Archive | May, 2015

The Cycling Cleric’s Inspiration – The Ultimate Gift From One Brother to Another

Posted on 27 May 2015 by admin


Shahla Khan Salter 

Director – Universalist Muslims

Some call him a hero, but Imad Zammar says that if his mom, Frieda Zammar, is present, she is quick to correct them and say, “he’s not a hero — he did what you are supposed to do — for family.”

Maybe, but not everyone saves their older brother’s life by giving him a kidney. And that is exactly what Zammar did.

On March 5th, in a surgery that took four hours the 30-something father of three, a systems analyst and born and bred Ottawan, gave his brother the ultimate gift — life.

Zammar hadn’t stepped up to the plate right away. He didn’t have a chance. Mom, Frieda Zammar, had immediately insisted that she be the living donor. But then, after a series of tests, as time was running out, doctors found that a medical incompatibility made a transplant from her risky.

Zammar said he didn’t even have to think. “I just knew I had to do it,” he said, adding “when the testing was complete, I was a perfect match in every way.”

I asked Zammar if there were risks in being a living organ donor. “Yes,” he said, “there was the risk of excessive bleeding and because I had never undergone surgery, I may have been allergic to anesthesia. But otherwise considering surgery in general, the risks were very low. The risk was higher to my brother, in receiving the new organ.”

Zammar said that today he is doing fine, though it has taken a few months to recover. He also states that his brother is getting stronger every day.

Zammar’s spiritual life also received a positive impact.

“I feel that I was meant to do this,” Zammar said. “My brother had one underdeveloped kidney his whole life that they discovered only a few years ago, when his creatinine levels soared. Meanwhile, I had this extra large, well-functioning kidney. Post-surgery the doctor had said he had to work to fit it inside my brother. I think that all these years, I was just holding that kidney for him. I was supposed to give it to him. And I think about all the things he did for me when we were younger — finally I could do something for him and for my whole family. It would have been such a tragedy if we lost him. “

As a volunteer with The Cordova Spiritual Education Centre, a not for profit, which establishes understanding through Islamic interfaith and intercultural outreach, Zammar is using his story to advocate for organ donation. He wants everyone to register to become a donor. And his message was not lost on Cordova’s Chief Imam, Mohamad Jebara.

Also known as The Cycling Cleric and described by the local paper as “Ottawa’s coolest Imam”, Jebara will commence a 480-km cycling trek from Ottawa to Toronto on Tuesday, May 26, to raise funds for organ donation. The primary sponsor is The Trillium Gift of Life Network, Ontario’s organ donor co-ordination system.

A married dad of two, Jebara’s non-stop schedule, providing outreach to community groups and institutions all over the city every day, has meant his training, in part, has had to take place by cycling or roller-blading to his destinations.

But long distance cycling is nothing new to him. Last year, Jebara cycled from Ottawa to Quebec City for The Heart and Stroke Foundation, covering about 100 km/day.

The youngest clerical patron of The Trillium Gift of Life Network and a registered organ donor himself, I asked Jebara what inspired him to take up the cause.

He answered, “I have a passion to save lives, and bring happiness to those who may otherwise lose loved ones due to an insufficient number of available organs.”

Jebara explained that one Ontarian dies every three days as a result.

Does it makes a difference that an Imam is promoting the cause?

Jebara said, “clergy may possess a degree of influence and impact upon people’s choices. Organ donation surpasses the bounds of faith, race, gender and social status and an Imam’s role is to live out the message of inclusive love, encompassing compassion and genuine care for others.”

He clarified, “by others, I mean all creation, not merely people of the cleric’s faith — but all people.”

Jebara will make several stops in Merrickville, Portland, Kingston, Napanee, Belleville, Brighton, Port Hope and Oshawa before he ends up in Toronto, where he will give the Friday sermon at a Toronto mosque.

And while Jebara is in the GTA, Zammar will be in Ottawa, giving the Friday sermon in his place.

I asked Zammar about this Friday’s sermon on organ donation. Zammar said every faith promotes life. He pointed to the Quranic verse that “to save one life is to save humanity”. “One donor can help eight people. What better blessing can you give than change eight lives? One donor would save lives, restore vision and provide skin for burn victims.”

He added, “a lot of people in the Muslim community are willing to learn about organ donation. It’s not taboo. People just don’t always know if they can do this. We are reminding people it is allowed and that if the time ever came and they were in that situation, could they even imagine saying “no” to a family member? And what if there was no match from inside the family?”

