Archive | June, 2013

Shalini Konanur: Rallying for the racialized

Posted on 27 June 2013 by admin

‘South Asian communities are vulnerable to poverty, facing racial and gender discrimination, facing backlash in the media.’

‘The current immigration / refugee environment is stacked against a potential immigrant’s ability to get permanent residence in Canada.’

DIVYA KAELEY

Shalini Konanur was born and raised in Toronto to parents of South Asian descent. Her parents immigrated to Canada from Bangalore and Mysore, India with the hope of better prospects for themselves and for her and her sister.

 Having worked her entire career in Ontario’s legal aid clinic system including working in both rural and urban settings (Renfrew, Mississauga, and now throughout the GTA) with low-income Ontarians, Shalini considers herself lucky to be the current Executive Director and a Barrister & Solicitor at the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario (SALCO). SALCO is a free legal aid clinic that serves low-income South Asians in the Greater Toronto Area and provides services in various areas of poverty law, including immigration, disability, human rights, employment law, social assistance, and old age security.

 In conversation with Generation Next, the lawyer extraordinaire speaks about immigrants’ rights and difficult immigration policies.

1. You’ve been a distinguished and award winning female law practitioner. What made you choose this career?

Oddly enough, I have known that I wanted to be a lawyer from the age of 6. My maternal grandfather was a lawyer who worked with low-income people in India. I was fascinated by the idea that I could use the law to make positive change. As a young child I also found the drama of arguing and being in court exciting.

I have been told (by my parents) that I was an argumentative young child who was constantly trying to change their opinions to be in line with what I thought! As I grew up my parents introduced me and my sister to the idea of volunteerism and the reality that most people in the world were not as lucky as I was. I began to see the practice of law as an opportunity to protect minority rights.

2. How has it been working in the South Asian community for immigrants’ rights?

The South Asian communities that I have worked with the Greater Toronto Area (including Peel and York Region) have been incredible. They have taught about the diversity within our communities and the reality that there is no such thing as a “South Asian” community – They are many significant, wonderful, and different communities within the term “South Asian”.

I have been sad to see the increased difficulty that many in our communities are facing in settling in Canada. At SALCO we continue to see clients dealing with the repercussions of regressive immigration policy; we have research that shows that racialized communities, like South Asian communities, are disproportionately vulnerable to poverty, facing racial and gender discrimination, facing backlash in the media, and facing impossible criteria and processes to have their credential recognized in Canada. We also continue to see issues of family / partner violence.

 3. With changing government policies and difficult immigration rules, is settlement here a bumpy ride for many?

I would go as far as saying that South Asians are under attack by regressive immigration changes and funding cuts. The current immigration / refugee environment is stacked against a potential immigrant’s ability to get permanent residence in Canada. Changes to our refugee system have curtailed the ability of many refugee claimants to have access to legal resources and to their own ability to properly prepare for a fair and meaningful refugee claim process.

In addition, Citizenship and Immigration Canada have introduced rules around spousal, common-law, and conjugal partner sponsorship that directly target situations of arranged marriage or marriage after a short dating period by creating a conditional permanent residence for those categories of sponsored people. In addition, there are also new regulations banning future sponsorship applications for 5 years for sponsored spouses. Added to that was the cancellation of many federal skilled worker applications and the freezing of parent / grandparent sponsorship. What all of this means is that for South Asian families reunification with family members outside of Canada has become extremely difficult, if not impossible. In addition, since 2010 Citizenship and Immigration Canada has cut significant funding to settlement services for the South Asian community in Ontario.

 4. Internationally trained professionals especially face a tough task getting employment and getting their credentials accepted. Is Canada open enough and fair?

Canada is absolutely not open or fair in terms of credential recognition for foreign trained professionals. While all levels of government have paid lip service to this issue for years now very little has changed. Many foreign trained professionals face years of retraining and re-examination in order to have their credentials recognized. The truth is that many of the processes are so long and so expensive that new immigrants simply cannot afford to go through it. They have to move on with their lives, to work and support their families. That is why we continue to hear case after case of over-qualified immigrants working low-level jobs.

