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ONTARIO Premier Kathleen Wynne released the following statement regarding the passing of Rob Ford on Tuesday: “It was with deep sadness that I learned that former Toronto mayor Rob Ford has passed away. “As the son of the late Doug Ford Sr., a former MPP, Rob Ford grew up in a family with a strong tradition […]

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Published in National
Wednesday, 02 March 2016 22:23

The Poetry of Generational Difference

by Rosanna Haroutounian in Quebec City

Flesh, Tongue, Yaya Yao’s first collection of poetry, brings you to a crossroads where you have a desire for belonging in the place you feel is home, but must first understand why your parents’ own upbringing makes finding acceptance such a struggle.

It is another example of how the need to reconcile with the past is felt across cultures and spans generations.

Yao’s collection recounts her adolescence between paradigms – past and present; tradition and modernity; a new home and the one left behind.

These are the fragmentations many children of immigrant parents experience, especially when they grow up in a culture that is markedly different from the one of their parents.

Yao’s poems, 44 in total, tell of the need for a continuous narrative and context for one’s place in the world. Her words, which sometimes appear scattered on the page and non-linear in form, symbolize this process of tying different histories together.

Knowledge of our past, and the significance it holds for our parents, forces us to embrace and hold on to these fragments of our ancestry as we build our own identities.

Language, history, family

Yao dedicated Flesh, Tongue to her father, Eugene Yong-Ging Yao, “who said he never got my poems.”  Still, she made an effort to “get” him and her mother by learning their languages and sharing them in her writing.

Her poetry mixes Cantonese, Mandarin, Hokkien, and Shanghainese – sometimes translating these dialects into English to reveal similarities and contrasts.

To someone unfamiliar with these languages, they demonstrate that one’s identity can be made both richer and more complicated with their knowledge. The harsh-sounding words on the page force us to appreciate the challenges of learning a language that sounds and even feels different on our tongues from the one in which we were raised.

Chinese culture’s emphasis on ancestors and honour also emanates from Yao’s retellings. They express a definition of family that goes beyond a biological, skin-deep bond to something much deeper, embedded in historical psyche.

There is also a reference to the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. Knowledge of our past, and the significance it holds for our parents, forces us to embrace and hold on to these fragments of our ancestry as we build our own identities.

Carrying these narratives is both our burden and our blessing.

Yao was born and raised in the Parkdale and Little Portugal neighbourhoods of Toronto. These communities are built on many histories that have been uprooted from around the world and will continue to change as new narratives take form.

She tells her story in a unique voice, yet the nostalgia created by her images is a familiar sensation to anyone who has grappled with understanding where they came from and whether they ended up in the right place.

Dundas Street evokes memories

Yao’s “living room over dundas” symbolizes many of the homes immigrants have built for themselves in Canada’s bustling metropolises.

For me, Dundas Street brings back images of my earliest memories, spent with my Iranian grandparents in Dixie, a neighbourhood in southeast Mississauga. I knew at the time that, when we walked outside in one direction, we would arrive at the park where Grandfather would push me on the swing.

When we went in the other direction, we would cross a busy street to get to Chinatown, where I would skip from stone to stone in the pond around the imperially decorated gazebo.

Their children – like Yao, and like me – grew up learning that their paths do not start and stop outside their home, but cross continents and oceans.

The street was Dundas, which I now know goes a long way beyond our old neighbourhood and is a meeting place for people from even further away.

The Afghani bakery, the Latino pharmacy, the Indian restaurant – they all hold the histories of many immigrants who came to Canada and undoubtedly struggled to find their footing.

Like my grandparents and parents, they felt the strain of trying to fit the familiar pieces of their ancestral homeland into the strange spaces of a new home, many miles away.

Their children – like Yao, and like me – grew up learning that their paths do not start and stop outside their home, but cross continents and oceans. Carrying these narratives is both our burden and our blessing.

