New Canadian Media
Thursday, 22 October 2015 15:50

First Mandarin-Speaking MP Elected in Canada

by Shan Qiao in Toronto 
 
For the first time in Canada’s electoral history a Mandarin-speaking member of Parliament was elected.

Now hailed by the Chinese Mandarin community members as their "true voice”, the Liberal party’s Geng Tan won the Don Valley North riding in Toronto with a solid 51.4 per cent of the vote. He trumped second-place Conservative incumbent Joe Daniel’s 37.8 per cent by more than 6,000 votes.
 
Tan’s win is not only a reflection of the Liberals' landslide victory, but also proof of a momentum generated by the Mandarin community, which has been very supportive of Tan’s campaign. 

Reflecting the community 

Even the defeated incumbent Daniels knows that the Chinese community is divided into three groups – the Mainlanders, Taiwanese and Cantonese – and simply saying, “I represent the Chinese community,” is naive and unconvincing. 

It’s possible to represent one or the other, but not all of them.
 
According to 2011 Statistic Canada reports Don Valley North has more than 12,750 Mandarin speakers, the highest amongst other ethnic languages and outnumbering the Cantonese-speaking population of 9,540 and other Chinese sub-groups that only answered “Chinese” to the question of mother tongue.
 
Beyond this, the riding has a 65 per cent immigrant population and 67 per cent of its constituents are visible minorities. The top occupations are in professional, scientific and technical services, and 67 per cent of residents have a post-secondary education. 

“As an immigrant from Mainland China, it is so hard to set foot [in] Canada’s politics.”

Tan, an immigrant with a high educational background, is very much a reflection of the average face of the riding. 

“As an immigrant from Mainland China, it is so hard to set foot [in] Canada’s politics,” Tan told supporters at his victory party on election night inside a Chinese fine dining restaurant.
 
“I’m a typical first [generation] skilled immigrant with more than a decade of community experience,” he continued. “I understand newcomers’ needs and I have the responsibility to work for newcomers and all ethnic groups.” 

Ties to Chinese community
 
Born in 1963 in Hunan, a mountainous province where father of Communist China, Mao Zedong, was born, Tan came to Canada as a visa student in 1998. 

He completed his postgraduate and PhD in chemical engineering and applied chemistry at the University of Toronto and then worked as a scientist at Ontario Power Generation. 

“I also have [a] responsibility to ask for more benefits for our Chinese community.”

 
Tan’s community involvements are closely tied to the Chinese community and his Hunan clan associations. 

During his study at University of Toronto, he served for two terms as president of the school’s Chinese students and scholars association. 

Tan was also the long-term president of the Hunan Fellow Association of Canada, the vice president of The Confederation of Toronto Chinese Canadian Organizations and a founding member of the Council of (Chinese) Newcomer Organizations.

These groups are regular fixtures at significant events held by the Chinese Canadian community to celebrate things like the lunar New Year, Mid Moon Festival and China’s National Day, as well as any organized rally or denouncement against the Tibetan separation. 

Ties to Michael Chan
 
Michael Chan, the Ontario cabinet minister who was once investigated by the Canadian Security Intelligence Services over fears that he was under the influence of China, is a close political ally and mentor to Tan. 

Since Tan’s Liberal candidacy announcement to him winning the seat, Chan has been a regular face during the newly elected MP’s campaign. 

Even just two days before election day, Chan attended a Chinese media event along with Tan and three other federal Liberal candidates from the Greater Toronto Area to blast the federal Conservative government. 

When asked about why he was actively involved in the federal election, Chan said the federal government had been disrespectful toward Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. The Conservatives had made too many funding cuts to Ontario, making it difficult for his government to provide services to residents, he said.

Going beyond his Chinese heritage 

Tan has promised that he will work hard to improve Canada’s relationship with China. 

“I also have [a] responsibility to ask for more benefits for our Chinese community,” he stated during his victory speech.

