TORONTO — As hundreds of people gathered in Toronto on Friday to protest a controversial citizenship law in India, some members of the city’s Indian community say a rise in divisive politics have created tensions here in Canada.
Multiple people have been killed in the South Asian nation over the past week as public anger swells over a citizenship law that critics say excludes Muslims and threatens the country’s secular democracy.
The law allows Hindus, Christians and people from other religious minorities who are in India illegally from neighbouring Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan to apply for citizenship. However the legislation introduced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government does not include Muslims.
It comes after multiple other controversial moves in the majority-Hindu country, including an ongoing crackdown in the Muslim-majority region of Kashmir.
Divyani Motla was one of those who braved chilly temperatures to attend a rally at the Indian consulate in downtown Toronto on Friday. The Indian student at the University of Toronto said it was important for her to take part as a member of India’s Hindu majority.
Motla said she’s seen a rise in hateful political discourse in Canada amongst Indian communities, and says that Muslim Indians she knows have taken the brunt of it.
“There’s an aggressive Hindu right that has grown in the West,” said Motla. “The citizenship act has been quite a contentious issue to talk about.”
Sanober Umar, a history PhD candidate at Queen’s University, said she’s seen the aggressive side of the political discourse firsthand.
Umar said she was harassed online after speaking at an academic event in April, when she was critical of some of Modi’s policies in India.
She said Modi supporters tried to cancel the event and complained about it to the Indian consulate and Umar’s school.
Dozens of protesters showed up to try to disrupt the talk and several sent her death and rape threats afterwards, Umar said.
“In the past few years, there has been a rise of right-wing Indian immigrants … who have been on the ground accusing anyone who speaks against Narendra Modi of being anti-Indian and anti-immigrant,” said Umar.
“They’re trying to manufacture this discourse that anyone who challenges the BJP is essentially anti-India or Hindu-phobic,” she said, referring to the Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party.
Nasser Khan, who was born and raised in India but identifies as Canadian, said he’s become more hesitant about travelling back to the country as he says anti-Muslim policies continue to roll out.
“When you visit, you don’t feel safe, you don’t feel comfortable the way you used to a couple of years ago,” said Khan, who lives in the Greater Toronto Area.
“You’re not able to express what you want, if you question the government you’re labelled an anti-nationalist right away.”
He said that he’s also seen divisive politics spread throughout the Indian community in Canada, especially through social media.
“There’s a lot of hateful posts that I see from people living in Canada and originating in India,” said Khan.
“It concerns me, because this country is different from back home and people still carry that baggage here.”
At the Toronto protest, Motla said that she’s also been told by her parents that she might be safer staying in Canada for the time being.
“It’s upsetting and heartbreaking when your family is telling you to not come back, because it’s not the country you were in before,” she said.
— with files from The Associated Press
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Almost nine months after it closed its doors permanently, Saint John’s Cherry Brook Zoo still has six inhabitants waiting to go to their new homes. All that remains of the once-bustling zoo are two lions, two tigers and two snakes. All six have found new homes, but the hold-up is with the four big cats, explains zookeeper Erin Brown, who has been overseeing the relocation of the zoo’s animals. Because they’re going to the United States, there’s a complicated permit process that often takes six to 12 months, explained Brown. Essentially, the zoo has to prove that the big cats were legally obtained, and that their transfer follows all of the guidelines laid out under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Brown said all of the permits required on the Canadian side of the border have been obtained. The hold-up is in the U.S. She said the COVID-19 pandemic and political unrest south of the border may also have contributed to the delay. “It could be making policies move a little more slowly,” she said. When the zoo announced it would close for good last May, there were 80 animals — from 35 different species — living at the zoo, and all had to find new homes, said executive director Martha McDevitt. She said staff spent a lot of time checking out prospective new homes to make sure the animals would be safe and well cared for. “It was a big task,” said McDevitt. The zoo had a number of farm-type animals, like miniature donkeys, goats and pigs that went to hobby farms, mostly in New Brunswick. The more exotic animals required a bit more work and they’re now spread out at facilities from Nova Scotia to Vancouver. “The big cats were the hardest to find homes for,” Brown said. The first step was to notify Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums, an accreditation and advocacy group better known as CAZA. But there weren’t any facilities in Canada willing or able to take the big cats. Brown said they eventually started reaching out to sanctuaries, although that wasn’t her first choice for the felines. That’s when they heard from Popcorn Park in New Jersey, which is part zoo, part sanctuary. The facility has agreed to take the lions and has lined up a new home for the tigers, since it already has a number of tigers. So, until the proper permits are ready to go, the four big cats will remain in Saint John. For McDevitt, they’re the hardest animals to say goodbye to. “You can’t help but create these special bonds with these animals, especially specific ones,” she said outside the tiger enclosure Tuesday morning. “For me personally, it’s the big cats, the tigers. When I was a little… child, I wanted to be a tiger when I grew up. “That’s impossible, I found out. So being able to work with them has been an absolute dream come true.” McDevitt has been with the zoo since 2016 and the lions arrived shortly after she did. The tigers have been at the Cherry Brook Zoo since the summer of 2017. All four were hand-raised at an Ontario zoo before it closed in 2016. “So seeing them leave — and especially them going across the border — is really hard because I may not ever see them again. So that’s been hard,” said