This past Thursday evening, John McCallum, Liberal MP from Markham-Unionville and the LPC’s critic for Immigration/Multiculturalism/ Seniors visited Brantford-Brant to meet with Liberal candidate Danielle Takacs and leaders of Brantford-Brant’s various cultural communities. Mr. McCallum is the 4th Liberal MP to visit Brantford-Brant in the span of less than 3 months (the others being Carolyn Bennett, Scott Simms and Adam Vaughan) which shows that Liberals at the national level believe Brantford-Brant is a priority riding and can be returned to the Liberal fold in the upcoming election
Danielle and her team organized a round-table to answer questions anyone at the meeting may have about the Liberal Party’s positions on immigration issues, culture and so forth and to have frank discussions. I was not able to be at the meeting in person, but fortunately, one of the observers of the meeting I knew was going to be there took notes and passed them along back to me. In essence, I am writing a ‘guest blog’ column for that person on the meeting :). So, I thank that person for doing this for me (as well as passing along the photos you see here), and I’ll re-post from that person’s notes what was discussed and said and observed.
The meeting was well attended – there were close to 60 participants in the round-table, representing the following organizations and communities: (not an exhaustive list, just those my note taker got down): Six Nations Tourism, Woodland Cultural Centre, Six Nations Forest Theatre, the Hindu Charitable Foundation, The Muslim Association of Brantford, The Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam, Latin American Village, CarribeanFest, The Polish Alliance, The Filpino Association of Brantford, YMCA Immigration Services and a representative from the Workplace Planning Board which works on Immigration issues.
– There was a series of introductions as to who was there. For her part, Danielle opened the meeting by saying it was nice to be meeting in the Mohawk Chapel, where her grandmother once did tours here, and talked a bit about her Hungarian heritage (and you can find an article online here from several years ago when she wrote articles for the Expositor, which discusses further her 15 years of involvement in the International Villages Festival in detail how she was Ambassador for the Hungarian Village)
Mr. McCallum said very early on he did not want to give a big long speech on things, but that he preferred the format to be a Q & A session amongst the participants to him. Among his answers to various questions that I noted were:
– Liberals wanted to welcome immigrants to this country “with a smile, not a scowl”.
– He felt that we were doing far too little as a country in taking on refugees these days – specifically referencing Syrian refugees, and comparing our rather tepid response with how we welcomed the Vietnamese boat people back in the late 1970’s.
– He believes that we should reduce the waiting time for someone from another land who marries a Canadian citizen to be able to come and live here. He addressed the concern about cheating the system, saying a few bad apples who are using a marriage of convenience to get here should not spoil it for the rest of the “good apples” . He did not believe we should automatically assume people are cheating – tying it back in to the “greet people with a smile, not a scowl” point he made.
– He said that youth employment in general needed to be addressed by a Liberal government, and in answer to a question, First Nations youth were included among that. He mentioned details would soon be released regarding an infrastructure program the Liberals would propose to help address that. He also promised to ask the leadership about trying to help preserve Native language programs that had been cut, and he noted and acknowledged cuts in general everywhere to museums and cultural centres, saying that a Liberal government would do what they could to reverse the Harper government neglect of these areas, but that there were so many of them that they couldn’t immediately be undone overnight, and that they still had to be fiscally responsible in doing so.
In her closing remarks, Danielle closed the meeting by saying she would be following up this meeting by following up this meeting by passing along the meeting and questions/thoughts with the policy adviser for the Liberal Party and wants to engage further one on one with each community with representatives there and those that couldn’t make it. She kept encouraging people to keep discussing and that she pictured her role to be the community’s hands, and to please pass along their thoughts and that she would work hard for them to get their priorities addressed. She asked those in attendance keep her informed about their various communities’ issues.
Afterwards, at a social, Mr McCallum was presented with a birthday cake for his “meeting senior citizens eligibility”, and Brantford MPP and Speaker of the Ontario Legislature Dave Levac dropped by to convey greetings and birthday wishes!