New Canadian Media

by Daniel Morton in Vancouver

One year after Canada first resettled 25,000 Syrian refugees into Canadian communities — a number that has since grown to 40,000 — the refugee program has left Canadians divided as to its merit and efficacy. A recent poll by Angus Reid showed that 6 in 10 Canadians approve of the way the government has handled the influx, but a deeper dive into the polling reveal almost one in four Canadians  support a Trump style ban on Muslims. Despite its welcoming reputation, Canada has already seen an alarming rise in Islamophobic incidents. At this point, failing to help newcomers settle runs the risk of a more intolerant future in Canada.

In Metro Vancouver, a region that has seen a 20 fold increase in immigration since 2001,  newcomers often have trouble navigating the services they need. In 2016, seven Metro Vancouver municipal districts identified access to information and services for newcomers as a top priority to strengthen resettlement efforts. As an example, Metro Vancouver immigrants struggle with backlogs for government funded English lessons while failing to make use of the network of free lessons — many offers are not getting to the people who need them.

At a time when social media discourse about immigrants grows more toxic everyday, Vancouver’s vibrant non-profit community is stepping up with a positive response. Currently a top 10 finalist of the Google.org Impact Challenge, Vancouver-based NGO PeaceGeeks has partnered with the immigrant settlement community to explore how to better connect immigrants to local services such as health, language programs and housing options to ease their transition. PeaceGeeks is one of several Canadian non-profits vying for $750,000 from Google through a public vote to make their project a reality.

The idea for this application builds on another PeaceGeeks project called Services Advisor, a smartphone app that connects refugees to essential humanitarian services like food and medicine across Jordan—a country that has housed almost 656,000 Syrian refugees according to Amnesty International.  The Services Advisor prototype was successfully deployed by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Jordan and will soon be deployed in Turkey and Somalia to support another 3 million displaced people.

Now, PeaceGeeks is exploring how tools like Services Advisor can help to significantly improve the experience of newcomers arriving in Metro Vancouver and beyond, through generating personalized roadmaps for newcomers to navigate what is often a dizzying array of settlement and community services.

PeaceGeeks intends to build this app so that it can eventually be used across Canada.

“We want to create better visibility and access to existing services and providers while reducing what can be an overwhelming experience for immigrants as they navigate the steps to becoming active and vibrant citizens in their new communities,” says Renee Black, the Executive Director of PeaceGeeks. “Services Advisor Pathways (the Vancouver version) aims to connect them to the most relevant and timely services to help with their particular circumstances at any given stage of their immigration journey.”

The project is being developed in partnership and consultation with cities, local newcomers, immigrant service providers such as MOSAIC, Immigrant Services Society of Canada (ISSofBC) and S.U.C.C.E.S.S., as well as Local Immigration Partnerships (LIPs) across the Metro Vancouver region. LIPs are federally funded, cross-sectoral partnerships that aim to improve integration of newcomers into the fabric of local communities and create more inclusive workplaces.

“By building on their global experience using technology to support refugees combined with innovative approaches that will be developed locally, PeaceGeeks is poised to make a pioneering contribution to the way that immigrants and refugees access information about services in Metro Vancouver,” says Nadia Carvalho, Coordinator of Vancouver’s LIP.

The project has received over thirty endorsements since the beginning of March from key individuals and organizations across settlement, tech and humanitarian spaces, including the B.C. Minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizens' Services.

“By facilitating the integration of newcomers into British Columbia, this new technology will return benefit the whole Province,” says Minister Amrik Virk.

PeaceGeeks anticipates that Services Advisor Pathways can help reduce the stress on government services, by connecting immigrants to the pathways for success before and upon arrival, straight from their smartphones.

At such a critical time for Canada to stand apart from the closing borders of other nations, PeaceGeeks is hoping that Services Advisor will show that Canada’s strength continues to come from its diversity and inclusion.

For more information about PeaceGeeks’ project, visit votepeacegeeks.org.


The Google.org Impact Challenge supports Canadian nonprofit innovators who are using technology to tackle the world's biggest social challenges. Google.org will award $5 million across 10 organizations to help bring their ideas to life.

