by Daniel Leon Rodriguez in Calgary
Calgary is celebrating the best of its immigrant communities at the 20th annual Immigrants of Distinction Awards this month.
Immigrant Services Calgary (ISC) will host the awards show on Mar. 11. Krystyna Biel, the chief executive officer of ISC, says the award has become a way to close the settlement cycle of immigrants.
“We help them in their path to success, and we want to celebrate with them their achievements,” said Biel, who explains immigrants overcome many challenges in their integration process.
Biel has been involved with ISC for over 26 years. Two decades ago, she was a career counsellor with the agency. Today, she remembers the uncertainty of that first awards show.
“We didn’t know what to expect,” recalls Biel. The night of the event, the Calgary Metropolitan Centre was crowded with 350 people. The response of the community was overwhelming. Biel says since then the event and the agency has exceeded expectations year after year.
A growing immigrant population
In 1997, the agency had 40 full-time staff and 400 volunteers – speaking over 60 languages. Calgary, at the time, had 127,555 people from visible-minority communities, accounting for 15 per cent of the population.
Today, the agency has 120 full-time staff and more than 700 volunteers – speaking over 140 languages. By 2020, the City of Calgary projects almost half a million immigrants will reside there and 40 per cent of its population will be visible minorities.
In 1997, Peter Wong, then chair of the Calgary Immigrant Aid Society (CIAS was renamed Immigrant Services Calgary nine years ago), started the Immigrants of Distinction Awards – the first awards ceremony of its kind in Calgary’s history.
“It is a celebration of how we as Canadians view ourselves in the best possible light,” Wong told The Calgary Herald two decades ago. His goal was to dismiss the “negative spin” some Albertans had of immigrants.
The award was envisioned to promote diversity among businesses and organizations. The recipients exemplify the benefits of diversity, Wong told the Herald.
Back then, Hadassah Ksienski, chief executive officer of CIAS, told the Herald immigrants were facing an uphill battle.
“If immigrants are very successful, ‘they take away jobs from Canadians.’ If they are not successful, ‘they are a burden on society,’” Ksienski explained.
The power of immigrants
Josephine Pon, the chairperson of ISC, says the awards help to celebrate the diversity of the city.
“The awards show people that newcomers work hard and have big hearts,” says Pon. The recognitions help immigrants feel appreciated, and to create role models in the community.
Aritha van Herk, author of the award-winning non-fiction book Mavericks: an Incorrigible History of Alberta, says the Immigrants of Distinction Awards is an important reminder of the contributions of immigrants to Calgary.
“Without newcomers from all parts of the world, Calgary wouldn’t be the buoyant city it is,” says van Herk, who adds that immigrants inject energy, creativity and skill sets to the city.
Van Herk says most of the city’s population is made up of second-generation immigrants.
One of the most recognizable examples is the popular mayor, Naheed Nenshi, who was raised and educated in Calgary. “We grew him up in our city,” adds van Herk.
Another example is the honorary chair of this year’s awards, Wayne Chiu. He is the founder and CEO of Trico Home and was recently appointed to the Order of Canada as a “corporate leader and as a champion of innovation and social entrepreneurship.”
In 2008, Chiu and his wife founded Trico Charitable Foundation, which has supported many local community organizations. In 2014, Chiu who sat on the board of Bow Valley College in Calgary for eight years, donated $3 million to the school – the largest single donation in the institution's history.
Canada: A land of opportunity
Ziad Paracha, won one the youth awards last year. In 2003, at eight years old, he came to Calgary with his family from Pakistan. They didn’t know about the country, and arrived in March without a winter jacket.
“I didn’t even know what Canada was back then,” says Paracha, who thought he didn’t fit in his new country. “I thought maybe we should go back.”
As an immigrant, he felt compelled to do more. Over the last five years, Paracha has been a volunteer at the newcomers orientation week program with the Calgary Bridge Foundation for the Youth.
He is also the co-founder and current president of Ascovime Canada, and he volunteers at Foothills Hospital Long Term Patient Care in the neurological rehabilitation unit.
“It is always great to get recognized,” says Paracha. “Sometimes you feel like you aren’t as recognized as a member from a minority group.”
He says negative stereotypes persist across Canada. “There is still space for improvement.”
However, he adds, Canada remains a land of opportunity.
