Published articles

Mixed Unions in Canada

Cinnamon wore a sari for part of her wedding festivities

A study of 16 ethnic groups in Canada has discovered that marrying outside of ethnic lines means better pay and more power.

The study completed by Leger Marketing Poll for the Association of Canadian Studies in March 2005 demonstrates mixed exogamous couples command substantially better incomes than their non-mixed endogenous union counterparts.

According to latest figures released on April 20, 2010 by a Statistics Canada study based on the 2006 census about 4 per cent of all couples in Canada are mixed unions. The reasons for these results might rest in diversity and access to different communities which could create a completely more complicated understanding of self.

“I think I make better Chicken Korma Curry than my wife. She says I am more at ease in following her cultural traditions than she is. Honestly I never felt I had the transitional phase of adapting, it just fell into place,” says Jerry Chan, an accountant at a Vancouver firm. He met his wife Fatima Ahmad, who has a different ethnic background, at a fund raiser for a local charity.

According to the 2006 Statistics Canada census, 5.9 per cent of married and common law couples in British Columbia are mixed race unions making it the province with the highest percentage of mixed unions in the country, higher than the national average of 3.9 per cent. Trailing in second and third place respectively are Ontario (4.6 per cent) and  Alberta (4.2 per cent).

Once prohibited through legislative measures and looked upon as taboo through social norms mixed marriages are a growing trend in BC.

Does the Vancouver born Chan think he fared better financially, by marrying outside his ethnic group?

“Absolutely, we both enjoy six figure incomes. I don’t think I shared so many commonalities with any girl till the time I met Fatima. My parents emigrated from Mainland China and were slightly surprised when I informed them of my decision. But they were happy to see I found the right person.”

Ahmad’s family initially questioned her decision to marry Chan.

“Jerry picked up the language, the jokes and traditions so quickly that they [the parents] feel he is more the son then I am the daughter of the family. Now they think we’re a heavenly match made in Metro Vancouver,” says Ahmad with a laugh.

Mixed race unions not unusual for BC

This is not surprising as BC has a long history of interracial mingling University of British Columbia sociology professor Renisa Mawani’s work on the history of mixed race unions in the province Colonial Proximities: Crossracial encounters and Jurdicial Truths in British Columbia 1871-1921 examines how mixed unions are not a new phenomenon but that society’s view of them has evolved. She traces the history of how mixed race peoples treated as a threat to pure race are now considered a successful part of a multicultural society.

For example, the merging of two cultures brings a unique understanding of the institution of marriages and unions. Even the ceremonies become more vibrant.

“Anytime I hear the couple is from two different cultures it gets me excited as there is room to get even more creative. The more diverse the cultures the more interesting the ceremony,” says Angela Girard, a wedding planner at Reflection Events, Vancouver.

Girard says there is no ‘one glove fits all’ rule available for mixed race wedding ceremonies. Does she find it is easy to bring everyone together on common ground?

“There are rarely occasions when I have run into an impasse. The whole marriage scene is about love and compromise. If the [couple] can get past the first step amicably the path for the future will be easier,” Girard says.

According to another study by Leger Marketing Poll for the ACS 74 per cent of the respondents would not oppose their children marrying outside the racial group, compared to only 14 per cent who were resistant to mixed marriages.

“Our daughter will have a choice of growing up as a whatever she may choose to be,” says Cinnamon Bhayani , a new mother. Bhayani, a Metis French Canadian, is married to Kenyan Galib Bhayani whose family background is Ismaili. The two met while they were working at the Vancouver International Airport (YVR) in Richmond.

Cinnamon and Galib: Celebrate their mixed union

Ethnicity was never an issue for the Bhayanis. They had other commonalities to consider in their decision to solemnize this union such as their love for photography and travelling.

“Galib showed me these photos of the Galapagos Islands that he took on a visit there that were breath taking. This drew me to him as we had similar interests. It started as a friendship at first.”

Both families were very supportive of the union.

Is love enough to conquer all battles?

“Absolutely not,” says Danielle Wong, a Vancouver mother of two daughters both with partners outside their racial group.

“My eldest married a Canadian of East-Indian descent. They met while they working both freshly out of University. Love conquered all but not the little things such as deciding menu items on a combined family dinner. It took a lot of adjustments for each,” Wong says.

