After Arab countries, now Canada punishes Indian origin man for Islamophobia; terminated from job and removed from school body as probe continues

Of note:

Days after several Indian expats were removed from their jobs in the Arab countries for displaying Islamophobia using their social media pages, Canada has cracked the whip on an Islamophobe by removing him from a school body and terminating his contract with one of the leading real estate companies in the North American country. Ravi Hooda has now made his Twitter account private after politicians and civil society members in Canada reacted with outrage on his brazen Islamophobia.

This all started with several Toronto-area municipalities granting local mosques permission to broadcast the Azaan or call to prayer using loudspeakers during Iftaar (breaking of fast) every day during Ramadan. The move was widely hailed since Muslims could not gather in mosques due to the global coronavirus pandemic.

Brampton too followed suit and decided to allow Muslims in its region to use loudspeakers for the sunset Azaan. This did not go down well with a local Islamophobe, identified as Ravi Hooda, who launched a tirade mocking Muslims and their faith. He wrote, “What’s next? Separate lanes for camel & goat riders, allowing slaughter of animals at home in the name of sacrifice, bylaw requiring all women to cover themselves from head to toe in tents to appease the piece fools for votes.”

Hooda’s tweet sent shockwaves across Canada, which is globally renowned for its liberal values. Peel District School Board in Brampton announced that it had removed Hooda as ‘School Council Chair’ and investigation was underway against him. Its tweet read, “The Principal has begun an investigation. The individual is being removed from their role as School Council Chair and won’t be able to participate on council in any other capacity. Islamophobia is not acceptable and a clear violation of our Safe and Accepting Schools Policy.”

ReMax Canada, which is one of Canada’s top real estate marketing websites, too informed that it had terminated Hooda’s contract. It tweeted, “We do not share nor support the views of Mr. Hooda. We can confirm he has been terminated and is no longer affiliated with RE/MAX. Multiculturalism & diversity are some of the best qualities in our communities, and we are committed to upholding these values in all that we do.”

Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown too said that Islamophobia will not be tolerated in Canada. He wrote, “Our noise by law originally passed in 1984 only included an exemption for Church bells. It will now include all faiths within the permitted hours & decibel levels. The Muslim community can proceed with the sunset azan because it’s 2020 & we treat all faiths equally. #Ramadan.”

Curiously, Hooda is also a registered certified immigration consultant. It remains to be soon if the government will consider revoking his licence in light of his Islamophobic views.

Source: After Arab countries, now Canada punishes Indian origin man for Islamophobia; terminated from job and removed from school body as probe continues

‘Ground zero for multiculturalism’: Brampton mayor blasts Quebec’s ‘religious symbols’ bill

Not surprising, given the demographics of Brampton:

Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown [former Ontario PC leader] is speaking out against the Quebec provincial government’s Bill 21, which prohibits government employees from wearing religious symbols, and is tabling a motion at council’s next meeting to make the position official.

On Friday (June 21), Brown issued a statement strongly condemning Quebec Premier Francois Legault’s provincial government for passing the controversial Bill 21 into law on June 16.

“Bill 21, of course, is the law that will ban Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and others who wear symbols of their faith from pursuing careers in numerous public sector jobs,” said Brown in his statement.

Brown, once leader of the Progressive Conservative (PC) Party on Ontario before winning the mayor’s chain last October, also sits on the Peel Police Services Board. He seconded a motion at Friday’s board meeting approving a campaign to recruit Quebec residents interested in a career in policing affected by the new law in that province.

The police board motion also directs Peel police to “place select advertising within Quebec promoting a career at the Peel Regional Police.”

“I was pleased to second the motion at today’s Peel Police Services Board encouraging those Quebec residents interested in a career in policing to apply to Peel Regional Police. We are ground zero for multiculturalism,” added Brown in his statement.

The mayor’s statement included a pair of council motions he said he intends to table at Brampton council’s June 26 special meeting. The first would add the City of Brampton to an ongoing legal challenge.

The second follows the Peel police board motion’s lead inviting those affected by the new laws in Quebec interested in a career in firefighting to apply in Brampton, while also placing select advertising in that province to that end.

Council will debate both motions at its June 26 meeting at city hall from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

“We need to join the legal challenge initiated by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the National Council of Canadian Muslims to protect religious freedom. If we don’t stand up for religious freedom in Brampton which is the most culturally and religiously diverse city in Canada than who will?” said Brown.

Source: ‘Ground zero for multiculturalism’: Brampton mayor blasts Quebec’s ‘religious symbols’ bill

Why hard-fought election at North America’s largest Sikh temple could be bad news for Liberals in next federal vote

We will know in October, but of course other factors will also be at play. And the sensitivity regarding the mention of Sikh extremism in a Public Safety report is also noteworthy:

When North America’s largest Sikh temple elects a new board of directors, it doesn’t fool around.

Candidates have campaign managers, cold-call voters and go door-knocking in the race for leadership of the Ontario Khalsa Darbar (OKD), a Toronto-area institution that functions as a place of worship, a community centre — and a nexus of political influence.

The Liberals have long been linked to the OKD, and arguably benefited from its status among the province’s Sikhs. But the election that wrapped up there early Monday morning may not bode well for the party.

A Grit-associated slate promoted by the fathers of Navdeep Bains, a star in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet, and MP Ruby Sahota was roundly defeated, and a controversial government report that suggested Sikh terrorism still poses a threat here may have played a role, say observers and campaign organizers.

