We need a made-in-Canada solution to keeping jobs in this country

The economic boom in developing nations has decreased the authenticity of Canadian goods.

Look at any brand name clothing or product and the chances are very slim that they were made in Canada. North American corporations shift their production overseas due to cheap labour there and better investment opportunities.

Jobs are created in China, India or other developing countries when investors are offered tax-free holidays or a 99-year land lease, even if it’s to create just a handful of jobs. However, these are not available in Canada. We have enough land but do not create an attractive investment climate.

Buying Canadian-made goods helps the economy, creates jobs, sustains the social environment, brings in tax revenue and gives job satisfaction to workers. But many companies avoid buying Canadian-made products because of the high cost of labour. In other countries, the rapid increase in population and a business-friendly labour market allows workers to start production quicker and cheaper.

There are many Canadian business success stories, but still, jobs have been steadily moving overseas. How can we reverse this trend?

It’s tough but we can get them back. Why can’t the government give subsidiary wages to keep jobs locally? If there is some incentive, I am sure jobs will stay in Canada. If not, we end up on social assistance programs.

Globalization has its own ups and downs. The major benefactors are developing nations, due to low labour cost and tax breaks for foreign investors. They do have their own protectionist policies. China encourages only 50-50 partnership, thereby keeping the technology and investments local.

India does not allow foreign banks, supermarket chains or others to operate unless Indians have majority ownership. In contrast, Canada opens its doors wide to foreign companies to exploit our resources. Local immigrants have the knowledge of the competitive world. They can be an asset to fight back and win back our jobs.

Caterpillar Inc. closed its locomotive plant in London, Ont. The Electro-Motive Diesel plant ceased operations in February. Locally, Maple Leaf Foods is closing its Schneider’s meat plant in Kitchener. In contrast, the Sri Lankan government gives incentives for large foreign corporations but is very strict about accountability. If corporations do not perform well, it takes over the company and sells it to another. On the other hand, our taxpayers are always at the receiving end of a plant closure.

U.S. President Barack Obama is promoting American-made items, but we call him protectionist. Is he doing something different or are Canadians not willing to change course? Our governments should encourage businesses in Canada to keep their production at home. We have natural resources such as oil and gas. Rather than shipping it to the United States and China, we should refine it and create jobs.

In Waterloo Region, municipal governments should purchase and promote local products to set an example. Our community deserves a return from city officials for their tax money. Our cities have to create a plan to promote local jobs and local products. Even creating one or two jobs in the community would make a difference.

Lakshmi Sivakumar is a student at Cameron Heights Collegiate Institute in Kitchener.

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Is it worth it to expand trade with violators of human rights?

Recent global events have attracted attention because of the issues of trade and human rights.

Human rights have been challenged by authoritarian regimes. Some of these countries have poor records on human rights and do not hesitate to lock up innocent people if they feel their authority is being challenged. Their justice systems are full of political appointees, and justice for these countries’ own people is a pipe dream. Western countries turn a blind eye. India, the largest democracy in the world, does not even talk of human rights with its neighbours, believing that talking would jeopardize trade relationships.

A 40-year-old blind civil rights activist in China made recent headlines. Chen Guangchen escaped from house arrest and sought refuge at the U.S Embassy in Beijing. The Chinese government could not arrest him because he was technically on American soil. The conflict was later resolved by Beijing and Washington. Chen and his wife and children were granted visas to the U.S., where the activist plans to pursue studies at New York University. He and his family arrived in Newark, N.J., this past Saturday.

America’s trade relationship with China is more vital to the U.S. than to China. It is the U.S. that created the Chinese trade giant, and it is now playing second fiddle, with limited success.

China, with its population of 1.3 billion, its resources and its booming economy is a superpower. The Americans rely on China to help boost the U.S. economy. Hence, you scratch my back and I scratch yours works in China’s favour. In reality, China could do whatever it wants. It has power, money and resources. America has a population of more than 310 million people and is indebted to China. That’s where the comparisons begin and end.

In the rest of the world, Chinese influence is greater. The Chinese economically control Asian and African nations. A prime example is Sri Lanka, where millions of dollars have been loaned, along with the labour of Chinese workers, to help build infrastructure. Sri Lanka’s human rights abuses do not come into play at all. China has the tendency to shield abusers, even at the UN Human Rights Council.