5. How is it being an Indo-Canadian? Or do you call yourself a Canadian?

I fully consider myself an Indo-Canadian. My parents did an amazing job raising me to understand my Indian heritage and to also be a Canadian. This is a concept that I think is being lost here. We hear more and more talk about how immigrants have to learn to be Canadian. When I was growing up being “Canadian” meant understanding that this is a country of immigrants and there is space for us to incorporate our own background, like Indian culture, into our lives.

As a child I was able to study my native language, Kannada, to learn classic Karnatak music, to take part in cultural performances, and to socialize with people from our community back home. But I was equally able to do all of the things that we would consider “Canadian”. I had a great upbringing in both cultures and am proud to relate to both.

 6. SALCO has also become a national leader on the issue of forced marriage and the protection of woman and girls in violent situations. Can I call you a ‘feminist’?

I haven`t thought a lot about that label `feminist` but as I think about it now I guess I would say that I consider myself a feminist. I remember studying feminism in university and how difficult it was to define feminism. It meant different things to different people.

 I define it simply as political, economic, and social equality for all genders. I have certainly spent a lot of time in my career and volunteer work promoting equality between genders (including men, women, and the LGBTQ community), and also for racialized people.

In Canada, I think we have a long way to go. You can see the way we treat our aboriginal communities as a prime example of inequality in Canada.

 7. Is Canada an egalitarian society? Is Canadian workplace free of racism and discrimination?

I could talk about the racism that South Asians face in Canada for hours. I recently went to a conference from an organization called `The Colour of Poverty` (COP). COP has done extensive research that demonstrates that racialized people have less access to the workplace. From our experience at SALCO it is clear that many South Asians are passed up for jobs, paid less than others in the same positions, face comments about the way they look and their religions, and do not get promotions within their companies.

We do not have a racism free society or workplace. In fact, it seems that for many South Asians racism in society is still very much prevalent – there are racist comments and stories in the media, racist incidents (like spitting on a woman wearing hijab), and racist government policies like the conditional permanent residence that targets arranged marriage cases. We have also dealt with issues of racial profiling by the police, discrimination in the workplace, and a government campaign to suggest that we need to become more “Canadian”.

This will continue to impact us and our children if we do not push back.

 8. How do you juggle your personal and professional life?

I am extremely lucky to have a very supportive husband, a cooperative child, and an incredible extended family. I live within minutes of my own mother and sister (my dad passed away from cancer in 2007) and minutes away from my in-laws. We have had amazing support from all of them. Without it I would not be able to do anything!

Sadly for my mom, I am still making her cook for me. I haven`t yet mastered her flavours. I have never been able to get my rasam to taste like hers!

 9. Any unfulfilled dreams and aspirations?

Ideally, I would like to have a society that has equality for everyone – Things like employment equity are critical.

 I also want us to strongly support the rising group of people (racialized, young people, children, women) in Canada who are falling into poverty. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Poverty is the worst form of violence.”

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Governments at War with each other over Funding

Posted on 27 June 2013 by admin

Ontario Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities Brad Duguid is very critical of the federal government’s ‘Canada Job Grant’ program that mandates provinces and the employers to partner with the federal government to provide necessary training to those who need it.

Minister Brad Duguid said in a teleconference last week that it’s a shell game that could hurt Ontario because it won’t have the flexibility to direct the money where it’s needed.

He said that the federal government is regurgitating the old money that will shortchange Ontario of about $194 million.

 “.. the federal government isn’t providing one additional new cent in expenditure here for these programs,” Duguid said.

“They’re just taking money they’re already giving to the provinces for very important programs that serve in Ontario our most vulnerable unemployed. So I’m concerned about this right now and I think all Ontarians should be.”

