New Canadian Media
Wednesday, 02 August 2017 10:22

Ontario Black Youth Action Plan

By: Sam Minassie in Toronto

Ontario’s Black Youth Action Plan is taking another step forward with a new mentorship initiative. As part of its four-year $47 million-dollar project, the province will launch, “Together We Can”. The aim is to reach 10,800 black youth within priority communities outlined in regions such as the GTA, Hamilton, Ottawa and Windsor.

The province will look to tackle statistical discrepancies among young people of colour within major cities. For young Blacks, the numbers can be startling, with unemployment and dropout rates that almost double those of their Caucasian counterparts. Compounded with the fact that a black population that only accounts for about 8% of the province, makes up 41% of those receiving care at the Children’s Aid Society, there is a clear need for change.

The program has already started recruiting local organizations through a number of engagement sessions that have taken place across 13 communities. The sessions will continue throughout the summer in the hopes of collaborating with up to 25 different mentorships. As of now, four organizations have already signed up: The African-Canadian Coalition of Community Organizations, the NIA Centre for the Arts, Tropicana Community Services, and the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Peel Community.

“Diversity is such a beautiful thing. It makes us stronger, economically and culturally.”-Michael Coteau

MPP Michael Coteau, has been a driving force behind the project. Raised in the very community he serves today, he has helped spread awareness on several of the issues he had to overcome. Growing up in Flemingdon Park, he was exposed to many of the systemic hardships that make it increasingly difficult for so many to further their educations. He credits a lot of his success to the positive influences he started seeing in the second half of his high school career and hopes to recreate a similar atmosphere for others.

Elected to office in 2011 as MPP of Toronto’s Don Valley East ward, he is also the Minister Responsible for Anti-Racism and Minister of Children and Youth Services. He sees the initiative as an “on-the-ground” solution that will help underprivileged minors with their futures.

“Partnering with local community organizations to provide mentorship opportunities specifically for Black children and youth will help them build the skills and connect them with the opportunities they need to succeed,” Coteau explains.

The project will try to keep locals involved and is in the process of putting together a committee made up of leaders, experts and other members of the black community to help with the overall direction.

Ontario’s Youth Action Plan outlines a number of steps that must be taken into consideration in order to adequately provide the support they require. Earlier intervention was identified as one of those first steps and in response, the province has already implemented optional full day kindergarten. Employment programs will also be expanded so that they are available on a full-time basis in the summer, as well as part-time throughout the year.

The plan will also employ more outreach workers across the province. In addition, training procedures will be reviewed to ensure that employees are adequately equipped.

With a firm plan of action in place, community leaders are optimistic of the positive change that will follow. Dwayne Dixon is the Executive Director at the Nia Centre for the Arts and is more than aware of the uphill battle they are facing.

“Very early in my artistic journey, when I was coming up, there were very limited opportunities (financial or otherwise) for young black artists to make the arts a viable career choice...I'm confident, experiences like mine will be the exception and not the rule,” he says.

As more organizations continue to join the cause, it is clear that major changes are under way. It will be interesting to see what a future of equal opportunity will hold for Canada’s most multicultural province.

Published in Top Stories

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

by Shan Qiao in Toronto
 
Without saying anything, Farrah Khan hands out a clipboard with a piece of paper on it to each person in the room.
 
“Now, I want each of you start to draw what was in your head at 9 a.m. this morning,” she says. “When time is due, you’ll hand the clipboard to the person next to you and continue on another person’s drawing.” Khan then plays a song by Beyoncé on her iPhone.
 
Several participants, including Khan, finish drawing different parts of each other’s pictures before they are returned to the original artist. The result is a joint effort made by each member of the group to explore their fellow participants’ mindsets.
 

Politics in comics 

It is the starting point for The Panel Is Political, a discussion on how to use comic books for social change, at Another Story Bookshop in Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood.
 
The discussion is also led by Seemi Jamil, a youth group coordinator at the Afghan Women’s Organization in Mississauga, and Nicole Marie Burton, a comic book illustrator and founder and co-owner of Ad Astra Comix – North America’s first publisher dedicated to comics about social justice themes. 

“They are interested in talking about what it is like to be low-income in Canada but also assimilated within society.”

