Archive | October, 2010

Not So Surprising results of Municipal Elections 2010

Posted on 27 October 2010 by admin

EDITORIAL

Results for municipal elections 2010 are out. The biggest surprise of the election eve was the victory of Mr. Rob Ford, Toronto’s Mayor-elect by more than 93,000 votes.

What was not so surprising was the victory of only one South Asian, Harinder Malhi. Harinder ran for a position of public school aboard trustee in Wards 9 and 10 of Brampton. Councillor Vic Dhillon was re-elected with more than 55% votes in Wards 9 and 10 of Brampton.  Councillor Max Khan won by more than 55 per cent votes from Oakville. Councillor Logan Kanapthi has also been re-elected with ease. With over 125 South Asian candidates in the GTA, only 4 have been elected.

And Generation Next’s last edition’s cover had already reflected that if we don’t unite as a South Asian community, there is no hope for South Asian leadership in City Halls and Town Halls of the GTA.

We must sit and ponder why.

In the wake of the current election results, many are suggesting that the concept of strategic voting is no more relevant. This is not accurate. If Mr. Mohammed Dhanani was the only South Asian on the ballot in Ward 26 of Toronto, he would have won with a narrow margin. If Harkanwal Thind was the only Desi on ballot for a regional councillor of Brampton for Wards 9 & 10, incumbent Regional Councillor Frank Sprovieri might not have won with the lead he got. The voter turnout in this area of Brampton is more than 39 per cent, a higher average than the rest of the City.

What must also be realized is that not being South Asian is not enough. What’s important is to understand the issues, volunteer in political campaigns, learn from the masters and run a clean, focused campaign that has broader outreach than just South Asians.

As we have said before, South Asian candidates and elected officials alike must change their attitude of feeling superior than the people they represent. They must be modest and give an impression of listening to all and everyone’s concerns. We have been told that some South Asian candidates took a different tone when they were speaking to someone who cannot speak fluent English, and behaved entirely differently when they were communicating with someone who can speak flawless English.

If this election has taught us anything, it’s this: Do not take voters for granted. Polls can say whatever they like, media can have favourite candidates, but it all comes down to candidates’ message and how people have taken it.

Councillor Vic Dhillon Wards 9 & 10, Brampton

Town Councillor Max Khan Ward 6, Oakville

Town Councillor Logan Kanapathi Ward 7, Markham

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Rob Ford Wins

Posted on 27 October 2010 by admin

Most media showed bias to Rob Ford. But the people of Toronto had something else in mind. They didn’t buy into the ex-Deputy Premiere of Ontario George Smitherman’s pitch. They didn’t buy into the endorsement of Premiere of Ontario Dalton McGuinty’s or for Justin Trudeau for that matter.

Councillor Doug Ford ( Left) and Mayor-elect Rob Ford with Toronto based famous film maker and Human Rights Activist Mr. Roger Nair who commented " No one tells voters what to do, no one but no one is smarter than them..."

They did buy into the straight talk “Stop The Gravy Train.”

Ford, Rob – Votes: 353,408 Voting percentage: 47.11

Smitherman, George – Votes: 266,460 Voting percentage: 35.52

Pantalone, Joe – Votes: 88,811 Voting percentage: 11.83

This could be a wake up call for Ontario’s Premiere Dalton McGuinty..Could it be?

Stop giving away the tax payers money or else………………………………….

By Sehgal Viveka

________________________

Mayor Rob Ford  - Toronto

Got 47.11%


Mayor Hazel McCallion – Mississauga

Got  76.40% votes

Mayor Susan Fennell – Brampton

Got  50.68 % votes

Mayor Rob Burton  - Oakville

Got 52.28% votes

Mayor Dave Barrow – Richmond Hill

Got 27,567 votes

Mayor Frank Scarpitti – Markham

Got 85.12% votes

Mayor Bob Bratina – Hamilton

Got 37.32% votes

Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua – Vaughn

Got 45,054 votes

Mayor Steve Parish – Ajax

Got 13,541 votes

Mayor John Henry – Oshwa

Got 15,268 votes

Mayor Dave Ryan – Pickering

Got 10,361 votes

Mayor Pat Perkins – Whitby

Got 47.55% votes

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Federal government slashes funds for Ontario’s newcomers

Posted on 27 October 2010 by admin

The federal government will be cutting $50 million in 2011 and $59 million in 2012 from settlement agencies across Canada.

Ontario Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Dr. Eric Hoskins is “devastated” at the federal government’s “unilateral decision” to cut funds from the settlement organizations that provide necessary support to “our newcomers.”

The news comes “at the worst possible time coming out of the economic downturn,” Minister Hoskins said to Generation Next.

