It’s a new year but the stories are all the same

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Pradip Rodrigues

It’s a new year, but the stories in the media will sound like old news.

Lets start with one major piece of news from last year- refugees. We had ‘refugees’ streaming across our borders from the US, most breathlessly asserting that they were escaping President Donald Trump. This year even more are expected on our porous borders and once again they will be met by lovable RCMP officers who will direct them to social service agencies, where all their basic and not-so-basic needs will be met, like clothing, shelter, food, medical assistance and even relief from that nagging tooth ache, all provided courtesy you and me. So all those who aren’t inclined toward helping the poor and needy rest assured, you are already helping many socially responsible worthy causes.

Meanwhile 20,000 Syrian refugees are waiting not-so-patiently for Canada to fast-track their resettlement which is taking 19 months instead of 13 months. If only they could get their hands on US tourist visas, they’d then show up on our borders and their cases would be fast-tracked like all the other ‘refugees’ who’ve come before them and will continue to keep coming in the months ahead.
Meanwhile even though the Liberal government has flung open its doors to such a large number of refugees at the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars, there are those social service agency heads, activists and other left-leaning liberals who chastise the government for not doing enough. Recently I read a column in a national newspaper saying Canada should throw its doors open to Haitians who may soon find their TPS (Temporary Protection Status) withdrawn in the US, all 60,000 of them. I am sure there will be some who will urge our government to welcome the 400,000 Central Americans who are likely to lose their TPS in the months to come. And while we are at it, why not welcome 800,000 DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, better known as Dreamers).

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Meanwhile the Canadian media by and large supports and pushes for refugees even more than it does for immigrants in general and that is a common perception among South Asian immigrants.
Last year, in his fall report, the federal auditor general concluded that the Liberal government was struggling to track the impact of its historic effort to resettle upwards of 40,000 Syrian refugees. To this date little effort has been made to genuinely track the progress of the resettlement efforts given the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been set aside over five years. Social service agencies who receive funding are unlikely to be critical of any aspect of refugee assistance or policy. The government would rather not risk undertaking any well-publicized study on the fate of Syrian or any refugee for that matter after they arrive on Canadian soil. It is better to preserve and push the narrative of Canada being a warm and welcoming country for dispossessed refugees from around the world. Which is why that is the only story out there making the rounds.

According to some social workers on condition of anonymity, success stories among Syrian refugees are hard to find. The big story really is the struggle many of them face in learning English, too many of them are taking longer than usual to pick up language skills, without which, their employment prospects are at best very limited. A significant number of them hold down low-wage jobs and given that many of these families have four or more children, they continue to remain on some form of social assistance. The hard question to be asked is why is there so little progress despite millions of dollars earmarked for resettlement. Are we providing the right kind of help these refugees require?

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While the media loves chasing the odd success Syrian refugee story, I fear that the real story is being pushed under the rug.

Perhaps a new year story could be one that talks about those struggling refugees living in poverty right here in Canada.

Impact of the minimum wage hike

Last year media pundits and economists were warning about the loss of jobs and the rise in prices of everything from groceries to other services due to the minimum wage which is now $14 up from $11.25.
This year these predictions appear to be true as more and more companies are announcing automation plans. Other small business owners are either taking on more responsibilities to bring down payroll costs. There are fewer part-time and full-time jobs because business owners are trying to ensure their bottom-line doesn’t get too badly affected.
Meanwhile those paying the price are taxpayers who are going to be paying more for everything. Many businesses are raising their prices and justifying it by pointing to the new minimum wage hike, despite so many of them either shrinking their workforce, eliminating positions or automating their systems. If anything many businesses will actually turn an even bigger profit by lowering their payroll costs and charging customers more knowing fully well that customers will take It out on the government, not them. They’ve found a great scapegoat.
This allows small business owners to sympathize with their clients and customers who will be hit with higher bills with little or no fallout. It will be a windfall for so many businesses who usually fear raising prices fearing a loss of business, but when everyone is doing it, why not.

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The viral video of gangs fighting with sticks

Canadians are more or less used to reading reports of gangsters battling each other in parking lots using their fists, guns and knives with devastating consequences, but last month a viral video had many scratching their heads in disbelief.
In the video two large groups of South Asians could be heard yelling obscenities in their native tongue and using long sticks to beat each other.
Online posts and those in the know said this sort of violence and bad behavior was becoming more common than ever before in Brampton. Some trace it to the rise in the number of foreign ‘students’.
And indeed there are hundreds of many foreign students from India living and studying in Brampton. The problem is that many of these adults come in the guise of students. These ‘students’ many Brampton residents say are giving the community a bad name and say authorities should take a hard stand on students caught behaving badly and in anti-social ways. Deporting so-called students or putting them on notice would be a great deterrent to such behavior which seems to be on the rise. – CINEWS

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