"[T]he way we vote for our parliamentary representative should go above and beyond ethnicity."


But Sheng Xue, a prominent overseas Chinese Canadian writer for the Chinese democracy movement and an independent political commentator, says Tan must go beyond just serving the Chinese community.
 
“As a native Chinese, I’m happy (for Tan’s winning),” said Sheng. “However, in a democratic country such as Canada, the way we vote for our parliamentary representative should go above and beyond ethnicity because looking for rights and benefits should never be based on a candidate’s skin colour and his or her country of origin.” 

Sheng added that while their native country was still under a totalitarian system, it is important for Tan to respect Canada’s system and maintain Canadian values.
 
“I’m not acquainted with Mr. Tan, however, I urge him to act as a Canadian when he represents Canadians.”

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
Saturday, 17 October 2015 10:37

Visible Minority Candidates Step Up

by Andrew Griffith in Ottawa

Is the increased number of "visible minorities" being reflected in party candidates? Which ridings are these candidates running in? And do these candidates reflect the largest groups in their ridings?

Now that we know the names of all candidates, we can answer these and related questions.

But first, as a basis for comparison, how has women’s representation increased in 2015 candidates? The analysis by Equal Voice shows that overall representation from the 2011 election has slightly increased from 31 to 33 per cent (still far below equality), with the relative ranking of parties below.

To assess visible minority representation I have used candidate names, photos and biographies to identify visible minority candidates. Although not as exact as identifying women candidates (e.g., subjectivity in analyzing photos), it nevertheless provides a reasonably accurate indication of how well Canadian political party candidates represent the population of visible minorities who are also Canadian citizens (15 percent).

Building on an earlier study by Jerome Black showing the diversity in earlier elections, I went through the candidate lists using the criteria above, concentrating on the more diverse ridings. Out of a total of 1,014 candidates for the three major parties, 142 or 13.9 percent were visible minorities. The party-wise comparison chart shows a growth in visible minority candidates for the three major parties plus the Bloc.

For the 2015 election, the Liberal party has the most visible minority candidates, slightly greater at 16 per cent than the number of visible minority voters (those who are citizens). The Conservative party and the NDP have slight under-representation (13 per cent), while the Green party only has about half as many visible minority candidates (eight percent) as voters. The Bloc Québécois only appears to have a two visible minority candidates (under three per cent of Quebec’s 78 seats).

The chart below provides the comparative numbers for each party in the 33 ridings that are more than 50 per cent visible minority, broken down by gender.

Additional characteristics of these 33 ridings, in terms of the candidates, include:

•     Out of the 99 candidates from the three major parties, 68 are visible minorities (over two-thirds). These account for just under half of the 142 visible minority candidates in all ridings.

•     19 candidates are women (19.2 percent)

•     In 15 of these ridings, all major party candidates are visible minorities;

•     Only one riding, Scarborough Guildwood, has no visible minority candidates;

•     The Conservative Party has the most visible minority candidates (25), followed by the Liberal Party (24) and the NDP (19); and,

•     In general, but by no means universally, many candidates come from the larger communities in these ridings, particularly South Asian ridings as the attached table shows.

 
Published in Politics
Wednesday, 14 October 2015 22:01

Why the Chinese Market in Toronto Matters

When Barbara Lawlor joined Baker Real Estate Inc. 23 years ago, there wasn’t much of a condominium market to speak of in Toronto. But there...

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Wednesday, 14 October 2015 14:08

#Elxn42 Sparks Hope for Somali Canadians

by Aziza Hirsi in Toronto

The 2015 federal elections is a milestone for Somali Canadians as it marks a significant increase in their level of political engagement.

Canada’s Somali community began to grow in size after civil war broke out in Somalia in the 1990s. Today, Somali Canadians represent the largest African diaspora community in Canada and one of the largest Somali populations in the western world.

