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Theresa Chong

TC

What are you talking a-boot?

What happens if you can “walk the talk”, but can’t “talk the walk”?

Steak or stir fry? Believe it or not, this very question helped to shape me into who I am today.

I am what is referred to as a CBC, a Canadian Born Chinese. I was born in a small city in Northern Alberta and moved to Toronto in elementary school.

Since my Chinese language skills are minimal, in fact border line non-existent, people often pose the obligatory question “What are you?” In other words, “Are you Chinese or Caucasian?” I admit that for a solid chunk of my life I really didn’t know the answer myself. Then the “Wonder Years” moment came. You know the one, like in the show staring Fred Savage. Whether out of true contemplation or pure boredom, my mind started to wander and ended up at the leg of a distant childhood memory.

It was my first day in a Torontonian classroom. I walked in and to my dismay I was no longer the token Asian student. “Wow” I thought to myself, “I blend in for once!” Before no time I had friends of diverse ethnic backgrounds, and food swapping at lunch was at the epitome of fine cuisine.

However, euphoria had an expiration date just like our lunch. Although I saw physical and social similarities to my Chinese and Caucasian classmates, respectively, the cultural connection was still void.

The beauty about children is that they spare the social niceties taught in adulthood, and at first instinct they verbalize exactly what they see. One day at lunch a banana was sitting on the table in front of me. My Chinese friend pointed at the banana and then at me declaring, “You’re a banana!”

Racially the term is self explanatory - yellow on the outside (Chinese) and white in the inside (Caucasian). Suffice to say I was perplexed. In a nutshell she was telling me that I had no culture.

When I got home from school I stared into the mirror in hope of catching a glimpse of clarity. At first I was convinced I was Chinese. I knew this because when I brought home a 95% test mark my parents would ask me, “What happened to the last 5%?” My parents also instilled in me the values of family, loyalty, respect and honour which are integral in the Chinese culture. Plus, I was a chopstick master. I could pick up a pin if I so desired.

Although I had valid arguments of why I am Chinese, the fact that I couldn’t communicate the language was indisputable. In essence I could “walk like” a Chinese but couldn’t “talk like” a Chinese.

By this time I was tired of staring at myself in the mirror and it was almost dinner. My mind automatically switched over to food mode. The usual options came up and I narrowed it down to steak or stir fry. Both were equally delicious. I decided to have stir fry that night and steak the night after, that way I could taste both.

Then I realized. If we are what we eat then today I am Chinese and tomorrow I will be Caucasian. As for the days beyond that, the permutations of who I could be were limitless. The best part about not conforming to a uniform mould is that it sets no restrictions on the potential of who you could be. From that perspective, you could defy the tradition of normality and create your own identity.

So now, when people ask me “What are you?” I can say with 100% conviction, “What are you talking a-boot? I’m Chinese-Born-Canadian, eh!”

Jeannette Tossounian

jt

From Braunschweig to New Brunswick-
the journey of an Immigrant

Keep Rocking In The New World.

Sitting across from an old thick oak desk and sipping on a cup of green tea poured out of a little tea pot into tiny flower printed Chinese cups, my old friend Berndt Meyer types on his computer with a map of Thailand at his back. With an eyebrow raised and looking earnest, he asked me if I’d like some more tea in a distinctive German accent. I was just discussing visiting the Multicultural Festival when I decided after all my years of knowing this guy, to ask him if he had anything interesting to say about his move from Germany to Canada.

As a teenager, Berndt can remember riding a motorcycle on the cobblestone streets of his hometown of Braunschweig, Germany. One day the road was wet and the bike got jarred. He flung from his bike and chipped a tooth. Berndt points out the tooth to me tapping his finger inside his mouth.

Graduating from school at the age of sixteen Berndt obtained an apprenticeship contract to be a high power voltage electrician. If he had stayed in Germany to continue, he would have been a journeyman by age nineteen, and perhaps use his new skills as a mandatory requirement serving the German army for a year and a half.

