Cohen: A cheap and small-minded museum plan

Andrew Cohen on the parochial nature of Ottawa. All too true:

John Baird, the minister responsible for Ottawa, who speaks of its “treasured” institutions, sees the capital much as he does our historic diplomatic residences abroad, which the government is selling. Too expensive. Too extravagant.

Recently, Baird went to Washington with Mark Kristmanson, the new head of the National Capital Commission. Kristmanson is smart, innovative and full of terrific ideas, one of which is to illuminate Ottawa in a symphony of light.

If Baird looked around Washington, he would have seen how to remake a great capital where museums matter.In the last 15 years, Washington has renovated the American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery. It has built the National Museum of the American Indian and is building the National Museum of African-American History and Culture. It is re-imagining The Castle of the Smithsonian Institution.

But don’t stop there. Look at Baltimore, restoring its Museum of Art on its 100th anniversary. Or bankrupt Detroit, where they have saved the Detroit Institute of Arts. Or, Tacoma, Washington, where the art museum has been expanded.

Look at London, Paris, Tokyo, Rome and Berlin, where the German government, in particular, has sunk millions into a multi-year campaign to restore the treasures of Museum Island.

Ottawa? That would be presumptuous.

Cohen: A cheap and small-minded museum plan | Ottawa Citizen.

New Canadian immigrants spend 54% more time per day on mobile devices than the national average

Yahoo_Immigrant_JourneyInteresting:

Yahoo Canada has published the results of a study it conducted on mobile usage amongst “new Canadians” – immigrants who have come to Canada in the past five years. According to Yahoo Canada, new Canadians spent four hours per day on their mobile devices, which is 54% higher than the national average of 2.6 hours per day. New Canadians also happen to spend slightly timer per day on tablets as well 1.9 hours compared to 1.5.

New Canadian immigrants spend 54% more time per day on mobile devices than the national average | MobileSyrup.com.

Enhancing Creativity Through Multiculturalism

Some interesting research on creativity and multiculturalism from Singapore:

In one study, Professor Leung exposed European American undergraduates to one of these three conditions using a 45-minute multi-media slideshow:

  1. single culture through presenting pictures of items that depicted either the American culture e.g., the Statue of Liberty, a hamburger or the Chinese culture e.g., the Great Wall, hotpot dinner on each slide;
  2. dual cultures through presenting pictures of items that depicted American culture and pictures that depicted Chinese culture on each slide; and,
  3. fusion of cultures e.g., a picture of Starbucks’ mid-Autumn festival mooncakes.

She found that participants demonstrated better creative performance when exposed to dual cultures and fusion of cultures, compared to those who were exposed to a single culture. Their creative performance persisted five to seven days after initial exposure.

“Initially, I thought those who were exposed to the fusion culture would perform the best. But the tendency was that those who were exposed to two different cultures showed more creativity. Perhaps the exposure to separate cultures gave them the space to engage in cognitive juxtaposition of the ideas from the respective cultures. When they seek to actively compare and contrast the presented cultures, they delve deeper into the different cultural representations and receive more creative inspirations,” she says.

Another significant finding from her research was that while multicultural individuals tended to be more creative, other considerations had to be taken into account, such as how open and receptive an individual was to new experiences.

Enhancing Creativity Through Multiculturalism | Asian Scientist Magazine | Science, Technology and Medicine News Updates From Asia.

Ottawa Conference Addresses Key Citizenship Questions – New Canadian Media – NCM

Summary of the recent Canadian Race Relations Foundation symposium on citizenship:

The focus of the symposium was clearly on the meaning of Canadian citizenship and the role of Canadian identity in the context of immigrants and newcomers to Canada. This was discussed in several sessions, such as whether new Canadians were “importing conflict” from other regions into Canada, if multi-faith based organizations were impacting positively on greater co-existence between different communities, the role of the media in reflecting diversity, and most controversially, the role of religion, most notably Islam, and the rise of extremism in Canada.

Divisions were clearly etched in this latter discussion, where there was both a call for greater awareness raising and education among both adults and the youth on issues of extremism and racial discrimination, as well as accepting the reality of a changing global security scenario. Law enforcement agencies such as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police RCMP and provincial police forces have particularly been the focus of attention in trying to sensitize their officers in working with diverse and multi-faith communities in countering cases of radicalization.

