New Canadian Media

By: Nick Saul in Toronto

The first thing you notice when you walk into the light-drenched main room at Calgary’s The Alex Community Food Centre is the promise written in loopy script above the open kitchen: “Good food is just the beginning….” Or maybe it’s the bright chairs in Crayola red and blue and green. Or the large family-style tables where everyone gathers to eat delicious homemade meals together. Wherever your eyes happen to land, it’s clear the entire centre is designed to make people in this diverse low-income community feel at home. 

At a time when public discourse is deeply polarized, when scarcity rather than generosity frames so much of our collective conversation, when many of us have never felt more disconnected from one another, a beautiful and welcoming public space comes as something of a surprise. Yet there’s nothing accidental about it. The Alex and our other partner Community Food Centres and Good Food Organizations across the country, finding ways to create inclusive, thoughtfully designed spaces is a core priority. 

Nobody needs to explain why to Ellen*, a participant in the Diabetes Cooking Group at NorWest Co-op Community Food Centre in northwest Winnipeg: “This place will change your spirit,” she says. “As a newcomer, sometimes you feel discriminated against. But this place lifts you up, pushes the negative thoughts away.” 

Creating spaces where people can come together and feel respected, spaces that not only make room for diversity, but actively embrace it, is central to the movement we’re building. It’s an approach rooted in the belief that the physical — how a place looks, feels, flows — plays a big part in determining the social — how people feel, treat one another and work together. When low-income community members step into The Alex or NorWest, Dartmouth North or other Community Food Centres, they see fresh, bright, well-kept rooms, comfy chairs to relax on, maybe fresh flowers on the tables, art or murals on the walls, books and magazines to flip through. Signs direct people to the resources they need. The smell of good food—fresh bread, homemade soup — wafts out of the kitchens. The sounds of laughter and maybe even a bit of live music animates the rooms.

“It’s not like a soup kitchen. For a brief time, I feel like a king. And the food looks like it comes out of a magazine!” -Peter, Program Attendee

For many low-income community members who live in small apartments or shared rooms, who might work long hours for low pay, who have to spend far too much time in the demoralizing work of negotiating the social service or justice system, Community Food Centres offer not just a nice place to spend time, but a true respite. And at its best it can shift their experience away from deprivation and toward something more interactive, respectful and engaged. 

“I feel comfortable as soon as I come in the door,” explains Peter*, who comes for the community lunch program at Dartmouth North CFC. “It’s not like a soup kitchen. For a brief time, I feel like a king. And the food looks like it comes out of a magazine!” 

Of course, good food is central to creating these positive, friendly places. Step into The Local CFC in Stratford, ON, and you’ll find yourself in the heart of the kitchen. There’s always a group standing around the big open island mixing or chopping, baking or cooking. The pleasure of cooking and sharing a good meal allows community members to find connections that cut across barriers of language, race, class and culture.

For instance, The Alex CFC recently collaborated with the United Way to organize a potluck at the centre that brought together Aboriginal and Filipino leaders to address a history of conflict between their communities. Individuals ate together, then held a talking circle, and drummed together – activities that helped them focus on the connection between their communities, and sparked a promise to work together more in the future. At the Regent Park CFC in downtown Toronto, the Bengali women’s cooking group celebrated Independence Day by showcasing their substantial cooking chops to others in the neighbourhood. And at the newest Community Food Centre in Hamilton, one of the first programs on offer is an Intercultural Community Kitchen with food from many cultures, and staff and volunteers who speak English, Spanish, Kurdish and Arabic. 

In our Annual Program Survey, 95% of people told us they feel part of a community at their CFC — at several centres, that number hit 100%. By creating dignified, safe and engaged spaces where good food fosters belonging, we are striving to challenge the dominant narrative of fragmentation and division. We’re creating the kind of connected, inclusive and diverse future we want to see.  

“I want to make friends. I want to belong. I want a community,” Rebecca*, another participant from NorWest's Diabetes Cooking group. “I found it here.”