Between March 6 and March 28, Canadians are invited to visit g.co/canadachallenge to learn more about the finalists, and to vote for the projects they care about most. One winner will be chosen based on this public vote to receive a $750,000 grant from Google.org. The remaining winners will be selected by a jury during a live pitching session on March 30 in Toronto.

Daniel Morton is a volunteer for the organization.

Published in Top Stories

by Maria Ikonen in Gatineau, Quebec

Growing up in a small village in Iran near the Caspian Sea, Maria Rasouli felt the rush of freedom as she explored her surroundings riding her bicycle.

Despite being able to provide her with great joy, the activity was seen as inappropriate for an 11-year-old girl.

Things changed when she moved to Canada at age 24. Here, she was finally able to make her dreams of exploring the world on two wheels a reality.

Today, she is the founder and operator of Escape Bicycle Tours, a company that gives tourists and adventure seekers bike tours around Ottawa.

Her company was one of three winners of an Immigrant Entrepreneur Award this year from the City of Ottawa.

“A true source of inspiration [for my business] was my life in Iran as a woman where I was not allowed to bicycle.”

“A true source of inspiration [for my business] was my life in Iran as a woman where I was not allowed to bicycle,” she says.

She adds that Escape Bicycle Tours was the result of two years of self-reflection that finally gave her the courage to pursue her dreams of riding a bicycle. Her passion for the sport is what she aims to provide for her clients.

“I have had guests who said they did not remember the last time they were on a bicycle or they had not bicycled for over 30 years,” she shares. “They were so happy that they took a bicycle tour with Escape.” 

Challenges of an immigrant entrepreneur 

Despite the motivation to take an entrepreneurial path, new Canadians may find obstacles in things like time-consuming bureaucracy and a lack of local networks.

According to David Crick, an international entrepreneurship and marketing professor from the University of Ottawa, a newcomer’s existing skill set or business model from overseas is not guaranteed to work well in Canada – there may be more competition already here. 

“They may have to look towards something that offers value [to Canadians like] lower costs,” he says.  

“[There] are still many people who put immigrants into a box, and this is not something that will be changed quickly.”

Another issue may rise from having no local banking history. 

“Even getting lines of credit from banks may be hard,” Crick explains. “[It is] a high risk to banks. This makes starting a business problematic.” 

Moe Abbas, founder of Ottawa General Contractors and another winner of the Immigrant Entrepreneur Award this year, points out other difficulties such as prejudice. 

“[There] are still many people who put immigrants into a box, and this is not something that will be changed quickly,” he says. 

“We must all understand how we are viewed in the eyes of the clients we serve. That judgement may not be a bad thing if we know what it is, and can work with it.” 

Rasouli also mentions the challenge of being in unfamiliar territory when new to Canada. She had to take some time to establish herself and gain a better understanding of how business is conducted in Canada. 

“I actually think it is a good idea for immigrants to work in Canada for a few years before starting their own business. There are lots of things that an immigrant can learn from co-workers and how organizations are run in Canada by being in a workplace,” she says. 

“That knowledge could later on be used for starting a business, building partnerships, marketing, sales and customer service.” 

She adds that the absence of family members in Canada can result in the lack of a support net, but may create a platform to improve as an entrepreneur. 

“I do not have the emotional, psychological, and sometimes financial support that family members could provide. This has led me to build strong professional and support networks and work harder to succeed.”   

Tips for immigrant entrepreneurs

Despite the challenges many newcomer entrepreneurs face, networking with similar ethnic groups could be something beneficial to try, Crick says.

“They may have networks overseas that can help in self-employment practices,” he explains. “For example, depending on the nature of the business model employed, some may have access to import or export linkages that domestic Canadian firms may not have.”

"[S]ome may have access to import or export linkages that domestic Canadian firms may not have.”

Abbas, who is in the process of working on a social media start-up, Bumpn Inc., highlights the importance in understanding the consumer’s mindset. 

“If you are an entrepreneur selling to a demographic, you must look and behave, or at least understand deeply, the demographic you are serving,” he says. 

