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I'm Muslim and didn't celebrate Christmas growing up. But my Canadian kids had other ideas – CBC.ca

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This is an opinion column by Taslim Jaffer, a first-generation immigrant whose children have enthusiastically embraced Christmas. For more information about CBC’s Opinion section, please see the FAQ.

My family was at White Spot for my son’s sixth birthday when I was asked the dreaded question by my daughter: “Is Santa real?” 

“What?” I said, stalling. 

“I don’t think he’s real. Is he?”

“Well, at one time,” I began, “there was a man named St. Nick and he was a wonderful person. When he passed away, people decided to carry on his magic of being kind and generous and … um, no, it’s not Santa who puts presents under the tree.” 

Suddenly, I was unsure if this story about St. Nicholas was accurate. Nobody had done the Santa talk with me because, when I was growing up, Santa didn’t come to our house.

Christmas was not a tradition in my family. As Muslims, we revere Jesus as a prophet, but celebrating his birthday was not part of our custom. My parents and I moved to British Columbia from Kenya in 1979, and our identity centred around our own language, food and festivals.

Growing up in Richmond, B.C., I don’t recall feeling envious of anyone who celebrated a traditional Christmas. My family gathered for chicken biryani and samosas over the holidays, and there was community for me in this.

But I do remember people assuming that I celebrated Christmas and then being surprised — and even sorry for me — when I said I didn’t. The assumption that everyone celebrates Christmas — or worse, believing that everyone should — in a multicultural country like Canada is problematic.

Now, as a parent navigating this Christmas minefield, I wondered how my parents felt when my brother and I were in elementary school and brought home painted, glittery Christmas tree ornaments.

My dad says they just accepted that this is what happened here. They didn’t want to discourage us from participating in what seemed like a lovely Canadian festival, but they also wanted to hold fast to our own identity. 

I admire my parents’ convictions. They didn’t disrespect the mainstream traditions of their new home, and they upheld their own in a country that prides itself on its citizens doing just that. Though we didn’t put up a tree and exchange gifts on Dec. 25, I returned the greeting of “Merry Christmas!” with sincerity. Christmas carols became some of my favourite pieces to play on the piano.

But when my husband and I talked about raising a family, we didn’t think we would include Christmas in the traditional way. Our children, however, had other ideas.

When my oldest daughter emerged from her kindergarten class one day in November 2012, she ran toward me, pigtails and backpack flailing.

“Mommy!” she said, beaming. “Santa’s going to put presents under our tree!” They had been talking about Christmas in school. 

The Jaffer family has embraced Christmas, including leaving out cookies and milk for Santa, and even some carrots for the reindeer. (Taslim Jaffer)

Although initially reluctant, we took our daughter’s lead. Now, every year, on the first Sunday of December, we light our tree, hang stockings and decorate.

It feels like there is magic in our tree and handmade ornaments, in the light on dark winter evenings. It’s the time of pyjama days and bottomless hot chocolate. We host a turkey dinner for our extended families (though not this year, of course). And on Christmas morning, the five of us unwrap gifts from Santa and each other. 

Christmas is still not part of my identity. But my children will have a different story. I am of that generation that adopted a new custom for the sake of the following generation that is more deeply entrenched in this country. I am also of that generation that doesn’t want our past to be erased, our own festivals to be outshone.

For example, we put a special spotlight on Navroz, our New Year on the first day of spring, by dressing up, attending congregational prayers and feasting with family. My seven-year-old can name most of the spices I use to prepare Indian food several times a week (until my kids beg for burgers). And I hope my kids retain what little of my mother tongue, Kutchi-Kiswahili, I have managed to pass down to them in their English-dominated world.

While it can feel like a game of tug-of-war, I know this is a natural part of developing identity.

Maybe this is relatable for other Canadians; after all, we are a country of immigrants on First Nations land. Maybe at some point in your family history, there was someone like me. 


Do you have a strong opinion that could change how people think about an issue? A personal story that can educate or help others? We want to hear from you.

CBC Vancouver is looking for British Columbians who want to write 500-600-word opinion and point of view pieces. Send us a pitch at bcvoices@cbc.ca and we’ll be in touch. Novice writers are also encouraged to submit ideas.