The younger daughter is married to a psychiatrist whose parents emigrated to Canada from the Philippines??? . They met in university.

Wong says she is proud of what her daughters have achieved. One daughter is a beauty consultant and her son-in-law is a doctor working in Vancouver, They live affluent lives and have fulfilled their dream by overcoming the mixed marriage hurdles.

For Ahmad “, As long as your partner has the right personality traits – colour, gender, race or culture fade away. The only things that matter are ambitions, passion and the urge to live life to the fullest with the one person you desire to be with.”

life, Published articles, Vancouver Olympics 2010

Homelessness in Vancouver to triple by 2010

Vancouver’s homeless population is growing at such a fearsome rate that it could triple to 3,000 people by the time visitors arrive for the 2010 Olympic Games, says a report released by an advocacy group Thursday.

A homeless man soaks up the sun in Kitsilano
A homeless man soaks up the sun in Kitsilano

“Without immediate action, the estimated 2.3 million visitors who come to our city to see the Olympics will find a Vancouver in the midst of an urban epidemic of poverty,” said Pivot Legal Society spokesman David Eby as he released the report.

The burgeoning homeless population would be “clear evidence of a broken commitment to address the impact of the 2010 Olympics,” Eby said.

When Vancouver bid for the 2010 games, federal, provincial and municipal governments pledged to protect the city’s rental housing and ensure no one would be left homeless because of the Games.

The city estimates that about 1,200 people currently sleep outside without shelter on a nightly basis.

A room in the Burns Block of Vancouver’s downtown east side was home to Veronica Crow Eagle for eight years. It wasn’t a home she was proud of. People urinated on the floor of her shared bathroom and garbage, including used hypodermic needles, piled up in the public spaces.

But the 61-year-old, who suffers from arthritis and a painful intestinal inflammation called Crohn’s disease, was hard pressed to find replacement lodging when the building failed a fire safety inspection. She and the other tenants were forced onto the street.

Crow Eagle, who has found a new place to live, considers herself lucky.

“Most of the rents run $400 to $465,” she said.

Not everyone can afford those rates. The standard shelter allowance for welfare recipients is $325 dollars a month. The rate hasn’t increased in 12 years.

“There’s hardly anyone who’ll give you a rent for $325,” said Crow Eagle.

Homelessness has been a prevalent issue in the local media. Here is more coverage on the issue:

life, Published articles

Lynn Manning: An icon of disability pride

On Feb 15, 2009 American actor/story teller Lynn Manning wowed the crowds with a riveting performance in his one-man show entitled Weights.

Lynn Manning in Vancouver
Lynn Manning in Vancouver

Manning’s life changed forever when a bullet, shot in a crowded Los Angeles bar, robbed him of his sight. Now his performance comes to life in an autobiographical performance where he takes a lighter take on his life after his disability and reassures his audiences that “its all good.”

The show opens with BC singer/songwriter Christa Couture, whose intimate singing style makes you feel you’ve discovered a wonderful secret.

I had the opportunity of meeting with Manning and his associate Gary (the musician) who is also visually impaired at the thoughtful dinner organized at a local downtown restaurant by Dr. Leslie Roman, Professor of Educational Studies, University of British Columbia.

Manning flew in from Los Angeles for his performance at the Chan Centre of Performing Arts, UBC.

life, Published articles

Investigative journalism

” You must speak straight so that your words may go as sunlight into our hearts”

Cochise, Apache (1812-1874)

Robert Cribb, the award winning investigative journalist from The Toronto Star guest lectured at School of Journalism ( SOJ). It was a great opportunity to meet with him in person and learn about the skills needed to become a successful investigative journalist.

The two key best practices I took away from this intense two day course were “Patience is virtue” in becoming an investigative reporter and that “persistence pays.” The pattern of event, context, explanation and solution follows through if journalists aim towards balanced, fair and accurate reporting.

Cribb also emphasized journalists should pursue advocacy journalism where they take up a position and try to fix the problem. But the process can sometimes be lengthy and takes more than six months to get all the evidence to back up a story.

Freedom of Information documents are essential tools in an investigative journalists tool box . Factual documentary evidence should be concrete before any story gets into print.

Cribb will be in Vancouver till the end of this week.

Published articles

The Webster goes to….

The ceremony
The ceremony

Journalists from all over Canada gathered at the Westin Bayshore on November 06, 2008 for the Jack Webster Awards to celebrate excellence in reporting and journalism.

