Archive | June, 2010

Road to Canaan – Pop Punk Or Defying Stereotypes of Rock Music?

Posted on 30 June 2010 by .





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Hi Prashan, please introduce each of yourselves and what your role is in the band?

So we have Daniel, our lead singer and “professional” bassist, Joel, one of our guitarists, Derek, our drummer and myself, the second guitarist. We don’t really have a lead guitarist pretty much coz everyone solo’s here and there, haha.

For people who have never heard your music, how would you describe it?

We’d like to say some awesome things describing what we think we sound like or maybe even compare ourselves to some awesome band but honestly we really don’t sound like much else out there! You just gotta hear us for yourselves, to put us in a genre maybe pop punk?

What kind of bands would you compare yourself to/ say are your influences?

Well our influences come from bands like Taking Back Sunday, our drummer loves UnderOath, a little bit of Fall Out Boy here and there…but then we are also into some RnB and hip hop so we try fit it all in there!

Being Sri Lankan, do you find the majority of your fans are South Asian?

Haha yeah when we first started off and maybe up until pretty recent this was the case. This may have come down to the fact that we constantly had support from family and friends when we began. However we have started branching out a lot more and we have been welcomed into a broader and more diverse fan base, which we gotta say is pretty cool!

How do your parents feel about you being in a band? Did you have to work hard at convincing them you were serious about it to get their approval?

I think it has been overly stereotyped that Asian parents hate their kids “straying” from their heritage or culture. Our parents have supported us SO well in all our decisions, so we really thank God for them. We didn’t have to work hard to convince them at all  and it’s safe to say our parents are now fairly proud of us!

There are not many bands with all South Asian members out there, do you find this makes it easier or more difficult to make it into the industry?

When we started off, as we said before, our fan base was mostly South Asian. This made it really easy to get up on stage and connect with our friends and family because we knew what they wanted and how to give it to them. When we get on stage, about to play to a more diverse crowd, we sometimes get the feeling that people are thinking how we “shouldn’t” be playing rock or how we may “embarrass ourselves”. Sure, it’s made difficult by the fact that there aren’t many brown guys doing rock but then again who said who can play rock? For us music is a great language that speaks to all people and once we start playing, people come up to us after and tell us how much they enjoyed it.
Sorry to get political, what are your thought on the conflicts that occurred in Sri Lanka?

Haha no worries. We believe God’s got a plan for Sri Lanka, what’s done has been done for a reason and even though we are all Tamils we need to forgive people for any wrong that’s been done because there’s no point fighting when people are homeless or have no food. Our heart is for the people.

Do you do tours all over Australia often?

Yeah! If by all over Australia you mean Sydney and Canberra! Haha. At the moment we have been really gigging hard all over Sydney and we road tripped it down to Canberra for an awesome gig. We’d like to hit up a tour around Aus soon but it’s not right up there in our priority list yet. Certainly going to do it though.

When you are on the road how do you deal with being away from friends and family?

We have only experienced it once before, but there’s no getting away from them. We got a call when we got to our destination, we had to call when we finished, and we had to call to tell them where we would be staying. It’s good in a way because it keeps us on track and accountable so we don’t muck around TOO much. Both friends and family are always there helping us along the way.

What would be the ideal band/artist you would want to collaborate with?

At the moment, probably Switchfoot? We all grew up on them and they are up there with our favorites. It’s great to see how far they have come and how they live their lives through their music. Staying local however, our lead singer LOVES a band called New Empire. It would be his dream to collaborate with them.

Any song covers you would like to do?
We do a couple at the moment, stuff like ‘Down’ by Jay Sean, ‘All the Small Things’ by Blink 182 and we have done an acoustic ‘Break Your Heart’ cover by Taio Cruz.
Who are you backing in the World Cup?

We all know Brazil is in it to win it! That’s all that matters…

What is next for Road to Canaan?

Well hopefully a full album, maybe an album release, a music video, a tour? Endless possibilities!

Any plans to go and tour other countries?
We have to finish Aus first we think  😛
And finally, explain in 5 words why people should listen to your music?
Support great local music…please!?

Thanks Very much guys!

For updates and further information on Road To Canaan, check out their Myspace page –

Author:Tanuja Ravendran.

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Diversity is a Chinese Lesbian Wearing a Sari

Posted on 30 June 2010 by . defines “diversity” as the state or fact of being…blah, blah, blah. Who cares! I mean really! What kind of Canadian, especially a Torontonian goes to an online dictionary to find out the meaning of diversity? Scratch that, what kind of person in general starts anything off with, “The dictionary defines_______ as…” How little must these people know about their topics? I don’t need a dictionary to define diversity, in the same way I don’t need a dictionary to define a wedding or funeral. I know what these things are, I’ve experienced them, and some ten-word entry in an online dictionary isn’t going to change the way I feel. So I say f*** the mechanical definitions of the online dictionary, because this is what diversity means to me.

One of my friends asked me something interesting the other day, “YO B-LAL, is diversity a positive or negative thing?” Well, I replied, firstly it’s pronounced “bil-al”, and secondly, I’m not sure. It’s a strange question, sort of like asking if a chair is a positive or negative thing. Well, I guess sitting on a chair is quite nice, but getting beaten with one isn’t too much fun. Essentially, that means that the answer is your choice, the glass can be half empty or half full. Of course many people feel that their native culture is being diluted, and slowly slipping out of their grasp. They struggle to hold on to their traditions, and a way of life that was once familiar. What some of these people don’t understand is that even culture is time sensitive. The country you left 20 years ago is not the same country you will find today; things change, people change, and the world changes. And now I’m changing paragraphs.