“Any immigrant that is perseverant and passionate about anything, it is guaranteed they will succeed.”
For a list of this year’s finalists, visit the Immigrants of Distinction Awards website.
This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org
This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to email@example.com
by Danica Samuel in Toronto
Focusing on developing immigrants’ soft skills may be one solution to increasing the hiring and retention of newcomers in the workplace.
This was just one of several strategies to come out of discussions on the first day of the 18th National Metropolis Conference at the Westin Harbour Castle hotel in Toronto this past week.
“Twenty-two per cent of employers said soft skills is the reason that newcomers are not able to retain work,” explained Nadil Jamil, policy strategist for Peel Newcomer Strategy Group, during a workshop titled “Multi-Sectoral Collaboration: Towards Innovative Strategies for the Employment Retention of Newcomers”. “This was also the second highest reason we found in our research.”
Jamil said the group’s 2015 employment survey found that even if newcomers are able to secure employment, job retention continues to be a problem due to a lack of soft skills.
“What does ‘soft skills’ mean?” she asked audience members. Skills like the comprehension of hierarchy and simple workplace courtesy were some of the responses. Jamil concluded that the varying definitions are where the problem ultimately lies.
She emphasized that it’s also very important to ask, “How can soft skills for newcomers be improved without imposing on specific cultural norms?”
Who is the ‘right fit’?
The workshop went on to explore the perceptions of newcomers and the cultural norms of employers.
“Why aren’t immigrants considered integral when it comes to the hiring process?” asked Sangeeta Subramanian, senior manager in workplace development for British Columbia’s Immigration Employment Council (IEC).
She addressed the idea of a ‘right-fit’ and described it through an employer’s lens, which often means hiring someone who reflects their own image.
She went on to say that sustaining collaborative partnerships with recruiters working with immigrants specifically can help attract, hire, and retain them in the labour markets.
Workshop panellist, Rodel Imbarlina-Ramos, who is the manager of employer relations at the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC), agreed that strategically challenging the language employers use when seeking new hires will lead them into changing their perspective.
Ramos said that it’s a matter of pitching new concepts to employers, without specifically mentioning words that may bring attention to race, diversity and newcomer inclusion.
“All of a sudden we have changed the language by taking the cultural component out so it isn’t about whether someone is a student, a new grad or new to the workplace, nor is it about if an individual is new to Canada, it’s about trying to get the most out of people in the workplace.”
Anita Sampson Binder, vice-president of ARES Staffing Solutions, calls this employer language tactic “soft educating.”
“We don’t want to nail employers that we are trying to have on board. We want to encourage them to take the right steps forward in including immigrants and racialized people,” she explained during another workshop titled “Employer Strategies to Support Immigrant Employment”, which discussed the integration of immigrants in the workplace and employers’ perception of ‘foreign’ faces.
Governments to play a role also
Director of the Equity, Diversity and Human Rights Office, Uzma Shakir, said getting employers and government officials to listen is the frustrating part.
“Twenty-seven years later, and I’m still talking about this,” she stated.
Shakir explained that government bodies, like the City of Toronto, are just as responsible as any other employer for the hiring of newcomers.
Her four-step module is just a start in creating a better environment for immigrants, racialized groups, aboriginals and people with disabilities.
It includes the implementation of an employment equity policy, the Accessibility Of Ontarians with Disability Act (AODA), a human rights and anti-harassment/discrimination policy and legislation to ‘expand’ protection to all residents with or without documentation and the Toronto Newcomer Strategy, which applies a newcomer lens to all activities.
Newcomers not to blame
Julia Ramirez, project coordinator of the Local Immigration Partnership (LIP) of Fredericton, introduced a strategy not only for employers and policy makers, but for immigrants and citizens as well.
Her Newcomer Service Map is a new strategy that the LIP of Fredericton plans on using to integrate the community’s feedback and knowledge to facilitate immigration settlement.
“The idea is to enhance the collaboration and partnership around community members.”
Ramirez also suggested that there needs to be a change in the employers’ perception of skilled immigrant workers.
“It’s not that [immigrants or newcomers don’t] want to do the work,” explained Ramirez. “It’s that the company doesn’t want to receive them.”
“We’re trying to steer away from blaming the newcomer and focus on how we can engage employers in a way that solves this ongoing problem,” Jamil added.