Reflecting on one’s past can induce grieving for what is lost, but also the recognition that there are parts of ourselves we can regain. Yao’s memories – built with colours, feelings and scents – not only tell of desperate times, but also of times when uncertainty was less destabilizing, before it beckoned us to question our place within our families, in society and in history.

“meet your younger

eyes, ones that never

doubt that you, now

are doing what you

came 

to do.”


Rosanna Haroutounian is a freelance writer and the assignment editor at New Canadian Media. She studied journalism and political science at Carleton University and now splits her time between Quebec City and Peterborough, ON. 

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

by Beatrice Paez in Toronto

Journalists can pay a high price with their reputations for reporting on the polarizing, decades-old Israel-Gaza conflict.

That was the message journalist and author Max Blumenthal delivered at Embattled Truths: Reporting on Gaza, a presentation at the Toronto Reference Library on Feb. 25 as part of Freedom to Read Week.

As the platforms for gathering news become more sophisticated in delivering customized information to readers, there’s a risk of readers insulating themselves from divergent views, said Olivia Ward, the Toronto Star’s foreign affairs reporter, who moderated the talk hosted by Poets, Essayists and Novelists (PEN) Canada.

Blumenthal’s critics have accused him of disseminating propaganda through his reporting on Gaza.

PEN stood its ground against calls to cancel the event, citing its efforts to defend free speech.

“There are hard questions that require a great deal of debate, and it isn’t always polite,” says Randy Boyagoda, president of PEN Canada. “We fight for the right to make it possible.”

Blumenthal’s critics have accused him of disseminating propaganda through his reporting on Gaza.

Embattled Truths was a discussion of Blumenthal’s critique of mainstream media, the challenges of covering the Gaza Strip and his own privileges as an American Jew from an upper-middle class family with ties to the Clintons.

Controversial discussion

Anticipating heated confrontations between Blumenthal and his critics, a modest police presence was on standby to rein in on any disruptions from the crowd. Interruptions —from both the pro-Israel lobby, including members of the Jewish Defense League, and Blumenthal's own defenders — staggered his exchange with Ward and the question-and-answer session with the audience.

For Blumenthal, there’s no avoiding bias — even as journalists — in the coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

There were repeated calls to boot individuals from opposing sides as Blumenthal’s detractors challenged his view of Israel as an aggressor and his assertion that what was happening between Israel and Palestine was “a conquest, not a conflict.” His critics — who came with placards showing the photo of a jihadi with the words, “This is not a victim” — questioned why he was not reporting about terror attacks against Israelis as well.

Activist journalism

For Blumenthal, there’s no avoiding bias — even as journalists — in the coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“The way I see my journalism on this issue is, I’m involved in a campaign,” he said. “Information on this issue is very difficult to obtain. There isn’t much of a counter-narrative, and the Palestinian narrative, which I have found to be closer to reality, is frozen out.”

A self-described advocacy journalist, he defends his embattled credibility on the basis that his reporting is grounded in facts.

“I rise and fall on whether I’m presenting facts,” he said. “[People] spend so much time trying to characterize my views as slander or slurs, instead of actually addressing the facts of my book.”

Blumenthal’s recently released book, the 51 Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza, is a first-hand examination of the military conflict in Gaza in 2014, or as the Israeli Defense Force calls it, “Operation Protective Edge.”

Efforts to undermine his work by framing him an anti-Semite, he said, cheapen its meaning, making it difficult to condemn real acts of anti-Semitism when it surfaces.

Choosing sides

When asked about the challenges of reporting on Gaza, Blumenthal said it goes beyond the financial obstacles newsrooms face and personal risks journalists are willing to take.

Asked by Ward about whether the fact that journalists have had to chase “moving targets” as news breaks elsewhere and parachute into other conflict zones was a factor, Blumenthal said he’s not beholden to the 24-hour news cycle, which allows him to probe the issue further.

“Palestinians who seek to do what I’m doing can easily be painted as terrorists, Islamists or ignored."