Zammar points to the circumstances of Ottawa Sens coach, Eugene Melnyk, who was in dire need of a liver transplant and only recently found a donor. “I really felt for him and I am glad he was able to find a donor,” said Zammar.

Then there was this.

“I didn’t just do it because my brother is Muslim. We must help everyone. God gave me the opportunity to help my family. Now I would like to do as much as I can to spread awareness to the world.”

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The Government’s Right to Legislate ‘back to work’ legislation

Posted on 27 May 2015 by admin

Ontario’s Liberal government is right to move quickly to end a teachers’ strike that put the school year at risk for 70,000 high school students. With a declaration in hand by the province’s Education Relations Commission declaring the school year in jeopardy, the government had no choice.

Far from acting hastily or undemocratically – as the opposition New Democrats argued at Queen’s Park on Monday – the government has shown restraint as the strike in Durham region dragged into its sixth week, while that in Sudbury entered its fifth week and Peel its fourth.

With the end of the school year only about a month away, it’s common sense that the students’ educational experience was at risk of being lost. Yet it took the commission a full 10 days of pondering to come to that obvious conclusion, as students fretted and the government patiently awaited its decision.

The commission found that “the impact of each of the strikes is such that … the teachers’ return to work is necessary to ensure that the students can endeavour to complete their courses of study.”

Education Minister Liz Sandals had made it clear she would move immediately to introduce back-to-work legislation for the striking teachers once the commission made its ruling. She was right to act on that promise.

Unfortunately, it looks as though it will take several more days to get classes going once more because the NDP is refusing all-party consent for the legislation. Unanimous consent would have ensured the kids got back to class as soon as Tuesday, but the NDP’s refusal to play ball means the government can’t get the legislation passed until Thursday at the earliest.

That just means more lost days in a school year that will be severely compressed at the end.

For that to succeed, students and parents can only hope that teachers go back to work with a sense of urgency and dedication. They will have to make tough decisions on how to cram the missed curriculum into the four remaining weeks, and whether to cancel exams or waive the 110 hours required to earn a credit.

The legal maneuvering around contract negotiations between the government and teachers is far from over. The Ontario Labour Relations Board still must rule on the actual legality of the teachers’ walkouts at the local level.

Under legislation passed last year, big-ticket items such as wages and class size were supposed to be negotiated province-wide at a central bargaining table. Local issues were to be worked out between individual school boards and their teachers’ unions.

The three strike-hit boards have argued before the labour relations board that the walkouts were illegal because they had little to do with local issues. Rather, they maintained, the strikes were just a tactic to sway provincial bargaining.

The school boards were seeking an “urgent” decision, but the labour board has taken its time working through the complex issues involved. It’s expected to release a report on the matter by the middle of this week.

Regardless of the outcome of that dispute, the government needs to clarify the School Boards Collective Bargaining Act.


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Ontario Teachers Back-To-Work Legislation On Its Way

Posted on 27 May 2015 by admin


It will be several days before 70,000 Ontario high school students can return to class after the New Democrats delayed Monday the passage of new legislation that would force striking teachers back to work.

The Liberal government tabled back-to-work legislation after an arm of the Ontario Labour Relations Board advised the province that the school year was in jeopardy for students in three boards where teachers have been on strike for up to five weeks.

Failure to win unanimous consent to get the bill passed on Monday means it will be pushed back several days, and Friday is the earliest students in the Sudbury-area Rainbow District, Peel Region and Durham Region could return to class.

Students could have been back in class Tuesday with all-party support, and Premier Kathleen Wynne said she was “disappointed” the NDP would stall the legislation’s passage.

“I don’t actually understand where the philosophical problem is here, because they know that these kids are at risk and they also know that there is ample opportunity for us to continue to try and get a deal,” she said.

Education Minister Liz Sandals said the government respects the collective bargaining process, but it’s important to get kids back to class to complete their school year, which she does not expect to be extended beyond June 30.

The Progressive Conservatives “reluctantly” supported the legislation, while NDP Leader Andrea Horwath called it “undemocratic” and said that the chaos in the education system is of the Liberals’ own making.

This is the first round of negotiations under a new bargaining system the Liberal government introduced last year, separating the process into local and central talks.

As the high school teachers in the three strikes are being legislated back to work, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation is raising the possibility of a provincewide strike, while their elementary counterparts enter the third week of an administrative strike.

Central talks between high school teachers and the province broke down over the weekend and the OSSTF has applied for conciliation, which could set the stage for a provincial strike.

“We’re looking at where we can go in the fall,” said OSSTF president Paul Elliott.

“It’s become quite clear the boards won’t negotiate with us locally. We’re at an impasse at the central table. We’re reassessing where we’re going to go at that central table.”