The unemployment rate in Ontario is just over eight per cent. New comers with professional credentials suffer higher unemployment rates according to report released by Community Foundations of Canada.

The report says “in 2009, recent immigrants with a university education had an unemployment rate that was 4.1 times higher (13.9%) than that of Canadian-born workers with a university degree (3.4%).”

Debbie Douglas, the Executive Director of Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI) that represents more than 220 settlement agencies, says “the proposed cuts will have drastic impact on services provided to new immigrants.”

So far the Ontario government has not been informed which programs will see funding cuts. These programs can range from language training, bridge programs to housing and employment services.

A few days ago Dr. Hoskins met with Mr. Jason Kenney, the federal Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and Multiculturalism. Minister Hoskins tells us that “Minister Kenney expressed his openness and willingness to open negotiations [COIA]..but he seemed less optimistic about promised but unspent $207 million..We need to see action on this file..the federal government must put an end to [making] unilateral decisions.”

In an answer to the question form Generation Next about the federal government’s cutting funding from settlement agencies, Minister Kenney noted that “the reality is that our government since 2006 has increased settlement fundings by 400 per cent..we increased federal investment in language and other integration services to new comers.”

Minister Keeney reiterated the federal government’s commitment “to continue very robust funding of settlement services.”

He added “the number of immigrants going to Ontario has gone down in recent years. More new comers are settling in Prairie Provinces and Atlantic Canada. We need to ensure that the money follows the newcomers on a per capita basis..and so we are looking for allocating funds where the newcomers  need the money” rather than “arbitrarily [allocating funds] to one or two provinces because they might have had higher immigration levels in the past. We’re gonna discuss all of that with Ontario in our conversations in COIA agreement.”

“The reality is per new comer basis, the newcomers in Quebec receive 50 per cent more than what we receive in Ontario, so Ontario doesn’t get its fair share,” Dr. Hoskins retorts.

These cuts will be “on top of $207 million promised by the federal government and yet to be spent,” said Minister Hoskins referring to funds that the federal government was supposed to give to the Ontario government as a result of Canada Ontario Immigration Agreement (COIA).

Will the Ontario government seek legal action for the payment of $207 million that was promised by the federal government in COIA?

“I would hope not. I would hope that the federal government share province’s commitment to newcomers..I would be happy to provide [the federal government] the list of organizations and proposals to spend $207 million..so that our newcomers succeed..[especially] when newcomers will be vital force of Ontario’s economy and Canada’s economy.”

The Ontario government is seeking greater administrative responsibility in the next agreement so that Ontario does not have to wait for funds from the federal government. Phase I of COIA expired in March. The agreement is in interim stage now, however this will also expire in March 2011.

“Once negotiations begin for new COIA, we will be seeking stronger partnership – responsibility and accountability to the federal government. We are closer to newcomers, we understand their unique needs and challenges. If we can have greater control over funds, we can be more effective and efficient..and we can remove discrepancies that exist in administering programs for refugee claimants,” Minister Hoskins says.

Although Minister Kenney has assured that the federal government will begin negotiations soon, the Ontario government expresses “danger of not having an agreement at all.”

Minister Kenney also reminded us that “the previous liberal government froze and cut settlement funding for 13 years. Even if there are small decreases in some areas as a result of these readjustments, fundamentally the services are far far more than when we came to the office.”

Regardless Minister Hoskins says “every time the federal government decides to cut federal spending, they can’t expect the province to step in. This is not fair to our newcomers.”

Ms. Douglas urges the community “to impress upon the federal government that with economic downturn, recent studies show newcomers have been worst hit by recession and that the employment support services and language training are tied to employment, so cuts shouldn’t be made at this time. The federal government can find savings elsewhere.”

Author: Asma Amanat

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Prevent Home-grown Terrorism: What We Must Do?

Posted on 27 October 2010 by admin

In recent years, ‘home grown terrorism’ has emerged as a new phenomenon in the Western World.

Her Excellency Ms. Anne Patterson, ex US Ambassador to Pakistan told a group of people at the Atlantic Council, an American think tank, that increasingly American passport holders travel freely and frequently to get military training from countries in the Middle East and Pakistan. She delivered this speech before Mr. Faisal Shahzad was arrested for an attempt to blow up the buildings in New York City with explosives in an abandoned car. Many policing agencies find it true for the rest of the Western world also.

The issue of ‘home grown terrorism’ is worrisome to all of us. Living in the fear of who lives next door and what their kids do is traumatic. We had hardly put Faisal Shahzad in the back of our minds when  four young men were arrested in Canada in terrorism related charges just a few weeks ago.

