New Canadian Media

by Maria Assaf (@MariaAssaf) in Mississauga

Looking back on the mayoral and municipal elections in Ontario, it is clear that the only immigrant-related issue that gained some traction was the one relating to the “under-employment” of newcomers and the resulting loss to the provincial and national economies.

A quick survey of coverage from the races in the three most immigrant-rich cities of Toronto, Mississauga and Ottawa showed that immigrant-centered issues did not receive much interest. However, on Oct. 14, the Toronto mayoral candidates did debate economic and immigration issues. The incoming mayor John Tory was applauded when he suggested that intending immigrants should receive English/French training before arrival.

The new mayor of Canada’s largest city and the capital of multiculturalism, Toronto, is also on record saying, “[W]hile we celebrate the cultural diversity that comes from being the destination for new immigrants, we do not capitalize on what this means for our economy. Our diversity should be the recipe for business collaboration, idea generation and an unmatched inventory of relationships around the world.”

In Mississauga, where half the population is immigrant, the candidate whose platform included a specific promise to better integrate newcomers into the Canadian economy did not do well. Steve Mahoney had proposed low-interest loans and appointing an “ambassador” to help immigrants obtain accreditation, but the new mayor Bonnie Crombie is on record as saying the solutions are not that easy.

Main issue: under-employment

One of the biggest problems Crombie will be facing in terms of new immigrants will be underemployment, said Fauzia Khan, settlement manager at the Mississauga office of the Afghan Women’s Organization.

“Their credentials are not recognized, so they don’t find jobs,” said Khan. “They are suffering from that. They don’t find good jobs and then they go for like security jobs. And, of course, if they are coming from very white collar jobs, then it’s very hard for them.”

Gurpreet Malhotra, executive director of India Rainbow Community Services of Peel, agrees with her. “Canadian experience,” he said when asked to mention the principal issue affecting newcomers.

“Sometimes the degrees and the diplomas are not accepted over here and a lot of them have to re-qualify, re-train, go back to school and start all over again. That is a really big problem,” said Malhotra.

"I want us [Mississauga] to become a hub of innovation and entrepreneurship. And focus on the knowledge economy, because that’s where the growth is.”

Obtaining accreditation for fields such as medicine, dentistry or engineering takes time and money – money many immigrants lack when they arrive in Canada. This means that quite often professionals in Canada’s sixth largest city often end up driving cabs, delivering pizza or doing clerical jobs out of immediate necessity. 

Food on the table

“They would like to use their skills, but they often cannot use them. They just need anything that puts food on the table for their family,” said Lynn Petrushak, executive director of the Dixie Bloor Neighbourhood Centre.

 “We’ve been trying to do that for decades. Unfortunately, the issue of professional accreditation is a provincial matter and it resides with the colleges that give oversight to those disciplines,” Crombie said during her campaign.

As mayor, she would try to channel the channel her energies into advocacy. “The only thing we can do is provide advocacy,” said Crombie. “The provincial government has to work with the colleges that provide certification. That takes leadership from the mayor’s office to work with the premier to help get the colleges on board.”

Marina Rosas, a settlement employment councillor working in Mississauga thinks the government should do more. “There could be more programs where they could provide more financial assistance or more flexibility to help the newcomer getting a boost so they can achieve their goals,” she said. 

According to many immigrant organizations in Mississauga, even pizza delivery jobs are hard to find for newcomers. “Many, many of the people coming are highly-skilled and they are struggling to even get a taxi-driver job, and if I could say one thing about newcomers, they want to work,” said Petrushak.  

The reasons for this, she said, are “racism, language, opportunity. There aren’t a lot of jobs and it’s hard for newcomers to even get an interview or have a proper resume, because in a lot of countries, a resume is not something that is required.” 

Unfortunately, the issue of professional accreditation is a provincial matter and it resides with the colleges that give oversight to those disciplines,” Crombie said during her campaign.

Multicultural workforce

Official statistics show there are now 417, 585 people employed within the municipality out of a population of close to 750, 000 residents.

Mississauga has a vastly multicultural workforce, with over 90 languages spoken. According to the 2011 census, 47 per cent of the people have a mother tongue other than English. The top ten languages spoken include Punjabi, Urdu, Polish, Spanish, Tamil and Arabic.

In her campaign, Crombie talked about fostering foreign investment in Mississauga to increase revenue. She, as well as Mahoney, planned to use the city’s multiculturalism to achieve this. 

“I would create an international investment advisory council to leverage foreign investment from abroad,” she said. “They would sit here and give us recommendations on how we attract foreign investment from abroad. I want us to become a hub of innovation and entrepreneurship. And focus on the knowledge economy, because that’s where the growth is.”    