That could have ramifications for Liberal support in several swing seats in and around Brampton, Ont., most of which flipped to the party from the Conservatives in the 2015 election.

“These local ridings will be affected by it,” said Balraj Deol, a Punjabi-language journalist in the area. “That is an advantage for Conservatives, and the NDP also. It’s a loss for the Liberals and it will be a gain for the other two.”

“This may be a sign,” said Jaspal Bal, campaign manager for the victorious side.

Even Trudeau was dragged into the race, with the winning group alleging his visit to the area last week was designed to bolster support for the other side.

But not everyone sees broader implications in the temple vote, no matter how intense the campaign became. Avtar Badyal, the losing presidential candidate, said Trudeau’s visit and Liberal policies had nothing to do with his team’s loss. The election was simply about which group voters believed could best manage an important spiritual institution, he said.

“This is not a political thing, it’s a religious thing,” said Badyal. “I don’t know why they are making this into something that it’s not.”

Another local journalist said he also doubts that broader politics played a role in the temple election, or will be affected by its outcome.

“Not at all,” said Yudhvir Jaswal, who hosts popular radio and TV shows on the local Y-Channel. “I think they are oversimplifying things.”

Regardless, when the ballots were all counted at about 3:30 a.m. Monday, the entire “Panthak Alliance” slate backed by the fathers of MPs Bains and Sahota had been defeated, every one of their 11 opponents elected by healthy margins.

To the winners goes control of a temple — or gurdwara — that boasts 3,700 members and a sprawling, 70-acre site near Toronto’s Pearson airport.

Underscoring the high stakes in such elections, a court battle between directors that began in 2006 forced a nine-year delay in voting and reportedly generated $5 million in legal bills.

Sikh temples are community focal points as well as religious institutions, and OKD includes 15 halls that are booked solid with weddings.

It also provides a potential platform for politicians eager to reach the region’s powerful Sikh voting bloc, said Deol, hosting gatherings that can attract tens of thousands of people.

“That gurdwara is the prime hub for everything,” said an organizer on the winning side, who asked not to be named. “It’s very influential.”

Liberals like Bains, the economic development minister, used to have ready access to the OKD stage, the person said. “That’s not going to happen any more, so that’s a big blow to them.”

Bains was among several Liberals of Sikh background who captured Brampton and Mississauga ridings in 2015, a key part of the Greater Toronto Area battleground that is itself crucial to winning federal elections.

But the community’s support for the party took a serious hit with the release in December of a Public Safety Canada report on terrorism that suggested “Sikh (Khalistani) extremism” remained a threat.

Sikh groups reacted with outrage, saying that using violence to support Punjabi independence was rejected long ago in Canada. The so-called Khalistani movement is entirely peaceful today, they argue.

Local MPs are expected to face a grilling this Sunday at a town-hall meeting about the report.

Many of the temple members who voted for the winning slate in Sunday’s gurdwara election did so to express their opposition to the terrorism statement, equating the other slate with the government, said Bal.

In fact, when a candidate on the opposing side promised to honour the four Sikh-Canadian ministers in the Trudeau cabinet at the gurdwara, the eventual winning slate gained more support, he said.

“People put aside their bickering and differences and said this is one of the issues that is uniting us to support these 11,” said Bal. “Because they have said they will not sit idle and wait with a garland to welcome the leaders who have declared us a terrorist threat.”

Source: Why hard-fought election at North America’s largest Sikh temple could be bad news for Liberals in next federal vote

Mississauga’s population is 57% visible minorities. So why does its city council look like this?

In general, diversity is significantly greater at the federal and provincial levels than municipal.

I look forward to comparing the results of the upcoming Toronto election: thanks to the (disruptive) change to electoral boundaries, it will be possible to compare federal, provincial and municipal results given identical boundaries:

According to the 2016 census, 57 per cent of Mississauga, Ont., residents identified as visible minorities. However, not one of them was elected to the city’s 11 council seats in 2014. (Mississauga)

As a rookie politician taking on an incumbent city councillor, Safeeya Faruqui is already staring down long odds in the upcoming Mississauga, Ont., municipal election.

But if the 24-year-old succeeds in her bid for Ward 4 on Oct. 22, she’ll have made history too — becoming the first woman of colour elected to city council in the mostly suburban city west of Toronto.

“That would be another glass ceiling broken,” Faruqui told CBC Toronto at her campaign office. “We need to make sure that all voices are being heard to create the best society that we can.”

Faruqui’s campaign is bringing new attention to the glaring disparity between the general population in southern Ontario’s Peel Region and the makeup of its city councils.

According to the 2016 census, 57 per cent of Mississauga residents identified as visible minorities. However, not one of them was elected to the city’s 11 council seats in 2014.

In neighbouring Brampton, where 73 per cent of residents identify as visible minorities, just one of the city’s 10 councillors is a person of colour.

Neither city has ever had a non-white mayor.

Why it matters

Faruqui says lack of diversity on council has resulted in some policy decisions that don’t fully account for the city’s diverse population.

“The decisions aren’t reflecting everybody,” she said.

Gurpreet Singh Dhillon, the lone visible minority on Brampton’s council, points to an ongoing struggle in the city to build a shade shelter for seniors to explain why diversity can be helpful.

He said older residents in his community have been seeking to recreate the tradition of gathering and socializing under a large willow tree, which began in India, with an artificial shade as a replacement.

Singh, 38, said the project has been stalled because some elected officials and city staff did not understand the request, since they were not familiar with the tradition.