Canada, being the next door ally of the US, has to take into consideration the safety and security of its citizens against the radicalized youths. The arrest of Dr. Khurram S. Sher and three other young men beg the question why are these youths turning to harm the countries that have taught them the value of human rights and democracy; countries that gave refuge to their parents when they fled persecution from their home countries. Freedom to exercise religious liberty is prevalent more in the Western world than it is in Muslim countries or in South Asia. Just look at Saudi Arabia.

It is mindboggling to see how youth can be drawn to Taliban and Al Qaeda’s dogma. The Taliban has victimized women, burned schools and hospitals, compelled men to wear beards, destroyed arts and culture. Much of this is contrary to the teachings of Islam. Islam places high value on learning – “O’ God enhance my learning.”

It is astonishing that a young man who is liberal enough to appear on a show like Canadian Idol would be charged for destroying the country that gave him an opportunity to try something as much fun as Canadian Idol.

The beauty of this country also lies in its fair judicial system. The Ottawa court released Mr. Sher on strict bail conditions. A man arrested on terrorism related charges is bailed out. This is even more incredulous.

Mr. Vic Toews, Canadian Minister of Public Safety, has had discussions about the phenomenon of ‘home grown terrorism’ with Janet Napolitano, US Secretary of Homeland Security.

In an answer to a question by Generation Next, Minister Toews said that Canada and the US “share [the] concern of radicalization of youths and the training of these youths overseas to radicalize them..[getting the] military training and then coming home to Canada, creating all kinds of issues..in Canadian society in general and to specific communities where these youths come from.”

What to do about this problem of radicalization of youths?

“Our agencies have been..working with communities in various ways in order to prevent the radicalization..we want to know exactly how best to approach the problem. Members of the RCMP and CSIS regularly  work with the particular community that has expressed concerns to battle this concern,” Minister Toews responds.

What can the South Asian community do?

Minister Toews has publicly said “This is not a matter that the governments can deal with on their own. We require the cooperation of communities..where radicalization is taking place to work not only to protect Canadians but the members of these specific communities..[people can have] regular contact with police agencies, with RCMP, with CSIS..to advise of the specific concerns that they have and to sit down and determine on how best to move forward.”

Our government is doing the right thing by engaging the community. However there exists a gap between the government and the policing agencies’ efforts and the community from where these radicalized youths tend to belong from.

In America, when consultations are held between the government, the FBI and the community, some specific members of the community members participate. Many of these community leaders have baggage with them. The broader community, therefore, does not respect or trust these community leaders’ and their message. America has to rely on not-so-good community leaders because they do not have any South Asian elected members, neither does it have a strong community presence or an established ethnic media.

While Minister Toews encourages communication between the policing agencies and the community members, to date we are unaware of any such meetings held in the GTA.

In Canada, we are blessed with multiculturalism. There are no South Asian elected official in Congress or the United States Senate. Here in Canada, we have a number of South Asian elected representatives at the federal, provincial and municipal level. (Calgary just elected the first Muslim Mayor). These elected representatives are Canada’s assets as well as resources. They live close to the community; understand the community culturally and religiously. They comprehend any hurtful feelings community might have and they can work out the ways to resolve the misperceptions and misconceptions between the community and the government. These elected officials have been voted into a public office, so we know people respect them and trust them. We must also understand that the policing agencies have an aura of scaring people of South Asian communities. In South Asia, police station is the last place people turn to in the time of need.

Our government should rise above political partisanship and assign the burden of responsibility on South Asian elected officials whether they are Conservatives or Liberals.

And above all, the government must utilize community’s ethnic media. While ethnic newspapers are happy to get advertisements from the government, it is also our responsibility as part of the community to help our government in conveying its message to our people. Ethnic newspapers must fulfill its obligation to act as a bridge between the government and the community.

After all, when someone tries to destroy our home, we stand as one united nation regardless of our colourful differences.

On this we can all agree.

____________

Canada-Pakistan Trade Expo:

What are pro-Taliban people doing in Canada?

Maulana Atta-ur-Rehman, the federal Minister of Tourism, is the chief guest from Pakistan for Canada Pakistan Trade Expo 2010. Mr. Rehman’s brother Maulana Fazl ur Rehman is the head of Jamiat Ulamai Islami (JUI), a political party with strong leanings to Taliban and Al-Qaeda. JUI is one of the Islamic political parties in Pakistan that is in favour of negotiating with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan without militants’ giving up the weapons. They are against fighting war on terrorism and consider Afghanistan to be under attack by the Americans and its allies, Canada being one of them.

Ties between Rehmans and Baitullah Mehsud were such that Baitullah Mehsud used to sit on Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman’s feet when he visited Rehmans. Maulana Fazal ur Rehman was denied the US visa just a few weeks ago. He was sent back from the Middle East. The reason given for the refusal of the US visa, we have been told, is ‘security concerns.’

