New Canadian Media

by Daniel Morton in Vancouver

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Daniel Morton is a volunteer for the organization.

Published in Top Stories

by Marco Campana in Toronto

When it comes to technology use, immigrants to Canada are well ahead of settlement agencies. It’s a reality the sector needs to face. Organizations can and need to incorporate technology more effectively to serve their clients.

In 2007, Statistics Canada reported that 78 per cent of immigrants who arrived in Canada during the last 10 years used the Internet - a higher percentage than the 75 per cent of people born in Canada who used it.

Yahoo! Canada confirms that trend in its 2014 Digital Acculturation study, which found that, “When it comes to media preferences, new Canadians are digital first, with a particular focus on mobile devices.”

They’re mobile, actively using niche social networks, apps and services that are not necessarily mainstream in Canada.

New Canadians are actively using niche social networks, apps and services that are not necessarily mainstream in Canada. They’re coming from countries where Internet growth is explosive, faster, cheaper and where online learning is becoming popular.

Settlement agencies need to explore technology use in source countries like China, India and the Phillipines, to understand the technology profile of newcomers to Canada. In many cases, agencies can start with their own staff members – certainly, they should be asking their clients.

Opportunity for settlement agencies, ethnic media

With the pre-eminence of social media, word of mouth information about immigration and settlement is increasingly shared online. Tens of thousands of newcomers share information and orientation on social networking sites like:

These websites are in English, but there are many more in other languages.

We already know that a relatively small percentage of newcomers access mainstream in-person government and community services. Online social networking sites mean they’re potentially bypassing these services even more.

If newcomers continue to bypass settlement agencies, how informed will they be when it comes to their settlement needs?

If newcomers continue to bypass settlement agencies, how informed will they be when it comes to their settlement needs? How effective are newcomer networks and word of mouth? The results are mixed.

In 2010, the Toronto Immigrant Employment Data Initiative found that “immigrants who found their current job through personal initiative, family or friends, and Canada employment centres had the lowest average hourly wages.”

This is not to say that the newcomer networks are not without value or importance. Far from it.

But, it makes me wonder how we can better ensure newcomers’ digital literacy results in better access to settlement information and resources.

There is a role here for settlement agencies. There is also a role for ethnic media. Research has shown that ethnic media can do a much better job informing and orienting newcomers to life in Canada.

Private immigrant-serving businesses and organizations are also looking at how to best use technology and social media to provide services.

In a recent article, Vancouver-based Will Tao wrote about his impressions of how technology is impacting services provided by Canadian immigration lawyers. He notes a few specific trends that should be examined:

  1. Increased use of technology to gather information from potential clients in advance of serving them
  2. Increased use of technology and applications to manage communication
  3. Increased use of technology as a means of establishing communication with, and serving, clients in other cities/countries around the world (i.e. pre-arrival services) 

Use of technology

While online service is still in its infancy in the settlement sector, there are great examples of innovative agencies offering online and hybrid services across the country.

Organizations like Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia, COSTI Immigrant Services, Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, CultureLink, South Okanagan Immigrant and Community Services, Canadian Immigrant Integration Program, North York Community House and Catholic Crosscultural Services have been offering online services and courses in recent years with much success.

We’re certainly not effectively mining and sharing their learning and knowledge across the sector.

In fact, CultureLink recently completed its first Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) for newcomers: Create an Expert LinkedIn Profile for Job Search. The pilot course had 2,000 participants.

Last week, ISANS launched its Settlement Online Pre-Arrival service. It’s an important step forward in providing settlement resources online, before newcomers arrive.

The more I speak to individual settlement workers, the more pockets of service innovation I find.

They’re using this tech to serve their clients. They want to do more. However, we’re not harnessing their knowledge and experience to create better organizational systems, or to create policies to drive innovation around the possibilities technology offers as a means of providing service.

We’re certainly not effectively mining and sharing their learning and knowledge across the sector.

As we imagine the settlement agency of the future, we first need to better understand the digital and settlement literacy of immigrants to Canada. It’s time to start asking them how they’re using technology, how they want to interact with us, and where technology fits into this.