McDevitt. And because they were hand-raised, Brown said the big cats actually like people. “They love interacting with visitors,” she said. It was a factor zoo staff considered when they looked at facilities willing to take them. “We had several facilities that offered space as a sanctuary situation, but we chose Popcorn Park because they’re going to be in a zoo situation. A lot of these sanctuaries are really more suited to cats that don’t like people.” She said cats that come from abusive or neglectful situations prefer to live a quiet life with as little human interaction as possible. “But our cats love human interaction. They love seeing visitors. So choosing Popcorn Park was on purpose so that they could have that interaction with visitors.” Once all the permits are in place, Popcorn Park will send its own relocation team to fetch the felines. They’ll have specialized equipment and people, including a veterinarian. They have specialized cages with wheels that will be rolled right up to the door of their enclosure, and with a little food inside the crate as an added incentive, they cats should go in and be ready to be loaded into a specialized trailer for the ride to New Jersey. In the meantime, thanks to monthly donors who continue to contribute to the zoo — and the occasional one-time donation — life goes on for the big cats. With fewer animals to tend to, staff members have a bit more time to hand-feed and train the cats. With her bucket of cut-up deer meat, zookeeper Megan Gorey puts the lions, Aslan and Frieda — littermates who were born in 2014 — through a series of behaviours that she doesn’t like to call tricks. The cats sit and lie down, and offer the correct paw on the fence as instructed. They also stand on their hind legs on command — all for a treat, of course. Gorey also demonstrates how she can draw blood and give injections with Luna, a five-year-old tiger who’s been at the zoo since 2017. From the safety of the other side of the fence, Gorey tells Luna to lie down along the fence and as someone else feeds her meat treats, she barely reacts when the needle is used. Long goodbye Brown said she initially worried that a long delay before some of the animals left would be a painful way to say goodbye, but she’s actually grateful for it now. She said each animal was able to get fussed over and given extra attention before they departed for their new homes. And with the four cats being among the last to go, it gave staff extra time with the zoo’s most popular inhabitants — who just happen to be the biggest eaters as well. McDevitt said it costs a couple hundred dollars per cat per month — and that’s even with the donations of roadkill from the Department of Natural Resources. One such donation just happened to arrive Tuesday morning and zookeepers were preparing to hoist entire deer legs up on poles in the cat enclosures to allow them to hunt and earn their meal. Once the big cats leave the Cherry Brook Zoo, the snakes will go as well, said Brown. The snakes will go home with one of the zookeepers, but as long as the zoo remains open for the lions and tigers, the snakes will stay as well.
Source: – Yahoo News Canada
Omdahl: Politics: When enough Is enough – INFORUM
North Dakota Republicans own the executive branch, the legislative branch and the judicial branch of state government, lock, stock and barrel. But having absolute power at the state level is not enough politics for some who now want to open up county, city, township, school board and other local offices to partisan elections by starting with an innocent marking on the ballot of party preference.
A strong two-party system is necessary for a democracy to function. There are policy issues streaming from voter ideologies that must be resolved. Local governments make secondary decisions, most of which are tightly controlled by state legislation. In reality, local governments are administrative units of the state government.
One advocate of partisan elections pointed to all the money local governments spend. He apparently wants to apply a more conservative financial system to local government. Apparently, he hasn’t been around enough to know that local finances involve mostly “sunk” costs or state regulations that permit local governments limited financial flexibility.
Other than creating political opportunities for the two parties, what are the benefits of a partisan system at the local level? A more conservative spending ideology?
Local governments in North Dakota are pretty clean. Our governments are small; almost everyone in the county knows what is going on in the courthouse, including the unofficial as well as the official. About the only transgressions committed in local government are long coffee breaks.
For sure, partisan elections will not make local governments more effective, more efficient or any more honest.
In fact, they will do just the opposite.
Local offices will be flooded with junior politicians who will see public office not as an opportunity to serve the public so much as a stepping stone to some higher partisan office.
Partisan ballots will generate new levels of conflict in local governments as parties fight for offices or as party loyalists fight each other to gain a rung in the political ladder. Everyone will spend more time campaigning and less time serving the public.
With politically-minded partisans running local government, how often will political considerations be uppermost when choices have to be made and priorities established? Will politics decide on highways? On arrests? On human services?
Partisan ballots will eliminate at least half of the county officials. Even if they are Republicans, the partisan atmosphere day-in and day-out does not fit their idea of public service. In some local governments, ambitious partisans will run against incumbents regardless of party.
Many local officials do not have competition because the public is satisfied with their service. Partisan elections will create competition where competition isn’t necessary and it will force any officeholders to raise new money for races they never had in nonpartisan offices. There will be new personal costs to serving the people. That will discourage present officeholders.
With the rancor permeating both parties at present, this is hardly the time to bring that sort of partisan disease into local governments that have been performing so well. When it comes to partisan politics, at some point we must say that enough is enough. Enough.
Omdahl is a former N.D. lieutenant governor and retired University of North Dakota political science teacher. Email email@example.com
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum’s editorial board nor Forum ownership.
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