He said that there can be about 60 per cent cuts to bridge training programs that train internationally educated professionals and provide language training to “the our most vulnerable”.

To discuss the matter, Minister Duguid has written a letter to federal Minister Diane Finley. In the letter, he has stated ” As it’s currently proposed, the Canada Job Grant could represent a $232 million reduction in funding available for Ontario’s existing programs — $116 million in federal funding and $116 million in Ontario matching dollars.

Paying for the Canada Job Grant by cutting from the fund used to serve the most vulnerable workers would take necessary funding and services away from those workers who need it most. Last year, Ontario used the $194 million in federal funding for vulnerable workers to serve roughly 250,000 Ontarians, including Aboriginal people, youth, immigrants, those who have been out of work long-term, persons with disabilities and social assistance recipients. Funding the Canada Job Grant instead of these programs would put many of these Ontarians at risk.

 Canada has significant regional differences, and a one-size-fits-all job grant will not have the flexibility to serve the diversity of Ontario’s economy and employment needs.”

He says that if Ontario’s concerns are not heard by the federal Tories, Ontario may opt out of the program and expect some sort of compensation from the federal government. He also added that the program would “hardly” be called “a national program” without Ontario’s participation in it.

Not only does Ontario Liberal government has a problem with federal Conservatives’ funding plans for Ontario, this week Mayor of Toronto Rob Ford called cutting funding to the City to the tune of $50 million “disgusting” while Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa was suggesting that the funding to the City has been increased.

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India, Chinese immigration falling: TD Economics

Posted on 27 June 2013 by admin

New sources such as the Philippines are emerging as feeder countries to Canada’s fast-growing population of foreign-born residents, according to a new study released Wednesday by TD Economics.

Based on data collected in the 2011 federal National Household Survey, first-generation Canadians or those born outside the country number 6.8 million, or 21 per cent of the population – the highest share among G8 nations, the TD report said.

However, the total share of those coming from China and India – two historically dominant sources of inflows of immigrants to Canada – slipped to 56.9 per cent from 60 per cent in the last census in 2006.

About 240,000 people moved to Canada from the two countries between the census reports, down from 270,000 reported in 2006.

Underscoring the declines is the percentage of newcomers to indicate their mother tongues as either a Chinese or Indian dialect.

In 2006, 40 per cent of recent immigrants reported their primary language as either South Asian or Chinese. In 2011, that figure fell to 30 per cent.

Other findings in the report include:

  • The three Prairie provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba have doubled their share of new immigrants to about 20 per cent in 2011, matching Quebec.
  • The Philippines accounted for 13.1 per cent of all new immigrants to Canada between 2006 and 2011, supplanting both China (10.5 per cent) and India (10.4 per cent).
  • “Seismic shifts” in settlement patterns were seen during 2006-2011, with provinces like Manitoba and in Atlantic Canada seeing the amount of immigrants surge, partly because of government programs to attract skilled labour.

B.C. and Ontario, which historically have seen three quarters of newcomers take up residence in the provinces, saw their combined share slip to 60 per cent in 2011 with fewer immigrants settling in places like Toronto and Vancouver where the cost of living has climbed sharply.

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CIC consulting Canadians on immigration levels and mix

Posted on 27 June 2013 by admin

Mississauga, June 21, 2013 — Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney announced that Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) launched online consultations for public input on immigration levels and mix today.

In addition, Parliamentary Secretary Rick Dykstra is beginning a series of cross-country consultations with stakeholders today, starting in Mississauga.

“Since 2006, the Government of Canada has welcomed the highest sustained levels of immigration in Canadian history,” said Minister Kenney. “Given the importance of immigration to our economic growth and long-term prosperity, we are especially keen to hear the views of Canadians as we prepare for the years ahead.”

The government welcomes stakeholder and public feedback on the appropriate level of immigration for Canada and the most suitable mix among economic, family, and refugee and humanitarian classes. Participants will also be asked for their views on the increasing role of economic immigration in supporting Canada’s future prosperity and the government’s move toward a faster and more flexible immigration system.

