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Vancouver’s Chinatown in a generational divide over Ken Sim’s election as mayor

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VANCOUVER — In Vancouver’s Chinatown, baker Denny Wong is so enthusiastic about mayor-elect Ken Sim that he’s already thinking about 2026.

He says Sim visited his Hong-Kong-style bakery before last week’s election and listened as Wong talked about law-and-order challenges facing the area. Then Sim described his plan to improve safety with 100 more police.

“It remains as a question mark whether he can achieve it or not — I believe he can. I told him, ‘If you live up to our expectations, I will vote for you again in four years,’” said Wong, in an interview conducted in Mandarin.

Sim launched his mayoral bid a year ago in Chinatown’s Floata restaurant, then ended his campaign with a victory speech on Saturday night that included a full-throated embrace of his Chinese heritage.

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He will be the first Chinese-Canadian mayor of Vancouver, where more than 28 per cent of the population has Chinese ethnic origins, according to the 2016 census.

“The history of this moment is not lost on me,” he said in his speech. “But the honour really goes to those whose shoulders I stand on.”

Sim paid tribute to Chinese-Canadian trailblazers who preceded him, as well as his parents, who he said immigrated from Hong Kong to Canada in 1967 with only $3,200, in the hope of providing their children a better education and future. Sim was born and raised in Vancouver.

Wong, who has run his bakery on Keefer Street for over 20 years, said he was elated on election night at the prospect that Sim would bring change to Chinatown, which is struggling against crime, disorder and a lack of safety.

But for others in the neighbourhood, Sim’s victory is being viewed very differently, from the other side of a generational and political divide.

While some business and community figures applaud his victory as an aspirational and historic moment, a younger generation of progressive-minded Chinatown activists views Sim and his law-and-order pledges with suspicion.

Rachel Lau, program manager of the Yarrow Intergenerational Society for Justice, a non-profit that supports lower-income seniors in Chinatown and the Downtown Eastside, said they were “devastated and disappointed” by Sim’s huge victory over incumbent Kennedy Stewart.

“I know that the Chinese Canadian community is really excited about the first Chinese Canadian mayor. I just want to point out that just because somebody looks like you doesn’t mean that they are actually going to take care of you. That’s the unfortunate truth,” said Lau.

On a walk through Chinatown after Sim’s win, most business owners who were approached to talk about him said they were happy with his election, though they did not want to comment on the record.

Some simply gave a thumbs-up sign. “If you ask me about my reaction. This is my attitude,” said one middle-aged woman.

Fred Kwok, chair of the Chinese Cultural Centre in Chinatown, said Sim’s background made immigrants feel he was representative of the community. But what was more important was how his election platform resonated in the neighbourhood, with his promises of more police and a city hall office in Chinatown.

“I have seen what Chinatown has been through over the past decades with business owners waking up seeing graffiti or their windows getting smashed and people feeling unsafe to walk on streets. I have also personally experienced attacks,” said Kwok in an interview conducted in Mandarin.

“These policies can improve the neighborhood’s safety and boost many business owners’ confidence,” said Kwok. “I believe Sim will be a good mayor.”

Chinese-language newspapers and other media in Vancouver described Sim as the “pride of people of Chinese descent” and the “glory of Hong Kong.”

But Lau of the Yarrow society said they feared the next four years under Sim would be “challenging.”

“I think we need people who have similar values, and who have a solid understanding of what people need to be supported. It doesn’t matter if this new mayor looks like us,” Lau said.

Lau said Sim’s idea of hiring 100 more police and another 100 mental health nurses would take away funding from other community organizations. Instead, the neighbourhood’s priorities should be housing, access to public washrooms and safe drug supplies and food security.

Lau said a generational gap existed among Chinatown elders, particularly when it came to understanding strategies for safe drug supply and harm reduction.

“I think, culturally, there is this idea that police are good and police will help, the police are here to serve the people,” said Lau.

“There is an inflated amount of trust that is placed on the police to be able to address social issues. But in reality, I think what happens is that police arrest or punish or intimidate vulnerable people who need support.”

Vince Tao, a community organizer at the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users said he worried about the election results because of Sim’s support for the police and real estate development.

“He is just the guy who got lucky and got the developer’s money this time … and that’s how he swept in,” said Tao.

“And I actually don’t see that Ken Sim’s city will change dramatically. But we are on the course to collapse (as) long as we allow city developers, real estate interests, and police to determine the course of every city policy.”

More police are not the answer, said Tao.

“These days, every interaction I see between the Downtown Eastside and Chinatown is mediated by police and it’s because the government and all these various non-profits and people who claim to support Chinatown are not trying to build bridges,” he said.