If there is a provincewide strike before September, it would not be allowed to affect the Durham, Rainbow and Peel boards, Sandals said. Bargaining in those boards should be sent to arbitration but with the use of a mediator, the Education Relations Commission recommended.

The Ontario Labour Relations Board had also been set to rule on whether the three local strikes were illegal.

That ruling will still be of interest as the government conducts a review of the new legislation following this round of bargaining, Sandals said.

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Jason Kenney calls on Iraqi forces ‘to do better’ in wake of defeat to ISIS

Posted on 27 May 2015 by admin


Defence Minister Jason Kenney is urging Iraq military forces to do better in their fight against Islamic State extremists, saying the loss of a key city must be a wake-up call.

Kenney’s comments on Monday come after the blunt assessment from U.S. Defence Secretary Ash Carter who questioned the Iraqis’ will to fight, despite intensive training by Western militaries.

In a CNN interview Sunday, Carter said that Iraqi forces “vastly outnumbered” the Islamic State group, but still “showed no will to fight” and fled the ISIL advance on Ramadi earlier this month.

The defeat at Ramadi has sparked a war of words involving Iraq and the Western nations that are contributing troops and equipment to help counter advances by Islamic extremists.

A spokesman for Iraq’s prime minister suggested that Carter had “incorrect information.” Gen. Qassim Soleimani, the head of the elite Quds forces in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, pointed the finger at U.S. forces for doing nothing to stop the ISIL advance on Ramadi.

Yet Kenney told reporters Monday that the fall of the city west of Baghdad should serve as a lesson for Iraqi forces to better confront the ISIL threat.

“Unfortunately the situation in Ramadi is clearly a setback and a wake-up call for the Iraqi military to massively improve its effectiveness,” he said.

“We agree with the American assessment that they need to do more. They need to do better.”

Kenney said the abilities of the Iraqi forces were discussed when he and Prime Minister Stephen Harper met with Iraq Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi during a visit to the country earlier this month.

“He briefed us on his efforts to improve the quality of the commanders in the Iraqi army and to reinforce unity between the various factions,” Kenney said.

During that same trip, Kenney and Harper went to northern Iraq where a small group of elite Canadian soldiers are training Kurdish peshmerga fighters in their own fight against the Islamic State. Kenney said the peshmerga have been “effective” in battling militants and holding ground.

Despite the loss of Ramadi and concerns about the quality of Iraqi forces, Kenney said that Canada would stick with its commitment, extended to next spring, to train Kurdish fighters and not expand its efforts to other parts of the Iraq military.

“Many of our allies are already doing very widespread training operations with the Iraqi army in southern and central Iraq,” he said.

Still, the defeat at Ramadi has called into question Iraqi efforts to turn back Islamic State militants, a campaign that has been heavily backed by Canada, the U.S., Britain and other Western nations.

Many of those countries have dispatched troops to serve as trainers to Iraqi forces and get them in shape to reclaim territory seized by Islamic State fighters.

In the meantime, fighter jets from Canada and other nations are bombing Islamic State targets to keep stem their advances until Iraqi forces are ready to launch ground offensive.

Kenney said the international efforts have helped pushed back ISIL.

“There is no doubt that had Canada and other allies not brought force to bear against ISIL that it would possess far more territory than it currently does in Iraq. We’ve been successful in constraining the organization,” Kenney said.


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Students, temporary workers hired to help overloaded access-to-info offices

Posted on 27 May 2015 by admin

Charlie Angus

The federal government is using students and temp workers to bolster overwhelmed access to information offices, the Star has learned.

Departments struggling to deal with “surges” in the number of access to information requests are bringing in outside help to deal with the resulting backlog, internal Treasury Board documents show.

The situation is the result of a “critical shortage” of access to information (ATIP) analysts, according to one ATIP director, leading to “hundreds of casual workers that move from ATIP (office) to ATIP office.”

“On the note of (the) critical shortage of ATIP analysts, most ATIP offices cannot staff their vacant positions, which only exacerbates the influx situation,” wrote Monique McCulloch, the access to information director at Shared Services Canada. “The community needs to come together to administer a huge recruitment and development process . . . to rebuild the permanent capacity within the federal ATIP community.”

The documents, obtained under access to information law by the NDP, suggest surges typically start with journalists. After an initial wave of media requests, departments frequently receive more requests from businesses and the public.

Charlie Angus, the New Democrats’ ethics critic, accused the Conservative government of not putting sufficient resources in the access to information regime.

“That is a ridiculous situation,” Angus said in an interview on Monday.