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Canada’s Telus International aims for nearly $7 billion valuation in IPO

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(Reuters) – Telus International (Cda) Inc, a subsidiary of wireless carrier Telus Corp., aims to raise as much as $833 million in its initial public offering (IPO), which would give the Vancouver-based company a valuation of nearly $7 billion.

The flotation would be one of the largest in recent years for a Canadian company. Last year, Canadian waste management firm GFL Environmental Inc raised about $1.4 billion in its IPO, making it one of the largest ever stock market listings in Canada.

Telus International said it planned to list its shares on the New York Stock Exchange and the Toronto Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol “TIXT”.

The company plans to offer 33.33 million shares in its IPO and has set a price range of between $23 and $25 per share.

Telus International said its revenue for the full year ended Dec. 31 was estimated to be between $1.57 billion and $1.58 billion, compared with $1.02 billion a year earlier, according to regulatory filings from the company. [https://bit.ly/3sXwZYi]

Started in 2005, Telus International provides IT services to global brands and counts Cisco Systems Inc, Salesforce.com Inc and Google Cloud among its customers.

J.P. Morgan and Morgan Stanley are the lead underwriters of the offering.

 

(Reporting by Sohini Podder in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva)

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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Monday – CBC.ca

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The latest:

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is stepping up efforts to track coronavirus mutations and keep vaccines and treatments effective against new variants until collective immunity is reached, the agency’s chief said on Sunday.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky spoke about the rapidly evolving virus during a Fox News Sunday interview as the number of Americans known to be infected surpassed 25 million, with more than 419,000 dead, just over a year after the first U.S. case was documented.

Walensky, who took over as CDC director the day President Joe Biden was sworn in, also said the greatest immediate culprit for sluggish vaccine distribution was a supply crunch worsened by inventory confusion inherited from the Trump administration.

“The fact that we don’t know today, five days into this administration, and weeks into planning, how much vaccine we have just gives you a sense of the challenges we’ve been left with,” she told Fox News Sunday.

Biden’s transition team was largely excluded from the vaccine rollout deliberations for weeks after his election, as then president Donald Trump refused to concede defeat and permit access to information his successor needed to prepare to govern.

Licensed vocational nurse Joselito Florendo, right, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Michael Chesler at a mass vaccination site set up in the parking lot of Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, Calif., last week. Hard-hit California is seeing some progress in its fight against COVID-19. (Jae C. Hong/The Associated Press)

In a separate interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, Ron Klain, Biden’s chief of staff, said a plan for distributing the vaccine, particularly beyond nursing homes and hospitals, “did not really exist when we came into the White House.”

Walensky said she was confident the government would soon resolve supply questions, and go on to dramatically expand vaccine production and distribution by late March.

Uncertainty over immediate supplies, however, will hinder efforts at the state and local levels to plan ahead for how many vaccination sites, personnel and appointments to set up in the meantime, exacerbating short-term shortages, she said.

Race against variants

Vaccination has become ever more urgent with the recent emergence of several coronavirus variants believed to be more transmissible, and in the case of one strain first detected in Britain, possibly more lethal.

“We are now scaling up both our surveillance of these and our study of these,” Walensky said, noting that the CDC was collaborating with the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration and even the Pentagon.

The object, she said, was to monitor “the impact of these variants on vaccines, as well as on our therapeutics,” as the virus continues to mutate while it spreads.

Until vaccines can provide “herd” immunity in the population, mask-wearing and physical distancing remain vital to “decrease the amount of virus that is circulating, and therefore, decrease the amount of variants,” Walensky said.

Although British officials on Friday warned that the variant of the coronavirus first identified in the U.K., already detected in at least 20 U.S. states, was associated with a higher level of mortality, scientists have said existing vaccines still appeared to be effective against it.

They worry, however, that a more contagious South African variant may reduce the efficacy of current vaccines and shows resistance to three antibody treatments developed for patients. Similarities between the South African variant and another identified in Brazil suggest the Brazilian variant may likewise resist antibody treatment.

