Archive | December, 2011

PEEL NEWCOMER STRATEGY GROUP: Advocating for Newcomers

Posted on 30 December 2011 by admin

“At PNSG, 100% of our staff is immigrants. In terms of women, there are three women and two men. In terms of South Asian, three of the five are from South Asia. Some ask me if this is deliberate, but they just qualified for the roles we were looking at. They are all also newcomers. The kind of things we celebrate as a team is my assistant getting her driver’s license, my communications person becoming a Canadian citizen.”

 

Among the several settlement agencies working in the GTA, Peel Newcomer Strategy Group (PNSG) is a prominent one. Its objective is to coordinate between and integrate settlement services for immigrants in the Region of Peel. Recently, Generation Next spoke to Laureen Rennie, the organization’s Executive Director on a range of issues and debates surrounding newcomers.

Community outreach events such as the Mississauga Summit that was held recently, have the problem of not attracting new people. In these gatherings, people who participate are the same with very little new insight and at times their own axes to grind.

In the process, such events don’t penetrate the community at the grassroots level. Ms. Rennie suggests taking the message right into the neighbourhoods and working directly with residents. “We have mapped ten neighbourhoods in Peel where newcomers are very dense in terms of their representation in those vicinities. We want to ensure we bring them into the conversation…I believe working on a model based on neighbourhood will be a good way to start getting more residents involved,” she says.

But what about Brampton, now predominantly a South Asian city?

 

Ms. Rennie agrees and says “We know that terminology of visible minority no longer applies in Brampton because 57% of the population is visible minority… We’ve done some research in that regard to gain better understanding, but now the time has come for acting on what we have learned.”

Every so often, there is advocacy to engage visible minorities into decision making. But given the initial struggles of new Canadians with regard to finding jobs and getting foreign credential recognition, can they really become part of the conversation?

While Ms. Rennie concedes that work is a priority and is a day-in, day-out job, she doesn’t think that’s the only thing driving an individual. “Being a sense of community, feeling a sense of belonging is also part of what drives individuals. They did this when they were in their own home countries so it’s only natural to want to do it here.”

She also sounds critical of the federal government’s immigration policy. While on the one hand points are given to people on the basis of foreign professional credentials when one applies to immigrate, once the person lands, those very credentials aren’t considered enough. She feels the government needs to resolve this disconnect.

Newcomers to Canada are often advised to engage in volunteer activities. This can present at Catch-22 situation wherein a person still looking for gainful employment has to spend time and money to do volunteer work. Again, Ms. Rennie is understanding about the newcomer’s dilemma, but still maintains that the importance of networking that can’t be discounted when it comes to even something like job hunting.

As Director of an organization that connects new Canadians to services available, Ms. Rennie is only too aware how new immigrants make ends meet. “The story of a newcomer is very well known,” she says, “they are doing it by long hours, by working in employments that do not utilize their skills very well. They are doing it by holding multiple jobs, by working and still furthering their education. It’s difficult but they are doing it. I can’t imagine how someone does stay motivated, but they do.”

The word diversity comes up incessantly in the Canadian context and even big corporations don’t stop mentioning it. However, one wonders if it is mere lip service.

Ms. Rennie says that if diversity isn’t visible through different layers in an organization, it means something is lagging. This is even truer of senior management. She highlights the work done in this direction by organizations like TD Bank who have played an important role by placing what she calls a “value proposition” for the newcomer or immigrant population. She draws attention to how the bank’s business is changing more and more to reflect the communities they are serving. “More businesses need to follow suit,” she believes and wants to hold up the banking industry as good examples that other companies should follow.

When asked if she thinks the provincial Liberal’s policy to reward employers who hire new Canadians with a $10,000 tax credit would prove effective, Ms. Rennie evinces skepticism. She says, “If we believe that companies hire who they need and what they need and that they have fair practices, I am not sure how helpful it will be. Now if those two things I mentioned don’t exist, the worry for me is that this could be a tokenism type of approach and that’s always the concern because if tokenism becomes the unplanned consequence of this offering, it completely derails what we are trying to accomplish.”

A PNSG newsletter indicates that immigrants in Canada aren’t faring as well with job searches as their Canadian-born counterparts. What could be behind this?

According to Ms. Rennie, who was actively involved with this study, part of the problem relates to securing employment. However, the other factor that inhibits their growth is that once they find employment, immigrants are often reluctant to push for their own advancement. Her interactions with many employed immigrants suggested that culturally, they are not accustomed to be aggressive about their own progression in the organization.

While there might be some substance to that argument, isn’t it true that some amount of discrimination also plays a role in this? Ms. Rennie feels it certainly does.

“There was actually a study done in which individuals removed their names or made up different names that were more Anglo-sounding and they also had a comparative group of names that run the gamut of diverse names, and the majority of Anglo-sounding names got call for an interview versus the ones that had the foreign-sounding names. So that report conclusively said there’s some level of discrimination, but how big a role that plays is a bit of an unknown at this point,” she says.