“We’re talking about documents, if they’re redacted or refused, (that) really obstruct Canadians’ right to know. You need people with expertise in the law and the obligations to protect privacy, but also the obligation to disclose (information). That’s something you can’t just pick up, you know, from Kijiji.”


55,145 — Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault reported a 28-per-cent-increase in access to information requests in 2012-13, up to 55,145 requests filed that year. Complaints to the watchdog’s office about the government’s handling of requests also increased by 30 per cent that year.

7,000 — The Canadian Border Services Agency saw a surge of 7,000 new access to information requests between June and September 2012, all related to a new questionnaire developed by Citizenship and Immigration Canada that required travel info from CBSA. The questionnaire was put in place “unbeknownst” to the border agency, and resulted in a number of in-person visits from people seeking their information.

135 — Parks Canada received 135 requests from one person for more than 15 years worth of records. The request was called a “vexatious” “fishing expedition” that significantly gummed up the agency’s access to information process. The requester ultimately abandoned their request.

1983 —Canada’s access to information laws were put in place in 1983. Despite repeated calls from the information commissioner, researchers, and advocates, the legislation has never been substantially changed. Treasury Board President Tony Clement told the Star he believes the legislation needs a “meaningful” review, but there’s no time before the 2015 election.

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Posted on 27 May 2015 by admin


 Dr. Hasan Askari

  A recent visit to the Peking University, Beijing, China, confirms the view that China continues to be an interesting country. Despite economic liberalization and strong signs of capitalism in China, politics is still dominated by the ruling elite belonging to the Chinese Communist Party. This has advantages and disadvantages. Whereas the state controls the access to the rest of the world, the government has the capacity to pull the nation in one direction.

  Three decades ago the Chinese government decided that the Chinese should learn the English language. Now, all young people in the universities know English, although a good number of them may have problem in expressing them fluently in that language. Over the last thirty years, China has sent a large number of its young people to the Western universities, especially United States universities, for education in various fields of science, technology and business administration.

  Now-a-days, China is devoting strong attention to developing economic and trade relations with a large number of countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. China is also implementing economic development and industrial projects in these countries. China’s Prime Minister visited three Latin American countries last week. Last month China’s President visited Pakistan and Indonesia. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modei visited Beijing in mid-May. Earlier in 2014, Chinese President visited several Asian countries.

  Since 2013, China is working on building road and sea links for trade with other regions like Central Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe. It has well established trade with the United States and it has also invested funds in the United States.

  China is working on a long term strategy of converting itself into a global power with its influence all over the world. Its interest may conflict in the long run with the U.S. which is a well-established global power. China’s interest are likely to conflict in future with India as both want to play a leading role in the politics of the Asian continent.

  As part of this strategy China has adopted a three dimensional approach towards the rest of the world. This include peace on its border, trade and economic relations, and special attention to building relations with South Asia, especially with Pakistan.

  The policy of peace on its borders emphasizes good diplomatic and economic relations with the states bordering China. It shares borders with 14 states, including India. China is now at peace with all these states. With India, its trading volume is bigger than China’s trade with Pakistan. China has not given up its claims on the territory claimed by India as its own. It repeats its territorial claim on India from time to time including the claim on Indian state of Arunachal. However, it has not allowed the territorial dispute to come in the way of its political, economic and trade relations with India. The territorial dispute has been pushed to the background. Narendra Modi’s recent visit to China produced new arrangements with Chinese companies for investment in India worth 22 billion. China has patched up differences with Vietnam and Russia.

  China’s other strategy of trade and economic relations has been described as the revival of old road and sea trade routes that existed several hundred years ago between China and Africa, Europe, the Middle East and South and Central Asia. The greater emphasis is on building road links with bordering East Asian and South Asian states. A similar road system is being discussed with the states of Central Asia for establishing road link with Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

  The third dimension of China’s new policy is to build more active relations with the states of South Asia, i.e., India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Out of all South Asian countries, China assigns the greatest importance to Pakistan. It has strongest relations in South Asia with Pakistan. These relations are expected to grow a lot in the next decade. However, China will maintain economic and trade relations with India. Its preference will always be for Pakistan.

   The latest proof of the growing Chinese interest in Pakistan is the offer of construction of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that proposes to establish a road link between the city of Kashgar in Western China (Xinjiang region) and the Gwadar port in Balochistan. The Karakoram Highway already exists that links Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa with Western China. Currently this road connection is being improved. From Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa the new road link has three routes. Two routes are on the western side of the river Indus. One route is on the eastern side of river Indus. The routes on the western side of Indus have shorter distance to Gwadar.

