By: Sam Minassie in Toronto
Curtis Carmichael has set out to do what many could only dream of. Following in the footsteps of Canadian legends like Terry Fox, the young Toronto native will travel across the country to fund-raise. Riding his bicycle across 30 legs, the 3,300 km he will cover from Vancouver to Halifax is a tall task by any measure.
Knowing he needed to create a platform, he looked for a unique way to spark a nationwide conversation. After careful deliberation with a local non-profit, Urban Promise, they decided on a 5-week tour that would see him stopping in 50 different cities.
Carmichael himself grew up in Toronto Community Housing and has been a resident for over 20 years. It didn’t take long for him to notice some of the unique disadvantages that stemmed from stereotypes and associated stigmas.
“You are treated differently your whole life by teachers, police, employers, etc. You are told you are not as capable of being as successful as others who are not a minority or from a government housing area,” he says. “You watch the news and only see that government housing communities are viewed as dangerous, unsafe, and full of ‘Thugs’ and ‘bad people’.”
Media coverage that focuses more heavily on the negative aspects of the area, often overlooks many of the vibrant community building initiatives that take place. And with a resident majority that does not fall within the scope that is so widely portrayed, the resulting prejudices create additional hurdles that can be difficult to overcome.
“There is gun violence and drugs in some of these kinds of areas but there is much more to these communities than what is seen on the news,” Carmichael explains. “ [But] often not in the news is the joy and life that exists within people in these areas, the great successes of individuals and the strength in vibrant faith communities.”
Urban Promise Toronto creates a support structure similar to an extended family for youth between the ages of 5-25. The Christian organization holds after-school programs, summer camps, life groups and other engaging activities. They help many children from single parent and immigrant households who may not always have access to the same resources as other Canadians.
Youth are developed into leaders and encouraged to give back to their communities. Urban Promise is proud to say that a number of today’s counselors began as program participants within their adolescence. These individuals have grown to accept mentorship roles that allow them to impart their experiences on younger generations.
The product of Guyanese immigrants, Carmichael, has been a member since he was 8. From a young age, he developed a personal relationship with Camp Counselor, Julius Naredo, who he says was a “father-like figure” that helped mold him into the man he is today.
“The major thing Urban Promise did for me was give me an opportunity to develop as a leader and give back to my community,” he points out.
For Carmichael, the list of awards and accomplishments only continues to grow. The former high school valedictorian is now a Queen’s University graduate and Russ Jackson Award recipient. He is currently working as a classroom assistant and is on his way to a teaching diploma. Humble as always, he attributes a lot of his own success to the impact Urban Promise has had on his life. He hopes that others will see him as an example of the potential so many children possess.
The “Ride for Promise” campaign aims to spread awareness on the positive initiatives that are being put in place for youth in marginalized communities. He is looking to inspire change by challenging many of the biases associated with government housing. An initial goal has been set at $150,000 and donations will be accepted on the Urban Promise site.
By: Ted Alcuitas in Vancouver, BC
The saga of Toronto’s ‘Balita’ newspaper and its publisher Teresita ‘Tess’ Cusipag, is a sober reminder that there are limits to free speech.
Cusipag has just been released from jail (June 25, 2017) after serving 13 days of a 21-day sentence for criminal contempt of court arising from the libel case filed against the paper by Senator Tobias Enverga, Jr.
In his decision to impose a permanent injunction against Cusipag et al, Justice Lederman, J. of the Ontario Superior Court acknowledged that a permanent injunction was ‘rare” but that in this particular case he found it to be in order.
“…. Here, there is an ongoing concern that the defendants will continue to publish defamatory statements about Senator Enverga. They have engaged in a persistent campaign to injure Senator Enverga and ruin his reputation and have done so with malice. They have refused to apologize and they have given no indication that they are prepared to stop their irresponsible defamatory attacks. In these circumstances, a permanent injunction will go enjoining the defendants directly or indirectly, from publishing and/or broadcasting, or encouraging or assisting others to publish or broadcast any statements, in any manner whatsoever which in their plain or ordinary meaning or by innuendo suggest: (emphasis ours)
(1) In relation to fundraising activities for KCCC in 2001, Senator Enverga committed criminal fraud;
(2) That by virtue of Senator Enverga’s involvement in fundraising activities for KCCC in 2001 and by virtue of his statements in relation to the charitable status of PCCF, he is a pathological or biological liar.”
This has been a long simmering case between Cusipag and Senator Enverga, the first and only senator of Filipino heritage who was appointed to the Senate in 2012 by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Although Enverga complained of an article published by Balita in its Feb- 1-15, 2014 issue, the enmity between the two protagonists started long before that in 2001.