Human rights went through a rough period during the administration of former U.S. president George W. Bush. His pronouncement that “you are with us or against us” made countries that violated human rights partners in the U.S. war on terrorism.

Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bahrain and Yemen, along with Israel and Egypt, started to apply the term “terrorist” to human rights defenders. Sri Lankan Tamils, who have been fighting against discrimination, were labelled as terrorists. Democratic voices and non-governmental organizations became the target of abuse. Trade became the tool of co-operation.

The Canada-Colombia free trade agreement, which came into effect last August, raises questions. Despite human rights abuses, corruption and a massive drug problem in Colombia, the Canadian government felt it was best to expand trade with that South American nation.

We have to figure out where to draw the line. Is it worth it to expand trade with violators of human rights? Are people’s rights more important than money?

These are questions governments have to ask. If Canada wants to trade with Colombia, for example, then we have to teach them human rights values before showing them the money.

Lakshmi Sivakumar is a student at Cameron Heights Collegiate Institute in Kitchener.

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Newcomers to Canada have a different take on the question of Quebec separatism

There are three groups of people who view Quebec separatism differently: English Canadians, French Canadians and new Canadians.

The first two groups have been debating the issue for some time. The last has joined the debate recently. (Another group I did not mention, Native Canadians, may be out of the picture on this issue, due to lack of political power.)

New Canadians bring in a new dimension to the discussion. They have the ability to personally relate to conflicts in their own country and those in Canada. And they certainly get confused with the issue of Quebec separatism. Why would people think of separation in a peaceful country? For them, when a comparison is made of their two worlds, the Quebec problem seems minor.

Let’s take a country like Sri Lanka, where ethnic conflict has been an issue since the 1950s. Tamil separatism started in a democratic way and ended up as an uprising against the state. In 2009, a brutal crackdown by the army brought an end to the rebels.

Sri Lanka paid a very high price, with 120,000 lives lost, and serious property and economic damage.

What made Tamil youths take up arms and seek separatism? I am told that Tamils faced a point system to enter universities, job discrimination in the civil service, communal riots, human rights violations and so on. These are some of the reasons they fled, many in rusted boats, for countries like Canada.

As Canadians, do we see any similarities between Canada and Sri Lanka? Do we give Quebecers a cause for separatism? Do non-Quebecers label Quebecers as terrorists because of different views? Well, I think we are on more of a political roller-coaster than a denial of justice.

Do Quebec separatists realize the benefits the rest of Canada have given them? Without the support of the rest of the provinces, an independent Quebec would find it difficult to survive. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it would be hard. Independent Quebecers would need to figure out how to build their own trade, create jobs, undertake currency negotiations and deal with immigration.

The international community would not agree to a free trade deal with a small province like Quebec, nor would the U.S. open its borders easily to an independent province.

Quebecers yearning for independence have to understand that some inside the province would move out, just like when Pakistan separated from India. Riots did follow and that relationship has been rocky ever since.

As Canadians, we are free to raise our voices. We can even criticize our prime minister. We cannot say the same of many other countries. Iran and Syria, for example, would lock you up, and you wouldn’t see the sun for the rest of your life.

That’s why newcomers to Canada view separatism from a different angle than other Canadians. They have seen the other side of the coin relating to justice and human rights violations.

It is naive for Canadians, and not just Quebecers, to think that separation would only bring minimal changes. To quote Indian nationalist leader Mahatma Gandhi: “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”

Canada is a peaceful country and Canadians should not take life for granted.

Lakshmi Sivakumar is a student at Cameron Heights Collegiate Institute in Kitchener.

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The multicultural arts scene reflects the diversity of Waterloo Region

Multicultural arts and culture rejuvenates Waterloo Region.

Over the years, artists have come from across the globe to reside in our communities to spread their knowledge, culture and arts. A good example is Isabel Cisterna, a popular artist from Chile and a local community leader.

You may not be aware of the challenges these individuals face to get their talent noticed or to compete for funding to grow.

Waterloo Region is one of the fastest growing and most diverse communities outside of Toronto. Arts and culture brings added life and fresh value to the community. From the outside, many won’t notice the preparation and determination that goes into cultural events. It takes a lot of work, and a lot of hurdling barriers, to get an event up and running.