The Guest of Honour of the Expo is Mr. Khurram Dastgir Khan, member of National Assembly and Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) and Chairman of Pakistan’s National Assembly Standing Committee on Commerce. Mr. Khan belongs to the major right wing political party that condemns terrorism, however PML-N considers international troops as forces of aggression.

What we are amazed at is how people who have actually executed tourism industry in Pakistan can represent Pakistani culture to Canadian entrepreneurs. (The Pakistani Army had to chase away Taliban and militants from the beautiful valley of Swat.) We thought that Minister of Tourism would be someone progressive who understands the significance of culture and traditions, arts and culture, trade and tourism. Maulana Atta ur Rehman with his shalwar above his ankles and Osama bin Laden like noor (light) is hardly that person.

Conversely, Maulana Rehman belongs to a party that abhors Canadian values of cherishing democracy, human rights, women’s rights, education and healthcare for all. They are for niqaab and burqas, against girls’ schools and women’s employment, considering women something of a low-being. One of the reasons cited for Canadians’ not giving donations for flood victims of Pakistan was corruption and increasing Talibanization of Pakistan.  More than 150 Canadian soldiers have died in Afghanistan to uphold Canadian values, but we are not quite certain why Canadian government would grant visas to people who so obviously support militants and extremists.

We are also shocked at the Pakistani government’s decision to send Maulana Atta-ur-Rehman to represent Pakistan to an international audience. We can understand the compromises Zardari government has to make compromises in Pakistan, however Maulana Rehman is not someone who can best represent Pakistan and its tourism to international audience.

Majority of Pakistanis are liberal progressive people who have been forced to change their life style under the threat of Talibanization; they are the people who have never really been given a chance to democracy. Mr. Rehman so obviously belongs to the group that is pushing the Pakistani nation toward adopting Taliban-like lifestyle.

The government of Pakistan laments on not having access to international markets, however it has completely failed to develop its brands to market to the international world. Calls to Pakistan are the most expensive among South Asian countries, thanks to taxes imposed by the Pakistani government, textile industry cannot market to the international community because of various taxes.

And Oh by the way, free biryani will be served between 2:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. on Friday October 29th at North Building, Hall-J of Toronto Congress Centre. We will have to see if free biryani can help businessmen make up their minds about Pakistani basmati.

Pakistan’s Consulate in Toronto confirmed 50 business-to-business meetings. If that could be shared with the South Asian community, it can perhaps evoke some interest among Canadian entrepreneurs to do business with Pakistani industries. Or are these meetings, interactions between Pakistanis from Pakistan and Canadian Pakistanis.

In one of the interviews, the owner of the largest hotel chain in Pakistan grieved that while Pakistan has the most stunning glaciers in the world, international world turns to other parts of the world for skiing and other such activities. Because in Pakistan you are advised to drink lassi rather than brandy in below freezing temperatures. No wonder, tourists don’t bother looking up Pakistan for their tourist destinations.

Regardless Maulana Atta-ur-Rehman’s presence in Canada is significant and suspicious. Or maybe we are too afraid of pro-Taliban people even here in Canada.

Author: Asma Amanat

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Judiciary on trial

Posted on 27 October 2010 by admin

The judiciary is facing questions about its functioning. It is not only the backlog of cases which horrify people but also the judges’ lessening integrity. Flames are reaching even the highest in the judiciary.

The media response is wishy-washy because it is afraid of contempt proceedings. But intrepid lawyers in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh have shown that they are not hesitant to cover the ground where even angels fear to tread.

The Supreme Court at New Delhi has such a challenge confronting it. Two leading lawyers, Shanti Bhushan, former law minister, and his son Prashant Bhushan, known for his battles against human rights violations, have alleged that as many as seven retired chief justices of India, all living, have received one favour or the other.

A few weeks ago, Prashant Bhushan said in an interview that certain chief justices have indulged in “corrupt practices”. He dared the court to try him for contempt. A senior Supreme Court lawyer, Harish Salve, moved the court for initiating contempt proceedings against Prashant. The court issued a notice.

Nothing happened for many days. Shanti Bhushan followed the son and said in the court of the chief justice that certain retired chief justices were corrupt and submitted a sealed envelope to the chief justice of India, S.H. Kapadia. Shanti Bhushan challenged the court to proceed against him for contempt of court.

Prashant has now given details of transactions which the alleged corrupt chief justices are supposed to have indulged in. Some of these instances have been publicised earlier and the judges were generally exonerated. However, the surprising part is the stark silence of the Supreme Court.