 
Jamil and Burton worked together early this year to develop a youth program that teaches immigrant and activist youth to draw and express their feelings. The program involved one-and-a-half hour sessions, held once a week for eight weeks. 

“Nicole [Burton] comes by and does workshops with the youth groups and teaches them how to do graphic-novel style storytelling,” Jamil explains. 

“We wrote a paragraph about a challenge we had to deal with in anonymity,” begins Burton, describing one of the group’s activities. She says the written paragraphs were ripped into pieces, folded, and mixed in a hat. 

“Everybody drew out a story and had to tell it in a comic form,” she adds. “It was incredible to me how much could have been done with that,” says Burton about the activity.

Other activities focused on character design, practising different dimensions and shapes, and drawing about current events. She adds that there never seemed to be enough time in each session to meet the youth’s high level of interest in each activity. 

Graphic novels, Jamil says, not only help immigrant and refugee youth to understand, but to be able to learn how to tell their own story.

Visual storytelling
 
“I was trying to get low-income youth groups to have some art form where they can talk about their own stories,” Jamil says. “They are interested in talking about what it is like to be low-income in Canada but also assimilated within society.”
 
An example of a political comic book that helps youth understand global events, says Jamil, is Persepolis – a graphic novel about the revolution in Iran.

“We’ve seen a large trend in youth groups trying to express themselves through different art forms as opposed to just writing,” she continues.
 

She says the program’s young female participants are of Afghani and Pakistani descent, and that the workshops focus on minority voices, people of colour, women of colour, and political situations all over the world.  

Graphic novels, Jamil says, not only help immigrant and refugee youth to understand, but also to be able to learn how to tell, their own story. She stresses that for marginalized groups who do not have the same vocabulary or English proficiency as other Canadians, art can help them understand and share ideas. 

Political comics gaining momentum 

Burton started Ad Astra Comix in 2013 in Toronto. She says she is passionate about social justice and wants to see more political comics that touch on topics such as sexism, racism, colonialism, homophobia and transphobia. 

[Khan] says white comic book artists often portray South Asian women stereotypically.

Ad Astra Comix not only publishes, but also creates its own graphic novels, including its first full-length graphic novel Drawing the Line: Indian Women Fight Back, a collection of stories by Indian women about topics including harassment, race, class and political struggle. 

Khan, the inaugural Sexual Violence Support and Education Coordinator at Ryerson University, has more than a decade of experience speaking about violence against women. 
 
As a trauma counsellor, she has led several educational programs, including comic book projects, to help women express their feelings and fears through drawing. 
 
In 2012, Khan put together a program to run a comic book workshop specifically for South Asian women. She says white comic book artists often portray South Asian women stereotypically.
 

The project resulted in a comic book called Heartbeats: The IZZAT Project, featuring stories and illustrations by South Asian women about violence and resilience in their lives.

The book was chosen by the Tahirih Justice Centre to be part of a tour to raise awareness about forced marriage in the United States. 

One of the stories the book features, titled “Cage,” resulted in the escape of one of the program’s participants from her abusive family. Khan says the young woman was able to find help at a women’s shelter two cities away from her home during the project.


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

MORE than 323,000 children from low-income families are getting free dental care through the new Healthy Smiles Ontario program. Under the expanded program, Ontario is providing free dental care to help families raise healthier kids. Children from low-income families can access free preventive, routine, emergency and essential care from licensed dental providers.

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Published in Health

by Shan Qiao in Toronto 

A campaign to collect books and other resources to enhance educational opportunities for black children in Toronto is gaining support, while the Black Lives Matter Toronto continues to challenge anti-Black racism in the city. 

A book drive took place recently at A Different Booklist, an independent bookstore in Toronto. It encouraged people to purchase books and donate them to Black Lives Matter Freedom School, a summer program focused on teaching black children aged four to 10 about black liberation history. 

“[Children of African descent] do not get exposed enough, if at all, to the history of blacks in Canada or North America and around the world during the regular school year,” said Natasha Henry, an elementary school teacher and author. “The book drive is a way to engage them in their learning, contributing to the community, and really empowering them with knowledge that will help them to continue their education, whether at school or in the community.” 

Movement targets education, police 

“We’re fighting for justice, freedom and dignity for all black people.”

LeRoi Newbold, a director of Black Lives Matter Toronto and the organizer of the book drive, said the black community should have control over what black children are learning, independently from school boards. 

