A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘tamils

[URBAN NOTE] Five Toronto links: Kanagaratnam, Bloordale, Bloor and Dundas, Etobicoke, Bloor West

  • Fatima Syed and Wendy Gillis tell the story of Kirushnakumar Kanagaratnam, a Sri Lankan Tamil whose failed application for refugee status in Canada after travelling on the MV Sun Sea led directly to his death at the hands of McArthur. The Toronto Star has it.
  • The developer hoping to transform the southwest corner of Bloor and Dufferin has opted to redesign the development following community criticism. CBC reports.
  • The sheer scale of the planned development on the southeast corner of Bloor Street West and Dundas Street West is such that a new neighbourhood would come into being. Wow. The Toronto Star has it.
  • The plan for SmartTrack would leave the residents of an Etobicoke development next to a GO rail yard subject to terrible levels of noise and air pollution. The Toronto Star reports.
  • Is Bloor Street West going to become the next Yonge Street, an uninterrupted string of high-density development? Not without differences, at least. The Toronto Star looks at the issue.

[URBAN NOTE] Five Toronto links: Skandaraj Navaratnam, Yonge Street, K-Pop, King Street, Kazenelson

  • This Fatima Syed interview with Navaseelan Navaratnam, brother of suspected McArthur victim Skandaraj Navaratnam missing since 2010, is terribly sad. The Toronto Star has it.
  • While it may be too late for Eliot’s Bookshop, I do hope that Toronto City Council can arrange some kind of functional tax arrangement for the businesses which survive on Yonge. The Toronto Star reports.
  • blogTO notes how a stray tweet from Toronto Hits 93 started an Internet flamewar between fans of two different K-Pop boy bands.
  • Ben Spurr notes how some transit advocates have decided to help out King Street by eating at area restaurants, over</u at the Toronto Star.
  • Global News reports on how the Ontario Supreme Court has upheld the conviction of Vadim Kazenelson on charges of criminal negligence stemming from an incident where four workers he was supervising died in a scaffolding collapse.

[NEWS] Four migration links: American tourism, Canadian farm workers, Indian sculptors, deportees

  • Justin Bachman at Bloomberg notes how a tourism industry group in the United States is urging policy changes that might reverse a recent fall in incoming tourist numbers to that country.
  • Over at MacLean’s, Donald MacLean Wells and Janet McLaughlin look at the exploitation of migrant farm labourers in Canada.
  • CBC reports on allegations that skilled Tamil sculptors from India were exploited and cheated out of a wage by their Toronto employers, Sridurka Hindu Temple.
  • Inter Press Service reports on the plight of some deportees from the United States to Cambodia, people who came over as children but never acquired American citizenship and so were eligible for deportation if convicted of crimes.

[LINK] “Sri Lanka’s Minorities Choose “Unknown Angel” Over “Known Devil””

Kanya D’Almeida’s Inter Press Service report on the demographics of voters in the recent Sri Lankan electorate suggest that turnout among minorities, including Tamils, was key.

It seemed close at first, with the bulk of the Sinhalase masses in the southern and central districts of Hambantota and Ratnapura polling in favour of [President Mahinda] Rajapaksa and his United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA).

But when newscasters began reading out the final tally of votes from the Tamil and Muslim-majority Northern and Eastern Provinces, it became clear that this was no repeat of the 2010 presidential race.

Symbolised by a swan, the ‘rainbow coalition’ National Democratic Front (NDF) swept the 12 electoral divisions in the northern Jaffna district with 253,574 votes, roughly 74.42 percent of the largely Tamil electorate.

The Tamil-majority northern Vanni district saw a landslide win for the NDF, with majority votes in the Mannar, Mullaitivu and Vavuniya polling divisions bringing in 78.47 percent of that region’s total ballots, while the eastern Batticaloa district also voted overwhelmingly in favour of the opposition, bringing Sirisena 81.62 percent of the total.

[. . .]

“This year the Tamil people seemed to have taken an oath for change,” said Dr. Jeyasingham, a senior lecturer at the Eastern University of Sri Lanka in Batticaloa. “People in the North and East voted early – always a sign that change is in the air.