Does PNSG practice the diversity it desires to see in the community in general? Mr. Rennie informs with delight that 100 percent of their staff is made up of immigrants. They are all newcomers too.

 

At PNSG, 100% of our staff is immigrants. In terms of women, there are three women and two men. In terms of South Asian, three of the five are from South Asia. Some ask me if this is deliberate, but they just qualified for the roles we were looking at. They are all also newcomers. The kind of things we celebrate as a team is my assistant getting her driver’s license, my communications person becoming a Canadian citizen.

 

 

Here’re some excerpts of our conversation:

 

 

GN: At a recent conference organized by you, Ratna Omidvar spoke about the inclusion of immigrants. What specifically do you think can the government and non-profit organizations do to make that happen?

At the federal level as well as the provincial level, we currently…PNSG is actually an initiative that is a joint collaboration between the federal and the provincial governments and the region and United Way… Specifically, there’s a big idea to have a Centre for Diversity and Inclusion in Mississauga…We have a population where half the folks we have here were not born in Canada, but if you were to look at our councils, you don’t see any of that reflected, compared to MPPs and MPs at provincial and federal levels. It’s not clear to us why that’s happening, it’s something we have to better understand.

At the recent conference we had a newcomer as our emcee. That was deliberate. He had a completely different occupation from what he did on this particular day, but he did an exceptional job. So many times we hear of the struggling newcomer and the newcomer who is taking from the system, so it’s good to show the other side.

GN: But the gentleman you referred to, despite all his volunteer work, he struggles to keep jobs in settlement agencies. It’s a Catch-22. How do you respond to that?

It’s a Catch-22 and it’s interesting.. but I think he’s doing all the things that will take him where he wants to be.

GN: In recent municipal by-elections in the City of Mississauga, we saw a lot of visible minority candidates who ran without success. Does it mean newcomers have yet to understand the bureaucracy?

Those who run successful campaigns have and are aware of that those who are currently running in terms of our immigrant population, who are not succeeding, are missing.

 

GN: How about discrimination in hiring new Canadians?

Yes, I do believe that discrimination exists. Can I say it is being used so widely as a way of not advancing individuals? I would probably say more on the front end. When we talk about the resumes that come into a company…if the company—those who are screening the resumes screen out someone because of the name because they associate that name to be from whichever part of the world, that’s the discriminative act.

By Bhaswati Ghosh

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December- A Time for Celebration, Reflection, and Optimism

Posted on 30 December 2011 by admin

I love the holiday season- the food, the events, the lights, and of course, family and friends. It is a joyous time of year for many, and no matter your beliefs it can be an opportunity to spend time with your loved ones.

 

It’s a chance to be thankful for our blessings and hopeful for the coming year. Many people get into the holiday spirit with hot meals and blazing fires, and by giving back to the community.

 

There are times throughout the year when political, cultural, and religious differences divide us, but truly this is a time of year when we should put aside our differences and come together in a sense of peace and joy.

 

No matter your background or beliefs, loved ones are often the center of our lives and one of the gifts we all share. Spending time with family and friends is something no one should take for granted, and must be cherished and appreciated. Often we forget our blessings as we struggle with our curses, but no matter the stress we feel, there is always something to be thankful for.

 

It’s important to remember those among us who are currently separated from their family and waiting to find out when they can be re-united with them. This could be for many reasons from families separating for work, to family members being stationed abroad, to families waiting in the long immigration backlog to be reunited here in Canada.

 

With the introduction of a two-year moratorium on sponsoring parents and grandparents, it may be more difficult for individuals to be reunited with their family. Because of this moratorium, many of us will be waiting an additional two years before we are even able to apply to sponsor our parents and grandparents. That’s if the moratorium is ever lifted!  While this government has introduced a new “Super-Visa”, financial limitations may prevent some families from purchasing the requisite medical insurance and paying for the other requirements of this visa.

 

I am lucky enough to have had my grandparents come to Canada from Sri Lanka, and I am forever grateful to have the opportunity to spend time with them. However, not everyone will get this opportunity.

 

Providing assistance for individuals in need and the less fortunate is not only important during the holiday season, it is something we should be mindful of all year round. Those of us who are blessed must be thankful, grateful and giving, and not lose sight of what’s important in life. Uncertain economic conditions mean that many people have fallen on hard times and the holiday season can be stressful for these individuals. As a community, there are many ways in which we can support those in need, whether it be supporting the many community organizations that are collecting gift donations or donating your time in other ways.  These efforts can inspire us and to give back however we are able and maintain the holiday spirit all year round.

 

And when we do have doubt, I remind you of the words of the late Jack Layton, “My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”

 

The holidays are a time of year for positivity, cheerfulness and love. I wish you nothing but the best for this holiday season and the coming year.

 

Happy holidays everyone.

 

Rathika Sitsabaiesan is NDP MP from Scarborough-Rouge River. She is the first Tamil to be elected in the House of Commons.

