Category Archives: Published Articles by Tung

Getting notice may or may not be a good thing

I felt flattered when I received a request from Oxford University Press Canada for permission to include my article “Social disconnect leads to ethnic enclaves” (2013, October 16, The Province) in an upcoming e-book. My ego was deflated when I found out the book, entitled: Skill Set with Grammar, was about the better usage of English grammar. My article will be included in the section containing samples of articles for readers to practice how to spot and correct improper use of grammar.

As a matter of fact, feelings of hurt, humiliation, and resentment ran through my mind. My initial reaction was to reject the request. Why do I want my article to be held out as an example of poor use of English Grammar? After all, English has been my working language for almost 40 years. Besides, the article was published by a respectable English newspaper whose editor had gone over the article and corrected any mistakes deemed unacceptable. So if there were any bad choice of grammar, I am not the only person responsible.

I then thought of the so call Donald Trump theory of publicity: it does not matter if it is good or bad publicity as long as your name gets mentioned in the media. So with that in mind, I negotiated a very nominal honorarium and gave my permission.

But the real point of all of this, I thought, is how important it is to master correct usage of English grammar. I grew up speaking Chinese. I can read and write in either the classical or the contemporary style Chinese with ease. The difference between the two is almost like Victorian English used by Shakespeare and current day English used by Margaret Atwood. However, people who are fluent in Chinese in its written form know that the Chinese language has a vastly different grammatical structure than English. The Chinese language does not have tenses. It uses reflective adjectives to describe time. Verbs are not modified according to whether the subject it attached to is singular or plural.

Just to make things more complicated, there are many exceptions to the rules in English grammar! So you can imagine how difficult it is for someone like me to try to master English grammar.

But throughout my career, I have seen how native speakers, particularly those who has a degree majoring in English tend to look down upon or discount the ideas of people who wrote with improper grammar. To these people, inability to master English grammar is tantamount to weak logical skills and even low IQ. So instead of trying to understand and appreciate the idea being presented, these folks would just put the paper aside and ignore the ideas no matter how worthy of consideration it may be.

This is a terrible waste of talent and human resources because we do live in a multicultural and multilingual environment. There are many people, me included, who, no matter how hard they tried, will have difficulty in achieving perfect use of grammar. You would have likely noticed several grammatical mistakes in this article so far! But to discount what I have to say in this article because of my grammatical mistakes would be to deny the existence of another side of issue.

There are two ways to remedy the situation. The first is to publish books such as the Oxford University Press of Canada is publishing to help people to master English Grammar. The second, I think is more important from my personal experience, is for native English speakers to tune down their cultural superiority. They need to remove from their mind the notion that the ability for correct grammar usage is an indication of mental capacity. What matter is the substance and not the expression of the idea.

At the end of the day, my article still gets noticed and I am glad I will contribute to the improvement of people’s grammatical skills. And the best of them all, I now have the bragging right of having one of my articles published by the Oxford University Press of Canada.

Do you have a Chinese Name

The Federal election season is fast approaching. The BC civic election was a mere three months ago. Every aspiring federal politicians will try to vie for the attention of every eligible voter. With so many residents speaking Chinese in the Lower Mainland and Greater Toronto, getting their attention in their own language seems to be a good thing for politicians to do.

The Chinese language media is a force of their own. If you have attended any political media conferences lately, you will notice the number of reporters representing Chinese language media organizations out number the English language media outlets. They are diligent and report news almost verbatim from what was said and what was in the press kit.

They will, for the benefit of their consumers, translate the English proper names into Chinese. If a Chinese name was not provided, each news outlet will make up a phonetically translated name base on the mother tongue of the translator.

A case in point is how NPA’s Vancouver mayoral Candidate Kirk LaPointe’s name appeared in various Chinese newspapers when he first announced his candidacy. You don’t need to know how to read Chinese to see that they all look different: Ming Pao Daily (明報): “拉波特”; Singtao Daily (星島日報): “拉波因特”, World Journal (世界日報): “拉龐特”; Dawa Commercial Press (大華商報): “凱克.拉波特” Together, this four dailies have a daily circulation in the low six figures and reach about one in five Chinese-Canadians in the Lower Mainland.

Can you imagine what kind of a nightmare it would be if you try to promote yourself as a politician to the Chinese-Canadian readers of these four newspapers? Mr. LaPointe’s team soon caught on and issued an official Chinese name for him: 賴普德.

But how does one come up with a Chinese name?

There are generally four ways to generate a Chinese name from English. They are i) literal translation, ii) pure phonetic translation, iii) beautified phonetic translation, iv) trans-creation.

The first method, literal translation, is the most simple. This method of name creation is more applicable for organizations where their name has a meaning and less useful for individuals whose names usually carry no meaning. This method is particularly appropriate when the name has a positive connotation in Chinese. For example, the Royal Bank’s name in Chinese is 皇家銀行 which literally means Royal Bank. This method may not be as appropriate if the translated name is not so positive in the target market. For example, Volkswagen could be translated into 大眾汽車. The name was not used because “common people’s automobile” may not be the image it wants to project to the Hong Kong Chinese consumers. So it calls itself in Hong Kong 福士, a name translated using the pure phonetic translation method that means “good fortune person”. (Volkswagen uses 大眾汽車 in Mainland China as the name is more acceptable in that market.)

