FATAH: The census battle over mother tongues

Not sure to which extent the campaign mentioned by Fatah makes a difference. 2016 Census reported 502,700 Punjabi speakers, 211,995 Urdu:

There are times when one wonders if the policy of multiculturalism is a value worth enshrining as a Canadian value or whether it’s a time bomb that is slowly eroding the foundations of our country.

Where once we had to bring the Quebecois and Anglo Canadians together and bridge the Protestant-Catholic divide, today we are facilitating endless petty schisms among new Canadians, matters often seeped in the very hostility they escaped.

Source: FATAH: The census battle over mother tongues

I went on Punjabi radio to share COVID information with my community. I learned that multicultural media has been kept in the dark

Ethnic media is often unappreciated at times like these:

“I would encourage listeners to not take medicine as there are lot of side effects.” These are the types of uninformed messages I heard being blasted on a Punjabi radio show as I awaited my turn to speak about COVID-19 precautions.

As a General Surgery Resident at the University of Toronto, I decided to personally reach out to this media outlet to promote awareness around COVID-19 in Punjabi. I had recognized the importance of dissemination of cultural and language specific information while working with my patients, and colleague physicians from different specialties including Public Health, and Infectious Disease.

I was also inspired to connect with Punjabi radio and TV shows after seeing the way my family and friends relied on information from these sources. As part of my social media campaign, Humans in Brampton, I also spoke to a few truck, and taxi drivers who sometimes go on long cross border trips and they informed me that their sole knowledge about COVID-19 is from Punjabi, Hindi, and Urdu radio shows.

Moreover, I came across multiple tweets from community advocates urging physicians and public health officials to speak to the community directly. These tweets were in response to conversations in national media about the rise of COVID-19 cases in specific communities such as North East Calgary in Alberta, and Peel region in Ontario. What emerged from these discussions was the role of socioeconomic status, language barriers, health care and workplace inequities that exacerbated the pandemic burden in such communities.

Speaking to some of the Punjabi Radio and TV media outlets, I was surprised to learn how underutilized these platforms have been throughout the pandemic. One of the spokesmen for such a media platform informed me, “We have hardly been approached by physicians, public health or government bodies to run COVID-19 specific messaging on a regular basis. We would be more than thrilled to have them on our shows,” they said.

In another live Punjabi TV discussion that was being broadcasted throughout North America, I received a question from a New York resident who had tested positive for COVID-19 regarding precautions, and this solidified my belief that these highly impactful public platforms have not been utilized during the pandemic to disseminate life-saving information even across the continent.

I was also shocked to learn that more homeopathy and alternative care providers used these language specific platforms to deliver health related information than government bodies, and physicians. The lack of information and even worse, misinformation, can be dangerous for the community members as they are essentially in the dark about how to protect themselves from COVID-19.

Based on 2016 Statistics Canada data, Peel region in Ontario for instance had the lowest percentage (60.92 per cent) of population speaking in English at home. 4 per cent of the Peel population had no knowledge of English or French. Language, on top of other inequitable factors is another barrier many of these communities face when it comes to inaccessibility to health care and information.

Indian Immigrants Are Saving Canadian Hockey

A long but fascinating read:

Love sometimes shows up in the strangest places. For Canadian hockey, that place is the Punjabi Indian diaspora, which hails from my own ancestral province of Punjab in Northern India. Thanks to Harnarayan Singh, the turbaned-and-bearded Sikh host of the weekly TV show Hockey Night in Canada: Punjabi Edition, the community has overcome a fear of rejection and embraced its adopted country’s national sport with a hot passion.

The standard English version of Hockey Night in Canada has been a must-watch for fans of the sport since its TV debut in 1953. But lately, it has been languishing. Singh’s spicy new Punjabi version, on the other hand, has been catching on—and not only among South Asians. (Punjabi is the language spoken in the northern Indian province of Punjab, where Sikhism was born.)