  This project is not simply construction of roads. It has four aspects: road-building and infra-structure development; new industrial projects along the Corridor; energy development, and the development of the Gwadar port and the adjoining area. All this is expected to cost around American dollars 46 billion. By the time the Corridor project is completed in ten to fifteen years its cost is expected to increase.

  If the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project is completed it will provide a road and sea link to Western China with the Middle East and the Arabian sea and the Indian Ocean. For Western China the road link to Gwardar means a shorter distance to sea than the present access of this region to sea via South China Sea on the other end of China.

  For Pakistan, the Corridor project opens new economic opportunities and jobs as most of the Corridor is going to be in Pakistan. It will get new industry and energy project.

  However, If Pakistan cannot control internal violence and terrorism, it will not be able to complete the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. The Pakistan Army has announced new security arrangements for Chinese workers in Pakistan and it has adopted tough measures against terrorism. However, the civilian government has not been able to provide the required support to the Army for controlling terrorism. Further, a domestic controversy in Pakistan on the Corridor route has created a new political controversy. Pakistan has got a big opportunity to strengthen its economy. Hopefully, it avails of this opportunity.

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After a Year of Outsize Expectations, Narendra Modi Adjusts His Plan for India

Posted on 27 May 2015 by admin


Standing before India on the first anniversary of his swearing-in, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday gave a speech that was notable for the subjects it avoided: Large-scale job creation. Manufacturing. Urbanization.

Mr. Modi instead delivered an ode to struggling India. During the speech in Mathura, a town about 90 miles southeast of Delhi, he lavished attention on farmers and said that mom-and-pop traders, not “big industrialists,” should be India’s crucial driver of job growth. Most of all, he praised the poor, who he said “will become my warriors.”

The shift was telling. After soaring through India’s political stratosphere on the economic promise “achche din aa gaye,” or “better days are coming,” Mr. Modi must face the reality that much of his agenda is still only potential.

From abroad, India is now seen as a bright spot, expected to pass China this year to become the world’s fastest-growing large economy. But at home, job growth remains sluggish. Businesses are in wait-and-see mode. And Mr. Modi has political vulnerabilities, as parliamentary opposition leaders block two of his central reform initiatives and brand him “anti-poor” and “anti-farmer.”

Most formidable of all is a problem Mr. Modi has made for himself: outsize expectations that he would sweep away constraints to growth in India, like stringent laws governing labor and land acquisition.

“Their image became larger than they themselves,” Vimarsh Razdan, senior vice president at Orient Craft, one of India’s largest garment exporters, said of Mr. Modi’s government. “They have become superheroes. And everyone knows superheroes don’t exist.”

A year ago, businesspeople were awaiting Mr. Modi’s arrival in New Delhi with eagerness and a bit of apprehension: In Gujarat, the state he led for almost 13 years as chief minister, he was known for his concentration of personal power, his dislike of red tape and his sometimes intimidating manner.

Since then, India’s business culture has indeed changed, chief executives say. They rejoice that they no longer have to notarize all documents submitted to the government and say that it is far easier to find bureaucrats at their desks during the workday. Sudhir Dhingra, the founder of Orient Craft, says that only about one-third as many inspectors are showing up at his factories and that they are “fearful of accepting money.”

Mr. Modi has built a centralized system that requires business deals to be routed through his office. Gone are the informal meetings that business leaders used to hold with ministry officials, often to hash out policies regulating their sectors. As for Mr. Modi, business leaders have found it hard to cultivate him socially.

“This one year has taught the businessmen one thing: Meeting him at weddings, or meeting him at seminars or whatever, doesn’t give them any advantage,” said Rajeev Chandrasekhar, an independent member of the upper house of Parliament and a technology entrepreneur.

 “For me, and I have been around for a while, this is very, very unusual,” he said. “A lot of people are having sleepless nights because of that.”

By most measures, India’s economy has had a good year. India is heavily reliant on imported oil, and plunging prices have cut the cost of government fuel subsidies, allowing the authorities to rein in a chronic budget deficit. Inflation fell to 4.87 percent in April. Foreign direct investment rose by more than 25 percent, to $28.8 billion in the 2014-15 fiscal year.

The government has introduced a flurry of changes: It has deregulated prices for diesel, petroleum and cooking gas, and raised limits on foreign investment in the defense and insurance sectors to 49 percent. It has opened 125 million bank accounts for poor families, with the goal of eventually replacing food and fuel subsidies with cash transfers to prevent corruption. Coalfield leases, found to have been sold at artificially low prices, were reallocated through a transparent process; so were telecom spectrum allocations.

