By: Devanshu Narang in Toronto, ON
If I was Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, I would not forgive Indian politicians and the country's media for a long time. Perhaps Mr. Trudeau will forgive, but as a Canadian with Indian roots, I definitely will not. Ever.
But mark my words, Trudeau's India visit will turn out to be a long-term relationship disaster for India and not for Canada. As an honest, liberal, positive and a truly warm Canadian, the prime minister does not need to re-invent himself. On the other hand, Indians could do some re-thinking themselves.
True, Mr. Trudeau went overboard, as he sometimes does. Those heavily embroidered and garish Indian tops called 'Kurtas' were an eyesore even to most Indians. We never wear such fancy attire, except special occasions when it is considered chic to have an "Indian look". Perhaps he was either misguided by his coterie of South Asians who love their Bollywood movies or by the huge applause he gets when he wears such costumes at cultural events in Canada. After all, it is a pleasure for the South Asians to see a white leader wear ethnic attire and dance to Indian tunes. Here in Canada it is genuinely considered a mark of respect to the community and a desire to accept their culture.
Unfortunately, India mistook this for Mr. Trudeau's weakness and showed its boorish side.
In fact, it was evident right from the start that the Indian political elite which hates the liberal agenda and which has turned markedly right-wing and conservative in recent years would not take to the Canadian prime minister. They not only sent a junior minister to officially welcome him, but also ensured that the media coverage he received was low and negative. Slowly the plan was put into effect: his clothing became the object of derision, the motives of his trip questioned, his comments called into question, his guest lists scrutinized, and lo and behold, we had a feel-good trip turned into a PR nightmare.
Treating guests in India
I will not go into the details of how he was treated by Indian and thereafter Canadian and foreign media. How he was made to look like a fool when he was just being a warm human being. I would rather focus on what I think will happen following this trip and let Indians know about the blunder they have just committed.
Here was a guest, who in keeping with Indian traditions was to be treated like a God, who arrived in all humility – always bowing to local traditions, even dressed in their attire to please the locals, showing due respect all all the shrines and institutions revered and loved by Indians, who took his family along and persuaded them to dress the Indian way. Who could ever imagine that he would face ridicule at home, especially from the political opponents baying for blood ready to portray him as a weakling.
But, more importantly, what is wrong with India? How many times have we had world leaders come to India and respect Indian ways? How happy you've been when they occasionally wear Indian attire for an event and grooved with you? How many times have you hoped that they genuinely like your cuisine, your culture, your music and your own self? And when a man, a nation's leader, whole-heartedly opens up his soul and gives you a warm hug, you pull back?
So what if he went overboard. Is it wrong to try too hard?
Canada - India relations
Mr. Trudeau will recover from all this. After all, he did nothing wrong. But chances are India will experience the famous Canadian chill for decades to come.
The relationship between Canada and India may go into cold storage. Not just Canadians, but countries the world over, especially in the Western world, would be less trusting of India, especially if their political views differ. Other world leaders will definitely be more reserved during their Indian visits and never again would any Western leader open up as much as Mr. Trudeau did to Indian traditions and culture.
As for the invitation extended to a convicted would-be assassin for a Trudeau event, let us review the facts there too. First, the guest lists and invitees are not put together by Mr. Trudeau or any political leader himself. Second, if facts serve me right, Jaspal Atwal was convicted as a terrorist and served his sentence for close to two decades and has gone on record saying after his release saying that he regrets his action. He has already faced punishment for his crime and now walks free in Canada and has all the rights as any other Canadian.
He was visiting India because India too removed his name from the blacklist and granted him a visa. So, how long would you keep crucifying a person for an act in the past? Using the same logic, a lot of political leaders in India who were anti-state at one time should also be blacklisted for life. If anyone is to blame, it is India's double standards.
True, the "Khalistan movement" is dead in India, as it should be. It also does not ignite the minds of a majority of Indo-Canadians any more. But, the fact still remains, that a large part of the Punjabi community that resides in Canada came here in the 1980s and early 1990s after witnessing various atrocities committed to their near and dear ones at different times. The wounds have healed, but the scars still remain for children who grew up without fathers, or men and women who suffered in their youth. These can only be healed by love and acceptance and not by hate and segregation.
By turning your back on Mr. Atwal, who has already paid for his crime, you alienate many other Indo-Canadians and rub fresh salt on old wounds. Alas, one should have expected that out from a newly militant India and its biased media.
Put this behind you
I only hope that Mr. Trudeau and the Liberal Party does not take the criticism to heart in the context of Canadian diversity. The party's welcome to immigrants, working towards enabling equality, justice and acceptance in Canadian communities, and enabling greater respect for all humans should continue. Mr. Trudeau's evident love for the Indo-Canadian community must not diminished due to unfair coverage by Indian media, which appears semi-controlled by right-wing Indian politicians.