His focus on gaining unfettered access to Gaza and covering the conflict in 2014 from inside, he said, provides a counterweight to what he characterizes as a cultural problem that newsrooms face when reporters are more immersed in Israel and are prone to “absorb the anxieties of the people they’re around, which is often the Jewish-Anglo community.”

Ward noted that his stature plays a considerable role in amplifying his voice, whereas Palestinians may have more difficulty getting heard.

Blumenthal agreed that his background has made his writing difficult to ignore, with the pro-Israel lobby trying to make “an example of him” to young Jews who might decide to follow his lead.

While accounts of personal narratives from the Palestinian side are chronicled, what’s rare is an overarching analysis from them, said Blumenthal. “The narration usually falls more to people like me.

“Palestinians who seek to do what I’m doing can easily be painted as terrorists, Islamists or ignored because they’re [seen as] simply being loyal to their people,” he said.

Then there’s the struggle faced by young Palestinian writers who have never seen the world beyond Gaza.

“[They’re asking] how can we write for the people in the West to explain our experiences because we have never left Gaza?” said Blumenthal. “You’re wondering what the outside world is like.”


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

by Priya Ramanujam in Scarborough

In this week’s round-up of what’s been making headlines in Canada’s ethnic media: celebrated deputy chief of the Toronto Police Service quits the force, mainstream grocery stores make concerted efforts to become one-stop shops for ethnic consumers, and Filipinos in Alberta get their long-awaited consulate. 

Toronto Deputy Police Chief’s resignation a loss for local black community

Members of Toronto’s Black community view the recent retirement of deputy chief of police, Peter Sloly, from the Toronto Police Service (TPS) as a major loss.

Community advocates and activists who worked with Sloly over the years “think his departure is a blow to the city, especially in fractious police-community relation matters,” writes reporter Neil Armstrong in Pride, Canada’s weekly African-Canadian and Caribbean news magazine.

Sloly, who immigrated to Canada from Jamaica, was the TPS’ second Black deputy chief. He was passed over last year when he applied for the position of police chief, which was awarded to his fellow deputy chief at the time, Mark Saunders

Known as a staunch supporter of community policing, Sloly was instrumental in leading the TPS’ Police and Community Engagement Review (PACER), which made several recommendations to reform current policing practices, including creating a new core value articulating the service’s commitment to bias-free policing. 

"His departure is a blow to the city, especially in fractious police-community relation matters."

He has also been recognized as one of the first individuals "on the inside" to describe the highly controversial practice of police carding as a problem that has to be addressed. 

“He had such a connection to the community and he understood, he empathized and he was willing to make changes so there was a sense of loss,” Audrey Campbell, co-chair of the PACER review committee told Pride.

Many community members share this sentiment. In a Share News article, Dave Mitchell, the former president of the Association of Black Law Enforcers, stated that Sloly contributed enormously to 21st century policing.

“He will be missed in terms of his innovative approach to modern law enforcement and community-based policing,” said Michell. “He’s also a role model to other Black officers because of his myriad [of] significant achievements.”

Loblaws’ new motto, offerings reflect focus on diversity

Grocery chain Loblaws’ new motto “30/30” is a reference to estimates that 30 per cent of Canada’s population will be born outside of the country by 2030. 

As reported by Neil Sharma in The Epoch Times, to celebrate this year’s Chinese New Year, Loblaws’ North Mississauga Real Canadian Superstore decorated its store with hanging lanterns and dragons and sold items like dumplings and red envelopes.

“Chinese people will put money inside for gifts and give them to the younger generation,” Stew Chang, senior category manager of Loblaws, told The Epoch Times. “It suppresses evil and ensures the children will be healthy and have good fortune throughout the year.”

According to Won Suk Ha, senior category manager of Multicultural Fresh, Loblaws used the Mississauga location, being that it's in a highly diverse city, as a pilot to get a sense of what customers gravitated to most.  

