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The Compassion Project, Only Compassion Defeats Dehumanization

Compassion doesn't have to be a "deep sorrow", just the willingness to be moved to ease the pain of another, the w...

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Journalism Isn’t Creative Writing

Journalists are the historians of the present, not novelists, entertainers, spokespersons, subject experts, commentators, or prognosticators. Their job is not interpretation, prediction, or narrative creation, but the reporting, explanation, and verification of facts, events, uncertainty, probability, and context. Without context facts are meaningless. A 50% increase sounds big unless it’s from 2 to 3. They need to abandon hyperbole, opinion, and embellishment, like Elmore Leonard’s advice to good writers to avoid all adverbs. Let the facts in context reveal the narrative and the reader/viewer’s interpretation determine the drama. This is speaking truth to power. 

To regain credibility, stop treating every scientific discovery and study as the final word on the subject. Science is based on uncertainty, debunking, and questioning. It is a body of evidence linked by theories that have yet to be disproved, not a dogma of certainty. It is a process involving a balance based on the weight of evidence, often debunking the scientist's personal opinion. A scientist only knows that  their theory appears correct when they have failed to disprove it.  Pushing false certainty is creating certainty in falsehood. 

Also, demanding instant information from investigations, particularly criminal ones, is a toxic effect of the 24-hour news cycle. Everyone knows that early information is confused and that it takes time to sort things out effectively, but you have to fill every broadcast second to enable advertising. It’s turning science and journalism into the Super Bowl, where 15 minutes of actual football action happens amid 50 minutes of advertising with the rest of the three hours time-fillers and entertainment. The ads are the goal, not the athletics competition, and it’s reported upon endlessly in advance and on the day as if it is vital world news. This has led to the election of the Super Bowl of presidents. 

News organizations have been Tweeting information for years in the form of sound bites delivered in tabloid style. Now they’re getting bitten and the Enquirer is as trusted as the New York Times. Drama without context has created the false equivalency problem because the media has confused artificial conflict with balanced debate. Sometimes it's just in the tone of the presenter's delivery. Every-time announcements were made about legalization of cannabis they were delivered as if dramatic obstacles never before encountered when they were exactly the same ones faced by alcohol, tobacco, and other regulated substances. Like the way "reality" game -shows are edited to condense and amplify minor things into tension and to leave cliffhangers at every commercial break, it manufactures drama, threat, and conflict where there are none, often detracting from the actual inherent ones.

Stick to the facts in context and leave narratives, opinions, and interpretations out of journalism because none are objective or verifiable. Narration, interpretation, prognostication, and opinion, always involve a subjective bias created intentionally or unintentionally by a personal lens formed by experience and point of view. Journalists need to abandon the idea of following, chasing, or telling the "story" and return to investigating, verifying, and reporting the facts within context. Journalism with narration is a documentary not a news report.
Leave narration to narrators and the authors who create them to tell stories exploring interpretations and opinions of facts. A good writer engages readers' imaginations to help them think without saying what to think.

Truth should be the only point of journalism and accuracy its only rating system.

Truth is stranger than fiction, often involving what was believed to be unthinkable, impossible, or ridiculous.

Let reality tell its own story.

Edmonton Strathcona Day of Action for First Nations Children

Edmonton Strathcona Day of Action for First Nations Children

Saturday, February 11th, 1:00pm - 3:00pm
McKernan Neighbourhood
Join us for an afternoon of door-knocking as we call for an end to federal government discrimination against Canada’s First Nations children. The chronic underfunding of services for First Nations children is a fact recognized by Canada’s Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

We’ll be going door-to-door with information and petitions calling for this to be addressed. If you haven’t door-knocked before, you’ll be paired with someone experienced.
Contact us at strathcona@edmontonstrathcona.ca if you have any questions.
As well, we’re encouraging everyone to join Linda Duncan MP on Sunday, Feb. 12 at the Metro Cinema for a screening (admission $6 - $10) of “We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice”. This documentary follows the court challenge that led to the Human Rights Tribunal ruling about discriminatory funding. Following the film, there will be a Q&A with the director and Cindy Blackstock, whose organization led the court challenge. More info at www.metrocinema.org/film_view/6153

Friday, February 3, 2017

Wasted Talent, Wasted Lives: unlocking the full potential of an underemployed work force

If their credentials were recognized, they could, as a group, earn $13.4 to $17 billion more annually, according to the report, Brain Gain 2015: The State of Canada's Learning Recognition System.

Beyond language, one of the biggest problems with immigration and accepting refugees is the refusal to accept credentials or a lack of accreditation evidence. This could be easily fixed with a little upfront investment. 