As an Indo-Canadian, I am ashamed about the way India treated our Prime Minister. My advice: please forget this and move on. Thank you for opening your heart.
And, yes, the next time at Diwali or Gurupurb, please bring out those Bhangra dance moves again.
By: Kasi Rao in Toronto, ON
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s arrival in New Delhi on February 17 for a week-long state visit marks the 12th visit by a member of his cabinet to India, and given his position, the most important one.
The significance of Trudeau’s visit is clear — India matters to Canada, as a friend and a trading partner with still-unrealized potential at a time when Canada seeks to broaden and deepen its international markets.
Canada and India have been talking for a while about reaching more comprehensive trade and investment agreements. But the real significance of this visit is already comprehensive — there’s a positive shift in our relationship that we’re ready to build on together.
The building blocks are there. Two-way trade between Canada and India was nearly $8 billion in 2016, even though there have been setbacks and slow progress in formal trade talks.
We do that amount of two-way trade with the United States every four days. But when it comes to Canada-India trade, the modesty of the numbers is a reflection of the past, not the promise of the future.
The obstacles are obvious too. Late last year, Indian government officials slapped an increased tariff on pulses — the little yellow peas that are a staple in South Asia, which Canadian farmers export to India.
Yet we have common ground. Canada is the biggest contributor of pulses to India, and India benefits when our supply is not constricted by tariffs.
There’s no substitute for a meeting between two leaders to reach a better understanding and make it easier to trade commodities.
Canada and India have been negotiating those free trade and investments agreements for some time now — and they may well take longer. That doesn’t negate the need for a sustained engagement with India across multiple sectors.
This visit is an opportunity — to find more common ground. The elements for stronger trade, business and investment relationships between Canada and India are apparent in the number of sectors that are robust and growing yet still relatively untapped.
There are huge opportunities to expand in tourism, research and skills, medical science, technology and innovation.
Some trading partners in the world lament a brain drain, where talented people leave. Between Canada and India it’s a brain chain, where the best and brightest in both countries complement and bolster each others’ achievements.
For example, Canada is one of the most welcoming countries, reflected in our increased immigration targets at a time when others in the G7 are cutting back.
More than a million Canadians trace their roots to India; they provide a natural bridge to newcomers. Canada has increasing potential as a magnet for higher education among promising Indian students, which contributes to research and innovation in both countries.
Canadians and Indians also share many similar attitudes and values in their outlook to solving global problems. On the economic front, Indian states now embrace cooperative and competitive federalism, marketing themselves internationally the way our provinces do.
Canadians and Indians also share many values when it comes to pluralism and diversity, and both countries are in sync on combatting climate change and the Paris Accord.
Public institutions in both countries have legitimacy in ways that either don’t exist in other places or are under severe strain.
Global studies such as the Pew Global Survey and 2018 Edelman Public Trust Barometer show that Canada and India rank consistently high in the public’s trust of institutions.
The strong Canadian team led by Prime Minister Trudeau, who is accompanied by senior Cabinet ministers, demonstrates Canada’s commitment to a wider and deeper relationship with India.
The Canadian brand is a compelling one that resonates with India. There is nothing like a prime ministerial visit — it provides an extraordinary platform to demonstrate the breadth and depth of our engagement.
Kasi Rao is President and CEO of the Canada-India Business Council (C-IBC). Republished under arrangement with iPolitics.
Commentary by: Muhammad Ali in Toronto, ON
I’m the child of Indian immigrants and, for my family, ‘Indian Standard Time’ is a term used to determine that even when we are running late, we are arriving with the party in full-swing. In the case of trade negotiations between Canada and India, we have reached Indian Standard Time.
Our two countries have long had a ‘complex’ bilateral relationship. While the previous Canadian government was able to successfully end a long-simmering nuclear dispute, allowing for the sale of Canadian uranium to India, it was unable to complete the free trade negotiations started back in 2010. Several cabinet ministers have visited India over the past two years, in addition to visits by various provincial premiers and big-city mayors to encourage more bilateral trade and investment between their respected jurisdictions.
But progress remains slow on a formal trade agreement.
Part of the reason for this slow progress is the lack of high-level discussions between Prime Minister Trudeau and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. With Trudeau visiting China twice and hosting President Xi Jinping in Canada, Indian officials may wonder how high of a priority trade with India is for the Canadian government. China and India are regional rivals economically, militarily and politically. They want assurances Canada cares and understands India.
Trudeau experiences a high degree of popularity amongst India’s population and within the Indo-Canadian community, an important political force in Canadian politics. To appease his key voter base and the interests of Canadian businesses, Trudeau will need to maximize his impact during his trip to India.
The purpose of this trip will be threefold: First, to quell any concerns Prime Minister Modi may have with the priority Canada has assigned to its relationship with China; second, to address any issues arising from the differences between the Indian and Indo-Canadian diasporas; and lastly, on issues impacting trade negotiations.