“Today, one thing is clear,” he told IPS, “and that is: minority votes decided this president. Tamils and Muslims [who account for 15 and nine percent of the population, respectively] are an important part of this democratic system and they had enough grievances to vote against the existing government.”

Written by Randy McDonald

January 15, 2015 at 10:53 pm

[BRIEF NOTE] On the Rathika Sitsabaiesan affair

The CBC has shared a Canadian Press article reporting on the troubles faced by Rathika Sitsabaiesan. The NDP MP representing the Toronto riding of Scarborough-Rouge River, herself of Tamil background and representing the Canadian electoral riding with the highest proportion of Tamils and of Tamil mother-tongue speakers, encountered some problems, with some news reports suggesting she was arrested. This, the Sri Lankan government has said, is not the case, if anything disinformation on her part.

Earlier this month, Rathika Sitsabaiesan said in a brief statement she was warned by Sri Lankan officials during her private visit that she could be arrested and deported.

At the time, fellow New Democrat MP Paul Dewar said after speaking to Sitsabaiesan — a Sri Lankan native of Tamil heritage — that his caucus colleague had been followed and closely monitored by authorities from the moment she arrived.

[. . .]

The Sri Lanka High Commission said Wednesday that Sitsabaiesan was on a tourist visa and had been advised not to engage in political activities that would amount to flouting Sri Lanka’s immigration laws and regulations.

It said Sri Lankan authorities handled the issue in a responsible manner, adding that Sitsabaiesan’s allegation she was subject to “political intimidation” is erroneous and an attempt to unfairly embarrass the government.

Sitsabaiesan, 32, came to Canada with her family at the age of five and was elected to the House of Commons in 2011 in the Toronto-area riding of Scarborough-Rouge River.

She played a key role in New Democrat efforts to persuade the Conservative government to boycott a meeting of Commonwealth leaders in Sri Lanka last November. Prime Minister Stephen Harper did not attend, citing the Sri Lankan government’s human-rights record. However, Deepak Obhrai, a parliamentary secretary, did represent Canada at the Colombo meeting.

The New Democrats and others have called for Sri Lanka to submit to an investigation of alleged war crimes during the lengthy civil conflict between the military and Tamil insurgents seeking an independent homeland.

[. . .]

In its statement, the Sri Lanka High Commission said Sitsabaiesan’s accusation against the government “could be indicative of her seeking to engage in political activity, and being unable to do so in the interest of abiding by Sri Lanka’s immigration laws and regulations, seems to have been interpreted by her as political intimidation.”

The high commission also seized on her reference to defending principles of human rights, saying it “further demonstrates a self-appointed role to pass judgment baselessly on a sovereign state.”

I’ve written a fair bit about Tamils, mainly Sri Lankan in origin and mainly in their diasporas (and mainly the Canadian one). While it is true that much Tamil activity in Canada has been directed by terrorist organizations like the Tigers, on the patterns of other diasporas, this is not the case universally. There is certainly no reason to think Sitsabaiesan is herself an agent of the Tigers or anyone but herself and her riding. The increasing repression of Sri Lanka, meanwhile, targeted against Tamils and Sinhalese in opposition alike, has been amply documented and recognized by multiple foreign governments. (That many of these countries–the United Kingdom, for instance–also have large and vocal Tamil communities does not in itself mean that it does not happen. At most, it gives the push to recognize Sri Lankan authoritarianism added heft.)

I’m glad Sitsabaiesan is back in Canada. I don’t think that her visit, personal or not, will do much other than underline to Canadians the nature of post-civil war Sri Lanka. I am curious as to its potential effect on the NDP’s strength in the area: will it give the party added credibility or detract?

Written by Randy McDonald

January 10, 2014 at 1:52 am

[URBAN NOTE] “Deportation used to counter growth of Afghan street gang in Toronto”

The National Post‘s Stewart Bell wrote about the growth of Afghan street gangs in northern Toronto, and about the tactic of deportation against non-Canadian nationals used by the Canadian government to discourage the growth of these gangs. Apparently deportation has been used against Tamil gangs in Toronto, Haitian gangs in Montréal, and Honduran gangs in Vancouver.