“It’s really important that we have people in our staffing, and our council who understand,” he said. After serving one term as a city councillor, Singh is now running as the regional councillor for Wards 9 and 10.

“It’s even more important going forward that we do have a council that does reflect the community,” he added.

There are also concerns that the lack of accurate representation has also stalled civic engagement and created distrust in local governments among visible minority communities.

“Our community has not been doing a good enough job to remedy that,” said Faruqui, who added that “real, frank, open discussions” are needed to restore faith in local politics.

If elected, Dhillon says he will advocate for the creation of a diversity officer at Brampton city hall, who would review everything passed by city council to ensure no minority communities — whether by ethnicity, gender, age or sexual orientation — are negatively affected.

He said similar initiatives have been successful in other cities around the world.

‘Overwhelming but… exciting’

During her first term in office, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie, who is running for re-election, helped introduce a diversity and inclusion advisory committee. The group provides strategic advice to council in an effort to better serve the city’s diverse population.

Still, Crombie said she would welcome more variety among the city’s elected officials.

“It would be wonderful if we could have a very diverse council that reflects the diversity that is our city,” Crombie told CBC Toronto.

As to why so few visible minorities have been elected, Crombie pointed to a slew of long-serving incumbent councillors, who are notoriously difficult to unseat in municipal elections.

“Some of them have been in office a long period of time,” she said. “And the city has changed over the years.”

Due to a death and a retirement, two of the city’s council seats will be open races this election. She said that has opened up an opportunity for a number of “wonderful diverse candidates” running this fall.​

Faruqui, however, is competing against incumbent John Kovac.

“Going through this for the first time, not really having any role models who look like me doing this, it’s something that is overwhelming but also very exciting,” she said.

Source: Mississauga’s population is 57% visible minorities. So why does its city council look like this?

‘Everybody fits in’: inside the Canadian cities where minorities are the majority – The Guardian

Nice long read and balanced profile of Markham and Brampton, two suburban communities near Toronto where visible minorities are the majority:

The Foody Mart in Markham, a sprawling city near Toronto, is found in a typical North American suburban plaza, sprinkled with fast-food chains, nail salons and a small legal firm. But look closely and you will notice the mall’s parking signs are in Chinese and the bank serves customers in Cantonese and Mandarin.

Inside the Foody Mart, there are shelves of salted duck eggs, air-shipped mangosteen and durian. Staff hand out samples of fish balls and regulars drink bubble tea alongside young families enjoying hot meals from the takeaway counter, as Shanghai pop plays over the speakers.

This is just one of many large grocers that serve the Chinese population in Canada’s most diverse city. With a population of 330,000, Markham is one of a handful of “majority-minority” cities, where visible minorities – the official term used in Canada for anyone who is not white or indigenous – make up 78% of the city’s population, according to the 2016 census.

Stores such as the Foody Mart did not exist when Jennifer Chin first moved to Markham in 1991. Born in Jamaica, Chin, 53, is ethnically Chinese, as is her husband. They raised three children while running a business manufacturing Jamaican patties, often described as a quintessentially Torontonian snack.

When she arrived, the city’s population was less than half what it is today, and just 14% was Chinese. She witnessed the city transform with waves of immigrants: Cantonese-speaking Chinese from Hong Kong, Indians, Sri Lankans, then Mandarin speakers from mainland China. Today, just 22% of the city’s residents are of European origin; 46% are Chinese, 18% are south Asian and the rest are from a variety of other backgrounds such as Iranian, Italian and Filipino.

One of the most notable characteristics of Markham’s rise has been thriving pockets of businesses – groceries, clothing stores, spas, tea shops – to serve those groups, particularly in Chinese and south Asian malls.

“It’s good and bad,” Chin says. “I love the diversity. I love that we have different kinds of foods: Sri Lankan, Indian-Chinese, even different types of Chinese food. However, sometimes you feel people aren’t encouraged as much to adapt.”

Ethnicity and religion are strong ties that bring people together

Along with several other majority-minority cities on the outskirts of Toronto, Markham represents a remarkable outcome of Canada’s official policy of multiculturalism, enacted in the 1970s under the then prime minister, Pierre Trudeau. It states that other cultures are valuable as long as newcomers are willing to integrate into “mainstream” Canadian culture – typically understood as the country’s English and French colonial roots. But what does mainstream look like in cities where the primary culture is neither English nor French? And, as Canada’s population is projected to be nearly 30% foreign-born by 2036, what does integration in these cities mean?

Cultural change

Ethnic ties have long attracted newcomers to the suburbs of Toronto, transforming what were once bedroom – or commuter – communities into thriving cities in their own right. Markham’s biggest mall now features high-end shops that rival the shopping centres in Toronto. The city has its own Whole Foods store, as well as chic mid-rise condos to complement the earlier sprawling developments of large single-family homes.

As cities get bigger, it’s only natural to be attracted to those who are similar to you, says Mohammad Qadeer, a professor of urban planning at Queen’s University, Ontario. “You usually hang out and interact with people you share interests with,” he says. “Ethnicity and religion are strong ties that bring people together.”

But majority-minority cities also serve as a reminder that diverse populations do not necessarily generate utopian post-racial societies. White flight and hate crimes still occur, as do coded fights over issues that disproportionately affect immigrants – for instance, blowback against multi-generational housing, where several generations live under one roof.