It is estimated that around 140,000 Somalis live in Toronto, followed by 20,000 in Ottawa, and 18,000 in Edmonton. Other Somali communities can be found in Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg and Windsor.

A watershed moment

In this election all three candidates of Somali heritage – spread equally among the three leading parties – are from Ontario, the province with the largest concentration of Somali Canadians.

Faisal Hassan, running in the Toronto riding of Etobicoke North for the New Democratic Party (NDP), sees this election as a watershed moment for the community.

“It allows the community’s diverse views and perspectives to emerge along with encouraging civic participation and making sure that they get involved and vote.”

“It allows the community’s diverse views and perspectives to emerge along with encouraging civic participation and making sure that they get involved and vote,” says Hassan. “I think it's good democracy.”

But he says there is still more to be done. “All three candidates are male. I think we should also have female candidates to effectively represent our community.”

While his Somali heritage is important to him, Hassan says he is also running to promote economic and social reforms for all Canadians.

“There are many issues that obligate me to get involved. My community in Etobicoke North has been ignored for over 35 years. We have the highest unemployment. And when adults get work, they are working part time.”

“The Somali community is the first Black diaspora community that is not English speaking and who also happen to be Muslim – the majority of them.”

Ahmed Hussen, contesting in the Toronto riding of York South-Weston for the Liberal party, says a concern for similar issues made him jump into the fray.

“I have a desire to improve the community of York South-Weston,” states Hussen. “To make sure folks get the same opportunities I had growing up, that people enjoy a better standard of living.”

Hussen, a lawyer by profession, is associated with the Canadian Somali Congress and an advocate for affordable housing. He says he was attracted to the Liberal party’s platform of investing in communities and not cutting services.

“People need jobs now,” says Hussen. “There’s a higher level of unemployment in York South-Weston [and] it’s slightly higher than the national average. In the case of young people, it’s even higher than the normal average for adults. The Conservatives have really destroyed the economy over the last nine years.”

Employment crisis

The rising costs of living, coupled with limited employment, have had an adverse impact on the Somali community. It experiences significant levels of poverty because of barriers faced in obtaining employment.

“If you look within the community, it is difficult for Somali women to find work as personal support workers or even as hotel cleaners because of the sheer fact of being Muslim and Black,” says Hodan Ahmed, a master’s student at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. “The Somali community is the first Black diaspora community that is not English speaking and who also happen to be Muslim – the majority of them.”

“There is a multilayered intersectionality that comes into play … and employment has been and is to this day, a crisis within the Somali community.”

Ahmed contends that these barriers have significantly limited the Somali community. “There is a multilayered intersectionality that comes into play … and employment has been and is to this day, a crisis within the Somali community.”

But Hussen is optimistic that things will change for all Canadian families and the economy will improve.

“The main thing the Liberal Party is going to do is invest in infrastructure,” he explains. “It will create a lot of jobs and stimulate the economy as a lot of money will be pumped into it.”

Harmful government policy

Recent policy reforms such as Bill C-24, the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, which allows the government to strip dual nationals of their Canadian citizenship, have also been a cause for concern for members of the Somali community.

Hussen condemns the harmful effects of Bill C-24.

Recent policy reforms such as Bill C-24, the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, have also been a cause for concern for members of the Somali community.

“[The Liberal party] has been very clear that if we are elected we will repeal Bill C-24 because we don’t agree with creating different classes of citizenship. We believe a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian!”

Hassan is particularly critical of changes to the Citizenship Act that put dual citizens at greater risk of losing their Canadian citizenship.

“I … believe that a minister or an elected official revoking citizenship is wrong. It should not be [a] minister who does that.”

Hassan also criticizes the Anti-Terrorism Act.

“Bill C-51 is a bill that violates our privacy and individual rights and freedoms. We, the NDP voted against it … and we are the only party that is committed to appealing it.”