So, am I saying that the people who stringently try to preserve their culture are doing wrong? Of course not, there is nothing wrong with trying to preserve your native culture. It’s the closest thing you have to being back home, or rather I should say the place you grew up. It’s something you want to show your children, “This is where I came from, this is a tiny bit of the life I used to have before I came to this country”. In a world that I feel is slowly becoming homogenized by globalization, it’s nice to know we have people who are fighting back against the Coco-Cola takeover. It’s because of people like this we have places like Chinatown, Kensington Market, and of course Little India (also my hip-hop name). These people, inadvertently (or not) contributed greatly to the diversity of Toronto, and Canada by first serving a community that was a home away from home.

Unlike the people I’ve discussed above, I’m not really a “conserver” of the culture; I’m the product of a new one. As the title of the paper suggests, I’m the “generation next.” I’m the Pakistani with chopsticks dipping samosas into wasabi. I grew up in diversity referring to it as normality, as is often the case. I guess the greatest advantage of this upbringing is that you begin to forget about the ethnicity of other people; it’s simply not something you consciously think about. To someone who was raised in diversity, race is simply subtext. One of my best friends is a Vietnamese guy named Tinh. When ever we go to lunch or visit each other I never think “this guy is Asian” even though he is. In my head, he’s just my friend Tinh. Of course this isn’t to say race is invisible, it stares you right in the face. From time to time Tinh and I will ask each other about our cultural customs, or practices. But for the most part we throw jokes at each other that acknowledge our ethnic minority-ism.  For example, yesterday I went to chill with Tinh and we ate some pizza.

Tinh: Why are you people always late? What happened this time, did you get a hole in the magic flying carpet?

Billal: Why are you always so early? This is two friends having lunch, not a corporate Japanese business meeting. Also, I’m not sure an Asian guy should be making driving jokes, no matter what the vehicle.

And then we laugh, unless someone takes it too far in which case we continue to eat in awkward, racist silence.

Ethnicity is what we commonly associate with diversity, which is of course true, but not all encompassing. While exploring Toronto I visited Church and Wellesley which is Toronto’s LGBT-oriented community. If you’re still not sure what I’m talking about, this neighborhood is also known as: the Gay Ghetto, the Gay village (which makes the residents village people), and my personal favorite, the Gaybourhood. Not to stereotype homosexuals, but the place looked fabulous. Also, I’ve never felt so attractive in my life, granted I was hit on by men and I’m straight, but hey, it’s the thought that counts, right? It’s like the old saying goes; all the good ones are either taken, gay, or write for the South Asian Generation Next.

In essence, a true Canadian knows that diversity is the act of simultaneously being different, equal, and united. Diversity isn’t just watching both Hollywood and Bollywood movies. Diversity is Chinese lesbians wearing saris, and South Asians eating with chopsticks. It’s about making pizzas out of roti (don’t pretend like you haven’t tried), and dipping samosas into wasabi. It’s about participating, while allowing others to participate, and conserving, while at the same time changing. It’s about knowing that we are all Canadians and privileged to be so. Happy Birthday Canada!

Email: where you can send a diversity of compliments and complaints.

Author:Billal M. Sarwar

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Honour Killing? Or Shameful Killing?

Posted on 30 June 2010 by .

Aqsa Parvez was murdered in cold blood by the hands of her own brother, as her father watched in 2007 at their family home in Mississauga. Her murder spread across media and news outlets like wildfire not just because this young girl of only 16 years of age had died but also because her death was a result of an honour killing. Aqsa admitted to her friends that she did not want to wear the traditional hijab. She wanted a different environment than her Muslim home and this led to her family killing the young girl. On June 16, 2010, both Aqsa’s father and brother were sentenced to life for her murder.

From left to right: Jawinder “Jassi” Kaur (25), Aqsa Parvez (16), Methal Dayem (22), Lubaina Bhatti Ahmed (39), Sahar Daftary (23), Amandeep Singh Atwal (17), Amina Said (17) and Sarah Said (18), Sandeela Kanwal (25), Surjit Athwal (27), Rukhsana Naz (19), Fadime Sahindal (32), Heshu Yones (16), Anooshe Sediq Ghulam (22), Maja Bradaric (16), Sahjda Bibi (21), Anita Gindha (22), Shafilea Ahmed (16), Gulsum Semin (20), Hatin Surucu (23), Banaz Mahmod (20), Samaira Nazir (25), Sazan Bajez-Abdullah (24), Sabia Rani (19), Ghazala Khan (18), Caneze Riaz (39) and daughters Sayrah (16), Sophia (15), Alicia (10), Hannah (3), Hina Saleem (21), Morsal Obeidi (16), Aasiya Hassan (37), Ayman Udas (30), Du’a Khalil (17), Khatera Sadiqi (20), Lidia Motylska (19), Müjde B. (18), Pela Atroshi (19), Rim Abu Ghanem (19), Sabina Akhtar (26), Uzma Rahan, 32,and sons, Adam (11), and Abbas (8) and daughter, Henna(6), Tulay Goren (15)

Aqsa emigrated from Pakistan and grew up in Brampton, which now has a large desi community and also a large Muslim population. Growing up in a community like Brampton there is always a tug and pull between the culture of your parents and the culture you are in. Finding your place within these two distinct communities can sometimes be a battle between your South Asian culture and what your parents would like, and Canadian culture you’re exposed to.