President Donald Trump and his fellow immigration restrictionists warn that “mass immigration” from “shitholes”—and Punjab would certainly qualify—poses a threat to Western culture. On a trip to England in 2018, Trump said it was a “shame” that excessively loose immigration policies were changing the “fabric” of Europe’s culture. In fact, the E.U. admits about as many immigrants per capita as the United States does—fewer than five per 1,000 people in the host country.

Canada admits eight per 1,000. The foreign-born make up over 20 percent of that country’s population, compared to less than 14 percent of America’s. And Canadians with South Asian ancestry are projected to hit 9 percent of Canada’s population by 2036. If Trump were right, ice hockey would be on its way out, and cricket, a far more popular sport in India, would be ascendant in the Great White North. In fact, the opposite is the case. Instead of threatening this quintessential Canadian institution, immigrants are strengthening it at a time when it needs the help.

To say that hockey is an institution in Canada is an understatement. It is more like a national religion. Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper once called it the great “common denominator” that glues the country together. Fully half of players in the National Hockey League (NHL), which despite the name has teams from both the U.S. and Canada, are Canadian—down from 75 percent in 1980. The United States, a nation of 330 million people, had about 562,000 registered players in 2017–18, according to the International Ice Hockey Federation. Canada, a country with one-tenth the U.S. population, had 637,000.

That represents a decline of about 80,000 from Canada’s 2014–15 peak, a development that has generated a great deal of angst up north. The main reason for the drop is that blue-blooded—or, per local parlance, “old stock”—Canadians are developing qualms about the cost and safety of the sport.

At first blush, immigrants who hail from the Indian subcontinent—many of whom had never seen snow, let alone skated on ice, until they arrived in Canada—seem like unlikely saviors of the game. An additional challenge is that this group has tended to see hockey as a white man’s sport, where minorities (and women) are not welcome.

Their perception is not altogether mistaken.

Hockey has been more resistant to diversifying than some other sports. A decade after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball in 1947, the NHL was still hanging on to an informal no-color policy. It finally relented in 1958, allowing the injury-ridden Boston Bruins to recruit Willie O’Ree, a black Canadian player.

It’s hard to conclusively say whether racism is worse in ice hockey than in football or basketball, where racial and ethnic minorities have a larger presence. But in the NHL, only about 25 out of some 700 total players are black, and only four are of Asian descent. The league is 93 percent white. Lack of diversity doesn’t necessarily stem from racism, but it can offer fertile soil for it.

Hockey teams are like warring tribes, and a subset of fans has shown itself willing to reach for whatever intimidation tactic it can to obtain a psychological advantage over the other side. That can include screaming, and sometimes hurling racial epithets, at the opposing players. Fans have been known to throw bananas or make monkey calls at black members of the opposing team. Players, too, lob racial insults to get under the skin of their opponents. P.K. Subban, one of the NHL’s highest-profile black players, was subjected to a deluge of racist tweets after he scored two goals, including the overtime game winner, against the Boston Bruins in 2014.

In March, an opposing player confronted Jonathan-Ismael Diaby, a semiprofessional Canadian defenseman, in the penalty box and showed him a picture of a baboon on his cellphone. Meanwhile, fans began harassing Diaby’s girlfriend and telling his father, a former professional soccer player from the Ivory Coast, to “go back home.” Diaby was so outraged that he walked out midgame. That same month, an amateur league playoff in Western New York was canceled following a similar incident.

But racism is arguably an even bigger problem at the lower levels. Earlier this year, after two 13-year-old black American players in two different states were separately subjected to highly publicized taunting, Subban sprang into action. He made a video telling one of the kids, Ty Cornett, whose parents had told NHL.com they were thinking about pulling him out of the sport, to “stay strong” and hang in there. Meanwhile, Subban’s dad reached out to the other kid, Divyne Apollon II, and encouraged him to not give up. “You are not  defined by the color of your skin,” he said, according to The Washington Post. “You are defined by your potential.”

In his exhaustive 2003 study of racism in the NHL, veteran sports reporter Cecil Harris wrote that every black player “has had to wage a personal battle for acceptance and respect….Facing abuse that is verbal, physical or psychological because of their color has been an unfortunate reality for almost all of them.”