 

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Free Online Math Help Available 24/7

Posted on 30 December 2011 by admin

How can you help your child understand their math homework and achieve their potential?   Few parents can afford hourly tutoring, some are unable to personally coach students in individual concepts and searching online for math help can become overwhelming.  The Ontario government has created an exciting online resource to help students in Grade 7 to 10 learn math skills through interactive tutorials and real-time tutoring with Ontario teachers.

 

Homework Help at ontario.ca/HomeworkHelp is a unique website funded by the Ministry of Education that will help your child do better in math.  Homework Help provides free 24/7 resources and live one-on-one tutoring every Sunday to Thursday from

5:30 p.m.– 9:30 p.m. EST to support Ontario math students in grades 7 to 10.

 

Homework Help offers interactive discussion rooms where math teachers work one-on-one with students to help with specific math questions. Each room has a shared whiteboard where both the tutor and the students can draw and write as they work together to develop a solution. Sessions are open to all registered users to watch and learn, including parents/guardians who can create guest accounts. All sessions are recorded, creating a safe online learning environment.

This website is the best thing ever! I think that teachers should really push this website on their students because it is a great help especially for high school students!

 

Homework Help is a safe, anonymous environment

We all need assistance to learn – but asking for help isn’t always easy.   At ontario.ca/HomeworkHelp students register and create a username which protects their identity.  All discussions with tutors are visible and math related.  Neither student users nor tutors have access to personal information about students using Homework Help.  This anonymity provides a safe environment where students can feel comfortable asking questions and parents have peace of mind knowing their child’s privacy is protected.

I love this website because usually I feel a bit embarrassed asking my teacher questions so many times. The people don’t know who I am and they can’t see me. It’s way better :) Thank you so much

On the website, students can work independently through interactive tutorials to build their skills and confidence.   In the ‘Ask A Tutor’ Chat Rooms, students can ask questions and get help solving math equations.  Students ‘chat’ directly with teachers, not with each other, which helps keep the focus on math. With the experience of certified teachers, Homework Help provides exceptional support in a safe and accessible environment.

 

Program helps students understand math

Homework Help is developed with the Ontario curriculum, guaranteeing students will have access to resources that meet their current and future learning needs, accessible outside the classroom. In addition, Homework Help tutors are familiar with the math text books used by students across the province.

 

Over 250 certified Ontario teachers have been trained to work as math tutors for the Homework Help program. As Ontario teachers, every tutor is passionate about helping students achieve academic success.  Math tutors employ a variety of different strategies to engage students and help them develop a better understanding of math.  Homework Help tutors recognize that providing the answers might get homework done faster, but will not foster long-term learning. Enabling students to understand the solutions to their math questions is what makes Homework Help a great resource.

 

Amazing experience! The teachers are so nice and didn’t give me the answer… but helped me understand each step and I actually understood…so overall, an awesome experience… now I feel prepared for tomorrow’s lesson as well :D

Have questions?  Contact us at homeworkhelp@tvo.org or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Immigration, Jobs, Pensions Major Riding Concerns: MP Corneliu Chisu

Posted on 30 December 2011 by admin

Elected to the Canadian House of Commons in the 2011 election as a member of the Conservative Party, MP Corneliu Chisu represents the electoral district of Pickering-Scarborough East. Trained as an engineer, MP Chisu retired as a Major from the Canadian Forces. He is fluent in English, Italian, Romanian and Hungarian and possesses a working knowledge of French, Russian and German. Generation Next recently spoke to the MP on a range of issues.

As a publication focusing on the concerns of the South Asian community, we are interested to know what are some of the major issues faced by immigrants—who form a substantial part of Mr. Chisu’s riding.

Going by the requests received by his constituency office, primarily, the concerns facing immigrants is exactly that—immigration issues, such as family sponsorship and visa application requests. The other concerns are jobs and old-age pensions. The MP concedes that these issues require an intense degree of attention to handle.

In response to how he plans to tackle the high rate of unemployment, while the MP admits that in the present scenario any amount of job cuts is too many, he mentions the introduction of job bills, including the recent Bill C-13, also known as Keeping Canada’s Economy and Jobs Growing Act. Additionally, he mentions, the Conservative government has created more than 600,000 net new jobs since July 2009.

Generation Next wants to know the MP’s reaction to the federal government’s latest policies regarding Super Visas for parents and grandparents, as well as the non-acceptance of new PR applications. Won’t these steps make it tougher for new immigrants to bring their families to Canada?

As can be expected of him as a Conservative Party, MP Chisu defends the temporary hold on PR applications. He feels this can help better serve those currently waiting to have their applications processed. “We are dealing with a massive backlog of applications and as I am sure many are aware the wait times on the process are astronomical. Currently it is not fair for applicants to have such a long wait, applications should be processed efficiently and quickly,” he says. He also endorses the idea of Super Visas as in his view, “instead of waiting for eight years, a parent or a grandparent can come to Canada within eight weeks.”