As I remember when I first heard the tragic news of Aqsa, it reminded me of the many tragic stories of women in Pakistan and in particular a CBC movie I had watched, “The Murdered Bride”.  In this movie a young Canadian girl named Jassi had been murdered. Her family orchestrated her death as a result of her marriage to taxi cab driver from India who was of a different caste. Her tale and sadly like many others including Asqa, is forever now a haunting memory. Not just because of the gruesome murder of a young life that had been lost too soon but because of the perverted nature of the murder, to protect a family’s reputation.  It makes you aware of how privileged you are to be free to choose without having the fear of your family in the background and how, Asqa or Jassi didn’t get the same. I don’t doubt for a minute that there are many homes in GTA and the rest of North America where women have been held back and experience this fear that inhibits them from what they want or would like to do.

If you think about it logically, although we all love our parents as we should, we don’t necessarily owe them anything. We all use the phrase growing up, “We didn’t ask to be born” and yet, there is truth behind this phrase. There is no contract we signed at birth that we must obey to our parents every quarrel and fulfill their desires. But most of us do, we treat our parents with respect and provide for them. And one shouldn’t confuse this, with being oblige to, but rather it’s what we feel we want to do. No parent can or should force their child to wear a hijab, because that isn’t how religion should be practiced, by force. It should be practiced with one’s own desire. Although one can argue that we have to teach our children and that is true, but there is a fine line between teaching and forcing. And this line when crossed can lead to devastating outcomes and I believe forcing is one component of the background of honour killings.

This notion of force by parents and not understanding or incorporating North American culture put parents in an unstable situation. The issue is to do with the clash of west and east and how well parents cope with the change in their families. When a child decides to defend their right not to wear a hijab or live in a manner different to their parents’ wishes, this is when families don’t know what to do. But what is the deeper issue is of the people who refuse to accept change and so much so that they rather kill their daughter than live with their wishes not being met. Selfish I would say, one of the most selfish acts to kill to preserve yourself and your family. Children are born into this world not as slaves to their parents’ wishes but a part of their parent’s lives. There can only be so much control. Is a family’s reputation more important than their own child? How could one even put such a dilemma on the table and execute the decision to kill.

Honour killings have nothing to do with religion? Well I would beg to differ, Canada although multicultural, is very much a young country that has many different cultures and religions but all closed in their bubbles. The book, Selling Illusions: The cult of Multiculturalism, by Neil Bissoondath outlines that although Canada is diverse in cultures from around the world we lack in being a common community. Canada does not have one culture of its own. Of all the many cultures and religions, Canada has become a collaboration of groups made up of different religions and cultures.  Of course one should carry on their culture and their traditions, however, to preserve them so much that you’re a separate entity, than you’re not living with society, and you’re living outside of it. The problem is that we live in a mix of cultures here in Canada where we get exposed to different worlds the other. This tango between worlds can be a deadly mix for an unstable home.

Asqa Parvez was choked to death by her brother for not wearing a hijab and prior to that, had many arguments about the way she wanted to live her life. How many of us young South Asians have not been through an argument or two with our parents about some sort of cultural conflict? We’ve been taught that our parents know best and we should always listen to them. But in a world to which they immigrated to and some have little experience in, there are some things we might know best, sometimes we understand differently. Things in Canada are different than in Pakistan or India. Not all elements of a culture can be applied and kept sacred in a bubble. And no one can live in that bubble. We can’t separate ourselves from other Canadians who don’t have the same religious and/or cultural background. Living here means living together.

Honour killings have a string of complexity of issues that surround them and each case is different. Some have associated these killings with the teachings of Islam. Or others believe that there are isolated incidents and can’t be correlated to a religion. Regardless of what you believe the truth of the matter is that it is a problem within our community. If Aqsa’s family felt the need to kill because of the shame they would feel, not only is it a disgusting act on the part of the family but also for those who would support it. After the life sentence of Aqsa’s father and brother, the message is clear that if you kill, than you will be punished but would this help stop future honour killings? Or is the problem rooted even deeper?

What would killing your own daughter accomplish? As sad as the deaths of these courageous young women, they surfaced a problem in North America that needs to be addressed. These haunting honour killings remind us of the silent unattached family in our communities. Where although they are living among us they’re not mixed in with society. In the homes where honour killings have happened there has usually been a history of emotional and physical abuse against women, and the cry for help is kept silent and the despair is hidden behind four walls. Women have the right to choose their lives and this disgusting attempt of preservation of honour in reality is a shameful killing.

Author: Zarish Ahmed

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Be What You Want to Be: Anjali Benawra on Experience as a Life Path

Posted on 30 June 2010 by .

An InterNations ambassador and a project manager for Invesco Trimark Ltd, Anjali Benawra is also a self-professed TEDster, shoe-lover and planner extraordinaire. Hailing from a multi-cultural background (British-Kenyan-Singaporean-Canadian), this thirty-something multi-talented multi-tasker shares nuggets about her life in the Diaspora.