And just because a city has a high proportion of foreign-born residents does not mean its population is always open to other newcomers. Punches were thrown at a recent protest in Markham, where groups of mostly Chinese-Canadians clashed over a proposal to temporarily house asylum seekers in the city, to ease the pressure on Toronto’s shelter system. The majority (81%) of asylum seekers in the city’s shelter system are from Nigeria.

Markham has nevertheless come a long way since 1995, when the then deputy mayor, Carole Bell, expressed hostility towards Chinese malls, claiming they were driving people out of the city and that residents did not want “signage in a language we can’t read”. Not only does that signage remain, the city’s official website now translates its content into more than 80 languages, using a Google widget. In the last municipal election, some candidates participated in debates in Cantonese and Mandarin.

There remains ongoing debate, however, on how much cultural change can be adopted into mainstream society, and how quickly. For instance, statutory holidays, which are mostly aligned with Christian holidays, are days off for workers in Canada. But in 2011, some Chinese grocers in Markham (including the Foody Mart) stayed open in defiance of the law.

City councillor Joe Li heard both sides of the debate: that grocers were being discriminated against for not being able to stay open, and that Chinese businesses were trying to impose their culture on the city. Ultimately, Li decided in favour of the grocers, arguing that consumers should have the option to shop on holidays. The move proved so popular that York Region, in which Markham sits, voted that from 2018 any business could stay open 364 days a year.

Li asked for something in return: to hire more diversely. “Now you’re starting to see it,” he says. “You walk in and see south Asian people in the store, you see halal meat in the store.”

The expression of the incredible diversity of the community doesn’t really manifest itself on the ground
Easy access to halal meat, south Asian groceries and a mosque are all things Rameeka Khan appreciates about living in Markham. The 33-year-old pharmacist of Pakistani descent was born in Canada and has lived in the city nearly her whole life, choosing to settle here with her husband. She is glad they bought a house in 2010 – her family would be priced out today.

“It would be difficult for a younger couple to afford Markham,” Khan says. “People I know are moving [further east]. If they do decide to live in Markham, it’s more likely they are living with family, like their parents.”

At the end of 2016, seven of the 10 neighbourhoods with the most rapid increase in property values in the Toronto area were in Markham – some properties saw their value jump as much as 90% in just three years. As in Vancouver, conversations about the Markham property boom sometimes have racially tinged accusations about foreign ownership driving up prices. Local media reported that one developer said: “There is no way a Caucasian would pay $2.1m for a bungalow.”

“In general, people know who you are talking about – it must be the Chinese,” Li told a recent council meeting. “I don’t want that kind of impression.”

White flight

Brampton is another majority-minority suburb, west of Toronto. The city’s population – now more than half a million – exploded in a similar fashion to Markham’s. It is now 73% visible minority, with its largest ethnic group Indian, particularly Sikhs from Punjab, earning the city the nicknames “Bramladesh” and “Browntown”. There are also significant populations from the Philippines, Sri Lanka and the Caribbean.

But with its rapidly increasing diversity has come another development: not just a decreasing proportion of white residents, but also a shrinking number. According to numbers cited by the Toronto Star, the white population fell from 192,400 in 2001 to 169,230 in 2011, and now hovers around 151,000.

Rebecca Bromley, 37, says some of her white friends have left for a variety of reasons. “There’s a lot of tension [because of growth], so when people leave I’m not going to assume it’s white flight – especially if they want to buy a place they want to afford,” she says. She points to the city’s many growing pains, including traffic, construction and, for Bromley, more challenges in her work as a teacher.

Bromley attended the same Catholic high school where she now teaches and says the city’s demographic makeup has changed hugely. She sees troubling trends, such as African-Caribbean students being streamed into less-academic courses while Indian students face high expectations to excel. Bromley also sees students trying to bridge the linguistic and cultural gap between schools and their parents, and others who struggle with language themselves.

“You might get a kid who presents like they are struggling with the language, but actually they have a learning disability, or you might have a kid who has no conversational ability but they can write just fine.” Bromley feels ill-equipped to help students with such different needs because they have to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, she says, and the English language learners programme doesn’t help her navigate these individual problems.

Gurpreet Malhotra is familiar with such institutional gaps. He is the CEO of Indus Community Services, an organisation that serves newcomers in Brampton. In his experience, businesses have caught on that integration is a two-way street – whether they are clothing shops hiring staff who speak Punjabi or grocers stocking Indian cooking staples – but government-funded institutions have not. Political power, he says, does not reflect Brampton’s population. “We have to dislodge the well-entrenched powers,” Malhotra says of the city council.

On the federal and provincial level, the Punjabi community is well represented in Brampton. The first non-white federal party leader, Jagmeet Singh, has a strong political base in the city, where he held a seat as a provincial politician. But Brampton has only one non-white city councillor, Gurpreet Dhillon, who is Punjabi.

In the last municipal election, Bromley recalls watching a Punjabi candidate on television arguing that the mayoral office should reflect Brampton’s ethnic makeup. “I had a moment where I felt, ‘Now I’m really going to be a minority,’” she says. “To be brutally honest, it felt like I was being pushed out.”

The moment passed. She remembered she had a stable job, in an ideal neighbourhood to raise her five-year-old twins. But she struggles with how to integrate into what Brampton is becoming. She feels lucky to teach students with whom she can have “honest, unfiltered conversations”, but does not feel she can approach, for example, the group of older Indian men hanging out at the park, or busy mums at her skating rink.

