Commentary by Suresh Kurl in Richmond
Time passes, sometimes leaving behind only a knot of hurtful memories. Thirty years have gone by waiting for the news, when the living victims of the Air India tragedy would hear, feel and spend the rest of their days with some sense of justice. It seems like they will never realize their hopes.
Just ask those whom destiny left behind only to mourn loved ones lost on June 23, 1985.
The Air-India Bombing was not a car accident caused by a drunken driver on an icy Canadian road. It was a well planned, well financed and well executed aviation mass murder of 331 individuals. They had no idea before and after they boarded the plane that they were being taken – not to meet their relatives – but to the end of their own lives. Eyes still get moist and tears still roll down the cheeks when someone or something reminds Canadians of that dreadful day.
Inderjit Singh Reyat, the designated technician-cum-schemer of the 331 murders, made the bomb, tested the bomb and handed it over to his associate master-minds to execute the rest of the plot, to shatter the plane over the Atlantic Ocean. They did this rather effectively, leaving the Irish authorities scooping dead babies, lifeless adults, packed suitcases, floating dolls and pieces of the broken airplane for evidence.
Two wrongs don't make a right
The Air India Bombing was plotted and executed to avenge the wounded honour of the GoldenTemple, a respected seat of worship and devotion. This temple assault, referred to as "Operation Blue Star" by the New Delhi government, had the approval of the Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and was no less evil than the bombing of the Air India flights that followed.
Mrs. Gandhi could have chosen some other political and peaceful solution to resolve the national crisis, but she did not, just as Mr. Reyat and his associates could have adopted some other peaceful path to achieve the Sikh separatist agenda. But they did not, because they, especially Mr. Reyat, the designated technician, must have believed, "Two wrongs equal one right."
Co-incidentally, there are a few similarities between Mrs. Gandhi and Mr. Reyat. Both of them have the same derivative Sanskrit root, "in-" meaning, stubborn, determined, bold and energetic.
Second, both of them suffered the consequences of their Karma (behaviour). PM Gandhi was assassinated at the hands of her trusted body guards. Reyat was doomed by his loyalty to his co-conspirators.
Not a solo plot
Who will ever believe that such a plot was the work of one person?
Moreover, Mr. Reyat ended up protecting, insulating and covering his criminal associates through his own "perjury". I call it destiny.
Third, their actions were a response to the demand for the creation of a separate nation, "Khalistan'.
Fourth, no one seems to admire them for the violence soaked sacrifices they made to attain their objectives.
Last week, Mr. Reyat was released from federal prison; technically, "paroled out". Where Mr. Reyat is going to live or with who he is going to live with is not of significance. What is significant is that he could never be free from the prison of his own guilt.
He might not even be able to sleep soundly. He might even suffer vivid nightmares of exploding planes and falling dead babies from the sky: all because he is unwilling to reconcile with the truth, compassion and honesty and universal love, the tenets of every religion, including his own religion.
Spiritually speaking, Mr. Reyat can only redeem himself of his portion of sins by disclosing the names of those who were involved in plotting, financing and executing this crime, which put him and him alone away in prison for a long time and caused him to suffer, socially, financially and spiritually.
Mr. Reyat is a Sikh. If he believes in God, he must also believe in Karma, its consequences and rebirth. If all this is true then the only option Mr. Reyat has is to pray for peace and strength to tell the truth and cleanse his conscience. Truth sets us free. Truth heals our wounded spirit. Truth prepares us to face our Creator.
As a spiritual human being, I am asking him to do the right thing for his soul and for the sake of his children and their children. He alone has the power to offer the gift of justice and peace to those he has victimized.
Mr. Reyat, leave this world with your head high with pride, not bending low, burdened with the weight of lies and a guilty conscience.
Dr. Suresh Kurl is a South Asian Community Activist, a former university professor, retired Registrar of the B.C. Benefits Appeal Board (Govt. of B.C.), a former Member of the National Parole Board (Govt. of Canada), a writer and public speaker.
This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org
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Commentary by George Abraham in Surrey
Canadians from the Atlantic to the Pacific are suddenly aware that their world-famous model of multiculturalism is not working as well as it should.
People in the so-called “mainstream” want immigrants to do more to fit in – perhaps by abandoning customs and “back home” traditional mores that don’t jive with the rest of Canada.
While it is hard to pin down what exactly folks who belong to the “mainstream” would want us to do, this disconnect is evident in other ways. Take Canada’s media scene, for instance.
Mainstream media are losing ground, while ethnic media continue to thrive – with new outlets opening in new markets, adding new foreign languages to an already-saturated landscape.
Redefined by immigration
This disconnect was at the heart of a presentation I made in Surrey last week, organized as part of the Walrus Talks series, and titled “Cities of Migration”. Surrey was surely a great location to hold this event; a laboratory of sorts.