According to many immigrant organizations in Mississauga, even pizza delivery jobs are hard to find for newcomers.

Under the previous Hazel McCallion administration, Mississauga received significant development revenue which helped finance services, create jobs and keep taxes low. But the city is now facing a widening infrastructure deficit which is expected to hit $1.5 billion in the next 20 years.

McCallion, who had ran the city for 36 years with little and sometimes no opposition at all, initially said she would stay out of the mayoral race. However, on Thanksgiving weekend, she endorsed Crombie. 

Affordable housing

Another issue is affordable housing. Mississauga has one of the longest wait-lists for subsidized housing in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). It can take someone up to nine years to get affordable housing there. “It’s really important because if they don’t have housing, then they don’t have an address and their kids can’t go to school. And it’s expensive,” said Petrushak.

Crombie has vowed that she would require developers to make a certain percentage of the homes they build to be subsidized.

But she also said it’s time to change the idea of what a home is. “Housing is going to look different. We are not building single family homes, large homes anymore. We’re building stack townhomes, townhomes, condominiums. We are intensifying,” she said.

Another service immigrants are in great need of is childcare. “The childcare is a problem too, because right now they have to wait on a long list to get childcare-subsidy,” said Nicole Mak, a centre supervisor at the Cross-Cultural Community Services Association.

Mak said she would like the government to speed up the wait for subsidized childcare so that parents and elders can have time for language learning, community involvement or work.

In the meantime, newcomer and settlement agencies throughout the city continue to welcome immigrants on a daily basis and are eager to work with the municipality to help alleviate the problems ailing these residents the most. 

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

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Wednesday, 17 September 2014 23:01

Victim of discrimination awarded $8,000

An Ottawa man who was refused a job with a cleaning firm because he is “Black and a foreigner” has been awarded $8,000 by an Ontario Human Rights Tribunal for the loss of dignity he suffered from the racial slurs.

Malek Bouraoui was denied a job last year by Ottawa Valley Cleaning and Restoration after a company official told him they “only hire White men”. Bouraoui filed a complaint against the company to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, which sent it to a Tribunal for a hearing. 

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Published in National
Wednesday, 17 September 2014 02:01

The great Canadian whine

 

Did you know that B.C. and Ontario wines are winning international awards regularly, including at competitions in France, the UK, California and Switzerland? Have you ever had the opportunity to taste a B.C. award-winning wine, like an ice wine or Pinot Gris?

If you live east of Alberta, you probably haven’t. That’s because with over 250 licensed wineries producing 100 per cent B.C. wine, only a handful of labels make it into retail stores and restaurants east of Alberta.

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Published in Economy
Friday, 12 September 2014 07:00

“Immigrant Vote” to Gain Strength in 2015

With the opening of a new session of Parliament next week, the campaign leading up to anticipated federal elections in Oct. 2015 is likely to shift gears. The so-called “immigrant vote” is very likely to be in play, and, according to academics who’ve studied this topic for many years, this electoral bloc is going to be even more crucial in 2015.

New Canadian Media interviewed Prof. Phil Triadafilopoulos of the University of Toronto, who last year published a chapter titled “Immigration, Citizenship and Canada’s New Conservative Party” (co-authored with Inder Marwah and Steve White), (in Conservatism in Canada, ed. David Rayside and James Farney. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2013).

We also reproduce relevant abstracts from the chapter to support his responses. 

1. What were the main findings from this study?

 I believe the key point is that the politics of immigration in Canada is the way it is because of the intersection of settlement patterns, our citizenship law, and our electoral system.  There is a structurally induced predisposition for relatively pro-immigration policies and rhetoric, shared by parties across the ideological spectrum.

  • We argue that the combination of immigrant settlement patterns, citizenship laws, and Canada’s single member plurality (SMP) electoral system create a context in which appeals to immigrant voters are required of any party with aspirations to national power.

  • [T]he interplay of these structures ensures that immigrants are able to express their interests and have them acknowledged in a politically meaningful way.

  • In sum, immigrants are concentrated in politically important urban regions.

  • To alienate large numbers of immigrant voters in dozens of federal ridings would almost certainly mean surrendering those ridings to other parties.

  • Data from recent Canadian Election Studies consistently show that visible minorities and immigrants tend to be more conservative than non-visible minority and non-immigrant Canadians on a number of contentious social issues.

2. You note that there was a dramatic change of stance on immigration as Reform/Canadian Alliance morphed into the Conservative Party. How do you explain this transformation? 