Nick Saul is the co-founder and President/CEO of Community Food Centres Canada. This piece was republished with permission.

Published in Arts & Culture
Wednesday, 14 June 2017 08:09

Exploring Toronto's Most Diverse Community

By: Sam Minassie in Toronto

"The World in Ten Blocks" is a two part documentary that offers viewers an in-depth look at one of the most diverse neighbourhoods in Toronto. Bloorcourt is home to a wide range of immigrants from across the world, which is inherently reflected in the small businesses that line its busy streets. Marc Serpa Francoeur and Robinder Uppal originally moved into the community back in 2011 while studying Documentary Media at Ryerson University. Inspired by residents' stories of resilience, they created a linear film, as well as a virtual tour that allows users to interact with shop owners. New Canadian Media conducted an interview with the two filmmakers via email.

Q: What were the biggest influences behind your decision to study Documentary Media?

A: Documentary has been a long-standing interest of ours going back to high school in the early 2000s, where we made our first short doc for a school project. As our interests in social justice, politics, and environmental issues evolved and deepened, documentary film increasingly emerged as the ideal form to bring together our varied skills and passions, including creative writing, journalism, videography, and photography. Moving into documentary work in the online sphere has only broadened these syncretic possibilities. 

Q: The interactive tour provides a very unique experience, where did the inspiration for this idea come from?

A: As the children of immigrants, many of the themes explored in the project have long been close to our hearts. "The World in Ten Blocks" actually began as our joint thesis work in the Documentary Media MFA program at Ryerson University in Toronto, for which we originally moved to the city. The documentary is set in the community where we both lived when we started the project, and having gotten to know a few of the immigrant small business owners in the neighbourhood and heard their incredible stories, the idea for the project started to percolate. After producing a 34 min linear film, we began working in earnest on the interactive experience after graduation in mid-2013.

Two of the main underlying motives with this project are to share the diversity of the neighbourhood and to honour the immigration experiences of some of its small business owners. After experiencing projects like Hollow, Welcome to Pine Point, and others, we decided that an interactive documentary would be be the most compelling way to situate those stories in an engaging, user-driven exploration of the geography and history of the neighbourhood. 

Q: There seemed to be a lot of thought and hard work that went into the project with Robinder even learning how to code, what would each of you say were the biggest challenges of the project and why?

A: As a basically self-funded project (i.e. thousands of hours of own labour with virtually no financial support), we had no choice but to develop a wide range of skills and manage a workload between the two of us that would normally be carved up among various specialists. Most notable, was that in order to make the project possible, one of us (Robinder) taught himself to code from scratch (e.g. HTML, CSS and JavaScript); a gargantuan, but ultimately gratifying endeavour.

Making the documentary is just one part of the process; finding an audience is a huge challenge in its own right, and often even the best-funded work falls very flat in this area. As independent producers working in the still relatively unknown realm of interactive doc, we felt that a "media partner" with an established audience who could promote and distribute the project would be a huge hand up for us. Looking at the Canadian media landscape, The Globe and Mail seemed the best fit, especially because we wanted to reach audiences not just in Toronto but across the country. As emerging creators without much of a track record, we were fortunate that the folks at The Globe were willing to give us a chance, especially given the lack of precedent for a partnership like ours (i.e. it's the first major interactive documentary they've hosted). While they didn't fund the project, we see a lot of potential for independent creators and media organizations, big and small, to partner in the delivery of in-depth documentary content that goes far beyond the scope of traditional news coverage.After 33 years of business, Wire's Variety closed its doors for the final time in 2013

Q: There are small mentions of the negative effects large corporations have on small businesses, most evident with “Wire’s Variety” which was closed by the time the documentary was released. In your opinion, what can the city do to support Bloorcourt’s independent businesses?