If someone has the skills and knowledge, they should be able to challenge the accreditation process and exams and gain accepted credentials. If they have gaps, they should be given grants or student loans to fill these gaps and get accredited. At the same time, intense language training can be provided, focused on the basics and their profession at first and then expanded.  

Then we would end of up with skilled workers instead of highly educated janitors. This would help the economy grow faster while reducing the drain on healthcare, social services, and the legal system caused by poverty. It would transform an immense waste into a vast, renewable resource, an investment in the full potential of our people and country that would profit us all tenfold.

Canadians would earn $17B more annually if their credentials were recognized, study says

Report finds 844,000 Canadians are unemployed or underemployed because their skills are not recognized

By B.C. Almanac, CBC News Posted: Jan 27, 2016 12:32 PM PT Last Updated: Jan 28, 2016 4:24 PM PT

Not recognizing immigrants' skills and credentials — as well as those with out-of-province credentials and experiential learning — is costing the economy up to $17 billion a year, says a new report by the Conference Board of Canada. (Credit: Andrew Vaughan/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Nearly 850,000 Canadians are unemployed or underemployed,  more than 60 per cent of whom are immigrants, because their credentials are not being fully recognized, according to a new report from the Conference Board of Canada.

If their credentials were recognized, they could, as a group, earn $13.4 to $17 billion more annually, according to the report, Brain Gain 2015: The State of Canada's Learning Recognition System.

"We estimate that over 844,000 Canadian adults now face learning recognition challenges, including over 524,000 with international credentials, almost 200,000 with out-of-province credentials and 120,000 with experiential learning not recognized in a credential," the report states.

Up to $17B in lost earnings

The $17 billion in potential earnings is a dramatic increase from a previous study the board did in 2001, which estimated Canadians could earn $4.1 to $5.9 billion more if their credentials were recognized.

"The challenge has risen faster than the rate of change," said Michael Bloom, vice president of industry and strategy for the board.

"Even if you discount things like inflation, growing population, you still end up with a bigger problem than ever before."

The report suggests that improving how credentials are recognized could potentially increase the annual incomes of those affected by an average of $15,000 to $20,000 per person.

"The big driver here is the fact that there are more high-skilled jobs that ever before and fewer low-skill jobs," Bloom told B.C. Almanac host Gloria Macarenko.

"So the more we depend on skill and knowledge in our economy, the more we need our credentials recognized, and that means every time someone isn't recognized it costs them more, and ultimately it costs all of us more."
The recommendations in the report include modifying the immigrant selection process so that learning credentials are recognized and exporting Canadian post-secondary education curriculum and programs into other countries.

Labour market information

Nick Noorani, the founder of Canadian Immigrant Magazine, said it is just as important for immigrants to have access to comprehensive labour market information as having their credentials recognized.

Noorani, who is also a managing partner of Prepare for Canada, said this information would help, for example, immigrants who are doctors realize the steps they have to go through to practice medicine in Canada, and what demands different regions have for doctors.

"When immigrants arrive there's insufficient emphasis on follow up, how they can enhance their soft skills, what are alternative careers," Noorani said.

To hear the full story listen to the audio labelled: New study finds that Canada has much to gain by recognizing immigrants' learning credentials


  • An earlier version of this story said immigrants could earn $17 billion more annually if their credentials were recognized, but that figure also includes those with out-of-province credentials and experiential learning.
    Jan 28, 2016 4:23 PM PT

Some advice from someone with experience: 

Pro Post: Are You an Underemployed Skilled Immigrant? You Have Options

Are you a skilled immigrant looking for work in Canada? Experience requirements can be challenging hurdles – but you do have options. Pro poster Pracheer Saran shares the top resources for career-bridging programs and educational services for newcomers.

Pursuing the Canadian Dream

When Gihan Weerasinghe moved from Sri Lanka to Canada as a landed immigrant, he thought his good days had begun. Armed with experience as a chartered accountant, and considering the high demand for accounting professionals worldwide, he thought landing a job would be a cakewalk.

He was instead in for a rude surprise when he found his exprtise counted for little and that he lacked so-called “Canadian” experience. To support his family, including three children between seven and 12 years of age, both Gihan and his wife did odd jobs in call centres and retail stores.

Three and a half months after moving to Canada and with no real job in hand, the Weerasinghes were debating whether to move back to Sri Lanka when a ray of hope emerged. In one of the government-provided classes Gihan took for immigrants looking for jobs in their field, an employment counselor suggested he take bridging courses provided by several universities and colleges in Canada.
However, pursuing the courses would be a monetary challenge; a large chunk of the family’s savings was already going toward accommodation. and providing for a family of five.