Yes, this is one of the arguments we make in the chapter. The party had to compete in Ontario and to do so it had to get beyond its predecessors’ reputations as being anti-immigrant.  The Conservatives could not simply declare this –[Minister] Jason Kenney had to go out and prove it in what amounted to political hand-to-hand combat (using handshakes as his weapon of choice).

  • [O]ne of the central impediments to the Reform Party’s national ambitions was the widely held view of Reformers as anti-immigrant, anti-French, and generally intolerant.

3. Do you think Conservative policy changes serve Canada's national interests in the long term?

Unfortunately, some do not.  The expansion of the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program will likely lead to trouble in the future (as people overstay and slip into undocumented status). Changes to citizenship policy were heavy-handed and based on political reasoning and weak ideologically-based reasoning.  Changes to refugee policy has been unnecessarily punitive (and, again, taken for largely political reasons).  There have been many other changes as well – judging their long-term consequences is difficult at the moment.

 4. How were these changes different from ones that may have been made by the Liberals or the New Democratic Party, NDP?

The Liberals were similarly interested in narrowing access to asylum seekers and reforming the citizenship law – they failed to do so in part because the political incentives in the party were weaker.  It’s likely that the NDP would have hewn to the status quo circa 2006.

5. Do you anticipate that immigration and citizenship will be major electoral issues in 2015?

No – immigration is typically not featured during elections, though all the parties will look to gain support among new Canadian voters.

6. Given your findings, what does your study suggest on the subject of immigration generally being a non-partisan issue in Canada?

It will likely remain the case. There’s no political pay-off for populist anti-immigrant rhetoric at the federal level.

  • Canada is unique among major immigration countries in the degree to which immigration policy is de-politicized, and immigration itself is enthusiastically embraced by federal political parties. Quebec’s provincial politics since 2007 may be a partial exception to this pattern, but this has not had a discernable impact on Quebec voices in federal policy debates over immigration.

7. Do you have any further thoughts on the "immigrant vote" in the 2011 federal elections (you said it was inconclusive at the time of writing)?

We have not done the necessary analysis to move beyond what we have.  We hope to do so soon.  The key point is that all parties in Canada support a relatively liberal immigration policy, as reflected in annual admissions.  There is also consensus on the utility of an official multiculturalism policy – our Conservative Party is rather different than similar parties in other countries.

[In a separate study presented to the Canadian Political Science Association 2012 conference in Edmonton, Prof. Triadafilopoulos, Zack Taylor and Christopher Cochrane (all of UofT), concluded with this finding:

  • We focus especially on the Greater Toronto region because (a) 20 of the 23 seats gained in the 2011 election were located there, and (b) 41 per cent of foreign-born Canadians live there. Of the 20 new Conservative seats, eight were majority-immigrant and none had less than 30 per cent immigrant population. Similarly, three of the six seats picked up by the NDP were majority immigrant and none had less than 35 per cent immigrant population.
  • Our findings suggest that the Conservative Party enjoyed marked gains among immigrant voters in the 2011 election, and that these gains appear to have come largely at the expense of the Liberal Party. Taken together, this evidence suggests that the party’s ethnic outreach strategy may have indeed borne fruit in 2011. The NDP(New Democratic Party) also appears to have benefited from the support of a different segment of support that overlaps with the immigrant electorate: visible minorities.]

8. Do you think the "immigrant vote" will play a more critical role in 2015?

I do. Canada is changing quickly and the trends we identified are still playing themselves out.

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

     (PHOTOS: Over 50 people protested outside the Ontario Ministry of Corrections and Ministry of Transportation near Queen’s Park Monday, demanding that Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne curb the power of provincial authorities to collaborate with federal immigration enforcement and make Ontario a ‘sanctuary’ province. Canada Border Services Agency racially profiled 21 people and checked […]

Indo-Canadian Voice

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Published in National

 Toronto (IANS): Sikhs in the Canadian province of Ontario will not be exempted from wearing helmets, Premier Kathleen Wynne announced. The Canadian Sikh Association said it received a letter last week from Wynne stating the Liberal government, for safety reasons, will not allow Sikh motorcycle riders to wear only turbans, the Toronto Star reported Wednesday. “After […]

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Published in Top Stories
Thursday, 28 August 2014 21:48

NCM NewsFeed: Weekly Newsletter Aug. 29

In this edition: 25 years after the Mounties accepted the turban, Sikhs in Ontario are up in arms over motorcycle helmets; the moving story of WWI internment victim Yurij Fojczuk; and much more.

Published in NCM Newsletters
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.

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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

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