TransLink braces to handle increasing immigration among service pressures 

A useful reminder of the impact of increased immigration on infrastructure:

The capacity of TransLink’s expansion plans might be tested sooner than expected by Canada’s higher targets for immigration, according to a new report for the transit authority’s mayors council.

TransLink is estimating Metro Vancouver could see up to 50,000 new immigrants per year coming to the region, based on Canada’s targets for 500,000 new residents per year by 2025, compared with 36,000 per year between 2017 and 2021, according to the transit agency’s report.

And trends for the settlement of new immigrants show they’re landing mostly in rapidly growing communities south of the Fraser River that are on frequently served transit lines.

However, those sections of TransLink’s network are already struggling with overcrowding. Whereas ridership systemwide has only recovered to 84 per cent of levels experienced in 2019, ridership in areas south of the Fraser has surpassed pre-COVID-19 levels.

And if service can’t be expanded to meet that growth, residents in the region who tend to rely more on transit to start with will experience more overcrowding and frequent pass-ups at bus stops than they do now, according to the report, an update on system pressures received by TransLink’s mayors council on Friday.

“What changes, it just enhances the urgency to be moving forward on expansion, particularly south of the Fraser where our ridership is higher than it was in 2019,” said Sarah Ross, TransLink’s vice-president of planning and policy.

Ross said the updated figures don’t represent a big departure from expectations in TransLink’s Transport 2050 plan, with its immediate 10-year, $20 billion capital plan for expansion.

“This is not us saying we need to change our 10-year priorities’ plan, not at all,” Ross said.

However, the need to stay focused on the expansion plan has been telegraphed by TransLink’s experience with service south of the Fraser. In the last year, TransLink has reallocated service, trimming routes in slower-growing communities in the region to add 12 per cent to routes south of the Fraser.

“Every time we put out more service it’s taken up right away,” Ross said.

Implementing the R6 RapidBus service on Scott Road is one of the top priorities in that 10-year capital plan, but the update report comes at a time TransLink is trying to renew discussions with the province and federal government on how to pay for it.

TransLink’s mayors council meeting Friday was the same meeting at which chairman Brad West, mayor of Port Coquitlam, acknowledged receipt of the province’s $479 million emergency contribution to backstop the agency’s pandemic-driven shortfalls.

“It was important because the alternative to the province stepping-up was significant service reductions to our region, increased congestion and poor outcomes,” West said in his report to the meeting.

TransLink’s challenge will be to lobby Ottawa, in addition to Victoria, on supporting TransLink’s efforts to create a more sustainable funding model that doesn’t rely so heavily on regional fuel taxes that are due to decline as Lower Mainland drivers also adopt electric vehicles at a faster rate.

“We’ve talked at length about the funding model that TransLink is currently operating under being insufficient for the job ahead and in many ways has gotten us to where we are now,” West said.

Source: TransLink braces to handle increasing immigration among service pressures 

Here’s why Vancouver’s first baby of 2023 won’t be in Canada for long [birth tourism]

Classic birth tourism example. The couple came to Canada because “we chose Canada because the Canadian passport is better.” They couple had enough money to travel to Canada and pay the non-resident fees but now given complications and the deteriorating economic situation in Egypt are encountering financial hardships (unlike more wealthy women who come to Canada to give birth and can afford birth tourism residences).

The other point of note is the naiveté of the couple in being so frank about their reasons for coming to Vancouver, and it is rare to have those coming for birth tourism to be interviewed and quoted. The reporter lack of awareness of the citizenship aspects and related issues is also of note:

Baby girl Hana Amr Fouad was born at 2:54 a.m. on January 1, 2023, in Vancouver’s St. Paul’s Hospital, weighing in at nine pounds 1.5 ounces. But circumstances surrounding her birth are not typical of a new year’s baby.

Parents Salma Gasser and Amr Fouad flew to Vancouver from Cairo, Egypt “to give the baby this opportunity,” says her father.

They carefully considered the place of Hana’s birth and secured visas for both the U.S. and Canada but ultimately, “we chose Canada because the Canadian passport is better,” explains Fouad. However, things haven’t quite gone to plan.