Funding is an important element in the growth of art. In our region, new groups find it difficult to compete alongside well-established organizations such as the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony or Oktoberfest. Ethnic artists don’t have the network or the knowledge of how the system works, or have the clout to be part of the mainstream. A major disadvantage they face is lack of knowledge or ignorance of them on the part of approval agencies or the business community. And media networks will not pay much attention to these diverse groups. These challenges leave them to compete for crumbs rather than for the pie.

In our region, multicultural events are organized by volunteers or non-profit organizations that are independent and financially still in the early stages. Local governments and corporate sponsors restrict funding for diverse groups because of a lack of prior history or because they are growing entities. For them, multiculturalism is only part of their co-operative policy, unless they are the beneficiary.

Established arts organizations do get sponsors that allocate them a set amount of funds. Sounds easy? That’s only half the challenge. Artists also have to depend on public interest. Poor audience attendance due to inefficient marketing or lack of media sponsors means another continued struggle to attract funds.

Most diverse communities cater events to preserve and pass on their culture to the next generation. Unlike established groups who do it for leisure, they have a duty to preserve and nurture. They band together under a single umbrella to promote their culture or to raise funds for the public. A good example is the walkathon organized by the East Indian community, along with other organizations, for Grand River and Cambridge Memorial hospitals.

Newcomers to Canada keep their arts and culture alive through community spirit. For them, their young people are vulnerable to unwelcomed social pressures due to their new environment, and art is one of the tools used to divert attention away from those issues.

Even though our municipal leaders see funding as an expense, they fail to realize it is an investment in their community. Politicians think financing a structure or theatre is equal to that of supporting an artist. If we think in these terms, we will end up with empty seats.

Downtown Kitchener has the Tapestry festival and the K-W Multicultural Festival. The latter is very popular, due to its variety of ethnic food and entertainment. Then there is Latinfest, Tamil Cultural Nite, the South Asian cultural festival, Indian Mela, and Chinese New Year. They are very popular and capture people’s imagination.

The multicultural art scene is an important part of our community. It reflects the diversity of not only Waterloo Region but Canada itself. The world of art is at our door step, let’s enjoy it.

Lakshmi Sivakumar is a student at Cameron Heights Collegiate Institute in Kitchener.

 

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Indian and Sri Lankan Food festival

The indian food stall in kitchener

Food stall at the KW Multicultural festival in kitchener organised by Tamil Cultural Association of Waterloo Region

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Region of Waterloo Police Cricket Trophy

Waterloo Region Police Cricket

First-ever North American Police Cricket Championship, held Saturday May 26th at Waterloo Park, Waterloo, Ontario. The New York Police Department – NYPD, Toronto Police and Region of Waterloo Police participated in the 20/20 format tournament.  It was organised by Ontario Cricket Association.  The organisors hope to make an annual event.  Tamil Cultural Association of Waterloo Region extend free media & publicity for the event.

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Kitchener Waterloo Multicultural Festival – Indian & Sri Lankan food festival

44th Annual KW Multicultural festival.  Saturday, June 23rd 2012 at Victoria Park, Kitchener, Ontario. 

Time: 12.00 – 8.00pm  Admission Free. 

Srilankan Hoppers, Rolls, Spicy Chicken wings, Indian Samosa, Dosai, Vadai and much more.

Organised by Tamil Cultural Association of Waterloo Region and India Canada Association.

 

 

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Kitchener Waterloo Multicultural Festival – Indian & Sri Lankan food festival

Indian and Sri lankan food stall

kitchener waterloo festival at victoria Park, Kitchener

44th Annual KW Multicultural festival.  Saturday, June 23rd 2012 at Victoria Park, Kitchener, Ontario.

Time: 12.00 – 8.00pm  Admission Free.

Srilankan Hoppers, Rolls, Spicy Chicken wings, Indian Samosa, Dosai, Vadai and much more.

Supported by Tamil Cultural Association of Waterloo Region and India Canada Association.

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Kitchener Waterloo Multicultural Festival – Indian & Sri Lankan food festival

44th Annual KW Multicultural festival.  Saturday, June 23rd 2012 at Victoria Park, Kitchener, Ontario. 

Time: 12.00 – 8.00pm  Admission Free. 

Srilankan Hoppers, Rolls, Spicy Chicken wings, Indian Samosa, Dosai, Vadai and much more.

 

 

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