The second method, pure phonetic translation, is a standard translation method used by official news outlets in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. The aforementioned Chinese names for Mr. LaPointe used by the four local Chinese language outlets are generated based on this method. But because the same Chinese character are pronounced differently in Cantonese (used mainly in Hong Kong) and Mandarin (used in China and Taiwan), the same English name is assigned different Chinese characters depending on the language spoken by the translator. To understand how this works, imagine how the numeric symbols 1, 2, 3, etc. are pronounced differently by English, French and German speakers even though the symbols are the same.

I still remember when I was a youngster living in Hong Kong, I was confused when reading news about the US. I was confused because US President Kennedy was known as 甘迺迪 in the Hongkong based newspapers and 肯尼迪 in the Mainland China based newspapers. For a while, I mistakenly thought the US has two presidents!

This method of translation is not very helpful if your aim is to create a memorable name in the minds of Chinese speaking consumers. Our mind is set up to learn by association. It is difficult for Chinese speakers to associate a pure phonetically translated name to something in their memory bank. To understand this point, see if you can register the name “Tung Yun Tong” in your mind. The name is just three meaningless sounds that you would have a hard time to visualize. However, to most Canadians who speaks Chinese, 同仁堂 is a well known, respected and established traditional Chinese herbal store. It is with this understanding in mind that the Bank of Nova Scotia stopped some years ago from using 士高沙 (a pure phonetic translation of the word Scotia) as their official Chinese name.

The third method, beautified phonetic translation, is the most commonly used method. This is a modified approach of the pure phonetic translation method. The starting point of this method is the phonetic pronunciation of the name followed by choosing culturally meaningful homonyms. The official Chinese name for the aforementioned Mr. LaPointe, 賴普德 was arrived at by such a method. The three Chinese characters are pronounced in Cantonese as Lai Po Dug and which approximate LaPointe.

The word 賴 is a common Chinese Surname; 普 means general, universal or popular; while 德 means virtue or moral. Thus, 賴普德 is far better than the pure phonetic name 拉波特 used by one of the local Chinese language newspapers. Another such example is the Chinese name for the Toronto Dominion Bank. It dropped the pure phonetic name of 道美寅in favour of the beautified phonetic name of 道明. Both of the Chinese names were based on the word “Dominion”. 道美寅 has no consequential meaning while 道明 means a “bright pathway”.

The Chinese name for Coco-cola 可口可樂 is another wonderful example. The four Chinese characters are pronounced in Mandarin as Kē Kou Kē Lè and can roughly be translated as “pleases your mouth, makes you happy.”

The fourth method, trans-creation, is by far the most powerful but less used one. This method is used almost exclusively for commercial entities and rarely used by individuals. The starting point of this method of name generation is to crystallize the essence of the resulting image one wants to project onto the consumer. The second step is to pick a name that best reflect that essence but not necessarily bears any relationship to the actual English name. Thus the HK and Shanghai Bank becomes 匯豐銀行 (plentiful remittance bank), the Bank of Nova Scotia becomes 豐業銀行 (plentiful business bank) and Manulife Financial becomes 宏利財務 (grand profit financial). The Chinese names of all three examples cited above resonate with people who understands Chinese and is by far the most effective way to brand a product unless you are working with a pan cultural name like “Apple” 萍果.

Good luck in picking a powerful Chinese name.

We need to bring down the cultural barriers

Tung Chan heads up one of B.C.’s most influential non-profits, the Vancouver-based organization S.U.C.C.E.S.S. That role has brought Chan’s life full circle in this province. He arrived in 1974 from Hong Kong with no English and no money and worked as a volunteer with S.U.C.C.E.S.S. After a successful banking career with TD Bank for almost 30 years, he became the organization’s CEO in 2006.

Tung Chan, Special to The Sun

Published: Tuesday, April 01, 2008

In a civilized society, people share their knowledge, beliefs and culture through communication. The ideals of a civilized society are created after long periods, sometimes generations, of constructive discourse. Debates of contentious topics that shift our understanding and tolerance, often begin over family dinners, carry over to the work place and move finally to public forums and the media.

But what would happen if there were no debate?

What if some strong points of view were presented and agreed to by only one segment of the society and unknown to the larger society?

Surely such a disparity could not and should not exist unchecked in our society?

Unfortunately, this very scenario has been quietly unfolding, under mainstream Canada’s radar.

In the Lower Mainland, there are literally hundreds of media outlets in a variety of languages serving the multitude of cultural communities. These media outlets serve a very useful and important function in helping newcomers who lack the ability to fully understand our official languages. They are lifelines that help people overcome their initial cultural shock and familiarize them with social issues important to Canada.

But reporters and editors report and editorialize through their own cultural lenses. As a result, most non-English-language media outlets report and interpret news from new and different Canadians’ perspectives. Some of them may even advocate a point of view that is diametrically opposed to the mainstream of our society.

Ordinarily, such diverse points of view are fundamental to a free and democratic society. Ordinarily, however, people would be aware that a different point of view from what is proclaimed exists and a debate may ensue. Ordinarily, while total agreement may not be reached through debate and dialogue, people would at least understand each other’s position and perspective.

This is not happening now.