Results of Peel region’s soft skills research study will be released in May 2016 and the LIP of Fredericton’s Newcomer Service Map will launch later this month.
This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org
by Ranjit Bhaskar in Toronto
As the federal government prepares to table its 2016 immigration targets by March 9, Immigration Minister John McCallum has indicated that it would be more positively inclined towards international students.
Terming foreign students as “the perfect immigrants,” McCallum said the previous Conservative government took the wrong direction when it took away the 50 per cent residency time credit for them and other temporary residents when applying to become permanent residents.
He said this in a one-on-one conversation with Ratna Omidvar, Executive Director, Global Diversity Exchange, at the 2016 Cities of Migration conference in Toronto on Wednesday. The forum was held in the lead up to the 18th National Metropolis Conference that opened today.
"It was the dumbest thing to do because if there's any group who would become good Canadians, it's them. They're educated, they know this country, they speak English or French. So why punch them in the nose when we're trying to attract them here in competition with other countries?"
McCallum said the Express Entry immigration selection system, the key change to the economic immigration stream made by the previous government, was also being reviewed. The Liberal party election platform had proposed that candidates with siblings in Canada should be granted additional points under the system.
McCallum said now that his party's election promise on the Syrian refugees has been met, streamlining his department would be his new top priority.
This would include reducing the processing times for people already in the immigration system.
“We have learnt a lot from fast-tracking the Syrians in how inefficiencies can be eliminated,” the minister said. "I am ashamed that we, a country who view ourselves as being open to newcomers, should take two years to bring together husband and wife and even longer to bring in parents and grandparents."
He said some processes are not necessary and his government would be applying risk management principles to bring in families quicker. “This is how we want to bring about ‘real change’ without increasing risks to Canadians.” But he cautioned that the changes to reduce processing delays are not going to happen overnight.
Multi-year immigration plan
Asked by Omidvar on why the federal government goes about setting annual immigration targets instead of taking a more long-term view, McCallum said he would soon present a multi-year plan.
He said the government will be announcing the 2016 immigration levels plan in Parliament next week.
“While we would need a bigger pie to accommodate all the demands, we only have a certain capacity to increase our numbers. And we need to balance the competing demands.”
He listed them as:
Last year’s immigration levels plan had made a provision for a maximum of 285,000 immigrants. That pie was to be divided among 186,700 economic immigrants, 68,000 family class immigrants and 30,200 from the humanitarian stream.
Record intake of immigrants likely
In contrast, 19,000 Syrian refugees have already been resettled in the first two months of 2016 and the Liberals have pledged to resettle another 10,000 government-assisted Syrian refugees by year end.
And if McCallum makes true his commitment to increase the intake by even 15,000, the Justin Trudeau government would be the first to admit more than 300,000 new immigrants in one year since 1913.
On whether the focus on Syrian refugees would lead to cutbacks to other refugees and immigration streams and also welfare programs, McCallum said Canada would still accept refugees at the same pace from other parts of the world, but the rush to get Syrians into the country was both warranted and the right thing to do.
“I make no apologies to anybody. The Syrian crisis was the worst such crisis the world has faced in a decade and most Canadians agree with that. And we can always do more than one thing at once.”
Although privately sponsored refugees from Syria have to start paying their own airfare now that government-organized flights out of the Middle East have ceased, McCallum said the government is now considering paying the travel costs of all refugees Canada resettles in the future.
The federal government has been providing refugees loans to help them pay for required medical exams and travelling to Canada for decades. McCallum said that cancelling the loans is one of the options the Liberals are considering ahead of their first budget on Mar. 22.
"We were covering the travel costs for privately sponsored refugees [from Nov. 4 to Feb. 29] because most of them came on planes leased by the government,” McCallum said.
Canadians who sponsored Syrian refugees who arrived before Nov. 4 have complained that the Liberal government created a two-tier system when it decided to waive the travel costs for privately sponsored refugees who arrived in Canada after the Liberals were sworn into power on that date.
by Jacky Habib in Toronto
Joyce Chan suspected something was wrong with her husband when he started losing his way to their local Tim Hortons five years ago.
“Instead of walking south, he’d walk north and get lost. I would have to go out and look for him,” Chan, 77, recalls, about her 82-year-old husband, Peter. She says he lost his way one day when they decided to go out for lunch. “We didn’t know where he was, but he had walked home by himself. He fell down quite a few times.”