As for new immigrants coming to Canada, MP Chisu feels respect and acceptance are possibly the two most vital traits for a new family or individual landing in this country. He also says “Being Canadian is a value set that works in tandem with any other ethnic and cultural bonds one may have.” He has high praise for South Asian immigrants. “Most of the immigrants from South Asia are highly educated,” he says and adds, “I personally know many engineers, being a professional engineer myself, with excellent skills who work in my riding at the Pickering Nuclear Power Plant.”

Commenting on the issue of immigration frauds, MP Chisu draws attention to initiatives taken by the Canadian government, specifically to put a check on fraudulence in immigration. This includes the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC), a council that is in charge of cracking down on crooked immigration consultants.

Responding to the issue of a perceptible lack of the representation of visible minorities in prominent positions, the MP thinks that “their (visible minorities’) success minorities consists first in education and their participation in wide range of community activities.”

MP Chisu talks with satisfaction about the involvement of the South Asian community in Canada’s political process. He encourages one to just look at the recently-elected Canadian Parliament to gauge the community’s political participation. “On the Government side of the Parliament for example we have a number of great politicians such as Parm Gill, Nina Grewal, Joe Daniel, Devinder Shory, Deepak Obhrai. Our cabinet also contains South Asian background Ministers such as, Bal Gosal and Tim Uppal.” This, he points out, is only one level of government. On the whole, he feels enthused about the growing interest of South Asians in the political process, thereby becoming “a powerful force in elections on all levels of government.”

Looking ahead, what can Corneliu Chisu’s riding members expect from him? The MP hopes to increase his presence both in the riding and in Ottawa. “I plan to hold two Town Hall meetings a month in the riding, to better connect with my constituents, hear their issues and listen to their opinions. I will, time permitting, be involved in as many community activities as possible,” he says. In Ottawa, the MP plans to be more active in the legislature to represent his constituents and all Canadians.

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NetIP: Aiming to be One Step Ahead of Others A chat with Neeti Passi, President of NetIP, Toronto

Posted on 30 December 2011 by admin

“Even though our name does have the word “Indian” we always market our events to all South Asians and ensure to bring in leaders from all parts of the world. We recognize that being South Asian is beyond having an Indian background and we strive to celebrate everything South Asian, regardless of origin.”

“In my opinion through my experience in the corporate world, I think most organizations in the GTA are ensuring that their organizations are representative of the diversity that this province has to offer.”

Born and raised in Brampton, Neeti Passi, the current President of NetIP—Network of Indian Professionals, Toronto, symbolizes the modern South-Asian Canadian woman—confident of her stride and enthusiastic to reach out.

Talking to Generation Next, Neeti remembers how growing up in a South Asian family meant focusing on academics and picking a professional career. She was lucky though as she recalls, “I had an older brother who had already gone through many of the similar experiences I was facing, thus making it easier for me to find my east-west fit.”

 

NetIp. Toronto's executive team

A Health Informatics Leader for Saint Elizabeth, Neeti joined NetIP Toronto in January 2011 as a member and the National Liaison co-lead. The idea was to get connected with other likeminded South Asian professionals while also giving back to the community. But doesn’t she feel the organization’s name needs to be changed to make it more representative of South Asians, rather than just Indians? Neeti responds, “Even though our name does have the word “Indian” we always market our events to all South Asians and ensure to bring in leaders from all parts of the world. We recognize that being South Asian is beyond having an Indian background and we strive to celebrate everything South Asian, regardless of origin.”

 

As President of the organization, Neeti aspires to make NetIP Toronto a name to reckon among South Asian professionals. She shares with pride the progress the organization has made within two years of its existence in Toronto. “We are starting to see a lot of new faces are each of our events, which empirically tells us that we are reaching out to more people.”

 

When asked what challenges NetIP Toronto faces, the new president says it relates to constantly ensuring that the activities provided by the organization are commensurate with membership needs. To this end, feedback is regularly sought from both members and non-members. Neeti also says, “NetIP Toronto wants to set itself apart from other professional networking organizations, therefore, it’s always a challenge to be one step ahead and offering interesting and intriguing events for our members.”

 

And what are her challenges as a South Asian Canadian? “One of my biggest challenges,” she says, “is to be seen as an individual and not falling into the stereotypes. It’s wonderful to see that the times are changing and young South Asian professionals are branching into a multitude of professional careers. Moreover, historically, South Asian women have had to struggle to maintain a career while supporting a family, but I think times are now changing.”

 

Neeti also feels it isn’t difficult for young South Asian women to start a family in Canada, as long as both partners have a common family goal. Given this scenario, would she prefer being a stay-at-home-mom? “I would love to stay at home with the children when they are young, but I don’t think I would stay home forever. I enjoy applying my professional skills and contributing to a household. Even if I couldn’t go back to work, I could see myself being more involved in not-for-profit/volunteering activities,” she says.