Finding common ground

“Intercultural interaction is a matter of common ground and increased opportunity for encountering each other,” says Qadeer. In cities such as Markham and Brampton, where suburban sprawl reigns and most people travel by car, those opportunities outside school and work can be hard to come by.

Brampton is trying to address this as part of its long-term vision for 2040. “The expression of the incredible diversity of the community doesn’t really manifest itself on the ground,” says Larry Beasley, a Vancouver-based planner who spearheaded the project.

To ensure people across cultures can better interact, Beasley says the city needs to create places for them to meet. After taking more than 11,000 residents’ comments into account, the plan proposes five city centres – walkable communities that mimic Brampton’s downtown area – to facilitate those interactions.

These new hubs would aim to reduce isolation by bringing together parks, government services, retail outlets and restaurants. The centres would also try and bring employment closer to home: 60% of Bramptonians commute to places outside the city. Beasley hopes to convince the city to adopt the plan by arguing that smarter urban design could help swap commuting time for community time.

Creating a place for communities to converge was also Jael Richardson’s intent when she founded the Festival for Literary Diversity, which brings together writers from a variety of backgrounds. “I wanted to start a festival that gave diverse writers – anyone who’s not typically represented – a space to be the expert,” says Richardson. “We consider having the event in Brampton part of the diversity mandate in and of itself.”

The festival was initially met with scepticism – Richardson says Toronto writers frequently told her the event would do better in Toronto – but her tenacity appears to be paying off. This year it secured a multi-year sponsorship from Audible – the digital audiobook producer – and publisher Penguin Random House sent a sizeable contingent of staff.

Richardson is creating space for writers in a city where diversity isn’t aspirational – it’s a fact. While it is true that changing demographics here have disturbed the mainstream sensibility, Canada’s majority-minority cities also appear to be changing what mainstream means. For some residents of Markham, such as Chin, the question isn’t whether newcomers can assimilate into the city, but whether both can adapt together.

“I don’t think you need to fit in,” Chin says of her majority-minority city. “Everybody fits in.”


Freeland criticizes Indian diplomats for interfering in Ontario cultural festival

Interesting intervention in the context of the recent India trip (even though this intervention happened before):

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland’s office says it was “inappropriate” for Indian diplomats to interfere in a cultural festival outside of Toronto.

The allegations stem from a controversy last summer in which Indian consular officials reportedly tried to dissuade the annual Carabram festival in Brampton, Ont. – a city west of Toronto with a large Indian population – from having separate Punjab and India pavilions. Punjab is the only state in India with a Sikh majority.

“Interference in domestic affairs by foreign representatives in Canada is inappropriate,” Ms. Freeland’s spokesman, Adam Austen, wrote in an e-mail to The Globe and Mail.

“The federal government has no role in planning Carabram, but supports the right of its organizers to do so however they see fit.”

Brampton Mayor Linda Jeffrey first raised concerns about “unwarranted and unwelcome interference” by the Consulate General of India in a letter to Ms. Freeland on Aug. 18, 2017.

In the letter, which has never been made public but was obtained by The Globe and Mail, Ms. Jeffrey said her office learned in July, 2017, that officials with the Consulate General in Toronto approached organizers of Carabram to cancel the Punjab pavilion, or merge it with the India pavilion. She also alleges that consular officials tried to pressure organizers to change the name to the Punjabi cultural pavilion. In the end, the Punjab pavilion went ahead.

“This type of unwarranted interference by Indian officials in a local cultural festival in Brampton was shocking,” Ms. Jeffrey wrote in the letter, which asks Ms. Freeland to look into the matter.

Ms. Jeffrey said it is her understanding that consular officials threatened to “go to the highest office in the country and cancel this festival.”

The allegations of improper interference come at a time of heightened tensions between Canada and the Indian government.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau continues to face pressure from Opposition MPs to allow his national security adviser, Daniel Jean, to testify in public at committee about the Prime inister’s recent trip to India.

Mr. Trudeau caused a diplomatic stir last month after Jaspal Atwal, who was convicted of attempting to murder a visiting Indian politician on Vancouver Island in 1986, was invited to official events. Mr. Jean suggested to reporters during a background briefing that Mr. Atwal’s presence may have been engineered by factions in India that want to prevent Prime Minister Narenda Modi from getting too close to a foreign government they believe is not committed to a united India. The Indian government has denied the claim.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh also found himself on the defensive over recent revelations that he spoke at a Sikh separatist rally in 2015 and participated in a panel discussion in 2016 where speakers endorsed political violence as part of an effort to create a Sikh homeland separate from India. Mr. Singh says he has always opposed acts of terrorism or violence.

Officials at the Consulate General in Toronto and the High Commission of India in Ottawa did not respond to requests for comment.

Ms. Jeffrey’s spokesman, Jaskaran Singh Sandhu, said the mayor stood by her letter but wouldn’t comment further. Mr. Sandhu said Ms. Freeland’s office never replied to the letter.

Carabram is an annual festival in Brampton, first started in 1982, where non-profit groups representing different cultures set up pavilions that offer food and entertainment.

Prithpal Chagger, president of the Punjab pavilion, said he believes his pavilion was singled out because of concerns that it would be used to advocate for an independent Sikh state, known as Khalistan. Mr. Chagger’s brother is the grandfather of Liberal House Leader Bardish Chagger, who told The Globe she was unaware of the situation and had not spoken with Mr. Chagger about it.