For starters, baby Hana was over a week late.

Gasser, whose brother lives in Vancouver, arrived in Canada two months ago and Fouad arrived just under a month ago. This is the pair’s first time in Canada.

Hana’s due date was Dec. 17 and the couple pre-paid for a natural birth but in the end, Gasser needed a C-section.

Mother and baby are resting at home with the midwife but the delay and changed birth plan have caused complications for the family.

Fouad says that since arriving in Canada, Egypt has imposed strict limits on credit cards and the value of the Egyptian pound has been steadily depreciating, both of which are putting unanticipated financial strain on the couple. The hospital bill for a C-section is also higher than for a natural birth so the couple is facing an unexpectedly higher cost for Hana’s birth. 

“We are still trying to figure it out,” says Fouad.

The family is anxiously awaiting the birth certificate for baby Hana – which can take up to six weeks to be issued – and then plan to secure a Canadian passport for their daughter. They will be returning home to Egypt but have plans of coming back to B.C. in the future.

“We hear Vancouver is much nicer in the summer,” he says.

Source: Here’s why Vancouver’s first baby of 2023 won’t be in Canada for long

China operating ‘police’ station out of Vancouver, civil rights group alleges

More allegations:

A Spanish civil rights group says it has uncovered two new secret “police” stations being operated in Canada, including one in Vancouver.

Safeguard Defenders has published a report revealing the existence of 48 Chinese “police service stations” being operated overseas, in addition to the 54 stations the group initially reported on in September.

The not-for-profit human rights group has documented a total of 102 stations in 53 countries.

Vancouver election chief challenges use of Chinese and Persian names on ballots

Of note. Tend to think better to only have Latin characters only for consistency and level playing field. Names in any case largely indicate ethnic ancestry:

Vancouver’s chief election officer has filed a court application seeking to declare that 15 candidates in upcoming municipal votes are not entitled to have their names on the ballot papers using Chinese, Persian or other non-Latin characters.

Rosemary Hagiwara filed the application to provincial court on Tuesday, naming respondents who include the Non-Partisan Association’s mayoral candidate Fred Harding, incumbent NPA councillor Melissa De Genova, and veteran Vision Vancouver school board trustee Allan Wong.

The application said all of the respondents submitted their “usual name” to be used on the Oct. 15 ballot papers in both Latin characters and either Chinese or Persian.

Ten are from the NPA, two from Vision Vancouver, and one each from Forward Together and COPE.

Hagiwara argued that none of the respondents who have previously stood for municipal elections used non-Latin versions of their names in the earlier nomination papers.

The matter is set to be heard by the provincial court in Robson Square on Thursday morning.

Harding said in an interview his Chinese name wasn’t something “plucked out of a hat.”

He said he has had a Chinese name for many years because half of his family on his wife’s side are Chinese.

“So telling me that this is not my usual name, you can understand this is like, ‘You really don’t know me,'” said Harding.

Hagiwara’s affidavit said that when Harding initially submitted his nomination on Sept. 6, he did not include Chinese characters in his usual name, but three days later he revised his nomination to add them.

She also said Harding did not include Chinese characters when he ran for mayor in 2018.

Harding said that although the NPA had access to lawyers, none could respond to the matter by Thursday morning.

Vision Vancouver said in a statement that Wong and council candidate Honieh Barzegar were dismayed by the possibility that their “unique and usual names” printed in non-Latin characters would be removed from ballot papers.

But the party also accused other candidates of using “cultural appropriation” by adopting Chinese names by which they are not commonly known, to seek an unfair advantage at the polls.

COPE school board candidate Suzie Mah said in a statement she felt “shock and disbelief” at being included among the respondents because her Chinese name was chosen by her parents and is part of her identity.

“The reason for using my Chinese name as well as my English name on the ballot is important to me. This is not about gaining extra votes with the Chinese community,” said Mah, adding she was not someone who sought to “make up a Chinese name” to use in the election.

Mah said in an interview her Chinese name was well-known among the Chinese-speaking community.