Cusipag has alleged that Senator Enverga was fraudulent in not accounting for $6,000 raised through the activities of the Philippine Independence Day Celebration (PIDC). In addition, Cusipag also alleged that the PIDC was not a registered charity under the laws of Canada contrary to claims by Enverga that it was.
As background, it must be pointed that Tess Cusipag runs and has been running her own Miss Manila beauty pageant and claims that her event raises more money than PIDC run by Rosemer Enverga, the wife of Senator Enverga.
The controversy that arose because of the rivalry between these two groups have escalated into a rift that fractured the Filipino community in Toronto.
A virtual media war erupted in Toronto where the country’s largest Filipino population resides with claims and counter-claims abound.
It has spawned an anonymous group – Toronto Balita Boycott whose aim is to encourage businesses not to advertise in Balita.
Former lawyer and blogger Joe Rivera (An Uncomplicated Mind) traced the history of the controversy and lamented the insidious impact in his blog, ‘A Community Struggles for Civility’ on February 7, 2013.
Rivera squarely laid the blame on the writings of Romeo Marquez, who is a co-defendant in the defamation case.
Here is how Rivera puts it:
“But the arrival of Romeo Marquez, Tess Balita’s Associate Editor and a former San Diego journalist, has added fuel in the already-raging controversy, particularly with the kind of incendiary language he employs in his articles. It is the same modus operandi that Marquez followed in his newspapering stint in the US that he is now replicating here in Toronto. The trail of controversies he has left behind—his quarrels with various Filipinos, community leaders or otherwise, and videos on YouTube—speaks for the kind of journalism that Balita is currently espousing.”
“….As a newspaper, Balita should understand that it is the freedom of the press that makes it a powerful and significant pillar in the community. It should not take this freedom and power lightly— that it can outrightly censure, silence or even bully its critics anytime it’s not happy with complaints from groups in the community about their news reporting.”
Balita and Cusipag has been slapped with a $250,000 of general, aggravated and punitive damages plus $90,000 in legal costs.
This does not include her own legal costs in the long drawn-out legal battle.
The award is one of the largest in the history of Canadian libel awards.
In his paper, ‘Defamation and Damages’ published in October 2011, David Gooderham found that large awards are rare in the country.
Cusipag appealed the quantum of the award but lost.
She is still facing a host of other libel cases that are asking for millions of dollars in damages.
It is not certain whether the paper can survive the financial troubles it is facing.
But Cusipag vows to soldier on.
We wish her well but cannot resist an unsolicited advice.
The pen is mightier than the sword but if it ruins people’s lives without evidence that can stand up in court, journalists have a responsibility to wield that sword carefully.
Ted Alcuitas is Publisher and Editor of Philippine Canadian News, an online news outlet that links the Filipino Canadian diaspora. This article was republished by arrangement.
by Amanda Connolly in Ottawa
Two French counter-terrorism judges have issued, for the sixth time, a release order in the case of extradited Canadian Hassan Diab, being held in France in connection with a deadly bomb attack in Paris. And once again, his supporters in Canada are calling on the Liberal government to demand his return.
Diab, a former University of Ottawa sociology professor, was extradited to France in 2014 on charges of first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and destruction of property with an explosive or incendiary substance in connection with a 1980 synagogue bombing in Paris that killed four people.
Initially arrested in 2008, Diab has consistently maintained his innocence and has argued that he was in Lebanon at the time of the attack. French prosecutors say he built and placed the bomb used in the attack.
French judges have six times ordered Diab released on pre-trial bail since May 2016. The two who issued the release order on Monday agreed with Diab’s defence team that there is “consistent evidence” he was not in France at the time of the bombing.
Each time, the French Court of Appeal has overturned the release orders. The latest order is being appealed by the prosecutor on the case.
“Dr. Diab’s continued incarceration is wholly and manifestly unjust,” said Don Bayne, who represents Diab’s case in Canada, in a media release Tuesday. “It is past time for this government to come to the aid of a Canadian citizen, to end this travesty of justice, to bring him home. Prime Minister Trudeau, Minister Freeland, where are you when an innocent Canadian needs you?”
The case has raised questions over the years because French police have relied on secret information, as well as handwriting analysis that experts have repeatedly suggested is not reliable.
Even before Diab was extradited, the Ontario Superior Court judge who heard his challenge said that the evidence presented by French police was “illogical,” “very problematic” and “convoluted,” but that — based on the Canadian threshold for extradition — there was no option but to hand Diab over.
The Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear his appeal shortly before Diab was extradited.