“We’re in a race against these variants,” said Vivek Murthy, nominated by Biden to become the next U.S. surgeon general, on ABC’s This Week program on Sunday.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease specialist, said in late December he was optimistic the United States could achieve enough collective immunity to regain “some semblance of normality” by the fall of 2021.

But Murthy said getting to herd immunity before a new school year begins in September was “an ambitious goal.” Nevertheless, Murthy suggested the government may exceed Biden’s objective of 100 million vaccinations in the first 100 days of his presidency, telling ABC News, “That’s a floor; it’s not a ceiling.”

Fauci, appearing separately on CBS News’ Face the Nation, said the 100-million goal includes those who may have received both injections of the two-dose vaccines and those who only got the first.

About 21.8 million Americans, or about 6.5 per cent of the population, have received at least one dose of vaccine to date, of the 41.4 million doses shipped, CDC data showed on Sunday.

On Monday, hard-hit California lifted regional stay-at-home orders statewide in response to improving coronavirus conditions. Public health officials said the state will return to a system of county-by-county restrictions intended to stem the spread of the virus. The state is also lifting a 10 p.m.-to-5 a.m. curfew.

The decision comes with improving trends in the rate of infections, hospitalizations and intensive care unit capacity as well as vaccinations. The lifting of the order is based on projections that the state says show improving ICU conditions, although officials have not disclosed the data behind the forecasts.

-From The Associated Press, last updated at 11:45 a.m. ET


What’s happening across Canada

WATCH | Where things stand 1 year after Canada’s 1st COVID-19 case:

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Michael Gardam says more aggressive restrictions earlier to stop the spread would have made a ‘huge difference.’ 1:01

Ontario on Monday reported 1,958 new cases of COVID-19, according to a tweet from Health Minister Christine Elliott.  The province also reported 43 additional deaths, bringing the provincial death toll to 5,846.

“Locally, there are 727 new cases in Toronto, 365 in Peel and 157 in York Region,” Elliott said in a tweet.

Hospitalizations in Ontario stood at 1,398, with 397 COVID-19 patients in the province’s intensive care units, according to a provincial dashboard.

The updated figures come after schools in seven public health units in the hard-hit province were set to reopen for in-person classes on Monday. Education Minister Stephen Lecce said that means 100,000 students will be returning to the classroom for the first time since before the winter break.

Ontario is implementing more safety measures in areas where schools are reopening, including requiring students in Grades 1 through 3 to wear masks indoors and when physical distancing isn’t possible outside as well. It’s also introducing “targeted asymptomatic testing” and enhanced screening protocols in those regions.

In Quebec on Monday, health officials reported 1,203 new cases of COVID-19. Hospitalizations stood at 1,321, with 217 people in intensive care, according to the province.

As of 11:20 a.m. ET Monday morning, Canada had reported 750,546 cases of COVID-19, with 62,621 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 19,180.

The House of Commons is back in session on Monday, albeit with virtual attendance, after a six-week break. The minority federal government’s handling of the national COVID-19 vaccination campaign is expected to dominate the agenda.

Here’s a look at what’s happening across the country:

-From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 10:55 a.m. ET


What’s happening around the world

As of early Monday morning, more than 99.2 million cases of COVID-19 had been detected worldwide, with more than 54.8 million of those cases considered recovered or resolved, according to a database maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 2.1 million.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Hong Kong has formally approved use of the Fosun Pharma-BioNTech vaccine, the city government said on Monday, the first COVID-19 vaccine to be accepted in the Asian financial hub.

The first batch of around one million doses is expected to arrive in the second half of February, the government said in a statement. The move comes with Hong Kong lagging other developed cities in rolling out vaccines and after mainland China started its vaccine program in July last year.

Hong Kong has secured a total of 22.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine from Fosun Pharma-BioNTech, China’s Sinovac Biotech and Oxford-AstraZeneca, the city’s leader Carrie Lam said in December.

Government workers wearing personal protective equipment clean a street in the locked-down part of the Jordon district on Sunday in Hong Kong. (Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)

Fosun Pharma is German drug manufacturer BioNTech’s partner in Greater China including in special administrative regions Hong Kong and Macau. Fosun is responsible for cold-chain management, storage and distribution. China’s Sinovac vaccine is likely to arrive in Hong Kong after BioNTech’s vaccine in February, with AstraZeneca’s vaccine due by the middle of the year.