In planning for the total number of people to admit as new permanent residents each year, the government must not only balance its immigration objectives, but also consider broader government commitments, input from provinces and territories, and current and future economic conditions. In addition, the government must take into account CIC’s operational ability to process applications in a timely manner, as well as the capacity of Canadian communities to welcome newcomers.

These consultations present an opportunity to raise greater public awareness of the difficult decisions involved in managing a global immigration system. There are competing visions and diverging goals for the future of the immigration program. Engaging stakeholders and the broader public is key to CIC’s development of an overall strategy for Canada moving forward.

Invited stakeholders represent a variety of perspectives, including those of employers, labour, academia, learning institutions, professional organizations, business organizations, regulatory bodies, municipalities, Aboriginal groups, settlement provider organizations and ethnocultural organizations.

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Do You Celebrate Canada Day?

Posted on 27 June 2013 by admin

Kanwal Rafiq

Toronto

Majority of Canadian citizens have emigrated from different parts of the world to come live in North America’s largest country. They carry a dual identity, allowing them to experience both the western culture and that of their homeland.

However, everyone’s views on nationalism varies. So as Canada day approaches, I asked some people of South Asian heritage what being a Canadian means to them, and how important celebrating Canada day is.

Gurpreet Pannu:

“I am at heart both Indian and Canadian, so to be able to take pride in both my cultures makes me a really proud person. Celebrating Canada day is important to me because it is one day in the year me and my family can come together and be thankful for the great country we live in.”

Komal Javed:

“I’m initially Pakistani but I was born and raised in Canada. So being a Canadian actually means a lot to me because it’s part of my identity. I have this hybrid identity where I not only belong to the Pakistani culture but am also a Canadian citizen. This plays a big role in shaping who I am as an individual.

Yes, I do celebrate Canada day because it is a day that signifies the birth of our country, the day we became a nation. And it is important to recognize the amount of struggle it took for this to happen. Simply by disregarding Canada day is a sign of ungratefulness, it shows disrespect for what this nation has to offer and some of our mother countries do not.”

Harsimrat Hehar:

It is important to celebrate Canada day if you want to mix in with the society that we live in. But I usually don’t find traditions like these important.

Ovais Ahmed:

Being Canadian is something I take pride in, for Canada is a place I can undoubtedly call my home. It has provided my family with the utmost educational and work-related opportunities. Canada has been so welcoming to not only my family but to all other families who originate from different parts of the world.

Celebrating Canada to me means celebrating diversity and celebrating multiculturalism in a place that I call my home. So celebrating Canada day is very important to my family and me.”

Hareem Naveed:

“I definitely identify as 100 per cent Canadian, so being a Canadian is very important. Though we don’t really do a lot on Canada day, nor did we ever do anything for Pakistan Day. It’s a nice long weekend, maybe we’ll go see fireworks and have a barbeque.”

Ishveer Malhi:

“I would say being a Canadian is important. It gives me pride in knowing that our country shares the same values as many others and me. But events like Canada day aren’t too important to me, especially because you don’t only need one day to appreciate Canada. That’s why I find it an event that just brings people together and that’s about it.”

Haseeb Abid:

“Canada is made up of a wide variety of people, who bring a wide variety of cultures, beliefs, and values with them. All of these people live in peace with each other, and I couldn’t imagine how my life would be if my parents didn’t choose to immigrate here. So I believe that celebrating Canada day is important because it’s the day this beautiful country of peace and freedom was born.”

Canada day is celebrated every year on July 1st to remember the Constitution Act of 1867, which granted most of Canada independence from the British. Enjoyable fireworks, barbeques, carnivals and all sorts of entertainment are held in several locations throughout the country.

This year will mark Canada’s 146th birthday.