I’m somewhat disturbed by this. Leaving aside the ethical question of whether it is just to deporting people who grew up in Canada to their country of birth–especially, I’m tempted to say, if that country of birth is Afghanistan is somewhere similarly benighted–this tactic by itself doesn’t tackle issues of social integration that apparently lead to crime.

Afghan For Life and its more violent-sounding offshoot, Afghan Fighting Generation, emerged partly in Toronto’s Thorncliffe Park neighbourhood, a hub of Canada’s fast-growing Afghan population. Police and immigration enforcement officers have now launched deportation proceedings against several alleged members, including [Farhad Abdul] Fatah, a 28-year-old Russian-speaking Afghan from Thorncliffe Park.

Since 2002, more than 23,000 Afghans have become permanent residents of Canada. Gang members began tagging Afghan neighbourhoods with Afghan For Life (AFL or A4L) and Afghan Fighting Generation (AFG) symbols a decade ago.

[. . .]

Jehad Aliweiwi, executive director of the Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office, a local social agency, said gangs were not a significant problem in the area, although he had seen AFL graffiti in the past. “When I used to walk a little bit around the park you will see ‘Afghan’ or ‘Afghan For Life.’ And young kids in our youth centre, we have a lot of Afghan kids,” he said.

But he said he was less worried about gangs than the high drop-out rate among Afghan boys. “That said, I think there is a lot of affinity with a group like the Afghan For Life for maybe social and belonging reasons, Afghan pride and all that,” he said. “I think it’s a new community that’s trying to find its place in here. It’s part of a struggle of integration.”

Written by Randy McDonald

March 26, 2013 at 7:12 pm

[BRIEF NOTE] On possible organized electoral fraud among Tamil Canadians in Scarborough

The robocalling scandal has managed to produce allegations of systematic fraud in the riding of Scarborough—Rouge River in northeasternmost Toronto (the former Scarborough).

A CBC News investigation has uncovered allegations of electoral fraud concentrated in the Tamil community in the east Toronto riding of Scarborough – Rouge River.

The allegations, which span both the federal and provincial ridings, centre largely on what appears to be a lack of oversight surrounding election-day additions to the official voters list.

Only Canadian citizens are legally allowed to vote in Canadian federal and provincial elections, and even people whose names are on the voters list must provide identification before they vote. In a federal election, a person who shows up at a polling station without ID can get a fellow constituent to vouch for them. In Ontario elections, voters without ID are asked to sign a form verifying they live in the riding.

It’s this polling-station process that lacks the most basic oversight, say candidates who spoke to CBC News. And the lack of oversight allows voters to illegally cast ballots in a practice the candidates say was common in Scarborough – Rouge River during last May’s federal election and in October’s provincial election.

Marlene Gallyot, a federal Conservative candidate who lost to the NDP’s Rathika Sitsabaiesan, has complained to Elections Canada, alleging ineligible voters “by the dozens” turned up on voting day and filed ballots illegally.

“They came with a Future Shop bill,” she told CBC News. “They came in with a Canadian Tire bill. They were coming in without proper identification.”

Gallyot alleges that despite lacking the required ID, voters were still allowed to cast their ballots.

She also said scrutineers — party volunteers who oversee voting on behalf of candidates — were approaching voters at polling stations, speaking to them in Tamil and coaching them on who to vote for. Gallyot overheard such coaching inside and outside a polling station she was allowed to visit as an “observer,” she said.

Gallyot was born in India but speaks Tamil as a second language. She told CBC she tried to put a stop to the alleged vote-coaching when she saw it but could not prevent it from happening at other polling stations.

“When they got to know that I could speak and understand Tamil, they were shocked, at least to some degree I was able to control it but there were too many polling stations.”

Yes, the allegations may have been made by a Conservative candidate, but I find them at least superficially credible. One reason is that they echo complaints made by the local Liberal representative in the Ontario Provincial Parliament, whose provincial riding shares the same name and boundaries as the federal riding in question.