Like a handful of cities across Canada, Surrey is being redefined by immigration. Its demographics are startling: the latest census data shows that 41 per cent are immigrants, 14 per cent have arrived since 2001. There has been strong growth in recent years from India and the Philippines.
Markham, Richmond, Brampton and York are in the same league. This is where the Canada of tomorrow is being born.
While in Surrey, I ran into three folks who seem to understand that they are participants in a social experiment that may well determine if Canada will survive as a cohesive society. It is in places like this that we will know if multiculturalism is actually working in practice.
The first was a well-spoken cab driver, Amarinder Singh Dhillon, who's been at the wheel over three decades. But, his source of pride is being “the only Rotarian to drive a taxi”. “Only in Canada,” he exclaims. I agreed.
Stephen Dooley, executive director of Simon Fraser University’s Surrey campus, also gets it. He saw that this city was going to be a haven for refugees from Syria – home to half of all B.C. arrivals from that war-torn Middle East nation – and hence led a study that will inform settlement strategies. However, what struck me was not the study itself, but the fact that Prof. Dooley hired seven recent refugees from Myanmar, Somalia, Iraq and El Salvador as research assistants.
That to me suggests empathy.
The last true believer I ran into was Michael Heeney, principal at Bing Thom Architects, who spoke of creating a “third space” while conceiving the edifice that houses SFU’s Surrey campus. The architects ended up redeveloping a declining shopping centre, opening up the roof to overlay the university and integrating an office tower on it.
The local Wal-Mart and university have a shared roof.
Dhillon, Dooley and Heeney are doing what Surrey needs to succeed: creating shared spaces, fostering conversations and melding the old with the new. I suspect they are not fans of “asymmetric” integration which holds that the onus is on immigrants to fit in.
My good friend and an authority on multiculturalism Andrew Griffith wrote this in Policy Options last month: "The integration process is asymmetric: it is more important for immigrants and new Canadians to adapt to Canadian laws, norms and values than it is for the host society to adjust to them. The meeting point is not ‘somewhere in the middle’ between the host society and the newcomers, but much closer to the host society (80/20 percent, in my view).”
My time in Canada (14 years) tells me that the meeting point is indeed in the middle. The host society must do all it can to make newcomers feel at home, while immigrants must make an equal effort to reach out.
The mainstream cannot adopt the sort of “benign neglect” that no less a Canadian than a former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson referred to in her book, Room for All of Us. [Video courtesy: Stephen Hui/Georgia Straight]
A New Conversation
My talk in Surrey dealt with creating a new Canadian conversation, beginning in the media. The two solitudes of “ethnic” and “mainstream” are as far apart as Gander and Coal Harbour.
We need to find common ground and ways to work together.
Paul Dhillon and Krystele Chavez are perhaps representative of a new breed of immigrant journalists who feel vested in Surrey’s future.
“Bringing innovative ideas and entrepreneurial spirit to the economy, it is because of immigrants that we have kept our city demographically young and culturally enriched, therefore enhancing our influence in the nation,” says Chavez, who comes from Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands, and writes for Surrey604.
Dhillon has a longer horizon. “Surrey was largely an agricultural backwater until the Indo-Canadian builders and developers built it into subdivisions and strip malls. The impact of immigrants has been immense on the city's development and its current diversity is proof that its future will also be drastically shaped by a truly multicultural and metropolitan population,” says the editor-in-chief of the South Asian Link newspaper.
Theirs are new voices that need to be heard.
George Abraham is founder and publishing director of New Canadian Media
by Christopher Cheung in Vancouver
Queenie Lai’s parents often call her a “white girl,” because she likes eating western food.
But in fact, though born in Canada, 23-year-old Lai is more in tune with her Chinese heritage than many of her peers. Growing up she studied Cantonese with a private tutor. She watched Hong Kong soaps on TV. She’s even acted in a Chinese theatre group, performing in legends like Mulan and a play based on the life of Dr. Sun Yat-sen.
“When I visit Hong Kong, people ask me, ‘Why is your Cantonese so good?’” Lai said. “I tell them, well, I grew up speaking it at home.”
Lai also lives in a very Chinese community, but one very different from the ethnic Chinatowns or Little Italys of the last century. Then, immigrants from Asia, Europe, and elsewhere clustered in inner-city neighborhoods, often not the best, to be close to others who shared their history.
By contrast, Lai grew up in Richmond, British Columbia, a bustling modern suburb that, away from its wetland trails, fresh produce farms, and the quaintly historic fishing village of Steveston, can feel like a mirror of East Asia. If you speak Chinese here, you can see a doctor, get a haircut, attend a church, buy a house or car—all without uttering a word in English.