During the sixties, Europe was the centre of a cold war and the feeling was more than dismal. Paris was burning. Students were rioting. At home in Germany, ten foot thick concrete bunkers riddled with bullet holes were packed with the homeless. Spies were captured on the streets and interrogated in the news. No matter who you were, you were not safe. So in the summer of 1969, Berndt, his mother and little brother packed their household items into crates and got on a freighter with four other immigrants heading to Canada. His father already had arrived and settled in Niagara Falls a couple of months in advance, so when the boat landed in Montreal, they loaded the crates on a u-hull and drove down the 401, tiredly entering their permanent settlement in Niagara.

“I came here as a sixteen year old, one week before the Americans landed on the moon. My experience here in the new world was like Neil Armstrong landing on the moon.”

Berndt knew little English before heading to Canada; just a little from what he learnt in school and the rock and roll music on the radio. “I can’t get no - satisfaction…” he reminiscently sings. He quickly found that when talking to Canadians, most people wanted to desperately share cultural stories, even if they were not even a first generation Canadian. “I’m a Canadian. Look at the origins of Canadians and half were not born here.”

However, Berndt Meyer is not the first from Braunschweig to settle into Canada. In 1775, American armies attacked Canada and seized all it’s cities except for Quebec City. England was desperate to defend their new land, so King George III requested the military aid of his cousin, the Duke of Braunschweig, who gladly sold his English cousin the services of nearly 5000 troops over the years of battle for 774,000lbs of sterling.

The German troops came storming into Canada and drove off the Americans in little time and the town of Braunschweig became very prosperous with their weight in silver. Many of the Braunschweig soldiers received land grants and it was recorded in 1783 they made up 4% of the male population between Bellville and Quebec City, importing their own trades people into the new world. The Braunschweig soldiers populated the whole eastern border to help defend Canada against the Americans and settle to a brand new Braunschweig - or as we know it - New Brunswick.

SO YOU WANT TO PURCHASE PROPERTY IN ONTARIO?

So you have decided you are ready to purchase real estate in Ontario. This article will address a few basic items, legal and otherwise, you should be aware of.

First of all, if you are financing your purchase, you may want to get pre-approved for a mortgage before you start shopping. There are many options available, including the major banks, credit unions and trust companies, as well as private lenders. Each offers a different product with different rates of interest, terms, prepayment privileges and so forth. You can enlist the aid of a mortgage broker (see your phone book or the internet for contacts) or simply attend at the various institutions and speak with a mortgage specialist. Most mortgages require a minimum down payment of 5% of the purchase price, however some lenders have now introduced mortgage products which require a lesser or no down payment. Either way, you should be prepared to provide as much information as possible, including work experience, income verification, and disclosure of current debts owing.

So now you have financing – what’s next? It’s time to go shopping. You may wish to start by contacting a real estate agent or brokerage. There are many different options, including large, nationally established agencies as well as smaller operations consisting of one or several agents. Check the phone book or your local newspaper’s real estate section, or ask your friends if they know an agent they trust. You can also consult the Multiple Listing Service (properties listed with a real estate agent) on the internet at www.mls.ca to search for properties by region that meet your criteria. The information posted is somewhat limited, but it is a good starting point. The seller is responsible for paying the commission for both the listing broker and buyer’s broker, so your broker’s services should be free to you with the exception of disbursements.

There are also many websites advertising private sales (ie. houses for sale by the owner and not listed with a real estate agent). You can simply contact the owner directly to ask questions, arrange a tour or attend an open house.

So you’ve found your dream property – where do you go from here? You’re next step is to contact a lawyer. Your lawyer will be responsible for performing a search of title to ensure you are receiving a good and marketable title to your property. Your lawyer will also do all things necessary to close your transaction, including drafting of closing documents and negotiating same with the vendor’s lawyer, meeting with you to sign your closing documents, registering your deed and mortgage, and reporting to you after the transaction has closed.

You should keep in mind that a lawyer’s costs to close a purchase transaction usually has two components. The first component is the legal fee, representing the lawyer’s time spent on your transaction, which will vary slightly between lawyers and is usually charged at a flat rate. Except in extraordinary circumstances, your lawyer will also act on the bank’s behalf regarding your financing documentation and registration of the mortgage, and this fee will usually be included in the legal fee. The second component is disbursements, which include costs for title and execution searches, tax certificate, courier charges, photocopies, faxes, postage and cheque certification. Your lawyer should be able to estimate the cost of disbursements for you at the time you are discussing retainer.

