Glavin: Beijing casts shadow of fear across Canada

Terry Glavin and Ian Young have valid points along with a good thought experiment to underline them. The distinction between “Canada’s Chinese community” and Chinese Canadians is an important one:

Serving mainly the city’s ethnic Chinese community, Vancouver’s Tenth Church, in the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood, has been a venerable Vancouver institution, a refuge for the poor and the marginalized, since the 1930s. During a prayer service on Sunday, Aug. 19, a braying, flag-waving mob gathered outside. It took 20 officers from the Vancouver Police Department to guard the church doors, block passing traffic, and escort the frightened parishioners, at the conclusion of the service, through a gathered crowd of more than 100 people.

That same weekend, in Montreal, another crowd of shouting flag-wavers crashed the Pride parade after bullying organizers into barring a group of LGBTQ Chinese-Canadians from participating in the parade. Leading up to the event, on social media, the bullies had talked about following members of the ethnic Chinese group after the parade, to beat them up. The bullies went on to march alongside the annual Montreal parade in their own column, belting out a fiercely nationalistic song in a disruption of the conventional moment of silence honouring the gay community’s dead from homophobic murders, and from the time of the AIDS crisis.

In the case of the Vancouver incident, the mob was made up of people who had showed up earlier in the day, waving Chinese flags, to disrupt a rally in support of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement that had assembled outside the Vancouver consulate of the People’s Republic of China. The flag wavers heard about the prayer service, which was devoted to Hong Kong’s protesters, and followed the church-goers from the rally.

At the time, a thought occurred to me. Why wasn’t this a Canada-wide, above-the-fold national news story? That little puzzle is easily solved. Most of the churchgoers were not white people, and neither was the mob. They were all mostly ethnic Chinese. If the mob had been made up of preposterously nationalistic, flag-waving white people, it would have been a shocking story about a horrible, racist incident in Vancouver. But if the Christians had been mostly white people, and the mob mostly ethnic Chinese, the incident would have been lurid grist for racist teeth-grinding mills and radio hotline shouters from coast to coast.

In the case of the Montreal Pride incident, a similar thought occurred to the South China Morning Post’s Ian Young, who has developed a habit of breaking big stories overlooked by Canada’s mainstream news media. Based in Vancouver, Young ended up reporting the most complete story about what had happened in Montreal, and his thought experiment went like this: What if a mob of flag-waving American right-wingers had threatened violence and bullied the Pride organizers into expelling an ethnic Chinese group that wanted to honour Hong Kong’s LGBT community? What if the right-wingers had then crashed the parade with their own marchers, and the song they belted out during the solemn moment of silence was the Star-Spangled Banner?

You can probably imagine how widely and thoroughly a story like that would have been reported, and the sorts of stirring speeches our politicians would have made about it. But the bullies in Montreal were from the same pro-Beijing cohort as the bullies in Vancouver, and the song they sang was March of the Volunteers, the anthem of the People’s Republic of China.

You can’t say that the event in Montreal was racist, or even necessarily homophobic, exactly, just as it can’t be said that what happened in Vancouver was categorically racist, or even a straightforward case of religious bigotry. But it is exceedingly difficult to argue that something kindred to racism is not at least involved to some degree, in the way the news media fails to pay attention to the phenomenon of Beijing’s bullying and influence-peddling in Canada. And in the way our politicians, from all the political parties, if only most egregiously the Liberal Party, pander and placate in these matters.

It may not be exactly racist to resort to the term “Canada’s Chinese community,” but it will get you off on the wrong foot, and if you’re not careful, whatever your intentions, you may end up at least serving a fundamentally racist purpose.

There at nearly 2 million people of Chinese descent in Canada, but until very recently, owing to migration facilitated mainly by the scandal-plagued and now-shuttered federal Immigrant Investor Program, Canada’s ethnic Chinese came almost exclusively from the five Cantonese-speaking communities at the mouth of the Pearl River and adjacent areas around Hong Kong. Among Canada’s immigrants classified as ethnic Chinese, there are at least hundreds of thousands of people that Beijing describes in the argot of Communist Party propaganda as the “five poisons”: Taiwanese, Tibetan and Uighur nationalists, followers of Falun Gong religious practices, and democrats.

Increasingly, these Canadians are living in fear. If they aren’t careful about what they say, their family members back in China will end up being badgered, blacklisted, or worse. This fear is particularly acute among Canada’s Uighurs, whose fellow Muslims in Xinjiang have been interned, as many as 2 million of them, in re-education camps.