But Richmond isn’t the only suburb with strong overseas influence. It’s an example of a growing demographic trend that’s turning the patterns of the last century on their head. Geographers call it the “ethnoburb,” and others have appeared outside longtime immigrant cities like Toronto, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Melbourne in Australia, and Auckland, New Zealand.
Many ethnoburbs have more immigrants as a share of their total population than their associated urban cores, and often more than native-born residents. According to the 2011 National Household Survey, more than two-thirds of Richmond residents—69 per cent—are immigrants to Canada.
The same survey found that Surrey, a South Asian ethnoburb next door, has an immigrant population of 40 per cent. It’s also home to lavish sari shops and Indian wedding banquet halls on a scale beyond that found in Vancouver proper.
Markham, outside Toronto, has a 58 per cent immigrant population; Richmond Hill, 55 per cent. The Melbourne suburb of Glen Waverly is half immigrants.
But while cities and suburbs undergo new transformations, getting along with new neighbours brings the same tensions as around the ethnic enclaves of old.
Breaking a stereotype
The term “ethnoburb” dates to 1997. Chinese-born geographer Wei Li coined the phrase for a phenomenon she encountered when she moved to Los Angeles to study in 1991.
A professor suggested that rather than find a place to live in Los Angeles’ Chinatown area, she try the suburbs.
“You are Chinese, right?” Li recalls the professor asking. “Why don’t you live in Monterey Park, in the San Gabriel Valley? That’s a Chinese area, you would feel very comfortable.”
Li was puzzled. The stereotype she knew was that North American suburbs were populated with white working dads, stay-at-home moms, and their children. In contrast, the inner city was for immigrants.
But when she saw Monterey Park for herself, she was in for a surprise.
“Had it not been for the heavy automobile traffic and frequent gas stations, I could almost imagine that I was back walking in Beijing,” she wrote of the experience.
San Gabriel Valley in Los Angeles County is home to a shopping centre known as “the great mall of China,” where restaurants serve Mongolian hot pot and spicy chili-and-cumin Hunan. A suburb called Arcadia has been christened “Mistress City,” as they say it’s where Chinese tycoons hide their secret girlfriends and wealth. And in Monterey Park, where the professor directed Li, Taiwanese bubble-tea shops have been dubbed the “Starbucks of the valley.”
These were not the Chinatowns of old.
Old desires, new opportunities
Intrigued, Li began studying the phenomenon—eventually writing a book about it: Ethnoburb: The New Ethnic Community in Urban America, published in 2009.
By then, she says, ethnoburbs had been around for decades after beginning to emerge as early as the 1960s.
The decade opened an era of widening ethnic tolerance. Newcomers were no longer limited by social attitude—and even laws—to enclaves.
Political tensions and the desire for a better quality of life, especially for families who wanted children to have a western education, drove people from China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong to emigrate. At the same time, immigration policies in many developed countries welcomed entrepreneurs. By the 1980s and ‘90s, many ethnoburbs had surpassed the inner-city enclaves where newcomers had been settling in for well over a hundred years. And their growth seems likely to continue, Li said in an interview.
Originally, it was China’s top-tier cities—Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen—that saw emigration to global ethnoburbs. “Now, even second-tier cities in China have heard of places like Richmond, Monterey Park, and Flushing in New York,” Li said.
Second-tier cities include provincial capitals and coastal cities like Chongqing, Chengdu, and Wuhan, recent growth engines of the Chinese economy. Those three alone had a population two-thirds the size of Canada’s—22.3 million people—as of 16 years ago, the last census published.
Asia’s global banks and large informal capital outflows are also helping Asian ethnoburbs flourish faster than counterparts centered on Latino and Afro-American immigration, Li said.
Emigrating to the familiar
One thing hasn’t changed: immigrants still like to settle where immigrants have already settled. Geographers call this chain migration. Once word of the new ethnoburbs got around, they grew fast. Letters, phone calls, and then emails back to the old country, enticed others.
That’s how Queenie Lai ended up in Richmond in 1992. Friends already living there told her parents and grandparents that life was better there than in Hong Kong.
Lai’s mother has no regrets about their choice. Vien Suen is a hairdresser at the Yaohan East Asian mall; her husband does lawn work. In Richmond, Suen says, “The weather is better, and the education and environment for the kids is better. The change in our lifestyle was small.”
The cultural familiarity of ethnoburbs can help ease other transnationals’ yearnings for some of Asia’s hyper-stimulating density and constant action.
Edward Zhao came to Canada in 2002, settling from Beijing with his mother at the age of seven. His father, who worked for a chemical company, remained in China.