“In Toronto, 40 per cent of black children did not graduate from high school,” said Newbold. While that number has decreased recently, black students still experience high suspension rates and low graduation rates. 

“It’s alarming and unacceptable,” said Newbold. “We’re not waiting for that system to change. We’re creating our own schools, our own institutions.” 

Black Lives Matter Toronto is also collecting resources for the school through an online Indiegogo fundraising campaign. To date, the campaign has raised $10,361. 

Not far from the upbeat book drive that had a few dozen people packed into the tiny single-unit bookstore, Black Lives Matter Toronto protested for the seventh day in-a-row outside Toronto Police Service headquarters to draw attention to anti-black racism in the city.

The demonstrations began in part to protest the Special Investigations Unit’s decision not to lay charges against a Toronto officer who fatally shot 45-year-old Sudanese immigrant Andrew Loku. The group also announced a lawsuit against the Toronto Police Service for allegedly raiding and searching the home of Jean Montaque, a black mother, without warrant. 

“We’re fighting for justice, freedom and dignity for all black people, and the right for black people to not experience violence [at] the hands of the police force,” Newbold said of the protest. 

Teaching the history of black activism 

[Block quote: sharing a pioneering black activist’s accomplishments and legacy show how the struggling for freedom has evolved over time.] 

Henry was one of the presenters at the book drive, held on Mar 24. She wrote Firsts and African Diaspora as part a 15-book series on black heritage in Canada and around the world. 

“Often of times, historians are very interested in the past, yet young people will say ‘What does that have to do with us today?’” Henry told the crowd. “So it’s very important that we provide the historical context, but mix it with what is going on today in our communities and around the world.” 

In Firsts, Henry focuses on many “firsts” in the African-Canadian community and other African diaspora communities. The cover features an image of Michaëlle Jean, the first black person to serve as Governor General of Canada. 

“When we’re looking at the markers of ‘the first’ African descent, it gets us to think critically about why some of these ‘firsts’ are just happening in the 21st century, despite the fact that Africans have been in Canada since the 16th century,” Henry said. She described how the stories of “firsts” began a legacy of anti-black racism and how that is manifesting itself today. 

“Whether it is over-policing, police brutality, the unemployment rate of young black people – which is much higher than the general population – student dropout rates… these are all a legacy of how black people have been marginalized,” she says. 

“What happens to one group affects all of us in different ways.”

Henry read a part from the book about Viola Desmond, who was a black businesswoman born and raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia. In the 1940s, Desmond fought for her right to sit on the main floor of a movie theatre after being told it was reserved solely for white patrons. Henry stressed that sharing a pioneering black activist’s accomplishments and legacy show how the struggle for freedom has evolved over time. 

Community’s struggles not isolated 

Another presenter, Nadia Hohn, demonstrated traditional African songs and dances during the book drive. Born to Jamaican parents, she is now an elementary school teacher and author and uses traditional music as a teaching tool for kindergarten children. 

“We want our freedom and to live in dignity,” she sang to the crowd, holding one wrist with the other hand, then taking them apart to demonstrate freedom. 

“There are many different groups in Canada that have experienced different degrees of discrimination,” Hohn said. “What happens to one group affects all of us in different ways. It might not be a direct impact, but it has ripple effects on others.” 

Similarly, improvements in one community also have a positive impact on others, she added.


 

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

Bhagat Singh was, is, and will remain a great hero for the masses. Today we really need to awaken the consciousness of our people, particularly the youth, because consumer culture has consumed their consciousness. It has made their lives one-sided. This has weakened their consciousness and has made their material aspect dominant. Bhagat Singh was really an awakened person.

The Link

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Published in International

PV Staff
A state House Communications Unit report states that various projects have been designed by the government to provide job opportunities for young people as well as improve their livelihoods in riverine and coastal fishing communities.
The report, dated Thursday February 25 ,added that President Ernest Bai Koroma officially launched the Youth in Fishing project and the Revised National Youth Policy 2014 at the Tambercular Wharf in Aberdeen, west of Freetown the capital on (...)

- Salone News

The Patriotic Vangaurd

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Published in Africa

by Daniel Leon Rodriguez in Calgary

Jose Duque, an immigrant from Venezuela, is using music to keep children in band practice and out of trouble on the streets.