Peter was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, a type of dementia with symptoms including a decline in memory, reasoning and communication skills and a gradual loss in ability to carry out daily activities.
Over 700,000 Canadians live with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. According to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, for every person with the disease, two or more family members provide care.
The diagnosis has taken a toll on Chan, who is Peter’s main caregiver. He has been on a waiting list for the last year to receive long-term care. The couple immigrated to Canada 48 years ago and have one adult son whom they seldom lean on for support because of his busy schedule.
“It’s not easy. Back home in Hong Kong, we have lots of relatives ... I can call them [for support],” says Chan. “We have been here so long and we have friends, but everyone has their own family and their own problems.”
Reverting to native language, reliving trauma
Sharon Tong, the support and education coordinator at the Vancouver Chinese Resource Centre (VCRC), says many of the seniors she works with came to Canada through sponsorship and this impacts the dynamic they have with their children.
Elderly parents often insist they can manage themselves and are not forthcoming with their children about their needs, she explains.
“They don’t want to put an extra burden on their children, but they don’t have a social network, because a lot of their social networks are still in their hometown,” she says.
The VCRC is an initiative of the Alzheimer Society of B.C. that began 20 years ago. The centre provides educational workshops in Cantonese and Mandarin as well as personal support and support groups for people with dementia and caregivers.
It has filled a gap for people who struggle to find services in their native language.
Ekta Hattangady, a social worker at the Alzheimer Society of Toronto, says losing the ability to speak English is a unique challenge for immigrants with dementia.
“A lot of people revert to their first language,” Hattangady says. “The services that are available to them last year are no longer suitable to them because they no longer speak English.”
The Alzheimer Society offers information in various languages as well as counselling with an interpreter. The most commonly requested languages are Italian, Portuguese, Greek, Arabic and Cantonese.
Another challenge with declining memory is that people recall old memories, which can be especially difficult if they have suffered trauma.
To deal with this trauma, Hattangady sometimes recommends attending programs or listening to familiar music, which has proven to decrease isolation and boost the cognitive processes of patients.
Accessing culturally specific services
For people with dementia who are in need of long-term care, dietary restrictions such as eating halal or kosher food can also be a concern.
This is where places like the Yee Hong Centre for Geriatric Care come in. The centre was established in 1994 to serve the Chinese community. It now has four locations in the Greater Toronto Area serving several communities, including a dedicated unit for Japanese patients and another for South Asians.
The Yee Hong Centre incorporates culture in all aspects of service delivery, from the food it serves to the staff on site, who speak the same languages as the patients.
“When [patients] talk about home, they are talking about home in a small town in eastern China or a village in India,” says Yee Hong's CEO Eric Hong. “They may not realize they’re in Canada. Our programs cater to that so they feel they’re in familiar grounds and don’t get anxious.” Cultural music and newspapers at the centre contribute to this atmosphere, he adds.
Hong explains that the Centre also provides health care that is conscious of people’s experiences and expectations.
“Health-care [in Canada] isn’t as straightforward as people expect it to be. Even if [immigrants] get services here, sometimes they are not tuned into what a person of colour may want.”
This includes addressing different perspectives on what constitutes healthy behaviour, and the relationship between a health practitioner and patient, he explains.
Caregivers face challenges also
Isolation is another common experience of people dealing with dementia and their caregivers.
Chan shares the difficulty in caring for her husband who she says has not been the same since his dementia has progressed. She says Peter was sharp, intelligent and had a decent build, but is now skinny, weak and needs help with tasks like using the microwave.
Although he’s a quiet person who doesn’t converse with her much, Chan says when he gets sick, he screams at night and it’s tough to handle on her own.
“I count my blessings every day,” she shares. “I like to play Sudoku and to watch TV and to listen to music, otherwise I will be very depressed. I’ve got to keep up my spirits. I have to set an example for my husband. If I don’t think positive, he’ll be worse.”
Editor’s Note: Joyce and Peter Chan are pseudonyms as the couple did not want to be identified.
by Danica Samuel in Toronto
Policy makers, journalists, professors and lawyers are putting their best ideas forward to find the right solution to tackle the problem of racial profiling in Ontario.
“We hear the term a lot,” says Renu Mandhane, chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC), about ‘racial profiling’. “Our job at the commission is to really come up with a concrete understanding of what that means across communities and to understand those experiences.”