There is no institutionalized sharing of opinions between the various non-English language communities and the larger community. The opinions of popular English talk show hosts have no impact on the non-English speaking communities. The reverse is also true. For example, how many readers of this article know one of the Chinese radio stations recently started a petition for more police officers and collected thousands of signatures?

While the majority of the people who regularly listen to CBC may not be listeners of CKNW because of preference, the majority of CBC listeners are not Fairchild (Chinese) radio listeners, because of the language barrier. While Fairchild Radio’s morning host Dr. K. K. Wan would have a good idea what Rick Cluff is saying, Rick would not have a clue about what K.K. is saying, even if he were to tune to Fairchild radio.

This has created an interesting parallel reality.

These parallel realities are exposed when opinions on so-called wedge issues are debated. These wedge issues include morality issues such as same-sex marriage and drug treatment policy; law and order issues such as minimum sentencing and capital punishment; immigrant settlement issues such as credentialing and English-language training availability.

If we want to create a civilized society with the kind of social cohesion that we all want, we need to find ways to talk to each other. The question we need to ask ourselves is, how we can break down the silos formed by language? How can we debate such important issues together, and not have it restricted by language?

Currently, our provincial government and the City of Vancouver subscribe to media monitoring services of the Chinese-language media. Our major English-language media may perhaps want to follow suit. But merely monitoring what is reported is not sufficient. Someone in an executive position, sensitive to the issues from a newcomer’s perspective, needs to interpret the reports and act.

On the other hand, we may encourage and facilitate people who work in non-English media outlets to gain more understanding of Canada’s history, value and aspiration. Such knowledge will likely improve the chance of news being reported and interpreted from more of a Canadian perspective.

The need for change is now. If we continue the way we are, Canada will have stratified ideals, bound by ethnicity and language, created by our inability to communicate.  It is not the future I wish to see for my country.

© Vancouver Sun

The role the language play in a civilized society

Tung Chan – March 2008

In a civilized society, people share their knowledge, beliefs and culture through communication.  The ideals of a civilized society are created after long periods, sometimes generations, of constructive discourse.  Debates of contentious topics that shift our understanding and tolerance, often begin over family dinners, carry over to the work place and move finally to public forums and the media.     

But what would happen if there were no debate?
What if some strong points of view were presented and agreed to by only one segment of the society and unknown to the larger society?
Surely such a disparity could not and should not exist unchecked in our society?

Unfortunately, this very scenario has been quietly unfolding, under mainstream Canada’s radar.
 
In the Lower Mainland, there are literally hundreds of media outlets in a variety of languages serving the multitude of cultural communities.  These media outlets serve a very useful and important function in helping new comers who lack the ability to fully understand our official languages.  They are lifelines that help people overcome their initial cultural shock and familiarize them with social issues important to Canada.

But reporters and editors report and editorialize through their own cultural lenses.  As a result, most non-English language media outlets report and interpret news from a new and different Canadian’s perspective.  Some of them may even advocate a point of view that is diabolically opposed to the mainstay of our society.  

Ordinarily, such diverse points of view are fundamental to a free and democratic society.  Ordinarily, however, people would be aware that a different point of view from what is proclaimed exists and a debate may ensure.  Ordinarily, while total agreement may not be reached through debate and dialogue, people would at least understand each other’s position and perspective.

This is not happening now.

There is no institutionalized sharing of opinions between the various non-English language communities and the larger community.  The opinions of popular English talk show hosts have no impact on the non-English speaking communities.  The reverse is also true.  For example, how many readers of this article know one of the Chinese radio stations recently started a petition for more police officers and collected thousands of signatures?

While the majority of the people who regularly listen to CBC may not be listeners of CKNW because of preference, the majority of CBC listeners are not Fairchild (Chinese) radio listeners because of the language barrier.  While Fairchild Radio’s morning host Dr. K. K. Wan would have a good idea what Rick Cluff is saying, Rick would not have a clue on what K.K. is saying, even if he were to tune to Fairchild radio.  

This has created an interesting parallel reality.

These parallel realities are exposed when opinions on so-call wedge issues are debated.  These wedge issues include morality issues such as same sex marriage and drug treatment policy; law and order issues such as minimum sentencing and capital punishment; immigrant settlement issues such as credentialing and English language training availability.  

If we want to create a civilized society with the kind of social cohesion that we all want, we need to find ways to talk to each other.  The question we need to ask ourselves is how we can break down the silos formed by language?  How can we debate such important issues together, and not have it confined by language?

Currently, our provincial government and the City of Vancouver subscribe to media monitoring services of the Chinese language media.  Our major English language media may perhaps want to follow suite.  But merely monitoring what is reported is not sufficient.  Someone in an executive position, sensitive to the issues from a new comers’ perspective, needs to interpret the reports and act.  

On the other hand, we may encourage and facilitate people who work in non English media outlets to gain more understanding of Canada’s history, value and aspiration.  Such knowledge will likely improve the chance of news being reported and interpreted from more of a Canadian perspective.

The need for change is now.  If we continue the way we are, Canada will have stratified ideals, bound by ethnicity and language, created by our inability to communicate.  It is not the future I wish to see for my country.