It will be part of Trudeau’s task to get Modi’s focus on the urgency and benefits of stronger trade ties with a trade agreement and use his popularity and charisma to show Modi that his commitment to improving our bilateral relationship is real and not calculated to only shore up domestic support.
South Asians in Canada hold tremendous political influence reflected by the appointment of four Sikh-Canadian ministers in important portfolios, and nearly two dozen MPs and Senators currently serving our country. Indo-Canadians have become engaged citizens who are shaping industry, culture and policy for Canadians. Addressing the delicate relationship between the Indian and Indo-Canadian diasporas will aide Trudeau to move negotiations forward.
Finally, Trudeau will be looking to address core economic issues such as agricultural exports to India, access to natural resources and migrant skilled workers coming to Canada. At the moment, India has raised tariffs on pulse seed imports, the majority of which comes from Saskatchewan. Canada produces a third of the worlds pulse crops (ex. lentils, peas, chickpeas) and this will have a ripple effect throughout the Canadian agricultural industry.
India and Canada can benefit from greater mobility of technology-trained workers, such as software engineers, between both countries. With the Waterloo-Toronto corridor and Bangalore-Hyderabad tech-centres hosting a thriving technology sector, a trade agreement would be able to enhance a bilateral ecosystem for companies to further develop.
Of most importance for Trudeau will be securing environmental and labour standards that have become core negotiating principles for this government. Canada’s leverage to securing these standards is giving India its first free-trade access to a Western market, including Canadian businesses that have access to North America, the EU, several countries in South America and potentially 10 Pacific-coast nations. Amidst the populist rhetoric to protectionism and anti-trade, Trudeau is positioning Canada as a beacon of economic opportunity that India would benefit from tremendously.
This trip to India, if successful, may cement Trudeau’s ability to deliver on his promise to diversify Canadian market access and reduce our dependence on the Americans, who continue to play Russian roulette with NAFTA discussions. Given the NAFTA risks, Canada needs this trade deal more than India does — to which Trudeau must move quickly before he loses any leverage in these talks.
This piece was republished under arrangement with iPolitics.
By: Arvind Magesan in Calgary, AB
Defenders of Donald Trump say his “shithole countries” remark regarding people from Africa, Haiti and other nations was just Trump being Trump — the president may have used salty language, but it’s really just his way of saying the United States should have a merit-based immigration system like Canada’s.
A generous interpretation of Trump’s comments are that immigrants from certain so-called “shithole” countries — African nations, Haiti and El Salvador — are not typically highly skilled or economically self-reliant, and if admitted would need to depend on the state.
In fact, Trump apologists — and the president himself — might be surprised by what the economic data says about immigrants who come to Canada from the “shithole” countries.
John Fredericks, who was Trump’s campaign chair in Virginia, told CNN that immigrants from those countries “come into the United States and they do nothing to increase the prosperity of the American worker. They lower wages or go on welfare and extend our entitlement system …. Australia and Canada have a merit-based system. You know why they do that? Because they want to bring people into their country who are going to enhance the prosperity of their citizens.”
Trump, himself tweeted a similar sentiment.
"I, as President, want people coming into our Country who are going to help us become strong and great again, people coming in through a system based on MERIT. No more Lotteries! #AMERICA FIRST"— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 14, 2018
The conclusion we are expected to make, it seems, is that if the United States was to adopt a purely merit-based system, immigrants would not come from these countries — they would come from countries like Norway, and immigrants from these Norway-like countries would not put pressure on blue-collar U.S. workers because they would be highly skilled and, more importantly, they wouldn’t be a drain on the system because they would be economically self-reliant.
Canada offers an opportunity to take a look at this hypothesis because our points-based immigration system screens immigrants on merit to a large degree. So when we screen immigrants on merit, who do we let in and how do they do?
The first thing to note is that Canada admits many immigrants from the “shithole” countries.
Data from the 2016 Census shows over the last five years there have been more than twice as many immigrants from Central America and the Caribbean (which includes Haiti and El Salvador) than there were from the U.S. There were also more immigrants from the African continent than from the U.S. and North and Western Europe combined.
Clearly a merit-based system does not mean we only admit people from the “Norways” of the world — and in fact, the census data shows only 230 people immigrated from Norway over the five-year period.
The next question is how do these immigrants fare?
To look more closely at this, I used individual 2011 Canadian census data (detailed 2016 data isn’t yet available) to look at three groups: Canadians whose families have been here for three generations or longer; immigrants from the “Norways” of the world (Northern and Western Europe, including the U.K., Germany, and Scandanavia) and immigrants from Trump’s “shithole” countries (Central America, the Caribbean, Africa).
I looked at the skill levels of the different groups, as measured by their education level, and then at their economic self-sufficiency: Employment, wages and how much they receive in transfers and employment benefits from the government.