For immigrant-serving agencies, the future is right in front of them. The answers lie with their clients.


Marco Campana does freelance communications work with organizations that serve immigrants, refugees and promote diversity. He provides social media support, writing, editing and internal website consultation and strategy. In particular, he helps settlement agencies harness and implement social media and technology in their community service work.

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

Dr. George I. Traitses As reports of cellphone-related road fatalities make global headlines, automobile and mobile-phone manufacturers continue developing “safer” ways to communicate while driving. Unfortunately, recent research suggests any form of “distracted driving” puts the driver, its occupants and anyone else on the road (who may be doing the exact same thing) at risk. 

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Published in Health
Wednesday, 23 September 2015 17:16

Promising Prospects for B.C. Students from Mexico

by Aurora Tejeida in Vancouver

Though its diaspora community in British Columbia might not be the biggest or most visible, Mexico is Canada’s third largest trade partner and the ninth largest contributor of international students.

In fact, it sends the most international students to Canada of any other Latin American country.

It was in this context that Juan Navarro decided to organize the first Mexi-Can Forum. The event, which took place earlier this month at The University of British Columbia’s (UBC) Robson Square, brought together leaders in education, innovation and entrepreneurship from both the public and private sectors.

“One of the main purposes of this forum was to make it clear that Mexicans in B.C. are contributing to Canadian society,” explains Navarro.

“I think this is a great time for Mexicans to prove we can be there for each other.”

Navarro is the president of the B.C. chapter of the Society of Mexican Talent — a global network that operates in 45 different locations around the world with each chapter focusing on different subjects.

According to Navarro, the B.C. group, which was only created a year ago, is heavily focused on education, innovation, technology and entrepreneurship – the same subjects that were broadly discussed during the forum.

“I think this is a great time for Mexicans to prove we can be there for each other,” says Navarro. “Not just because we share a culture and many of us are coming here and starting from zero. But because we can achieve great things.”

Mexico: A strategic ally

The forum opened with keynote speeches by Claudia Franco Hijuelos, Consul General of Mexico in Vancouver, Andrew Wilkinson, the Minister of Advanced Education in B.C. and Andrea Reimer, city councillor and Deputy Mayor of Vancouver.

During his keynote speech, Wilkinson noted that Mexico is a strategic ally in international education and that the province is interested in receiving more Mexican students. There are currently more than 400 signed agreements among universities and higher-education institutions in both countries.

[T]he number of Mexican students in Canada grew by 58 per cent between 2004 and 2013.

According to data provided during the conference by Mitacs, a non-for-profit research organization governed by Canada’s research universities, Canada ranks as the world’s seventh most popular destination for international students.

The number of international students grew by 84 per cent between 2003 and 2013, and Canada’s International Education Strategy aims to increase international students to 450,000 by 2022.

Specifically, the number of Mexican students in Canada grew by 58 per cent between 2004 and 2013.

A brand new Canada-Mexico International Education Agreement, which was announced in June, aims to invest $10 million to attract Mexican post-secondary students and post-doctoral fellows to Canadian universities and research institutions, as well as give Canadian students the opportunity to diversify their research experience in Mexico.

Growing possibilities in tech

While this is an exciting time for Mexican students, one of the most noteworthy aspects of the forum was the evident optimism surrounding the fast growing technology sector in Vancouver and the employment possibilities this sector is creating for current and future talent – foreign or domestic.

In his presentation, Robert Helsley, Dean of the Sauder School of Business at UBC, made a point to highlight the importance of partnerships between growing industries and educational institutions. In the case of Vancouver, the fastest growing sector is technology.

“The most important thing is talent and the tech firms will come here if there is talent."

According to Helsley, the best way to know which industry is concentrated in any given city is through a measure called the location quotient, which is measured by taking the percentage of employment in a local industry and dividing it by the percentage of employment in that industry on a national level.

“The industries concentrated in a city lets you know what’s basic for the local economy,” explains Helsley. “In Vancouver, it’s data processing, motion picture and video industries, publishing industries (which includes software), water transportation, rail transportation, wholesaling and warehouses.” 

