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The Muslim Vote

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A Historically Inactive Population Has the Opportunity to Play a Decisive Role in the Future of Surrey.


(Image Source)

The municipal election season is upon us, which means that candidates are scrambling to draw up support for their slate. Historically, voter turnout for municipal elections in British Columbia’s major cities has been embarrassingly low. In most cases only 20-30 percent of a city’s residents turn up to elect their municipal representatives. In light of these facts Surrey’s visible minorities have the opportunity to make a meaningful impact on the result of this upcoming election, and the policies that the new mayor sets for this city.

The Muslim Community

Approximately 75,000 Muslims live in British Columbia, and while a large portion of that number are spread out all over Metro Vancouver, nearly twenty percent call Surrey their home. Low voter turnout can see Surrey’s Muslim community represent anywhere from 10-20 percent of voters next month, in spite of the fact that their total number only reflects a small fraction of the city’s population. Surrey’s Muslims must overcome some historical obstacles, however, if they are to have any shot at making an impact on the city’s political scene.

Causes for Historical Inaction

Canada’s Muslim community is, by all accounts, underrepresented in our political system. This is both the result of, and the reason for, their political inactivity (the proverbial chicken v egg conundrum). There are two major reasons why Canada’s Muslims are not very active in the Canadian political system. The first reason is that a large number of our Muslim compatriots are first generation immigrants who have emigrated from nations ruled by despotic dictators that have stifled any culture of political participation. The political environment that the Muslims have emigrated from can be summarized by this outdated-but-true Syrian Joke.

Syrian president Hafez al-Assad
(Image Source)
An advisor to the president Hafez al-Assad (father of current President/Butcher Bashar Al Assad) says, “Congratulations Mr. President you won 99 percent of the vote.”

Assad growls under his breath.

His advisor, perplexed, says, “But Mr. President. Only 1 percent of the people voted against you. What more do you want?”

Their names,” Assad says.

Muslims, as a consequence of their historical experiences, often view political participation as dangerous and undesirable. Despite spending a large number of years (sometimes the majority of their lives) in Canada, the absence of a foundation rooted in political participation deeply hinders their willingness to participate in the process. This is particularly tragic considering that, in many cases, political participation in the nations of their ethnic origin has increased over the last several decades. Another dimension of this obstacle is a general lack of awareness about the different levels of government, and the impact that political participation can have on these levels; to be fair, this problem is consistent among almost all Canadian communities, and is probably one of the main reasons why voter turnout in municipal elections is so low. Sadly, even if the remnants of political repression and a general unfamiliarity with different levels of government are remedied, Canadian Muslims also struggle to find political leaders who accurately reflect their views.

It is no surprise that Muslims are generally socially conservative compared to their non-Muslim counterparts. They are also, in many cases, fiscally conservative, and in favor of a less intrusive, smaller, and leaner government. In spite of these conservative qualities, an infinitesimally small number of Canada’s Muslims would classify themselves as Conservatives. This is no surprise considering the Conservative party’s zealously pro-Zionist and anti-immigration agenda. On the other hand, Muslims feel that the social values and domestic policies of the centre/centre-left (Liberal and NDP, respectively) do not accurately represent their vision enough to motivate them to vote. In some cases all three of Canada’s mainstream parties strike a bad note with their Muslim constituents.

Harper supports Israel PM Stephen Harper: ‘Canada is Unequivocally Behind Israel’. (Image Source)

For example, during Israel’s biannual pummelling of Gaza this summer – killing over 2,000 people and causing irreparable damage to the impoverished territory – all three parties declared their support for Israel to defend itself, and made no mention of the unimaginable suffering of the Palestinians. While many of the Muslim community’s historical grievances are not relevant for municipal politics, the distrust between Muslims and politicians is deep enough to impact their engagement with all levels of government. Both the absence of a culture of participation, as well as the lack of meaningful representation are legitimate hurdles that must be overcome. The great thing is that these are entirely fixable problems, and the first step to overcoming these obstacles is taking the great leap from inaction to action.

A Call to Action

Canadian Voter
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As I mentioned earlier, Surrey’s Muslims can make a big dent in this upcoming election. Knowing this should motivate Surrey’s Muslims to vote, and vote in bloc; they must communicate, deliberate, and support a candidate that best represents their views. If they are skeptical about the impact this election will have on their future, and feel that the policies of municipal leaders will not have a significant impact on their lives, they should consider the following: Surrey’s Guildford and Newton districts have experienced sharp increases in crime over the last several years as a result of the city’s effort to clean up the city centre (in other words, crime moved from one district to two others).

Crime in Newton, Surrey BC
Hockey Mom Julie Paskall dies after being attacked outside Newton Arena. (Image Source)

Guildford and Newton also happened to be where the majority of Surrey’s Muslims live. The fact of the matter is that high crime neighborhoods are a natural breeding ground for criminal enterprises. If Muslims want to keep their kids safe from drug use, gangs, and gang violence, they must pressure their municipal elected officials to keep their neighbourhoods safe and clean. This is one small example of how participation in this upcoming election will immediately impact their future.