Now 21, he’s been back to China on holiday a few times, and finds Vancouver “much more quiet and comfortable compared to Asian cities.” On the other hand, Zhao adds, “There’s not much to do.”
That’s why Richmond is Zhao and his friends’ definitive place for entertainment that mimics Asia’s energy: lots of late-night restaurants, arcades, and Zhao’s favourite, karaoke parlours. He’s a big fan of Korean pop songs.
“I always hog the mic,” he confessed.
Here, but still apart
But if there’s comfort for immigrants in ethnoburbs, there is also segregation.
Ethnoburbs may be different from the confined enclaves of the past, but the choice to live life entirely in one’s own ethnic community can come at the expense of a newcomer’s integration into their new country.
One key aspect: language. In 2011, Statistics Canada revealed that 10 per cent of Richmond residents don’t speak English or French, compared to 5.6 per cent in the region.
“My parents’ English still isn’t the best,” laments Lai. “I was like, ‘You’ve been here for 20 years!’”
And the same qualities that make an ethnoburb feel so familiar to newcomers can have the opposite effect on longer-standing residents.
In Richmond, one group held an extended debate with city hall over there being ‘too much’ Chinese writing on business signs. Residents of a condo building complained when the strata council held its meetings only in Mandarin.
And just as in other parts of gateway cities, as wealthy Chinese buy properties in ethnoburbs, they have been blamed for driving prices out of local reach. One Los Angeles suburb has been advertised to overseas buyers as the “Chinese Beverley Hills.”
In the wake of fears about foreign influence, Li says intergroup harmony is one of the top challenges of ethnoburbs today. “There can be surges of nativism, and even racism.”
A playful response
Australia and New Zealand are among the places where Asian immigration has populated ethnoburbs. In New Zealand, 48-year-old Richard Leung has watched them emerge around Auckland in places like Mount Albert and Avondale.
Leung is the chair of the deep-rooted New Zealand Chinese Association’s Auckland branch, historically formed by Cantonese-speaking labour and service immigrants from south China. Most new arrivals hail from the booming cities of Mandarin-speaking China.
“The elephant in the room for our organization is how we do we accept these new Mandarin speakers,” said Leung. Longtime Chinese New Zealanders, he says, feel “colonized” by the newcomers, who outnumber native-born Asian Kiwis in Auckland by roughly four to one, according to a survey by the Asia New Zealand Foundation last year.
Leung has responded playfully: organizing family sports days to bring newcomers and residents of longer standing together in activities that don’t depend on language.
“We couldn’t speak to many of them, because we didn’t have the Mandarin,” said Leung. “But we decided that we’d just keep doing what we’re doing. Our idea is that the new migrants will have children, and their children will become Chinese New Zealanders like us.”
New nations on the block
Nelson Ou knows how wonderful a taste of home can be in a new place. When he came to Canada from Taiwan at age 20, he was overwhelmed with culture shock.
“I was really lonely and I really missed home,” said Ou, now 32. “But the first time I had Taiwanese food, I was happy. There’s something so familiar to people when they eat their own culture’s food.”
Ou was so happy, in fact, that he took a job at the restaurant. A few years later, he opened his own Taiwanese restaurant, Strike, in Richmond, to serve the same beef noodle soup and peppery fried chicken that gave him comfort.
Limiting himself to a cultural enclave could’ve made things easier, said Ou, but he didn’t want to avoid living in a new, multicultural society.
It wasn’t easy adjusting. He had to “start from scratch and work hard to have an ordinary life,” taking ESL classes, working at Starbucks and restaurants, and eventually earned a financial broker certificate.
“New immigrants these days don’t seem to want to join the community,” said Ou. “They want to change the community to be like the ones they used to live in.”
“When you decide to live here, even for three or five years, that’s quite a long time. I think people should be more open-minded to new ways.”
And he means that both for immigrants and people who’ve been here all their lives.
“Look at bubble tea. It’s for sure not for immigrants only,” said Ou. “In Richmond, some Caucasians have had bubble tea since they were 10 years old. Even 7-Eleven here sells fake bubble tea in their sandwich refrigerators. It’s part of the mainstream now. It’s fun to live here because diversity is part of the culture here.”
Ethnoburbs are dynamic places, after all, said Wei Li.
“Any multiracial, multicultural community can go either way,” she said. “It can become more concentrated, or eventually dissipate.”
It’s up to immigrants like Ou and locals alike to define their home.
Published in partnership with The Tyee, where this reporting first appeared.