Let’s start with skill level.
Forty per cent of Canadians who have been here for three generations or longer have at least some post-secondary education, and 18 per cent have a bachelor’s degree. By comparison, a much larger percentage of immigrants of either type (53 per cent) have some post-secondary, and 27 per cent of immigrants from “Shitholes” have a bachelor’s degree. So by this standard measure of skill, immigrants from “Shitholes” have a slightly higher skill level than do immigrants from “Norways,” and a much higher skill level on average than Canadians who have been here for generations.
What about self-sufficiency?
It is commonly argued that immigrants, particularly from poorer countries, are “expensive” because they receive a disproportionate amount of government transfers and unemployment benefits. The truth is, though Canadians who have been here for generations are more likely to be employed and earn (slightly) more on average than either immigrant group, immigrants from the “Shitholes” are far more likely to be employed than immigrants from the “Norways.”
Perhaps more interestingly, immigrants from the “Shitholes” receive fewer transfer payments from all levels of government than “Norwegian” immigrants.
Finally, looking at employment insurance benefits alone, Canadians who have been here for generations receive more than either group.
What can we say about these numbers?
Firstly, immigrants from the “Shithole” countries are not typically low skill and in principle, should not be putting pressure on employment or wages of blue-collar workers in Canada. Then why is this such a common perception?
It’s likely due to a different issue, that high-skilled immigrants are unable to get high-skill jobs for other reasons (discrimination in the labour market, an inability of employers to recognize or evaluate credentials, or even language issues) and then do end up competing with lower-skilled Canadian workers.
Secondly, immigrants from the “Shithole” countries are generally no more dependent on the state than other Canadians. Though they earn less than those from the “Norway” countries, they are more likely to be employed and they receive less total government transfer payments.
As an economist, it’s important to state that we shouldn’t interpret these relationships between country of origin and economic outcomes as causal — workers from different countries are different for many reasons (demographics like age, as well as occupation, etc).
But that doesn’t at all affect the main point — Trump’s perception of the differences in the average immigrant from countries like Haiti and Norway is at the very least a consequence ignorance, or as many have suggested, racism.
One thing that can’t be rationalized by the raw numbers here: The course of history and the current plight of many of the “shithole” countries is at least partly a consequence of U.S. foreign policies, that the position of relative economic superiority of the U.S. is partly an outcome of these policies, and that this above all might imply a moral obligation on the part of the U.S. when deciding who to let in and from where.
Commentary by: Mona Mashadi Rajabi in Tehran
I was standing in front of the school’s office and Melody, my daughter, was right beside me. All the children were passing by happily with their parents.
The principal gave me the registration forms and started to talk about the rules and regulations of the school. I was there to register Melody in junior kindergarten.
While I was filling out one of the forms, the principal pointed to an important part and said: “Please write two phone numbers of family members or trusted people, the people whom we can call in case of an emergency.” He continued, “if something comes up, there must be someone other than you and your husband that we can call.”
But, there was no one else to call and it made me nervous. I explained that my family was new in the country and no other family members or trusted friends to call. It was just us, I said, promising to be available Melody needed help.
My daughter's big moment
I was busy attending preparation classes at university when the big day for Melody arrived. It was her First Day at school. Parents were supposed to be available to accompany their children to help them get ready for a milestone moment in their young lives. Parents were expected to give the children a goodbye kiss and wish them a good First Day at school.
It was a big moment for my daughter, a four-year-old girl who wanted to start the journey of her life, but, sadly, I could not be there to support her.
I had to attend a lecture, so I left home early in the morning and my husband took her to school. I learned that the principal was so surprised because of my absence as I missed the most memorable day of my daughter’s education. It was the day that would never come back and the memory that would not be repeated in the future.
After a few months, Melody’s teacher invited the parents to talk about their children’s behaviour and performance in school, and I missed that occasion, too. I missed it because I had an exam on the same day and I had to be at the university.
My absence from my daughter’s life sadly continued. She became sick and I was at my office in the university for my teaching assistant job. She attended the school’s Halloween party and I was busy preparing for my mid-term exams.
She started to speak English and I was not there to witness it, she started to learn French and sing some short songs and I was not there to enjoy it, she found friends and I could not be there to celebrate her friendships, she got invited to her friends’ birthday parties and I could not accompany her, and she went to the playgrounds and I was too tired to play along with her.
I was never available for her, as I was either busy at school or tired at home.
My wish list
I was unhappy and unsatisfied deep inside as I was living a dual life. A life of a full time Ph.D. student who had to work all day long and the life of a mother who was supposed to raise a happy and healthy child but was missing all the precious moments of her daughter’s childhood.