From a psychological and human perspective, speakers suggested that violence should be seen as a function of human vulnerability and personal behaviour, rather than associated with a particular group or belief system. Almost all presenters belonging to various diverse communities had personal stories to share about their experiences in Canada with racial discrimination. However, it was clear that there is still far to go in bridging this divide.

The takeaway from the symposium was that change, especially positive change, takes time. For the 250,000 immigrants welcomed to Canada annually, the message from the government was one of integration.  But the message was not limited to only newcomers. Those born in Canada also need to be aware and understand the responsibilities associated with citizenship. For this, the work of both small community groups and large government organizations were considered to be equally important in creating a tolerant and secure Canada.

The panel I moderated, on the role Canadian values have in improving community resilience against extremism, certainly had a wide and diverse range of views from those who proposed cutting back immigration from certain countries to those focusing on social inclusion.

Ottawa Conference Addresses Key Citizenship Questions – New Canadian Media – NCM.

‘Comedy of errors’ lets woman become Canadian citizen despite abysmal results on citizenship tests

Well, mistakes can happen but this one shouldn’t have:

A “series of administrative errors” put Haheen Afzal — despite her abysmal results on the tests — before a citizenship judge in Hamilton, Ont., swearing an oath to the Queen and being issued a citizenship certificate.

When the mistake was discovered, Ms. Afzal did not want to surrender her citizenship and fought to keep it.

The errant ceremony took place on Sept. 26, 2013, but the legal dispute — leading to its cancellation — was only recently resolved in the Federal Court of Canada.

Ms. Afzal failed the citizenship test twice before being awarded a citizenship certificate: the first time she scored 2/6 on language and 8/20 on knowledge. When she appeared before a citizenship judge and tried again, she scored even worse.

The citizenship judge noted in writing that Ms. Afzal failed the tests and did not qualify but mistakenly checked the “Granted” box on the decision form, court heard.

The next day, an official at the Citizenship and Immigration Canada CIC office acknowledged that the judge’s decision had been “seen” and checked “Citizenship Granted” before sending the form along for processing.

Eventually, CIC’s decision to cancel her citizenship certificate was appropriately upheld by the Federal Court.

‘Comedy of errors’ lets woman become Canadian citizen despite abysmal results on citizenship tests

Immigrants took the brunt of recession-year turn toward self-employment

Self-EmploymentInteresting study by StatsCan on the effects of the 2008 recession and increase in self-employment:

During the recent recession in Canada, rates of self-employment increased by 3.9 per cent, while paid employment in both the private and public sectors shrank by 4.1 per cent and 1.6 per cent, respectively.

“Economic downturns do not impact all groups of workers equally. It is newcomers, particularly those recently arrived, who are more likely to lose their paid employment compared to Canadian-born workers,” says the 48-page study.

“These workers are often left to compete for low-paying, part-time and temporary types of precarious jobs to survive . . . Some workers are pushed into self-employment as a means to replace lost income from paid employment and due to the failure of government social safety nets.”

Toronto immigrants also fared worse than their Canadian counterparts in self-employment, with median income at $7,270 a year — $560 less than non-immigrants. They were also more likely to work in trade and transportation industries, while the business and professional services sectors are the most common for self-employed Canadians.

The newcomer group had a median before-tax total income including paid jobs of $17,220, compared with $25,180 for non-newcomers, though immigrant men made almost $1,000 per annum more than newcomer women.

Immigrants took the brunt of recession-year turn toward self-employment | Toronto Star.

Refugee advocates battle federal government over welfare

More on the Government’s decision to allow provinces to restrict access to refugee claimants to social assistance.

As usual, appears limited or no consultations with provinces, no evidence-base provided as justification, and buried in the omnibus budget bill to avoid Parliamentary scrutiny and debate:

Ontario says it won’t go along with a proposed federal bill that refugee groups fear could severely restrict their clients’ access to welfare during their first months in Canada.

“We have no intention to change our policy as it relates to refugee claimants at all,” Community and Social Services Minister Helena Jaczek said in an interview Tuesday.