Hussen notes that while the Liberal party agrees with some aspects of C-51, such as allowing for information sharing between security agencies, it definitely does not support it entirely.

“[T]he larger parts of the bill that are problematic for civil liberties will be repealed by a Liberal government,” he says.

Conservative platform

Attempts to get the views of Conservative party candidate Abdul Abdi for this article proved unsuccessful.

A city of Ottawa police officer, Abdi is contesting from Ottawa West-Nepean, a riding once held by former Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird.

Abdi’s website says his priorities for the riding are to “stand up in Parliament for seniors, support the families who call this riding home, and ensure that our community remains a safe and secure place to live.”


Journalist Ranjit Bhaskar mentored the writer 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 Politics
Saturday, 26 September 2015 15:34

Refugee Crisis Top of Mind this Eid al-Adha

by Lin Rahman in Toronto 

Eid al-Adha, celebrated this past Thursday, marks one of the two most important religious holidays for Muslims around the world. 

Different from Eid al-Fitr, which celebrates the end of a month-long fast, Eid al-Adha marks the end of the 10-day pilgrimage known as the hajj. 

Able-bodied Muslims who can afford to do so are required to perform the Islamic holy pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lifetime. 

Earlier in the day, Muslims around the world were shocked by news of a stampede in Mina, Saudi Arabia which killed over 700 people as pilgrims were on their way to perform a Hajj ritual. More than 800 were injured. For Muslims in Canada, celebrating Eid this year is especially poignant given the current refugee crisis in Europe. 

“This Eid, the [sermon] was mostly about the refugees throughout the world and how we can help, how we can contribute,” says Aamir Jamal, a professor in social work at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, New Brunswick. 

Jamal is a member of the Fredericton Islamic Association (FIA), a local organization that has teamed up with churches and other community groups in Fredericton to help bring refugees to  Canada and support them when they arrive. 

“This Eid reminds us to think beyond ourselves and we develop empathy for the weak among us.”

During this year’s Eid celebration, Jamal says Fredericton Muslims started a new initiative to support five new refugee families by contributing their portions of qurbani – the ritual sacrifice of lamb, goat or cow – to the families. 

The community is also continuing to assist the families with registering their children in school, finding a place to live and settling down in Canada. 

Jamal says helping refugee families to start their lives in Canada fits in with the purpose of Eid. 

“The theme and the philosophy behind this Eid is qurbani and sacrifice and thinking about others and giving things up for others,” he explains. “This Eid reminds us to think beyond ourselves and we develop empathy for the weak among us.” 

Importance of fostering community 

Former resident of Fredericton, Nora Shafe Fathalipour says there are more ways to celebrate Eid in Toronto because of the much larger Muslim population in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). (Fredericton is home to between 200 and 300 Muslim families.) 

“In Toronto, you have the option to go to a lot of different places,” Fathalipour says. “Going to Eid prayer also means a chance to socialize,” she adds. 

“If we have enmity among ourselves, we’re not going to be able to solve the local or wider issues or have any sympathy.”

Currently taking graduate courses at the University of Toronto, Fathalipour attended the morning Eid prayers organized at the U of T Muslim Chaplaincy, where the sermon also touched on the importance of fostering community and supporting one another. 

“It was a reminder of our social responsibility as a community towards each other,” says Fathalipour. 

“The reason why people are able to kill each other or not feel remorse when other people are hurt is because we start from this position of enmity,” she says. “If we have enmity among ourselves, we’re not going to be able to solve the local or wider issues or have any sympathy.” 

Fathalipour says this year’s Eid sermon reflected the need for compassion between individual community members that can lead to solving wider issues like the lack of support for war-weary refugees making their way across Europe. 

Better late than never 

For Jamal Osman, one of the vice presidents of the Muslim Community of Edmonton (MCE) mosque, support for the current wave of refugees is part of his community’s ongoing efforts. He says there are many Muslims in Edmonton with close ties to victims of the Syrian conflict. 