It was not just me in this situation. Many international graduate students with children felt the same as they were alone and had no family or close friends around to help them. They were always busy at school and could not attend to the needs of their children. Many of my colleagues felt like a failure as a parent and lived in an unstable emotional and financial situation in Canada.
I thought about alternative solutions that could help parents like myself who were also full-time students.
I wished the university’s educational calendar started one day after the First Day of children’ school. I wished the schoolteacher could give a couple of choices to parents from which they could choose the one that fit their schedule to speak about the children’s performance at school. I wished the university’s teaching schedule was more flexible and professors cared more about graduate students who had a big responsibility as a parent specially when they had to work as a teaching assistant.
Those were the thoughts that occupied my mind, but they remained a wish list.
Finally, an unbalanced life
Unfortunately, I could do little about my circumstances. The university expected me to be a full time student and a failure at school could lead to the termination of my student visa and eventually an order to me to leave Canada. My husband and Melody were my dependent and a change in my status could have changed theirs as well.
So, I, like most of other international graduate students, had to sacrifice my family life in order to stay in Canada on my student visa. This was an unfair deal for a parent graduate student.
Mona Mashhadi Rajabi holds a Master’s degree in economics. As a business journalist living in Tehran, she has written for publications such as Donyay-e-eghtesad, Tejarat-e-farda, Jahan-e-sanat and Ireconomy.
Canada’s commitment to boost its live-in caregiver program as a pathway to citizenship has boosted the business of “nanny institutes” in Punjab.
Traditionally, people from Punjab have gone to Canada as farmers, plumbers, carpenters, electricians and welders.
For Punjabis dreaming of better opportunities abroad, a caregiver visa is now one of the best white collar ways to get into Canada, reported the Indian Express.
“Going to Canada as caregiver is a relatively new trend. After an initial boom, there was a downturn in 2009 when the processing time took much longer due to the increasing number of aspirants. Since last year, there is again a boom as rules were changed. Now a caregiver need not live with the family round-the-clock, but for a minimum eight hours in a day,” said Gursharan Sodhi, who runs the Chandigarh-based Cali Healthcare Resources (CHR).
There are about 10 institutes in the Chandigarh and Mohali areas alone offering the “nanny course”, charging between Rs 60,000 and Rs 90,000
The number of students in each class varies between 10 and 30.
A network of agents offers “packages” to the aspiring immigrants, complete with the “nanny” course and a job offer from Canada.
Armed with a certificate from a training institute, and a signed agreement of employment, a visa applicant can apply for a two-year work permit. After two years of working as a caregiver, the candidate is free to apply for a permanent residency and later citizenship in Canada.
Jatinder Kaur, 22, is an economics graduate from Kapurthala and is enrolled with Chandigarh Immigration. She described the course as “first aid, taking care of children and elderly, prescription reading”. And admitted that her goal is Canada.
“I will get a good salary and better environment there.”
Fellow student Sukhjeet Singh, a 25-year-old electrical engineer from Hoshiarpur and the son of a Punjab Police inspector, said there is no money in engineering jobs. “I worked as an engineer for three years. I was getting about Rs 20,000 as salary. As a nanny in Canada, I hope to easily make more than Rs 1 lakh.”
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada recently said it will have the backlog of permanent residence applications through the old Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP) largely cleared by the end of 2018.
In an announcement on Dec. 3, IRCC said its goal is to finalize 80 per cent of applications for permanent residence submitted on or before Oct. 1, 2017, by caregivers and their family members through the LCP.
“The commitments the government has made today will mean that many Live-in Caregiver Program applicants who have faced long delays and family separation may soon reach their goal of permanent residence,” Canada’s Immigration Minister, Ahmed Hussen, said in a news release.
“After diligently providing care for Canadians, they may soon be in the company of their own loved ones, together in Canada.”
The program provided foreign nationals with at least two years of full-time, live-in employment as a caregiver in Canada with a direct pathway to permanent residence. The program was closed in 2014 but thousands of caregivers who were working in Canada were given an extended opportunity to apply for permanent residence.
As many as 6,000 more applications for permanent residence under the LCP could still be submitted, IRCC says.
In its announcement, IRCC also committed to processing 80 per cent of new, complete LCP applications submitted on or after Oct. 1, 2017, within 12 months.
As of Oct. 1, 2017, IRCC said the number of caregivers and their family members waiting for their applications to be finalized had been reduced by 63 per cent. This reduction was due in part to additional resources that IRCC dedicated to processing the backlog of applications.
IRCC says this push has it on track to finalize 5,000 more cases than it had originally forecast for 2017. In total, 20,000 new permanent residents will be welcomed to Canada this year in the caregiver category.
IRCC also said that developments could soon be announced regarding a proposal to eliminate the $1,000 Labour Market Impact Assessment fee for Canadian families looking to hire a foreign worker to care for a person with high medical needs. The fee would also be eliminated for Canadian families with an income of less than $150,000, who are looking to hire a foreign worker to provide childcare.