“People buy from people they trust. They usually trust people like them.” 

Rasouli emphasizes the value of making connections. 

“Network, network and network: people are often very kind and try to help if you ask them,” she says. “So, make sure that you have a diverse, solid network of professionals and friends who could help you with various aspects of your business and life.” 

Success is mostly in an entrepreneur’s hands, Rasouli adds. 

“Your success is … dependent on the amount of work you put into your business. You don’t have to wait for a performance appraisal or a manager to acknowledge or approve your work. The harder and smarter you work, the more success you bring to your business.”


Journalist Samantha Lui mentored the author of this article through the New Canadian Media Mentorship Program.

 

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 Economy
Tuesday, 01 September 2015 14:46

Research Watch #7: Enclaves and Earnings

by Priya Ramanujam (@SincerelyPriya) in Scarborough, Ontario

Several observers have noted that immigration is, generally, a non-partisan issue in Canada. That probably explains why it's not a topic of debate during this current federal election campaign. But, it's safe to say that the next government will inevitably be confronted with competing demands on the immigration file.

In this edition of Research Watch, we offer the next Minister of Immigration a look at two studies that highlight why federal policymakers need to understand where immigrants settle, how they integrate and factors that determine their economic success in Canada. 

The truth about ethnic enclaves

A recent study released by the Institute for Research on Public Policy challenges the notion that communities with high populations of visible-minority immigrants are rife with socio-economic marginalization and cultural isolation.

In the report “Ethnocultural Minority Enclaves in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver,” researcher Daniel Hiebert sets out to answer whether these enclaves are the so-called “ghettos” they are often perceived to be.

While the answer proves complex and varied, the key finding of Hiebert’s research is that, in Canada, this tends not to be the case.

"[I]t seems to me very relevant to have more of a municipal voice when it comes to the big questions about immigration policy and settlement policy in Canada.

This is particularly true of neighbourhoods where there is a dominant ethnocultural group (twice the size of any other group) living alongside several smaller groups.

“[In these communities] the stereotype of the poor immigrant neighbourhood doesn’t work,” Hiebert says. “Where there is one large group, there’s probably some sort of internal capacity for helping people because of the scale of that group.”

He suggests that this is the case because social capital is strong in these communities. Immigrants are more likely to find work more easily or have success in small business ventures because of shared commonalities with other residents.

In addition, the many other cultural groups in the enclave prove to be an asset, Hiebert explains, offering what he calls “bridging” social capital – the type of learning that comes from being exposed to other cultures that helps integrate into mainstream society.

Communities with a high percentage of visible minorities that tended to have more socio-economic challenges were those where no dominant group was present – rather, just several small cultural groups residing together.

For Hiebert, the findings highlight three important ideas.

First, he says, “Cultural diversity is everywhere.” He cites an example: in the past, an organization in “Chinatown” may have found it effective to exclusively serve Chinese Canadians, but with what is now known about the diverse make-up of communities, that type of exclusivity may mean some residents are left behind.

Second, it is time to re-evaluate services for immigrants overall. Hiebert points out that many present-day services were developed in the 1970s when immigrants were settling in inner-city locations rather than suburban ones, and while that is changing, agencies may not be keeping pace.

Finally, Hiebert concludes his study by stressing that in order to truly understand and serve these ethnocultural communities effectively, municipal governments must be at the decision-making table and engaged in the development and reform of immigration policy.

“If cities are the places where most immigrants are settling and integrating,” says Hiebert, “it seems to me very relevant to have more of a municipal voice when it comes to the big questions about immigration policy and settlement policy in Canada.”

Contributors to economic success

With Canada continuing to compete in the global market to attract economic immigrants, a better understanding of predicting future earnings and success here is vital.

A recently released study from Statistics Canada based on historical data observing two cohorts of immigrants from the late 1990s and the early 2000s may help in this area. 

The study shows that, in the short-term, the best predictors of earnings are Canadian work experience and official-language skills at the time of arrival.

“Basically, it appears that economic principal applicants with Canadian work experience at the time of landing are treated more like Canadians in the labour market in terms of returns to education and experience,” explains researcher Aneta Bonikowska, adding the same goes for having strong official-language skills.