Increased Muslim participation will not only help Muslims, but it will also improve the social fabric of this country. Governments all across Europe (and to some extent, North America) fear that their nationals are going abroad to support and fight with a merry band of unsavory characters known as ISIS. Contrary to the Harper government’s current plan, the best way to combat groups like ISIS is to make sure that Canada’s Muslims feel heard and engaged. Increasing political engagement levels among all of Canada’s minority communities increases confidence in the viability of inspiring global change through democratic action. Our municipal, provincial, and federal politicians should be doing everything they can to ensure that Muslims play an active role in all upcoming elections.

Vote!
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Bassam is an educator with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science, and is currently working on his Masters of Education. He has worked for several years in education, consulting on projects ranging from adult workforce development to the integration of culturally specific curriculum into primary education. Bassam is passionate about Politics – municipal, regional and transnational – learning, and the relationship between the two. On his spare time he enjoys reading fantasy novels and spending time with his wife and son.

Community Board

Newton Days is bringing back the Summer Fun!

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Let’s kick-off summer in Newton! The Newton BIA is bringing back Newton days with events all summer. Complete with a farms’ market, kid fun zone, face painting, food trucks, henna and Science World demonstrations, Newton Days has something for everyone.

Throughout July and August, Newton Days will be taking over the Newton Grove on Saturdays from 12-4pm. Open to the community, everything will be free! Each Saturday will feature something different, so be sure to keep an eye on our Facebook events for more details.

Newton Days is a push to create a more vibrant community within the Newton Town Centre. Get out, enjoy the weather, enjoy the activities, and get to know your neighborhood! Positive events like these in the community are key to the success of Newton and will be more successful with your support!

View All Events Marketing Kit Website

Activities

Farmer’s Market
Face painting
Henna
Food Trucks
Science World demonstrations
Crafts
Live Music
Karate Demonstrations
Re-enactors

Event Partners

Vancity
Friends of the Grove
Surrey RCMP
Surrey Fire Prevention
Science World
Zaklan Farms
Black Belt Academy
North Surrey Minor Football
Studio 73
Ranj Singh
Surrey Re-enactors
Newton Recreation Centre
Surrey Parks and Rec
City of Surrey

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Arts and Entertainment

3rd Annual Groundhog Day in Newton!

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Groundhog Day in Newton returns for the third year of fun. Prepare for a chilling day filled with activities, treats, and live entertainment! Groundhog Day will be taking place in the Newton Grove, next to the Bus loop. Start the day with a free pancake breakfast courtesy by the Surrey RCMP; visit the crafts and games section for some fun activities provided by the Newton Community Centre. And right beside there is the Friends of the Grove tent with free hot chocolate and cupcakes, and while there why not learn a little more about these active community change-makers!

What’s an event without music right? Join Lou Jack and Ginalina as we dance away the cold; and end the day with a special Groundhog themed performance by the Surrey Dance Company and Lou Jack’s prediction! Will we have 6 more weeks of winter, or an early spring?

Groundhog Day is back for another day not to be missed. The event takes place on Saturday, January 28th from 10am-12pm. Come in your pajamas and bring the whole family out for a morning filled with free activities, treats, pancakes, and entertainment.

See you there! And take a look back at Groundhog Day 2016!

About Ginalina
Ginalina is a Juno nominated and bilingual folk singer-songwriter for children and families. She is passionate about finding beauty in the ordinary moments and connecting people, one fun song at a time. Her music and videos can be found on CBC Kids’ Radio stream and Knowledge Network Television.

Her music is energetic and fun, sweet and sentimental, with an array of bluegrass, country, zydeco, modern folk, and west coast styles. Ginalina’s live shows are playful and musically entertaining and engaging, and her catchy songs and actions get children and adults of all ages laughing, roaring, singing, jumping, and clapping! For more info, visit www.ginalina.com.

About Surrey Dance Company
The Surrey Dance Company was originally assembled as a partnership between the City of Surrey and the Arts Council of Surrey as the “Surrey Celebration Dance Team”.

Beginning its artistic journey in celebration of the 2010 WINTER OLYMPIC GAMES at Holland Park, The SCDT has since performed for hundreds of audiences across BC.

Each unique dancer performs at a professional level in their chosen dance aesthetic. As artists in residence at the Thrive Dance Studio and Dance Xpressions, the organization is able to foster diversity in dance as a performing art-Bringing together the community and industry professionals in Surrey and across the lower mainland. For more info, visit http://www.surreydancecompany.com.

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Community Board

Merchant Shoutout: Community Thrift Store

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For Donna Chubb, the Manager of Community Thrift Store, it has always been in her nature to give back. She credits her giving nature to her parents who were passionate about community. Through a combination of passion for volunteering and experience in retail management, Donna and the staff are responsible for the success and growth of the store. Store profits support the Surrey Hospice Society and the Surrey Fire Fighters Charitable Society.community-thrift-store

Newton plays a large role in both the business and Donna’s life. Newton is Community Thrift Store’s only location and is where they have thrived for over 11 years. Donna believes there is a need in Newton for this type of store specializing in quality and affordable thrift goods. Also, Donna connects to Newton at a personal level as her grandparents lived in Newton and her mother grew up here. Newton continues to be a part of her life.