A: From our perspective, some of the most serious structural challenges for independent small businesses in Bloorcourt and throughout Toronto are problems that the city could go a long way toward addressing. Most notable is the lack of commercial rent control, combined with the ability of landlords to decline to renew leases entirely at their own discretion. The city has the capacity to address both of these concerns, and failing to do so will have serious consequences for our communities.

As real estate prices rise, there's often nothing that prevents a landlord from dramatically increasing the rent from one lease cycle to the next. This is a very real threat for all of the city's small businesses who rent and do not own the properties where they operate. Without some measure of rent control for commercial leases—which, keep in mind, is found in some jurisdictions—runaway commercial rents will lead to increasing numbers of downtown Toronto storefronts taken up by corporate chains, destroying the diverse character of neighbourhoods like Bloorcourt.

Unlike with residential tenancy, a commercial landlord can simply refuse to renew a lease at their discretion, despite the considerable investment that a tenant may have made to improve the space, building a customer base, etc. Just this past weekend (May 27th), one of the participant businesses in the project, Courense Bakery, closed suddenly when their landlord refused to renew their lease (apparently because they intend to sell the building). This is a big blow not only for the owners and staff, but for the neighbourhood as a whole, whose successive generations have patronized that bakery for some 35 years.

In addition, we also found out this week that participant business Pam's Roti will be forced to relocate (for the third time), as her landlord is refusing to renew her lease, ostensibly because he intends to install a Subway franchise in the same space. Pam and her husband have invested tens of thousands of dollars in improvements and renovations to the space, and it remains to be seen whether the landlord will compensate them. This touches on a third major issue, which is that very often small businesses lack strong legal counsel when it comes to designing the terms of their lease. Furthermore, it's not uncommon for a tenant to be too intimidated to pursue damages in court, given the generally more substantial financial resources of the landlord. The city could contribute to addressing these power dynamics by providing an ombudsman or legal advisor to review leases, a collection of resources/guides, or other types of legal support for small businesses.

Q: What is the most important lesson you took away from this experience and why?

A: Working on "The World in Ten Blocks" over the last five years has been a profound and life-changing experience for both of us, and we've learned lessons about a great many things along the way. We learned early on that things which seem stable can change very rapidly. For example, the closure of Wire's Variety took us by surprise—we were out of town for a few weeks and returned to a business shuttered after 33 years—and putting Wire's story together was far more difficult because of that. The overarching lesson for us as documentary filmmakers has been to never take for granted the ability to come back and film another day.

Q: What are some other upcoming projects people should look out for?

A: A new project that we're about a year and a half into focuses on a police abuse incident and its legal aftermath. It's set in Calgary, which is where we're from originally. The vision is for a serialized multimedia web piece that will be more reportage and a less immersive experience than Ten Blocks, although there's something of a through-line content-wise as the victim is a young immigrant. Our concept is to offer various levels of engagement: short videos that cover the main beat of a given instalment, with more expansive materials (documents, audio-visuals, etc.) for those that want to dive deeper. In some ways, the project feels like an obvious direction for us as we've long been interested in exploring the shortcomings of our civic institutions, and feel that narrowing in on this particular story will shed light on some of the profound dysfunction of a law enforcement and legal system that lacks fundamental safeguards to prevent the abuse of power.

We also just launched the last installment of League of Exotique Dancers Interactive, the interactive companion piece to the feature doc of the same name that opened Hot Docs 2016. This project presented a different challenge in that we were hired hands who were handed an existing body of material to work with (video, personal archives, score, etc.) and asked to come up with something compelling... which we think we did!

Also, in terms of the future of The World in Ten Blocks, the project has been invited to the prestigious Sheffield Doc/Fest in the UK, which is exciting because it has long been a goal for us to share the diversity and relatively high degree of inclusivity that we enjoy here in Toronto with audiences in Europe. The project will continue to be exhibited at a number of local events, galleries, and festivals, including a six-week installation as part of Making Peace (a multi-year international traveling exhibition) that will be up until the end of June.