But in the long-term (over a period of five to 10 years), this changes. Age and education play a factor.

In the short-term, the best predictors of earnings are Canadian work experience and official-language skills at the time of arrival.

“Even though we don’t see a big return right off the bat, the earning trajectories of higher, better-educated immigrants are steeper than lower-educated immigrants – over time you see a gap in earnings developing on average,” says Bonikowska.

There is also a correlation between all four characteristics that affects the long-term predictions of an immigrant’s earnings.

As Bonikowska explains, the economic returns on age (the younger an immigrant, the higher the earnings, typically) and education at landing depend on that immigrant’s official-language skills and previously accumulated Canadian work experience.

While the Stats Canada report is meant to be an exercise in analyzing historical data – not a forecast of the future – Bonikowska points out that, from a policy standpoint, if more detailed information was collected from arriving economic immigrants, better predictions could be made about their potential success.

She says factors like the nature of an immigrant’s study, what institution he or she studied at and what level of education was achieved prior to arriving in Canada would give a better sense of who did well from the cohorts studied.

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

Published in Policy
Friday, 14 August 2015 19:08

S.U.C.C.E.S.S. Goes to China

by Deanna Cheng (@writerly_dee) in Vancouver, British Columbia

Vancouver-based immigrant-settlement organization S.U.C.C.E.S.S. will be opening a new centre in Beijing, China, to help newcomers with the transition to Canada. This makes it the first non-profit to have an overseas pre-arrival centre in a major immigrant source country. 

According to a news release, the Active Engagement and Integration Project (AEIP) service centre will provide pre-arrival services such as information on Canadian history, culture, healthcare, transportation, employment, foreign credential recognition and the education system.

The organization has had pre-landing services at overseas offices in South Korea and Taiwan since 2008. This centre will be its first in China and is funded by Citizenship and Immigration Canada for the next two years.

Four stages of support

Johnny Cheng, director of AEIP, said services are provided in four components and the end goal for each section is to plan and prepare people for integration.

“For the immigrants from South Korea and Taiwan, they couldn’t tell what Canada is like. To them, there was no difference between B.C. and Ontario.” - Johnny Cheng, director of AEIP

The first part is an assessment of the challenges each newcomer would face, which allows an action plan to be developed. 

“Every immigrant has their own reason for coming to Canada,” Cheng said. “Some may not need a lot of support. Some need information on education because they want to bring their kids to Canada. Others want another career.”

The second part is providing accurate information about a settlement location, its culture and laws.

The director said most people in other countries only understand it’s a free country and it’s why they do as they wish when they arrive.

“For the immigrants from South Korea and Taiwan, they couldn’t tell what Canada is like. To them, there was no difference between B.C. and Ontario.”

The third section is an appointment to go over academic and professional credentials.

Professionals can prepare their paperwork – including translation if necessary – ahead of time and submit them to corresponding trade associations. The organization helps clients put together a resume and provides training on how to do interviews.

Cheng said they also have a program to connect immigrants with potential employers to understand business expectations and facilitate online interviews.

“Many prospective employers don’t give international work experience the same weight as local work experience.” - Vancouver Immigration Partnership

A Vancouver Immigration Partnership document titled "Immigration Matters in Vancouver" said immigrants with specialized professional skills and high educational credentials often have trouble landing jobs in the city.

It said it could be due to lack of information about business practices or credential recognition in Canada.

“Being an immigrant can also mean they lack local Canadian work experience,” the document said. “Many prospective employers don’t give international work experience the same weight as local work experience.”

The work relationship goes both ways as it also said many regulatory organizations struggle to evaluate foreign credentials and work experience.

The final component aims to connect immigrants to community resources. “We link them to the school board, community centres, city government and libraries,” said Cheng. “We also connect with cities to arrange tours for new immigrants to learn more about the city.”

Cheng said a survey on the organization’s services in South Korea and Taiwan showed more than 90 per cent of the immigrants were able to successfully settle down in their selected Canadian neighbourhood within one month of arrival. “They were able to participate in the community and enrol their kids immediately.”