30 per cent of Canada’s population will be born outside of the country by 2030.

To date, the Superstore’s seafood department has fared well with Chinese-Canadian shoppers. The Mississauga location has the largest seafood section of any Loblaws-operated store, with fish like tilapia and green bass on display.

Also stocked on the grocery store’s shelf: a wide selection of tea brands imported from Taiwan and mainland China; a variety of soy sauces; rice and noodle imported brands; and items like dried lily flower and Chinese peppers in the bulk food section.

Unlike initiatives such as Sobeys launching a South Asian store and the forthcoming Seafood City Supermarket catering to Filipinos, Loblaws aims to become a “one-stop shopping destination for customers,” merging “mainstream” Canadian foods with a wide range of multicultural selections. 

“Whether it’s Canadians whose families are from different places around the world or Canadians who have traveled the world and have an extended palette, it’s important to us that when they come to our store, they find [what they need],” Ha said. 

Philippines consulate to open in Calgary

It’s been a long time coming, but a Philippine consulate will be open for business in Alberta sometime next month.

According to a recent article published by The Filipino Post, the Philippines’ department of foreign affairs (DFA) will open the office in Calgary to serve the more than 120,000 Filipinos living in Alberta, something community members have been demanding for years. 

Calgary was selected as the home of the consulate office due to its high concentration — approximately 40,000 — of Filipinos, DFA assistant secretary Julius Torres told the Philippine Inquirer in a telephone interview.

The aim of the office will be to bolster relations with commercial establishments, major industries and other diplomatic offices located in the area, Torres explained. 

Calgary was selected as the home of the consulate office due to its high concentration of Filipinos.

After a 2009 economic boost brought more temporary foreign workers to Canada from the Philippines, the Vancouver office became busier and over capacity, reports the Philippine Asian News Today. In 2014, added pressure was placed on the Lower House of Congress to find room in the budget to open a consulate in Alberta.

Torres, who was appointed as consul general, will arrive in Calgary on Feb. 23. The office is expected to be fully operational by the beginning of March and will offer services like passport applications and renewals and document authentication. 

The office will be the fourth Philippine post in Canada outside of the embassy in Ottawa and consulates in Vancouver and Toronto and is expected to ease the workload of the other offices. 

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 Shan Qiao in Toronto

Just weeks before its 40th anniversary one of the three major Chinese daily newspapers in North America has ceased printing in Canada.

The World Journal issued its last edition on Dec. 31, 2015, marking yet another setback for the ailing Chinese ethnic media.

From daily newspapers to TV and radio stations, traditional ethnic media outlets have been fighting to survive under the irrevocable challenges brought on by the rise of social media.

Like other traditional Chinese media, World Journal has been struggling with declining readership and advertising revenues, coupled with increasing labour costs.

Founded by the United Daily News Group in Taiwan on Feb. 12, 1976, World Journal mainly targets readers from the island whose political perspectives are not aligned with Beijing. 

Announcement not a surprise to some 

The closure of the newspaper’s Vancouver and Toronto offices resulted in more than 20 full-time jobs in editorial, translation, graphic design and printing being slashed on New Year’s Day.

The World Journal will keep publishing in the United States; its North American headquarters in New York, along with its west coast bureaus in Los Angeles and San Francisco will remain in tact.

“It’s obvious that traditional media is a dying business, giving up the market to new media and free pickup weekly newspapers.”

 
Jiansheng Ge, a senior reporter who has been working for the newspaper in Toronto for over eight years after emigrating from Taiwan, was not shocked by the abrupt announcement the newspaper’s CEO made earlier in December.  

He says he knew the end was coming, he just didn’t know when.
 
“It’s obvious that traditional media is a dying business, giving up the market to new media and free pickup weekly newspapers,” he laments.

According to Ge people are joining the battlefield to publish free weekly newspapers without paying enough attention to quality because it’s a legitimate and easy investment for them. 