A famous retired Supreme Court judge, Krishna Iyer, has demanded in an article that Shanti Bhushan and Prashant Bhushan be punished for making “false charges” or their allegations must be scrutinised by an independent authority. He has, in fact, tried to expand the case by demanding a probe into the charges against other judges.

The chief justice has remained quiet. No newspaper has followed up on the allegations. No television network has picked up the story. What surprises me is the lack of reaction either from the bar or the government. All seem to have taken the charges in their stride. Yet the dust of time cannot cover up the tracks nor can it push the cases under the carpet.

The Supreme Court has to act if it wants to salvage its prestige. It is not a political matter where the affected party does not want to retaliate. This concerns the judiciary, which is the custodian of the constitution that determines the contours of governance. The court has no choice except to pick up the gauntlet.

If the two lawyers are guilty of making unsubstantiated charges, they must be punished. But if their charges are correct, then the public must know every detail. How I wish the country had the institution of ombudsman (lok pal) in position.

An administrative reforms commission proposed it as far back as in 1966. The law ministry has said belatedly that a bill to create the machinery of lok pal would come before parliament at the earliest. But do the allegations hang fire till then? There is also a proposal to bring a bill on judicial accountability. Even if this is passed, it would be some time in the middle of December when the six-week winter session of parliament concludes.

One suggestion is that the matter be referred to the parliamentary standing committee on law. Parliament must realise that the judiciary is independent of both the legislative bodies and the government. So many battles have been fought by stalwarts in the judiciary and the government to draw a line between the two. It is the understanding between the two which keeps governance on an even keel.

What can the parliamentary committee do? The constitution provides for impeachment of judges. But the process is so long that no judge has been impeached so far.

I cannot think of a better way than appointing a 14-member tribunal comprising four sitting judges of the Supreme Court, six senior-most chief justices from the states and four from among the former attorney generals and topmost lawyers in the country. The tribunal should sit like an open court. Transparency in such matters is essential.

Yet I have found that the judiciary is itself circumspect when it comes to deciding on the government’s indiscretion. A few days ago, it was the Supreme Court which made a graceful gesture. It did not join issue with the prime minister when he interpreted the court’s order as interference in policy matters.

The point which the Supreme Court made — and which was lost on the executive — was that food grain was too scarce a commodity to be wasted. A court-appointed committee found 67,000 tonnes rotting in Punjab and Haryana. Therefore, it made sense when the court directed Sharad Pawar’s agriculture ministry to give away food to the poor when it had no storage facilities. For the prime minister to state that the court should not interfere in policy matters was a provocation which the court let go.

Indira Gandhi embarked on the journey to personal rule when she thought that the judiciary should be “committed”. Ultimately, it became clear that what she meant was that the judiciary should be loyal to her. The result was the imposition of the emergency which suspended even fundamental rights. There is nothing to suggest that Manmohan Singh is of Indira Gandhi’s ilk. But he has to be careful of his words.

Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam said when he was president: “In a mature democracy, it is important that judges are independent both of parliament and the government.”

Judicial review is a basic feature. This was upheld in the Keshvanand Bharti case while underlining the indestructible basic structure of the constitution. It is the duty of the court to examine what the executive does. Someone compared the government with the raging river which requires firm banks to contain it. That dyke is the judiciary.

Author: Kuldip Nayar


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Strategic Dialogue: What Pakistan Wants?

Posted on 27 October 2010 by admin

The third round of the Strategic Dialogue between the United States and Pakistan, held on October 20-22 in Washington,  provided a useful opportunity to the senior officials  of the two countries to review their relations and discuss the future of their interaction pertaining to Afghanistan, bilateral security, military cooperation, and social and economic development projects in 13 identified fields.

The U.S. major interest is to convince Pakistan’s government and the political circles that its support to and cooperation for Pakistan is not limited to U.S. stakes in Afghanistan. The U.S. side argued that they were working towards a long term partnership with Pakistan, focusing on socio-economic development in addition to cooperation in the military and security fields.

Pakistan and the U.S. share the goal of complete elimination of terrorism from Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, they often diverge on the precise strategies to deal with a specific terrorism situation. This causes strains in their relations from time to time. At times the U.S. officials publicly reprimand Pakistan for not doing enough to control terrorism. Non-official American circles and think-tanks are more critical of Pakistan.

The American argument that they provide so much funding to Pakistan but it does not fully cooperate with the U.S undermines the prospects of normal relations between the two countries. This argument treats Pakistan as a mercenary country that should follow U.S. instruction for countering terrorism in return for the money paid to them.   That is not how a long term relationship can be sustained.

Pakistan and the U.S. need to work together to evolve shared strategies to cope with the menace of terrorism rather than the U.S. authorities deciding unilaterally what Pakistan is supposed to do.   Pakistan and the U.S. have elaborate institutional and consultation arrangements that need to be utilized to get over the differences and misunderstandings that develop in the course of countering terrorism and insurgency.