The OHRC held a public lecture, in collaboration with Toronto’s York University, to discuss its policies and develop new strategies in combatting racial prejudice in a range of institutional and community settings.
Speakers at the public lecture used their background and personal experiences to shed light on the issue of racial profiling. Each took the stage to present their views and encourage the community to take a stance against racial discrimination.
Keynote speaker at the event, Toronto Star columnist, Haroon Siddiqui, spoke on discrimination against Muslim people, calling Islamophobia a “disease” and “a social cancer eating away at our demographics.”
“It’s not an isolated phenomenon; it’s an unholy alliance of very unlikely partners,” said Siddiqui, author of the 2008 book Being Muslim. Islamophobia has become mainstream like other forms of discrimination, including anti-Semitism and homophobia, which people have come to condemn, he added.
According to Siddiqui, the damage of Islamophobia is the eroded self-confidence in Muslims and their democracies. “We are no longer confident that we can tackle the criminals, or build a war against terrorism,” explained Siddiqui. “We are just turning on each other.”
Keith Corston, chief of Chapleau Cree First Nation, added that racial profiling can be self-destructive to communities.
“Many of our young people made a conscious effort to be tough, which subsequently led to a lot of us ending up in jail and resorting to alcohol abuse,” he explained. “We always felt that we had to be better and tougher and defend one another. As a result, we missed out on our childhood.”
York professor, and former vice-chair of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, Faisal Bhabha, spoke about the actions of police forces, calling the logic of profiling the same as that of the police state.
“It might appear to be effective,” he said. “While stereotypes sometimes do confirm actual attributes, there’s no way to know or assess the prevalence of correct or incorrect stereotyping. Profiling, even when it leads to correct results, is all a stab in the dark.”
Bhabha encouraged the audience to refrain from seeing racial profiling as an attempt to be ‘safe rather than sorry’, because “false promises of safety are just as dangerous as doing nothing at all.”
Resistance, response, reform, restore
According to Mandhane, the OHRC continues to work on several initiatives to bring topics of discrimination to the forefront.
“We are putting in submissions to the governments on their new draft regulations of carding and segregation,” she said. “We are bringing a race lens to the use of segregation in jails and prisons.”
Anthony Morgan, policy and research lawyer at the African Canadian Legal Clinic, presented a visual model of what social transformation could look like, using four key words – resistance, response, reform, restore. Morgan used past social movements to demonstrate how his module is applicable, including the 1992 Yonge Street riots.
In response to the riots, there was the release of the Stephen Lewis Report on Race Relations in Ontario and the creation of the Black Action Defence Committee (BADC) – steps Morgan deems a social response.
“We continue to go in the same circle,” Morgan said. “We’re not addressing the ultimate impacts that these systems have. Racial profiling has damaged many lives – African-Canadian lives.”
Morgan said the solution is looking at ways to “restore communities” while pointing to the word in the middle of his module.
“Restoration is about tackling and informing community members on how they choose to resist and respond to the government on [racial profiling].”
Important to continue the discussion
For newcomers, Siddiqui said the discussion on racial profiling shows that in Canada we want every citizen treated equally.
“If that’s what the law says, we need to implement that law,” he said. “Our constitution, our charter, our human rights legislation and our entire body of human rights sub-culture is important to Canadians.”
Morgan explained that new Canadians may not be familiar with the repercussions and tactics of racial profiling, but having an event like the public lecture can give them a sense of comfort.
“Sometimes you may feel like you’ve been treated differently, but you’re not quite sure,” he said. “Being in a space like this, says that it is part of a larger language in which some people end up being treated [differently] because of their ethnicity.”
Chief Corston summarized the importance of the community discussion of racial profiling by stating it leads back to education.
“If we’re going to fix a problem we have to recognize we have one,” he stated. “It’s not about blame, it’s about learning the history of wrongdoing and the history of bringing down people.”
Mandhane stressed the importance of dialogue in moving beyond the surface of racial profiling to create a policy that can guide institutions in solving the problem.
“Actually meeting and speaking with people, hearing their experiences, it’s the whole reason we do the work,” she said. “If, in the short term, that doesn’t result in the sorts of changes we want, you have to believe that you’re in for the long haul if you’re interested in systemic discrimination.”
