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R & Interview

Interview with MPP Daiene Vernile

By Saifullah Muhammad 

I had the opportunity to interview Daiene Vernile, MPP for Kitchener Centre who has been recently appointed as the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport in Ontario Cabinet for 2018.

Daiene is an award-winning Kitchener broadcast journalist who covered public issues for three decades on CTV’s Provincewide.

For thirty years, Daiene has been an active volunteer and community supporter. Daiene is among Wilfrid Laurier University’s “100 Alumni of Achievement” who inspire lives of leadership and purpose.  She began her career as a Queens Park legislature reporter, expanded her journalism skills in Texas, and returned home to Ontario, spearheading one of Canada’s longest running public affairs programs.

“My parents are Italian immigrants who came to Canada after WW2 to escape post-war destruction and hopelessness in their homeland,” Daiene shared herself. “Arriving with only $50 in their pockets, there were unskilled, uneducated, but young, strong, and determined.  During my youth, we were very poor, but there always seemed to be good Italian food on the table, clean clothing (although, handed down from relatives), and good cheer as we knew that in Canada, we were in a better place with many opportunities.   When I went off to school, I did not speak a word of English and had much to learn.  But, as I’ve said, Canada is a place of opportunity.  I became the first member of my family to attend university, which I paid for myself by juggling four jobs.  I have been married for 33 years, and my husband and I have 3 wonderful children.”

She was a journalist and award-winning anchor for CTV and moved to the politics three years ago.

“People often ask me; did you always want to be a politician?  The answer is:  no,” Daiene mention.  “I was quite happy producing and anchoring Provincewide, a successful weekly news and current affairs program at CTV Kitchener.  In early 2014, following an interview with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, I received a call from a Liberal party strategist informing me that the sitting MPP for Kitchener Centre, John Milloy, would be retiring.  The party was looking for a new candidate.  At first, I was reluctant to leave my comfortable, well-respected position in television.  But, after meeting with Premier Wynne to discuss public service, she said something to me that sealed my decision.  “Government can be a force for good in peoples’ lives,” she said.  And I hold this core value to be true.  This is why I left my career as a news journalist to now serve as an elected representative.”

When asked about the difference between journalism and politics, Daiene said, “Both are committed to helping people.  Journalists do this by putting the spotlight on a situation, a problem, or an injustice in society.  Politicians concern themselves with these matters too, but move beyond “talking” about these issues, and can legislate change or allocate resources to create a better, fairer society.”

It was sudden for her to decide how to manage everything to run for the election and organize campaigns before the election. Knowing people and earning vote was her challenging issues during the election.

“The challenges I faced during the election – as does any politician – is earning votes,” Daiene stated. “We assembled a team of dedicated volunteers, knocked on 7,500 doors over the course of 43 days, listened to peoples’ concerns, shared our goals, and on election day, pulled people out to vote!  The biggest challenges I faced were dirty tricks from the opposition.  In time, we learned not to give attention to the silliness, but got on with our job of connecting with people.”

The one clear advantage she had was recognition.  When she knocked on a door, and the homeowner answered, they usually knew who she was from the years she spent on television.  It meant they could get to discussing issues quicker.

Daiene Vernile has been recently appointed as the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport. Photo: YTB

Daiene has been serving the Kitchener Center for three years now and could make a lot of changes for the public.

“We’re already doing this to bringing in an increase to the minimum wage from $11.60 an hour to $14.00 January 1, 2018, and then $15.00 January 1, 2019, Daiene said.” “In the new year, all Ontarians under 25 will have access to free medications under the new OHIP+.  This year, low-income students qualified for free university and college tuition.  In KW, the province contributed $300 million dollars to build the new LRT, and a few weeks ago, with cost overruns, when the region asked for $25 million dollars, Ontario stepped up with more funding.  The province has also agreed to fully fund a new $43 million transit hub (at King and Victoria), a new Go Train station in Breslau, and a new Go parking garage.  The province has also committed to a new $7 million catheter lab at St. Mary’s Hospital, a new $5.3 million cancer radiation unit at Grand River Hospital, and a $1.8 million addition to Conestoga College in Waterloo.  We’ve also built and renovated 10 elementary and high schools in our region.”

 

“Ontarians will continue to see historic investments in infrastructure.  We have committed to $1.9 billion dollars in building hospitals, schools, roads, rail, and bridges over the next decade,” Daiene further added.