“I think that in the future if we want people to run for office and we want people to be part of democracy, voting has to be accessible. When you put in another barrier for people to take to run for office, it is very disturbing,” said Mah.

She said time was too short for her to seek legal advice before the hearing.

Hagiwara said in her affidavit that she is not aware of any candidate seeking to use non-Latin characters on ballot papers before 2014.

Only one candidate in each of the 2014 and 2018 polls had used non-Latin characters on the ballot, she said.

Source: Vancouver election chief challenges use of Chinese and Persian names on ballots

Douglas Todd: How does Indigenous reconciliation square with big business?

Understandable on the one hand that residents are critical of the lack of consultation but ironic that settlers did not consult Indigenous communities when establishing farms and cities:
Leaders of the 4,000-member Squamish Nation, who are behind one of the most dense property developments in Canadian history, have signed an agreement with Vancouver councillors saying one of the five aims of its 11-tower Senakw project is to “promote further reconciliation between the Nation and the City.”
But to what extent will this Indigenous-controlled multi-billion-dollar skyscraper project, which is unprecedented in North America, actually contribute to reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples?

Source: Douglas Todd: How does Indigenous reconciliation square with big business?

Tsek’ene, Farsi, Punjabi, Tagalog: The push to diversify languages in schools [Vancouver and the lower mainland]

Of note. Language demands change with time. When I was in high school in the 1970s, Latin was still offered and Russian was an option. Believe Latin classes ended sometime in the 1980s and of course Chinese has far eclipsed the former need for Russian (influenced by the Cold War).

Our kids went to Farsi Saturday morning classes when they were young, offered by the Ottawa Board of Education.

How this interest in “heritage” languages plays out with respect to second official language instruction remains to be seen:

Nine-year-old Armiti Atayi takes private Farsi classes, but would rather learn the language at her West Vancouver public school in a classroom with all her friends — something that may be possible one day, if the Education Ministry approves a new proposed Farsi curriculum.

“So when I go back for a vacation to Iran, I can read signs and read books and watch Persian TV, and cartoons,” said the Grade 3 Westcot Elementary student.

Her father, Omid Atayi, argued it is “long overdue” for Farsi to be offered in public schools given B.C.’s fast-growing Persian community.

“That would be a dream come true,” Atayi said. “We want our kids to be close to our culture, so establishing meaningful connection through language. … So they can read books, read poems, and write their own name. And a good example would be when they travelled back home (to Iran), they can communicate in an effective way with their relatives, or children their own age.”

If the Education Ministry accepts the new proposed Farsi curriculum developed and approved last month by the Coquitlam school board, it will become the ninth language, in addition to English and French, for which the province has official course guidelines. The others are French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Punjabi, Spanish and American Sign Language.

The province also has curriculum for 18 First Nations languages, and the Education Ministry said in an email that more are “in development.”

Three additional languages are offered in a tiny number of districts using “locally developed,” as opposed to ministry-approved, curriculum, such Russian in Prince George and the Comox Valley, Arabic in Victoria, and Croatian in Burnaby, although there is not always enough demand to run these courses every year.

Most of B.C.’s approved languages, with the exception of English, French and Spanish, are taught in only a small number of schools, where there is sufficient interest from students and enough qualified teachers.

During this 2021-22 school year, just 34,000 students took a secondary language that wasn’t English or French or who weren’t involved in an immersion programs, according to Education Ministry data provided to Postmedia. That is less than 10 per cent of B.C.’s 564,000 elementary and secondary students.

In B.C., all students must take a second language in Grades 5 to 8, unless they have so-called diverse needs, receive English-as-a-second-language services, or are in an immersion program. French is the default language if a district offers no alternatives, the ministry says. Second languages in high school are optional.

Nearly one third of B.C.’s 60 school districts didn’t offer a secondary language course beyond English or French in the 2021-22 calendar year. However, the ministry says courses run by districts fluctuate year by year based on enrolment.

The Vancouver school board, for example, ran second language instruction in French, Spanish, Mandarin, Japanese and Italian this year, and in past years has also offered Korean, German, Russian and Punjabi. The VSB also operates French and Mandarin immersion programs.