 

South Asian women like Neeti have made their mark across many fields. This can sometimes be intimidating to male members of the community, still conditioned by stereotypical images of women. Neeti feels this has a lot to do with the type of role models such men grew up with. “If they had a mom that was working, then I don’t think it is such an intimidation factor if a South Asian female is successful in her career; however, if they have never been exposed then it’s more of a fear of the unknown than intimidation,” she says.

 

Generation Next wants to know Neeti’s views on multiculturalism in Canada, given a measly four percent of visible minorities being represented at corporate leadership levels. According to Neeti, Canada’s multiculturalism is thriving and represents the world’s diversity. The challenge with ensuring that the same diversity is reflected effectively at a corporate leadership level “is the responsibility of organizations,” feels Neeti and adds, “In my opinion through my experience in the corporate world, I think most organizations in the GTA are ensuring that their organizations are representative of the diversity that this province has to offer.”

 

This young leader believes there are enough opportunities available to the youth in Canada. Her wise counsel is for individuals to understand which opportunities will bring one happiness and success, based on one’s core values and desires.

By Staff Writer

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A Jolly Time to Make a Change

Posted on 30 December 2011 by admin

“Why do people need an occasion to set goals for themselves? Shouldn’t the fact that they have something they want to change be motivation enough?”

 

 

It has come that time of year again, that festive time when everybody starts stuffing their stockings and decorating their trees. Kids have time off school, and adults from work. Along with the gift giving and holiday cheer also comes time for serious thought. Once again, it is the time for New Year’s resolutions. People must think of the one thing they are going to do differently in the new year. Whether it is losing weight or finding a job, there is a change that people desire to make in their lives.

After speaking with thirteen different people about their previous New Year’s resolutions of 2011 and their planned resolutions of this coming year, I have heard some interesting things that they had to say.  Nineteen year old, Samandeep Sahota explained that her resolution last year was “to go to all of my classes, during the end of the semester I start to skip a lot of lectures”. Upon asking if she had fulfilled her promise, Sahota replied with “for the most part. I mean, I probably should have made a more realistic resolution since I forced myself to go to classes when they really weren’t necessary or when I was sick.”

Sahota was not the only one who dreaded last year’s resolution. Twenty-three year old, Bhaven Kapadia, explained that his resolution last year was to gain weight and become more fit. “My resolution was more frustrating than it was motivating”, he explained. “When I got through half the year and realized that I still hadn’t reached my goal, I just gave up. I think that New Year’s resolutions just give people high expectations that disappoint them when they aren’t reached.” I asked Kapadia what his resolution would be this year, he replied with “nothing, I don’t really think I accomplished anything this year, it’d be pointless for me to try again.”

Surprisingly, not everyone viewed their New Year’s resolutions as negatively as Sahota and Kapadia. Adarsh Kaur, forty-five year old woman, explained that her resolution last year had been achieved. “I wanted to spend more time with my husband and son. I find that I work a lot and with my son graduating high school soon, I should devote more of my time to him.” Kaur explained that her resolution was quite well thought out as she was able to fulfill it, and it benefitted her family and herself. Besides Kaur, another person who provided me with positive feedback was fifty year old, Joga Riar. “My main goal of the New Year was to volunteer more around my city when I got the time.” Riar continued to explain that his resolution proved to be both rewarding to himself and helpful to his community. “Resolutions should be a reflection of who you are as a person. As long as you want to achieve something that is meaningful to you, you should have no problem fulfilling them.”

Hiren Rangunwala and Neil Khatri both had similar resolutions last year; to do well in school and on tests. Rangunwala, twenty-three year old male, was concerned with passing his United States Medical Licensing Examinations to get placement after completing medical school. “The pressure was so high”, Rangunwala explained. “Since I’d made it my New Year’s resolution to get placement, I guess that I had more motivation to study harder. I didn’t want to let myself down. Once I got the notice that I’d done well on my tests and would be starting my rotations, I attributed my success to my resolution.” Like Rangunwala, eighteen year old Khatri explained that the most worrying thought he had last year was whether or not he would make it into the university of his choice. The difference between these two individuals is that Rangunwala gave the credit of his achievement to his resolution, whereas Khatri explained that “the resolution was just there as a guide, I know that I accomplished my goal on my own merit and hard work.”

Not only did people tell me about what their resolutions were last year, they also revealed to me their resolutions for this coming year. Twenty year old, Janki Kapadia, explained that although she did not have a New Year’s resolution last year, she made one for 2012. “I really need to learn to cook. I never thought it was necessary before when I lived with my brother and parents because I always had people to do it for me. I think the ability to cook is an essential skill for one to have if they are living on their own.” Kapadia is not the only one wishing to make a change involving food. Twenty year old Manpreet Jhass also has a food related desire. “I need to eat healthier. Whenever I come home from work or class, I just grab whatever I can get my hands on. Chips, soda, cookies, anything really.” Jhass recognizes that there are many people who wish to lose or gain weight. “I don’t necessarily hope to lose weight. I just want to live a healthier lifestyle.”