The recent participation of Chinese immigrants in local politics

While 1982 was the year the first Chinese-Canadian was elected to Vancouver’s city council, 1990 was the watershed year of Chinese immigrants’ participation in local politics.  It was in that year that, for the first time in Vancouver’s history, a Chinese-Canadian was on the ballot for Council, School Board, and Park Board.  The fact that all three aspiring local politicians[1] had strong ties with SUCCESS was no coincidence because SUCCESS’ Vision is “[to] be an innovative organization in building the capacity and participation of individuals, families, and communities towards a truly integrated society.”

But what is the role of a Chinese immigrant politician in “a truly integrated society”?  The first Chinese-Canadian Councilor, Bill Yee, said that “When I got elected, I wanted to make a statement that the Chinese-Canadian community wanted to contribute, that we wanted to participate and that we had a role to play.”  That role, as exemplified by Sandra Wilking, the first Chinese-Canadian woman elected to Vancouver City Council, is to bridge the cultural divide between the Chinese-Canadian community and the European-Canadian community.  She was responsible for getting spots for Chinese journalists at the press table in City hall and later – as a member of the Jack Webster awards foundation – created award categories for Chinese media.[2]

The Chinese-Canadian community has played a crucial role in a couple of Vancouver civic elections.  In the 1990 election, Mayor Gordon Campbell’s Non Partisan Association team hung on to power with a slim six to five majority on Council.  Some observers credited the narrow NPA majority to the support it received from the Chinese-Canadian voters who turned out in large numbers to support the three Chinese-Canadian candidates on the NPA slate.  History repeated itself in the 2005 Vancouver civic election.  In an exit poll conducted for the Vancouver Sun, almost 70% of the Chinese-Canadian voters surveyed indicated they voted for Sam Sullivan, the first Cantonese speaking politician elected to the Mayor’s office in the history of Vancouver.  The NPA was rewarded with another slim majority of six to five on Council.

Voting as a bloc, however, is not something that can be taken for granted for the Chinese-Canadian community.  In a poll conducted for Ming Pao in 1996 during a provincial election in B. C., of the decided Chinese-Canadian voters, 44.85% supported the Liberal Party while 34.2% supported the NDP.  According to the same survey, the racial origin of a political candidate is a deciding factor for only 5.1% of the people surveyed.  The most important factors cited by the respondents were Programme (31.6%), Ability (24%), and Achievement.  In other words there is no guarantee that a Chinese-Canadian voter will vote for a candidate just because he or she is of Chinese origin. 

But while aspiring immigrant Chinese-Canadian political candidates cannot count on their compatriots’ unconditional electoral support, they can certainly draw on the community to fulfill their financial, and manpower needs.  The campaign teams of almost all of the first generation Chinese-Canadian immigrants running for the first time for office are made up largely by Chinese-Canadians.  Their fundraising dinners are attended overwhelmingly by members of the Chinese-Canadian community.  They can also count on the local Chinese language newspapers, radio stations, and TV stations to give them a high profile in their reporting during the election.

The willingness of recent Chinese immigrants to support people from their own community points to the fact that the community craves for political leaders to represent its point of view in the political process.  It wants someone who is sensitive to their cultural values.  The community needs someone who is willing to address issues such as English language training, job training, unemployment, under-employment, and recognition of foreign training and work experience. 

In a multicultural society such as ours, Chinese immigrant politicians can play a larger role then the one they have played so far.  Writing for the Canadian Jewish Congress’ publication entitled “Fundamentally Canadian – Questions about Multiculturalism and Diversity, Lilian To suggested that “While the definitions of these terms remain abstract, many new comers relate these terms with the ideas of cultural inclusive and acceptance, which is what makes Canada so attractive to many.”  Turning the ideas of “cultural inclusive and acceptance” into reality is a role that can be played by Chinese immigrant politicians.

While multiculturalism is a fact of life in urban Canada, our governments, and the people who govern this country are still struggling to response adequately to this new reality.  Our political institutions need to have processes and systems in place to ensure that different cultural perspectives and interests are brought into play in the design of policies.  Our governments should strengthen their policy capacity with respect to the cultural aspects of modern day Canadian society.  The intent is to make certain that government programming is suitably in harmony to the distinctive features of the multicultural reality of our country. 

Chinese-Canadian politicians can ensure that such harmony does exist.

In the representative part of our democratic form of government, the cultural value and aspirations of the recent Chinese immigrant community should be reflected not only in the faces of the government but also in the policy directions of the government.

Canada is a country of immigrants.  Successive waves of immigrants have brought their values and ethics to this country.  It is important that Chinese-Canadians immigrant politicians contribute their positive traditional Chinese values to the making of government policies.  Their success at the policy level will create an environment to foster the making of a fusion culture that is not just European, not just North American, not just Asian – but a culture that is uniquely Canadian.  A culture that we can all be proud of, a culture that, to paraphrase Lilian, we can all feel included and accepted.


[1] Tung Chan (Council candidate) was a former Vice-Chair, John Cheng (School Board candidate) was a former Board Director, and Alvin Lee (Park Board candidate) was a volunteer.  They were following the foot steps of Sandra Wilking, a former Board Chair who served as a Councillor from 1988 to 1990.  Maggie Ip, the founding Board Chair of SUCCESS, will follow Wilking and Chan’s trail to become a Councilor in 1993.  Another former Board member, B. C. Lee became a Councillor in 2005.