One thing that has always been very important to us is to have the project seen and used in schools. To that end, we're really excited to have embarked on an ambitious outreach and knowledge mobilization program that focuses on junior and senior high school students, and utilizes the project to explore diversity, foster inclusivity, and engender appreciation for the historical contribution of immigrant communities to Toronto. We have some stellar collaborators on board who will take the helm to produce an educational guide for use in the classroom, and develop educator- and community-oriented workshops and presentations. We've even had a number of educators get in touch who have already started using the project in their classrooms going back to soon after the launch at the end of 2016, which is very exciting! 

Published in Arts & Culture

In partnership with Apathy is Boring, New Canadian Media will be posting first-person accounts from the 150 Years Young Project, a campaign that highlights the positive impact youth are making throughout their communities.

Stephane Mukunzi, PACE Magazine

“It all comes back to the idea of bringing communities together. The spoken word collectives, the singers, the artists, the painters… they are all present in Ottawa. We just don’t have centralized spaces where people can go to see Ottawa artists and critical thinkers. And that’s what we are trying to achieve with PACE”.

As a twenty-three year-old videographer and photographer, Stephane Mukunzi was fed up with receiving the same old rejection letter after submitting work. After realizing there was no community of young artists in Ottawa’s art scene, Stephane decided to create one himself. He gathered together a group of young creatives and they developed PACE Magazine, a place where young artists and critically minded people could express themselves. Inspired by London’s DIY magazine culture, Mukunzi and his team wanted to maintain the classic element of print media while combining it with innovation and online presence. PACE aims to dismantle the hierarchical nature of art and ensure the representation of indigenous artists, black artists, artists of colour, women artists, immigrant artists, and anyone who may have turned away by the fine arts community.

The PACE team decided to give voice to those who haven’t had a chance to speak to Ottawa, and within the first year of launching, it is clear they have found voices that Ottawa is eager to hear. The magazine has published two print editions, created a website for creative content, and held two successful launch events that featured local photography, spoken word, and art pieces. After this continued foray into Ottawa culture, Stephane fully rejects the idea of Ottawa as a boring city and believes that the many creative scenes, are there to fill cultural needs if you are ready to integrate yourself into them. Looking for that first step? Check out the latest issue of PACE at http://www.pacemagazine.ca/

Khoebe Magsaysay, Artist/Filmmaker/Animator

“It’s really important to embrace and accept your disappointments and failures because they make a strong foundation for your future endeavours.”

Filipino-born Khoebe Magsaysay immigrated to Ontario when she was ten years old. After high school, she enrolled in the Honours Bachelor of Animation program at Sheridan College, and began a time of huge personal growth. At university, she learned to persevere through challenging times, cultivate her talent, and refine her skills as a filmmaker, animator, and artist.

Khoebe landed an internship in New York City for the summer between years three and four of her undergrad at Gameloft, a notable gaming company. Following her internship, Khoebe produced a short film, and the process of making it was very stressful and complex. The film, titled “NIHIL”, is about Adina, a character who is the epitome of perfection. Through a series of events, she comes to question her reality. The success of the film won Khoebe the Via Rail Award for Best Canadian Student Film at the Ottawa International Animation Festival (OIAF), which is considered one of the most prestigious international animation film festivals in the world. Khoebe has continued to excel in her field, working in Toronto at ToonBox Entertainment.


The 150 Years Young Project: In celebration of Canada's 150th birthday, Apathy is Boring is teaming up with community organizers and city ambassadors to recognize positive contributions by youth. Follow the hashtag #150yy for more!

Published in Arts & Culture

In partnership with Apathy is Boring, New Canadian Media will be posting first-person accounts from the 150 Years Young Project, a campaign that highlights the positive impact youth are making throughout their communities.

Mathura Mahendren, Toronto for Everyone

“I thought I was going to move away from the city, but something keeps drawing me back in. There’s a change for the better coming, and I want to be a part of that.”