Increasing pre-arrival settlement beneficial for Canada

Over the 40 years the organization has been helping immigrants, Cheng said many people have arrived saying they wanted to find a job and didn’t know they needed specific accreditation, certificates or to obtain a certain level of language proficiency.

“It’s best to do it all before coming to Canada. If they understand the language requirement, some can practise for several months – maybe even a year – before arriving.” - Johnny Cheng, director of AEIP

“It’s best to do it all before coming to Canada,” he said. “If they understand the language requirement, some can practise for several months – maybe even a year – before arriving.”

This will help them find work faster and become a taxpayer sooner, the director explained, which is a benefit to Canada.

Beijing was selected for a pre-landing centre because it’s the capital city with easy access from neighbouring provinces.

Based on B.C. Stats immigrant landings data obtained by journalist Ian Young, the number one immigrant source country from 2005 to 2013 was China, consistently followed by India (second) and the Philippines (third) during those eight years.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada said out of 258,953 permanent residents in 2013, about 34,000 of them were from China. Again, the data shows the same ranking order between China, India and the Philippines.

Cheng said it’s not easy to have an office in China, especially for a non-profit organization. When applying, the organization had to be clear its objective was to help Chinese people plan for immigration – ones who were already approved – and not recruit people to move to Canada.

Despite this, another AEIP centre is scheduled to open in Shanghai later this year.

After expanding in China, Cheng said the organization would look to expand pre-landing services in Japan, India, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Australia.

The grand opening of the Beijing centre is scheduled for September 2.

Published in Top Stories
Friday, 05 June 2015 04:00

Removing Barriers to Education Success

African Canadian Christian Network is proud of the success two recent award-winning African Canadian graduates have achieved through their hard work and diligence and as a result of the organization’s…

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The Caribbean Camera

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Published in Education

Zev SingerCorrespondent Many artists seek out silence and solitude when they paint. Jessica Gorlicky isn’t one of those. Her artistic process is an art form in...

Jewish Tribune

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Published in Arts & Culture

by Amanda Piché

The parenting section is a fixture of every Western bookseller’s offerings. Shelves of books are written by those who believe they’ve cracked the ever-elusive code of efficient childrearing, each offering their own solutions to common parenting dilemmas. These texts are attractive to parents who, driven by the fears and uncertainties of parenthood and pressures to produce well-adjusted and successful children, are willing to drop cash to get answers.

Culture-based parenting

A recent trend has been to promote a childrearing philosophy based on specific cultural beliefs and practices, positioning them as superior to others in the process. Amy Chua’s 2011 parenting memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, revealed the strict and demanding parenting style she claims to have drawn from her Chinese heritage. The following year brought us Bringing Up Bébé, another culturally inspired ‘momoir,’ this time by Pamela Druckerman, an American expatriate living in Paris who claimed to have uncovered the mystery surrounding the ease with which the French appear to parent. Both authors have appeared in mainstream media, including The Today Show, Time, Huffington Post, and The Wall Street Journal, and both books made USA Today’s Best Selling Books list. Clearly, North American parents are interested in what other cultures have to offer in the way of parenting wisdom.

Chua’s tiger parenting tactics were the more controversial. While tiger parents believe their methods produce high-achieving children, critics find them controlling, demanding, and intimidating. Dr. Shimi Kang, a child and adult psychiatrist with expertise in human motivation, wrote The Dolphin Way to explore why tiger parenting is problematic and offer an alternative that stresses the benefits of holistic living. For Kang, this authoritarian style of parenting (which, she stresses, is not limited to a specific ethnicity, but can be adopted by any parent) is practiced out of love, but results in an unbalanced lifestyle. Consequently, individuals are at risk of poor physical and emotional health, and may have difficulty adapting, coping, and socializing. Kang also introduces the tiger’s polar opposite: the permissive parent, or the ‘jellyfish.’ Jellyfish parents do not enforce rules or discipline, and offer minimal guidance, thus creating imbalance in a different manner. Children of jellyfish parents are impulsive, have poor relationships, and tend to float through life. According to Kang, neither parenting style allows children to develop self-motivation or adaptability, and both threaten to prevent children from fully engaging with the world around them. 