Supporters of Diab last month launched a petition asking the government to “work towards the immediate granting of bail to [Diab] and securing his urgent return to his family and home in Canada.”
So far, 1,333 Canadians have signed the petition, which meets the threshold to force the government to issue an official response.
However, Canada does not use the U.K. model, which forces a parliamentary debate if an e-petition gathers more than 100,000 signatures.
By arrangement with iPolitics.ca
by Janice Dickson in Ottawa
Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch’s campaign says she did not know Ron Banjaree, an anti-Muslim advocate, or the organization Rise Canada would be at the event she attended Monday evening in Brampton.
“Kellie did not know this person or this organization would be there. Had she known she would not have attended,” Leitch’s campaign spokesman Michael Diamond told iPolitics in an email.
Diamond said Leitch attended a meeting organized by an organization called “Keep Religion Out of Public Schools” in support of secular and pluralistic public schools.
“Kellie does not believe that this long standing Canadian practice should be changed to accommodate one group. Other individuals and groups attended this meeting, there was no guest list sent to Kellie prior to the event. This meeting was about the place of religion in public schools,” wrote Diamond.
Leitch did address the anti-Muslim group, though, and the money raised at the event was to go toward fighting the construction of a mosque in Brampton.
Banjaree, director of Canadian Hindu Advocacy and an advisor to Rise Canada, spoke to the audience awaiting Leitch’s arrival on Monday. In a video of his address posted to YouTube — posted below — Banjaree says Rise Canada is connected to different groups, including the Jewish Defence League of Canada, the United Christian Federation and other groups he describes as “fighting the Sharia creep.”
He tells the audience that, five years ago, the group didn’t exist, but with the help of mostly Christian groups it was able to do a series of “large scale demonstrations regarding prayers, Islamic prayers, in Toronto District School Board public schools, specifically it was Valley Park School.”
“At the time they had taken over the cafeteria for school prayers. They’re still doing it, by the way,” he tells the group. He goes on to claim that those organizing the prayers have made female students sit behind the boys and in some cases have excluded them from prayers altogether.
A Caucasian man in the audience pipes up at this point: “Sometimes they do panty checks. It’s disgusting.”
Diamond wrote that the meeting was attended by “a number of people from a number of different groups, including people from Rise Canada. That is clear.
“It is also clear that Kellie was not at the event while a representative from Rise Canada was speaking.”
Banjaree recently attended a Toronto school board meeting on religious accommodation where someone ripped up a copy of the Qur’an. At that board meeting, someone else was distributing flyers from Rise Canada which called for the elimination all policies of ‘religious accommodation’ in schools.
On the recording, Banjaree welcomes Leitch as she slowly makes her way to the podium, stopping along the way to shake hands with Banjaree’s supporters.
Leitch takes questions from the audience, but it appears only one — from Banjaree — was captured on video.
Banjaree claims that India has the best human rights record in the world and should be considered a “safe country” for migration, like Canada, the United States and many countries in Europe. He says that there have been problems with people from India claiming refugee status in Canada and people involved in the 1985 Air India bombing were able to claim refugee status in Canada.
Banjaree asks Leitch to look into why India is not considered a “safe country”; she says she will.
Diamond said that while Leitch responded a question from the floor, “she did not know this person or this organization would be there. Had she known she would not have attended.
“She wants to be very clear that this guy and his opinions are repugnant and do not reflect her own views.”
Diamond said Leitch is supportive of secular and pluralistic public schools. She is committed to building a country that promotes the shared values of hard work, generosity, freedom, tolerance, equality of opportunity and equality of individuals. “That includes the freedom to practice your religion and the responsibility to be tolerant of other people’s religion.”
A blog called Anti-Racist Canada posted an exhaustive list of links to reports of controversial activity by Banjaree, including the video from the event Leitch attended with him on Monday.
At the end of the video, an attendee says that former Mississauga mayoral candidate Kevin Johnston collected $244 from supporters at the event that will go toward fighting the construction of a mosque that was recently approved by Mississauga City Council.
In early March, city council gave the Meadowvale Islamic Centre Inc. and the City of Mississauga a green light to move forward with the development of the mosque.
Johnston reportedly expressed his concerns about the mosque on his website, “Stop the Mosque”. According to Mississauga.com, Johnston wrote on his website that the mosque would drive up crime and vandalism, set back women’s rights and affect housing prices.
Some Tory leadership contenders came under fire for giving interviews to Johnston on his YouTube channel, FreedomReport.ca.