A more recent study by Courtney Szto, an assistant professor in the School of Kinesiology and Health at Queen’s University in Ontario, found that South Asian players in Canadian hockey are consistently subjected to racist treatment. Yet members of this group are drawn to the sport, says Szto, a former player, because it makes them feel more Canadian.

This is unusual. As City University of New York sociologist Richard Alba has pointed out, assimilation is not generally thought of as a matter of volition—something that immigrants affirmatively choose to do. Instead, it’s what happens to newcomers when they’re “making other plans.” Indian kids form a taste for Big Macs rather than seekh kebabs because their moms can find a McDonald’s far more easily than a dhaba (Indian roadside restaurant).

But hockey is not a matter of convenience or an afterthought for Indo-Canadians, especially Punjabis. They are avid followers of the sport, and not because they can’t keep up with cricket. In our wired world, they can—and do. But nothing says “Canadian” to them more than watching a game at Scotiabank Arena wearing a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey.

Because of Canada’s immigration policies, South Asians tend to come from skilled professions and are among the country’s better earners. Hence, even though they’re new to the country, they often have the means to enroll their kids in what can be a pricey sport. “They want to give their kids opportunities to fully participate in Canadian life that they didn’t have,” Szto notes.

Until recently, however, South Asian parents didn’t necessarily support trying to make a career out of the game. As new immigrants, they sought financial security first and foremost and therefore tended to push their children into fields where the odds of success were not quite so minuscule. In the 2011 Rob Lowe movie Breakaway—the ice-hockey equivalent of Bend It Like Beckham—a stern Sikh-Canadian dad orders his talented son to give up the sport and take over the family trucking business.

But these attitudes are changing among first- and second-generation South Asian immigrants. And that’s fortuitous, because otherwise the sport may well have a dim future in a country whose “visible minority” population—which already makes up about a fifth of the country—is growing by 25 percent annually, while the general population is growing at only 4 percent.

The NHL understands this, which is why it launched “Hockey Is for Everyone,” an outreach effort aimed at recruiting minorities all over North America. Singh is the campaign’s official ambassador. But his show has likely done more to knock down cultural barriers and make the sport accessible to South Asians than any public campaign.

The first present the 34-year-old Singh got from a cousin after birth was a set of Edmonton Oilers mini hockey sticks.

His parents had emigrated from India in 1966 and became teachers in Brooks, Alberta, a predominantly white town with a population of 3,000 two hours southeast of Calgary. They are devout Sikhs and devout hockey fans, two passions they imparted to him. His sisters were already crazy for the game when he was born. Wayne Gretzky, the world’s greatest hockey player, wasn’t just a hero in the Singh household. He was a veritable god. As a kid, Harnarayan insisted his family celebrate their hero’s birthday—January 26—by making prasad, a traditional Indian sweet used for religious ceremonies.

Observant Sikhs, who believe in the natural perfection of God’s creation, don’t allow scissors to touch their hair. The men let their beards flow and wrap the long locks on their heads in tightly pleated turbans. Confused with Muslims, they have sometimes faced bigoted attacks, especially after 9/11.

But if Singh’s family’s Sikh heritage put him at odds with his peers growing up, his hockey-loving heritage created a bond. He says he realized at a young age that one way to get his school friends to overlook his outward weirdness was by talking hockey. And boy, could he talk hockey!

Much to the dismay of his father, a math Ph.D., Singh’s calculus skills were subpar. But his hockey knowledge was encyclopedic. By the time he was in fourth grade, he was taping mock shows on a cassette recorder in his bedroom. He experienced his share of harassment and bullying. But soon, “I became known around school as this hockey-obsessed individual,” he recalled in an interview with The Players’ Tribune. “That allowed me to make friends within different cliques that may not have otherwise accepted me.”

Given his gift of gab and love for hockey, it made sense that he dreamed of a career in sports broadcasting. But for a brown-skinned, hirsute kid with a man-bun knotted on the top of his head, this seemed more than a little far-fetched.