After French, Spanish was the most popular secondary language, with more than 20,000 students enrolled in two thirds of boards across B.C. Punjabi as a second language, by comparison, was offered in just six districts and had just 2,125 students taking it this year.

About 11 of the 18 Indigenous languages were taught this year to a total of 1,515 students in a handful of schools, the vast majority of them in the north, on Vancouver Island or in the Interior. The most common were 233 students taking Kwak’wala in the Campbell River and Vancouver Island North districts, and 219 students studying Secwepemctsin in the Cariboo-Chilcotin and Kamloops-Thompson districts.

Chilliwack appears to the closest city to Metro Vancouver to offer an Indigenous language, with 106 students studying Halq’eméylem this year. The Vancouver school board said in an email, though, that it is working with the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations with an aim to one day offer programs in the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ and Skwxwú7mesh languages.

Statistics Canada says B.C. has the largest number of Indigenous languages, but they are spoken by an increasingly small number of people.

“I would love to see the province provide more support towards the revitalization of Indigenous languages within British Columbia, because it is the province that has the highest number of varied Indigenous languages and they are at risk,” said Rome Lavrencic, a New Westminster French teacher who has been on a B.C. Teachers’ Federation languages committee for 16 years.

Lavrencic said he recently met with officials from various universities and colleges who indicated there is renewed interest from students to learn Indigenous languages, but the challenge at the post-secondary level is the same in high schools: The classrooms need to be full, or it is not financially feasible to run the courses.

Another challenge to offer these programs is finding enough books and other teaching resources. While the federal government provides extra resources for French courses, Lavrencic said, “the minority languages, like Japanese, German, Mandarin and Punjabi, don’t get as much in terms of recognition and funding.”

Despite those shortcomings, B.C. should offer even more languages in its schools, such as Tagalog from the Philippines, argued Lavrencic, president of the BCTF’s Association of Teachers of Modern Languages.

“There’s so many different benefits from learning a foreign language,” added Wendy Yamazaki, a Japanese teacher in Delta who is treasurer of the BCTF language committee. “It just gives you that global perspective, that understanding of cultures and understanding of other people in different areas.”

In response to questions about whether B.C. will introduce more languages in public schools, the ministry said it is up to teachers and community groups to first develop new language curriculums that they would like to see taught. It is also up to districts to recruit the required teachers, but the ministry says it does provide some assistance.

Twelve years ago, Coquitlam started a Mandarin immersion program. Abby Chow was part of that inaugural group of students, and is now in it first graduating class.

Although her parents do not speak Mandarin, the Grade 12 student at Gleneagle Secondary School leaves the public school system able to speak it fluently.

“It will open a lot of doors if I want to study an international language or travel in Asia,” said Chow, who will attend the University of B.C. next year to study science and play on the golf team. “I’m super grateful.”

Coquitlam is one of a very small number of B.C. districts that offers Mandarin immersion and the program often has a waiting list, said Sophie Bergeron, Coquitlam’s language and culture coordinator.

“Mostly due to a shortage of teachers, we cannot expand our program, even though we have more demand than we have space for students,” she said, adding the same is true for its French immersion classes.

Her district became the first in B.C. to approve the new Farsi curriculum, which was developed by teachers from Coquitlam and Surrey, with help from a Simon Fraser University professor. It is now under review by the province, which will decide later this year whether it meets all requirements to become an authorized language course, the ministry’s email said.

Bergeron said Coquitlam doesn’t plan to offer Farsi courses in the near future, mainly because of a shortage of Persian teachers and timetable challenges. However, the district sponsored the curriculum in the hope that Farsi could one day be added to the list of languages that Grade 11 and 12 students can “challenge,” meaning if they speak the language fluently, they can write an exam and earn a high school credit.

“Hopefully a challenge exam will be developed so those students will at least have one way of having their (Farsi) language recognized for credits,” Bergeron said. “Maybe another district would be willing to go” with classes.

And that’s the exact outcome hoped for by Amir Bajehkian, who founded Farsi dar B.C. five years ago to lobby for his native language to be taught in schools. While he is grateful that Coquitlam sponsored the curriculum, he hopes classes will be offered on the North Shore, where B.C.’s largest Persian community lives.