In one of his video rants, he warns Liberal MP Iqra Khalid, author of motion 103 condemning Islamophobia, that he’ll be there “with a big, fat smile” to film the moment when she’s shot by a “gun nut.”
Published in partnership with iPolitics.ca.
by Ashoke Dasgupta in Winnipeg
The Islamic Social Services Association recently organized a conference on the theme of “At the Heart of Human Rights is Human Dignity” in Winnipeg.
It was attended by about 180 people, including many important speakers, but there was no local media coverage in the mainstream.
Andrew J. McLean, medical director of the North Dakota Department of Human Services and Chair of the Psychiatry Department at the N. Dakota School of Medicine, spoke on “Community Resilience and the Concept of the ‘Other.’”
He pointed out some unhealthy aspects of “otherization”: they are of less value; they are different from “me” and “us;” their differences are to be belittled; they are seen as “abject.”
“To work with another, you have to be able to admire something about them, even if you don’t like them,” said McLean.
The Rev. Dr. Loraine MacKenzie Shepherd, a United Church Minister, spoke on “Beyond Our Comfort Zone: the LGBTQ Community, Hopes, Challenges, Collaborations and the Right to Dignity,” pointing out that hate groups lump “undesirables” together: “A part of the brain lights up when we see another, but not if we ‘otherize’ them.”
Everyone has prejudices
“We all have xenophobia to some degree,” said Shepherd. “But we must learn to be in solidarity with one another. Openness and courage are necessary to build relations and trust across communities that usually distrust one another.”
The event featured several “Conversation Cafes". One pointed out that prejudice may be positive or negative. Love is a positive prejudice which blinds us to the beloved’s negative qualities. Hate is the opposite.
The world is too complex for individuals to analyze each individual or phenomenon individually, and we don’t usually have the time. Consequently we fall back on our past experiences to make quick decisions.
For example, one may glance at the colour of the sky before leaving home and decide to carry one’s umbrella because that sort of sky often signals rain in our experience. One may then carry an umbrella all day, yet it may not rain; but if we ignore our past experiences, we deprive them of meaning.
We may have had negative (or positive) experiences justifying our pre-judgements, but should not fail to revise them when confronted with evidence to the contrary, concluded the participant.
Indifference and Silence are Threats
The Emcee, retired CBC Radio Host Terry MacLeod, welcomed Danny Smyth, Chief of the Winnipeg Police Service, and Scott Kolody, RCMP Assistant Commissioner, on the second day. In his address, Smyth said, “Women in our community will be a big part of the solutions.”
MacLeod called Shahina Siddiqui, Executive Director of the Islamic Social Services Association, “the godmother of everything that happened here,” and Kolody called her a leader.
Their greetings were followed by a heartfelt video message from Marie-Claude Landry, Chief Commissioner, Canadian Human Rights Commission. “Indifference and silence are threats,” she said.
A participant asked MacLeod why there were so few media people of colour in the mainstream. He replied that rectifying it was now a major project at CBC.
Another asked the lawmen what was being done about the over 100 extremist groups like “Soldiers of Odin” in Canada. The “Soldiers” even have a Facebook page. The policemen replied that they were networking and exchanging information.
Haroon Siddiqui, an Editor Emeritus of the Toronto Star, then spoke on Islamophobia.
“(U.S. President Donald) Trump is doing what he said he’d do,” said Siddiqui: “And the Trump phenomenon has already happened here. Dozens of mosques have been vandalized, and Muslims assaulted. The alleged killer in Quebec was a Trump fan. We need to stand in solidarity with one another. Muslims can’t be maligned any more than they already have been. The ‘alt-right’ is code for white supremacists; indifference and inaction imply complicity with the victimisers.”
"Though Muslims aren't interned, they feel a psychological internment."
“The only crime of Canadians refused entry to the U.S. was that they weren’t white,” continued Siddiqui.
"Trump is similar to (former Canadian prime minister) Stephen Harper. Both elicited white support from their electoral bases. Once it was rumoured that Jews were taking over the world; now it’s Muslims. People talk of women’s status in Islam, but Muslim women are being spat on and shoved by North Americans.
"Have those who say the Koran says to kill infidels ever read the Old Testament? Wars call for propaganda, but one can’t separate Muslims there from Muslims here. When we demonize one, we demonize the other.”
Shahina Siddiqui thanked the funders at the end: Canadian Heritage, Sargent Blue Jeans, and The Winnipeg Foundation.
Ashoke Dasgupta is a Winnipeg-based journalist who has won three awards in Canada and Nepal.
This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to email@example.com
This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
-- Canada's economic development minister Navdeep Bains at a Public Policy Forum economic summit