Mathura has seen and had opportunities to learn about the strength of community-driven growth. While she proactively takes on roles and responsibilities that allow her to be the proverbial “fly on the wall”, the work she has done, and continues to do for community development, is difficult to dismiss for its impact. Over the past few years, Mathura was given the opportunity to work on Global Health initiatives in Malawi and The Gambia towards implementing sustainable and community-developed innovations in health promotion and education.

As someone who struggles with dichotomies and, instead, operates primarily within the grey-spaces, Mathura stresses the importance of embedded learning experiences in Global Health initiatives. She discusses this concern in the face of work being done with the intention of establishing a “one-size-fits-all” solution to Global Health problems. Her opportunities, she explains, have helped her appreciate the nuances and complexities of individual narratives and how they fit together towards large scale concerns.

Today, Mathura is working actively with the Toronto for Everyone initiative to jumpstart the city towards a more inclusive community that all can feel a part of. Spearheaded by the Centre for Social Innovation, the initiative organized a farewell event at the end of February to honour Honest Ed’s legacy as being an establishment of inherent inclusivity.

Salima Visram, Soular Backpack

“I believe that every human requires food, water, education, access to healthcare, and economic empowerment. I hope that Soular is able to become the catalyst for individuals and communities to develop these essentials for themselves.”

Salima was raised in Kenya and came to Canada for her university education at McGill where she studied International Development and Business. She founded Soular in 2014 after learning that kids were using kerosene to power the lights they used to study with in the evening. Kerosene, when exposed to in large quantities, increases the risk of cancer and several other health problems. These issues also lead to poor performance in school, with many kids unable to move on to secondary education.

Knowing this, and brainstorming several interventions, Salima presented the Soular Backpack – a backpack with solar panels, a battery, and now a lamp that is charged over the course of the day for students to use in the evenings. Her initial Kickstarter campaign was able to fundraise $50,000 towards making this project a reality and get the first 2,500 backpacks on the ground in Kenya. She is hoping that, by the end of May 2017, Soular is able to provide 4,000 kids across Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda with backpacks.

Salima believes that it is important to consider financial sustainability for not-for-profit organizations so that they are able continue working towards their mission independently. She is, therefore, using a one-for-one model to pair buyers from established economies to support the users in East Africa. Salima hopes that Soular is able to expand its impact to the rest of Africa and establish itself towards supporting the education of these students.


The 150 Years Young Project: In celebration of Canada's 150th birthday, Apathy is Boring is teaming up with community organizers and city ambassadors to recognize positive contributions by youth. Follow the hashtag #150yy for more!

Published in Arts & Culture
Commentary by Phil Gurski in Ottawa
 
The fight against terrorism is multi-faceted.  As we are seeing in Mosul as I write, forces from a number of countries, including Canada, are heavily involved in an effort to take back Iraq's second largest city from Islamic State. 
 
Security intelligence agencies such as my former employer, Canadian Security Intelligence Service, CSIS, play a vital role in carrying out investigations both domestically and internationally to identify terrorists and help to disrupt their plans. And. of course. law enforcement bodies are there to do their own work and bring terrorists to justice.
 
When it comes to CVE – Countering Violent Extremism – however, it is far from clear that the actors just described are the only ones, or even the best ones, to do this work.  It was my experience with the Citizen Engagement staff at Public Safety Canada that there is a role for government, but this role is best seen as a coordinating one and not one of control or direction. 
 
Indeed, the Canadian government's plans for an Office of the Coordinator for Counter Radicalization and Community Engagement reflects this notion. As for law enforcement and security intelligence partners, their involvement, while beneficial, has by definition to be limited since many people will not accept that their presence is NOT tied to intelligence gathering.
 
Start in communities
 
This entails then that there are other groups that need to get involved.  The logical place to start is with the very same communities where radicalization to violence happens as it is those communities which are usually the first to see it develop and are often best-placed to reach out and make a difference to head the process off before it gets worse.  
 
The U.S. government appears to be of this mind as it plans to launch a new program based on "local intervention teams" consisting of made up of mental health professionals, faith-based groups, educators and community leaders.  Part of the impetus behind this announcement is the criticism levied against law enforcement efforts in the past.
 