[2] Based on an article by Mike Howell published by the Courier in November 11, 2002

The gatekeepers have to help tackle the labour shortage

Canada’s looming labour shortage crisis requires a new way of thinking More bureaucracy and credentialing organizations must be facilitators and enablers, not just gatekeepers

By Tung Chan, September 2007

British Columbia is facing an unprecedented challenge now and in the future when it comes to the supply of our labour force. With strong economic growth and an unemployment rate at an historic low, many businesses and organizations are unable to find the skilled labour they require.

While the challenge may seem hard now, the challenge in the future is even more difficult.  By 2015, there will be a shortfall of 350,000 workers in the province. According to the B.C. government’s statistics branch, in 2015, there will be more than one million job openings in B.C. while only 650,000 young people will have moved through the K-12 system. This shortage will impact every sectors of the economy, sectors such as health, education, construction, forestry, hospitality and tourism.

If we do not find a solution to the challenge, it is not hard to imagine a scenario where surgeries frequently cancelled due to a shortage of nurses; people unable to find a family doctor; projects cancelled because there are not enough construction workers; or restaurants closed because there are not enough waiters and waitresses.   In fact, in some parts of Canada, such a scenario is already reality.

Although the skills shortage is now well understood by our politicians – both federal and provincial politicians have shown leadership on the issue – the sad state of affairs is that many government officials and professional credentialing organizations appear to continue to be contented to play their traditional gatekeeper role and do not yet fully understand that we are competing with other countries for talent. Japan, for example, is reportedly planning to import up to 650,000 foreign workers annually and Australia is already running very effective media campaigns to attract workers from Hong Kong and China.

Unless a change of mindset occurs soon, skilled foreign workers will simply go elsewhere.

I recently met a doctor who was trained in one of the best medical schools in China.  Because he is unable to practice, he is now working as a Sushi chef in a restaurant in Delta after immigrating here. As he has to provide for his family, he lacks the financial resources to take the qualification courses that he is required to go through.  He is also discouraged by the three to four years that it will take for him to finish those courses as well as the uncertainty at the end of the process due to an inadequate availability of training positions. 

We have also seen English proficiency requirements supersede equivalency programs for foreign trained nurses in B.C.  Prior to January 1st of this year, English language preparation was integrated into the Certificate in Graduate Nurse with English as an Additional Language Program offered by Kwantlen University College.  However, because of a policy change by the College of Registered Nurses of BC, applicants for this program must now demonstrate English language fluency at the time of submitting their application for registration.  This policy change essentially imposes a barrier that unnecessarily delay the otherwise well qualified care givers from providing their services to alleviate a labour shortage that is galloping towards a critical level with the aging of our population.  As an example, the Fraser Health Region alone is predicting a shortage of well over a thousand nurses by the year 2012.

In an attempt to offer a practical solution to the skilled labour shortage problem, S.U.C.C.E.S.S. and Spectra Energy, with financial support from the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, collaborated to launch the Immigrant Engineering Orientation Program (IEOP) in March of this year.  IEOP, a program developed with the help of an Advisory committee that was made up of representatives from government, industry as well as the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of BC, is a first of its kind in BC.  The program supports professional immigrant engineers in overcoming foreign credential recognition barriers and provides them with the opportunity to directly continue with their professional careers here in Canada.

The program includes 10 weeks of workplace culture and language preparation training developed and delivered by S.U.C.C.E.S.S. This is followed by 6 weeks of Canadian engineering work experience at Spectra Energy facilities in Northeastern B.C. Employment opportunities in the energy sector will follow the field practicum.  While only 12 positions were available, close to 170 people applied.

Many groups, such as the Business Council of British Columbia, have suggested that an increased reliance on temporary foreign workers is an important means to help mitigate future labour shortages. According to the Business Council, Canada’s immigration rules should be overhauled to make it easier for temporary foreign workers with Canadian job experience and skills to become landed immigrants once they have spent time in the country.

But even getting temporary foreign workers into this country is not an easy task. The problem can be best illustrated by a recent situation where well qualified construction workers were denied temporary working visas by the federal bureaucracy in Shanghai.  A B.C. company went there to recruit after failing to find suitable local workers.  After interviewing 200 applicants, the company made job offers to 50 workers who were considered to have extraordinary qualifications.  To the company’s great dismay and consternation, every one of the worker’s application for temporary work visa was declined by our bureaucrats based on groundless and outdated concerns that the individuals would want to stay in Canada permanently.

To meet the current and future growing skills shortage challenges, more of our federal and provincial bureaucracies as well as credentialing bodies in Canada need to change their mindsets when it comes to the way they apply immigration, labour and credential recognition policies.  More of them need to think of themselves not just as gatekeepers.  They need to think of themselves also as facilitators and enablers that have a duty to lend a hand to new comers and temporary foreign workers to make it possible for these new and potentially new Canadians to contribute to our communities to the best of their qualifications and abilities.

Remembering 9/11

To those whose dreams were shattered on 9/11

                   We remember

To those who helped us preserve our dreams after 9/11 but have theirs shattered

                   We remember

To the future generations whose dreams are yet to come

                   We shall ensure that they remember

We shall honour the memory of 9/11 by dedicating our lives to ensure

                    Equality, Justice and Liberty for All

Political Leadership

National Political Leadership is needed on immigration settlement and integration.