By Balwant Sanghera
Richmond is well known for many of its special features. It is considered to be one of the healthiest, cleanest and multicultural communities in Canada. The Olympic Oval, Steveston Village, the Highway to Heaven and the rich farming heritage of this community are some of Richmond’s outstanding assets and attractions. For the past several years, the City of Richmond along with Richmond Museum Society as been showcasing what this community has to offer. Doors Open offers an excellent opportunity to explore Richmond’s unique religious, cultural and heritage sites. This year, 42 organizations, places of worship and various institutions opened their doors to the public on Saturday, June 4 and Sunday, June 5.
by Melissa Shaw in Richmond, British Columbia
Richmond community members came together last week to discuss breaking down the barriers of racism as part of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation’s (CRRF) three-year Our Canada Project.
Held at the John M.S. Lecky UBC Boathouse, the Living Together symposium featured guest speakers and guided public discussions aimed at building a more inclusive community.
Local member of Parliament for the riding Steveston-Richmond East, Joe Peschisolido, spoke about the role of society and government to mitigate conflicts and bring people of all different backgrounds together. Richmond’s acting mayor Bill McNulty highlighted the city’s diverse historical roots, including its First Nations, Japanese, Chinese and European influences.
One of the panel discussions, moderated by Robert Daum, Simon Fraser University (SFU) fellow in diversity and innovation, focused on the forces that shape Canadian identity.
“We keep using the word immigrant in a way that says some people belong more than others who arrived here on this territory, [when instead] we are all guests on Indigenous land,” stated Henry Yu, history professor and principal of St. John’s College at the University of British Columbia (UBC), during the panel.
Yu explained that early Europeans in Canada were called settlers, while people from other countries are called immigrants.
Bringing people together
Dr. Kanwal Singh Neel, program coordinator of the Friends of Simon tutoring program in the faculty of education at SFU, added that many people want to feel a sense of belonging in Canada, while preserving their native language and culture.
Neel said sporting events like Vancouver Canucks’ hockey games and the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics bring people together.
Elaine Chau, an associate producer for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) program “The Early Edition”, said the sharing of food builds a sense of belonging and community.
“When we look at what we eat, even something as simple as rice pops up in every culture,” said Chau. “There are so many ways to relate around the dinner table that we can celebrate our differences.”
Addressing underlying tensions
When asked what challenges Richmond faces in creating inclusive communities, Chau said the issue of Chinese-language-only signs is more about the tensions “bubbling underneath,” because people she spoke with felt they were not welcome in Chinese shopping areas.
“People need to think about what can be done to make people want to venture into places that look unfamiliar,” she said.
Yu added that people should examine what’s causing the hurt feelings underlying the issue of Chinese-language-only signs and focus on building reciprocal relationships.
Metis writer and arts activist, Joanne Arnott, said the arts can be used to accomplish this goal and share culture. She drew on examples like a multilingual art project she led, as well as local poetry gatherings, which she explained encapsulate a person’s rich roots and emotions.
In regards to the question about how to address xenophobia and racism in the wake of the Canadian government’s decision to accept 25,000 Syrian refugees this year, Yu encouraged people not to isolate themselves from those they fear.
“How can we overcome these challenges? Through dialogue, through telling stories that create empathy so we understand, ‘Who are these people, what are their hopes and dreams?’” said Yu.
He said the picture of drowned Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi was powerful because it changed people’s feelings towards refugees.
Neel highlighted the importance of dialogue by using the example of the speculation that resulted over recent media coverage of three men taking ‘suspicious’ photos in the Pacific Centre mall, who the police described as looking 'Middle Eastern'.
Social change takes hard work
Later in the symposium, Suresh Kurl shared an uplifting story about coming to Canada from India and Richmond resident Cecilia Point talked about the Musqueam Nation’s successful fight to preserve a burial ground. Their stories are included as part of the CRRF’s 150 Stories project.
The public also participated in roundtable discussion sessions to create a timeline of important events that have impacted the city and develop a plan to address 11 key issues including the growing wealth gap and housing costs.
About 100 members of the public attended the event including students, local First Nations representatives and politicians.
“Social change takes hard work on the part of many, many people,” said attendee Caroline Wong, reflecting on the day’s programming.
Other participants expressed hope that the collected feedback would be put into action.
Attendee Kanwarjit Sandhu said that people can ask for change, but “we have the power to change one thing, that is ourselves, our attitude.”
The CRRF will hold upcoming symposiums in Halifax, Nova Scotia; Hamilton, Ontario; Red Deer, Alberta; and Yellowknife, Northwest Territories in 2016. The Our Canada Project culminates with Canada’s Sesquicentennial in 2017.
This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org
Abundant opportunities exist for Canadian small and mid-sized businesses in Asian markets, despite slowing growth in the Chinese economy, according to a pair of leading international business experts.
“We remain bullish on China,” said Geoff Chutter, President and CEO of Whitewater West Industries, the world’s leading supplier of waterparks and attractions based in Richmond. “We do not see our sales dropping at all.”