After consulting with his education counselor and doing his own research, Gihgan considered applying for the Ontario Student Association Program (OSAP), but knew he could be waiting a long time before receiving funds. And it wasn’t just the money – Gihan felt short on time, and wanted to see the other options available to new immigrants. Going to a traditional bank wasn’t an option, as interest rates were high, and his credit history was lacking.

Micro-Loan Options

He stumbled upon a second option while searching the internet: the Immigrant Access Fund (IAF), which runs programs operated by non-profit societies for skilled immigrants.
They provide micro loans to people like Gihan who, because of a lack of collateral, employment and credit history, could not access mainstream credit. These short-term loans (two years or less) can be used for studying or supporting oneself while attending school for the occupation you had worked in your home country.

Gihan fulfilled the eligibility criteria, which required applicants be a permanent resident, a Canadian citizen, a protected person, or a provincial nominee living in a territory or a province other than Quebec and British Columbia. The company provides loans of up to $10,000 with an interest rate of 4.5 per cent annually (Bank of Canada Prime rate plus 1.5 per cent, set quarterly). Their offices are located in Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon and Regina. For other cities, they use Skype, Face Time, and or phone to reach out to their clients.

Bridging Programs and Work Resources For Immigrants

There are several similar programs designed to aid immigrants looking for work across Canada. For example, if you live in Winnipeg (or plan to move there as a skilled immigrant), you may qualify for Recognition Counts, a two-year program providing micro loans of up to $10,000 to low income group individuals and skilled immigrants who were dentists, engineers or other skilled workers in their home countries. The program also includes career and financial counselling and guidance for re-accreditation and training requirements. There is no loan fee, a fixed interest rate of prime plus 2 per cent, and can be paid back over five years, with repayment and interest kicking in within six months of finishing the program, or 90 days after acquiring a job in their chosen field – whichever comes first.

In addition, there are several scholarships, internships and apprenticeship grants for Canadians, which though competitive, are still out there and can be availed. The government also has a Resettlement Assistance Program and an Immigration Loan Program for people seeking refugee or asylum status in Canada.
These are just some of the provisions available to new skilled immigrants stuck in underemployment. They just require a little research and determination. If Gihan did it – so can you!

About the Author: Pracheer Saran

I am a travel enthusiast and a freelance writer who loves to write about my escapades, from travel to beer – but when it comes to finances, I still had a lot to learn. I first moved to Canada five years ago, and as a new immigrant, getting a credit card to building a credit history was a mammoth task for me. I mostly learned from trial and error – and am still learning!

There is some homework a new immigrant can start a few months before moving to Canada to ensure a smoother settlement. So fasten your seat belts and join me for an informative ride as I share the challenges of managing my daily finances, hunting for my first job, battling high car insurance rates, buying my first house and securing a mortgage.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

A Billionaire's Warning to Potential Followers

This is one of the wisest things that I have heard a business person say. The following describes a real leader. Democracy is bigger than a business or a game-show masked as reality.

Episode 3
Victoria Falls
Sam and Nicole arrive o­n top of Victoria Falls preparing to create a world record. The two will ride down the waterfall in a barrel created in part by NASA. This is not a stunt. This real-life endeavor has a red emergency panic button and requires an additional liability waiver. The barrel has not been completely tested, but preliminary screenings o­nly harmed people o­n a near-fatal scale. I repeat: There have been no deaths in the capsule. Nicole questions the safety while Sam listens and nods. In the end, Nicole does not want to regret never seeing her family again, and Sam does not want to miss this opportunity. Nicole forfeits, so Sam and Branson are elevated in the barrel, but it does not drop. Branson informs Sam that this was a test—a hazardous test. In life and business, it is important to know when to take risks and when to follow your own instinct. This challenge is too dangerous to complete. Together they return home. At dinner, Nicole loudly toots her own decision-making horn, failing to notice Sam's anguish. Between Sam's poor choice and Nicole's tasteless gloating, Richard does not know whom to eliminate. The other players cannot predict the outcome, but all know that smugness is not a virtue. For the moment, it is anyone's game. In the end, Branson liked that Sam made a decision and stuck with it. As a leader, Nicole should have stopped his teammate, but at least she questioned the deadly task. Sam is sent packing and Nicole boards the plane with her self-appointed new friends.

The Reason Exploitative Precarious Work is Growing


Precarious work is not the new normal; it’s the old normal that we fought to end coming back, the self-imposed slavery of fear.  It has been normalized by neoliberal political and economic theory and a lack of Employment Standard moderation and protection, particularly in Alberta. Cut taxes, deregulate, serve the investment interests of business over society, and de-fund public services, institutions, infrastructure, and resources in order to privatize for profit, that’s neoliberalism. They don’t believe in society, so why invest in it?

The following are from the Alberta Labour website.