Tung Chan – March 2007

British Columbia is facing a labour shortage.  Our unemployment numbers are at a record low and jobs are looking for people instead of the other way around.  If you think we have a labour crunch now, just think what will happen when the baby boom generation begins to retire.  Within the next four years, there will be more people leaving the labour force in B.C. than entering it. 

By 2010, according to B.C. government projections, all net labour increase in B.C. will come from immigration.  In 24 years, immigration will account for Canada’s total population growth.  By 2031, one in four Canadians will be 65 years and older.

What is driving this labour shortage is not only our economy but also our demographics.  Canadians have not been making enough babies to sustain our population.  Our current birth rate is 40% below what is needed to maintain our population in the long run. 

While our current government plans to bring in about 265,000 immigrants annually, we actually need to bring in between 350,000 to 450,000 per year to maintain our population according to a study by one of Canada’s major banks.

Aging population and low birth rate is a world wide phenomenon in the industrialized world.  Canada will be competing with other countries for immigrants.  Japan is looking at ways to bring in 650,000 guest workers per year to sustain their economy.  Australia is providing home owners’ grants to new comers and is running full page ads in newspapers in Hong Kong touting Australia’s friendliness towards Asian immigrants.

And what have we been doing to make the life of an immigrant easier?  In 1990, a reporter from the South China Morning Post, when writing on the plight of the economic immigrants to B.C., likens Canada to a host who invited people to a dance party.  When the guests arrived, not only they couldn’t find any dance partner who knew their dance steps, they found the host had not even put on any music or put out any chairs. 

Not much has changed in the intervening years.

In B.C., new comers have to wait for up to eight months to get basic English language training.  Budgets for ESL home liaison officers for schools are constantly under threat.  Credentials for foreign trained workers are routinely being denied.  Although 48% of Canada’s business immigrants come to B.C. in the past ten years, there does not appear to be any coherent government or private sector program in place to assist business immigrants to connect with the local business community.  Moreover, only 47% of federal transfer money for immigrant settlement is actually spent on immigrant settlement specific programs.  The balance is put into general revenue.

As a province and as a country, now is the time for us to focus on how to help immigrants to integrate faster into our society socially, culturally and economically.

At present, there are no national guiding principles on what settlement services should be provided to new comers.  There are discrepancies on the level of funded English language training programs between provinces.  There are no coherent strategic plans in place to help new immigrant children and youth to integrate even though children account for at least 25% of new comers.  There is no apparent co-ordination between the Federal Government who controls the level and categories of immigrants with the Provincial Governments who are responsible for the delivery of immigrant settlement services. 

We don’t, as a country, have a clue on how to construct a set of effective pathways for new comers to acquire their Canadian identity and achieve social cohesion.

New comers are not unlike new born babies, they need to learn our language, our way of doing things and our environment before they can function fully as Canadians.  As a society, we accept the need to provide schooling, venues for socialization and vocational training to our children.  But as a society we seem to think that new comers can do most of that on their own.  There exists a view that any effort and money spent on immigrant settlement is a waste of resources that could be better used on established Canadians.  This view is as incorrect as thinking that spending effort and money on our youth and children is a waste of resources because money could be better spent on adults and seniors.  It is my belief that there needs to be a continuum of services available for all people at all ages and at all points in life as they strive to become Canadians and live as Canadians.

In order to better prepare us for the unavoidable labour, economic and cultural predicament brought on by the demographic forces working within and outside of our national boundaries, it is not enough to just tweak programs and policies at the bureaucratic level.  What we need is real political leadership at the highest level of our land.

What we need now is a first Ministers’ summit on immigrant settlement and integration.  The Prime Minister and the Provincial Premiers need to work out a set of national guiding principles for service standards and performance outcome for our new comers.  Such principles could be modeled after our national Health Act and enforced via the federal government’s fiscal transfer power.

We will all be further ahead if our political leaders can work collectively on this subject, sooner rather than later.

Newcomers get a cold shoulder

Tung Chan

Special to the Sun

Monday, April 02, 2007

British Columbia is facing a labour shortage. Our unemployment numbers are at a record low and jobs are looking for people instead of the other way around.

If you think we have a labour crunch now, just think what will happen when the baby boom generation begins to retire. Within the next four years, there will be more people leaving the labour force in B.C. than entering it. By 2010, according to B.C. government projections, all net labour increase in B.C. will come from immigration. In 24 years, immigration will account for Canada’s total population growth.

What is driving this labour shortage is not only our economy but also our demographics. Canadians have not been making enough babies to sustain our population. Our current birth rate is 40 per cent below what is needed to maintain our population in the long run.

While our current government plans to bring in about 265,000 immigrants annually, we actually need to bring in between 350,000 to 450,000 per year to maintain our population, according to a study by one of Canada’s major banks.

Aging population and low birth rate is a worldwide phenomenon in the industrialized world. Canada will be competing with other countries for immigrants. Japan is looking at ways to bring in 650,000 guest workers per year to sustain its economy. Australia is providing homeowners’ grants to newcomers and is running full-page ads in newspapers in Hong Kong touting Australia’s friendliness towards Asian immigrants.

And what have we been doing to make the life of an immigrant easier? In 1990, a reporter from the South China Morning Post, writing on the plight of the economic immigrants to B.C., likened Canada to a host who invited people to a dance party. When the guests arrived, not only couldn’t they find any partner who knew their dance steps, they found the host had not even put on any music or any chairs. Not much has changed in the intervening years.