Examining why the newspaper folded
 
Joseph Lau, the founding president of Toronto’s Chinese Media Professionals Association, appealed on WeChat, a popular Chinese social media app with over one billion users, to buy the World Journal’s last edition on Dec. 31 to show support. 

“Traditional media has a weakness, from my perspective, which is a ‘one-way’ communication."

“Media colleagues should examine why the business is not doing well,” he says. “Traditional media has a weakness, from my perspective, which is a ‘one-way’ communication. You won’t be able to trace back your readers’ data, not like new media that grabs users’ information for its marketing purpose.”  

He adds that World Journal publishing electronically online for some time was also part of its downfall. 

“This is suicidal and it kills the hardcopy edition, but it’s the trend nobody in the business can avoid,” Lau says. 

“I believe news always needs content regardless what the carrier is, either on paper or on a smart phone. Paper media’s readership will be less and less, losing to other carriers. However, we are not a fully digital age yet. In the coming 10 years, paper media still has some space to survive.” 

He adds, with a laugh, that his own online TV news channel, www.torontotv.net, has been operating since 2003 and is still “surviving”. 

Finding work for former ethnic media 

After losing their jobs in ethnic media, reporters can find it difficult to find work. They often find themselves using transferable skills to land work in other fields. 

A popular career alternative is working as a politician’s constituency assistant. 

“Media professionals often make great hires for both public and private sectors."

Two reporters, who preferred to remain unnamed, who previously worked at OMNI TV found jobs at the riding offices of Conservative member of Parliament (MP) Bob Saroya and Liberal MP Shaun Chen after Rogers cut most of its ethnic programming last year, while a former reporter for the World Journal started working for Liberal MP Arnold Chan months before the newspaper announced its closure. 

Miriam Ku, a former World Journal reporter who left journalism several years ago in pursuit of a career in politics has since worked as an assistant for a municipal councillor and is now an outreach adviser for Ontario’s Conservative party leader, Patrick Brown. 

Wilson Chan, who is Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s communication adviser, previously worked as Editor-in-Chief of a Chinese daily newspaper called Today Daily News that was rebranded to Today Commercial News after he left. 

“Media professionals often make great hires for both public and private sectors, whether it could be working for a politician, an NGO (non-governmental organization) or a public relation firm,” says Ku, adding that media professionals’ vast knowledge on current affairs, strong community networks and effective audience-focused writing talents are useful when seeking jobs.

Some reporters work as licenced interpreters in the community, hospitals or courtrooms. Others become part-time realtors serving the particularly property-hungry Chinese community, and often, their part-time income easily supersedes their humble reporter’s salary. 

As for Ge, he had already planned something years before the closure announcement was made. 

He is a seasonal Chinese language teacher working at the elementary school level for the Toronto District School Board. Although his working hours are not enough right now, he is confident and wants to pursue this path, getting more training to become a full-time teacher in a more stable and sustainable job environment.

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 Arts & Culture

by Mark A. Cadiz in Toronto

Looking back to 2011, the decision to leave Syria was the best thing Fryal Alshami could have done.

Unlike the thousands of Syrians who've struggled to escape the civil war recently, Alshami acted early, leaving Damascus in August 2011 for Canada. 

"The first year [in Canada] was hard, I felt alone, I didn’t have work and it was hard," she said. "After a year or so I saw things clearer […] It was easier for me to be here."

When she arrived, Alshami, 46, barely spoke a word of English. Now that her children have comfortably integrated into Toronto schools, she's more focused on her own re-education and integration.

By learning English and eventually returning to school, Alshami hopes to ensure a better life for herself and her children.

Adjusting to life in Canada

Alshami, a successful criminal lawyer back home, had a sister already living in Toronto when she initially applied for a Canadian visa, but was denied. Fortunately, the U.S. granted the family visas that allowed Alshami to make the first leg of her trip to Detroit before coming to Canada.