“The only objection from the Indian government is they don’t want anybody who is talking about Khalistan,” Mr. Chagger said. “But they label everybody and say they are Khalistani if they wear a turban.”

Angela Johnson, president of Carabram, said she was surprised that the Indian consulate would try to pressure them to shut down the Punjab pavilion.

She said that it’s up to the non-profit groups in charge of pavilions to determine how they would celebrate. “It was their choice and we saw no reason to object to it,” she said. Ms. Johnson confirmed the Punjab pavilion will be part of this year’s Carabram.

Dr. Maher Hussain, one of the organizers of the India pavilion, said it “would be ideal” if Punjab was part of the India pavilion. “If we have a Punjab pavilion, that means the Carabram people are supporting separate Punjab, separatism,” he said, adding he was willing to participate in the festival either way.

Sanjeev Malik, president of Uttar Pradeshies in Canada, which represents a state in northern India, said his group approached the Consulate General’s office to try to merge the Punjab pavilion with the Indian pavilion.

“There are some separatists here in Canada. They want Punjab to be separate from India. And that’s the reason they want their separate pavilion,” Mr. Malik said. “If somebody said that they want a separate Quebec, being a Canadian citizen, I’m going to oppose that.”

via Freeland criticizes Indian diplomats for interfering in Ontario cultural festival – The Globe and Mail

Brampton council says no to electoral reform despite ethnic mismatch with residents | Toronto Star

The gap between representation at the municipal level and other levels of government has been an issue for some time (all federal MPs and provincial MPPs from Brampton are Indo Canadians, over reflecting their share of the population and the first-past-the-post system).

Ranked balloting may be part of the solution but there are likely other factors involved, including the lack of political parties at the municipal level:

On Wednesday — as a federal debate on the issue draws near and with new Ontario legislation that gives cities the option of ranked balloting — Brampton council voted 11-0 against the idea. Meanwhile, Canada’s first-past-the-post electoral method is being used by fewer and fewer democratic nations around the world because it’s recognized as a system that too often puts people in power despite their having little voter support.

“Each city councillor in Brampton has the support, on average, of less than 4 per cent of the city’s voters, yet they’re making decisions that affect the entire city,” says Pat McGrail, chair of Fair Vote Peel, who made a presentation to council Wednesday, advocating for a ranked ballot system whereby candidates would need the support of a majority to get elected.

Brampton councillors who responded to the Star said they voted against ranked balloting because voters might find the system too confusing. It works by allowing voters to rank at least three top candidates (cities can opt to allow more candidates to be ranked on each ballot). The candidate who receives the least first place votes is eliminated in each round and their votes are redistributed until one candidate has a majority.

But critics point to research that shows the current first-past-the-post system often leads to municipal councils that do not accurately reflect the ethnic diversity of cities. In Brampton close to 70 per cent of the city’s residents are visible minorities. Only one out of eleven members of city council is a visible minority.

“That’s not just a Brampton problem,” says Dave Meslin, an expert on the subject who is authoring a book on electoral reform and has helped with the federal government’s current public consultations on the issue being conducted in every riding across Canada. He says Canada is now alone in its use of first-past-the-post for every level of government. “The lack of diverse representation on municipal councils is a glaring problem across Ontario.”

He points to U.S. research that shows ranked balloting in cities has significantly improved representation that more accurately reflects the electorate. Vote splitting, where an incumbent can rely on a concentrated base of supporters, while a number of other candidates fight for the remaining voters — often the vast majority — is something that can’t happen with ranked balloting, Meslin says.

In the 2014 municipal election, of all winners, Brampton Coun. Martin Medeiros received the least number of votes — 4,188, or 22 per cent of the votes cast in his ward. He beat Shan Gill by 100 votes. There were 15 candidates in total who ran for the council seat Medeiros now occupies. With a city-wide turnout of 36 per cent of eligible voters, applying the same rate, Medeiros received the support of about 7 per cent of eligible voters in his ward.

He did not respond when asked to comment on his decision not to support ranked balloting.

The provincial government was asked if its new legislation under Bill 181, which gives cities the option of using ranked balloting for elections, falls short because it leaves the ultimate decision to the very politicians who might get defeated by the new system.

“We feel that municipalities are responsible levels of government and are in the best position to make decisions in the best interest of their communities,” said Ministry of Municipal Affairs spokesperson Conrad Spezowka.

McGrail says low voter turnout is another problem with first-past-the-post. “The central problem of first-past-the-post is divide and conquer while appealing to your base. People become so disenfranchised they don’t even bother to vote.”

Sukhjot Naroo, a Brampton resident and co-founder of the social network Brampton Beats, which has almost 4,000 members who focus on municipal issues, says he doubts Brampton council will accurately reflect the city’s population as long as vote splitting continues. He lists an increasing number of issues accompanying Brampton’s rapid demographic shift, from zoning for places of worship to funding for a variety of culturally specific activities, that don’t get proper representation on council.

“Everyone on council will benefit from vote-splitting. The incumbents don’t want change. They’re just trying to protect the status quo. Out of eleven votes, not one even considered ranked balloting. Not even Gurpreet Dhillon, the only South Asian member of council, because he now has his base of supporters and can grow that through his growing political connections.”

Dhillon did not respond to questions emailed to him.

Toronto’s Katherine Skene says she’s dismayed, but not surprised by Brampton’s 11-0 vote. “I would hope that councils, before voting on the issue, there would be broad public consultation to find out what the voters actually want.”