Commentary by Howard Ramos in Halifax
With a rapidly aging population and low birth rate, Canada’s Atlantic provinces have turned full force towards immigration.
Nova Scotia, for instance, has nearly doubled its allocation of provincial nominees and Premier Stephen McNeil has been a vocal supporter of immigration as a solution to the province’s problems.
This being the case, it is worth asking how immigrants fare there.
Individuals such as Globe and Mail columnist, John Ibbitson, believe that, “Immigrants avoid the Maritimes because of the lack of economic opportunities and because they tend to gravitate toward communities that already have newcomers.”
However, a recent report for Pathways to Prosperity (P2P) by Yoko Yoshida, Madine VanderPlaat and myself of Dalhousie and Saint Mary’s universities, in partnership with the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS), suggests that immigrants do well in Nova Scotia.
The report busts a number of myths. The first is that immigrants don’t find work in the province.
This may have been the case a couple of decades ago, however, recent economic immigrants who arrived in Nova Scotia between 2010 and 2012 out-performed newcomers in other parts of Canada.
Immigrants to the province actually have higher rates of employment one year after arriving (76 per cent) compared to Canada as a whole (73 per cent).
Another busted myth is that immigrants will be underemployed compared to other parts of the country.
The report finds that one year after landing in Nova Scotia, economic principal applicants’ average earnings are $44,000 compared to $36,000 nationally.
Changes in policy and the success of settlement organizations, such as ISANS, have clearly worked at better integrating recent cohorts of immigrants to the province. This is largely because of the work they do in terms of language training, employment and interview coaching, and bridging programs that link immigrants to specific job sectors.
One more busted myth is that immigrant spouses and partners do not fully contribute to the economy.
The report shows that 96 per cent of spouses and partners who come with economic immigrants and 91 per cent of family sponsored spouses and partners are of “prime” working age, between 20 and 55 years old.
The majority of spouses and partners are also employed one year after arrival and over a third have a university degree.
When spouses and partners immigrating to Nova Scotia are compared to immigrants settling across Canada we find that rates of employment are about the same, however, when earnings are examined the report again shows an advantage for family sponsored spouses and partners in Nova Scotia.
For those landing between 2010 and 2012, average earnings were $26,000 one year after arriving compared to $22,000 for immigrants across Canada. Policy makers should not underestimate the economic potential of sponsored family immigrants.
Such findings show that the federal government’s decision to increase the cap on immigrants to the province is well justified and that Nova Scotia is right to continue to ask for more immigrants.
If the trends identified in the report continue, more autonomy in crafting immigration policy to the region with a broader mix of immigration pathways could be a way to stem population pressures and even grow the economy.
The report, however, also identifies some trends that should be examined further and that need policy attention.
In particular, when a comparison is made between economic and family-sponsored stream immigrants, interesting findings emerge.
For instance, among cohorts of immigrants landing in Nova Scotia in the 1990s and early 2000s, family-sponsored spouses and partners rivalled and even outperformed economic-stream principal applicants, which suggests that there is an important role for the family stream in the immigration mix. This is a trend unique to the region and one that has shifted in recent years.
Also worth policy attention are the noticeable differences identified in the report between economic versus family-sponsored spouses and partners.
The economic successes have been greater for spouses and partners coming through the family pathway rather than those who come with economic principal applicants. It is unclear why this might be the case and this should be a focus of future analysis.
A need for more research
Questions like these mean that it is important for Nova Scotia to continue to invest in researching immigration.
It is through investigation and critical review that strong evidence-based policies can be developed.
Such policies combined with quality efforts by settlement organizations are what have led to the dramatic shift in how immigrants fare in Nova Scotia.
Premier McNeil and Immigration Minister Lena Diab, who is the daughter of first generation immigrants herself, are right to encourage immigrants to come to Nova Scotia. They will likely be successful in integrating into jobs and making meaningful contributions to the province.
It is now time to let the rest of Canada in on the secret: immigrants do well in Nova Scotia.
Howard Ramos is a professor of sociology at Dalhousie University. His research focuses on issues of social justice including the non-economic elements of immigration and examination of family and non-economic streams of immigration to Canada.
by Carlos Tello in Vancouver
A new food guide combines recipes from British Columbia’s immigrant communities with local seafood options to teach new Canadians how to incorporate B.C. fish into a healthy diet.
