employee of Sunrise and displaced thousands of others — was granted in court Friday.
The explosion and fire occurred on Aug. [...]

The Link

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Published in Top Stories

TORONTO — The province of Ontario has offered to treat Palestinian and Israeli children wounded in the Israel-Gaza war.

The announcement from Ontario health minister Eric Hoskins said the province is willing to take the most serious cases from both Gaza and Israel if the children are unable to receive proper treatment at home but can make the journey to Canada, reports Canadian Press.

The Canadian Jewish News

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Published in Top Stories
Tuesday, 05 August 2014 09:35

How I’m Coming to Terms with Rejection

by Zoran Vidić in Toronto

It's been exactly a year since job hunting became my full-time job. 

“Send out 300 résumés, get 10 interviews and one job” read the golden rule of job hunting featured in the “101 – Intro to Canada for Immigrants” booklet, which I read religiously while getting ready to finally start a “better life” in a “better country,” famous for its spirit of acceptance and famously polite people.

Many months and years have passed me by …  I am currently completing my 14th spin around the Sun while in Canada and I still think Canadians are extremely nice people. However, I am beginning to doubt Canadian employers’ spirit of acceptance when it comes to hiring a communications specialist with a foreign background and accent (well, I guess British or Australian don’t count since they are perceived as “sought after”).  

Staggering numbers

In the past 12 months, I have sent several 1,000 job applications (close to 3,000 by my rough count). I received a few hundred “thank you for your applying” letters, spiced up with polite-yet-utterly-soulless phrases such as “… but we have decided to pursue other candidates” and ”… please keep visiting our career section.” I almost prefer being sent a rejection letter full of expletives and insults. It would at least feel like I’ve been rejected by a person and not by some cutting-edge software.

I did land one face-to-face interview with RBC’s (Royal Bank of Canada's) communications manager and five or six telephone (screening) interviews, one of them with IBM. Every single time, while preparing for the interview, I could see myself as a rising star in the company, being the creative force behind their success and finally gaining respect and appreciation for my knowledge and skill.

I almost prefer being sent a rejection letter full of expletives and insults. It would at least feel like I’ve been rejected by a person and not by some cutting-edge software.

Alas, as soon as the overly polite and full-of-praise recruiters started interviewing me, I could almost visualize their enthusiasm jumping on to a passing train of thoughts and fading away into misty nothingness.

 

Fairly intelligent guy

Hey, after all, I like to think of myself as being an educated, informed and fairly intelligent guy, with more good than bad personality traits (well, at least I hope).

Math was never my strongest suit (that’s one of the reasons I studied journalism), but it doesn’t really take Stephen Hawking to realize the improbability of this statistical outcome: a dude at the apex of his career, with a Master of Journalism degree from a reputable Canadian university and many years of experience (most of it Canadian), cannot find a job in his field of expertise in the city where some 65% of Canadian media industry is found. And I’ve been sending résumés day in and day out. I can enter all my personal information into the “register your profile” fields blindfolded.

Three thousand résumés, six interviews. One year.

Nada, zero, zilch, null, no jobs!!!

50% my fault

There must be something else at play here. Either that or I should consider visiting that black-magic curse removal parlour in my neighbourhood that used to make me chuckle every time I passed by. Perhaps that Haitian old woman who tied some sort of hairy string around my wrist had something to do with my unemployment situation?

Call me crazy, but I prefer to think it’s only 50% my fault. I have read more career advice articles than I can remember. I tried every single approach, from “shotgun” to “sniper” distribution. I polished my résumé to the point where it can be used as a mirror for the latest generation of space telescopes. I networked (as much as possible when on a low budget), learned new skills (even started learning Mandarin), and even took classes on public speaking at Ryerson. The only thing I didn’t do was to beg. I don’t do begging.

I’ve seen people much less skilled and educated making it up the corporate ladder by skipping several steps in one go.

It is not hard to imagine why this happens. People are, in general, hard-wired to distrust strangers. Of course, no one likes to admit it because it goes against the official policy of inclusiveness and feeling of self-righteousness, but modern corporate language is sophisticated and meaningless enough to convey all the ambiguities one can come up with. So, please, feel free to apply for any job, because they have thousands of extremely polite ways to reject you: “Although your qualifications were impressive, we regret to inform you that you have not been selected for an interview” means: “I don’t think you can do this job as well as someone born and raised in Canada.”

This is a vicious circle and self-fulfilling prophecy, because the people who don’t get opportunities cannot gain experience, and without experience they cannot get a job. Without a job, people lose self-confidence and become desperate or bitter. And no one likes to work with the bitter desperados.

Invisible force field

It is also a part of the deep-seated subconscious defensive mechanism that insiders in every human society (yes, it does include Canada, too) use to protect their status and privileges. I am certainly not the first nor the last person to experience this invisible force field, and much ink has been spilled over this phenomenon, but this problem persists in being the major hurdle for immigrants in Canada.

Surely, people can be more useful to Canadian society than sending out countless CV's.

People are, in general, hard-wired to distrust strangers.

I am aware of the contemporary mantra that “It takes only seven seconds to make a first impression,” which is deeply ingrained in the neural patterns of Human Resources (HR) folks. I also know that 90% of all candidates are automatically eliminated by the screening software. I am not completely oblivious to the fact that cutthroat competition and return-on-investment rules do not tolerate risk and mistakes, making everyone in the business, including HR people, fear for their jobs more than “Game of Thrones” actors.

What boggles my mind is the fact that members of the general public would rather “Ooooh” and “Aaaah” about a “cute puppy” story than take a minute to think about how much knowledge, education, hard work and invaluable potential is wasted by judging immigrants superficially. We are all biased in one or another way, but for the sake of this country’s future, don’t listen to how I speak. Listen to what I am saying.

Zoran Vidić is a communications expert and journalist. He began his career in 1997 as a reporter for a major daily in Belgrade, Serbia, and moved to Ottawa, Canada in 2001. Upon completion of his Master of Journalism degree at Carleton University, he worked as a communications officer for the Métis National Council, and completed various contracts for the governments of Canada and Ontario. Since 2012, he has been based in Toronto and can be reached at vizor3@gmail.com.

Read also: Zoran's review of Josip Novakovich's Shopping for a Better Country, Dzanc Books, 2012

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

 Ontario is calling on the federal government to be fair and compassionate by fully supporting essential and urgent health care needs for all refugee…

Salam Toronto

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Published in Policy

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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