As a single mother, she focused on her children's education and integration first. Now her kids Karim, 12,  Mays, 10, and Tim, 7, are fully integrated into everyday student life and are attending a French immersion middle school.

"In Syria I had my own office and a lot of clients," Alshami says. "I told myself that I would stay here [in Canada] a little bit and once my family in Syria told me it was safe then I would go back. But Syria was never safe since, so I've never been back.”

Karim, who was seven years old when he first arrived, spent only a month in ESL classes at Thorncliffe Park Public School and was considered a fast learner.

Most incoming Syrian refugees will encounter the same challenges Alshami and her family faced upon arrival.

"With the ESL teachers, they were really kind and flexible with what you say and I felt like it was really good and fun and when I left ESL I felt kind of emotional," Karim says.

Mays, then six years old, spent three months in ESL.

"When I came to Canada it was kind of difficult [...] I had to go through ESL and it was a challenge," Mays adds. "It was a new language for me and even though in Syria I learned English too, in Canada it was harder.”

Most incoming Syrian refugees will encounter the same challenges Alshami and her family faced upon arrival.

Children will have to adjust to their new schools and parents will likely not have their credentials recognized, forcing some to return to post-secondary institutions.

Challenges facing local schools

According to the Government of Canada, 6,300 Syrian refugees have arrived in Canada and another 5,307 have been finalized but have yet to travel to the country. 

The government did not reach their 10,000 person year-end target, which has given schools some breathing room to prepare.

Despite some worries about the number of potential students entering Ontario schools, Toronto District School Board (TDSB) spokesperson Shari Schwartz-Maltz says their infrastructure to welcome new students is solid.

"We have ESL teachers, we have programs for newcomers for both adults and children. We have the resources because we are already doing it," she says. "Now, not in the numbers that people are predicting with Syrian refugees, but it's not something we are not used to."

One challenge the school board faces is not knowing exactly where Syrian refugee students will be resettling. 

"We don’t know where the families will be living and how many there will be so that presents all sorts of challenges," Schwartz-Maltz says.

"We have ESL teachers, we have programs for newcomers for both adults and children."

She continues, ”In cases when there are two kids, three kids at a school, we have itinerant ESL school instructors that visit the schools and they do some one-on-one work with the kids. "

A number of TDSB schools already have dedicated ESL classrooms. For students Grade 4 and up with little to no English, the TDSB offers a Literacy Enrichment Academic Program (LEAP) where intensive ESL is provided.

For adults, the TDSB has adult centres for ESL support and five adult high schools where newcomers can fill gaps in their education. 

Planning for the future

Alshami attends Overlea LINC, one of those adult centres. Her goal is to improve her language skills and hopefully to return to college or university.

"I'd like to study here. I will start to go to college when my English is good enough. I would like to go back to university and hopefully back to law school.”

Karim is proud of his mother for taking the initiative to continue her education here in Canada.

"I think it is really good of her because other parents might have given up or taken lower paying jobs […] I'm not saying [that's] bad," Karim says. "My mum is working hard she is working on her vocabulary and working her way up." 

When asked if she would return to Syria if the war ended, Alshami didn't think so.

"To be honest, if Syria was safe now and if people were to tell me to come back, I would say no. I feel now relaxed and I feel peaceful with myself here. I don't have work now, but once I start to speak well then I will go to college again.

"And plus my kids really like it here." 

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

by Beatrice Paez in Toronto

When Syrian refugee children arrive in Canadian classrooms for the very first time, the anxiety they feel might be more than simply first-day-of-school jitters, say humanitarian relief workers and health-care providers.  

Many may be experiencing the trauma of loss and displacement after months, if not years, of being out of school. Despite this stress, heading back to class is the best course to establishing a sense of normalcy, says Patricia Erb, CEO of Save the Children, a global humanitarian agency.   

"The children have gone through incredible trauma. They've seen people die, their schools being bombed," says Erb. "Getting into a school is getting back to a normal life. That's what they beg for.”