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Canada Day: Let’s Celebrate diverse Cultures

Posted on 27 June 2013 by admin

Tom Mulcair

Ottawa

Canada Day is an opportunity for all Canadians to celebrate the many diverse cultures and traditions that have come together to build this great country we call home. We are privileged that so many have chosen to call Canada home and we are all the better for it.

Canadians of South Asian descent have been a part of this country’s fabric since the late 1800s and have become leaders in business, academia and culture.

New Democrats and the South Asian community have enjoyed a close relationship for many years. Jack Layton and the NDP stood in solidarity with members of the community against discriminatory legislation and always supported calls for justice. Just this past year, our party launched the largest consultation with members of the Punjabi and South Asian community in our history. GTA Caucus Chair and NDP MP Andrew Cash as a result introduced a Private Members Bill for the establishment of every April as Punjabi Heritage Month while our party continues to fight for an official apology for Komagata Maru tragedy.

We are working hard every day to ensure that Canadians of all backgrounds have the tools they need to succeed. Our NDP team of hard-working MPs like Jinny Jogindera Sims and Jasbir Sandhu are committed to giving you a voice.

We are fighting for an immigration system that focuses on family reunification; gives skilled workers and graduates opportunities to use their skills; is fair and efficient, with a transparent appeals process; and provides new Canadians with settlement programs to help them succeed.

Since becoming Official Opposition leader, I have made it my priority to visit communities in every province. No leader can proclaim to represent Canadians without meeting them in their communities, listening to their hopes and understanding their challenges.

Whether you live in Vancouver, Edmonton or Toronto, our fate as Canadians is interconnected. Shared values of prosperity through honest, hard work; the importance of community and family; respect, diversity and tolerance are what unite us. Regardless of our backgrounds, we all want the opportunity to earn an honest living and provide for our families in a safe environment.

These values are in danger however, because Stephen Harper’s Conservatives do not see immigration as part of our identity and part of our strength. Instead, they view immigration as an economic tool that provides businesses with workers who will accept low wages.

Families that have waited for years to be reunited with loved ones are taking a back seat to industries that need cheap labour. Since Mr. Harper came to power, the backlog for family class immigration applications has grown by nearly 70 percent. Instead of fixing the problem, Mr. Harper’s government announced last year that no new family class applications for parents and grandparents will be accepted until November, 2013.

The NDP believes that new Canadians are vital to building our communities for generations to come. We will continue to propose practical solutions that put you and your family first. We’re building a better Canada and honouring our responsibility to leave more for the generations that follow us. You are a part of the multicultural fabric that makes Canada the envy of the world. Together we can fight for a fairer, greener, more prosperous Canada for all.

There is far more that unites us than divides us and, for that, we can all be very proud. On behalf of my family, my team and New Democrats across this country, I wish you and your family a happy Canada Day!

Tom Mulcair is Leader of Canada’s Official Opposition. 

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Indo-Canadian man gets life term for murdering wife

Posted on 27 June 2013 by admin

Toronto: An Indo-Canadian man has been sentenced to life in prison by a court in Canada for murdering his wife in 2011.

The supreme court of the Canadian province of British Columbia has sentenced Manmeet Singh to life in prison with no eligibility for parole for 16 years for murdering wife Ravinder Kaur Bhangu, 23, in her office July 28, 2011, media reports said Saturday.

Singh had pleaded guilty to the charge that he had walked into the office of the bilingual newspaper, Aaj Di Awaaz, in Surrey, British Columbia, and stabbed Bhangu to death in front of her colleagues.

“Women in Canada, and indeed in any civilised society, are equal persons to be accorded the full protections of the law and have the corresponding rights and privileges, including the complete liberty to make their own choices as human beings in accordance with the freedoms available to all,” the Vancouver Desi quoted judge Miriam Maisonville as saying in her ruling.

Bhangu had walked into the office of Aaj Di Awaaz, a Punjabi-English free weekly newspaper, around 11.30 a.m. that fateful day armed with a hatchet and two knives.

He struck Bhangu on her head with the hatchet and then stabbed her at least 30 times with one of the knives.