In B.C., newcomers have to wait for up to eight months to get basic English language training. Budgets for ESL home liaison officers for schools are constantly under threat. Credentials for foreign trained workers are routinely being denied. Although 48 per cent of Canada’s business immigrants came to B.C. in the past 10 years, there does not appear to be any coherent government or private sector program in place to assist business immigrants to connect with the local business community.

Moreover, only 47 per cent of federal transfers for immigrant settlement is actually spent on immigrant settlement specific programs. The balance goes into general revenue. As a province and as a country, now is the time for us to focus on how to help immigrants to integrate faster into our society socially, culturally and economically.

At present, there are no national guiding principles on what settlement services should be provided to newcomers. There are discrepancies on the level of funded English language training programs between provinces.

There are no coherent strategic plans in place to help new immigrant children and youth to integrate, even though children account for at least 25 per cent of newcomers. There is no apparent co-ordination between the federal government, which controls the level and categories of immigrants, and the provincial governments, which are responsible for the delivery of immigrant settlement services. We don’t, as a country, have a clue on how to construct a set of effective pathways for newcomers to acquire their Canadian identity and achieve social cohesion.

Newcomers are not unlike newborn babies, they need to learn our language and our way of doing things before they can function fully as Canadians. As a society, we accept the need to provide schooling, venues for socialization and vocational training to our children. But we seem to think that newcomers can do most of that on their own. There exists a view that any effort and money spent on immigrant settlement is a waste of resources.

This view is as incorrect as thinking that spending effort and money on our youth and children is a waste of resources because money could be better spent on adults and seniors. The fact is, there needs to be a continuum of services available for all people at all ages and at all points in life as they strive to become Canadians and live as Canadians.

To better prepare us for the unavoidable economic and cultural predicament brought on by the demographic forces working within and outside our national boundaries, it is not enough to just tweak programs and policies at the bureaucratic level. What we need is political leadership at the highest levels.

What we need now is a first ministers’ summit on immigrant settlement and integration. The prime minister and the premiers need to work out a set of national guiding principles for service standards and performance outcome for our newcomers. Such principles could be modelled after the Canada Health Act and enforced via the federal government’s fiscal transfer power.

We will all be further ahead if our political leaders can work collectively on this subject, sooner rather than later.

Tung Chan is chief executive officer of S.U.C.C.E.S.S. (United Chinese Community Enrichment Social Services) in Vancouver. The views expressed don’t necessarily represent those of S.U.C.C.E.S.S.

© The Vancouver Sun 2007

Copyright © 2007 CanWest Interactive, a division of CanWest MediaWorks Publications,

Inc.. All rights reserved.

We need to build more social pathways to connect communities

By Tung Chan
Special to The Province

The phrase “ethnic enclave” refers to neighbourhoods where people of the same ethnic background live in high concentrations. Parts of Richmond and Surrey are said to be ethnic enclaves for Chinese and South Asians.

Ethnic enclaves are thought to contribute negatively to the cohesiveness of our society. They are deemed to be places that need to be broken up.
In a survey done by the Vancouver Foundation last year, three groups of people who identified themselves as living in their own enclaves felt less connected. These are people aged 25 – 34, those who live in high-rises and newcomers.

At the request of local Chinese language media outlets, the Vancouver Foundation did a breakdown of the Chinese-Canadian respondents. They found there are more similarities than differences between them and the total sample.

Just like the total sample, only about four in 10 Chinese-Canadian respondents attended a cultural event put on by a cultural or ethnic group different than their own.

And just like the total sample, Chinese-Canadian respondents said the biggest obstacle to getting more engaged in community life is the feeling that they have little to offer.

The main reason Chinese-Canadian respondents gave for not knowing their neighbours better is the same as other respondents — they seldom see them.

In other words, people are living in silos not because of “ethnic enclaves” but because we don’t have enough social pathways that lead people to get to know one another. Over one third of those surveyed said they have no close friends outside their own ethnic group.

Our society prides itself on being inclusive and multicultural. But how can we be that if more than one third of us don’t have close friends from outside our ethnic background and most of us participate only in events organized by our own ethnic group?

Why is it important for us to know one another more? We live in one of the most diverse cities in the world. Not understanding each other’s nuances of habits, behavior, likes and dislikes will inevitably produce unnecessary misunderstandings and conflicts.

To avoid this we need to build more social pathways to help people cross cultural barriers. Each year we spend millions building roads and transportation infrastructures to connect geographic communities. But how much money and effort do we spend on creating social pathways for so-called “ethnic enclaves” to connect with each other?

If a geographically isolated community is not connected with society we would not label people in those communities as not willing to connect with others. We would build roads and highways to help them to connect. But we blame people who live in their own cultural communities for not trying to reach out. We label their neighbourhoods with the pejorative term “enclave”.

There are many things we can do to build social pathways to connect people of different cultures. We can have a day where every community is encouraged to have an open house in their cultural neighbourhood. In Vancouver, we have an Italian town on Commercial Drive, a South Asian town in South Vancouver, a Greek town on West 4th, a Chinatown on Pender Street, and a Vietnamese town along Kingsway.

What if we had a day where every neighbourhood has an open house and people are encouraged to visit a neighbourhood outside their own cultural communities?