Born in England, brought up in Kenya and Singapore, and spending much of her adult life in Canada, Benawra’s background reveals fascinating details of Indian migrant history. She says, “My [paternal] great-grandfather moved from India to Kenya in the early 1930s and then [he] set up a business there. My mom’s dad worked for the British East African Railways… [and] then they moved to England. So, both my parents were born in East Africa. My mom had her first child in England with her parents and that’s how I was born in England. I grew up in Kenya. So, I was in Kenya till I was about twelve years old… And then, my dad got a job with Singapore Airlines. So, we just… moved”.

That must have been quite exciting, I venture. She smiles lightly and shakes her head, “It was a culture shock in the beginning. You go from a very comfortable luxurious sheltered lifestyle [in Kenya] to… a tiny island nation with a lot of different cultures. We became completely immersed in a global culture, because we were expatriates. [Back in Kenya], we lived in a joint family [where] we all lived and grew up together. [In Singapore], my sister and I went to an international school and we had friends from all over the world. Everybody was an expat”. Benawra strongly believes that because of her move to Singapore at that crucial developing age, her “outlook on life” took a 360 degree turn. That she is the person she is today because she went to that school. She also points out that she would have had the same opportunities in Kenya, but perhaps “not the same outlook”.

Moving to Canada “for university”, Benawra feels it was easier to blend into the multicultural society here because of her experience of living in Singapore. Initially a Political Science and International Relations graduate from University of Toronto, Benawra spent her early days in the work field working for Lancôme. But one opportunity led to another, and she has been with Invesco 7Trimark for the past ten years. She exclaims, “It wasn’t really my kind of path. I didn’t plan it that way. It just happened”. However, Benawra believes that these days “there are a lot more opportunities. You can go out and get [into your] niche. Ten years ago, [we] didn’t have that”.

And how has it been being an unmarried South Asian woman in her mid-thirties? She admits that her parents have never pushed her towards marriage. But her grandparents? “Well… my mom’s parents are still alive and … I think their generation is in their 70s and 80s and they believe that you have to get into that phase of your life. That you have to give your parents grandchildren… For them, they see this as the next step in life… I [also] have an uncle in Chicago who is a pediatric doctor and he says that ‘you only have a certain window to have children!’”

As an accomplished strong woman, Benawra has some sound advice for young graduates just stepping into the job market: “You should look at your skills and abilities. You should always be ambitious [and]… reach for your goals. Try to do what you can at the time you can do it. Don’t wait and don’t be held back by relationship issues… Learn to be patient and understand the kind of work you are doing.” She also adds “travel” to the list of essential attributes, as in her words, “you can learn so much from other people… from your experience of being in another country [and] you can also learn about yourself.”

Author:Sanchari Sur

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Professor Saini: Mentor to Generation Next The first ever South Asian Vice-president and Principal of UTM

Posted on 30 June 2010 by .

In the South Building of University of Toronto, Mississauga campus, I met with one of the most inspiring South Asian educators. Most recently he has been appointed vice president and principal of the University of Toronto at Mississauga. I am referring to none other than Mr. Hargurdeep (Deep) Saini.

Although critics note that the senior hierarchal positions in Canadian institutions are not reflective of the diversity of the Canadian society, Mr. Saini still feels that Canada has made great strides with regard to its multiculturalism and acceptance of other people.  He remembers how during his first week in Canada in 1982, at the University of Alberta campus, he and his wife heard comments like; “Asians go home!” Such instances are, of course, rare and much more unacceptable in public.

Saini has been affiliated with the top learning institutions in both Australia and Canada. He has been Dean for the Faculty of Environment and Resource Studies at Waterloo University for several years.

He was also part of the team that made the decision to change the watermark for University of Waterloo, a mistake he does not necessarily regret, but an err he has learned from.

Saini stresses that now more than ever is the time to invest in green energy. He suggests that we look at green energy solutions that are both renewable and sustainable such as geothermal, wind, solar, hydro. He is happy that the environment has become a ‘hot’ topic of discussion amongst young people.  Saini is pleased that environmental departments in universities are getting larger and that there are increasingly more opportunities for jobs and co-op placements in this field for students to make their passions into careers

Saini is fascinated with how Canadian universities can stand shoulder to shoulder with top universities around the world despite their youth and relatively low funding and grants.

Saini is fond of Dalton McGuinty’s dedication to educational institutions in Ontario. Although there has been much uproar about the hiking tuition fees, Saini wants to remind students that tuition fees are significantly lower in the Canadian universities than other top notch institutions around the world.  He also stresses that there is definitely a limit to how high tuition can be charged—depending on the government and the market- “we cannot make tuitions so high that we discourage good students from coming to the university” Saini asserts.

After completing his masters from Punjab Agricultural University, Hargurdeep (Deep) Saini had to make one of the biggest decisions in his life. He had just landed a job offer in India, and he had also received admission to pursue his Ph.D with one of the most accomplished scientists in Australia. With the job offering him more money than he would probably make in twenty years time, he asked his father for advice. Saini says that his father was a very thoughtful man, who immediately left home, came back half an hour later with an envelope in his hand. In the envelope were 10,000 rupees which was the price of a ticket to Australia at that time. His father said; “you will always have a job, but you will never have the opportunity to learn more and an opportunity to broaden your horizons”.

With all of the success that has come his way, Saini often finds himself taking a look back to reflect. He thinks back to a time in India during the sixth grade where all of the students in his class would sit on rugs instead of chairs. And now having one of the most senior positions in one of the top research institutions in the world, Saini is more than thankful for all of the opportunities that his life has given him.