So, how can communities help with CVE?  As I already noted, they are the ones on the ground dealing with violent radicalization often before the CSIS' and the RCMPs of this world arrive on the scene and they are the ones that have to deal with the aftermath of attacks by members of their neighbourhoods, whether in terms of shattered families or the inevitable backlash from greater society. They thus have a strong vested interest in doing something about this problem.
 
Some beyond repair
 
There are caveats, though. The people that governments choose to partner with have to be the real deal. It is far too easy, and in my experience far too common, for some individuals who claim to be "leaders" in their communities to be nothing of the sort.  Choosing the wrong people can undermine what it is you are trying to achieve.  There is also a need to develop mechanisms to evaluate the programs you are delivering.  This is a difficult task and one that has yet to have received an adequate response.
 
Perhaps, most importantly, there has to be a recognition within communities that in some cases, hopefully rare ones, law enforcement and security intelligence have to be called in.  Some people are beyond help and no amount of mentoring or counselling is going to get them to abandon terrorism.  This small number of individuals remains a threat to national and public security and must be treated as such.  Communities need to get past their distrust – or dislike – of CSIS and the RCMP.
 
CVE is therefore a multi-player effort with a strong local lead.  Working together there is a good chance that some wayward souls can be diverted from the path to violent extremism.  We owe it to ourselves to give it a shot.

Phil Gurski worked for more than  three decades in Canadian intelligence, including 15 at Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), and is the author of the Threat from Within and the forthcoming Western Foreign Fighters (Rowan and Littlefield). He blogs at http://www.borealisthreatandrisk.com/blog/

Published in Commentary

UNIVERSITY of Alberta student Annika Roren—Scottish and Norwegian in ancestry—was eager to have her long blonde hair bundled into a green turban Tuesday, and learn about the Sikh culture.

Dismayed like the rest of the community about racist posters discovered on campus last week sporting the image of a man in a turban, Roren made a point of attending the “tie-in” event on campus today.-- 

Indo-Canadian Voice

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Published in Top Stories

by Samaah Jaffer in Vancouver

Nearly two years after the 100 year anniversary of the Komagata Maru arriving in the Burrard Inlet, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will offer an official apology in the House of Commons on May 18 for Canada’s discriminatory conduct in turning away over 300 potential immigrants.

The Komagata Maru was a chartered Japanese steamship that sailed from Hong Kong to Vancouver with 376 passengers, most being immigrants from the province of Punjab, India. For two months, the ship was not allowed to dock and the passengers were not allowed to disembark.

Eventually, only 24 returning residents were allowed onto Vancouver’s shores. The rest were turned away for failure to arrive in Canada by way of a “continuous passage.” The Continuous Passage Act was passed in 1908 in response to a slow increase of immigration from India, which was referred to as “the Indian invasion” or “the Hindu invasion,” and remained in effect until 1947.

When the Komagata Maru returned to Budge Budge, India, 19 of the passengers were shot to death.

Apologies from the government

In the week leading up to the annual Sikh celebration of Vaisaki — a commemoration of the birth of the Khalsa and the spring harvest — Trudeau announced that he would be offering an official apology for the incident in Parliament on May 18.

"The passengers of the Komagata Maru, like millions of immigrants to Canada since, were seeking refuge, and better lives for their families,” said Trudeau. “With so much to contribute to their new home, they chose Canada and we failed them utterly.”

The Professor Mohan Singh Memorial Foundation, nonpartisan advocacy organization based in British Columbia, has been actively petitioning the federal government for an official apology since 2002.

When the Komagata Maru returned to Budge Budge, India, 19 of the passengers were shot to death.

Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered an apology for the incident in 2008 at a gathering in Surrey, BC. However, many members of the audience immediately expressed that the informal gesture was inadequate. The secretary of state for Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity at the time, Jason Kenny, was accompanying the Prime Minister and stated, "The apology has been given and it won't be repeated."