It’s important to create opportunities for people to connect emotionally. Remember how Canadians of all skin colors and backgrounds cheered together and high fived each other on Robson Street during the 2010 Winter Olympics?

It would be fun to have an international drum festival each summer. Anyone who has listened to the drum beats of more than one culture will be struck by their similarity. Perhaps a drum festival will bring all of us out of our own enclaves and connect us as a community of one.
 
(Tung Chan is Chair, Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 and a director of the Vancouver Foundation)
 
Pre-Edited Version
By Tung Chan, July 29, 2013

The phrase “ethnic enclave” has been bandied about in recent times.  The term refers to neighbourhoods where people of the same ethnic background live in high concentration.  Parts of Richmond and Surrey are said to be ethnic enclaves for Chinese and South Asians.  Ethnic enclaves, by conventional wisdom, are thought to contribute negatively to the cohesiveness of our society.  In other words, it is viewed with suspicion and deemed to be places that need to be broken up.

In a survey done by the Vancouver Foundation last year, three groups of people self identified as living in their own enclaves in that they feel less connected.  These are people between the ages of 25 – 34, people who live in high-rises and new comers to our community.  

At the request of local Chinese language media outlets, Vancouver Foundation did a breakdown of the Chinese-Canadian respondents.  They found there are more similarities than differences between them and the total sample.  
Just like the total sample, only about four in 10 Chinese-Canadian respondents attended a cultural or ethnic event put on by a cultural or ethnic group different than their own.

And just like the total sample, Chinese-Canadian respondents said the biggest obstacle to getting more engaged in community life is the feeling that they have little to offer.

Chinese-Canadian respondents are among the most frequent users of libraries, community centres and recreation facilities. But they are among the least likely to have participated in a neighbourhood or community project, or attended a neighbourhood or community meeting.

To everyone’s surprise, the survey found that language is not a significant barrier to getting to know their neighbours. Only 6 per cent of the total Chinese-Canadian sample said that language was the main factor. That number rises to 16 per cent for people who speak Mandarin at home.
The main reason Chinese-Canadian respondents gave for not knowing their neighbours better is the same as other respondents — they seldom see them.

In other words people are living in silos not because of so call “ethnic enclaves” but because we don’t have enough social pathways that led people to meet and know one another.  May be because of such isolation, over one third of the people surveyed said they have no close friends outside their own ethnic group.  

We are a society that prides ourselves as being inclusive and multicultural.  But how can we be truly inclusive and multicultural if over on third of us do not have close friends from outside of our own ethnic background and the majority of us participate only in events organized by one’s own ethnic group.  

But why is it important for us to know one and other more? We are living in one of the most diverse cities in the world.  According to the 2011 census, more than 45 per cent of Metro Vancouver residents are born outside of Canada.  These people come with vastly different cultural background and life experiences.  They have different perspectives on cultural, economic and political events.  Not knowing enough each other and the nuances of habits, behaviour and likes and dislike will inevitably produce unnecessary misunderstandings and conflicts.  

To avoid such unnecessary misunderstandings we need to build more social pathways for people to cross cultural barriers.  Each year, as a society, we spend millions of dollars in building roads and transportation infrastructures to connect geographic communities.  We build highways, sky trains and airports to help link communities together.  But how much money and effort we spend on linking cultural communities together?  How much efforts we, as a society spend on creating social pathways for so call “ethnic enclaves” to connect with each other?  If a geographically isolated community is not connecting with the rest of the society, we would not label people who live in those communities as not willing to connect with other people.  We would not blame them for not trying.  We will build roads and highways to help them to connect with the rest of the society.  But we will blame people who live in their own cultural

communities for not trying to reach out.  We label their neighbourhoods with the pejorative term “enclave”.

There are many practical things that we as a society can do to build social pathways to connect people of different cultural background.  We can, for example, have a cultural day where every community is encourage to have an open house in their cultural neighbourhood.  In Vancouver, we have an Italian town on Commercial Drive, we have a South Asian town in South Vancouver, we have a Greek town on West 4th, we have a Chinatown on Pender Street, and we have a Vietnamese town along Kingsway.  What if we have a day where every neighbourhood have an open house and people are encouraged to visit a neighbourhood outside of their own cultural communities?  The day or weekend could be capped with a cultural show featuring the best entertainers from each community’s home country together with internationally known local talents.

I think it is also important to create opportunities for people to connect emotionally.  People will remember how Canadians of all cultural backgrounds mingled and cheered together during the Winter Olympic of 2010 in Vancouver.  Young people of all skin color and heritage were high fiving each other on Robin Street.  The shared experience of people watching the Symphony of Light firework shows in English Bay in the summer come close to that but the emotional sharing is not as intense.
It would be fun to have an international drum festival in the summer each year.  All human beings spend the first ten months of their existence inside their mother’s womb a few centimeters away from her heart.  We can all relate to the sound of the constant heart beat and we all do respond in a primitive way to similar sounds.  Anyone who has listened to the drum beats of more than one culture will be struck by their similarity.  It does not matter whether the drum beats come from a marching band from America or Daiku music from China; it does not matter whether it is the sounds of the steel drums from Jamaica or the Dholak drums from India, they all touched us on a primitive level. Perhaps a drum festival will bring all of us out from our own enclaves and connecting us as a community of one.