Does that make him a religious man? Saini says that he is proud of his Sikh heritage, although he would consider himself more of a spiritual person. “My religion is humanity.”

Saini is proud of the hard work and ambition that has formed the South Asian presence in Canada. He encourages South Asians to hold on as resolutely to their present as much as they hold on so determinedly to their past.

He feels that Canada is taking part in a fascinating social experiment of multiculturalism, and that the University of Toronto at Mississauga is a microcosm of that diversity. He is proud of the way that the university has grown in the past ten years, and is eager for all of the growth that will take place through the expanding the social sciences and humanities department, medicine faculty alongside the general growth of space and university facilities.

Saini is looking forward to coming to Mississauga where he will be running the university.  He feels that the context is so special in terms of the growth, the frustrations and the realizations of the student body.

He is excited and ready for it all.

Author: Asma Amanat

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Celebrating Canada day the desi way!

Posted on 30 June 2010 by .

When Ashia lived in Pakistan, she said her family dreamed of a better life: Peace, safety, better jobs and better education.

Ashia, a college student and an employee at McDonald’s moved with her family to Canada in 2003. “Everything we’ve ever dreamed of, we found in this country,” she says. “Peace, safety, growth opportunities and good lives. My family and siblings are very happy and are in good schools with good teachers.”

So Ashia, whose family celebrates every Canada Day, says she’ll wave the flag with pride on July 1.

“In the last few years, I have been celebrating Canada Day with my children in downtown Toronto where I live. We walk around Harbourfront centre to see the lively entertainment, and we go to Mel Lastman Square, watch and enjoy all the people dressed up in the ‘Canadian spirit,’ waving flags, singing and dancing. My children love to get their faces painted, and always enjoy an ice cream cone, or ‘real lemon’ squeezed lemonade,” shares Pallavi Gupta, an employee of YMCA.

Canada Day celebrates the events that occurred on July 1, 1867, when the British North America Act created the Canadian federal government. The BNA Act proclaimed one Dominion under the name of Canada,” hence the original title of the holiday was Dominion Day. Dominion Day was officially renamed “Canada Day” by an Act of Parliament on October 27, 1982. This change reflected the policy of successive governments to down play Canada’s colonial origins.

Picnics? What better way to relax than to take the whole family to a park or conservation area and enjoy the summer sun, swimming, playing frisbee or football, and barbequing family favourites such as hot dogs and burgers.

So enjoy a family picnic in the grass, and celebrate Canada Day the old-fashioned way. With glowing hearts, play outdoor games and enjoy live music from the past.

What would Canada Day be without fireworks? Reena Saboo says that she never misses the fireworks on Canada day! We always see the sky lit up with extravagant fireworks that leaves us oooh’ing and awww’ing for days. All I can say is `its   grand and fantastic. ”A perfect way to cap off the evening. Wishing readers a happy Canada Day Generation Next gives you the list of events going on in Toronto and GTA! Read on.



  • Mel Lastman Square – The 2010 Canada Day celebrations at Mel Lastman Square start off  with activities that promote healthy living for kids. This is also an opportunity to meet Olympic athletes like team Canada hockey player and gold medalist Vicky Sunohara, 2010 Olympic medalist Speed Skater Kristina Groves and Gold Medal winning short track speed skaters Charles and Francois Hamelin. Around the Square see magicians, jugglers, fire-breathers, urban dancers and live music performances and more!
  • Black Creek Pioneer Village – Enjoy your journey back to Toronto life in1867. Festivities run from 11 am – 5 pm.
  • Caledon – Live music and family oriented activities from 11 am – 4 pm.
  • Downs-view park – Enjoy free amusement rides along with tribal dance and fire works from 11 am – 11pm.
  • Campbell House – A lawn party featuring strawberry cake lemonade and fiddle music from 11 am – 4 pm.
  • Chin International Picnic – Begins at noon with a flag raising ceremony and includes South Asian shopping bazaar and more.
  • Festival of fire – Lighting up the Ontario Place with pyrotechnics themed to Canadian music. The show begins at 10.30 pm.
  • Harbourfront zcenter – Events running from noon to 11 pm include a citizenship ceremony, canoe rides.
  • Streetsville- Mississauga– A candlelight celebration on Main Street includes a concert, crafts and cake. A native dance group and the Mississauga school of dance are main stage performers.
  • Yonge-Dundas Square – Multicultural groups from Toronto will perform folk dances from around the world. The place also features an art, craft and food market.


Be Leaders of University & Hospital boards and soccer leagues – MP Rob Oliphant

The Canadian citizenship means receiving and giving something back in return. Though youth is at a receiving end, they are not looking for someone to give them the opportunity; they are seizing it.

I see a shift going on. There will always be a certain percentage of people who will step up to give back to their communalities, and I see that the leadership in immigrant communities is at a higher percentage, though I see it happening in their own communities. I would like them to expand their leadership to university boards, hospital boards, soccer leagues.


Be Engaged Socially & Politically – MPP Kathleen Wynne

Celebrations are important, but I don’t think they are the most important. If youth want to create their own celebrations, they should be welcomed. For me what’s important is to engage Canadian youth and young adults from all backgrounds into political process and in their communities in a ways that makes the most sense to them.