Home to 7.5 million residents, Hong Kong has a separate approval process from the mainland for vaccines. The city has recorded nearly 10,000 coronavirus cases and 166 deaths since January 2020. Cases have spiked over the past week after an outbreak in an old residential building located in a busy commercial and residential area.

In China, a vaccination program for emergency use started in July with products from domestic manufacturers Sinopharm and Sinovac Biotech. The program was widened in December to focus on additional priority groups including employees in the cold-chain industry, transportation sector and fresh food markets.

Bangladesh has taken delivery of five million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine from an Indian producer. Bangladesh has planned to buy 30 million doses of vaccines from the Serum Institute of India in phases. 

Australia has suspended its partial travel bubble with New Zealand after New Zealand reported its first coronavirus case outside of a quarantine facility in two months.

Workers wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) spray disinfectant at the Samut Sakhon Shrimp Center market that was temporarily shut down due to several vendors testing positive for COVID-19. (Jonathan Klein/AFP/Getty Images)

Thailand on Monday discovered a record 914 new cases of the coronavirus, all in Samut Sakhon province near Bangkok where a major outbreak began in December. The new cases shot the national total past 14,000.

The previous high was on Jan. 4, when 745 cases were reported, mostly in Samut Sakhon among migrant workers from Myanmar. The province is a centre for fishing and industry. The first case reported in the recent surge was detected there in mid-December at a major seafood market, which has been closed. Any new cases in other provinces will be announced in Tuesday.

In Europe, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday he was looking at toughening border quarantine rules because of the risk of “vaccine-busting” new coronavirus variants.

Norway will widen the capital region’s lockdown from Monday, increasing the number of affected municipalities to 25, while Sweden said on Sunday it would temporarily stop all foreigners coming in from Norway from midnight.

People, many of them Czechs on their daily commute to their workplace in Germany, wait in line for a rapid COVID test near the Czech-Germany border during the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic on Monday. (Gabriel Kuchta/Getty Images)

German police said hundreds of cars and pedestrians are lining up at border crossings along the Czech-German border after Germany declared the Czech Republic a high risk area in the pandemic, meaning it requires proof of a negative coronavirus test result before entry.

At the crossings in Waldmuenchen and Fuerth im Wald, authorities said hundreds of cars lined up on the Czech side trying to get into Germany in the early morning hours. Further backup was expected during the day Monday.

In the Americas, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said he has tested positive for COVID-19.

In the Middle East, Israel will ban passenger flights in and out of the country from Monday evening for a week.

Oman will extend the close of its land borders for another week until Feb. 1.

President Hassan Rouhani said COVID-19 vaccinations will begin in the coming weeks in Iran, the Middle East’s worst hit country.

In Africa, four Zimbabwean cabinet ministers have died of COVID-19, three within the past two weeks, highlighting a resurgence of the disease that is sweeping through the southern African country.

A nurse at Lancet Clinical Laboratories conducts a PCR COVID-19 test at its drive-thru facility located at St Anne’s Hospital last week in Harare, Zimbabwe. (Tafadzwa Ufumeli/Getty Images)

President Emmerson Mnangagwa said the coronavirus is reaping a “grim harvest” in the country.

“The pandemic has been indiscriminate. There are no spectators, adjudicators, no holier than thou. No supermen or superwomen. We are all exposed,” Mnangagwa said in a nationally televised address.

-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 10:10 a.m. ET

Have questions about COVID-19 in Canada? We’re answering as many as we can in the comments.

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The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada for Monday, Jan. 25, 2021 – 95.7 News

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The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada (all times eastern):

10:35 a.m.

There are 1,958 new cases of COVID-19 reported in Ontario today and 43 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says 727 of the new cases are in Toronto, 365 in Peel Region, and 157 in York Region.

She says nearly 36,000 tests were completed since Sunday’s report.

Ontario also reports that 2,448 more cases of COVID-19 are considered resolved.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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