She was referring to the ongoing fight is over provisions in Bill C-43 an omnibus budgetary bill. Refugee groups say the proposals will allow provinces to restrict access to social assistance for refugee claimants and others who have not yet been granted permanent residence.

“We were not consulted. There was no communication from the federal government alerting us. We were very surprised,” Jaczek said of the omnibus bill.

“It’s sort of a downloading to the province to make a decision.”

On Tuesday the Canadian Council for Refugees joined 160 groups across Canada to release an open letter to federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver to withdraw the proposals, and a small group demonstrated in front of his constituency office in Toronto and delivered the letter through the mail slot.

“To receive social assistance in any province, one must already qualify through testing and demonstrate great need. To then deny social assistance based on immigration status is to cruelly deny the most vulnerable in our society the crucial lifeline that allows them to survive,’’ the groups say in the letter.

Refugee advocates battle federal government over welfare | Toronto Star.

EI rate cut: Ottawa skipped internal study in favour of interest group report

One sometimes wonder how Minister’s can say such things with a straight face, or whether they have any appreciation for more comprehensive analysis of policy options.

It is one thing to make a policy choice where political and other priorities play a role, but relying on the analysis of one interest group without a more independent assessment (that’s the public service role) is irresponsible.

No policy change should be done without such analysis. Abdication of Ministerial role.

And of course, the Government would not implement a policy suggestion from those on the left without conducting serious analysis:

Joe Oliver told the parliamentary finance committee that Ottawas decision to introduce the measure was based on the research of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

“The department does not analyze every measure that we introduce,” Oliver told the hearing as he responded to a question.

“If we don’t do it, we look to those who have expertise and we did in this case to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.”

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business estimated the credit would generate 25,000 person-years of employment over the next several years.

A job that employs a worker for one year amounts to one “person-year.”

But Canada’s parliamentary budget office has argued the credit will create only 800 net new jobs in 2015-16, while a freeze in employment insurance premiums could cost the economy 10,000 jobs over the same period.

The budget watchdogs study said that overall, the credit would create about 1,000 “person-years” of employment with a price tag of $555,000 for each person-year.

EI rate cut: Ottawa skipped internal study in favour of interest group report – Politics – CBC News.

Holocaust memorial should be returned to its rightful home

Op-Ed by Bernie Farber and myself on the Daniel Libeskind memorial of Jewish refugees on the MS St. Louis not admitted to Canada prior to the outbreak of World War II:

The Wheel of Conscience serves as a reminder, in today’s troubled times, of the need for a more understanding and welcoming approach to refugees, whether we’re talking about the millions displaced in the Mideast or the refugee claimants fighting for health-care access here in Canada. And it serves as a reminder, too, of the terrible cost of the opposite approach.

Treating the Wheel as so much junk packed away in a dark warehouse for no one to see is a disgrace. Canadian Holocaust survivors have stated their desire to have the memorial at Pier 21 where it properly deserves to be.

It is time for the federal government under whose auspices Pier 21 operates to take action.

The Wheel of Conscience belongs at the gateway to Canada, where it can stand as a canary in the mine, a cry against inhumanity and intolerance. Let it no longer be a refugee, let it be granted its proper home.

http://t.thestar.com/#/article/opinion/commentary/2014/11/18/holocaust_memorial_should_be_returned_to_its_rightful_home.html

Leonard Cohen and the Art of Stillness: Pico Iyer on How to Fall in Love with the World | Brain Pickings

For a change.

Some good observations about stepping back from the world in order to understand it:

Not many years ago, it was access to information and movement that seemed our greatest luxury; nowadays it’s often freedom from information, the chance to sit still, that feels like the ultimate prize. Stillness is not just an indulgence for those with enough resources — it’s a necessity for anyone who wishes to gather less visible resources. Going nowhere, as Cohen had shown me, is not about austerity so much as about coming closer to one’s senses.

…Going nowhere … isn’t about turning your back on the world; it’s about stepping away now and then so that you can see the world more clearly and love it more deeply.

Leonard Cohen and the Art of Stillness: Pico Iyer on How to Fall in Love with the World | Brain Pickings.

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