As the U.S. has its own concern, Pakistan’s concerns arise out of its geographic location; next door to Afghanistan and sharing borders with India.    Pakistan’s security forces are pursuing counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations in the tribal areas keeping in view their capacity to pursue such operations and their domestic considerations.

The army is now busy in providing assistance to civilian authorities in the flood-affected areas. They are expected to stay involved in these operations for next three-four months.  Another major responsibility is the security of the border with India. The tension between India and Pakistan is high since the Mumbai terrorist attacks on November 26, 2008. India moved its troops from peacetime positions in order to resort to coercive diplomacy against Pakistan.  The tension persists between the two countries, compelling Pakistan to stay watchful on this border.

Pakistan’s security forces evicted the Taliban from Swat/Malakand and South Waziristan in 2009. Currently, the army and the paramilitary continue to look after the internal security in these regions.  The troops are also engaged in security operations in Bajaur, Khyber, Orakzai, Mohmand and Kuram regions of the tribal areas.  Once they are able to consolidate their position in these regions, there will be an operation in North Waziristan where more entrenched groups are located.

The major points of contention are the Afghan groups based in North Wazirisan, the presence of the Taliban activists around Quetta and cross border movement between Pakistan’s tribal areas and Afghanistan.  The U.S wants indiscriminate military action against these elements by Pakistan.

These groups are no friends of Pakistan and Pakistan will have to move against them ultimately. However, Pakistan’s military authorities want to pursue these groups on their own convenience.

Pakistan is currently helping the Kabul government to initiate a dialogue with different Taliban groups. It has facilitated the contact between the Afghan government and the Haqqani group based in North Wazirstan.  If Pakistan starts security operation in North Waziristan and engages in decimation of all Taliban groups its capacity to promote dialogue will be compromised.

Pakistan is also thinking of the DAY AFTER American/NATO troops quit Afghanistan. It needs to maintain relations with some groups because Pakistan will have to deal with them because of the geographic proximity between Pakistan and Afghanistan. It does not want to alienate all Pakhtun Taliban groups.

Pakistan’s concern is the issue of stability in Afghanistan after the U.S. and NATO troops withdraw from there.  If Afghanistan continues to face internal strife Pakistan’s tribal areas and the Frontier Province will not stabilize.   More Pakhtuns live in Pakistan than in Afghanistan. Therefore, Pakistan is in favor of adequate Pakhtun representation in the power structure in Afghanistan.

The current Afghan administration, police and the army are dominated by Tajiks and Uzbeks.   Pakistan will not favor a government in Kabul that is hostile to Pakistan, especially when Pakistan contributes to sustaining Afghan economy through transit trade and bilateral trade and smuggling of food and other items. Pakistan’s interest is that Afghan territory should not be used against Pakistan.

All these considerations make it difficult to launch military action against the Taliban groups, all of whom are Pakhtun, in an indiscriminate manner. Its selective approach creates differences between Pakistan and the U.S.

Author: Dr.Hasan Askari

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NCP is a customer service oriented agency – Effat Ghassemi, Executive Director of NCP

Posted on 27 October 2010 by admin

Newcomer Centre of Peel cherishes itself as “ a customer service oriented agency” where the staff accompanies the newcomer to wherever an individual has to go rather than saying “go to second floor and find Room no. 25,” says Effat Ghassemi, the Founder and the Executive Director of Newcomer Centre of Peel (NCP). “Here we don’t confuse people,” she added.

One of the reason NCP is very customer service oriented is because its founder has faced hardships as a newcomer, as someone who faced linguistic and career challenges and therefore understands that a direction as small as ‘down the street’ can be difficult for newcomers.

Effat Ghassemi came to Canada from Iran 22 years ago. She moved from Iran during the Gulf War of 1991. In her own words “I came with my three little boys and my husband because I was seeking democracy and freedom and a safe place to live and raise my children..Every day there was bombardment.”

After one week of getting rid of jet lag, she found an ESL program in Brampton and enrolled herself in it. After moving through various levels of ESL program, she thought of transferring her teaching qualifications to Canada.

A teacher by profession in Iran, Effat taught sociology, psychology and literature. Here in Canada after three years of going back and forth with the Ministry of Education, Effat was given  a Letter of Standing to work as a supply teacher. Her life as a supply teacher was less than perfect.

There were different cultural expectations also. “I came to Canada thinking I will be carrying my flag of the best teacher on the earth..in Iran, teachers were treated like gods and goddesses..here the attitude was very different.”

Every day on her drive back she cried until one day when her son said to her “mother, really don’t go back to this kind of job..I listened to him thinking that there is no support for new supply teachers.”