But not all Punjabis who turn up in Canada as caregivers remain as such, and might switch to other jobs after becoming permanent residents, said an immigration expert in Chandigarh.
“The majority of Punjabi immigrants do not want to work at someone’s home abroad. Also, the many Punjabi families in Canada who give job offers do not want a nanny either. It has become a sort of business for many to charge money for paperwork. For others, it is a way to help relatives and friends enter Canada,” the expert, wishing not to be named, told Indian Express.
National Institute Chandigarh owner G L Kaushal said caregiver employers usually cross-check several times to ensure that the probable caregiver does the job diligently once abroad.
Students at the institutes confessed that they had tried unsuccessfully for US or Canadian visas earlier. “My family is settled in the United States. But the US turned down my visa twice citing that I was overage. There is no upper age limit for caregiver job,” said Rupinder Kaur, 26, who has come from Amritsar to the CHR institute.
A woman from Faridkot, with a B.Sc in Biotechnology, said her application for visa for Canada under the hairstylist category was rejected a few years back. She hid her B.Sc. qualification at the time of application. She is now trying again under the LCP.
Republished under arrangement with the South Asian Post.
Commentary by: Mona Mashhadi Rajabi in Tehran, Iran
I was standing in front of my suitcase and thought about what I had packed into it. I had one suitcase for my documents and their certified translations, as well as one suitcase for my clothes and other personal belongings.
Two suitcases for a person who wanted to move to another country and pursue Ph.D. studies. A person who had lived 32 years in her home country and had a history in that place.
I assumed that the most important things that I could carry with me were the documents that spoke to my education and work history.
All the important documents that I gathered in my life were in a suitcase. They included my certificates, recommendation letters, writing samples, medical documents, especially those of my daughter, and the identity documents of my three-member-family: my husband, my daughter, and I.
I also had to pack up the university documents as I wanted to pursue my study and they were required in order to register in the program. So I put my Master's and Bachelor's degrees as well as my transcripts in the suitcase.
I prepared all the documents and certified translations of my bank accounts, even going as far as including the deed to my apartment in Tehran.
With all of my documents piled into in one suitcase, the thought struck me: “Is this really all I have gained in my life?”
How could I prove myself to the people who neither know me nor my country?
Would Canada recognize my documents?
So I packed everything and moved to Canada.
Following registration, the start of the program revealed that most of the newly admitted Ph.D. students would be required to enroll in some of the foundational courses from the Master's program due to their foreign credentials. The move signified that their foreign Master's degrees were not fully recognized.
The documents that illustrated what I had been doing professionally were not useful at all either. After surfing the Internet and talking to many people who had been living in Canada for many years, I learned that without “Canadian work experience” it would be difficult to find a good job.
So none of my documents were really useful. No one knew me, the universities that I got my degrees from, and the companies that I had worked for. So what was the point of carrying all these documents?
It was a heart-breaking moment. I moved to Canada in the hopes of being able to do what I was good at, could do well and was the dream of all my life, but Canada did not recognize my credentials.
The surprising part of the story was that the government had assessed and accepted me based on these same documents. The university had accepted that I studied for at least 17 years – but still did not give me full credit for Master"s degree. The job market discounted my credentials even further.
The Canadian job market cared not about what I had done but what I was going to do in Canada. It seemed to me that Canada needed talented and hardworking people and granted them admission to Canada under different visa programs based on their achievements in their home country. But after moving in, Canada wanted to educate them based on the skills that were needed in the country, and making them ready for their own job market.
It was at this moment that I realized that all I had to bring to Canada was a prepared me: A person who knew what was waiting for her in this moving process, a person who was ready to embrace the new situation and ready to learn new things, a person who wished to start afresh as she contemplated that a brighter future would eventually come, and a person who did not become disappointed from the hardships along the way.
After I moved to Canada and witnessed the reality, I decided not to rely too much on my achievements and experiences in Iran. I decided to be eager to learn new things and routines in the hope that hard work will eventually pay off.
I was ready to make a new beginning without my documents and titles, so I could write a new life story.
This piece is part of a mini-series within New Canadian Media’s Mentorship Program. The writer was mentored by Alireza Ahmadian.
Mona Mashhadi Rajabi holds a Master’s degree in economics. As a business journalist living in Tehran, she has written for publications such as Donyay-e-eghtesad, Tejarat-e-farda, Jahan-e-sanat and Ireconomy.
Commentary by: Ted Alcuitas in Vancouver, BC
President Rodrigo Duterte must have been following what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s father said when asked if he would raise the issue of human rights with the dictator Ferdinand Marcos more than 30 years ago.
“Nobody likes to be told by an outsider how to run his own government,” said the elder Trudeau.
Duterte gets ‘insulted’ by Trudeau’s criticism of the ‘drug war’.