“Our main focus is on North Vancouver and West Vancouver school districts,” he said, adding one of the key reasons is the number of readily available Farsi-speaking teachers there.

Bajehkian has spoken with the districts, and has asked them to consider offering Farsi courses in Handsworth and Carson Graham in North Vancouver, and West Vancouver Secondary and Sentinel in West Vancouver.

“I think this is a great move in the right direction,” said North Vancouver’s assistant superintendent, Chris Atkinson. “I think it’s important for students to see themselves represented in the curriculum. … It helps build a diverse culture in the schools.”

While he said Handsworth and Carson both have large Persian student populations, he cautioned there is a lot that needs to happen before students will be sitting in a Farsi classroom. Assuming the ministry approves the curriculum, high school principals must then decide if they have enough teachers and students, and then must find room in their timetables.

The earliest Farsi could be offered is September 2023, Atkinson said.

The West Vancouver district said it would examine the Farsi proposal in the coming year.

Bajehkian estimates there are as many as 90,000 Iranians and up to 30,000 Afghans in the Lower Mainland, and said those numbers are growing. And he is proud that the two communities came together to create and lobby for this curriculum.

“Having the Farsi speaking community, Iranians and Afghans, in Canada, and B.C. particularly, we’re getting to a point that we’re becoming more established. And, in my opinion, now is the time to preserve and protect our language for our kids and share it with our neighbours,” he said.

Source: Tsek’ene, Farsi, Punjabi, Tagalog: The push to diversify languages in schools 

COVID-19 related racism impacts sense of belonging, reporting incidents: Study

Of interest given lack of major difference between first and second generation:
The dramatic increase in reports to Vancouver police of hate crimes targeted at Asian-Canadians in 2020 shocked many.

Now, a new study delves into the psychological impact of experiencing COVID-19 and racism when it comes to the sense of belonging held by different generations of Chinese-Canadians. It finds these feelings could hinder the reporting of incidents just as policy-makers are grappling with how to better understand what’s happening.

Source: COVID-19 related racism impacts sense of belonging, reporting incidents: Study

Douglas Todd: Is Vancouver really the ‘anti-Asian hate crime capital of North America?’

More discussion about the data and the challenges of country comparisons:

It’s hardly the reputation Vancouver, or any city, would want.

But in May some of the world’s largest media outlets dubbed Vancouver, which has about 700,000 residents of mixed ethnicities, the “anti-Asian hate crime capital of North America.”

Source: Douglas Todd: Is Vancouver really the ‘anti-Asian hate crime capital of North America?’

Douglas Todd: Hidden foreign ownership helps explain Metro Vancouver’s ‘decoupling’ of house prices, incomes

Of note:

The lack of connection between soaring housing prices and tepid local wages in Metro Vancouver is caused in large part by hidden foreign ownership, says a peer-reviewed study from Simon Fraser University that is being welcomed by the B.C. minister responsible for housing.

Based on data Statistics Canada has been collecting only recently, SFU public policy specialist Joshua Gordon’s paper shows the “decoupling” of housing prices from incomes in Metro Vancouver has been caused by “significant sums of foreign capital that have been excluded from official statistics.”

Gordon’s research set out to solve a puzzle in Greater Vancouver and, to a lesser extent, Toronto. How can tens of thousands of owners who tell Revenue Canada they are low income (earning less than $44,000 a year) consistently afford homes valued in the $2- to $10-million range?

Source: Douglas Todd: Hidden foreign ownership helps explain Metro Vancouver’s ‘decoupling’ of house prices, incomes

Data shows an increase in anti-Asian hate incidents in Canada since onset of pandemic

Although collected through online portals with anonymity, of concern and buttressed by official police stats:

More than 600 incidents of hate targeting Asians within Canada have been reported to Chinese Canadian groups since the pandemic began, and one in three of those attacks have been assaults, say the groups.

The data, collected through online portals that have allowed victims to report hate incidents anonymously, are consistent with reports from Canadian police forces that they are also investigating an increase in anti-Asian attacks.