Some other significant costs you will be responsible for include land transfer tax (between 1% and 2%, increasing with the purchase price), title insurance premium (approx. $200-$300 for most properties but increasing with the purchase price) and document registration fees ($70.60 per document).

Be sure to choose a lawyer who is accessible and has a good reputation. Cost should not always be your deciding factor in choosing a professional for this type of transaction. Feel free to contact several lawyers and ask them questions before deciding whom to retain, or enlist the aid of your real estate agent or mortgage broker for advice.

So the purchase transaction has closed and you have moved in – what’s next? Sit back and enjoy your property – you’ve earned it!!

This article addresses some of the important steps involved in purchasing residential property in Ontario. It is for informational purposes only and is not to be relied upon as legal advice. You should consult with a real estate lawyer or other professional to obtain proper advice, legal or otherwise, pertaining to your particular situation.

For more information on residential real property issues, feel free to contact Michael Skiba at the Niagara Falls office of Martin Sheppard Fraser LLP. Editor's note: Please contact the writer for latest information.

Estate Planning - Denise M. Elliott

Estate Jan Feb 2008 Mosaic Edition newspaper.

“Estate Planning” involves planning ahead for the administration of your assets when you are no longer capable of managing your assets yourself, as well as when you die. dmeIn order to ensure that your wishes are carried out in both these instances it is crucial that you have the proper documents in place to carry out your plan. At a minimum, everyone in Ontario should have the following documents: a Will, a Power of Attorney for Property, and a Power of Attorney for Personal Care. You will need to make a number of decisions before the proper documents can be drafted and signed.

Powers of Attorney

Powers of Attorney allow someone you name (your “Attorney”) to manage your financial affairs and make personal care decisions for you if you become incapable. You need to decide the person or persons that will assume this responsibility. You also need to think about possible alternatives if your first choice is not able to act on your behalf. Then you need to determine if there are any special instructions you need to provide to your Attorney.

Will

You need to decide the person or persons (your “Estate Trustee” or “Executor”) who will assume the responsibility of administering your estate when you die. Again, you need to think about possible alternatives if your first choice is not able to act on your behalf.

You also need to decide who will receive your assets when you die and provide for contingencies if one or more of your intended beneficiaries dies before you do. It is best to plan in very general terms; percentages or shares are better than trying to give away specific assets. Sometimes specific items will need to be addressed. Special consideration will need to be given to certain assets, like the family cottage, jewellery, and art or antique collections. Generally, items that may have strong sentimental value or items that may attract significant tax consequences on your death may need special attention when estate planning. If you intend to benefit a group of persons equally (for example, your children), you need to ensure that the gifts you specifically designate are indeed equal.

You will need to plan very carefully if you intend to benefit certain classes of beneficiaries, like minors, children from a prior marriage, or persons with disabilities. Planning for minor children includes not only appointing the appropriate guardian but also setting up the proper trust so that your money is available to benefit your children (or grandchildren) in the way that you want. A “spousal trust” will ensure that you are able to provide for a second spouse while at the same time ensuring that children from a prior marriage are also provided for on the death of that spouse. A special trust called a “Henson trust” will ensure that a gift to a disabled beneficiary does not disqualify that person from government assistance.

Every good estate plan has tax planning as an element as there are a number of income tax consequences that arise upon the death of a taxpayer. There may be significant capital gains tax on various tax-sheltered plans such as RRSPs, RRIFs, and RPP (pension plan) benefits. In addition, one is deemed to dispose of one’s capital assets (such, as mutual funds, shares, and real property, other than your family’s principal residence) upon death and this triggers capital gains tax. There may be ways to defer the income tax payable on your death or, at a minimum, plan for the payment of the tax so that certain assets do not have to be sold. The key is ensuring sufficient liquidity to pay debts and taxes to avoid selling assets that you want to keep. If you want the family cottage to actually go to the children or grandchildren, you better make sure your estate has sufficient other resources to pay the tax.

This article highlights some of the important legal issues that may arise in the context of estate planning in Ontario. You should consult with a lawyer to obtain proper legal advice pertaining to your particular situation.

For more information on implementing your estate plan, feel free to contact Denise M. Elliott at the Niagara Falls office of Martin Sheppard Fraser LLP.

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