Holding his dying wife in his arms in his arms, he then called the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and confessed to the crime.

He was then arrested from the scene of the crime.

Bhangu and Singh had met in college in India, fallen in love and married in 2008.

Singh, who had earlier moved to Surrey, then sponsored his wife in August 2009.

However, in April 2011, Bhangu left Singh and started staying with a family friend.

She turned down Singh’s pleas to stay with him and sought a divorce, which left the latter devastated.

In what is being described as a revenge crime, Singh, while attacking his wife, told her office colleagues that she had been unfaithful to him and that she had cheated on him.

Judge Maisonville rejected the plea of Singh’s lawyer that the defendant’s case should be considered in context with his upbringing in a “misogynistic culture”.

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World Sikh Organization of Canada concludes national annual human rights events in Surrey

Posted on 27 June 2013 by admin

The World Sikh Organization of Canada concluded its annual series of national human rights events with its annual inter-community dinner in Surrey last Sunday night. Several hundred guests were in attendance including several MLAs and representatives from Simon Fraser University, Fraser Health Authority, RCMP amongst others.

 The keynote address for the evening was delivered by Rajvinder Singh Bains, advocate at the Punjab & Haryana High Court. Mr. Bains is a prominent human rights activist and served as lawyer for the family of Jaswant Singh Khalra. Mr. Khalra was disappeared by the Punjab Police after returning from Canada where he had revealed evidence of the disappearances of thousands of young men in Punjab.

Other speakers at the Surrey dinner were Jim Scott, President of the Equitas Society and Chief Robert Joseph of Reconciliation Canada.

 Mr. Scott spoke about the struggles faced by disabled Canadian veterans and the importance of providing them with the necessary support they deserve. The Equitas Society is currently engaged in a legal challenge against the New Veterans Charter which significantly reduces veteran benefits.

Chief Joseph spoke about the experience of the aboriginal peoples of Canada and how reconciliation is an important part of the way forward for communities who have gone through trauma.

During the Surrey dinner, WSO recognized Grade 12 student Sargun Singh Bajaj who is one of only six students in the world to achieve a perfect score on this year’s College Board Advanced Placement calculus exam. His calculus teacher Suminder Singh was also recognized.

 During the Ottawa Parliamentary Dinner held on June 3rd, WSO honoured filmmaker David R. Gray for his work in uncovering the history of early Sikh pioneers in Canada with films such as Lumber Lions (2012), Canadian Soldier Sikhs (2011), and Searching for the Sikhs of Tod Inlet (2009).

The Seva Food Bank was recognized during the Toronto dinner on June 8th for its exemplary work in serving those in need in Mississauga. The Seva Food Bank was established by Sikhs Serving Canada in 2010 and serves approximately 600 client families every month.

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A timeline of South Asian Canadian History

Posted on 27 June 2013 by admin

Badri Murali

Toronto

            For over a hundred years, South Asians have poured their blood, sweat, and tears into this country. We have had a long and important presence in Canada since the turn of the century. What was once a hostile and discriminatory environment for any minority, is now a land that welcomes everyone. The policy of multiculturalism has changed the makeup of the country. As the world’s second largest country celebrates 146 years of independence, here is a timeline of a few important milestones in South Asian Canadian history, celebrating and remembering the red, the white, and the brown.

 1902 – The first South Asians were a group of Sikh soldiers who were in Victoria, B.C. to celebrate the coronation of King Edward VIII. They saw a land with plenty of opportunities for hard workers, and for the next five years, more and more Punjabi men come seeking a better life. Most men work the sawmills of the interior of B.C.

 1908 – Construction begins on the first Sikh temple in North America in Abbotsford, B.C., and is officially declared open Feb. 26, 1912. It was named the Gur Sikh Temple, and has been designated as a National Historical Site of Canada.