The data, released last week, were compiled by the Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter, Project 1907, the Vancouver Asian Film Festival and the Chinese Canadian National Council for Social Justice. All of the incidents were reported through two online platforms based in Toronto or Vancouver. The reports were received from seven provinces.

Justin Kong, executive director for the Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter, said the data again indicate Asian Canadians have been targeted through the pandemic and racism will continue to taint Canada until there are policies in place to tackle it.

“Those attacks stemmed from historical anti-Asian racism, but also because of the ways in which COVID-19 has been racialized,” he said, adding COVID-19 is seen as a Chinese disease, similar to SARS.

“We saw what happened during SARS, and I guess it became obvious that this was going to go the same way. … That’s why we started collecting the data on the racist attacks.”

Mr. Kong acknowledged they weren’t able to verify the reports, and the groups instead have been relying on “a trust system.”

The data, which have been collected since February, show that 83 per cent of the incidents were reported by East Asians, followed by 7 per cent by Southeast Asians. It says 44 per cent of the attacks were reported from B.C. – the highest in Canada – while 38 per cent of the occurrences were reported in Ontario and 7 per cent in Quebec.

Women reported 60 per cent of all incidents. In B.C., women were even more disproportionately affected, accounting for nearly 70 per cent of all reported incidents there.

The data found nearly 30 per cent of reported incidents are assault, including targeted coughing, physical attacks and violence, and that verbal harassment is the most common type of discrimination.

These groups’ findings echo those of the Vancouver Police Department, which has reported a dramatic rise in hate incidents against East Asians.

In July, Vancouver police said they have had 66 hate-motivated incidents against East Asian people reported to them so far in 2020, a huge spike from the seven during the same period last year. A VPD spokesperson said the most targeted community continues to be East Asian.

Toronto Police Service spokeswoman Connie Osborne said, in comparison to 2019, her force has seen an increase in the number of hate-motivated occurrences, including where race has been a factor.

She said many of the 2020 cases are active investigations and the motivation of the offence may change or more offences may be uncovered, so the force can’t provide specific numbers for the year so far. But she added such incidents often go unreported and the number of reports received by police are not an accurate reflection of what people have experienced.

Earlier this year, Korean Montrealer Kyungseo Min compiled testimonies from Asian Québécois of racist incidents since January. In the span of about a month and a half, Ms. Min collected more than 20.

She said some of her findings match those from the advocacy groups. For example, female Asians reported more harassment or violence than men, and the majority of the racism was verbal.

In Alberta, the Alberta Hate Crimes Committee has been running the portal since 2017 to encourage people to report incidents and talk about what happened to them. The portal’s reports include four incidents reported this year of an East Asian Canadian being verbally assaulted in a public space in a tirade related to COVID-19.

Since it began collecting data, the portal has logged 74 incidents of hate in Edmonton, 69 in Calgary and 31 in Lethbridge. There are a handful of reports from other areas of the province. The data were last updated in July.

The groups are calling on the federal government to include an anti-racism strategy in its postpandemic recovery plan.

Mr. Kong said as the pandemic has posed more challenges to racialized communities, he hopes that the government could also come up with policies aimed at helping migrant workers and low-income immigrant workers.

The House of Commons’ standing committee on justice and human rights issued a report just more than a year ago with recommendations for battling online hate. They include recommendations for more funding for police, judges and Crown prosecutors to enable them to better respond to hate complaints as well as better data collection on hate incidents.

The report, submitted in June, 2019, noted a 50-per-cent jump in hate crimes targeting Black people in 2017 relative to the year earlier. However, the report does not refer to hate crimes against those of East Asian descent.

In a response this month, the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre, a Toronto-based foundation, provided several recommendations to the Justice Minister’s office, including placing online hate crimes under federal jurisdiction and developing a more clear and comprehensive definition of illegal hate activities.

Jaime Kirzner-Roberts, the foundation’s director of policy, said it is the responsibility of the justice system to recognize hatred as the poison that it is and confront hate crimes.

“We want to see all hate crimes aggressively investigated by police, regardless of what community is being targeted and what form these crimes take, so that perpetrators are brought to justice.”