In his native country, Duque participated in the El Sistema program, for over 16 years as an orchestra player, music teacher, and later, as a regional co-ordinator.

The program, which is run in countries around the world, gives children from diverse backgrounds a safe and fun place that fosters discipline, increased self-esteem and a sense of community.

When Duque immigrated to Calgary 10 years ago, he thought there were no children living in poverty in the city.

“I thought Canada was paradise,” says Duque, adding he imagined no one in Calgary would need a program like El Sistema.

Duque soon started to see the cracks in his new homeland.

The opportunity to dream

However, Duque soon started to see the cracks in his new homeland – Canada wasn’t the perfect paradise he imagined.

At Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, he met many low-income families who had difficulties keeping their children away from drugs, gangs and isolation.

“I wanted to offer disadvantaged children the opportunity to dream,” says Duque.

That is why five years ago, he decided to start a free after school music program at the church.

Now, with the support of International Avenue Arts and Culture Centre (IAACC), Duque’s small initiative has grown into the Calgary Multicultural Orchestra (CMO) – a full-time program with three professors and 60 students based on the El Sistema program model.

The program operates in Calgary's Forest Lawn area, which has double the percentage of low-income households than the rest of the city, according to Statistics Canada. IAACC funding provides children with free musical instruments and music lessons every weekday from 4 to 6 p.m.

Jose Antonio Abreu, founder of El Sistema youth orchestra system in Venezuela, shares the story behind the program.

Diverting children and youth from the streets

Duque says CMO will create positive outcomes similar to other El Sistema projects around the world – a decrease in juvenile crime and school drop-out rates. However, to achieve his dream he requires more participation from the community.

“Some people believe that orchestral music is something exclusive, but it isn't true.”

“If we could get 1,000 children from Forest Lawn and other communities in the northeast we could create a real change,” says Duque. 

According to a study by the Inter American Development Bank for every dollar invested in the El Sistema program in Venezuela, it reaped about $1.68 in social dividends – with benefits such as a decline in juvenile delinquency and improvement in school attendance.

The biggest rate of juvenile delinquency occurs between 4 and 7 p.m., explains Duque, which is the timeframe when children spend more time alone after school and before their parents return from work in the evening.

“We are giving a space to these kids to do something special,” he says. “We are taking them away from the streets, the drugs and the gangs.”

Putting a focus on inclusivity and tolerance

Amédée Waters, program administrator for the CMO, says the program aims to bring together children from all incomes, races and religions. 

“The idea is to create a sense of inclusivity, tolerance and community,” says Waters. “Some people believe that orchestral music is something exclusive, but it isn't true.” 

"[T]he program makes children and parents focus on what we have in common instead of what makes us different.”

Mark Lobnowcs, whose 11-year-old child participates in the CMO, agrees that the program creates more tolerance. 

“I think it is marvellous that the program makes children and parents focus on what we have in common instead of what makes us different,” says Lobnowcs.

He also says the program is a great opportunity to learn music from top professional musicians. “It is amazing that someone with Jose’s qualifications is doing something like this for free.”

Hikmat Kafi, whose seven-year-old daughter has been with the CMO for over two years, says that the program has helped her daughter to open up to other children.

Kafi arrived to Canada from North Sudan 10 years ago. She says that her daughter’s participation in the CMO has had a positive influence on her two brothers. “If you see your child happy, then all the family is happy too,” she shares.

The program costs IAACC over $2,300 per child per year, and funding can be an issue, according to Waters.

Right now the program has a waiting list of over 30 children, but it doesn’t have the funds to pay for teachers and instruments.

“It is always a struggle to find the funds,” says Waters. As a result, the program is always looking for volunteers and used musical instruments.

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 Rosanna Haroutounian in Quebec City

Quebec’s relationship with religion must be considered in local efforts to prevent radicalization, say experts. 

“Public displays of religion or publicly practising religion are seen as not part of what Quebec is about,” says Amarnath Amarasingam, a post-doctoral fellow from The Resilience Research Centre at Dalhousie University. 

He explains that this secularism impacts Muslims in a particular way, especially those who are “openly Muslim,” such as women who wear hijabs or men who wear traditional clothing. 