 1908 – The Canadian government implements the “continuous journey” act, requiring immigrants to travel directly from country of birth or citizenship to Canada. This drastically reduces the amount of Indians arriving in Canada.

On May 23, 1914, the Komagata Maru landed in Vancouver, B.C. This ship was carrying 376 Indians, mostly Sikh, but included Hindus and Muslims. However, Canadian and provincial authorities prevented the passengers from disembarking, because they did not directly come to Canada from their point of origin (the ship stopped in Hong Kong and Japan after leaving from India) The authorities were waiting, and for two months, did not allow anyone to leave the ship. On July 23, 1914, the ship was forced to leave and return to Asia. This incident displayed the blatant hostility the Canadian government had towards Indian immigrants.

 April 2, 1947 – South Asians are finally allowed to vote and participate in politics across Canada.

 1972 – Idi Amin expels all Asians out of Uganda. The primarily Gujarati community numbered close to 90,000 arrives in Canada and Canada accepts 7,000 refugees.

 1960’s-70’s – Immigration laws are gradually amended to allow skilled immigrants from around the world, without emphasis on nation of origin or ethnicity. This allows tens of thousands of South Asians to immigrate to Canada.

 1983 – Ethnic tensions lead to communal rioting in Sri Lanka, causing almost 500,000 Tamil people to flee the country. Canada provides refugee status to tens of thousands fleeing the conflict, with the majority of them settling in Toronto.

 June 23, 1985 is the date of Canada’s worst mass murder. Air India Flight 182 exploded over the Irish coast, after departing from Toronto’s Pearson International Airport destined for London’s Heathrow International. This attack was organized by a small group of Sikh extremists, in retaliation for the Indian government’s military actions in the Golden Temple in 1984. All 329 people on board were killed, in what was Canada’s deadliest terror attack.

 In 1986, Moe Sihota became the first South Asian to be elected to a legislature in Canada. Sihota was a member of the New Democratic Party, and represented the riding of Esquimalt-Metchosin in the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. He held the position until 2001.

 In 1987, Ontario had its first Member of Provincial Parliament of South Asian descent elected. Murad Velshi was the Liberal MPP for the riding of Don Mills, and held the position from 1987-90.

 July 21, 1988, was the date that the Canadian Multiculturalism Act became law, enforcing that Canada is a society built on the contributions and hard work of all its peoples, and development can occur through harmonious coexistence.

 1993 was an important year, because three South Asians were elected to the House of Commons in Ottawa for the first time. Gurbax Singh Malhi of Bramalea-Gore-Malton, Herb Dhaliwal of Vancouver South and Jag Bhaduria of Markham-Whitchurch-Stouffville, all members of the Liberal Party, became the first South Asian Members of Parliament in Canada.

 In 1997 Rahim Jaffer became the first Muslim to be elected to the House of Commons. Jaffer is of Ismaili origin, his family being from Uganda. He represented the riding of Edmonton-Strathcona from 1997-2008 as a Conservative MP.

 2001 was when South Asian Heritage Month was signed into law in Ontario’s Legislature, to recognize and pay tribute to the contributions made by the South Asian community.

 In 2010, Naheed Nenshi becomes the first Muslim mayor of a major Canadian city, Calgary, AB. His family is of Ismaili origin, from Tanzania.

 A 2011 National Household Survey, conducted by Statistics Canada, shows that approximately 1.6 million people identify as South Asian, amongst a national population of close to 33 million.

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Problems of Implementation of the Pakistan Budget

Posted on 27 June 2013 by admin

Dr. Hasan Askari  

Lahore 

 Pakistan’s new federal and provincial budgets will become effective on July 1 when the new financial year begins. There have been some changes in the federal budget in the course of the debate on it in the National Assembly. All federal employees have been given a ten percent raise in their salary and the minimum wages has been raised from Rs. 8,000 to Rs. 10,000 per month. Few other adjustments have also been made. The Supreme Court’s judgment to declare the collection of enhanced sales and other taxes before their approval by the National Assembly under an old law as illegal has caused administrative problem for the federal government. This judgment also shows that the Supreme Court under the present Chief Justice will continue with its policy of intervening in the domain of the federal executive. In the past when the Supreme Court used to do this with the PPP federal government the PMLN was very supportive the Supreme Court. Now, the PMLN will face the Supreme Court’s active intervention in its affairs because some matters are pending before it.