Vancouver-based activist Manveer Singh believes Harper’s apology “did not deliver justice, as it did not acknowledge the fact that the event happened as a result of the racist attitudes in Canada's federal and provincial legislative houses.”

Significance of the apology

“The significance of this apology is one of closure and one of accountability. There seems to be an idea — a myth — that Canada's formative years were set on concepts of equality and oneness, when the reality is that there was rampant discrimination in place,” explained Singh.

“This apology will be a step towards mending Canada's race relations, because we do still have problems with racism. However, the apology itself is only words if we do not address the racism that still occurs today.”

His sentiments were echoed by Naveen Girn, cultural researcher and digitization specialist of the Komagata Maru Memorial Project at the Simon Fraser University Library, and curator of a number of other commemorative exhibitions around Metro Vancouver. Girn said to the Globe and Mail, “The apology being given in Parliament is a circling back to rectify that original wrong,” referring to the discriminatory laws passed in Parliament.

Manveer Singh believes Harper’s apology “did not deliver justice."

Girn expressed that he hopes Trudeau’s statement addresses the history of wrongdoing against South Asians in Canada, and pointed to the “living legacy” of the Komagata Maru in relation to the lack of security offered for temporary foreign workers today.

Professor of Cinema and Media Arts at York University, Ali Kazimi, believes Prime Minister Trudeau’s apology needs to thoroughly address and recognize Canada’s history of systemic racism, not simply as a “closed chapter.”

Kazimi, who produced “Continuous Journey,” a film about the Komagata Maru, and subsequently authored “Undesirables: White Canada and the Komagata Maru,” told The Star the apology should recognize that “that Canada for the first 100 years of its existence had what was effectively a ‘White Canada’ policy.”

“Trauma and pain are passed down generation to generation,” added Singh, who believes further to the apology, the immediate family members of Komagata Maru survivors should be given reparations.

Commemorating the Komagata Maru

Coinciding with the Prime Minister’s official apology on Wednesday, Carleton University’s Canada-India Centre for Excellence will be hosting the grand opening of the Komagata Maru Exhibition.

Through the depiction of the plight of the passengers, the exhibit attempts to represent “a quest for truth and justice.”

“This apology will be a step towards mending Canada's race relations, because we do still have problems with racism."

On May 23, Girn will be hosting the annual Komagata Anniversary Maru Walking Tour, which enables participants, accompanied historians, artists, and community members, to learn about the incident by visiting historical landmarks in downtown Vancouver.

Simon Fraser University, which developed and launched an interactive digital archive for the one-hundredth anniversary of the Komagata Maru, will also be opening the doors of its Surrey campus to the community for a live webcast of the Prime Minister’s apology.

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 History

SURREY – Lower Mainlan’s Sikh Societies have come to the support of those who have been devastated by the wild fires in Fort McMurray, Alberta, where all 80,000 inhabitants have been evacuated from their homes and some neighbourhoods have been completely destroyed.

The Sikh Community, who has a history of helping people in need across the world, is praying for their strength, aid, and healing for the all those that have been and continue to be displaced and affected by these terrible events.

The Link

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Published in Top Stories
Thursday, 17 March 2016 11:24

Breaking Silence Around Elder Abuse

by Beatrice Paez in Toronto

Asking seniors subtle questions about their daily routines opens up dialogue – and can point to signs of elder abuse, which rarely reveals itself in obvious ways.

Nirpal Bhangoo-Sekhon often asks seniors she meets about what they’ve been eating, who handles their finances and if their basic needs are being met. It is her job as case manager of the Punjabi Community Health Services (PCHS) to be curious.

“Unfortunately, if we don't ask those questions, we wouldn't know what's happening,” she says. “It gives you a better picture of what goes on at home.”

Abuse isn't limited to physical violence; it can extend to the withholding of financial resources, verbal threats and isolation from the household.