MPP Bas Balkissoon has complained to Elections Ontario alleging widespread voting irregularities in his Scarborough-Rouge River riding, including thousands of names being “improperly’’ added to the voters list.

“People are getting on the list and I’m not sure they’re living here,’’ Balkissoon said.

In two submissions to Elections Ontario totalling 25 pages, Balkissoon, a longtime provincial incumbent, says that between the last municipal election in October 2010 and the last federal election in May 2011 about 8,000 persons were added to the voters list, but only 3,000 names were removed, “a very large net gain of 5,000 voters.’’

He also claims that in the provincial election, 20 to 30 people showed up registering to vote as additions to the list, claiming they lived at 80 Alton Towers, a highrise in the riding.

“Most (of the voters) could not offer evidence of current residence, and declined to show the place of prior residence, but they did complete the statutory declaration,’’ and voted, Balkissoon’s submission reads.

He became aware of the problems after Namu Ponnambalam, a losing candidate in the last municipal vote, approached him before the provincial election, and showed him the municipal voters list.

Balkissoon and Ponnambalam believe thousands of names added to the list are either people without citizenship or have never lived in the ward.

Another reason is that this sort of centrally directed political campaign is common. I’ve blogged extensively about the substantial Tamil Canadian community of Toronto–concentrated in areas like Scarborough. Most Tamil Canadians do not come from India’s large and stable state of Tamil Nadu, but rather from the much smaller and more embattled Tamil minority in Sri Lanka, the first major waves of Tamil immigrants to Canada coming in the 1980s at the beginning of the country’s civil war. The Tamil Tigers have traditionally controlled Sri Lankan Tamil communities, a 2006 report observing that Tamils in the diaspora were shaken down for money by Tiger front organizations, these front organizations exerting significant influence elsewhere, representing themselves as legitimate representatives of the diaspora community and organizing political protests. In 2009, as the Tamil Tigers were being crushed by the Sri Lankan military, significant high-profile protests appeared throughout Toronto–I photographed one myself.

Is it outside the realm of possibility that organizations associated with the Tamil Tigers might be perpetuating electoral fraud in areas with large Tamil concentrations to try to ensure the election of relatively friendly candidates? Notwithstanding the emergence of this complaint in the context of robocalling, I don’t find it at all implausible given past events. The coaching/intimidation of potential voters conducted in the Tamil language–spoken by very few non-Tamils in Toronto–fits. An investigation is clearly in order.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 15, 2012 at 12:04 am

[BRIEF NOTE] On possible organized electoral fraud among Tamil Canadians in Scarborough

The robocalling scandal has managed to produce allegations of systematic fraud in the riding of Scarborough—Rouge River in northeasternmost Toronto (the former Scarborough).

A CBC News investigation has uncovered allegations of electoral fraud concentrated in the Tamil community in the east Toronto riding of Scarborough – Rouge River.

The allegations, which span both the federal and provincial ridings, centre largely on what appears to be a lack of oversight surrounding election-day additions to the official voters list.

Only Canadian citizens are legally allowed to vote in Canadian federal and provincial elections, and even people whose names are on the voters list must provide identification before they vote. In a federal election, a person who shows up at a polling station without ID can get a fellow constituent to vouch for them. In Ontario elections, voters without ID are asked to sign a form verifying they live in the riding.

It’s this polling-station process that lacks the most basic oversight, say candidates who spoke to CBC News. And the lack of oversight allows voters to illegally cast ballots in a practice the candidates say was common in Scarborough – Rouge River during last May’s federal election and in October’s provincial election.

Marlene Gallyot, a federal Conservative candidate who lost to the NDP’s Rathika Sitsabaiesan, has complained to Elections Canada, alleging ineligible voters “by the dozens” turned up on voting day and filed ballots illegally.

“They came with a Future Shop bill,” she told CBC News. “They came in with a Canadian Tire bill. They were coming in without proper identification.”

Gallyot alleges that despite lacking the required ID, voters were still allowed to cast their ballots.

She also said scrutineers — party volunteers who oversee voting on behalf of candidates — were approaching voters at polling stations, speaking to them in Tamil and coaching them on who to vote for. Gallyot overheard such coaching inside and outside a polling station she was allowed to visit as an “observer,” she said.