Still, in 2004, Singh enrolled in broadcasting school in Calgary’s Mount Royal University. He later became a full-time scriptwriter on The Sports Network (TSN)But he wanted to be on air, and that was going to be a hard sell on TSN in the early 2000s. So he quit and returned to Calgary, becoming a local general assignment reporter for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC)which had a commitment to diversity. There, he made it a point to talk hockey with Kelly Hrudey, an analyst on the regular English edition of Hockey Night in Canada, every time he ran into him.

This proved a savvy move.

In 2008, CBC decided to roll out versions of Hockey Night in Canada in Mandarin, Cantonese, Punjabi, and Inuktitut (an Inuit language) in an effort to boost its flagging viewership. The Punjabi version was the only one that panned out. And that’s at least partly because of Singh.

Hrudey’s colleague on the show, Marc Crawford, a former coach of the Vancouver Canucks, was particularly interested in launching a Punjabi edition. He had found that Punjabis in the greater Vancouver area frequently recognized him, and greeted him enthusiastically, at gas stations and grocery stores. He had also seen Punjabi kids playing ball hockey in the streets of Surrey, a Vancouver suburb dominated by South Asians. He concluded that the community had a passion for the sport.

When the Canucks made it to the Stanley Cup championship in 2011, Punjabis held mass prayer vigils for their victory and posted bhangra dance tributes on YouTube. “Their enthusiasm was unmatched,” Crawford told The New York Times in 2013“It was as though the one thing they really latched on to in the new country was the Canucks.”

When the idea for a show to serve the community was born, Hrudey recommended Singh for the job of anchor. Hockey Night in Canada Punjabi Edition made its debut in 2008 with a play-by-play of the Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Detroit Red Wings Stanley Cup finals.

Singh faced a problem during the regular season, however: The show, which aired every Saturday, was filmed in Toronto. He was in no position to give up his full-time gig in Calgary and move there for a part-time one. Yet he did not want to pass up an opportunity to talk hockey on air. So every Friday after work for four years, Singh flew into Toronto from Calgary. He taped two shows on Saturday evening, stumbled back to Toronto’s Pearson airport, slept for a few hours on chairs joined into a cot, hopped a redeye home, and arrived just in time for Sunday services at the local gurudawara (Sikh place of worship) that he had attended since he was little.

He didn’t breathe a word of this to his bosses on the show, he now says. He didn’t want them to worry he wouldn’t show up and give the job to some other Sikh dreamer—of whom, of course, there were plenty. He sprang for all his own travel costs.

Singh could have eased the pressure a bit by skipping Sunday services, but his faith was too important to him. Plus, he had a superstitious fear that if he let his career take precedence, his good luck would run out.

The show was an instant hit with South Asians despite its mediocre production values and shoestring budget. Punjabi is the third most widely spoken language in Canada after English and French. (Half a million people in the country name Punjabi as their first language, with plenty of South Asians speaking it as their second language and plenty more who can understand it.) But the genius of the show—something that those not from North India can’t fully appreciate—is the particular kind of Punjabi that Singh and his fellow hosts chose to speak. It isn’t the mongrelized, part English, part Hindi or Urdu patois of urbanized Punjabis. It’s the authentic and evocative vernacular of the Punjabi heartland. Singh’s show deploys it in a way that is irreverent but not disrespectful, plain-speaking but not hurtful, freewheeling but not coarse.

Punjabis are like the Italians of India. The show conveys the exuberant, hard-living, hard-loving spirit that appeals to Punjabis of all stripes, the rustic as well as the more sophisticated professional variety—the latter even more than the former, perhaps, because they have a deep nostalgia for the “real” Punjabi they remember hearing their grandparents speak. But even many South Asians who don’t fully understand the language find the sight of a turbaned Sikh announcer on air in Canada thrilling and inspiring.

The problem with using only pure Punjabi was that the language does not have a vocabulary for hockey terms. So the crew had to invent one. A hockey puck became a tikki—a fried potato pancake. A slapshot was dubbed a chappede shot, hilarious Punjabi slang for smacking someone across the face. All of this tickles Indian viewers, which is precisely the intention. But the more important consequences of such linguistic creativity were unintended.