She quit her job as a teacher and took a job where she had to calculate people’s work hours at a minimum wage. She had never dealt with numbers before. At the time she thought to herself “Whatever I learn is adding to my skills,” now, however, she jokes “I handle $8 million dollars budget and I am so good at calculating numbers.”

She switched from child education to adult education and took a position as manager of an ESL program. Since then she has been working with non for profit organizations.  To date she has been a student. She graduated with an MA from Ryerson University and is currently a doctorate student with University of Guelph.

Career challenges aside, Effat like many other women encountered problems at home too. She tells us how her husband “had his own stress and anxiety” on not finding a job at the level he had worked in Iran.

Effat speaks very highly of multiculturalism and the opportunities newcomers have in Canada.  That is not to say that there is no racism or discrimination in Canada, “but I look at the sunny side of things. We’re so much better than the rest of the world..Look at what Germany is doing, look at France,” she says.

While the federal government is planning on cutting funding from settlement agencies, Effat is hopeful that no cuts will be made for NCP mainly “because NCP is located at high newcomer catchment area of Mississauga.. I don’t think they [the federal government] would want to skin from the bare bone.”

NCP’s success rate in employment services is above 80 per cent.

With dedication and passion for public service, Effat has no ambitions to run for a public office so far. She describes herself as “a neighbourhood person” who desires “to read to kids when she is old, old with her crutches.”

________________

NCP: Giving Opportunity to Newcomers

The Newcomer Centre of Peel (NCP) believes that every immigrant is unique and should be given the opportunity to succeed in Canada.  In practical terms, this uniqueness represents a complex challenge.  Every newcomer to our country faces different obstacles; from mastering a new language, to having skills accredited, to the fulfillment of basic settlement needs, such as; proper education for their children and housing for their families.  Through innovation and energy we leverage the broad experience of our staff and community partners to overcome these settlement barriers.

NCP is a multi-service agency that assists the entire newcomer family in achieving settlement.  With experience and expertise in adult language training; employability and business start-up and comprehensive settlement services including programs for women, youth and seniors; NCP offers a dedication to quality of service and an understanding of each client’s needs.

The impediments to successful integration cannot be dealt with in isolation. We have to ensure equality of access to opportunity to enable immigrants to connect to the enduring values and principles of what defines Canada. NCP, working with funding from Citizenship & Immigration Canada; hopes to foster loyalty to Canada from our new immigrants and their families by providing a variety of holistic services in a friendly and familial atmosphere. Our vision is to continue to evolve together as a community!

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Author: Staff Writer

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We’ve put $2 billion in seniors’ pockets – Minister Diance Ablonczy

Posted on 27 October 2010 by admin

Poverty rate among seniors has reduced from just over 20 per cent in 1980s to 5.8 per cent in 2010, says the Honourable Diane Ablonczy, Minister of State (Seniors).

Over time the governments have increased measures that provide “adequate financial resources,”  to seniors she said in a conversation with Generation Next. Old age security, guaranteed old age supplement, a number of tax cuts and so on have been some of the ways in which the Government has put almost $2 billion more in the pockets of seniors each year.

National Seniors Council has been holding round table conferences throughout the country. MP Ablonczy cheers these meetings by saying “hello.”

One of the discussions in these round tables has been barriers seniors face while finding paid and unpaid work when they have passed traditional age of retirements.  Another topic was to see seniors not as a burden but an asset.

“We have bilateral treaties with most other countries that allow for the pensions to be factored in to income support so that people who come here don’t lose the benefits they have earned,” says Minister Ablonczy. However immigrants from South Asian countries do not enjoy this benefit. “The problem there is we have some countries that are willing to make that contributions and some of them just say that Canada has generous system and rely on the Canadian system. A lot of countries take a different stance and we try to work with other countries for the benefit of our seniors,” she stated.

Liberal MP Judy Srgo has introduced Bill C 574 – Pension Bill of Rights. As Minister Ablonczy understands it, MP Srgo’s “purpose [in introducing this Bill] is to make sure that all seniors in Canada have adequate income and adequate pension..some have not worked in Canada especially women because they are family care givers..of course newcomers haven’t worked in Canada.”

Will the government support this Bill?

Minister Ablonczy won’t say yes or no, only that “the bill has not been up for debate yet.”

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TFSA project is ‘overwhelmingly successful” – Conservative MP Paul Calandra

Posted on 27 October 2010 by admin

“ What we understand and what we realize is that when we cut taxes and put more money in the pockets of Canadians, jobs and wealth is created,” says Conservative MP Paul Calandra from Oak Ridges-Markham.

