New Canadian Media

by Bee Quammie (@BeeSince83) in Toronto, Ontario

As Toronto prepares for the glitz and glamour of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), another cinematic celebration is getting ready to mark its 10th anniversary. 

If TIFF is Goliath, the CaribbeanTales International Film Festival (CTFF) is a mighty David, simultaneously competing against and working with its formidable counterpart nearly every year for the past decade.

CTFF is one arm of the CaribbeanTales umbrella, which also consists of a film distribution company and an online film streaming service. Aimed at supporting the creation, marketing, and distribution of film and new media, CaribbeanTales has worked hard to elevate the Caribbean film industry.

“Our culture is strong, we are great storytellers, and our experiences as Caribbean peoples are very diverse."

We are building a film industry. Not just making or even showing films, but developing the infrastructure for a world class industry that will produce programming content on par with any produced internationally,” states CaribbeanTales founder and executive director Frances-Anne Solomon.

“Our culture is strong, we are great storytellers, and our experiences as Caribbean peoples are very diverse. These strengths will shortly translate into a vibrant and dynamic film, television and media industry."

Running from September 9-19 at Toronto’s Royal Cinema, this year's CTFF will showcase featured nights like Queer Caribbean, highlighting LGBTQ stories; #AllBlackLivesMatter, showcasing stories of diverse Black existences; and Shifting Perspectives, covering topics around mental illness and fatherhood.

Sixteen features and 30 short films will be competing for CTFF Jury and Audience Awards, which will be announced during the closing night events.

“In just 10 years, a very short period of time, our film stories have matured to become stunningly assured, explosive, transgressive, probing, beautiful and urgent,” says Solomon. “And this is what we see represented on screen in this year’s selections.”

Running alongside TIFF

Many have wondered about CTFF’s timing – what is the strategy behind running alongside a world-famous festival like TIFF? Solomon’s response is clear. 

“Our aim is to raise the profile of the emerging Caribbean industry – not just in Canada but in the international industry. We run an incubator program during our festival that allows Caribbean filmmakers to promote their work to international delegates, and for that reason it makes sense to hold the event during TIFF.” 

“Caribbean people in Canada – don’t get to see themselves reflected in TIFF’s programming.”

The CTFF incubator program, now in its sixth year, allows filmmakers from the Caribbean and across the diaspora to hone their pitching and marketing skills, and gives them the opportunity to rub shoulders with gatekeepers who may be able to take their careers to the next level. 

Incubator events are often held at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, showcasing another aspect of the symbiotic partnership between the two film festivals. 

“Another reason (for running alongside TIFF) is that our core audience – Caribbean people in Canada – don’t get to see themselves reflected in TIFF’s programming, and it (CTFF) gives them some great alternative programming.” 

An alternative to Hollywood

Diversity in film is not a new conversation, by any means.

For a city as multicultural as Toronto, its own international film festival rarely exhibits the diversity that homegrown audiences crave.

In self-sustaining fashion, CTFF has carved a space in the hustle and bustle of Toronto’s film festival season to provide an alternative for filmgoers who seek something more familiar, or something that diverts from the usual fare TIFF is known for.

“I try to attend at least one screening each year,” says CTFF attendee Adrianna Hamilton.

“I also try to bring non-Caribbean friends who complain about being bored by Hollywood.”

“I’m always looking for good quality films that entertain me and include my heritage,” Hamilton continues. “But I also try to bring non-Caribbean friends who complain about being bored by Hollywood. They usually love seeing something different and learning something new, and they always ask me the next year if I can grab them tickets.”

Through 10 years of showcasing bold and versatile filmmaking, CTFF has become a gateway for artists and audiences alike who want to create and consume the best of Caribbean film.

Partnering strategically with TIFF, CTFF has been able to leverage connections while maintaining a unique platform known throughout Canada and internationally.

“CaribbeanTales continues to have its finger on the pulse of a dynamic movement of evolving film expression across the region and its diaspora,” says Solomon.

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
Saturday, 29 August 2015 20:24

Photo Essay: Portraits of Ahmadi Canadians


Please click on gallery to view images:

 

  by Nariman Ansari in Toronto, Ontario

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Canada is currently holding its annual convention (Aug 28-30) in Mississauga, Ontario. 

The community established itself in Canada a half-century ago and currently stands at about 25,000 strong. They mainly hail from South Asia and Africa and many arrived as refugees because they are often persecuted for their beliefs, including in self-described Islamic nations.

For instance, in Pakistan, they were declared "non-Muslim" in the 1970s and later barred from referring to their places of worship as "mosques".

Canada has offered them refuge and they have begun new lives here. New Canadian Media mentee Nariman Ansari spent the last few months profiling this rather private community in and around Toronto.