The need for Quebec to confront Islamophobia was the focus of an op-ed piece Amarasingam co-authored in December with researcher Hicham Tiflati in The Toronto Star. 

Amarasingam says anti-Muslim sentiments, especially against youth, can lead to critiques of the West like those propagated by terrorist organizations. 

“Simple things, like not being able to have a Muslim students association or discrimination at the campus-level get amplified and tied into broader ISIS propaganda which says, ‘You as Muslims will never be included in the West,’” he says. 

Many Quebec readers accused the authors of “Quebec bashing” in the op-ed and Tiflati was subsequently dismissed from his position at the Centre for Prevention of Radicalization Leading to Violence in Montreal. 

TIflati says he was surprised by the centre’s response, but that there were other events that precipitated the dismissal like when he was labelled an ‘Islamist’ in November by the website Poste de Veille. 

“The way religion is looked at is a bit different from how religion is transformed and interpreted in the rest of North America.”

The op-ed piece added to the social pressure the centre felt around Tiflati’s employment, he explains, adding that the decision for him to leave was somewhat mutual. 

Tiflati admits that because the centre is semi-public, adding his name to the op-ed made it appear as though the organization supported the same views. 

Despite this, he says he does not regret writing the article and is worried about the implications it poses for academics who want to share their research. 

"I was trying to project how youth feel in Quebec,” explains Tiflati. “The way religion is looked at is a bit different from how religion is transformed and interpreted in the rest of North America.” 

He says this was the conclusion of a 2008 report issued by the Bouchard-Taylor commission, which examined the impact of religious accommodation on Quebec's identity and values. 

Quebec’s unique position

“There is a unique history in Quebec in relation to secularism,” says Rachel Brown, a PhD candidate at Wilfred Laurier University and visiting research fellow for the Centre of Studies in Religion and Society at the University of Victoria. 

Islamophobia tends to ebb and flow in Quebec.

“We can’t take away the history of Quebec and the Quiet Revolution, and how that would affect Islamophobia in that context, which is unique and distinct form the rest of Canada.” 

She adds that the Quiet Revolution, a period in the 1960s during which the government took control of sectors like health care and education away from the Catholic church, is fairly recent and that many people in Quebec remember the struggle to separate state and religion. 

She explains that Islamophobia tends to ebb and flow in Quebec. Periods of tension are marked by events like the proposed Charter of Values and the attacks in Paris in November. 

“The article could have been contextualized a bit more,” says Brown, adding the authors should have stressed that Islamophobia is not only a problem in Quebec, but that Quebec’s experience with it is unique. 

“The article was meant to engender trust in the Muslim community, to look at the centre as an ally, but the response supported [the community’s] suspicion,” says Amarasingam. 

He says Muslims feel distrustful towards the centre because of its community surveillance aspect. He says many people call the centre with complaints about things not related to radicalization, such as their neighbours praying next door. 

The Centre for the Prevention of Radicalization Leading to Violence did not respond to requests for comment. 

Prevention needs multi-pronged approach 

Jocelyn Bélanger, a former professor at the Université du Québec à Montréal who now teaches at New York University Abu Dhabi, agrees that Islamophobia is not unique to Quebec, but a Western problem caused by global conflicts and the media’s response to them.

“Some Muslims, rightfully so, feel excluded from society or prejudiced against and alienated."

“Radical groups target innocent civilians so people develop an animosity to the Muslim community,” he says “Some Muslims, rightfully so, feel excluded from society or prejudiced against and alienated and as a result the narrative of oppression of Daesh or the Islamic State resonates more profoundly with them.” 

Bélanger helped with the launch of the centre in 2015 and created a toolkit that sheds light on myths of radicalization and de-radicalization, and what the public can do. 

“Raising awareness through education is a key element because research indicates that in terms of homegrown terror, about 60 per cent of cases can be detected by family, peers or friends,” he says. 

Tiflati says intercultural dialogue between youth can help prevent Islamophobia and radicalization, while Amarasingam adds community-based, grassroots programs like those for gang prevention and intervention can give youth a sense of belonging. 

"In terms of preventing radicalization, we shouldn't just put everyone in the same basket,” says Tiflati. “It is treated case by case.”

 

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

 

Published in Top Stories
Sunday, 04 October 2015 16:20

Getting Out the Racialized Youth Vote

by Shan Qiao in Scarborough, Ontario
 
Voter turn out is traditionally low amongst racialized youth.