The fear is spreading in Canada, now that Hong Kong is in turmoil. It is restraining Canadians from exercising their rights to free speech and freedom of assembly in the Chinese-language news media — now controlled almost entirely by wealthy pro-Beijing interests — and in their decisions about whether to risk raising their voices or attending rallies in support of pro-democracy Hongkongers. It is spreading on university campuses — Beijing closely monitors the activities of Canada’s nearly 80,000 Chinese student-visa holders — and Beijing’s United Front Works Department now effectively controls hundreds of Chinese community and business associations, big and small, across Canada.

In these ways, Beijing is asserting its international reach to undermine the inviolable human rights of hundreds of thousands of Canadian citizens, and by the reckoning of the Geneva-based Human Rights Watch organization, the problem is getting worse. Earlier this year, Amnesty International and a coalition of diaspora groups presented the Canadian Security Intelligence Service with an exhaustive study that describes in detail the threats and harassment Beijing and its operatives in Canada are spreading.

“Definitely, people are afraid to speak out,” Ivy Li of the Canadian Friends of Hong Kong told me. “But it is a dilemma. People are also afraid of backlash, that Canadians in the mainstream will think all Chinese Canadians are involved in infiltration, or are working for Beijing, and will be suspect.”

Li, who emigrated from Hong Kong decades ago, said she has personally experienced hostility owing to perfectly well-justified concerns about Chinese money-laundering and the gross distortions created by Chinese capital investment in the real estate market. “But Canadians are very considerate, and we want our society to be more fair and just, and so this fear of being accused of racism, it is part of why mainstream society, especially the media, allows the pro-Beijing supporters to play the racism card.”

The role racism plays in these necessary debates is obviously complex, but even the most virtuous Canadian politicians have been happy to see Chinese immigrants as cash cows, and to regard Chinese Canadians as voting blocs, Li tells me, “and as Chinese diaspora first, rather than as Canadian citizens first.

“This allows Beijing to own at least part of us in Canada, and it means we are left to fend for ourselves against the Chinese government. And that is racist.”

Source: Glavin: Beijing casts shadow of fear across Canada

New Canadians take Oath of Citizenship at ceremony tied to Capital Pride

Noteworthy:

As about 50 people became Canadians at a special citizenship ceremony held at the Horticultural Building at Lansdowne Park Thursday morning, 25-year-old Roksana Hajrizi and her mother, Celina Urbanowicz, looked on from the just outside the area cordoned off for officials, volunteers, celebrants and their friends and families.

They watched as Bibiane Wanbji, who six years ago left her husband in Cameroon and brought her four children to Canada to find a better life, smiled at the vastness of the world that had just opened up to her. Having a Canadian passport, Wanbji explained, means she can travel just about anywhere. She hasn’t seen her extended family and friends back in Cameroon since coming to Canada, so that’s a definite destination. So, too, are the U.S. and Cuba, and “the city of love” that she’s always wanted to visit: Venice. “It’s like a passport for the world.”

And although she’s been in Canada for six years already, Thursday’s ceremony left Wanbji feeling a bit different, she said, that she has “more to give in this country, to contribute to build the country.”

Hajrizi and her mother watched, too, as 50 new Canadians, including Haguer Abdelmoneim and her children, Mahmoud, 10, and Youssef, 5, sang their new national anthem. They and Abdelmoneim’s husband came from Egypt in 2014 “for a better education for the kids” and “for a better community to grow in.”

They didn’t just choose somewhere other than Egypt, she added; they specifically chose Canada. “We like the values. It’s a very inclusive country, very welcoming to newcomers.”

Another “new” Canadian, Saiful Azad, who arrived on Canada’s shores from Bangladesh 21 years ago, agrees. “A lot of people don’t understand how important it is to be a Canadian citizen and the opportunities that are given to you here,” he said. “I don’t believe the U.S. is the land of opportunity; I believe Canada is.”

Like Wanbji, Azad, who operates a Greek on Wheels franchise in Hunt Club, cherishes his new-found ability to travel as much as his right to vote. “When you’re a Canadian citizen, people look at you differently and treat you differently. Everyone thinks that Canada is a great country, and I think they’re right.

“People who live here and want to be Canadian citizens should pursue that.”

Thursday’s event was unlike most citizenship ceremonies in that it was one of about 75 sponsored each year by the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, a national not-for-profit charity that promotes active and inclusive citizenship.  As at other ICC-hosted citizenship ceremonies, this one opened with intimate roundtable discussions at which soon-to-be Canadians were engaged in conversations with other community members.

A lot of our soon-to-be Canadians have had long journeys and long stories in getting here,” said ICC chief executive and former Ottawa-Centre Liberal MPP Yasir Naqvi just prior to the start of the ceremony, “so we want to talk a little about that. But most importantly we want to talk about what the journey is going to be like after they become Canadian citizens. How are they now going to contribute to the building of Canada? We want to promote active citizenship.”