Osman says the community has been working to support victims of the Syrian war and other refugees, and efforts include supporting newcomer refugee families as well as doctors in the community who volunteer with Doctors Without Borders. 

“We’ve been in the trenches from the beginning years and years ago,” Osman says. 

“We haven’t loss sight of our responsibility to help our brothers and sisters.”

So even though celebrations at the MCE mosque aren’t particularly focused on the refugee crisis, Osman explains, “We haven’t loss sight of our responsibility to help our brothers and sisters.” 

In fact, Edmonton’s Islamic Family and Social Services (IFSSA) has taken the lead to represent the collective efforts of the Edmonton Muslim community in alleviating the refugee crisis.

“We are behind the scenes laying the groundwork for IFSSA to be in the position to be able to support Syrian refugees once they are able and ready to come to Canada,” Osman says. 

He adds that he feels the current heightened attention on the needs of refugees is overdue given the crisis has been brewing for years, but it’s better late than never. 

“We’ll take what we can get,” Osman says, “because, at the end of the day, it is intended to help these folks that are in dire need.”

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

For 30 years, Peter Chin has been creating work in multiple medias that has been well respected by audiences, critics and peers for its sheer visceral impact, as well as its has complex themes. Chin, born of mixed parentage, Chinese, Irish and Afro-Caribbean, in Jamaica in 1962, owes his artistic predilections and connection to the […]

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Tuesday, 22 September 2015 09:34

Saving Vancouver from Silo Culture

by Hadani Ditmars in Vancouver, British Columbia

A woman moves her hand in a delicate arabesque, as a Spanish guitar plays distinctive chords that can only be flamenco. A husky voiced alto sings heartfelt, serpentine melodies that express the very soul of Andalucía.
 
Where is this, you might ask? A church in Granada perhaps? A café in Seville? No, actually, it’s the opening night of the 25th Anniversary of the Vancouver International Flamenco Festival at the Playhouse Theatre. The legendary Andres Pena and Pilar Ogalla Company has come all the way from Spain to lend the Pacific city some duende.
 
Duende is that indefinable, spiritual essence that enters into one's being and comes out as impassioned dance, a flurry of fingers or a deep cante jondo. In his Theory and Play of the Duende, Garcia Lorca (whose right-wing, civil war-era assassins and burial place were recently revealed -- a fitting time to invoke his spirit) explains,
 
"The duende works on the dancer's body like wind on sand. It changes a girl, by magic power, into a lunar paralytic, or covers the cheeks of a broken old man, begging for alms in the wine-shops, with adolescent blushes: gives a woman's hair the odour of a midnight sea-port: and at every instant works the arms with gestures that are the mothers of the dances of all the ages."
 
Lorca speaks of the duende as "A mysterious force that everyone feels and no philosopher has explained.”
 
Our civic malaise
As the rainy season begins in a city the Economist  recently called “mind-numbingly boring”, I could use a little duende – and God knows Vancouver could. Like Garcia Lorca, the apparent soullessness of this city often has me asking, The duende... Where is the duende? Through the empty archway a wind of the spirit enters... in search of new landscapes and unknown accents: a wind with the odour of a child's saliva, crushed grass, and Medusa's veil, announcing the endless baptism of freshly created things.
 
I pondered this as the impassioned performance gave way to another bland, rainy night where everything shuts down early, as if narcolepsy were our civic malaise.
 
The spirit of flamenco was born after all from the unique fusion of cultures in Andalucía: gypsy, Jewish, Muslim, Christian traditions blended together harmoniously under Moorish rule, creating a unique musical, linguistic and architectural style and a society where scientists, poets and dancers set standards still admired centuries later.
 
While Vancouver sounds good on paper and would seem to have all the right ingredients to create our own unique brand of duende -- city by the sea, warmest place in Canada, huge Iranian, Chinese and Indian diasporas, rich First Nations tradition -- in reality it’s one of the most racially segregated cities in North America.
 