Dedicate yourself to making Canada better & better & Better – Toronto Mayoral candidate George Smitherman

Canada Day is a day for us to spend time with family, celebrate the beautiful bounty of Canada  – a place that is enriched by the most educated array of people anywhere in the world and dedicate ourselves at times to making Canada better and better and better.  The pride that Canada has is very very justified and is well represented in all its diverse components and there is strength in it.


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Celebrating Our Home

Posted on 30 June 2010 by .

Canada Day will be here and thousands of South Asian Canadians will be celebrating with a bash, however most will stick to their holiday routine of spending time with family, barbequing, or heading to the beach.

South Asians are Canada’s biggest visible minority, numbering over 1.3 million according to the 2006 census.

For Canada Day, South Asian Canadians, like most Canadians, will be going about their holiday routine of meeting and greeting family members, potluck parties, and as one youth put it “fireworks, fireworks and fireworks”.

The South Asian Canada Day, an annual event, will be returning on July 27 to Mississauga, and is a chance for South Asians to celebrate Canada Day with their own spicy twist. The event will be filled with food, clothes and jewellery, and of course cultural dance shows.

Another such event will be taking place at Granville Island, Vancouver, where Canada Day ceremonies will be paralleled with a South Asian styled Mela. As always, food, clothes, jewellery, fireworks and cultural shows will be the highlight of the day.

Canada has a lot to offer to the culturally rich folks of South Asia, such as freedom to practice religion, culture, and security, but celebrating Canada Day among these communities of Canada does not appear to be too common.

“I am not sure if there is a particular way of celebrating Canada Day” asked Puneet Aurora, a Markham resident and second generation South Asian.

“The routine is same as any other holiday. To spend time with family or hit the beach and end the day with fireworks.”

The attraction to Canada Day by the South Asian community is derived from a myriad of factors. Those who have been in Canada for roughly thirty years have seen the evolution of the Canadian government, from immigration policies to an increase in multicultural favouritism. These individuals have a firsthand account of the effort that Canada has put into providing autonomy to these cultural communities.

But does the Canadian government stretch itself too thin? In incorporating not only the South Asian community, but all self identified cultural groups, perhaps it is sacrificing the magnitude of a day as important as Canada Day. Does Canada Day lose its significance as each cultural community has their own specialized celebrations or festivals?

Not according to Eman Cheema. “Canada is about freedom of choices and freedom of expression. We cannot force others to follow our ways and call ourselves open minded and democratic and multicultural,” says Eman Cheema, a resident of Mississauga. Many others also share the same viewpoint.

It may be important to note that Canada Day is seen as another opportunity to indulge in one’s own customs and rituals. Essentially the idea is to practice culture and customs freely, and to not indulge in anything that seems uneasy to anyone.

There are also those who look forward to life in Canada every day, and every day feels like a blessing. They need no date to tell them when they can celebrate the greatness of this country that gave them so much.

“Every day is Canada Day for me and my family. Canada has given us a high standard education, freedom of expression, security, equality and, best of all, has accepted us the way we are.” says Rasha Muhamad, a third year Business student at York University and a first generation Canadian.

While many might not show pride by waving a flag, they sure are pleased with the freedom and choices they can make.

The notion behind Canada Day, and what Canada stands for today is being met by every individual, no matter that they do to celebrate. They are celebrating freedom, which is what Canada is all about.

Co-authored By: Qasim Ali  & Myuri S. Komaragiri

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Time for BJP to reinvent itself

Posted on 30 June 2010 by .

Clenched fists are associated with radicals from the left. The BJP is associated with wooden sticks and khaki knickers, which its mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), has prescribed. There is no doubt that the party has to change if it wants to be relevant. But it cannot do so by clenching its fists. It has to jettison the RSS.

This means that the party has to get away from the ideology of Hindutva. It is a ‘yesterday party’, as its former ideologue Jaswant Singh said when he was ousted by the BJP. True, he is trekking back into the fold. But it does not indicate that the party is giving up its philosophy of parochialism. Nor has it clarified its stand on Mohammad Ali Jinnah, praise for whom landed Jaswant Singh in trouble.

Jaswant Singh had blamed Jawaharlal Nehru for partition, not Jinnah. The reason why the party has to clarify its stand is the hostility the BJP shows whenever Jinnah’s name crops up. L.K. Advani had to step down from the party leadership after he said that Jinnah was secular.

The issue that the BJP has to sort out is not whether Jinnah was responsible for the division of the subcontinent but whether his exhortation not to mix religion with politics is acceptable to the party. When it parades Narendra Modi at the party’s national executive meeting, it projects the same policy of preferring religion for achieving pre-eminence in politics.

Modi is implicated in several cases related to the Gujarat carnage and the anti-Muslim riots. When the BJP invites him to its Bihar sitting, the party sends the message that he is the party’s mascot in the forthcoming state assembly election and ultimately in parliamentary polls.

It was obvious that the BJP was provoking Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar who has a secular image and who leads the coalition with the BJP but wants to convey that he is not guided by what the BJP thinks or does. Therefore, he had to cancel the dinner for BJP executive members and return the Rs5 crore that he had received from Gujarat for flood relief in Bihar.

Following its own agenda, the BJP placed in regional newspapers an advertisement showing Modi and Nitish together on a platform. Bihar has a large Muslim population which could not have been happy to see the photo. Nitish had to assure the Muslims that the publication of the photo was the BJP’s doing.