Thursday’s ceremony was also co-hosted by Capital Pride, a first for both organizations.

“It’s an opportunity for our community and the candidates for citizenship to engage in dialogue about what our community is about and what the experience of being 2SLGBTQ is,” said Capital Pride founding director Sarah Evans. “A lot of newcomers, and even established immigrants, don’t always know a lot about the 2SLGBTQ community, so it’s a good opportunity to build that awareness.”

As she watched from the sidelines, Roksana Hajrizi was keenly aware. Describing herself as a “proud lesbian,” she attended Thursday’s ceremony partly in support of Capital Pride, and also to congratulate those being sworn in as new Canadians. “I am proud and happy for those who are Canadians today,” she said, “and I hope that one day my family and I could be citizens of this great country.”

Truth be told, Hajrizi already feels very much Canadian. She was just three years old when she and her family — her mother, father, Ismet Hajrizi, and younger sister, Camila, arrived in British Columbia from war-torn former Yugoslavia almost 23 years ago. She even has two brothers born in Canada: Sebastrijana, 22, and Daniel, 19.

But she, her mother and sister are living in Canada without official status, in constant anxiety that they will be deported. They are Roma — her mother a Polish Catholic Roma, her father a Yugoslavian Muslim one. Romas are not welcome in most places, she says, and gay ones even less so.

The United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has noted the discrimination that Roma people face worldwide, an Anti-Gypsyism expressed by “violence, hate speech, exploitation, stigmatization and the most blatant kind of discrimination.”

Hajrizi’s family was denied refugee status, and now she fears for her life and the lives of her sister and mother if they’re forced to leave the country. In 2008, her family, except for her brothers, was scheduled for deportation but was given a reprieve.

Still, Hajrizi’s father, she says, despite being a Serbian citizen, was deported in June to Kosovo, where he lives in a garage with no papers. She, with no birth documents herself, worries that it’s just a matter of time before she and her mother and sister will suffer similar fates, that she will never get to be on the other side of Thursday’s ceremony, that despite living in Canada for very nearly her whole life, she will never know what citizenship is like.

“I believe in my heart that I’m Canadian. I believe in my heart that my sister is Canadian. I believe my mother and farther are also Canadian. We’ve been here for 23 years and our roots have spread through Canadian soils. We have given our time, our compassion, our love, our kindness to our community, to our city. People who know us know that we are a good family.

“My family is being ripped apart,” she said. “My father was taken from us, and now my mother is next. But we will fight to stay in Canada.”

Source: New Canadians take Oath of Citizenship at ceremony tied to Capital Pride

Robyn Urback: How can Black Lives Matter claim ‘victory’ when Pride has left so many divided?

One of the better commentaries:

BLMTO’s leaders and their allies claim their interruption was a necessary reminder that social movements often work in the interests of their wealthy white members first — early feminism is an obvious example — leaving its communities of colour to pick up the slack behind. And they’re not wrong. BLMTO can claim, with some credibility, that its disruption of the parade was important, or necessary, but it will have a hard time making the case that it did more good than bad, especially as hundreds of simultaneous Facebook fights about “pinkwashing” and “anti-blackness” enter their second day. And surely it would not tolerate a similar protest by Pride Toronto members at the Toronto Caribbean Carnival parade later this month.

Ian Willms/Getty Images

The question of future police participation in subsequent Pride events has only compounded the mess, with many accusing BLMTO of undermining recent progress made between the LGBT community and Toronto police, which included an historic apology offered by Police Chief Mark Saunders last month for a string of raids made on gay bathhouses in 1981. They claim, rightfully, that to ban future police participation in Pride events would be a step in the wrong direction, and would only alienate gay members of the Toronto Police Service, including Const. Chuck Krangle who penned on open letter urging the organization to reconsider its promise to BLMTO, arguing that “exclusion does not promote inclusion.”

Indeed, the tens of thousands of onlookers who have watched Toronto’s annual Pride Parade march down Yonge Street have surely noted the diversity of its participants: there are Liberals, Conservatives, church groups, unions, Arabs and Jews, all marching to support inclusiveness, diversity and the freedom for people to love who they love. That’s what this year’s event, and all Pride events, should be about. Instead, this year’s Pride parade left supposed allies fuming from separate corners, while BLMTO’s leaders proudly claimed victory for a job well done. It’s hard to see how starting a fight between groups that are working toward the same goals is really a cause for celebration.

Source: Robyn Urback: How can Black Lives Matter claim ‘victory’ when Pride has left so many divided?