It is with this in mind that the Council of Agencies Serving South Asians (CASSA) gathered dozens of youth from the Malvern community to have their voice heard alongside two local political candidates running for MP of Scarborough North.

Liberal candidate Shaun Chen, formerly an area school board trustee, and NDP candidate Rathika Sitsabaiesan, elected MP of Scarborough-Rough River in 2011, were in attendance at the event, held this past week at the Taibu community health centre.

Several young people from the local community were invited to the forum to speak with their peers on getting engaged with the 2015 election. 

Hibah Sidat, a 26-year-old, long-time Malvern resident of South Asian descent, who studied political science and worked a government job in the past, was one of them.

Sidat told the crowd that jobs are a major concern for young people in the neighbourhood.

“[The] youth unemployment rate is at an all-time high in Canada, and even worse in Ontario,” said Sidat. “And [it is] further worse in a community like Malvern that is so impoverished and has a uniquely high proportion of children and youth.”

Neighbourhood demographics

This election will be the first time the Malvern community has been split in half, with residents living west of Neilson Road voting in the Scarborough North riding, and those east of it voting in Scarborough-Rouge Park.

New Canadians make up 61 per cent of the population and four out of five residents are visible minorities.

With over 60 different cultures represented in Malvern, it is considered to be one of the most culturally diverse areas in Canada. New Canadians make up 61 per cent of the population and four out of five residents are visible minorities.  

In the past the City of Toronto had designated Malvern a Neighbourhood Improvement Area, based on factors like health, economics, political participation and education; however, in 2014 it was no longer considered to be a ‘priority neighbourhood’, a decision which some residents felt was premature.

Challenges getting to the polls 

Voter turnout in the former Scarborough-Rouge River riding, which Malvern was a part of, has been historically low. It ranked second lowest of all Ontario ridings during the 2008 federal election.

“The South Asian population generally is from countries that are originally very heavily involved in politics like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka,” explains Neethan Shan, executive director of CASSA. “We have high turnouts and are very engaged in political rallies, so politics is not a new thing.”

That said, Shan does point out reasons why South Asian residents in Malvern may not be getting to the polls.

"[M]any families have been struggling to make ends meet ... They feel like everything is okay with the politics and they don’t have to worry about it.”

“The only issue here is that the electoral system hasn’t engaged in diverse populations,” Shan explains.

“The other reason is that many families have been struggling to make ends meet. They have many priorities at home with respect to jobs, children’s education, etc. They feel like everything is okay with the politics and they don’t have to worry about it.”

Generally, Shan explains, the South Asian community is concerned about job related issues such as employment and foreign credential recognition, as well as immigration policies including refugee settlement, restrictions on family reunification and citizenship.

Shan says another issue within Malvern’s South Asian community is the racial profiling of Muslims, Tamils and Sikhs, an issue members of the neighbourhood’s large African-Caribbean Canadian population have had to grapple with for many years.  

The power of ethnic voters

Abal (who did not wish to provide her last name), a volunteer from The Canadian Muslim Vote, a national, non-profit, non-partisan organization aimed at increasing Canadian Muslims’ participation in the democratic process, was in attendance at the event.

She says that according to the organization in the 2011 federal election, 21 ridings in Ontario with significant Muslim populations were won by very narrow margins.

“[Muslims] don’t know enough about the voting system, or they don’t know enough to decide whom to vote for.”

Over half a million Muslims live in Ontario and over 400,000 call the Greater Toronto Area home. There are more than one million Muslims living across Canada, and according to the PEW Forum, by 2030 that number is expected to triple.

Still, Canadian Muslims are among the least politically engaged. Consequently, Muslims have less of a voice within Canada’s democratic institutions. 

“[Muslims] don’t know enough about the voting system,” says Abal, citing findings from an online survey her organization conducted, “or they don’t know enough to decide whom to vote for.”

Shan, who arrived in Canada 20 years ago as a refugee from Sri Lanka of Tamil heritage, would like to see a more accessible electoral system to help alleviate the challenges Abal speaks to.

He is calling for investments to be made to reach out to a variety of ethnic and racialized communities across Canada, particularly in different languages.

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
Page 1 of 5

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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