His party, Janata Dal (United), tried to show the differences as if it was a personality clash. But Nitish Kumar’s approach was fundamentally different. He does not think that he can live with personalities like Modi. Whatever his party may think, it seems that Nitish Kumar would like to take an independent position when the state holds polls. He may well pave the path for a third front, badly needed in the country.

The BJP is beginning to understand Nitish’s long-term policy. It may therefore fight the state election on its own. Turning its back on Nitish, the BJP under the leadership of Nitin Gadkari, an RSS man, has made it clear that the party would rather sacrifice even an assured victory under Nitish than give up Modi who it would like as its prime ministerial candidate in the next Lok Sabha election. But the party has gone over this exercise before and has found that Modi is not an acceptable face.

Rightist parties all over the world have been a wellspring of new ideas. Why is the BJP stuck in a groove? That Hinduism is in danger is not accepted by Hindus, who constitute 80 per cent of India’s population.

The electorate in Pakistan or Bangladesh do not return the candidates sponsored by religious parties. In these countries the Muslims who constitute the bulk of the population do not think that Islam is in danger.

The BJP is still the second biggest party in parliament and rules in some seven states. Its validity is not because it placates Hindu extremist elements but because it is considered by the voters as an alternative to the Congress. The left is still absorbed in its outmoded ideology. What do the people do? They want a viable alternative. Therefore, they turn to the BJP when they find the Congress increasingly corrupt and intolerably arrogant.

Were the BJP to become a centrist party and shed its anti-Muslim image, it could provide the alternative. Why doesn’t the party talk about economic programmes? The Congress adopts at every party meeting an economic resolution. The BJP does not even attempt to do so.

The Conservatives in the UK were out of power for several years because they were seen as a bunch of right-wingers. They recovered only when they were seen to adopt progressive steps. With the type of communal agenda the BJP has —periodically there is an outcry for building the Ram temple where the Babri mosque stood — the party has little future. The mood of the country is different. It is looking forward to development.

In fact, I am surprised why Jaswant Singh is returning to the BJP without ensuring that it changes. True, his dilemma is that a politician has to have a platform to survive. But this is no basis for compromising on one’s principles. Or, maybe, this is the way the politicians function.

What is being said is that his return may coincide with the return of maverick Uma Bharti. She qualifies because she was joyful when the Babri mosque was being pulled down, stone by stone. I thought Jaswant Singh was a sensitive person.

Author: Kuldip Nayar

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APPNA: Reflection of ‘back home’ ideological variations

Posted on 30 June 2010 by .

The Association of Pakistani Physicians in North America (APPNA) is the largest, richest, and the seemingly influential organization of Pakistani-Americans. In some circles, its role is controversial because of its leadership’s close links with Pakistan’s ruling elites. However, it has evolved from a pro-government lobbying group to a big tent which houses physicians of differing persuasions from pro-jihadis to leftists, spiritualists and all other shades in between.

It is estimated that its membership is around 2,500 to 3,000 which is much smaller than its counter-part organization of Indian physicians which has more than 10,000 members. Only one out of four physicians of Pakistani origin is member of APPNA which obviously means that 75% remain inactive with their main professional organization. Furthermore, only a few hundered APPNA members actively participate in its various activities.

Pakistani-American physicians’ working in the rural or far-flung areas are the backbone of APPNA. The physicians and their families, cut-off from the major cities and centers of Pakistani community, take solace in annual gathering. For isolated physicians and their families, APPNA annual conferences provide opportunity to meet up with families, friends and career enhancement educational seminars. Matrimonial obligations of physicians, with grown up children, are also fulfilled in this organization. Above all, being the highest earning group of expatriates they have to show off their new riches to someone because ‘jungle main mor nacha kis nain daikha.’ It is quite natural and no one can fault them for this.

APPNA’s transition of leadership has been quite exemplary till recently. The main office-bearers are elected two years in advance to give them enough time to attune themselves to the organizational responsibilities. However, in the last few election cycles the organization has been marred with common Pakistani malice of accusations of election frauds. A few elections were contested in the courts and nullified. In the process, the organization has lost its moral ground that it occupied in the expatriate community.

As far as its lobbying activities are concerned, they have gone through an evolutionary process. In earlier times its leadership used to take cues from the Pakistani government and its embassy in Washington. The main thrust of the lobbying was to support the military governments and try to get defense equipment from the US. Therefore, critics are justified in alleging that APPNA was involved in helping the anti-democratic forces in Washington. However, over the years the situation has changed.

However, lobbying successes of APPNA leaders have been somewhat exaggerated. Despite their vast financial resources they cannot match their Indian counterparts, The American Association of Physicians of India Origin (AAPI). For example, President Obama is going to attend AAPI’s annual conference this year while no high-level US official is going to be at APPNA’s convention. Furthermore, AAPI has been successful in getting their members nominated on US panels and, ironically, some of the appointed are Indian Muslims: APPNA can claim such a success.

Most of APPNA’s lobbying successes were piggy-backing on the US policies. In other words, the US governments was giving certain things to Pakistan as a matter of policy and Pakistani lobbying groups, including APPNA leaders, took the credit. No Pakistani lobbying group has ever succeeded to change the set parameters of the US policy. However, some physicians have been relatively successful in sensitizing the US lawmakers to humanitarian abuses in Pakistan.