The new lingo demystified the game for older Punjabis who didn’t speak English. Suddenly, grandmas in oily braids and salwars (traditional Indian outfits) were chatting about favored teams and favorite players with their grandkids. Seven decades ago, when Hockey Night went on TV, Canadian families structured their Saturdays around watching the show together. Now, many Indo-Canadian families are doing the same. Singh says he’s had countless old Punjabis tearfully thank him for providing a bonding experience with their grandchildren that they never imagined they could have.

The show really hit its stride when Rogers Media, owner of Canada’s Sportsnet One channel, bought the rights for Hockey Night from the NHL in 2013 and put the Punjabi version on Omni Television, a basic cable channel. The CBC is a nonprofit that aims to serve “everyone.” In reality, that means treating niche programs without broad appeal like tokens whose main purpose is virtue signaling a commitment to diversity. Despite the Punjabi show’s popularity, CBC had canceled it more than once, only to bring it back after a massive outcry from South Asian viewers.

But as a private, for-profit enterprise, Rogers Media invested resources in Hockey Night Punjabi because it could get customers and advertisers to pay for it. The company has expanded the show’s crew to seven and housed them in a snazzy studio, allowing them to shoot in high definition and to produce full-spectrum programming that includes pre- and postgame analysis in addition to the usual Saturday night double-header play-by-plays. Singh is now able to make a full-time job out of hosting the program.

The show is constantly innovating, creating segments such as “Meri Gal Sun” (“listen to me”)—a refrain Punjabi parents use before unloading on recalcitrant kids—that gives underperforming players and teams advice in a no-holds-barred Punjabi style. One episode last year advised star Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard to have his bags packed to bolt at the end of the season because his team just wasn’t good enough for him. Howard didn’t listen (maybe because he doesn’t understand Punjabi!).

Operating in a privately funded niche market, observes Szto, has allowed the show to challenge traditional Canadian broadcasting norms that very much reflect the high-WASP taste of the original public-station audience. Where Canadians tend to be reserved, urbane, stoic, Punjabis are earthy, blingy, raucous. Because many of Hockey Night Punjabi‘s viewers didn’t grow up watching hockey, they have to be enticed by “adding masala”—spice mix—as Singh puts it. And the ingredients of this masala? As the Vancouver Sun‘s Gordon McIntyre once wrote, the program is part international soccer, part Bollywood, with “a pinch of [World Wrestling Entertainment] and a generous dose of infectious enthusiasm.”

The closest thing to it in mainstream hockey is Don Cherry, the legendary hockey broadcaster who co-hosts the “Coach’s Corner” segment on the original Hockey Night. He’s a conservative who has made a name for himself as the funny and lovable Archie Bunker of hockey—irreverent, politically incorrect, and a tad pompous. But that shtick, which never quite worked with South Asians, had begun to lose its charm with regular Canadians even before Cherry got himself fired for questioning the patriotism of immigrants on air last fall. Hockey Night Punjabi‘s down-to-earth approach, where sportscasters talk to rather than at viewers, is much more attuned to the new cultural sensibilities, Szto notes. Sometimes non-Punjabi speakers tune in to the Punjabi show, either because certain games are only airing there or because they don’t care for the personalities on the regular network.

As of December 2017, the program averaged 209,000 viewers, according to Szto. Compared to the 1.46 million viewers that the regular English edition of Hockey Night commands, this may seem low. But that 1.46 million figure represents a massive fall from the 5 million viewers the show enjoyed at its peak in the 1960s. A higher percentage of Punjabi speakers watch their version than English-speaking Canadians watch the original. Although Omni does not offer official ratings, Szto says the viewership is growing rapidly.

The moment that catapulted Hockey Night Punjabi out of its ethnic enclave came in the first game of the 2016 Stanley Cup finals, after the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Nick Bonino scored the winning goal. Singh went wild, shouting the player’s name 11 times in rapid succession and ending with a long drawn out “Nick Boninoooooooooooo” that outlasted the buzzer. The call went viral and has come to be regarded as one of the all-time great hockey moments. Corporate sponsorships started pouring in after that.