Daiene has been recently appointed as the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport in Ontario Cabinet for 2018 and preparing for the next election.

“Our team of dedicated volunteers is preparing for another successful election campaign,” Daiene stated.  “This will include assembling volunteers, securing a campaign office, fundraising, canvassing, and mapping out our strategy.”

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R & Interview

Interview with Peter Akman

By Saifullah Muhammad

I had an opportunity to interview Peter Akman, Toronto Bureau Reporter, CTV National News. First Akman shared about his personal background that he was born in St. John’s, N.L., and raised in Ottawa. He received an Honours Degree majoring in English and Communications from Simon Fraser University (SFU).

He started his journalism career as a Video Journalist for CTV in Timmins, ON, before moving on to the role of Video Journalist for CTV News Edmonton from 2004 to 2006.

Prior to his return to CTV News in June 2013, Akman spent nearly eight years with CBC News, first as a Reporter and Backup Anchor stationed in Calgary, and later as Reporter, VJ, and Anchor for CBC Local and The National based in Montreal and most recently Toronto.

Akman was nominated multiple times; he was awarded an RTDNA for his continuing coverage of the Richelieu River Flooding in 2011, the overland flooding disaster in Quebec that affected thousands of area residents for months.

Akman’s journalism career has taken him across Canada and around the world. In recent years, his reports have brought him to the heart of conflict unfolding in Northern Africa and the Middle East. He reported during the fall of Moammar Gadhafi in Libya; he was in Egypt during the Tahrir Square revolution and the eventual fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak; and spent two months embedded with Canadian Armed Forces, reporting from Afghanistan in the aftermath of 9/11. Akman has also covered the White House in Washington and reported before and during the 2012 Olympic Games from London.

When asked, “What was one of the single challenging dilemmas he had ever faced during his journalism career?”  “I think every time when I travel to places, people address ethical questions that how much can you help them. I think that always been challenging,” Akman wondered.

Then he expressed one of the most unforgettable dilemmas he had ever faced was in Bangladesh. Akman said, he recently returned from the Rohingya refugee camp, based in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. He along with his team drove two and half hours to the BaluKhali refugee camp. The temperature was about 40-degrees and that has humidity.  He saw people with no money, starving without food, no clean water.

“When we went to a refugee school, we saw the children were very hungry and most of them are not healthy. The real dilemma came up when we talked to their parents and their caregivers who are supporting them. They said they have no food and nothing to feed and they need something for the children,” Akman said. We listened and walked away. That kind of situation is very challenging, emotional and upsetting. I felt like I was there to help them and I should be there to help more than words and information. When I go back to the hotel; I have all the food, water, and medication I need. My biggest dilemma was that how much I can help those people in need.”

Akman found the same situation when he was in Afghanistan. People were struggling for their daily survival and he wished he could help them and make them happy. One help is coming from reporting what he is doing now.

When asked, “How he resolved that dilemma?” Akman responded, “The situation is so bad where I helped them as much as I could in Bangladesh. We push Canada and people all over the world to donate money and people donated millions of dollar. Most of the people are supporting with aid. We will continue to do that all the backs of our stories that enlightening toward what is going on. There is no any resolution you ended up having to pack up.”

Akman wants to go to Bangladesh again to report the current situation as people need help there. When asked, what does he sees the future of those people and resolution turn out to be, Akman shared his feeling, “When I was in Bangladesh, I personally donated some food to the children and bottles of water to the kids. We were telling them many people care about them and think about their future and advised them not to lose hope.” The situation is dire in the refugee camp and they are in need of help and support from us, he added.  

 “A few days ago, a couple hundreds of people came up to listen what happening to the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. They all bought their own tickets and showed a great support for those people. I gave three hours of time to shed more lights on the refugee situation. If I would be wealthy enough and no issue to survive, I would probably do what I could do to help those people in need.” Akman shared. 

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Repatriation of Rohingya refugees must be voluntary

By Saifullah Muhammad

The unatical agreement between Myanmar and Bangladesh to repatriate potentially hundreds of thousands of Rohingya to their homes in Rakhine State has been widely criticized by the international experts.

Around a million Rohingya have fled across the border into Bangladesh from Myanmar since 25 Aug., when a new round of crackdown broken out on the name of clearance operation in Myanmar’s west.