The Community Thrift Store prides themselves on their “consignment quality” products which is evident in the Boutique Section. They look for items that are good quality and items in nearly every category can be found in the store. As a result, this allows them to stay competitive with other thrift stores in the area while simultaneously offering affordable pricing.
Donna attributes much of the business’s growth to her employees and volunteers who consistently provide excellent customer service. The store’s small size allows them to build relationships with customers, knowing many on a first-name basis.  Donna’s staff and volunteers are “caring, honest and fun people who enjoy giving back.” These are only some of the qualities that she believes a volunteer requires and this is why the Community Thrift Store has a diverse group of volunteers from the ages of 16-86. As a result, they have jobs for everyone regardless of their physical or mental abilities, as Donna states, “Volunteers are the greatest asset”.

community-thrift-store-6Contributing to the local community is a huge part of the Community Thrift Store. In addition to supporting the Surrey Hospice Society and the Surrey Fire Fighters Charitable Society, they also help community members. They offer free items for the homeless providing them with a safe place free of judgement. And community agencies can find practicum placements for clients and students can earn volunteer hours at the store.

Donna and the store have high hopes for Newton. They hope to see it become a vibrant location where people can feel comfortable shopping. Newton is a great location for the store and the community here supports them. Although they may open another location in the future, Donna maintains that this store will always be here in Newton.

The Community Thrift Store is holding their most anticipated event of the year, ‘Night on the Town’ on November 25th from 6-9 pm. The event is extremely popular with customers and their ninth one this year. Christmas decorations fill the store and the best holiday wear is on display for the event. Because Night on the Town has large ques, be sure to line up early! Donna, staff, and volunteers can’t wait to see you come by and have a look at this little gem of a store. You will be amazed at what they have.

Merchant Shout-Out is a monthly Newton BIA program highlighting one business per month within the Newton Town Centre. Tune in every month to hear a new business story! And visit our website for past stories. 

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Community Board

Newton Community Walk – November 4

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Every movement starts with a passionate few that drive change in their neighborhood. It is Newton’s time to take back its streets and galvanize the community by taking ownership of the future to ensure long term vibrancy and optimism for the area. The Newton BIA has adopted streets through the Surrey Adopt-A-Street program within the BIA boundary in part to take back the streets. Taking ownership of our streets within the town centre is a step towards the revitalization and success of Newton. This monthly walk is a positive event bringing the community together from residents, businesses, stakeholders, and government. Collaboration is vital to the success of any community.

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Join us Friday, November 4 at McDonald’s located on 72 Ave near King George at 9 am and get involved in your community! We will be walking the streets, picking up garbage, and conversing about all things Newton. Join us for some community building and end off with treats provided by McDonald’s. Be the change in your community!

RSVP here: info@newtonbia.com

Location:

McDonald’s

13565 72 Ave, Surrey, BC V3W 2N9

Time:

Friday, November 4

9 AM – 11 AM

Attire is based on weather. Closed toe shoes are recommended.

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Events

Spooktacular Newton Returns!

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Spooktacular Newton returns this year for another spook filled day. Prepare for a chilling day filled with activities, trick-or-treating, and entertainment! In its inaugural year, Spooktacular was a great success with an attendance of 3000 trick-or-treaters! The event was received with great enthusiasm, so continuing the event was only natural. Newton lacks great marquee events and Spooktacular can fill that void as an event residents can look forward to annually.

Spooktacular will be taking place along 137th street in the Newton Town Centre with trick-or-treating along the street and dsc_0809many activities to stop by at along your way. Take a pic at the photo booth for a free souvenir of the event and definitely take advantage of the props to spookify your photo. Then take a stroll over to the crafts and games section for some fun activities provided by the Newton Community Centre. And right beside there is the spook theatre if you dare to be frightened, be sure not to spill all your popcorn when you’re jolted with fear! What’s an event without music? Not so good, so make sure to stop by the DJ booth for some Halloween tunes to shake to, and be aware of surprise thriller dance offs throughout the day! Sounds like enough? We think not! Take a ride on the haunted train and walk on over to the dsc_0761petting zoo! Hungry? Stop by one of the food trucks or by some of the many nearby restaurants for a bite. And before going home, take a walk through the pumpkin patch! Pick out a pumpkin, but be sure to choose one that will make the best Jack-o-Lantern, and drop a small donation off at the Surrey Food Bank tent!

Spooktacular Newton is back for another day not to be missed. The event takes place on Saturday, October 22nd from 12pm-4pm. Dress up in your finest costume and bring the whole family out for a day filled with many free activities, trick-or-treating, pumpkins, and entertainment. See you there!

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