When the Penguins won the Cup that year, Singh and his colleagues were treated like rock stars, just like the players themselves. During the victory parade in Pittsburgh, he was warmly invited onstage to repeat the Bonino call in front of adoring fans. So overwhelmed were they by the love and attention, the Hockey Night Punjabi crew later wrote an emotional thank-you letter to the team. “The truth is, the members of our community living in the United States have faced very difficult challenges due to their identity,” it said. “Our visit was the polar opposite of the experience many have had and this has filled our community with hope and optimism.”

Life hasn’t been the same for the show since. The following year, during the festivities surrounding the NHL All-Star Game, Singh and his crew were sitting in their booth at a J.W. Marriott in Los Angeles, munching a mushroom pizza. A man came over to introduce himself. He and his sons were huge fans of their work, he said. The man was Wayne Gretzky.

“Right now,” Singh says, “it is tough to find any hockey fan in Canada who doesn’t know of our show.” But Hockey Night Punjabi hasn’t only grown the audience for the game in its community. It has grown the game too.

David Sax, a Canadian journalist, wrote in The New York Times in 2013 that in the four years since its inception, the program had paid major dividends in terms of recruitment. In big cities dominated by South Asians and other “visible minorities,” it was prompting parents to sign up their kids to learn the sport. Brampton Hockey, a junior league in a town north of Toronto, had seen about a 20 percent increase in participation among South Asians over two years, Sax reported.

That trend has only accelerated. Some 60 to 80 percent of the players in the Surrey Minor Hockey Association, a British Columbian kids league, are Punjabis, notes Dampy Brar, a co-founder of the 2-year-old APNA Hockey, a hockey school with branches in Calgary and Edmonton. The organization’s explicit aim is to nurture talent in the South Asian community. Although the school welcomes everyone, says Brar—a clean-shaven Sikh who played professionally for the now-defunct West Coast Hockey League—its main purpose is to offer a comfortable space to Indo-Canadians who don’t feel their kids would fit in at the overpriced hockey academies that upper-crust “old stock” Canadians patronize and that have traditionally served as a pipeline to the professional leagues.

APNA Hockey makes it a point to have South Asian pros with a shared cultural background mentor the kids, in order to give them the sense that the highest levels of the sport are not beyond their reach. Some folks are concerned that separate schools smack of incipient segregation. The better way to think about it, though, is that the community is finding its own way to overcome systemic barriers and access a mainstream institution (professional hockey) without the need for legal interventions or special pleading.

Incidentally, although it is not impossible for practicing Sikh hockey players to stuff their long hair under a helmet, many in fact do end up shearing it to save themselves the hassle—another example of how immigrants, over time, trade old attachments for new ways in order to fully seize the opportunities in their adopted land.

To date, three Punjabi players have made it to the NHL: Jujhar Khaira, who currently plays for the Edmonton Oilers, and Robin Bawa and Manny Malhotra, both now retired. But given the growing South Asian presence at the grassroots, Singh and Brar agree it’s only a matter of time before South Asians break into the NHL in a big way, injecting new blood into the sport. There are already a fair number of players in the junior leagues. For example, in 2014 there were three Punjabi players on the Everett Silvertips, a Western Hockey League team, all hoping to get drafted by the NHL. Among them was Khaira, who succeeded.

It’s also totally within the realm of possibility that Singh—not despite his Punjabi sensibility but because of it—will one day make it to the television big leagues and co-host the English edition of Hockey Night, joining greats like Ron MacLean and Jim Hughson. He already appears on the show regularly as a guest commentator. And he’s been calling games for the Sportsnet channel in English—which he of course speaks with a perfect Canadian accent. (For those versed in both languages, listening to Singh switch from Punjabi to Canadian English is like hearing an Appalachian switch from a hillbilly drawl to flawless French.)

In fact, notes Szto, Canadian hockey fans would sooner embrace someone exotic-looking who knows and passionately loves the game than a white dude like George Stroumboulopoulos, whom Rogers Media tried as a co-host of Hockey Night with disastrous results. Although he was a major media personality who’d earned a name for himself VJing for the MuchMusic channel and serving as a CBC talk show host, Stroumboulopoulos didn’t have a solid hockey background. Ratings took a nosedive as unimpressed fans tuned out, and he was ousted from the show after less than two years. After Cherry got the boot, some hockey fans suggested replacing him with Singh.

