New Canadian Media

 by Daniel Leon Rodriguez in Calgary 

Many immigrant men feel isolated, fearful and lost upon arrival in Canada, according to multiple researchers and social agencies in the country.

Vic Lantion, a program coordinator with the Ethno-Cultural Council of Calgary (ECCC), explains that many of his clients are men suffering from clinical depression. 

“They wake up at 3 a.m. asking themselves, ‘What I’m doing here?’” says Lantion. 

Lantion explains that these men often struggle to cope with their ethnic and cultural expectations, which are often distorted during their resettlement process. After immigrating, they and their wives often find jobs or new avenues of social expression that might not have existed in their home countries.

At the same time, however, a lack of research on how immigrant men handle these changes makes it difficult to resolve these issues.

Immigrant men hesitate to reach out

Even when they’re struggling with mental health issues, many of these men might not ask for help because their culture sees it as weakness. “Man from visible minorities have more societal pressure not to seek support,” says Lantion.

Only 25 per cent of immigrants seek support with social agencies, and most of them are women, according to Lantion. This puts male newcomers at a disadvantage because they aren’t receiving the support they need to overcome the challenges of resettlement. 

Back in their home countries, these men also enjoy a certain respect and prestige connected with their careers—one which that they might lose in Canada when forced to take other jobs, explains Lantion. 

A lack of research on how immigrant men handle these changes makes it difficult to resolve these issues.

“If you’re highly educated, you have a hard time accepting you’re not a doctor or a lawyer anymore,” says Lantion, who adds men are psychologically affected by underemployment and the challenges of getting their credentials recognized. 

“Men are having a cultural shock in regards [to] their gender identity and values,” he says.

Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association (CIWA) CEO Beba Svigir, says men don’t seek help as often as their wives due to many reasons. 

One reason she cites is that some men don’t trust government and social agencies: “Men feel very uncomfortable because they feel the government [might] undermine their authority.”

Immigrant women are more successful than men

From his experience working with Ethiopian, Somali, Filipino and other immigrant communities in Calgary, Lantion found that men were worse off after resettling in Canada compared to women. “In the long term, immigrant women are being more successful than men,” he says.

In their traditional family roles, immigrant men are often pressured to be family providers. Meanwhile, women are expected to take care of the children. Because immigrant women tend to have more free time, they attend social programs, improving their language and their employment skills, says Lantion.  

“In the long term, immigrant women are being more successful than men."

“Culturally, men are supposed to be the providers,” says Priyadarshini Kharat, a counsellor at the University of Calgary, who found in her PhD research that ethnic men were afraid of being ashamed and ostracized by their communities for not fulfilling their roles as breadwinners.

Svigir agrees with Lantion that women are often more successful than men. She says men feel more “entitled” to cling to their careers than women, which creates self-esteem problems.

Women in the workplace

Lantion says this doesn’t happen to the same extent with women, as their identities aren’t tied to their profession, but to their role as mothers: “When women move to Canada, no one can take away their identity as a mothers.”

David Este, a University of Calgary social work professor, has conducted research on immigrant male refugees over the last 16 years. He says many ethnic men see themselves as failures if their spouse has to work, which is often the case in cities like Calgary, which are expensive to live in. 

Women sometimes find work easier than men as they’re more flexible at the time of employment, says Este. “Women are more pragmatic; they need to work to survive economically.”

“Women are very resilient and they will do whatever to succeed," says Svigir, who adds that female immigrants are open to seeking help, changing careers and accepting any job for the well-being of their children.  

Many ethnic men see themselves as failures if their spouse has to work.

Este says men struggle more to adjust their newly necessary responsibilities. “Immigrant men in Canada are doing domestic chores they would never do in their home countries,” he states.

He adds that back in their countries, couples would get support from extended family members to raise their children—something not available in Canada.

“There is a [saying]: ‘It takes a village to raise a child,’” says Este. 

 Men traditionally ignored by the research community

“There is a humongous gap in the research about immigrant men,” says Kharat, who did her PhD research on intimate partner violence among immigrants from South Asia in Canada.

Because this demographic is often neglected by the research community, there is a lack of understanding of how the immigration process influences the well-being of men as well as their likelihood to commit domestic violence, says Kharat. 

Lantion echoes Kharat, saying there are few if any studies on how men are adapting to egalitarian values.

Last year, this gap lead to the creation of a survey by multiple Alberta social agencies, including the ECCC, to better understand the barriers immigrant men face when resettling.

Preliminary results found that 96 per cent of men said it was important to have support, but only one in four men knew of any support service for men in Canada.

This is the third part in a three-part series on changing family dynamics and what it means for women immigrants in Canada. The first part and second parts discuss how women are socially and economically empowered once they reach Canada. If you are an immigrant who has experienced significant social change in your life after arriving in Canada, please contact 360@newcanadianmedia.ca.