Fifteen year old Simran Uppal has made her resolution far from anything relating to food. Uppal explains that her one goal is to control her temper. “Lately I’ve noticed that I get angry really easily, especially with my older brother. My anger makes everyone in my family stressed out so I think I should learn to control it. For a teenager, Uppal seems to be quite sensible, a lot more than I was at her age.

Parag Khatri, at thirty years of age, is making his New Year’s resolution all about his personal life. “I think I need to settle down”, stated Khatri. “I need to stop focusing so much on going out to parties, and focus more on my career.”  Twenty-four year old Bindya Bhundia, like Khatri, defined the importance of her career. “I don’t know what to make my New Year’s resolution this year. I think it should involve me finishing school and starting my career, though. I’ve been in school for over twenty years, I think it’s about time I started the next chapter of my life.”

The last person I spoke to about the upcoming New Year was Ram Pyari, seventy-six year old woman. Pyari explained firstly that she does not make resolutions. “Why do people need an occasion to set goals for themselves? Shouldn’t the fact that they have something they want to change be motivation enough?” Pyari’s comment is interesting as it represents a completely different opinion than all others I had spoken to. It is open to interpretation, do you find New Year’s resolutions straining, encouraging, or do you find them needless altogether? Either way, remember to think carefully about what your resolutions will be this year, but in the process, don’t forget to have a Happy New Year.

By: Gagan Batra

 

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Another New Year, Another New Resolution!

Posted on 30 December 2011 by admin

With large amounts of scrunched up wrapping paper, turkeys  and eggnog cartoons finally laid to rest in recycling bins or bulging bellies, holiday fans are slowly snapping out of their Christmas food coma’s to realize that 2012 is already peaking its head from around the corner.  In anticipation of the official ten second ‘countdown,’ many holiday celebrators often take this brief intermission between Christmas and New Year to assess the success or failures of the resolutions they’ve made only twelve months ago.

 

Whether it was a promise to lose weight, quit smoking, or to merely spend less, the long list of the usual resolution topics has floated around consistently from our interviewees into three common areas of interest: health, finance and kicking bad habits. As many of these resolutions are frequently derived from a necessity to self improve and change one’s lifestyle, it is not surprising that New Year promises are often formed with the overall betterment of oneself in mind rather than others.  For many, it is merely a reminder to put yourself first.

 

For 25 year old Sharda Persaud making resolutions was never a tradition she followed or even cared about trying until after graduating college. “The necessity to buy my own things and do my own things is what motivated me” explains, Ms. Persaud. “When I started working after college, I said that every year that I would start saving more and more money, so I don’t have to rely on my parents and I can pay for my own things.”

 

Much like Ms. Persaud, Michelle Sankar, describes her initial resolution blossoming from an overall need to make a change in her life. However, for Ms. Sankar the need to change arose not from financial reasons but from a more personal need.  “My first resolution was made at the age of 24 (kind of late I know). I was prompted to make the resolution due to feeling dissatisfied with myself and wanted to develop my personal interests further. I followed through because I had recently gotten out of a relationship and realized that I had lost my own way of life and was living my ex’s life which was sedentary and unhealthy. I wanted to change that and be totally different. I wanted to have something positive that would take a large portion of my time.”

 

As both Ms. Persaud and Ms. Sankar relay the success of these resolutions to our Generation Next reporter, their success is not often shared by the great many that are often unable to complete their resolutions.  Pat Lekhraj, an Executive Assistant and a mother of three, explains that her hectic work and home schedule often affects her goals each year. “Every year I make the same resolutions. Get my driver’s license and lose weight and I never make the time to accomplish any!” As Ms. Lekhraj continues to make the same resolution each year since she was 25 she chuckles lightheartedly about her determination to keep on trying as the necessity to change still remains. “Put it this way, I am 39 and I still don’t have a driver’s license!”

Ken Katryan, a 28 year old Horse Trainer and Owner describe similar feelings of just being too busy to carry through on his resolutions. “I’ve made a New Year’s resolution before but never kept one of them” replies Mr. Katryan to Generation Next. “I don’t know what makes me do resolutions each year but I do. It was a couple of years ago that I started making resolutions when I started to put on some weight.”

 

For many like, Ms. Lekhraj the failure of following through on a resolution is not what any person really hopes for. The initial passion to complete a resolution is often carried through and often gradually lost over time. Mr. Katryan explains that “I would usually follow through on my resolutions for the first month, then with work and not going to the gym and being busy prevents me in the end.”