With a few notable exceptions – like say the two block stretch West of Davie on Denman that boasts the Iraqi Babylon Café next to a Persian kebab shop with a killer view of English Bay and palm trees that make it possible to pretend for a moment you’ve been transported to Beirut, or say, the area around 15th and Lonsdale in North Vancouver where the Yaas Café sells saffron rice across from Loblaws and newly arrived Iranians mingle with blond descendants of Glaswegians who arrived post-war to work in the shipyards -- much of Vancouver consists of ethnic solitudes.
 
Cliquey enclaves
While planners blame this on the suburban legacy of the CPR railway subdivisions that shaped the city, I think it has a lot to do with our colonial heritage.  In a weird way, my birth city reminds me of Nairobi in the 30’s – cliquey enclaves that never rub shoulders, and ghettoized suburbs where multiculturalism is more about criminal gangs than folk dancing (see Deepa Mehta’s Surrey inspired Beeba Boys).
 
While Toronto has atoned for its Presbyterian past with lively, multi-lingual neighbourhoods like King Street West, that make it one of the most multicultural cities in the world (according to the UN) and Montreal has always been, well, Montreal, Canada’s third largest city seems increasingly to be channeling silo culture.
 
Long before the damning description by the Economist, the Vancouver Foundation’s 2012 study showed that a sense of isolation was one of Vancouverites biggest complaints. Some of this mono-cultural, isolationist tendency can be blamed on the high cost of housing, but it’s deeper than that.
 
Social apartheid
Oddly for a city whose arts scene champions cultural mélange (the flamenco festival, for example, was founded by  Mexican-Lebanese dancer Rosario Ancer whose company features Japanese-Canadian performer Nanako Aramaki; the Vancouver International Film Festival offers impressive programs of Iranian and South African cinema, UBC’s Chan Centre is presenting the Buena Vista Social Club and Youssou N’Dour) Vancouver maintains a de facto social apartheid.
 
Audiences for “world music” festivals remain predominantly white; Iranian virtuosos play to mainly Farsi speaking crowds on the North Shore, and Asian film stars come to town, virtually unnoticed by half the city.
 
I haven’t given up on my birth city entirely. After all there’s so much potential here and perhaps it’s only a matter of time and critical cultural mass before it awakens from its silo-like sleepiness and embraces the genuine and organic cultural exchange that makes for truly “world-class” cities.
 
In the meantime, you can find me on that stretch of Denman Street, drinking Turkish coffee at the Babylon Café, and desperately chanting flamenco incantations in the hope that a little more duende will come to town.

Hadani Ditmars is the author of Dancing in the No Fly Zone and is working on a new book about ancient sites in Iraq. She has been reporting from the Middle East for two decades and is also a singer and musician. 

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

Published in Commentary
Wednesday, 09 September 2015 08:11

Red Tape Hinders Sponsoring Refugees

by Leah Bjornson in Vancouver

The current Syrian refugee crisis continues to ignite the compassion of the Canadian public. Citizens and local politicians alike are pledging their support to bring greater numbers of Syrian refugees to the country.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson spoke to a crowd of hundreds at City Hall Tuesday night to discuss his plans to turn the city into a sanctuary for Syrian refugees.

“Vancouver must continue to expand upon the steps we are taking to be a welcoming city, but it’s clear that the Government of Canada has not been meeting our international obligations in this continuing humanitarian crisis,” Robertson said in a news release on Monday.

The statement also outlined Robertson’s plan to bring a motion before city council, calling on the federal government to take “immediate action” and to assist 20,000 refugees annually by 2020.

The fervour with which many Canadian politicians are confronting this issue mirrors that of many of their constituents.

Robertson is not alone in his criticism of the government’s current refugee policies.

Mayors in Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa have all pledged their support for increased intervention in the current migrant crisis, with Toronto Mayor John Tory even opening his own doors to a refugee family from Syria.