Those urging Mr. Modi to introduce deep structural reforms, however, have been disappointed.

Raghuram Rajan, the governor of the Reserve Bank of India, told an audience in New York last week that many people saw Mr. Modi as “Ronald Reagan on a white horse” coming to slay anti-market forces, and that the image was “probably not appropriate.”

He added that the government “has taken steps to create the environment for investment, which I think is important.”

Mr. Modi’s only truly risky change to date — muscling through an executive order easing the government’s ability to obtain land for development — backfired this spring when he tried to transform it into a permanent law. The proposed law met a wall of protest from a rejuvenated opposition declaring that Mr. Modi was “anti-farmer.”

Charges of cozying up to business must sting for Mr. Modi, said Shekhar Gupta, a journalist, especially after his party’s crushing defeat in February elections in Delhi. He was criticized there for wearing a customized suit with pinstripes made of embroidered script spelling his name.

“It’s taken away from him the basic image of a tea-seller who became a country’s leader in his own right,” Mr. Gupta said.

Economic grandees have their own grievances with Mr. Modi, which they are increasingly willing to express. One damaging assessment came from Arun Shourie, an economist and former minister with Mr. Modi’s party, who said the government lacked a single unifying vision on economic policy, and was “directionless, a great disappointment.”

Deepak Parekh, chairman of HFDC Bank, complained that procedures for obtaining funds had become more onerous, not less so, under the new government. And he described “a little bit of impatience creeping in as to why no changes are happening.”

Jayant Sinha, a former investment fund manager who is now the minister of state for finance, said these complaints were the natural result of fiscal and monetary consolidation that the government had undertaken to control inflation. Their “economic pain” will ease over the next several months, he said, as the investment cycle picks up.

But some limitations of Mr. Modi’s ability to transform India’s economy are coming into focus. Mr. Modi’s large electoral mandate gave him control of only one house of Parliament. In domestic affairs, he must cope with a huge, fragmented bureaucracy.

One example came early this year, when the tax authorities alarmed 68 foreign investment funds by demanding, for the first time, a payment of a 20 percent levy on capital gains made over the last three years. It contradicted Mr. Modi’s vow to end retrospective taxation, and as foreign capital fled the country early this month, the government scrambled to calm investors.

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Canada India Healthcare Summit discusses generic drugs, South Asian health issues and research collaboration

Posted on 27 May 2015 by admin

Summit explores mutual growth opportunities between Canada and India

 Generic drugs, South Asian health issues, digital health and healthcare collaboration initiatives were some of the important topics discussed at the two-day Healthcare Summit hosted by the Canada India Foundation (CIF) in association with Toronto Rehab Foundation and the Indo Canada Business Chamber (ICBC).

 Prominent speakers at the forum included Dr. Jeremy Desai, CEO and President Apotex Canada, Mr. Rahul Reddy, Senior Vice President, Apollo Hospitals, India,

Dr. Madhukar Pai, Canada Research Chair and Director of Global Health, McGill University, Dr. Rakesh Vyas, Gujarat Cancer and Research Institute, India and

Dr. Naheed Dosani, Palliative Care Physician, William Osler Health System, St Michael’s Hospital Inner City Health Associates, among others.

 Ontario Minister of Health, The Honourable Eric Hoskins, opened the event followed by a number of panel discussions featuring the who’s who of the Canadian and Indian Medical fraternity and industry in the most ambitious two-day event focusing on South Asian health and research and trade collaborations between Canada and India in the Healthcare corridor.

 Dr. Hoskins said: “I spent nearly a decade as a doctor and humanitarian in war torn regions of Africa and around the world. That experience has made me a firm believer in the benefits of holding discussions like this to learn from one another, share our expertise, and work together with our partners to improve healthcare services and patient outcomes around the globe.”

 The Canada India Healthcare Summit took place on May 19 and 20 at the Omni King Edward Hotel in downtown Toronto and discussed South Asian health issues such as Diabetes, Stroke, Rehabilitation, Long-term Care, Digital Health and Smart Hospitals, Distance Care, Rural Care, Pharmaceuticals and Generic Drugs, Research Collaboration, Wellness, Alternative Healthcare Policy and Healthcare policy as well as explore business and investment opportunities in healthcare in Canada and India.

 “Canada India Foundation’s theme-based forums have become the signature events for serious multi-dimensional recommendation-focused conversation on opportunities for Canada and India to expand bilateral trade and strengthen relations”, says Dr. V.I. “Lucky” Lakshmanan, Co-Chair of the Summit and also Chair of CIF. This is the fifth theme based Summit hosted by CIF.