Gallyot was born in India but speaks Tamil as a second language. She told CBC she tried to put a stop to the alleged vote-coaching when she saw it but could not prevent it from happening at other polling stations.

“When they got to know that I could speak and understand Tamil, they were shocked, at least to some degree I was able to control it but there were too many polling stations.”

Yes, the allegations may have been made by a Conservative candidate, but I find them at least superficially credible. One reason is that they echo complaints made by the local Liberal representative in the Ontario Provincial Parliament, whose provincial riding shares the same name and boundaries as the federal riding in question.

MPP Bas Balkissoon has complained to Elections Ontario alleging widespread voting irregularities in his Scarborough-Rouge River riding, including thousands of names being “improperly’’ added to the voters list.

“People are getting on the list and I’m not sure they’re living here,’’ Balkissoon said.

In two submissions to Elections Ontario totalling 25 pages, Balkissoon, a longtime provincial incumbent, says that between the last municipal election in October 2010 and the last federal election in May 2011 about 8,000 persons were added to the voters list, but only 3,000 names were removed, “a very large net gain of 5,000 voters.’’

He also claims that in the provincial election, 20 to 30 people showed up registering to vote as additions to the list, claiming they lived at 80 Alton Towers, a highrise in the riding.

“Most (of the voters) could not offer evidence of current residence, and declined to show the place of prior residence, but they did complete the statutory declaration,’’ and voted, Balkissoon’s submission reads.

He became aware of the problems after Namu Ponnambalam, a losing candidate in the last municipal vote, approached him before the provincial election, and showed him the municipal voters list.

Balkissoon and Ponnambalam believe thousands of names added to the list are either people without citizenship or have never lived in the ward.

Another reason is that this sort of centrally directed political campaign is common. I’ve blogged extensively about the substantial Tamil Canadian community of Toronto–concentrated in areas like Scarborough. Most Tamil Canadians do not come from India’s large and stable state of Tamil Nadu, but rather from the much smaller and more embattled Tamil minority in Sri Lanka, the first major waves of Tamil immigrants to Canada coming in the 1980s at the beginning of the country’s civil war. The Tamil Tigers have traditionally controlled Sri Lankan Tamil communities, a 2006 report observing that Tamils in the diaspora were shaken down for money by Tiger front organizations, these front organizations exerting significant influence elsewhere, representing themselves as legitimate representatives of the diaspora community and organizing political protests. In 2009, as the Tamil Tigers were being crushed by the Sri Lankan military, significant high-profile protests appeared throughout Toronto–I photographed one myself.

Is it outside the realm of possibility that organizations associated with the Tamil Tigers might be perpetuating electoral fraud in areas with large Tamil concentrations to try to ensure the election of relatively friendly candidates? Notwithstanding the emergence of this complaint in the context of robocalling, I don’t find it at all implausible given past events. The coaching/intimidation of potential voters conducted in the Tamil language–spoken by very few non-Tamils in Toronto–fits. An investigation is clearly in order.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 14, 2012 at 8:04 pm

[BRIEF NOTE] On the fuzziness of diasporas

Over at the Times of India, Ashley D’Mello’s article “Without Hong Kong and Taiwan, Chinese diaspora smaller than Indian” introduces the reader to the fuzziness of the concept of diasporas. The two largest Asian diasporas are China’s Overseas Chinese versus India’s Non-resident Indian and Person of Indian Origin, but which is larger?

Though China boasts of a diaspora population of 35 million, and India’s figure stands at 27 million, the Chinese figure also includes Hong Kong and Taiwan. Secretary for overseas Indian affairs, Alwyn Didar Singh, points out that without Hong Kong and Taiwan, the Chinese diaspora figures would be lower than that of India. In fact, NRIs said, if India were to calculate figures the way China did, it would have to include the diaspora of Pakistan and Bangladesh in its figures.

This is problematic. Including Taiwan and Hong Kong as Overseas Chinese communities is–frankly–silly inasmuch as these are territories which are, respectively, autonomous under Beijing’s rule or continuing to identify with the Chinese state. But Wikipedia’s quick and dirty numbers suggest that there are in fact forty million Overseas Chinese versus more than thirty million Non-resident Indians. What are the boundaries of the Indian diaspora, though?