Skene is co-chair of the Ranked Ballot Initiative of Toronto, where councillors last year voted 25-18 against a provincial option to allow for ranked balloting, a reversal of that council’s earlier position to bring ranked ballots about. Mayor John Tory supported the idea during his election campaign and maintained his support in last year’s vote.

Source: Brampton council says no to electoral reform despite ethnic mismatch with residents | Toronto Star

How Brampton, a town in suburban Ontario, was dubbed a ghetto

Good long read on Brampton by Noreen Ahmed-Ullah (excerpt from her book, Subdivided: City-Building in an Age of Hyper-Diversity), the pace of demographic change and the lack of adequate municipal integration policies and programs:

Until last year, I was a reporter in Chicago, covering the inequities of the city’s public school system and writing about disenfranchised African American youths. Neighbourhoods on Chicago’s south and west sides – now those are true urban ghettos.

Here in Brampton, you don’t have abandoned homes boarded up, acting as magnets for prostitution and drug dealing. The city isn’t shutting down schools. Gang members are not opening fire at children playing on sidewalks.

So if Brampton is not a ghetto, what is it?

The sprawling suburb of subdivisions, with its high South Asian (specifically Sikh) population is what’s called an “ethnoburb” – a middle-class suburb occupied by an ethnic group. Outside the Vancouver suburb of Surrey, as well as London, England, the Brampton area is considered to be home to one of the largest Sikh communities outside of India. How it got to be that way is a lot like the story of other ethnic enclaves going back generations – people followed friends and relatives.

“It’s an interesting case because you have this clustering and clumping of particular people through market processes and social relationships,” says York University professor Roger Keil, who researches global suburbanization. “Immigrants from a particular ilk living together – that’s the common history of immigration from the Lower East Side of New York City to 19th-century Vienna.”

In Brampton’s case, the clustering was triggered by developers who kept buying farmland and converting them into endless subdivisions. Jobs at the airport, which employed South Asian immigrants for years, also fuelled the expansion, attracting South Asians first to Malton and then nearby Brampton. Within a generation, Brampton transformed from Canada’s flower-growing capital to its ninth-largest city. The population boomed from 234,445 in 1991 to 521,315 in 2011, with that number now estimated at nearly 600,000.

But the rapid demographic turnover has not been lost on long-standing residents.

Racial tensions ignite over everything from permit battles for a new temple to fireworks regulations for Diwali. In 2014, anti-Sikh flyers distributed by an immigration reform group called Immigration Watch, entitled “The Changing Face of Brampton” and asking residents “Is This Really What You Want?” sparked outrage among Sikh community groups. Another flyer distributed in March, 2015, warned of the city’s dwindling “European” population, implying the decline was a result of “white genocide.”

Whether it is “white genocide” or “white flight,” few would dispute that the town has lost a sizable chunk of its white population.

While academics shy away from using the term “white flight” to describe what happened to Brampton’s white families, residents speak freely of what they observed in their own neighbourhoods.

Back in 2005, when Gurjit Bajwa moved into his Castlemore subdivision of 3,500-square-foot homes, there were about 15 white families, out of 105. Many of those white families are now gone, with South Asians making up half the subdivision. Another 20 per cent of the families are black. This transition occurred in one of the wealthiest parts of the city, with homes valued at almost $1-million.

The 45-year-old emergency room doctor at Etobicoke General Hospital doesn’t know what drove the white families away, but he knows he too has faced the stigma of living in Brampton. Dr. Bajwa, who is Sikh, says that in the beginning he wouldn’t even tell co-workers he lived in Brampton, instead naming the neighbourhood where he lived.

“I would say I lived in Castlemore,” he said. “There was a negative connotation to Brampton. People wouldn’t say it, but it would just be a non-verbal cue like a rolling of the eyes, or ‘Oh I see.’ They were thinking: ‘You live in a ghetto. You’re a doctor, you could be living anywhere you want. You could be living in Rosedale if you wanted to. Why do you choose Brampton? Why do you choose to live in a ghetto?’”

So why did he move to Brampton?

“Two reasons,” Dr. Bajwa said. “One was housing prices. In the more established areas of Mississauga, Vaughan and Markham, the housing prices were higher. Here, they were 10 to 15 per cent lower. The other reason is that flocks tend to migrate together. If you have one community moving, they tell their relatives.”

Mrs. R, who immigrated to Canada from the West Indies 40 years ago, watched her neighbourhood change during the 15 years she lived in Brampton.

“My street was very diverse. We had West Indian, South Asians, Italian, Portuguese, Vietnamese, Filipino and Caucasian,” she recalled. “By the time we left in 2015, the neighbour on the left who was Italian was now South Asian. And the one on the right who was Korean was now South Asian. You’d walk into a bank that was mixed and now [you] see South Asian managers and South Asian bank tellers. You’d have to be living under a rock to not see that things were changing.”

And the changes were not always welcome to the non-South Asians.

Some were upset that older Punjabi and Hindi immigrants seemed to be getting by without having to learn English. Because South Asians didn’t call out a friendly “hello” or because all South Asian homes had basement apartments or because of their “smelly” cooking, some people just didn’t like having them as neighbours. They watched the “welcome mat” being laid out by businesses like banks, and were filled with resentment. When they had immigrated here from different parts of the world, no one made services like opening a bank account easy for them.

“I’ve been here longer, and I feel like an outsider,” a black resident told me.