 “While previous forums on Energy (2009), Mining (2010), Agriculture and Food Processing (2012) and Infrastructure (2014) were predominantly trade focused, the Canada India Healthcare Summit has both business and social dimensions and is clearly our most ambitious event to-date,” says Dr. Lakshmanan.

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Why I’ve Decided to Get an Arranged Marriage

Posted on 27 May 2015 by admin


Whenever I tell my friends that I’ve thought about getting married to a guy that my parents will pick for me, I always get the same response.

“Wait a minute, an arranged marriage!?”

“But why? Aren’t you worried!?”

“Last I checked it’s not the 1900s.”

Et cetera, et cetera.

They’re right, it’s definitely not the 1900s anymore. Times are changing and society is moving forward.

Like any other woman, when I was younger I was adamant about being in a love marriage — falling in love and getting married with or without my parents’ approval was the dream, just like in the movies. Of course my parents continuously squashed that idea right out of my head.

I still remember that one day a few years ago when we went out for a lovely family dinner like we do every few weeks. Of course I, being the petulant child that I sometimes am, brought up the topic of matrimony and asked my parents outright why they wanted me to have an arranged marriage. That’s right, I came straight out and asked them. Shocker, right? But I can tell you now that this was the most informative conversation I have ever had with my parents in all my 20-something years of life.

“We just want a happy life for you,” my dad explained to me. I told him that I knew this. Every father dreams of a content life for his children.

“But it’s my life. I’m the one getting married, so I should decide who I marry,” I argued back. As a born and bred Canadian, the whole concept of an arranged marriage was unsettling to me.

What I did not understand was how much my parents truly worried about my future. They were concerned that maybe in my immaturity I would fall in love with the wrong guy, make bad decisions, and do something stupid that I would regret for the rest of my life.

In the South Asian community, marriage is a big deal. It is a sacred pact between man, woman and God that is honoured for a lifetime. Divorce is rare. Once you’re in it, you’re in it for life. In a Hindu marriage, a crucial part of the pact is the parents. A marriage is not just the union of a man and a woman — it is the union of two families. The parents of the couple are just as important as the couple themselves.

Upon realizing this, I understood why my parents would be concerned if I entered into a love marriage where I chose the man I would marry. They were worried that our families would not be compatible. In an arranged marriage, they would be certain that the match would be good for all parties involved. It sounds very much like a contract, doesn’t it? Terms like parties, arrangement and signatures are plentiful. I couldn’t believe that the sanctity of marriage was torn apart by something like a contract, so I delved into my own research.

The more I learned about the traditions of my culture, the more I realized that our marriages are both a contract and a sacred journey across lifetimes. In an arranged marriage, couples are matched based on their horoscopes and numerology. When you are born, every single element matters: the date of birth, the time of birth, the direction you were facing when you were born, the position of the planets, which stars were the brightest — every tiny detail was recorded.

This data, after being organized into a chart, is kept with the family as the child grows and becomes a young man or woman ready to tie the knot. Their charts are then compared with others to be matched, and the best one is always a happy and prosperous union. I believe that these matches are the souls of two lovers from past lifetimes to be reunited again. Hinduism believes in reincarnation. So maybe God places us in a certain place at a certain time for us to be able to find our true match again in our current lives.

I thought about the pitfalls of this method. What if the match my parents found for me wasn’t truly my soulmate? What if the man who is truly my other half isn’t from a family that would be compatible with mine? I argued with my parents for a long time before I realized that they were right in their own way. I have made terrible choices before, so what prevents me from making more in the future? Or perhaps a part of me doubts my abilities to find the “right” guy.

Arranged marriage used to be a huge deal for me until I had this discussion with my parents. That was when I realized that an arranged marriage isn’t the end of the world. So what if I don’t like him? I can just say no if I realize that we’re not suited for each other. I’m sure that I would be allowed this freedom, even if our charts were a close match.

After a few weeks of chewing the idea over in my mind, I brought the subject up again with my mom.

“If I go ahead with your whole arranged marriage thing, I have a few conditions,” I said to her. Firstly, I wanted plenty of time before the wedding to get to know the guy I would be hitched to for the rest of my life. Secondly, I wanted to at least have a few options in case one didn’t work out. Thirdly, I definitely did not want a huge age difference between us — this scenario has happened so often in my extended family that I was frightened of it being passed down to me. As I stated these conditions out loud, I realized it made me sound a little shallow — it was like picking the best cow of the lot to make the most delicious burger.