Under the agreement, the two countries would work together to solve the huge refugee crisis and repatriate Rohingya who wanted to return to Rakhine State.
 News of the deal broke on Thursday when a spokesman for State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi announced that a memorandum of understanding had been signed between Myanmar and Bangladesh. Myanmar’s  announcement was very short on details, however.
The Canadian Rohingya Development Initiative, a registered Rohingya organization in Canada expressed their major concern about the text of the agreement was how long repatriated refugees would be kept in temporary camps.
The agreement says “Myanmar will take all possible measures to see that the returnees will not be settled in temporary places for a long period of time and their freedom of movement in the Rakhine State will be allowed in conformity with the existing laws and regulations.”
At the rate of return proposed by the Burmese government of 100-150 refugees returning per day, it would take 22.33 years. At 150 a day, it would take 14.88 years.
“How can we trust the government and military? They have been committing crime against humanity since 1962 in Burma and no any article of Universal Declaration of Human Rights was honoured. No one should go back if they have to stay in a camp, if they are not allowed to live back in their original village,” the statement said, “Myanmar government must restore their citizenship once they are repatriated.”
That is the most pernicious narrative, calls for repatriating Rohingya refugees back to Myanmar where ethnic cleansing has not yet ceased, while the junta and Aung San Suu Kyi continue to deny it is going on.

People are still fleeing the country due to continuous persecution of arm forces and local Rakhine people. It is disingenuous to assume that Myanmar and Bangladesh are engaged to repatriate them without any right is ensured and where their life would be in more danger.
Bangladesh has not been able to provide an orderly method for asylum. Who would trust it to negotiate a humane repatriation program?
There are some narratives about Myanmar still clung to by politicians and the media which are mocked by the realities of the Rohingya crisis. One of the most perilous narratives is the portrayal of Aung San Suu Kyi, as a fallen angel and champion of human rights leading a civilian government. In fact, the fascist military junta has been using her to remove US and European sanctions.

Aung San Suu Kyi is no one’s role model. Only the model of Burmese Terror Military and Buddhist Fanatics.

She will be remembered alongside many genocidaires for commiting genocide against Rohingya. The first Nobel Peace Laureate who turns a monster losing her morals and principles for the sake of ascending to power while making alliance with the warmongering and fear-mongering military and certain section of public.

Given its reputation for honesty and fairness, Canada is trying to help the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and  in Myanmar by donating millions of dollar. Canada also committed to help Myanmar and Bangladeshi government to solve the Rohingya crisis.

However, to repatriate Rohingya back to their home, it should be volutary and their rights to citizenship and safety of their lives must be ensured.
Furthermore UNHCR should be allowed to intervein during the repatriation. International media, humanitarian aid groups should be allowed to access in Rakhine state. Otherwise, it would be same man-made disaster might happened again in this year.

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Kitchener’s annual countdown to the New Year 

This year, City of Kitchener was ringing in 2018 with a special retro morning cartoon theme.

The celebration took place at Kitchener City Hall on Dec. 2017 at about 6 p.m. to 12 a.m. midnight.  People had tons of fun for the whole family including; special appearance by the Mystery Machine and Flintstone vehicles. Retro cartoon arcade games by Canadian Toy Con.

Parents made and took themed craft for kids starting at 6pm while quantities last.

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Kitchener’s annual countdown to the New Year This year, City of Kitchener was ringing in 2018 with a special retro morning cartoon theme. The celebration took place at Kitchener City Hall on Dec. 2017 at about 6 p.m. to 12 a.m. midnight. People had tons of fun for the whole family including; special appearance by the Mystery Machine and Flintstone vehicles. Retro cartoon arcade games by Canadian Toy Con. Parents made and took themed craft for kids starting at 6pm while quantities last. Breakfast cereal counter! Free ice skating on Carl Zehr Square was specially organised to make the the new year special. Live music performance from 10pm to midnight with Sound Parade was delighted by well known singers. Members of council, Mayors and prominent people from the city were present during the new year celebration. Admission was free but people made donation to the food Bank of Waterloo Region. #HappyNewYear #Welcome2018 #Conestogasocialmedia #Conestogacollege #JournalismConestoga #CityHallKitchnener

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Free ice skating on Carl Zehr Square was specially organised to make the the new year special.  Live music performance from 10pm to midnight with Sound Parade was delighted by well known singers.

Members of council, Mayors and prominent people from the city were present during the new year celebration.  Admission was free but people made donation to the food Bank of Waterloo Region.