….Kristin Good is an associate professor of political science at Dalhousie University. In her 2006 book, Municipalities and Multiculturalism: The Politics of Immigration in Toronto and Vancouver, she argues that local governments – not just their federal and provincial counterparts – have a role to play in helping communities deal with multiculturalism and the racial tensions that may arise as a community becomes more biracial than multiracial.

“As Brampton transitioned from a more diverse multicultural immigration base to a more concentrated South Asian population, that concentration creates a perception of cultural takeover in a municipality among long-standing residents and can lead to particular kinds of multiculturalism challenges,” Prof. Good says. “My theory predicts that you’ll see more of a backlash when there is concentration. Part of it is the perception that the immigrant group doesn’t want to integrate. Part of it is the sense of cultural takeover and the loss of being the majority in the place. And, part of it is that certain types of developments are perceived to cater to particular ethnic groups, and sometimes that makes longstanding residents feel excluded.”

In such cases, municipalities need to step in and foster intercultural understanding between the two groups.

Brampton’s municipal leaders never took that critical step. In fact, Prof. Good found that neither politicians in Brampton nor Mississauga had planned or reacted well to their minority population in the early 2000s.

“They were unresponsive,” Prof. Good said. “What they didn’t do were all of the things that more responsive municipalities did that follow a multicultural model of citizenship, rather than one based on a hands-off, laissez faire assimilation approach to immigrant integration.”

Source: How Brampton, a town in suburban Ontario, was dubbed a ghetto – The Globe and Mail

Sparks fly between neighbours over Diwali fireworks

Not surprising to see such tensions emerge:

While the 2006 amendment was a symbolic tip of the hat to a group of the city’s religious minorities, the new permit rule makes it nearly impossible for residents to use fireworks legally.

At one of the pop-up locations of Phatboy Fireworks in South Brampton – a children’s clothing store with several temporary shelves of Roman candles and multi-shot firework “cakes” at the front – supervisor Surjit Chokar is required to give customers flyers produced by the city that specify that fireworks can be discharged only on lots that are at least 18 metres wide. The city received 675 applications for Diwali fireworks permits this year, only 88 of which were approved. Most applications were rejected because residents’ lots didn’t meet the width requirement, a city spokesperson said.

“I didn’t agree to that part of the bylaw at all,” Mr. Sprovieri said, referring to the 18-metre rule. “I thought that was a ridiculous number and it didn’t give all the people an equal opportunity to enjoy all festivities.”

Revellers looking to celebrate in bigger spaces are also out of luck: fireworks are banned on streets, sidewalks, school yards and parks. But at Mr. Chokar’s store, learning the fine print of the bylaw hasn’t deterred residents from carrying on with their purchases.

“They’re not scared, either,” he said. “Most of the time people call, the police come. But they just give you a warning, they don’t give you a ticket. Because they know everyone’s doing it.”

Before it became legal to sell Diwali fireworks, residents simply bought them from those who were selling them illegally in ethnic supermarkets, video stores and off the backs of trucks.

Despite the massive volume of complaints the city receives, only four people were charged last Diwali for fireworks bylaw infractions. And while the city spent eight times as much money on fireworks patrols on Diwali in 2013 as it did on Victoria Day, total expenditure still only amounted to $16,116.

The perceived lack of teeth on the bylaw frustrates Vee Papadimos, who campaigned in 2011 for an all-out ban on personal fireworks. That year on Diwali, Mr. Papadimos’s front door was hit by a neighbour’s firework. Beyond personal safety, the use of fireworks – particularly on Diwali – also brings late-night cacophony to residential neighbourhoods and leaves behind a trail of garbage in the morning, Mr. Papadimos said.

“Why does it happen on Diwali and why does it not happen on Canada Day?” he asked. “It seems that – and again, not being biased and prejudiced – it’s basically, ‘It’s my culture, it’s my scene, it’s my time to celebrate. I will do whatever the hell I want and it’s too bad and you have to deal with it.’”

Seems like some opportunities for more realistic regulations and messaging on the need for responsible use (i.e., clean up the waste).

Sparks fly between neighbours over Diwali fireworks – The Globe and Mail.

Why I am not outraged by the anti-immigration flyer | CanIndia NEWS

A different and provocative take on the Brampton anti-immigration flyer from within the Indo-Canadian community. I think the issue with the flyer was as much over the overall tone and intent of the flyer, as much as the targeting of one specific community:

I spoke with Liberal nominee and Brampton resident Navdeep Bains about the issue and his view was refreshingly balanced, he wasn’t outraged and believed it was important to keep a dialogue going with people with racist views and address their fears rather than shutting them up. When Navdeep was in high school, South Asians were a true minority, his school had a healthy mix of kids representing the Canadian mosaic. One consequence of having neighborhoods with a high density of South Asians means that some of its school have just a handful of Caucasians and a smattering of non-South Asian kids. So while we pay lip service to multiculturalism, our exposure to Caucasians who’ve lived here several generations as well as other Canadians is virtually non-existent.

Perhaps we should introspect and debate the flyer

Rather than expressing outrage and anger against this flyer, there should be reasonable debate about the sensitive issue this flyer has raised. Politicians and community leaders should be out there discussing the fallout of White Flight. Whites fleeing Brampton should be given exit interviews to figure this why they are moving out. Should Brampton have mixed housing, smaller homes for other races who eschew joint families? Do non-South Asians feel unwelcome in Brampton? Are we inconsiderate neighbors? Uncouth even?

Why I am not outraged by the anti-immigration flyer | CanIndia NEWS.