Perhaps racism in hockey is only skin-deep. Fans take the game too seriously to really care whether sportscasters shave their faces or wrap turbans around their heads. What matters is the quality of the play and of the commentary.

The fact that a Sikh could be the man for the job is testimony to the assimilative capacity of immigrants, who aren’t nearly the threat to native culture that restrictionists make them out to be. Of course they’re nostalgic for the things they leave behind. But they’re also eager to explore and embrace the new things their adopted homes offer. And when they do so, they strengthen—not tear apart—a country’s cultural fabric. They weave new strands into it, creating a far richer and more durable tapestry.

Source: Indian Immigrants Are Saving Canadian Hockey

A New Troubling Trend for International Students Coming to Canada

Anecdote-based but incentive structures are there. Hard to devise cost effective detection and enforcement strategies. Surprisingly, Flora has no specific proposals to curb such abuse:

The desire to emigrate has increased so much among the Punjabi community in India that people are doing everything they can to leave their country and reach foreign shores — even employing such extreme methods as using human traffickers, or wilfully violating immigration laws.

But in recent years, a new trend is emerging. It’s very simple: If a person can’t come to Canada on his own or as an international student, they still come to Canada at the price of an international student’s expense.

This was a big surprise to me. I was waiting on my Brampton street for the school bus to drop off my daughter, when a group of young women walked by.

“Oh study is so expensive here,” said one. Another girl said, “Maybe for you, but I’m not even paying a dime!”

The other girls were surprised. “How is that?” asked the first girl.

As the girl explained, there was a family in India whose son badly wanted to emigrate to Canada. They did everything, but no luck. But this girl was a bright student and easily qualified for a student visa.

“So we made the deal,” she explained. “They pay all my expenses, from airline fare to the college fees, books… right down to my boarding and lodging, and all my living expenses in Canada. In return, we’ll get the boy to Canada by proving that we are married.”

Our people are nothing if not creative. But the simplicity of the scheme took my breath away.

According to Canadian law, if an international student is married, they can bring their spouse over and the spouse can acquire a work permit for the duration of the student’s period of study.  So the young man’s side takes on the financial burden, while the young woman gets her “husband” across and completes her four-year degree.

Assuming the age of the fiance is about 18 to 22 years at the time they arrive, over the next four or five years they become permanent residents. After that they get divorced, at around the age of 23-26 years. They then find their original life partners and settle their life in Canada. Both sides part ways happily and go their separate ways. A good business transaction indeed.

In recent years, the Punjabi community has already made itself famous for fake marriages. Such fake marriages have not completely stopped, but the system has been tightened up.

According to the Canadian Bureau of International Education, in Canada in 2016, there were 353,000 international students in Canada. Among this tally, 34% were from China and 14%  from India. From 2008 to 2015, the number of international students coming to Canada also increased 92%. Data from a 2010 government report tells us that international students brought almost $8 billion of tuition fees into the economy and spurred the creation of 81,000 new jobs.

These figures show Canada needs international students. But it is also true that there is no need for unnecessary attempts to follow the wrong path. Will the Liberal government pay attention to this spurious trend?

One more fallout of such creativity is that the immigration department is unable to tell the difference between true and false marriages. Consequently, genuine cases are affected.

The rise in fake marriages has many Punjabi community organizations concerned about this issue enough to pressure the federal government to make changes in immigration laws to prevent such fraud.

At the end of the day, it’s not the system that’s the problem, it’s us who misuse it by hook or by crook, to fulfill our dreams. And it needs to stop.

via GUEST COLUMN: A new troubling trend for international students coming to Canada | Toronto Sun

Punjabi now third language in the House | hilltimes.com

The changing face of Canada and Parliament:

With the election of 20 Punjabi-speaking MPs on Oct. 19, the Punjabi language is now the third most common in the House of Commons after English and French.