Balanced approach

In light of this, Kang proposes that maintaining balance in all aspects of life is the foundation for happiness, health, and success. When we do something good for our survival — allowing ourselves to play, participating in our community, and taking care of our health — our bodies naturally make us feel good through the release of dopamine. In the process, we develop traits that contribute to our overall welfare: creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration. This practice ultimately drives our motivation. When we reach a state of well-being, we are driven to act in a way to achieve this feeling again. When parents guide their children to attain a balanced life in a firm but amenable manner, and model a balanced life themselves, they allow their children to develop self-motivation.

For Kang, the dolphin represents balanced living and parenting. Dolphins naturally guide their kin to pursue activities that enable creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration, and Kang asserts that human parents should do the same for their children. She demonstrates how The Dolphin Way is that of authoritative parenting, a style that sees the parent as the definitive authority figure, one who is assertive, supportive, and communicative. Through their efforts, authoritative parents raise capable and joyful offspring equipped to take on the world.

Kang takes readers through a four-part model of behavioural change as a means to guide them toward better balance. The key to Kang’s approach is that trusting one’s intuition is vital in order to flourish. It is human nature to pursue balance (just like the dolphin!), and to parent well, Kang says, is to listen to one’s gut. Using scientific research and stories from her own and her patients’ experiences, Kang demonstrates how to use instincts to foster balance, the rewards garnered when we do, and the consequences when we don’t.

Kang proposes that maintaining balance in all aspects of life is the foundation for happiness, health, and success. When we do something good for our survival — allowing ourselves to play, participating in our community, and taking care of our health — our bodies naturally make us feel good through the release of dopamine

What makes Kang’s work particularly effective is that she builds an environment for parents to learn and grow. Speaking from professional and personal experience, Kang’s voice is knowledgeable and makes her a suitable guide for this transformative journey. What’s more, the space her words create is an inviting one. By revealing herself as a recovering tiger and recognizing that tiger parents want to do best by their children in a highly connected and competitive world, Kang does not inflict blame or guilt upon the reader. Instead, she writes from a place of understanding and is continuously encouraging. While the scientific and medical concepts Kang presents may appear daunting, she is able to explore these ideas in a way that is relatable and easy to understand. Her recommendations are relevant, practical, and flexible, allowing them to be adapted to one’s personal family dynamics.

Ultimately, in revealing the importance of trusting our innate inclinations, The Dolphin Way encourages readers to think critically about what it takes for humans to attain success in this world. As Kang reminds us, we are wired to seek out balance, and we become joyful and motivated when we do so, but societal stresses make this difficult. By emphasizing the human, Kang presents a fine case for how, by following our intuition, we can lead more fulfilled lives and help our children to do the same — all without fetishizing or generalizing about a particular culture or suggesting cultural superiority.

Amanda Piché is a recent graduate of Ryerson University’s Master’s program in Communication and Culture who plans to pursue doctoral studies. She is interested in examining the role of media in facilitating social movements, and in exploring issues of gender and sexuality as they manifest in popular culture.

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 Books

THE first annual Khalsa Cup Tournament concluded on Sunday with Team Malton being crowned Competitive Tier champions, and the Maple Leafs winning the Co-Ed Tier (see photo).  The tournament raised over $6,000 for the Khalra Centre for Human Rights Defenders in Delhi. The Khalsa Cup, organized to implement the concepts of seva and sarbat […]

Indo-Canadian Voice

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Published in India

In a country where many school kids spend their evenings, weekends or what amounts to an entire childhood in private study classes in a race to get ahead, rarely will a role mode tell them to be patient when striving for success.

The Sri Lanka Reporter

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Published in South Asia

       Brasilia- Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said that the success the 2014 FIFA World Cup has shut up the critics who had expected chaos, demonstrations and violence during the tourney. During a recent meeting with foreign media here at the Palácio da Alvorada, Dilma said no one can criticise the organisation of the World […]

The Weekly Voice

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Published in Latin America
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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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