Helsley further explains that these industries are related to the city’s port and technology sector. Since the port sector is already extremely successful, the more likely candidate for growth in Vancouver is technology. 

The numbers support this. According to data provided by Helsley, in five years only 69,000 jobs were created in Vancouver; however, 12,400 of those jobs (20 per cent) were in the scientific and technical services industry. 

“IT is relatively concentrated and it’s growing quickly,” says Helsley. “The most important thing is talent and the tech firms will come here if there is talent. And that means that education is particularly important, especially in engineering and business.”  

This also means that the creation of a space like the Mexi-Can forum, which focuses on creating international partnerships in the technology, innovation and education sectors, is a step in the right direction. 

For Navarro, this year’s forum is just the beginning. He’s already planning next year’s. 

“We would like more people to come next year. There’s lots of space to grow, maybe branching to other provinces or making it a national forum.”

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

The Canadian Armed Forces will soon be getting an important upgrade to its defence capabilities when it acquires 10 sophisticated Israeli radar...

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The Canadian Jewish News

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Published in Israel

TORONTO—An Ontario court gave its approval for Rogers Communications to buy Mobilicity for about $465 million on Wednesday, June 24, a deal that is expected...

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Published in Economy
Tuesday, 19 May 2015 09:52

Tell Everyone: A Sharing Renaissance?

by Marco Campana (@MarcoPolis) in Toronto

Marco CampanaIn Tell Everyone: How the Stories We Share Shape What We Know and Why It Matters, author Alfred Hermida explores how social media has the potential to be revolutionary in all aspects of our lives, “if we take the trouble to discover why people share and with whom.” Hermida explores the underlying emotions of sharing. Those who wish to reach us and want us to share what they offer must connect with us on an emotional level.

It’s not a how-to book. But it is a wide-ranging book about what to be aware of, as social media becomes an increasingly important tool in our work or life. It will be of interest to you if you’re wondering how social media specifically impacts entertainment, activism, politics, international crises, marketing or business.

The book is meticulously researched, with extensive notes at the back of the book for further perusal, if you’re so inclined. But are you?

Ultimately, this book is about literacy; it’s about the need to develop our critical thinking skills to properly assess the information we get from social media. It’s something we all need to become better at, whether assessing a rumour someone shares on Twitter, or figuring out how to deal with information flowing out of a massive natural disaster.

Tell Everyone is an easy read. A comfortable read, much like diving into someone’s blog. Hermida mixes well-known anecdotes about social media fails and successes with stories I had no idea about.

You’ve heard about the amplifying use of social media during “Arab Spring,” you see the tweets in mainstream media stories about natural disasters and corporate communication blunders. But did you know that citizens in drug-infested towns in Mexico tweet about cartel violence locations to help neighbours plan their day more safely? Mind blowing.

The book is meticulously researched, with extensive notes at the back of the book for further perusal, if you’re so inclined. But are you?

Hermida acknowledges that “(t)here are consequences when our social circles become our editorial filters.” Facebook research itself confirms a growing echo chamber on its own service, where everyone around us reinforces our own views and we don’t seek, see or hear opposing views.

One of the issues we all face with incessant information overload and over-sharing is that we read, scratch the surface, but don’t dive into the notes, the sources, the evidence. And, if you share to the extent Hermida shows many of us do, you’re probably not doing it nearly critically enough.

That’s an increasingly large problem, which needs some attention.

A ‘Renaissance in Sharing’ . . . Is ‘Ours to Use’

Hermida outlines his concern for the “gulf between our view of social media and our understanding of it.” For him, it is “not a story about technology . . . [rather] our human urge to share.”

At the same time, it is always about the technology. Now more than ever before, we can publish with few technological barriers, to the point where “mainstream and social media intertwine to influence what makes the news and how the news is presented.” Your voice may become the voice I listen to and trust, at the expense of trained journalists and editors.

Hermida acknowledges that “[t]here are consequences when our social circles become our editorial filters.” Facebook research itself confirms a growing echo chamber on its own service, where everyone around us reinforces our own views and we don’t seek, see or hear opposing views. It’s a problem, particularly with increasing numbers of people who wait for the news to find them, instead of seeking it out.