Scotiabank Chief Economist Warren Jestin echoed Chutter’s optimism, noting that economic growth in China still remains good at 6-7 per cent annually, even as it has slowed from the typical 10 per cent annual growth rate of recent years.
”China is a huge opportunity for Canadian businesses,” said Jestin, noting it is still the largest market in the world, with lots of opportunities for smaller and mid-sized companies selling high value consumer products and services.
Recognizing Asian market potential
Jestin and Chutter were the keynote speakers recently at the City of Richmond’s 4th annual Business and Partner Appreciation event.
Chutter said Whitewater West has grown by building on a reputation for product excellence, diversifying both its market and operations internationally, expanding its product lines and putting increased emphasis on customer service and relationships.
The company has been involved in more than 4,000 projects worldwide and is represented in 19 of the world’s top 20 waterparks. Even though global expansion meant outsourcing some of the company’s operations internationally, the resultant growth in business has seen his local workforce double in size to more than 600 jobs.
Jestin noted that while the U.S. market should enjoy the best growth in the short term, export companies should not “fixate” on the American market at the expense of losing out on the long-term potential of the Asian market.
Overall, Jestin said the forecast for the Canadian economy is sound with continued low interest rates and a generally favourable value for the Canadian dollar. He said B.C. should continue to lead economic growth among provinces due to its balanced economy and global focus.
Richmond's economy blossoming
Mayor Malcolm Brodie opened the session by highlighting Richmond’s economic growth.
“Our business retention, expansion and attraction efforts continue to yield results,” he noted. “Over 130 companies have accessed the city’s economic development information and services dedicated to business. Our business outreach campaign of the last three years has facilitated the retention and addition of over 3,500 jobs.”
The city’s annual Business and Partner Appreciation event provides an opportunity to strengthen ties among stakeholders with a joint interest in economic development in Richmond. It is also an opportunity to recognize the corporate partners who’ve helped directly support city programs and events.
In appreciation of the two keynote speakers, the city will make a contribution to the Young Entrepreneur Leadership Launchpad (YELL) program.
Published in partnership with Asian Pacific Post.
by Deanna Cheng (@writerly_dee) in Richmond, British Columbia
If Joseph Martinez was given the option, he would “export half of the population of Richmond back to China.”
Owner of Little Paws Animal Clinic and resident of the newly created federal riding of Steveston - Richmond East in British Colombia, Martinez is upset by the “arrogance” of immigrants.
His is part of a growing undercurrent of anti-immigrant sentiment in the riding.
Along with contiguous riding of Richmond Centre from which it was partly carved out, this area near Vancouver has a high concentration of visible minorities.
According to the recently published Multiculturalism in Canada: Evidence and Anecdote book by former director-general of Citizenship and Multiculturalism, Andrew Griffith, 43 per cent of Steveston - Richmond East identifies itself as ethnic Chinese and 11 per cent as South Asian, while in Richmond Centre the split is 51 per cent Chinese, five per cent South Asian.
Martinez says for him it isn’t about race per se as he would prefer to have Taiwanese immigrants around because “they’re more respectful.”
In fact, he wants “nice Chinese” people who he defines as anyone who isn’t from Hong Kong and makes an attempt to learn English and “greet other races instead of ignoring them.” He also wants newcomers to respect the rules of the road and not drive recklessly as they do in Asia.
A community divided
The debate around immigration has long-since been a hot button issue in the area, and a letter to the editor in last week’s Richmond News brought it to the fore at the start of the election campaign.
In her letter, reader Emilie Henderson expressed her frustrations on reading letters from other residents about their dislike of new immigrants and the change that comes with them.
“Week after week, I read these letters and feel anger at the pure ignorance and lack of perspective of these ‘locals’, descendants of immigrants who likely faced similar hurdles in their adaptation to this country populated by immigrants,” she wrote.
Henderson goes on in her letter to say Richmond is a wonderful place to live because of its diversity, not in spite of it.
Steveston resident Lori Crump says she is inclined to partially agree with Henderson as immigration has its good outcomes too.
Out on an evening bicycle ride by the water, Crump says her relative’s property value going up is one such positive. “You also learn more about other cultures. There were some Russians who came in. Mandarin. It’s all over the map.”
However, she says more regulation on immigration is needed – something electoral candidates Kenny Chiu (Conservative), Joe Peschisolido (Liberal), Scott Stewart (New Democratic Party) and Laura-Leah Shaw (Green Party) should debate on in the coming weeks.
But the Liberal nomination in the riding itself had its own share of controversy. The decision to stop businesswoman Wendy Yuan from seeking nomination seems to have upset many ethnic Chinese supporters of the party.