“Of course all of that goes without saying,” my mom replied without batting an eye. I felt like I had misunderstood them all this time. Whenever I thought of an arranged marriage, I had this grotesque image of being forced to wed someone who didn’t respect or love me. I thought that my parents were being unfair and stifling. Only then did I realize that I was just being an idiot.

My parents told me that their own marriage was an arranged one, but I know that they have grown to truly love each other overtime. To this day, I sometimes catch them holding hands while taking a walk on warm summer evenings or snuggling on the couch paying idle attention to a made-for-TV movie. Their marriage has given me hope and their love has given me faith.

Now, I wonder if I should completely trust my parents and place my future in their hands. And yet I can’t help but wonder — if I’m ever in a situation where I happen to find my soulmate myself, would they understand and learn to accept him too?

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Single-detached homes in dramatic decline in GTA, says CMHC

Posted on 27 May 2015 by admin


The single-detached home is increasingly marching to extinction, unless you can afford $2 million in the core of the GTA or are willing to drive to the last remaining bastions of affordable low-rise housing – the easterly 905 regions, Hamilton, Barrie and Kitchener-Waterloo.

The condo will remain king across the GTA and drive total housing starts up 12 per cent this year alone, according to a spring outlook report from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

“The ensuing result will be less single-detached home starts in 2015 and beyond,” notes the federal housing agency in a report that paints a rather worrisome picture of the future for families looking for more than a condo with a baby den.

“Townhouses will become the equivalent of the new single-detached home in the GTA,” says the annual outlook report, released Monday.

Pre-construction sales of townhouses have been trending upward – as have sales and prices of resale townhouses across the GTA. But just 5,050 new townhomes are expected to begin construction in 2015 across the GTA, according to CMHC, compared to 18,500 high-rise starts this year. That number is expected to climb to 20,300 condo unit starts in 2016.

The construction of new, single-detached homes continue their dramatic decline, which started in 2010, with just 7,700 starts this year, and just 7,000 in 2016. That’s largely because of soaring land costs, lack of lots serviced with roads, sewers and other necessary infrastructure and “land use policies.”

While the CMHC report doesn’t elaborate, home developers have repeatedly blamed the province’s Places to Grow intensification policies for driving construction of new, detached homes into virtual extinction. Since the intensification policy was introduced in 2006, there has been a dramatic shift to high-rise condo construction across the GTA, and a dramatic decline in house construction, even as the growing numbers of echo boomers move toward their child-rearing years.

Last week the Building and Land Development association, which represents both high-rise and low-rise home builders across the GTA, warned that simple supply and demand economics are having a dramatic impact on homes price.

Over the last year, the average price of a new construction low-rise home (detached, semis and townhouses) has increased 16 per cent, to $775,416. High-rise condos rose a more modest 3 per cent, but are edging close to half a million dollars at $448,760.

“In spite of tight resale market conditions for low-rise homes in the GTA, fewer sales of new single-detached homes are expected in the future and therefore fewer starts,” CMHC says.

That’s forcing more families to – in the words of developers – “drive until they qualify” for mortgages in more affordable municipalities outside the pricey GTA, such as Hamilton, Barrie and Kitchener-Waterloo, which are seeing tremendous growth.

Price growth for new, single-detached homes has outstripped all other housing types “and will continue to show higher gains in 2015 and beyond,” says CMHC.

It anticipates 5.5 per cent price growth this year, to $881,500 for a detached home. Prices remain more affordable in Brampton and Milton, says the federal housing agency, but higher in Vaughan and Markham.

Expect to pay more than $2 million for a detached in-fill house in popular City of Toronto neighbourhoods, the report notes.

With mortgage rates expected to stay low for some time, the resale market is also expected to see continued strength this year – it expects a record 93,400 resale homes to change hands this year – but some slowdown in 2016 “as modest economic growth and affordability concerns dampen home buying activity.”

The average price of an existing home is expected to climb 5 per cent in 2015 and 1.7 per cent in 2016, bringing the average GTA house price – which includes both low- and high-rise housing – to $595,000 and $605,000 respectively.

Expect demand for housing to be especially fierce in the Oshawa Census Metropolitan Area as families go in search of a backyard they can afford.

That could see the average existing home price – which is about half that in Oshawa to the City of Toronto – climb by 8.1 per cent this year and 4.8 per cent next year, says the report. That would bring the average price to $420,000 in 2015 and $440,000 in 2016.

Rental demand is also expected to remain strong across the GTA, says CMHC, but the vacancy rate could push closer to 2 per cent as a record number of condo completions expected this year come on stream.

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