The main body of APPNA may be still obsessed with inviting members of the governing elites, but many other outfits organized around it promote the democratic, enlightened and humanitarian forces in Pakistan. Most of APPNA members have strong allegiance to their respective Alumni association: almost every medical college has its alumni organization as part of the APPNA structure. Some of these alumni association use their space to promote progressive causes. This is how the leaders of movement of the independent judiciary like Aitzaz Ahsan, et all have been invited to annual gatherings. Dissidents like Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy are invited even this year. I have been invited by various alumni over the years. I have found that Dow Medical College Alumni is relatively more enlightened, accommodating progressive ideas and programs.

Over the years I have seen that a younger generation of Pakistani-American physicians has been trying to use the APPNA platform for betterment of the Pakistani common citizens. Dr. Aijaz Turk, Dr. Maqbool Halepota, Dr. Naseem Shekhani, Dr. Sultan Hayat, Dr. Babar Cheema, Dr. Zafar Iqbal, Dr. Mohammad Taqi and Dr. Mithal Vakassi are few names that come to mind whom I have known for their struggle for progressive causes. There must be many others like them in the organization. Therefore, one should not paint the character of APPNA with a wide brush: it is an organization that has all kinds of trends reflecting back home ideological variations.

Author: Dr Manzoor Ejaz

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Rainbow Ball- Raising Funds For Local Charities

Posted on 30 June 2010 by .

Mrs. Geeta Dheer’s engagement with the community began from her kids’ schools. She asked school administration if she can get involved or help them in any way. And she had a lot to contribute. “If you can give an hour a day of your life, you can change lives,” she says.

With the expansion of South Asian community, the need for South Asians to be more actively engage in charitable causes is of paramount importance. Mrs. Dheer has been asked to be an Honourary Chair of the Rainbow Ball, a prestigious event that will be held on Friday September 24th at Mississauga Convention Centre. The Ball will raise funds to support three great local charities, Community Foundation of Mississauga, Peel Children’s Aid Foundation and Community Living, Mississauga.

Speaking of diversity within charitable organizations, Ms. Eileen MacKenzie, the executive director of Community Foundation of Mississauga, believe that there “is incredible responsiveness not only in their [community organizations’] staff makeup, but in making sure that we listen to the voices in our at the highest level of decision making.”

As an organization, Community Foundation of Mississauga, provides wide range of services. Some of these are to provide services to people who are hungry, people who are vulnerable because they have lost jobs, and to families that are undergoing conflicts because of economic stress.

Peel Children’s Aid Foundation provides services from new-borns to 21-year old youth. The aim of the organization is to protect children and to strengthen families.

While there is a certain level of distrust within the South Asian communities in terms of using services from these community organizations, Ms. Hinton says “we have build a reputation for ourselves and we work very closely with our partners.”

Ms. Chadda believes that South Asian community has, indeed, taken a step forward from mistrusting the community organizations to seeking their help.

“There was a time when people went to their friends, or church, or gurdwara or temple, but they are learning to go to other places where they can get support and services,” she says in a definite tone.

India Rainbow Community Services of Peel provides settlement services that include LINC classes, preparing people for jobs, helping them find place to live and to put their kids in schools, mediating between parents and youth to deal with duality of cultures. They also help families whose kids have been give in foster care by Children’s Aid Society. It celebrates 25 years of helping families this year.

“When kids come to Canada, they pick up Canadian values very fast, but parents stick to their values from their home country, so we try to mediate between parents and kids to find the middle path. We also interact with school systems here in this regard,” she says.

There is awareness that South Asians are reluctant to inquire about help for fear that their kids would be taken away from them by Children’s Aid Society.

The problem is “they come to us when their kids are already taken away.”

“We are appealing to South Asian community to help provide foster care for South Asian kids’ so they can be raised in families that are familiar with South Asian culture, and we have had some early signs of success in this regard,” says Ms. Hinton whose organization has closely worked with India Rainbow Community Services of Peel.

While she hesitates to categorize cases like Aqsa Pervez as cultural, she says  “we need to look at family individually rather than a culture in its entirety.”

Ms. Chadda, however, thinks that many of the issues is Aqsa Pervez’ case are related to issues of dual cultural identity.

While Canada’s government touts its better banking system and that it has not been so hard hit by recession as its Southern neighbor or other European countries, the community organizations need financial help.

“Ooh yes!” Ms. MacKenzie remarked when I asked if there has been any impact on the amount of funds they had to raise in the past year because of recession. Imagine Canada has released a report saying that 25 % charitable organizations’ very existence is at risk. “When you come to think of programs and services these community organizations provide to improve the quality of life, I think we are challenged.”

Not all organizations have seen the reduction of funds though. Kitty Chadda, the executive director of India Rainbow Community Services of Peel, says “Things are tighter, but we have a great relationship with our funders, good compliance record, and our services are excellent, so we haven’t seen cutbacks.”

“We have actually seen a huge increase in number of donations. The average donation was small, but more families were donating,” says Catherine Hinton, executive director of Peel Children’s Aid Foundation. The reason again is recession that made upper middle class families realize that more help is needed, resulting in closing the gap between the more fortunate and the lesser fortunate people.

Even in the better times, to provide support and services to the community, events like The Rainbow Ball are important to help those who are in need of assistance.

“The community needs to step up,” says Ms. MacKenzie.

And faces like Mrs. Geeta Dheer have a huge potential of engaging South Asian community in charitable causes.

Author: Asma Amanat

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