Didar Singh said that while Pakistan and Bangladesh were once part of India and are of the same ethnic stock, they are now independent countries so their figures can’t be taken into account. So while India and China are sometimes compared in the case of economic growth, experts feel the Chinese figure can be lowered by 1% as they have their own peculiar style of calculating statistics.

But any number of people do take migrants of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin into stock, arguing that the recency of British India’s partition and the origins of many of the largest Indian communities before the partition makes a broader South Asian diaspora including Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, and other South Asians a more relevant category. Google does return 1.21 million hits for “Indian diaspora” versus 217 thousand for “South Asian diaspora”; but 217 thousand hits is not nothing.

Too, both the Indian and Chinese diasporas break down into multiple subdiasporas, India’s Tamil diaspora (and the related Sri Lankan), for instance, or China’s diaspora from Fujian province. Might these subdiasporas, specifically rooted in particular geographies and cultures and languages, be more relevant than broad overarching communities that are so broad as to risk losing meaning?

And then, there’s the question of assimilation. The largest Overseas Chinese community is identified as living in Thailand, with more than ten million people, but–from what I know–Thailand’s Overseas Chinese population is highly assimilated. Does it make sense to include these people as meaningfully Overseas Chinese?

Ah, fuzzy demographic categories: what would we do without them?

Written by Randy McDonald

August 1, 2011 at 3:57 pm

[BRIEF NOTE] On the fuzziness of diasporas

Over at the Times of India, Ashley D’Mello’s article “Without Hong Kong and Taiwan, Chinese diaspora smaller than Indian” introduces the reader to the fuzziness of the concept of diasporas. The two largest Asian diasporas are China’s Overseas Chinese versus India’s Non-resident Indian and Person of Indian Origin, but which is larger?

Though China boasts of a diaspora population of 35 million, and India’s figure stands at 27 million, the Chinese figure also includes Hong Kong and Taiwan. Secretary for overseas Indian affairs, Alwyn Didar Singh, points out that without Hong Kong and Taiwan, the Chinese diaspora figures would be lower than that of India. In fact, NRIs said, if India were to calculate figures the way China did, it would have to include the diaspora of Pakistan and Bangladesh in its figures.

This is problematic. Including Taiwan and Hong Kong as Overseas Chinese communities is–frankly–silly inasmuch as these are territories which are, respectively, autonomous under Beijing’s rule or continuing to identify with the Chinese state. But Wikipedia’s quick and dirty numbers suggest that there are in fact forty million Overseas Chinese versus more than thirty million Non-resident Indians. What are the boundaries of the Indian diaspora, though?

Didar Singh said that while Pakistan and Bangladesh were once part of India and are of the same ethnic stock, they are now independent countries so their figures can’t be taken into account. So while India and China are sometimes compared in the case of economic growth, experts feel the Chinese figure can be lowered by 1% as they have their own peculiar style of calculating statistics.

But any number of people do take migrants of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin into stock, arguing that the recency of British India’s partition and the origins of many of the largest Indian communities before the partition makes a broader South Asian diaspora including Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, and other South Asians a more relevant category. Google does return 1.21 million hits for “Indian diaspora” versus 217 thousand for “South Asian diaspora”; but 217 thousand hits is not nothing.

Too, both the Indian and Chinese diasporas break down into multiple subdiasporas, India’s Tamil diaspora (and the related Sri Lankan), for instance, or China’s diaspora from Fujian province. Might these subdiasporas, specifically rooted in particular geographies and cultures and languages, be more relevant than broad overarching communities that are so broad as to risk losing meaning?

And then, there’s the question of assimilation. The largest Overseas Chinese community is identified as living in Thailand, with more than ten million people, but–from what I know–Thailand’s Overseas Chinese population is highly assimilated. Does it make sense to include these people as meaningfully Overseas Chinese?

Ah, fuzzy demographic categories: what would we do without them?

Written by Randy McDonald

August 1, 2011 at 11:57 am