Last week, President Rodrigo Duterte lashed out at Justin Trudeau for criticizing his (Duterte’s) war on drugs … a campaign which has seen more than 12,000 people killed, according to Human Rights Watch — 2,555 of them by the Philippine National Police.
“It is a personal and official insult…. It angers me when you are a foreigner, you do not know what exactly is happening in this country,” fumed Duterte. “You don’t even investigate.”
While Trudeau has been criticized for his photo-ops while in the Philippines for the ASEAN Summit, he deserves credit for standing up to the Philippine strongman, known worldwide for his ascerbic tongue and foul language.
Beyond his posturing with the iconic Philippine fast-food chain Jollibee and riding the new jeepney, Trudeau was the only Western leader to raise the issue of human rights including that of Rohingya with Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi.
In contrast, U.S. President Donald Trump had a bromance with Duterte, saying they had a “great relationship” and even laughing approvingly when Duterte called the media “spies”.
Trudeau was not risking much direct economic damage by confronting Duterte.
Canadian exports to the Philippines totaled $626 million in 2016, while imports totaled $1.35 billion.
But the PM’s motivation may not have been completely free of political calculation. Currently the Philippines ranks as the top source country for new immigrants, with 41,785 new permanent residents in 2016 alone.
In a press conference after his meeting with Duterte, Trudeau was also praised by Philippine media for among others, his “unabashed” mention of Canada’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) as ‘feminist’, pledging his continued support for women’s reproductive rights.
He admitted that Canada is not perfect and that it has it’s own human rights problems especially with regard to its indigenous people.
On the issue of the rotting Canadian garbage, Trudeau is seeing a final solution now that the barrier posed by Canadian law has been overcome. It is now only a question of who pays for the return to the trash given that it was a private business venture in the first place.
While he was generally rated favourably by local media, the question remains if having a good heart alone is enough in politics.
Republished under arrangement with the Philippine Canadian News.
Commentary by: Mona Mashhadi Rajabi in Tehran, Iran
I am among the thousands of folks waiting in queue immigrate to Canada. This wish was triggered after my previous experience of having lived in Canada as an international student.
I moved to Canada in August 2015 with a student visa. I decided to pursue my PhD in economics as I was aware of the exceptional educational system in Canada. But it was not all.
Good feeling about Canada
Many people ask me why I am still considering immigrating to Canada, as my initial 5 month stay consisted of studying for one semester before withdrawing from the program and then returning to Iran. After all the disappointments that I felt and all the failures that I encountered, they wonder why I want to return to Canada, this time as a permanent resident.
My answer to this question is simple. I feel good about Canada. I think this country can give me the opportunity to live and work in a more developed environment. Besides, I get the chance to meet people from different cultures which is very attractive for me.
I also think my daughter can have a brighter and safer future in Canada because of the advanced educational system in the country. Canada offers more opportunities and better environment for children to grow and gain the skills that make them better prepared to lead a fruitful life.
Big decision after a hard time in life
My five months of stay in Canada as an international student was not easy. It was filled with many new experiences, the good and the bad ones, hopes and disappointments and failures and success. But all of them made me a more rational, responsible and powerful person because I had to stay in control of my circumstances and deal with various issues one at a time. Those experiences opened my eyes to a different world and showed me new realities.
In that new world, I felt like a human who could fail or succeed. A human who lived, worked and struggled with different challenges and was still hopeful about the future. A human who thought better things were on the way and the only thing that helped her to defeat the challenges was her own hard work. A human that was independent, strong and was treated fairly.
On the other hand, people in Canada were so open to new things, new people or even a new normal. People lived the way they were happy about and at the same time, accepted others the way they were. This was good because it helped me feel welcome in society and be able to participate in my community’s activities.
In my experience, Canadians think about their society as their own family. In a family every member can live, grow, prosper and become a healthy individual. In this way, everyone feels safe, secure and protected by the family. This is the way Canada works. It allows people to immigrate to Canada, gives them opportunities, and gives them the chance to study and work based on their abilities. At the end, Canada accepts them in the society and protects them legally in this society.
Exploring the world
For me, immigration means a lifelong learning, starting fresh, spending time to get familiar with the new living and working environment, and networking with new people to get a good job. That is what I like about life. Immigration is like having the chance of living a new life in a new environment and that is so exciting.
I always loved to live in Canada to get the chance of meeting new people with new cultures because I am an adventurous person. I was always curious about how the society in a multicultural country like Canada works and how it educates people to be respectful of others.
Besides, exploring the world and experiencing new things is what I like the most. I think there is always more to see in the world, more to experience and more to have. There are also many risks, challenges, and setbacks. But at the end of the day, persistence pays off and smart hard work leads to success.
In fact, the curiosity and adventurous characteristics that led me to the world of journalism, is now encouraging me to pursue my wish to immigrate to Canada and hopefully make the most out of my life. I plan to succeed.