The acclamation of Peschisolido, a former Richmond MP who was elected in 2000 under the Canadian Alliance banner, is seen as an attempt by the Liberals to field someone with sufficient right-wing credentials to breach a Conservative stronghold.
Alice Wong, the Conservative incumbent in neighbouring Richmond Centre, won her seat in 2011 with over 58 per cent of the votes. This time around she will be competing for votes from her own ethnic group as the Liberals have fielded Lawrence Woo and the Greens Vincent Chui. Jack Trovado is running for the NDP.
More accepting than Vancouver
But whether attitudes around immigration will shape the election outcome in both the Richmond ridings remains a moot issue.
When New Canadian Media hit the streets for a straw poll, it found most people were welcoming and open to immigrants.
Simon Fraser University (SFU) student Fran Li, who grew up in Steveston before moving into a suburban neighbourhood of Richmond, said the city had a “pretty good attitude” towards immigrants.
Based on her experience of travelling between Vancouver and Richmond to attend SFU’s downtown Vancouver campus, the 19 year old feels more accepted in Richmond. She shared an example of a panhandler in Vancouver telling her to go back to Asia when she ignored him.
Li says her high school had more multicultural events due to international transfer students. It even had a multicultural club, which she enjoyed.
Those school events helped her learn more about the world as opposed to just what’s happening locally. “It was important to have a bigger perspective of the world.”
Published in partnership with Asian Pacific Post
Richmond is a great model of multiculturalism. Our No. 5 Road is home to more than twenty prominent places of worship. Some of the world’s major religions – Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism – are well represented on this Highway To Heaven. The presence of some very impressive places including a mosque, a gurdwara [...]
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The City of Richmond has launched a multi-pronged campaign to explore the issue of language on signs in the context of community harmony. As part of the process, a moderated, multi-stakeholder forum will be held in March to facilitate community dialogue on the issue. The SFU Centre of Dialogue will moderate the community workshop on […]
For several days in November 2013, the world watched in horror how Mother Nature unleashed its fury over the hapless areas of the Visayas, the middle sets of islands in the Philippines.
While Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (known internationally as Haiyan), left death, sickness and despair, it brought out a silver lining. As soon as the storm subsided, there was an outpouring of love and support from all over the world.
Filipinos overseas, as individuals or groups, were among those who quickly raised funds to be sent to the afflicted areas, media in Philippines reported.
Among them was Elena Agala of Richmond, B.C. who through the Rotary World Help of Canada raised over $25,000.
No stranger to giving back to her motherland, Agala of the Richmond- Sunrise Rotary Club was also instrumental in getting a fire truck Filipino-Chinese Fire Brigade in Cebu.
The White Rock Fire Department also included a long list of equipment with the truck including ladders, hose clamps, axes, tools, a generator set and hose that alone matched the price of the truck. The truck is a 1990 Freightliner/ Anderson with 1250 gallon per minute pump and 500 gallon tank. The truck is still in excellent condition, but its age required it to be retired due to Canadian regulations.
Like Agala, the Filipino diaspora did not limit themselves to the traditional channels such as the Department of Social Welfare and Development or the Philippine National Red Cross. Philippine embassies and consulates all over the world received donations from Filipino communities within their jurisdiction.
An informal survey conducted by the Commission of Filipinos Overseas revealed that almost $44 million cash and in-kind donations were mobilized by overseas Filipinos and brought into the Philippines, reporter Inquirer.net
One of the CFO’s partners, the Negrense Volunteers for Change Foundation received P44 million (approximately $1 million) overseas assistance. Although based in Negros, they extended assistance to typhoon-ravaged Northern Iloilo and other parts of Panay Island to make and give wooden and fiberglass boats to fisherfolks.
To date, the foundation has given more than 4,000 fishing boats in the Visayas.
Below are some of the behind-the-scene stories of those who helped:
Feed the Hungry Inc., a Washington-based organization established by Filipino employees of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, was one of the first to send funds for the speedy formation of a team to distribute relief packs.
Some 1,000 families were reached in Palo and Pastrana, Leyte, areas which were not immediately provided aid in the initial scramble for relief.
Students, with their teachers and administrators, from different parts of the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, East Timor and Kuwait did their part, including passing around coin banks.
The CFO was informed by several Filipino-American medical groups that they came to the Philippines to bring medicines and essential supplies, and to conduct free medical missions.
The Department of Health (DOH) recorded a deployment of more than 1,000 foreign teams who participated in these medical missions, most of which were composed of Filipino health professionals.
Between the DOH and the CFO, an estimate of $7.2 million worth of medical help (including medicines, supplies and medical equipment) were given through these missions.
Some individuals and organizations made use of their ingenuity and innovativeness to be able to raise funds and send help as quickly as they could.