In total, 23 MPs of South Asian origin were elected to the House last month. Three of them—Liberal MP Chandra Arya (Nepean, Ont.) who was born and raised in India, Gary Anandasangaree (Scarborough-Rouge Park, Ont.) who is Tamil, and Maryam Monsef (Peterborough-Kwartha, Ont.) who is of Afghan origin—do not speak Punjabi.

Of the 20 who do speak Punjabi, 18 are Liberals and two are Conservatives.

The NDP does not have any Punjabi-speaking MPs in caucus after B.C. MPs Jinny Sims and Jasbir Sandhu both lost on Oct. 19.

Among the newly-elected Punjabi-speaking MPs, 14 are males and six are females. Ontario elected 12, British Columbia four, Alberta three and one is from Quebec.

Prime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) is scheduled to unveil his Cabinet this week and some of these Liberal MPs are expected to be included in the front bench.

According to Statistics Canada’s 2011 National Household Survey, 430,705 Canadians identified Punjabi as their mother tongue, making it the third most common language after English and French.

About 100 million people in the world are native speakers of Punjabi, most of them based in Pakistan and India. In the Indian state of Punjab, Punjabi is the official language. In Pakistan, despite being the single largest linguistic group, Punjabi does not have official language status in the province of Punjab. Instead, Urdu and English are used in schools and offices.

 In an interview with The Hill Times, Navdeep Bains, a Liberal elected in Mississauga-Malton, Ont., said that although 20 Punjabi-speaking MPs have been elected, these MPs represent all constituents regardless of their party affiliation or ethnic origin.

“It speaks to our commitment to diversity and allowing individual [MPs] to play an important role in our political institutions,” said Mr. Bains.

Source: Punjabi now third language in the House | hilltimes.com

Visible minority communities and the Election

From New Canadian Media, some good articles on different communities and the 2015 election.

Pulse: Arab Media Tack Conservative outlines support for the Government’s position among some Arab communities (primarily Syrian and Iraqi Canadian).

Chinese Canadians Step Up to Fill Representation Gap as there have been fewer MPs than their population warrants. A Willingness to Elect People Not Born in Canada explores the relative success of Canadian Sikhs, reflecting both absolute numbers and their relative concentration in a number of ridings in the Lower Mainland and the GTA.

Lastly, Where are the (Ethnic) Women? analyses the number of visible minority women candidates, showing that between 16 and 21 percent (depending on the party) of all women candidates are visible minorities, slightly greater than the number women visible minorities who are Canadian citizens (and thus who can vote).

Surrey’s Radio India to cease broadcasting

Expect in the long-run, as the recent CRTC television hearings and Netflix and Google testimony indicated, fighting a losing battle as more and more radio and TV shifts to the Internet, beyond the control of regulators:

The CRTC made it clear during Wednesday’s hearing, and with the consent orders, that it will no longer put up with stations that defiantly produce all their broadcasts, and collect 100 per cent of their advertising dollars, on Canadian soil without operating under Canada’s broadcasting regime.

That scenario has existed under the nose of not only federal regulators but Canadian politicians who beat a path to the doors of the pirate radio stations.

“Radio India is regarded as a must-do communications vehicle for politicians,” Gill, who last week mailed photos of himself with Canadian politicians, boasted Wednesday in the same presentation in which he promised to shut down operations. “The B.C. premier, members of parliament, MLAs, city mayors and councillors have been visitors to Radio India studios.“

Radio India has interviewed past and present prime ministers of both Canada and India. During elections, Radio India is chosen as a vehicle to connect with the South Asian community.”

Two CRTC-licensed, B.C.-based Punjabi-language competitors to the pirate stations testified by a remote hook-up Tuesday, saying their unsanctioned rivals have had an unfair advantage in scooping up millions of advertising dollars, including the estimated $2 million to $3 million that Gill says goes annually into Radio India’s coffers.

CRTC-approved broadcasters pay costly licence fees, copyright tariffs and must meet Canadian content rules, said CKYE-FM Red FM lawyer Mark Lewis, who testified along with Spice Radio formerly RJ 1200 owner Shushma Datt.

Surrey’s Radio India to cease broadcasting.