As with many issues, this isn’t an Internet problem, it’s a human problem. Many of us have become “accidental news consumers.” We log onto Facebook to find cat videos, writes Hermida, but “stumble across news items by accident.”

In a shifting media era when “all the news that’s fit to share” becomes the priority, alarm bells go off. If media only chase what’s popular, we risk our independent, investigative and informative journalism. Hermida doesn’t delve deeply enough into the primacy of the popular and how this can impact our news literacy or democracy; he merely states that it is part of our new reality.

Hermida is certainly not utopian in his approach. He explores both the downside and potential of social media in our lives. And he offers a well-balanced view of both possibilities, ranging from devastating social shaming to what brings down corrupt government leaders.

It’s not enough. Living in an echo chamber isn’t new, it’s part of being human, Hermida argues. But, as Facebook and other filtering technologies contribute to the already human tendency we have to surround ourselves with people like us, who think like us, and like what we like, how can we get beyond the echo chamber?

It is, as Hermida writes, essential for us to commit to “going beyond similar people and connecting with those with different backgrounds or views.”

We could all spend more time learning about our own habits and biases and seek diversity of voices in our lives. Yes. But, while independent journalism is popping up more than ever before (see this website, the Tyee, Ricochet, rabble, Rebel TV and others), in many cases this can only serve to deepen the echo chamber.

As with many issues, this isn’t an Internet problem, it’s a human problem. Many of us have become “accidental news consumers.” We log onto Facebook to find cat videos, writes Hermida, but “stumble across news items by accident.”

There’s more Hermida could delve into here. Hermida tells us that the information flow is ours to use. How do we, as individuals, practically take on that task as we’re bombarded with overwhelming information, opinions, rumours and news?

As our friends and connections “are taking on the job of editors, filtering and selecting what is important, interesting or diverting” for us, it’s ever more important that we find ways to identify trusted and diverse sources.

Hermida is optimistic about research that shows how weak online ties and casual social media acquaintances expose us to more diversity of thought. But how many of us actually click, read or even skim that diversity?

Few of us actively look for diverse or opposing views to our own. I don’t share his optimism that merely being exposed to diverse perspectives in the fire hose of our newsfeeds leads to greater mutual understanding.

Your Homework

Hermida recommends we use social media with purpose. He refers to “situational awareness,” essentially creating a personal social media strategy: be aware of what is happening around you, make sense of what we see/hear, use that understanding to make better decisions (i.e. share better), backed up with data and evidence.

When we share, share well. When we consume, consume more critically. It makes sense to have a strategy to be better communicators and curators. This book won’t give you the how – just the strong suggestion that you should.

It’s a start. But there’s more Hermida could delve into here. Hermida tells us that the information flow is ours to use. How do we, as individuals, practically take on that task as we’re bombarded with overwhelming information, opinions, rumours and news?

Spend some time with Howard Rheingold’s approach to “CRAP detection.” Like Hermida, Rheingold looks at how an old skill, critical thinking, can be applied in a new medium. It’s a skill we all need to develop.


Marco Campana does freelance communications work with organizations that serve immigrants, refugees and promote diversity. He provides social media support, writing, editing and internal website consultation and strategy. In particular, he helps settlement agencies harness and implement social media and technology in their community service work.

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

Canada’s labour market must overcome significant challenges if it is to contribute to economic growth, but one field that could provide the biggest bang for...

Epoch Times

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Published in Economy

Tehran: Iran said on Sunday that it was ready to cooperate with information technology (IT) companies like Google to facilitate their services in the country and the Persian Gulf region. Iran’s deputy minister of telecommunications and information technology Nasrollah Jahangard said negotiations were underway with Google to establish a version of its servers in Iran, according […]

The Weekly Voice

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Published in Arab World
Wednesday, 25 February 2015 18:01

Is Weibo on the Way Out?

China’s internet watchdogs have threatened to enforce real-name registration before. But this time, they’re adamant all Chinese citizens must provide their real names and identification numbers before using social media sites starting on 1 March. Nicknames can be used on the sites, but only after users hand over their personal details to the government. […]

The Weekly Voice

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Published in China
Page 1 of 2

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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