“In fact, we are trying to build walls between these neighbourhoods … the borders drawn between Chinatown and Downtown Eastside are always political. And so, my fear is that as long as we continue to burn bridges, it will only create more tension in the streets. Meanwhile, it’s distracting from the real issues people need — money, welfare and housing.”

Tao said many Chinatown seniors were “lovely, compassionate people” who needed education about how harm reduction works and how safe supply could save lives.

“I don’t discount the seniors … When you talk to the seniors, many of them are linguistically isolated and they are also isolated in their living situations and the Chinese language media are quite conservative,” he said.

“We must be building those bridges. And again, I think education is key and making sure that Chinese seniors have a voice collectively,” said Tao.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Oct. 20, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

 

Nono Shen, The Canadian Press

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Canadian military would be 'challenged' to launch a large scale operation: chief of the defence staff – CTV News

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OTTAWA –

Canada’s military forces are “ready” to meet their commitments should Russia’s war in Ukraine spread to NATO countries, but it would be a “challenge” to launch a larger scale operation in the long term, with ongoing personnel and equipment shortages, according to Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Wayne Eyre.

Eyre told Joyce Napier on CTV’s Question Period in an interview airing Sunday that while the forces in Europe are “ready for the tactical mission they’ve been assigned,” he has larger concerns about strategic readiness. He said there’s a lack of people and equipment, and further concern around the ability to sustain a larger scale mission in the longer term.

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The Canadian Armed Forces are still struggling to retain staff, with nearly 10,000 fewer trained personnel than they’d need to be at full force, and equipment stocks below what they require.

“We’ve got challenges in all of those,” Eyre said, adding the numbers reflect what’s been “let slip over decades, as we’ve focused on the more immediate (needs).”

Eyre said Canada’s military would be “hard pressed” to launch another large-scale operation like it had in Afghanistan, as an example, without having to redistribute its resources around the globe, as threats evolve.

“The military that we have now is going to be increasingly called upon to support Canada and to support Canadian interests, to support our allies overseas, but as well at home,” Eyre said, citing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, climate change impacting the landscape in the Arctic, and an increase in digital and cybersecurity threats.

“It’s always a case of prioritization and balancing our deployments around the globe, not just with what, but when, and with who … and getting that balance right is something that that we’re working on,” he said. “Could we use more? Yeah, absolutely. But we operate with what we have.”

“We prioritize and balance based on what our allies need, and what the demand signals, just to make sure that we achieve the strategic effect the government wants us to achieve,” he also said.

Meanwhile Defence Minister Anita Anand said on CTV’s Question Period last week that Canada should “be able to walk and chew gum at the same time,” and balance its NATO commitments with securing the Arctic and promoting peace in the Indo-Pacific.

Eyre said his number one priority is getting Canada’s armed forces up to full strength, with an attrition rate of 9.3 per cent between both regular and reserve forces, up from 6.9 per cent last year. The Canadian Armed Forces Retention Strategy was released just last month.

“We are facing the same challenge that every other industry out there is facing in terms of a really tight labor market,” Eyre said. “Every other military in the West is facing the same challenge.”

He explained the organization is working on streamlining its recruitment process, among other changes, to meet the increasing need, with the goal to get numbers up “as quickly as possible.”

“Ideally, would have been yesterday,” he said. “We’re looking at where we can accelerate the recruiting, the training, and optimizing our training pipeline.”

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World Cup 2022: How soccer is evolving in Canada – CTV News

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Soccer wasn’t really a thing when I was a kid. I grew up in the 1970s and ‘80s. Sure, we all had soccer balls. And we played a lot of what should be more accurately called, Kick and Run. But I – and all my friends – did not really know the rules, the teams or the players. We might’ve heard of Pelé, but not more than that.

We followed hockey, baseball, football (CFL and NFL) and basketball, in that order. I did occasionally watch soccer on TV, but that was because we didn’t have a lot of channels and the soothing English accents often lulled me to sleep.

Things are much different now. My 13-year-old son is a massive soccer fan. He plays on a team three or four times a week. His schoolmates include a lot of second-generation Canadians, whose parents came from soccer-obsessed nations. He watches Premier League and Championship League matches. He’s watches La Liga and Bundesliga. He watches World Cup qualifiers and could tell me the backstory on most of the players. In fact, he watches classic games on YouTube and plays FIFA22 on his PS4 and as a result, knows more about Pelé than I ever did. But, because of him, I now watch enough football to know a game is a match, a goalie is a keeper and I know which plays end up in corner kicks or throw-ins.

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I once asked him, “How well do you know the Germany national team?” and he said, “Not very well.” He then proceeded to name seven of their 11 starters. It’s a different world.

I still know almost nothing compared to the other soccer dads, but like millions of Canadians, I watched Canada’s qualifying matches and I know we have a great team, with some stellar players who are worth watching. The qualifying matches regularly beat both hockey games and CFL football when it comes to viewership.