One example of this is Rogelio “Vonz” Santos, a Filipino-American entrepreneur. Since many infrastructure, such as roads and airports, were rendered useless, Santos along with some friends, chartered helicopters.
They were able to drop off basic necessities, such as food and water to the Visayan provinces, without having to land. He pioneered the design and use of Butterfly houses, foldable and transportable quarters, for typhoon survivors.
Several Filipino groups in the US organized an “After the Storm” benefit concert for typhoon victims at Kennedy Center. The US-Philippines Society in cooperation with the Philippine Embassy and the Philippine Humanitarian Coalition was able to raise $350,000.
ABS-CBN Foundation through its website, was able to assist 734,612 families or 3,676,060 individuals from the funds it raised. These were spent on relief supplies which were distributed through ABS-CBN’s Sagip Kapamilya.
The Bayanihan Council, an umbrella organization of about 50 Filipino associations in Abu Dhabi sent $2,790 to the Philippines.
A group of Filipino women, married to Korean nationals, solicited funds from family and friends and was able to deliver at least 100 fishing boats to selected beneficiaries in Antique and Iloilo.
A Laos-based Filipino community was able to raise more than $15,000, which were sent to overseas Filipinos whose families were affected in the Philippines.
In southern California, Filipino-Americans went on a five-kilometer fundraiser and held a prayer rally and benefit concert. They encouraged the various Chambers of Commerce to explore trade and investment in the Philippines after the typhoon.
A “Brunch for a Cause” was organized in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates on a Friday which was supposedly a dayoff for most Filipino expatriates.
Instead, they came together for the outreach activity held at the Philippine Consulate. At least 40 organizations represented by about 1,500 individuals participated in the event that aimed to raise funds through packed foods that cost 50 dirhams each.
They were able to collect boxes of food, medicines, blankets and other materials, which filled two 12-meter container vans.
A benefit dinner was held by the Oxford Philippines Society, a group of Filipinos at the University of Oxford. The night of music and three-course dinner raised funds despite the short preparation time.
A special one-night only concert dubbed “You’ll Never Walk Alone” brought together artists and celebrities in London’s West End.
In Australia, collections during a Mass were sent to the Philippine Red Cross in Manila.
The Philippine Community of New South Wales and the Filipino-Australian Movement for Empowerment presented funds to the Red Cross.
An assistant pastor in Los Angeles, California, who could not leave the US as he risks forfeiting his religious worker visa, doubled his efforts in organizing special offerings at the church and conducting weekly rummage sales.
This is the same for other Filipino workers. In Hong Kong, some domestic helpers sent their wages to their families and communities who were victims of the typhoon. Some personal plans were postponed to give way to the rebuilding of their families’ homes and livelihood.
Across the US, several organizations of Filipino students, and second and third generation Filipinos held donation drives, aware that they needed to do something for their and their parents’ homeland. They made use of the channel they know best—the Internet.
Documents submitted by nominees for the biennial Presidential Awards for Outstanding Overseas Filipino Individuals and Organizations Overseas indicate that more than $7.2 million worth of assistance from 35 nominees were distributed all over the Philippines. These were gathered from individual and community efforts abroad and channeled mostly through nongovernment and civic.
Noteworthy were the Philippine American Chamber of Commerce Texas (about $1 million), Elena Agala through the Rotary World Help of Canada ($25,511), Romeo Cayabyab of Australia ($1,016 million) and Ramon Villongco through the Catholic Medical Mission Board of New York ($1.5 million).
Other hometown associations in the US, Canada and other major destination countries, especially those with roots in Leyte, Samar, Cebu, Antique, Iloilo and Capiz, simultaneously organized relief efforts.
Fundraising efforts continue
Even now, months after the devastation has subsided and many communities have gotten back on their feet, benefit concerts, fundraising efforts and other innovative campaigns continue as the road to recovery is tough and challenging.
While the Philippine government has put in place a rehabilitation and recovery plan, it is heartwarming to note that efforts of Filipinos overseas still continue, Inquirere.net reported.
Classrooms are still being built and repaired. Livelihoods of different sectors are slowly flourishing. Despite the death and destruction, families have become hopeful again
‘Diaspora to Development’
The slogan of the CFO has been “Diaspora to Development” or D2D or “Magbalikbayanihan: Ang Kaalaman at Kakayahan, Ibalik sa Bayan,” (Return to the Motherland your knowledge and your Expertise).
Overseas Filipinos are asked to come back and give back, not necessarily physically but virtually, not only through financial remittances but also through the so-called social remittances.
By Arrangement with the Asian Pacific Post
-- Canada's economic development minister Navdeep Bains at a Public Policy Forum economic summit