 

As the constant failure of a resolution can eventually become depressing or discouraging for some, it is sometimes better to pick a more short term and simple resolution. Mr. Pokhrel, a 28 year old Social Service Worker reiterates his belief in making goals that are not only doable but easier to accomplish each year. “I was 17 years old when I made my first resolution. I had just come to Canada from Nepal. I never made resolutions in Nepal, only when I arrived here in Canada. It is a more popular tradition here. Some of the resolutions that worked for me like applying for college, and keeping my grades up were some of the more successful resolutions I made.” With keeping his goals to more practical and specific targets, Mr. Pokhrel is able to use his smaller achievements as platforms for some bigger resolutions he has his sights on. “It’s all about focus. If you focus on what your resolution is and not feel restricted to a year to achieve it, then it is possible.”

 

As 2011 slowly expires with each passing day, the pressure for new beginnings and promises are in full effect for the upcoming 2012 year. Whether it is to shed a few pounds, build up your bank account or merely kick that annoying habit the common advice offered from all our participants was unanimous regardless of age and sex: whatever you make for a resolution, make sure that it keeps you in mind first because in 2012 you’ll need it!

By Anna Katryan

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Real Estate 101

Posted on 21 December 2011 by admin

“Everyone, whether they have a job or not, will need a place to live—whether it is in an apartment or a home. Especially in the South Asian community, we can get a house anywhere without a job because we can live together and share a place. So the house market has not been affected in the GTA for that community.”

Mike Chettri has worn many hats throughout his life. Blossoming over the years as the familiar immigrant taxi driver to the neighborhood corner store owner to what he is most known for, a booming real estate agent within the GTA, Mr. Chettri has finally found a hat that he will not only wear with pride, but ultimately keep for good.

With his name engraved as the 2011 Hall of Fame recipient, apart from his fellow four thousand other Remax agents in the GTA, Mr. Chettri attributes his success to mainly his customer service skills that have eventually resulted in many word of mouth referrals. “I teach all my clients about how to handle their money. I give them advice on their house and where to buy. That is what made me on top. It made me stand out.”

With his ten years of customer service in the real estate industry, Mr. Chettri has shared with our Generation Next reporter a few of his words of wisdom for potential buyers looking to take advantage of the next hot thing in the real estate market.

As condos within the downtown core are becoming somewhat of a trophy item for young professionals, Mr. Chettri encourages investors that it is a worthwhile investment for not just the younger generation, but the older ones as well. “The youth in the next generation are definitely interested in the condos for living, but the older generations are buying condos for investments. Since I work mostly with condos, the way that I see it is that the condo market will remain strong. Right now the condo market is selling approximately 700 dollars per square foot. If you buy one condo now, in three years, the price will be 1,000 dollars per square foot. So for every square foot it would be a 300 dollar profit. Over the next three years, the condo market in Toronto will grow stronger.”

As condos continue to be sought out, there are still many factors that individuals should consider before taking that next step. Mr. Chettri cautions new buyers on what factors can become a major assets when deciding on where one chooses to live. “Look at the city plans over the next five years of where you want to move to. See what is being developed so that in five years the price will go up in your investment.” Thinking ahead is the key to Mr. Chettri’s advice to his clients as many buyers can later flip their investment into a profit that will ultimately land them in a bigger and better property in the future.

Even with the recent economic setback, with many Canadians struggling to find full-time jobs, Mr. Chettri is optimistic that this will not have a great impact on the real estate market. “Everyone, whether they have a job or not, will need a place to live—whether it is in an apartment or a home. Especially in the South Asian community, we can get a house anywhere without a job because we can live together and share a place. So the house market has not been affected in the GTA for that community.”

With the GTA continuing to fill orders for more condos and houses to be built for their clients, residents are becoming more and more familiar with the buzzing chainsaws of the 6 am morning construction worker. Mr. Chettri believes that many residents should take this as a sign, especially for potential investors, as he believes that the high property demand has yet to be satisfied with enough supply.

 

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Holiday: A Season to Give Thanks

Posted on 21 December 2011 by admin

With their signs littered across the GTA, many residents have often identified Homelife Maple Leaf Realty Ltd. agents solely from the familiar names seen hammered firmly into the front lawn of a neighbours house.  As many happy property owners can affirm, choosing a Homelife agent provides comfort in relying on an organization that has already become a force to be reckoned with within the industry.

With their independent agents usually hard at work throughout the year, it was a pleasant reunion for many in attendance Friday evening at the annual Homelife Maple Leaf holiday appreciation event held at the Versailles Convention Centre.  Agents shared with utter delight through friendly whistles, clapping and loud cheers as peers were awarded throughout the evening with a much deserved trophy or plaque.

Mohammad Rafi, a rookie agent with Homelife for nine months was one of many awarded recipients at the event. He gladly reflects with our Generation Next reporter on the overall importance of being appreciated as a fairly new agent within a competitive industry. “At the end of the day you want appreciation and these kinds of events are always good to have. However, deep down inside only you will know what you are capable of.”