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Arts & Culture

by Tazeen Inam in Mississauga 

Pakistani women enjoy more autonomy in the home and greater overall life satisfaction in Canada compared to what they experienced back home, a new study suggests.

According to "Perceptions of Autonomy and Life Satisfaction in Pakistani Married Immigrant Women in Toronto, Canada" this greater sense of satisfaction is directly associated with these women’s sense of autonomy.

Authors Michaela Hynie, associate professor at York University, and Tahira Jibeen, assistant professor at COMSATS Institute of Technology in Lahore, explain that this freedom has many facets. For many, this includes the economic opportunities that Western societies offer women — opportunities women who come from patriarchal cultures might not have had before.

Fauzia, a resident of Mississauga who immigrated to Canada from Pakistan 14 years ago with her husband and three children, has been driving a school bus since September, 2015. She agrees with the results of the report.

“Things have changed in Pakistan, but I don’t think that still any woman would drive a school bus [as] conveniently and willfully as here,” she says.

Pursuing passions in Canada

Fauzia shares that she found her passion for driving at a very young age, before she got married. For her, driving a public transport vehicle is a decision she could only have made here in Canada.

“If I was in Pakistan, I wouldn’t think of doing something like this,” she adds. “It requires lots of guts and being too daring to break through the cultural norms.”

Hynie and Jibeen’s report highlights the importance that in-laws play in maintaining traditional family roles in Pakistani culture. It states “the goal of the study was to explore the relationship between family structures and autonomy among married immigrant Pakistani women.”

It also investigated “the role that these variables play in their evaluation of their life satisfaction prior to migration, in Pakistan, and post-migration in Canada."

“If I was in Pakistan, I wouldn’t think of doing something like this."

The report found that when women lived with their in-laws, even in Canada, their autonomy was more restricted than when they lived only with their husband and children.

While Fauzia has been able to pursue this opportunity now that she's away from her in-laws, she says her own family back home still makes fun of her occupation. 

“Even in Pakistan, if I tell family and friends, they look down on such a job and laugh at it. However, I tell them proudly that I am Canadian and we are proud to do whatever we feel like,” she says.

Job opportunities and education levels

Naheed, who came to Canada from the Middle East six years ago and also drives a bus, has had an experience similar to Fauzia’s. However, she says that when her in-laws resist her occupation, she is often able to convince them that this is a good opportunity.

“Education and logic plays vital part. Now its up to you [to] either convince others or get convinced, so I usually convince others with logic,” she says.

Immigrant women are more likely to have completed university than women born in Canada.

Over the last decade, the emphasis on educational and occupational qualifications when selecting immigrants has meant that the lead applicant’s spouse (often the female) has to fulfill a certain educational criteria as well as pass a language proficiency test to be accepted.

In part as a result of this focus, immigrant women are more likely to have completed university than women born in Canada.

Even though her current job might not be considered white collar, Naheed says, “I don’t believe in class of work. It’s better to work hard and earn than to beg.”

The role of Islam

While speaking about the role of religion, both drivers, who are Muslim and wear headscarves, believe that Islam does not restrict the ability of women to work.

“Islam doesn’t restrict women to work, but what it asks is to limit yourself within Shariah,” says Fauzia.  

“Even when I used to drive a simple car in Pakistan a long time ago, it was considered odd and people used to take it as a bad thing. So it’s our cultural problem, not religious,” she states.

Support from husbands

While they’ve faced opposition from family, both Naheed and Fauzia say their husbands have supported their desire to pursue their passions and find jobs.

Because the women are employed, they can assist in financially supporting the family. Still, balancing their time is very important since they must take care of the children.

“[My] husband and kids are supportive as their only concern is my availability. My husband always asked me to look for a job that [didn’t mean you] ignore your kids and household responsibilities, as our kids are our priority,” says Fauzia.

Their husbands have supported their desire to pursue their passions and find jobs.

Hynie and Jibeen’s report concludes that women may be happier in more egalitarian marriages, regardless of where they reside.

However, it cautions against imposing Western values and ideologies on immigrant communities. 

It suggests instead that supporting women to negotiate their own forms of autonomy in their interpersonal lives might increase women’s life satisfaction more than importing Western structures.

Naheed is happy that in her current job she still has ample opportunity to relax and spend time with her 12-year-old daughter. She also relishes the authority it gives her.

 “I feel like a king, when traffic stops all around my bus when I put up the signals,” she concludes.

This is the second part in a three-part series on changing family dynamics and what it means for women immigrants in Canada. The first part, "In Canada, South Asian Women Find Social Freedom", discusses how women are socially empowered once they reach Canada. If you are an immigrant who has experienced significant social change in your life after arriving in Canada, please contact 360@newcanadianmedia.ca.

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Arts & Culture

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