The role of psychosocial programs

Ontario is expected to absorb about 4,000 of the 10,000 refugees expected to arrive by year's end. The federal government plans to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees across Canada by February 2016.

Nearly five years into the Syrian conflict, as many as 2.2 million children are living as refugees, with limited access to education and psychological support. In a recent report titled Childhood in the Shadow of War, Save the Children says that one in four Syrian refugee children are at risk of developing a mental health disorder.   

Psychosocial programs, which can involve art or play therapy, have helped children make sense of what happened and build their resilience, says Erb.

"The children have gone through incredible trauma. They've seen people die, their schools being bombed."

And yet these initiatives often receive the least funding, as resources in host countries are stretched thin, says the report.   

In tents reserved as safe spaces for children at refugee camps, Save the Children runs activities where the children are asked to draw or dramatize their experiences. Their sketches can provide a glimpse into their emotional state.  

"In their drawings, there's blood, body parts that are separated," she says. "You see the war."   

The impacts of trauma

While visiting a refugee camp in Jordan, Erb was struck by the behaviour of three- and four-year-olds. "They were coaxed to eat their snacks, but they just wanted to put it in their backpacks. They had that memory of not having enough food."

The stress of poverty — of seeing their parents unable to work, living in informal settlements — is cited in the report as being the primary source of their psychosocial distress. In some cases, children become prone to aggressive behaviour and substance abuse, the report finds.   

Trauma manifests itself in different ways, and for children, their somatic (physical) symptoms are more pronounced than with adults, says Dr. Tony Barozzino, a pediatrician at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto. 

"In their drawings, there's blood, body parts that are separated."

"The emotional, psychological symptoms of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) are being experienced or seen as physical symptoms," he explains. "[There's] abdominal pain, chronic headaches, school refusal, which is an underlying sign of significant anxiety, [and] nightmares."   

Depending on the severity of their distress, kids may be referred to psychiatrists for evaluation, counselling or medication therapy, he says. Barozzino's colleague, psychiatrist Dr. Morton Beiser, is piloting a program for refugees based on Narrative Exposure Therapy (NET), which was developed in Germany 25 years ago to treat PTSD.   

The program, Lending a Hand to Our Future, which will run in eight clinics in Toronto, is suited for children and youth, between the ages of seven and 15. It involves eight to 10 sessions, lasting about an hour, led by trained volunteers in the health-care field. NET is billed as a way for patients to recover their identity.

"They're literally walked through their migration story," he explains. "It helps them understand the situation, get rid of the internalized stress that comes from that. [. . .] It has a very good response rate and very few individuals require further treatment.”

Supporting children at school

What's crucial is for health-care providers, educators and social workers to look out for symptoms, so children who are suffering can be referred to appropriate services, says Barozzino.

The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) is working to anticipate Syrian children’s needs by linking with community partners to outline programs to ease the transition. That includes tip sheets for teachers on class activities, advice on dealing with potential stressors and plans to hold lunch-and-learn sessions.   

"You don't want the kids to feel like they have a broken wing," says Marcia Powers-Dunlop, interim senior manager of professional support services at TDSB. "So you want to have as many normalizing activities as possible."   

Amid all the anticipation surrounding the children’s arrival, many Torontonian schoolchildren are eager to find ways to relate to their new classmates. Some wonder if they can bring toys to share. Others want to know if it's appropriate to ask about their experience.    

"Some kids struggle to think that they're kids just like them," says Powers-Dunlop. "I say, 'They're boys and girls like you. They have the same fears, the same hopes, the same joys.’"

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
Sunday, 13 December 2015 18:00

Refugees Reunited At Toronto Airport

by Eddie Ameh in Toronto

For Sammar Mian and Atief Sheikh and their families, waiting for more than four hours at the airport to welcome incoming Syrian refugees was worth every minute.

They are among the first private sponsors to bring Syrian refugees to their homes in Milton, Ontario. Mian and Sheikh are together hosting eleven Syrians in their homes. 