But we should care about more than just the matches themselves. The World Cup is one of the biggest and most lucrative sports spectacles on Earth. This will be the first one hosted in the Middle East. And although Qatar may look shiny and new on TV, it’s mired in what many Western nations believe to be medieval and backwards policies on working conditions, LGBTQ2S+ and women’s rights.

Finding people to talk about it in Qatar is NOT easy. One of W5’s goals this week was to talk to migrant workers to describe how they were treated, their living conditions and their labour rights. Most were too afraid to talk to us.

And to confound things, there have been many stories of journalists being detained or arrested for reporting on migrant workers. Last week, a Danish reporter was live on TV from Qatar and when asked what things were like there, he directed his camera operator to pan left – revealing security officials in golf carts, who immediately tried to stop the live hit. The next day Qatari officials apologized, but the message was clear: we can stop you from reporting when we want. It’s a fascinating video that’s been viewed millions of times around the globe.

The Qatari government denies they’ve put any restrictions on media. In a tweet, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy says “several regional and international media outlets are based in Qatar, and thousands of journalists report from Qatar freely without interference each year.”

Not everyone is convinced. Qatar ranks 118 out of 180 countries in the 2022 Press Freedom index, published by Reporters Without Borders. Freedom House, which is a U.S.-based freedom watchdog, gives Qatar a 25 out of 100 score on Global Freedom, which includes freedom of expression. (Canada ranks 98 and the US ranks 83).

A Reuters Institute column from last week on press freedom in Qatar suggests authorities obscure press freedom laws, by hiding behind trespassing laws.

“One of the most common risks when doing journalistic work in Qatar is to be accused of trespassing. This is what Halvor Ekeland and Lokman Ghorbani of Norwegian state broadcaster NRK were accused of when they were arrested by officers of Qatar’s Criminal Investigations Department in November 2021, while covering World Cup preparations. The journalists were held for over 30 hours before being released without charge. They deny they were filming without permission,” says the article.

A little insider info: I have personally written, “we don’t want you to get arrested, but…” at least twice in correspondence with our team in Qatar. I’ve never encouraged anyone to break the law of course, but sometimes doing our jobs leads police or security into thinking they have a duty (or at least a right) to stop you.

Where do we get our story ideas? You. Emails, DMs, letters and tweets get to us and we read them all. Share your story with us and you can help us make a difference at W5@bellmedia.ca.

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Don’t have a cow: Senator’s legen-dairy speech draws metaphor from bovine caper

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OTTAWA — Haven’t you herd? A dramatic tale of 20 escaped cows, nine cowboys and a drone recently unfolded in St-Sévère, Que., and it behooved a Canadian senator to milk it for all it was worth.

Prompting priceless reactions of surprise from her colleagues, Sen. Julie Miville-Dechêne recounted the story of the bovine fugitives in the Senate chamber this week — and attempted to make a moo-ving point about politics.

“Honourable senators, usually, when we do tributes here, it is to recognize the achievements of our fellow citizens,” Miville-Dechêne began in French, having chosen to wear a white blouse with black spots for the occasion.

“However, today, I want to express my amused admiration for a remarkably determined herd of cows.”

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On a day when senators paid tribute to a late Alberta pastor, the crash of a luxury steamer off the coast of Newfoundland in 1918 and environmental negotiators at the recent climate talks in Egypt, senators seated near Miville-Dechêne seemed udderly taken aback by the lighter fare — but there are no reports that they had beef with what she was saying.

Miville-Dechêne’s storytelling touched on the highlights of the cows’ evasion of authorities after a summer jailbreak — from their wont to jump fences like deer to a local official’s entreaty that she would not go running after cattle in a dress and high heels.

The climax of her narrative came as nine cowboys — eight on horseback, one with a drone — arrived from the western festival in nearby St-Tite, Que., north of Trois-Rivières, and nearly nabbed the vagabonds before they fled through a cornfield.

“They are still on the run, hiding in the woods by day and grazing by night,” said Miville-Dechêne, with a note of pride and perhaps a hint of fromage.

She neglected to mention the reported costs of the twilight vandalism, which locals say has cost at least $20,000.

But Miville-Dechêne did save some of her praise for the humans in the story, congratulating the municipal general manager, Marie-Andrée Cadorette, for her “dogged determination,” and commending the would-be wranglers for stepping up when every government department and police force in Quebec said there was nothing they could do.

“There is a political lesson in there somewhere,” said the former journalist.

Miville-Dechêne ended on what could perhaps be interpreted as a butchered metaphor about non-partisanship: “Finally, I would like to confess my unbridled admiration for these cows that have found freedom and are still out there, frolicking about. While we overcomplicate things, these cows are learning to jump fences.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 26, 2022.

 

Marie-Danielle Smith, The Canadian Press

 

 

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