Employment Standards

To ensure Alberta work sites are fair and equitable, most employers and employees are protected by and must comply with employment standards laws.

Rules and regulations

The minimum standards of employment for employers and employees in Alberta workplaces.

In Alberta, employment standards are contained in the Employment Standards Code and Regulation.

“Hours of work” is the period of time during which an employee works for an employer. It includes time off with pay instead of overtime pay provided by an employer and taken by an employee. An employee may work a maximum of 12 hours in a day unless an unforeseeable or unpreventable emergency occurs, or the Director of Employment Standards issues a permit authorizing extended hours of work beyond 12 hours.
An employee is entitled to at least 30 minutes of rest (break) in each shift longer than five consecutive hours of work. Likewise, employees are entitled to certain minimum days of rest as follows:
  • one day of rest each work week, or
  • two consecutive days of rest in each period of two consecutive work weeks, or
  • three consecutive days of rest in each period of three consecutive work weeks, or
  • four consecutive days of rest in each period of four consecutive work weeks, or
  • at least four consecutive days of rest after 24 consecutive work days.
Created: 2004-07-19
Modified: 2011-03-21
PID: 1031

In case you think these lax rules are there to enable essential or unusual industries requiring long time commitments in camps and on farms:

·        Managers, supervisors and those employed in a confidential capacity;
·        Farm workers;
·        Professionals, including agrologists, architects, certified or chartered accountants, chiropractors, dentists, denturists, engineers, information systems professionals, lawyers, optometrists, podiatrists, psychologists and veterinarians;
·        Salespersons of automobiles, trucks, buses, farm machinery, road construction
·        equipment, heavy duty equipment, manufactured homes or residential homes;
·        Salespersons who solicit orders, principally outside of the employer’s place of business, who are fully or partly paid by commission (this does not apply to route salespersons);
·        Licensed salespersons of real estate and securities;
·        Licensed insurance salespersons who are paid entirely by commission income;
·        Salespersons who are at least 16 years old and are engaged in direct selling for licensed direct sellers;
·        Licensed land agents;
·        Extras in a film or video production;
·        Counselors or instructors at an educational or recreational camp that is operated on a charitable or not-for-profit basis for children, persons with disabilities, or religious purposes;
·        Residential and homecare caregivers (employees are exempt only from section 16 of the Code concerning hours of work, but not from rest periods). Please see the “Caregivers” Fact Sheet at http://work.alberta.ca/esfactsheets;
·        Domestic employees (these employees are exempt only from sections 16 and 17 of the Code concerning hours of work and notice of work times, but not from rest periods).

The Employment Standards make no distinction between full-time and part-time work. They ignore the existence of part-time entirely. Most people think that part-time means 32 hours per week or less but it only means a lack of commitment and repsonib8ility on the part of the employer. A part-time employee may be worked up to 12 hours per day for 24 days straight as long as they get 4 days off at the end before being forced to do so again. This is part-time. Why hire full-time?

This is why precarious jobs are exploding in number.  You get a full-time employee with having to provide full-time benefits, wages, or security, thus enslaving the employee to fear of hour-loss and wage loss due to illness, willing to put up with any abuse or exploitation.  These are standards that offer protection, their rules for exploitation.  Precarious employment isn’t normal, inevitable, or irresistible, just another attempt to make workers disposable for profit. 

Businesses get governments to pay for training and abandoned employees, enabling them to misuse their workers while getting tax breaks and subsidies for it.  They have no incentive to invest in the growth and health of the economy or society, because society and the economy serve their growth. How does business suggest we fix this? More tax cuts, more government investment in training their employees and taking care of their disposed-of employees, and of course, less regulation.  I guess they think 4 days off in 28 is too generous. 

Civilization serves the economy, right? 

It does according to these standards, which haven’t been updated in decades.  They need to be.


A precarious workforce creates a precarious economy, a precarious society, and precarious democracy. Self-imposed slavery through fear creates the inevitable angry defensive backlash resulting in populist revolt.  Fear turns us on ourselves instead of the problem.

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

“Fear is the mind-killer.”

The self-slavery of precarious employment must end.

Employment standards need to actually ensure work sites are fair and equitable, most employers and employees are protected by and must comply with employment standards laws.  Equitable, secure employment is the enemy of inequality.

Neoliberal thinking has replaced civil engaged citizens with tax-avoiding consumers sacrificing all for competitive advantage. Bullies inherently exploit any competitive advantage, usual those of size, wealth, and number. The defence has always been for the bullied to unite and fight back, to unionize. Margret Thatcher's war on unions crippled collective bargaining and trampled workers' rights. Governments defeated workers, dissolved defences against foreign exploitation, and then empowered business and the financial industry, putting the forces of inequality on steroids.