Editor’s Note: Some of the quotes have been condensed and paraphrased for clarity and length. 

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 Priya Ramanujam (@SincerelyPriya) in Scarborough, Ontario

“Did I tell you the time I was called 'a little girl'?” asks MP Rathika Sitsabaiesan incredulously.

Sitting in her election campaign headquarters in Scarborough’s Malvern neighbourhood, the first-term MP is recounting her experiences in politics after being elected in 2011 from Scarborough – Rouge River on the New Democratic Party (NDP) ticket. She was 29.

“It was a Citizenship and Immigration committee and I had the floor and I was speaking. And the chair had the audacity to say to me, ‘settle down little girl.’” Now four years older, she is seeking re-election from the new riding of Scarborough North to a Parliament which, she asserts, is still “very much an old white man’s club.”

The Sri Lanka-born MP sees herself very much part of a changing Canada, pointing out that for the first time ever, in 2011, the average age of MPs was below 50 years. The House of Commons also had the highest number of women. 

She has many firsts – first woman and first woman of colour MP to represent her riding – she was also the first MP of Tamil ancestry in the House. She and her family emigrated from Sri Lanka when she was five.

Often assumed to be “working for someone” or “somebody’s assistant” when she shows up for fancy galas and social gatherings, Sitsabaiesan told New Canadian Media in an exclusive interview that she has to work three times as hard as other MPs.

“Breaking down those pre-conceived notions is one part of the job of a young woman of colour who grew up in poverty, and is not a doctor or a lawyer, but it’s also just about holding my own.” [Picture shows Sitsabaiesan at her 2015 campaign launch on Aug. 22. Credit: Campaign supplied photo]

In love with Scarborough

Sitsabaiesan first fell in love with Scarborough, in the east end of Toronto, at the beginning of high school. As her family lived in Mississauga on its western edge, she would commute – sometimes three hours one way – to attend dance classes and Tamil school and later to volunteer.

Over time she became more engaged in civic activities, volunteering with community groups like the now defunct Malvern Community Coalition and the Action for Neighbourhood Change organization. Six years ago, she decided to make Scarborough her home.

Though pockets of the community, particularly Malvern, have at times been viewed negatively in the media, Sitsabaiesan says the riding’s overall welcoming nature is what she loves the most.

“That sense of community is really obvious in all the pockets and neighbourhoods within Scarborough Rouge River and that’s, I think, the best thing for me.”

She talks of the high level of diversity in the riding allowing her to be the “social chameleon” that she is and building meaningful inroads with all community members – whether by participating in the annual Caribbean Carnival or visiting the Yee Hong Centre for Geriatic Care.

She says she strongly believes that her intimate connection with the community is what voters gravitated to in the last election – an election that saw a significant rise in voter turnout for a riding that ranked second-lowest in Ontario during the previous federal elections in 2008.  

“I really do think that made a difference,” she says. “That if you’re seeking to be a representative of the community, that you’re actually a member of the community, that you can actually understand what life is for people in that community and what their lived experiences would be.”

Tight three-way race

While the name and face of Sitsabaiesan may have been the change people voted for in the last election, it may not be the same this time around, as the boundaries have changed.

While Sitsabaiesan easily won her former riding, the new one, which combines Scarborough – Rouge River and Scarborough – Agincourt, could be a different story. Portions of neighbourhoods like Malvern and Morningside Heights are now out of her riding boundaries and she can expect a tight three-way race. 

Sitsabaiesan’s Liberal challenger is Shaun Chen, who resigned as chair of Toronto District School Board to fight the election. Her Conservative opponent is businesswoman and community activist Ravinder Malhi.

Elections Canada has applied the 2011 results to the new riding boundaries and it shows a very tight race. Even a small swing might result in a very different outcome. The NDP would have won Scarborough North with 35.3 per cent of the vote, compared to 33.3 per cent for the Conservatives and 28.9 per cent for the Liberals. The sitting MP is aware that while Scarborough – Rouge River had the highest Tamil population among all the ridings, fewer voters in Scarborough North share the same heritage. [Picture shows MP Sitsabaiesan hugging long-time supporter Mark Atikian, member of the Armenian National Committee of Toronto. Credit: Campaign supplied photo]

Criticism and controversy

Outside her riding, Sitsabaiesan has received negative attention, the most recent being a personal trip to Sri Lanka and India at the end of 2013 that generated some criticism and controversy.

The critics come with the territory, she says, adding that some people argue she does too much for the Tamil community, while others argue that she doesn’t do enough.

What she stands behind, though, is the work she has done for all of her constituents. She mentions that her office has helped more than 1,000 individuals and families, the majority of which have been immigration-related issues.