As new agents were honoured for their vast accomplishments achieved within a short time, Homelife also acknowledges those agents whose success has earned them great respect within the industry.  Nav Sidhu, a well known veteran agent within the Homelife Maple Leaf Realty organization was a proud recipient honoured within the evening as well. As an agent who has been around for many years Mr. Sidhu extrapolates on the importance of choosing a knowledgeable agent . “[An experienced agent] has a good reputation and is known which is why it is important to make sure you are getting the right experienced agent. Knowledge is very important, and experience really counts, people look for experience.”

Narender Sehgal, the enthusiastic host of the evening expressed to Generation Next his belief in these agents will continue to do well in the housing market for 2012. “The market is going to stay solid. As far as the CMAC is concerned they said that the year 2012 is going to show a 8-12% higher result than 2011. For the condo market, there are some predictions but we will wait and see.”

When asked if he believes the South Asian community will have a stronger role within the housing market in 2012, Mr. Sehgal was quick to express a high expectation from the South Asian community. “I can assure you one thing. The South East Asian community has been the force in the residential and commercial market. You can see the share [they] capture in the market and I think [this share] will continue to increase day by day.”

As many of the Homelife Maple Leaf Realty agents end their 2011 year on a high note of sucess, Mr. Sehgal like many others throughout the evening maintain that 2012 can only get better. As Homelife looks to expand their number of agents in the coming year, readers can be assured that signs will be out in full force once again bearing the all too familiar Homelife Maple Leaf slogan for 2012.

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Santa or Scrooge? Which holiday shopper are you?

Posted on 21 December 2011 by admin

It’s that time of year again. Restless shoppers’ break out the wallets and rev up their rusty credit cards, holiday bonuses, and paychecks hoping to find that perfect gift for the many beloved names etched onto their holiday wish list.  With Christmas only a few days away, the commercial galore within the GTA is in full effect for shoppers who have become frantically obsessed with ‘gifting’ their feelings through tokens of appreciation. For many seasonal shoppers, the desire to appease both the commercial and personal pressures of the holiday season is usually a tricky feat to manage.

Alliyah Khan, a 27 year old chartered accountant explains to Generation Next that her shopping ritual is often driven by multiple motives that can be broken down into two distinct categories: obligation and tradition. “I feel a sense of obligation towards my boyfriend’s family because I feel like I have to get them something and because his mom always gets me something. With my boyfriend and my friend, it’s a tradition. We’ve kept this up for quite a long time and I don’t want to end it.”

Buying gifts out of obligation for extended family, co workers, and casual acquaintances can often add to the stress of budgeting over the holiday season.  For Ms. Khan, the overwhelming need to buy gifts has compelled her to shave off the names that are no longer a necessity. “I don’t give gifts to anyone else because I hate shopping and I hate thinking of gift ideas. I used to get gifts for my siblings as well but now that we’ve all grown up, I find it’s harder to think of what to get them. Most of the times, they can’t even think of what they want or if they even want it [and if they do] they would probably go buy it themselves.”

Reducing the size of your shopping list is often a great way for shoppers to maintain their holiday budget and make each gift more meaningful.  For Swechchha Pokhrel, a 23 year old student and Early Childhood Educator the role that her holiday budget plays each year ultimately dictates who makes or does not make her list. “I don’t usually have a budget but if I know I can afford certain things then I will buy it. It all depends on how much I earned. Having a full time job will mean I have more money to spend, but since I am still  a student and part time worker, I am not left with very much choice.”

Another great and trendy option for those hoping to survive the gifting frenzy is seen by those willing to purchase items online. Although, this method may take some pre-planning strategies it allows many budget conscious buyers to seek out the best web deals and save the stress of standing impatiently behind a ridiculous cahier line up. Lemar Kumar, a 26 year old banker, reiterates the growing appeal of switching shopping methods. “I do most of my shopping at the malls because I [usually] start shopping too late to wait for online deliver. If I had enough time I would do all my shopping online.”  For online shoppers, placing their trust on the postal system is merely small price to pay to avoid the madness that fills the local malls at this time of year.

Audrey Lau, a 27 year old Executive Assistant and HR Coordinator describe the relief that buying online has given her especially within her busy work schedule. “Ebay for example is wonderful because you can get a good price for most things and they will ship it right to your door! No line-ups and I can do this in the comfort of my own home.” For many young professionals like Ms. Lau saving time through easier shopping methods can only enhance the holiday giving experience. After all, as Ms. Lau states, “a little festive spirit during the holidays is a nice reminder to show appreciation.”

Here are some helpful shopping tips our shoppers had to offer to maximize your shopping experience:

  1. Do your holiday shopping early! You can avoid the stressful crowds and not get sucked into spur of the moment purchases while waiting in lines.

 

  1. Create a shopping list. It can help keep you on track with a budget and keep you focused on the people you value most.

 

  1. Do your research. Look for good sales via online and in flyers to ensure you are getting the best prices for your items.

 

  1. Although some feel strongly against it. Re-gifting items that you will not find useful can save both money and offer a better home to that unwanted item collecting dust in your closet.

By Anna Katryan

 

 

 

 

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