“The tax reductions undertaken by the Harper Government, including those in Canada’s Economic Action Plan, are an essential part of our Government’s effort to stimulate the economy and create or maintain jobs,” said Minister Flaherty. “Lower taxes help ease the financial pressure on individuals, families and businesses and help build a solid foundation for future economic growth. Lower taxes also stimulate individual spending, which helps to protect and create jobs.”

While the number of full time jobs lost is still higher than the number of full time jobs created, the government constantly talks about job creation. “We’ve consistently said that we’re not pleased with job numbers..we have invested in infrastructure program, reduced GST from 7 to 6 to 5 per cent. We have stimulated economy in advance of what was coming,” however there is a negative impact on Canadian economy when the international community is not doing quite so well. He cited the United States and European countries as an example. To weather the economic challenges, he noted that the government has signed free trade agreements with several European governments.

One seems to be in the making with India. Impressed by India’s success in holding Commonwealth Games, Mr. Calandra would like to sign a comprehensive free trade agreement “sooner rather than later.”

“What we recognize is that Canada hasn’t done a good job of trade with India historically. We were lucky to have PM Singh in Canada..we have very large diasporas be it Italian, Indian or Chinese that can lead us on how to  do trade with the countries of their origin..we want to have access to huge Indian market and we want to be at forefront in trade with India.”

The Tax Free Savings Accounts (TFSA) is one of the other ways in which the government is  helping people save money. MP Calandra says the TFSA has been “overwhelming successful” although one can only save $5,000 a year through TFSA. If you have to withdraw funds, 10% is deducted. First time home-buyers do not have to pay tax to withdraw funds from TFSA.

In recent months “we have seen loosening of credit markets,” MP Calandra says. Although there are stricter rules of who can have access to credits, the Business Development Bank of Canada is helping people to get access to credit if they have to open new businesses, he noted.

“There has been very small increase in EI premiums,” after consultations with small and medium enterprises. “The program has to pay for itself..benefits have to match the contributions,” he told Generation Next. The decision to increase the EI premiums has been widely criticized, however, Mr. Calanadra noted that the decision is applauded by Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses.

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Let’s give families a break on home heating costs

Posted on 27 October 2010 by admin

When I think of winter coming, I imagine cosy weekends filled with kids’ laughter and hot chocolate shared in the warm glow of our living room. But for too many Canadians, that first snowfall may feel a little more ominous. For some of our friends and neighbours –maybe even your family – staying warm this winter could mean skipping bill payments, skipping lunches or pulling the kids out of bhangra classes.

Our Prime Minister is badly out of touch if he thinks soaring bank profits means that the recession is over. Most families are still weathering this crisis, paycheque-to-paycheque. They’re worried about their jobs, their savings, their unpaid bills, and next spring’s college tuition. Now, with home heating prices already rising, that first cold snap will make life even less affordable.

Canada’s New Democrats have a plan to keep your heating bills in check.

Step one takes the five per cent federal sales tax off home heating fuel – natural gas, oil and wood.

Step two restores the ecoENERGY home retrofit program, to help you cut your utility bills even further by making your home more energy-efficient.

Jack Layton is calling on the Prime Minister to implement this plan now, before furnaces start running overtime this winter. Getting this done will cost one third of what Stephen Harper plans to hand oil companies next year in subsidies. Instead of rewarding those big polluters who gouge you on your heating bill, Mr. Harper could join with New Democrats to redirect those funds to help families like yours.

After all, this is the same Prime Minister who promised to make your life more affordable! But four years later, life is more expensive than ever, and now Mr. Harper is hiking your payroll taxes in the middle of a recession. Adding 8 per cent to the cost of hundreds of goods — including home heating — by pushing his HST tax shift on this province. All the while, the Conservatives are squandering $9-billion on prisons we don’t need, $16-billion on untendered fighter jet contracts, and $21-billion on tax giveaways for corporations that don’t need the help.

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of seeing Conservative insiders get all the breaks—just like Liberal insiders used to get all the breaks. I’m tired of the cynical political games. With the NDP’s home heating plan, Jack Layton is asking the Prime Minister to put the partisan games aside and do the right thing.

Will this plan end the affordability crisis? No. But it’s a start, and with winter coming, we should start now. The NDP’s home heating plan is an achievable solution to a basic need shared by millions of Canadians. I think it’s the kind of practical solution—the kind of Canadian leadership—that voters send MPs to Parliament to fight for.

I live in Ottawa and it gets cold here. Heating our homes shouldn’t be the nudge that pushes families over the edge. Something needs to be done now – before we’re buried under the snow for months. And you know what? By putting a few dollars back in your pocket, we’ll also be helping to spark the middle-class recovery that our country needs right now.

Author: Rupinder Kur

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