She may also have had a role in inspiring other candidates of Tamil heritage in running this time: Senthi Chelliah, NDP Candidate for the riding of Markham-Thornhill; Rev. K.M. Shanthikumar, NDP Candidate for the riding of Scarborough–Rouge Park; and Gary Anandasangaree, Liberal Candidate for riding of Scarborough–Rouge Park. 

While her global human rights work has seen her take up causes in Guatemala, Honduras, the Philippines and India, she says the high level of child poverty and legislation like Bill C-24 (the new citizenship Act) and Bill C-51 (anti-terrorism) are examples of the long way Canada still has to go.

“While we’re helping people all over the world have a sense of fairness, we need to make sure that we’re doing that here at home.” 


Published in Politics

Thousands, including defence minister Jason Kenney and immigration minister Chris Alexander, joined in celebrating India's Independence Day in Toronto on August 16. Indian consul general Akhilesh Mishra is

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Saturday, 08 August 2015 08:13

Trudeau Maintains Debate Momentum

by Ranjit Bhaskar (@ranjit17) in Toronto, Ontario

The morning after the first leaders’ debate of the federal election campaign Thursday night, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau was seen pressing home his perceived gain from the exercise by taking the battle into Finance Minister Joe Oliver’s Eglinton-Lawrence riding in Toronto. 

“Joe Oliver might have a lot of ways to make his Ottawa numbers look good, but the Conservatives have no plan to make the numbers families crunch every day look any better,” Trudeau told a rally at the Columbus Centre, an Italian-Canadian cultural hub. “Stephen Harper is out of touch with Canadians, and I am determined to replace his government with a strong team and a new plan that will make a real difference in their lives.” 

“While the second generation of all waves of immigrants always had the opportunity to do better, this is the first such generation facing a bleaker future. That opportunity, the aspiration to join the middle class has to be brought back.” - Adam Vaughn, Liberal candidate

While the crowd (pictured left) was made up of candidates and their supporters from all the downtown Toronto ridings, the home ground advantage belonged to Marco Mendicino, who had recently defeated former Conservative MP Eve Adams in a contentious nomination fight for the party ticket. 

Asked if his decision to welcome Adams into the Liberal fold was a mistake that would hurt Mendicino’s chances, Trudeau deflected, saying he was proud of the open nomination process his party has used across the country. 

On the absence of any specific message from Trudeau for new immigrants in Thursday’s debate, Adam Vaughan, another Liberal contender for a Toronto riding, said it would come out in subsequent debates. 

“Canadians know an economy that works for the middle class means a country that works for everyone; that better is always possible.” - Justin Trudeau, Liberal leader

Speaking to New Canadian Media on the sidelines, Vaughn said immigrant specific issues like foreign credential recognition, precarious jobs and affordable housing will be addressed by his party’s “can do better” messaging. He said changes brought in by Bill C-24 and those made over the past few years, makes immigration the most broken of all systems. 

“While the second generation of all waves of immigrants always had the opportunity to do better, this is the first such generation facing a bleaker future,” said Vaughan. “That opportunity, the aspiration to join the middle class has to be brought back.” The current MP from Trinity-Spadina, Vaughan will now be sparring with the NDP’s Olivia Chow in the newly created riding of Spadina-Fort York. 

On C-51, the other bill that has come in for criticism and put the Liberals in a corner for supporting it, Vaughan said voters would understand his party’s position once they have a clear understanding of the Anti-Terrorism Act. He said independent judicial oversight is essential. “The party that brought in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms will get the balance right,” he stated. 

‘Better is always possible’ 

In his speech to a crowd charged-up by his debate performance, Trudeau said Harper is telling Canadians to stay the course, but in reality, his plan gives billions in benefits to the wealthiest few and will do nothing to help the majority of Canadians get ahead. He said it has not worked for the middle class or for lower-income Canadians that have had to work harder and harder to find the ladder of opportunity. 

“The Liberals have a plan that will deliver fairness and growth that works for everyone. We will cut taxes for the middle class and create one bigger, fair, automatic and tax-free monthly benefit that will help families with the high cost of raising their kids,” Trudeau said. “Canadians know an economy that works for the middle class means a country that works for everyone; that better is always possible.” 

‘Like Usain Bolt’ 

This aspirational message of doing better, which was his closing statement at Thursday’s debate, resonated well with a group of mostly new Canadian Liberal supporters who watched it on television at the Scarborough Centre office of candidate Salma Zahid. 

“Tonight's debate gave Canadians the opportunity to compare the Liberal plan for real change against Harper’s failed plan and [NDP leader] Thomas Mulcair’s empty promises.” - Ashwani Bhardwaj, Liberal party worker

“Although there were ups and downs for all leaders during the debate, the heat is on Harper,” said Ashwani Bhardwaj, a party worker. “Tonight’s debate gave Canadians the opportunity to compare the Liberal plan for real change against Harper’s failed plan and [NDP leader] Thomas Mulcair’s empty promises.” 