Provinces are getting involved as well. The British Columbia government, for example, is allocating $1 million for a readiness fund to assist and support Syrian refugees settling in the province.

The fervour with which many Canadian politicians are confronting this issue mirrors that of many of their constituents.

In a poll released Tuesday by Mainstreet Research and Postmedia, almost half of Canadians responded that they want Canada to accept over 30,000 refugees from Syria – a number significantly higher than the Conservative government’s pledge to bring in an additional 10,000 refugees over the next four years if re-elected.

So far, Canada has accepted 2,374 Syrian refugees and has promised to accept 11,300 over three years.

In the same poll, 31 per cent of those surveyed said Canada can best intervene in the international crisis by bringing Syrian refugees to Canada, while 27 per cent believed humanitarian aid was the best route forward. Another 18 per cent felt military deployment in the conflict region was the best way to move forward.

Cutting through the red tape

Despite these huge numbers of support, matched in part by sweeping donations across the country to aid in Syrian resettlement, the country’s federal bureaucratic system may inhibit immediate action from taking place.

There are already 24,000 privately sponsored refugees who have been waiting for years to come to Canada. Tima Kurdi, the aunt of Alan Kurdi, said her own attempts to bring her brother overseas to Canada were prevented by complicated government policies.

The typical wait time for privately sponsored refugees is four to five years.

Naomi Alboim, who is on the steering committee of Lifeline Syria, estimates that even with the current influx of willing host families, it may take months before refugee families begin arriving in Canada.

That is “unless the government of Canada really starts to step up its game and starts processing applications and getting them on planes to come here,” she adds.

Alboim explains that the Toronto-based organization, which has an aim of recruiting, training and assisting sponsor groups to welcome and support 1,000 Syrian refugees over the next two years, has not yet brought any Syrians into the country.

“It’s really hard [for] sponsorship groups to have any incentive if it’s going to take so long.”

This could in part be because the process for sponsoring a refugee is incredibly time consuming.

Once a private organization – be it a community organization, church, charitable group, or a group of five or more permanent residents – has decided to sponsor a refugee, it must send an application form to be vetted by a government facility in Winnipeg.

This process often takes months, after which the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees must screen the refugees again.

There are fears that this lengthy process may discourage would-be sponsors who are stepping forward in this heated political atmosphere.

“It’s really hard [for] sponsorship groups to have any incentive if it’s going to take so long,” Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, told the Globe and Mail.

This is especially troublesome considering that hosting a family comes with the steep price tag of approximately $30,000 per sponsor family per year, which after the first year, most refugees are expected to have found their footing in the host country.

What else can be done?

Many who cannot afford the high costs associated with sponsoring a family are searching for alternative ways to support Syrian refugees in this tumultuous time.

At the public forum inside Vancouver City Hall Tuesday night, speakers cautioned those in attendance about the complexities of refugee sponsorship, especially considering the associated costs.

“Canadians overall have shown this type of compassion and humanitarian response in the past.”

Numerous international charities are asking concerned citizens to donate either to local, established organizations and existing sponsorship agreement holders or directly to Syrian people living in refugee camps.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, a donation to the UN refugee agency of $20 gets a family sleeping mats, while $550 gets a family a tent.

For Eyob Naizghi, an Eritrean refugee who came to Canada 35 years ago, these types of discussions regarding the role Canada can play are crucial if the country is going to make a real impact in the months ahead.

He told the Vancouver Sun, “It’s all about learning, it’s a starting point, because Canadians overall have shown this type of compassion and humanitarian response in the past.”

 

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

 

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Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce president Sanjay Makkar welcoming Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar in Toronto in August.

By Gurmukh Singh

TORONTO: India-Canada relations are

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Poll Question

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The voting for this poll has ended on: %05 %b %2016 - %21:%Dec

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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.

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