In a 2009 report, Statistics Canada found that two-thirds of seniors who experienced family violence – physical force or threats – didn't sustain injuries. Seniors most at risk, based on reports to the police, are between 65 and 74.  

During her one-on-one meetings with seniors, Bhangoo-Sekhon will also illustrate scenarios to raise awareness of how common an issue elder abuse is. Holding such conversations regularly helps ease reservations about breaking their silence, which can take months, if not longer, she says. 

Reluctance to speak up

While elder abuse cuts across different cultural groups, they may contend with different obstacles. 

Language barriers and distrust in the police – mostly worries about being deported – aren't the only concerns stacked heavily against the decision to come forward, says Kripa Sekhar, the executive director of the South Asian Women's Centre (SAWC) in Toronto.

There's the perception that speaking out would fracture family ties and bring shame on the community. 

“I don't think they want to be seen as a community that's going to expose their families or seen as betraying their families," says Sekhar. "They've almost accepted that ‘this is what's meant for me.’”

Cultural groups have different attitudes about what constitutes abuse.

Burial customs can also play a role in the struggle to come forward for seniors of certain faiths.  

With funeral rites traditionally being the responsibility of the son or a male family member, some express concern that their spiritual needs will not be looked after if they speak out, says Sekhar. “They're not worried about today. They're worried about the afterlife. It's hard to understand that – you're struggling in this life, but it's such a part of who they are.”

Abuse isn't limited to physical violence; it can extend to the withholding of financial resources, verbal threats and isolation from the household, she explains. 

Statistical profiles on elder abuse as it relates to the South Asian community aren't traced by front-line agencies such as the police and social services. Statistics Canada instead analyzes the prevalence of family violence along gender lines, while acknowledging that cultural groups have different attitudes about what constitutes abuse.

Possibilities for intervention

The immediate response to cases of physical abuse might be to find alternative housing, but in other instances, intervention through education is crucial, says Bhangoo-Sekhon.  

"If we can go in and educate the families – that, in the end, would be much more helpful and useful for the community than just pulling seniors out [of the home] and placing them in shelters," she says. 

Finding subsidized housing or placing elders in shelters isn't always the most feasible solution in cases of neglect or isolation, particularly if they're not used to living independently and are in need of a personal support worker, she says. 

PCHS has a caregiver support program, an extension of its efforts to address elder abuse, which is offered to those who are caring for family members. It is intended to relieve the strain of household demands. The program attempts to engender a culture of empathy, recognizing that the caregiver may be stressed, while getting him or her to understand the vulnerabilities that seniors face. 

"We help them understand the aging process," says Bhangoo-Sekhon, adding that changes in a senior's behaviour may create friction within the family if it's not recognized as a health issue.

"Housing for seniors should be guaranteed. They need enough funding to live in dignity."

"[It's to help] them understand what's happening to their body, their brain, and that's out of their control."

Networks for seniors living alone

SAWC, through its community network, tries to locate housing for seniors so they can live independently, but finding affordable housing can take an average of seven years, according to the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association. Thirty per cent of seniors make up the wait list, as cited by the Toronto Star from the organization's 2015 report.

Sekhar communicates regularly with seniors who live independently and tries to ensure that their landlords are responsive to building safety issues. "Many say they do that, but their concerns aren't always attended to," she says. 

SAWC holds a seniors’ workshop every Thursday where they can gather to discuss health and safety issues, along with abuse. It's a support network for seniors who live on their own, where they feel comfortable conversing in their mother tongue, says Sekhar. 

"Housing for seniors should be guaranteed," says Sekhar. "They need enough funding to live in dignity."

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 Health

By Balwant Sanghera
A number of Indo-Canadian seniors enjoy their time at India Cultural Centre of Canada’s Gurdwara Nanak Niwas. Jointly sponsored by the Gurdwara and Richmond Multicultural Community Services (RMCS), the Chai Chaupal program encourages them to meet at the Gurdwara every Monday morning.  Some of them participate in a yoga session conducted by instructor [...]

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