“Justin’s ending was amazing,” exclaimed another partisan. “He was like Usain Bolt,” he said alluding to that extra speed the sprint champion produces when he nears the finishing line. 

It was a fresh and different take from the boxing analogies the pundits were using because Trudeau is adept in that sport. To good measure, as part of the prep-up for the debate, Trudeau’s PR team had put out a photo of him working out that morning at Paul Brown Boxfit in Toronto. 

But the photos that would be trending on social media are the hundreds of selfies Trudeau supporters had been taking throughout Friday. While there was some order at the Columbus Centre in the morning, it was all chaos at Zahid’s campaign office. The Liberal leader got a raucous welcome and did his best to accommodate as many selfie seekers as possible. 

As the Friday prayers at the nearby mosque had just ended, the moot question is whether the timing chosen for the stop was deliberate. But as Trudeau’s campaign bus moved on, no one complained about the cramped space or limited parking. And the halal pizza laid out for the party volunteers quickly recharged energy levels for another round of phone calls, door knocking and distribution of lawn signs.

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

 TORONTO: The Dancing Damsels Inc. – a registered not for profit organization and a multicultural dance promotions company have announced their annual DanceFEST – a fundraiser dance festival showcasing all World Dance Forms on one stage. The event will be held on Saturday, October 24 at Hamazkayin World Class Theatre (Armenian Youth Centre of Toronto, 50 […]

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Indo-Canadian Voice

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Published in Arts & Culture

by Kyle Duggan

Former NDP MP Olivia Chow is running again for federal politics in Toronto, but the Trinity-Spadina riding she’s won handily before has been redistricted to Spadina-Fort York.

Anticipating Chow’s announcement, Liberal supporters at the Eglinton-Lawrence nomination meeting on Sunday were happy to point out that her mayoral election results in the municipal wards inside Spadina-Fort York won’t necessarily buoy the NDP.

John Tory, they said, actually won or came close in wards she should’ve won easily.

While Chow did the best in downtown wards, and came first in wards 14, 18, and 19, factoring in the federal redistricting borders cuts her vote-share significantly.

Trinity-Spadina, was a long time battleground between the NDP and Liberals, and is currently held by Liberal MP Adam Vaughn. He won it in a byelection last year against one of Chow’s top staff members after Chow had stepped down to run municipally.

The new federal riding cuts across wards 19, 20, 27 and 28 – along with a sliver of Ward 14.

While Chow did the best in downtown wards, and came first in wards 14, 18, and 19, factoring in the federal redistricting borders cuts her vote-share significantly.

An analysis of the election data — looking only at the municipal polling districts that fall into the new federal riding — shows that Tory indeed beat Chow in the area. But not by a landslide.

Vote counts total for Tory at 16,645 and Chow at 12,873. Doug Ford came in distant third at 6,740.

Some polling districts bridge the federal riding’s borders, muddying the results a little. Even with those removed from the total, though, the results don’t change much.

Before we jump to conclusions, a few caveats:

  • If media reports from the election are to be believed, many voters turned to Tory purely in an effort to make sure Ford didn’t win.
  • City elections often have much less voter interest – often lower than the 50 per cent mark. That said, Toronto’s election turn-out sky-rocketed to 60 per cent in 2014.
  • Tory, the former leader of Ontario’s Progressive Conservative party, doesn’t necessarily substitute well for Vaughn.

Also, municipal and federal elections also turn on entirely different issues. No federal candidates, for instance, are campaigning to wage a war on Toronto’s raccoons. Not yet, anyway.


Published in Partnership with iPolitics.ca

Published in Politics

In 2013, Cosmopolis Toronto was a project started by Toronto-based photographer Colin Boyd Shafer, who set out to photograph the world, one Torontonian at a time. This unique documentary photography project captures and celebrates Toronto’s cultural diversity by featuring a portrait of a Torontonian from every country. This Tuesday, July 28 marks the release of […]

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Canadian Immigrant

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Published in Books

MONTREAL: Air Canada said on Friday that it plans to increase its new Toronto-Delhi non-stop service from four times weekly to daily service beginning October 30, 2016. Air Canada’s new non-stop service between Toronto and Delhi, set to be launched November 1, 2015, with four weekly flights, is the airline’s first route to be […]

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Indo-Canadian Voice

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Published in National

By Gerald V. Paul This year’s $400-million Scotiabank Toronto Caribbean Carnival is on track to be bigger and better than ever with more than one million visitors expected, Ontario Minister…

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The Caribbean Camera

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Published in Caribbean

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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