This piece is the third part of a mini-series within New Canadian Media’s Mentorship Program. The writer was mentored by Alireza Ahmadian.
Mona Mashhadi Rajabi holds a Master’s degree in economics. As a business journalist living in Tehran, she has written for publications such as Donyay-e-eghtesad, Tejarat-e-farda, Jahan-e-sanat and Ireconomy.
By: Kelly Toughill in Halifax
Thousands of families will soon get a second chance to bring parents and grandparents to Canada.
That’s the good news recently announced by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
The bad news is that there is no chance Canada will keep its promise to issue 10,000 permanent resident visas to extended family members in 2017.
Officials won’t even finish collecting the new applications until December and it will take months to process those applications after they arrive.
Problems with the parent and grandparent sponsorship program are a classic case of great intentions gone wrong. In this case, families who followed the rules were suddenly shut out of the system, and other families were given false hope that they could reunite with ailing relatives.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet have changed Canada’s immigration system significantly in the last 16 months. They reversed a much-criticized law that allowed the government to strip people of their Canadian citizenship. They set up new programs to help businesses recruit tech workers and to support Francophone immigration outside Quebec. They made it easier for entrepreneurs to come to Canada, and eased rules for workers who want to move to struggling Atlantic Canada. They shortened the wait time to sponsor a spouse and made the forms easier to read and understand. They helped international students by setting up a new, speedy immigration program in Atlantic Canada, giving students extra points for Canadian degrees and making it easier for international students to become citizens after they get permanent resident status.
Those changes were greeted with relief and even gratitude across Canada.
Changes to the parent and grandparent program were supposed to be another feel-good tweak to the system. Instead, the changes angered the very consitutuency the government was trying to please.
Under the Conservative government, Ottawa set a quota each year for the number of Canadian families that could sponsor a parent or grandparent for permanent resident status. The Liberal government doubled the quota from 5,000 to 10,000, but initially kept the same process: applications opened in early January and closed when the quota was reached – always within days.
To win one of the coveted visas, most families hired experienced immigration lawyers or consultants and paid stiff fees for private couriers to wait in line outside the Mississauga processing centre the night before the program opened.
Just three weeks before the program was expected to open this year, the government announced it was scrapping the first-come, first-served system. Instead, then-Immigration Minister John McCallum invited families to fill out an online form and promised to hold a lottery to decide who could formally apply. He called the new process “more fair and transparent.”
The announcement came after thousands of families had already prepared applications that require medical exams, police certificates and expensive translations, not to mention lawyers’ fees. Many families wasted months of work and thousands of dollars on applications they would never get to file.
The larger problem, though, was the online form set up to register for the lottery; families could fill out the form without figuring out if they were actually eligible to sponsor a parent or grandparent.
Most know that only Canadian citizens and permanent residents can sponsor a parent or grandparent for permanent resident status. But many don’t know that you must be able to support that parent and that the only acceptable proof of your financial ability is past income tax forms. Many also didn’t realize that parents and grandparents must be healthy to immigrate to Canada.
When immigration lawyers and regulated consultants saw the online form, many immediately warned of coming pandemonium. Some dismissed those warnings as sour grapes, suggesting that lawyers were just mad that clients might be able to sponsor relatives without their high-priced help.
It turns out the lawyers were right.
Almost 100,000 families registered for the lottery, but only a fraction of the 10,000 that were invited to apply actually managed to do so.
Immigration consultants shared stories of clients showing up on their doorstep with expectations that Canada was going to immediately fly their relatives here because the family had “won the lottery.” Many had no idea they still had to pull together the complex and expensive application in 90 days. In June, an immigration official told a conference that only 700 of the 10,000 families had filed applications, and that 15 percent of those applications were incomplete.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada still doesn’t know how many of the 10,000 families invited to apply will actually get to bring their relatives to Canada. A spokesperson said this week that 6,020 of the 10,000 families invited to apply last February actually filed applications. However, immigration officers still don’t know how many of those application are complete or valid. Those numbers are expected later this fall.
In the meantime, Ottawa has quietly launched a second lottery. The notice was posted Friday afternoon before Labour Day. The new invitations were sent out on Sept. 6. Families must finish the applications by Dec. 8, and it will take several months after that deadline for permanent resident visas to be issued.
Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen vigorously defended the new application process in early summer, when the problems first became public. Hussen could not be reached for comment this week, but a spokesperson for the department suggested the new process might change.
“This is the first year that we’re using the new random selection intake process, and we are actively monitoring this model to see how we can make improvements in future years,” communications advisor Faith St.-John wrote in an email.
Kelly Toughill is an associate professor of journalism at the University of King’s College and founder of Polestar Immigration Research Inc.
-- Canada's economic development minister Navdeep Bains at a Public Policy Forum economic summit