Touted to be “the Oscars for journalists” in BC the Websters attracted a crowd of approximately one thousand people from all walks of life.

Simi Sara and David Gerry from CTV entertained the guests with light banter as the awards were handed out.

Peter Mansbridge from CBC was flown in from Toronto to motivate journalists to become actively involved in political reporting and the democratic process of voting.

I sat at the table with colleagues from UBC, a melange of sociable personnel from Vancouver Coastal Health Authority and the Canadian Bar Association of British Columbia. Conversation drifted between presentations from sponsors to speeches of the award recipients.

The Websters is a great endeavour of the Jack Webster Foundation to recognize the efforts of Journalists in BC.

Our crew at the Websters
Our crew at the Websters
Environment and Climate Change, Published articles

Sustainability and climate change: Need action Now

Cullis-Suzuki at UBC

Severn Cullis- Suzuki and Stephen Lewis were at UBC as part of the “Students for Sustainability” tour.

Here are the two articles I wrote that got published in the NowPublic and The Ubyssey.

Environmentalists Severn Cullis-Suzuki and Stephen Lewis are calling on governments globally to “force” sustainability measures on their citizens and want action now.

Cullis- Suzuki, the daughter of renowned activist David Suzuki and Lewis, Canadian politician and diplomat, were speaking to a gathering of students at University of British Columbia (UBC). They outlined a plan of action to address global warming that includes the urgent need for government leaders to provide pragmatic solutions to climate change crisis.

Lewis called it a “desperate moment in time”. Cullis-Suzuki reiterated, “Human societies never change unless they are forced to, and the problem is that our elected leaders are not implementing them.”

His main concern was about working towards sustainability as a common goal, not for the ways governments planned on handling the issue.

“I don’t care whether the answer is a carbon tax which appeals to me more than other regiments …. I really don’t care what you use…it has to be done and political interventions are necessary.” Lewis said.

The talk was part of the Canada wide 21 university campus tour lasting 30 days. The “Students for Sustainability” tour was aimed at creating awareness about climate change and the environment among university students.

The tour came about after realizing Federal government of Canada’s inability to meet the international obligations for lowering carbon emissions. Canada had committed to reducing emissions 6% below 1990 levels during 2008-2012, instead greenhouse gas emissions had increased by 27% in 2004.

The Canadian Federation of Students and the Sierra Youth Coalition and the David Suzuki Foundation together have mobilized students across Canada to put pressure on politicians to take action on climate change and other environmental issues. The students at each campus were asked to sign a petition to support the sustainability cause which will be presented to the Parliament in November 2008.

UBC was the second to last university for the tour, launched from Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland on September 30 and ended at the University of Victoria, BC.

Cullis-Suzuki put the onus on students to recruit parents for becoming more environmentally friendly, as their challenge is far more powerful than any other person.

“Use your inter-generational power. These people [parents] are still decision makers in our society,” Cullis-Suzuki said.

Cullis-Suzuki had optimistic hopes about the future, “Each of us directs the future by what kind of difference each of us makes. How we make that difference is up to us.”

Faiza Zia Khan

Elections 2008, Published articles

Premier Gordon Campbell visits UBC School of Journalism

BC’s Premier Gordon Campbell is passionate about making Vancouver a magnet for tourism, learning and fusion of diverse cultures.

Premier Campbell's first visit to UBC's Journalism School
Premier Campbell

The Premier was addressing graduate students at the University of British Columbia, School of Journalism on Friday, October 24, 2008.

After a brief talk Premier Campbell opened the floor up for questions which made his ten point plan more clear to the audience present.

Vancouver’s affordable housing has been a pressing concern for all residents. When quizzed upon how he intends to solve this persisting problems Campbell said he would remove regulations restricting lot sizes. Reducing 40 feet lot subdivisions to 33 foot lots, “would probably drive down the average housing cost in Vancouver by about $200,000 alone.”

Premier Campbell took pride in the fact that Vancouver is the host of 2010 Winter Olympic games which adds to distinction apart from being one of the best cities in the world to live in.

He said Journalism is the second best job in the world apart from working for public service.

When asked whether he would be interested in running for the forth coming November 12, 2009 BC provincial elections, Premier Campbell said, ” I want to be re-elected as BC’s Premier.”