“We have no idea what they've been through, we don’t have any idea where they are coming from and how much they’ve suffered,” Mian says. “So we should try to be as helpful as we can.”

The government has started transporting thousands of Syrian refugees in fulfilment of its campaign promise to bring 25,000 refugees to Canada. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced he would bring in 10,000 refugees by the end of the year and an additional 15,000 refugees by the end of the February, although more will likely arrive over the next year.

The long wait at the airport

When the plane bringing the families of Ziad Khabbaz, 48, and his brother Mazen, 46, finally touched down on December 10th, those waiting at the airport thought it would be only moments before they met the new arrivals.

That was not the case as they had to process their permanent residence and other paperwork before leaving the airport. Overall, it took more than four hours for them to leave Terminal 1 of the Pearson International Airport. 

“They’re going to be surprised because it’s a big change for them,” Mian says.

Indeed the Khabbaz family and the other travellers seemed overwhelmed by the massive welcome they received from members of the Ahamadiyya Jama’at and Humanity First, two resettlement groups. 

Arriving to cheers and shouts was not what they anticipated. 

Rakhan Almasri, himself a refugee who arrived less than a week ago, translated for Khabbaz, who said in Arabic, “We are very surprised at the crowd here. We didn’t expect this.”

Welcoming the children

Sheikh says his children are thrilled to be in Canada and can’t wait to start making new friends. “My children are really excited actually and want to know how children from other countries are and spend some time with them,” he says.

Eight-year-old Alisha Anwar, whose mother Mian is one of the hosts, says she can’t wait to meet the Syrian children. “I expect them to have fun and I hope to be friends with them and I expect them to be nice,” she says.

We are very surprised at the crowd here. We didn’t expect this.

When the two families arrived, the Canadian children gave out gifts to their new friends. Despite the language barrier, they started playing and trying to speak to one another, hoping that the other would understand.

A new life in Canada

Ziad and Mazen Khabbaz fled their hometown of Homs three years ago when the war in Syria escalated. They stayed in Egypt for two and half years before finally coming to Canada.

“We will not only bring them here but we will make sure they integrate into the Canadian society with little difficulty as possible,” says Ghlieb Baten, imam of the Ahmadiyya Jama’at at Milton.

The Milton branch of the Ahmadiyya Jama’at raised the funds for these two families to move to Canada. Baten says this is just the beginning. “God willing, this is going to be an ongoing process and we want to bring as many families as we possibly can,” he says.

"We will make sure they integrate into the Canadian society with little difficulty as possible."

Both Mian and Sheikh are members of the Ahmadiyya Jama’at in Milton, which has now has kickstarted a campaign dubbed “A Better Future” that aims to bring in more refugees from Syria. Baten says helping the refugees is a biblical obligation.

Almasri and the Khabbazs have been friends their whole lives and grew up together in Homs. However, the civil war separated them three years ago. While Almasri fled to Turkey, Ziad and Mazen went to Egypt. 

The three embraced for a long time when they finally were reunited at the airport. Now, they are all going to stay together  — at least temporarily — in Milton.

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

PRIME Minister Justin Trudeau as well as his ministers of immigration, health and defence, and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, Toronto Mayor John Tory and the opposition immigration critics greeted a Canadian military plane at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport on Thursday night that brought 163 privately sponsored Syrian refugees to Canada. Trudeau said: “This is a […]

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Indo-Canadian Voice

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Published in Top Stories
Thursday, 26 November 2015 12:01

Nations to Open First Toronto Location

Toronto will soon have its first Nations Fresh Foods store in what was once a Target outlet at the Stockyards retail centre.

Touted as “where East meets West” and catering to all nations, Nations Fresh Foods opened in Vaughan, north of Toronto, in 2012, and has a second store in Hamilton selling multi-ethnic fresh food.

Canadian Grocer

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Published in Arts & Culture

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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