  One can make the argument that the budget has mostly ignored the promises the PMLN made during the election campaign. The major PMLN argument was that the economy was in trouble and there was no economic relief to the common people because the PPP federal government was corrupt, incompetent and inefficient. If the people knock out this government the PMLN will turn around their fortune. The PMLN leadership vowed to work for ending load shedding completely in three years, provide economic relief to the common people and fix the minimum wages at Rs. 15,000 per month.

  However, if we examine the budget keeping in view Pakistan’s troubled economy, it seems appropriate to suggest tough economic measures, especially enhancement of taxes and the planned reduction in the administrative expenditure of the federal government. The current trends of printing new currency notes and offering financial subsidies on utilities and irresponsible expenditure by the high up in political and administrative positions cannot be allowed to go unchecked.

 Given the troubled state of the economy a budget of economic concession could not be given. However, the PMLN should acknowledge its promises during and before the election campaign were unrealistic. Now, after assuming power it faces an uphill task to convince the voters that it cannot quickly deliver its promises.

  The major challenge that the government faces relates to its effective implementation. The political governments are vulnerable to public pressure, especially street pressure. The PMLN government derives its main strength from the business and trading communities in the Punjab. It is always difficult to get taxes from them who have a long experience of finding ways to bypass stringent laws or they engage in street protest by disrupting traffic on the major streets in Lahore and other cities in the Punjab and closing their business activity. Even government servants of the lower strata launch their own protest. They did that within a day of announcement of this budget. The federal government tried to appease them by giving 10 percent raise in the salary within two days of their protest.

 The federal government will have to implement the promised cutback on expenses of state machinery without compromising on performance. Can the Prime Minister House and other key officials make their expenditure cost-effective? Can the people in high offices give up their “royalty style”? How would the government reduce the liabilities of state enterprises and appoint professionals to top management slots without giving them “hefty” salaries and facilities?

 The key question is the capacity of the Federal Board of Revenue to collect taxes especially from those who are not in the tax net. This requires an efficient tax management and collection system which is transparent and the Income tax officials should not be allowed to harass the tax payers in the name of collecting more taxes. Tax collection should be increased through consultative process with the business and trading communities; talk to them for respectable ways to pay the tax to the state rather than giving corruption money to officials.

 There is a heavy reliance on foreign assistance and domestic borrowing. External receipts have been shown as Rs. 169 billion and Rs. 975 billion are to be obtained from domestic bank borrowing. The main sources of external funding are Coalition Support Fund and the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Law Funding. Not much may be available under Coalition Support Fund and the United States has become somewhat stringent on allocations to different project from KLB Law funding. Bank borrowing may give immediate relief to the government but it adds to the overall debt burden and reduces the funds available for private sector borrowing.

 On the one hand the federal government wants to reduce budget deficit from over 8 percent to little over 6 percent. On the other hand it has made huge allocation for development programs (Rs. 1.15 trillion: federal share Rs. 540 billion, provincial share Rs. 615 billion) including publicity oriented programs like distribution of laptop to students, youth training and skill program, micro finance and small business loans, tuition fee project housing finance scheme and higher education commission funding. All these are praise worthy commitments in their individual capacity. However, given the policy of tightening on expenditure, reduction of budget deficit and the dubious capacity of the state to collect the projected revenue the state may not have enough resources to pull through development programs.

  The federal government will have to stay alert so that the bureaucracy implements the budget in its true spirit. The capacity of the state institutions will have to be strengthened to fulfill the required task otherwise the government would not have enough financial resources to pull through the development and other programs in the budget.

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