“You have chefs from all over the world, and then you make them cook this local product,” says Siddharth Choudhary, the executive chef of Siddhartha’s Kitchen, a Vancouver restaurant that specializes in Indian food. “So people will be able to make dishes with ingredients they can find in any grocery store. It’s kind of a nice mix.”
A recent survey commissioned by Vancouver settlement organization MOSAIC, the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association and local newspaper, The Province, found out that although immigrants tend to generally eat the suggested amount of meat, fish and alternatives by the Canada Food Guide, they are less aware of how to ensure ‘healthy-heart’ diets.
This type of diet keeps cholesterol low, prevents heart disease and includes foods high in Omega-3 acids like salmon and other types of local B.C. fish.
According to Jeremy Dunn, the executive director of the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association, this could be because immigrants often don’t know how to incorporate salmon into their diets.
“One thing we hear a fair bit from people with respect to salmon, especially with respect to making it at home, is that either they don’t know how to cook it, or they don’t know more than one way to cook it,” he says. “And so it gets boring.”
In order to address this, MOSAIC and the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association recruited chefs from different backgrounds in order to produce the Eating Resource Guide, titled A Mosaic of Flavours, comprised of six recipes by six different chefs.
The guide showcases different ways to cook meals that utilize B.C.’s local fish and seafood. Of the six recipes presented in the guide, four have salmon as a main ingredient. 'Indian Baked Salmon' and 'Salmon Chinese Way' are two examples.
Guide a nod to B.C.’s multiculturalism
“Apart from the nutrition factor, the guide gives you different types of recipes. It gives you a little bit of Korean, of continental, of Indian, and more,” says Choudhary.
For the chef, the fact that the guide mixes local and international ingredients and spices showcases the multicultural nature of B.C., a province in which visible minorities represent just over 25 per cent of the population.
Moreover, Choudhary says the guide also highlights the stories of the chefs who come from a variety of ethno-cultural backgrounds.
“By reading the guide, you can learn about these chefs coming from different countries who are working very hard in order to be successful,” he says. “I think it sets an example.”
For Choudhary, being fluent in English and spending almost a decade working in Europe and Asia didn’t relieve him from the struggles many immigrants face when they settle in a new country.
Choudhary moved to Canada with his family seven years ago and a year after settling in Vancouver, he opened Siddhartha’s Kitchen.
“When I first arrived, I was very confused about what to do and how to do it,” he shares.
At the time, Choudhary wasn’t aware of the existence of immigrant settlement agencies. After learning about the services these organizations provide to newcomers, he became eager to help.
His opportunity arrived last month, when he learned that MOSAIC was looking for chefs to compile a healthy eating guide.
“I thought it would be a great idea to come up with a new recipe,” Choudhary says. “I wanted to incorporate my skills, to [do] whatever I could to contribute with MOSAIC.”
Healthy diet is not enough
The purpose of the guide is not only to provide newcomers with ideas on how to incorporate more seafood into their diets, but also to start a conversation about the benefits of eating healthy.
“We want to create awareness amongst newcomers on the relationship between healthy eating and heart disease,” says Ninu Kang, MOSAIC’s director of communications and development. “Our focus with this guide is to have newcomers start to think about their diets, and to create awareness about the different healthy foods that are available.”
The Heart and Stroke Foundation reports that 600,000 Canadians are living with heart failure. A 2015 study found that some aspects of Western culture, like fast food and cigarettes, can contribute to declining heart health among immigrants when they arrive in Canada.
According to the same study, immigrants from South Asia had the highest rates of heart problems.
Dr. Manjeet Mann, a cardiologist based in Victoria, B.C., says eating oily fishes like salmon at least once a week is a good start towards a healthier lifestyle, but he warns that it is not enough. He recommends also discussing food choices with a dietitian and doing moderate exercise daily.
“A guide is only useful if it can be applied to your day-to-day practice, and I find that without dietitian consultation, it tends to be very generic,” he says.
by Florence Hwang in Regina
Cultural differences in childrearing require settlement organizations to provide newcomers with information and support in understanding Canadian laws on corporal punishment, also known as 'spanking', say experts.
Nothing is more indicative of culture than the process of raising children to become adults, explains Justin Ryan, public education and communications co-ordinator with the Multicultural Association of the Greater Moncton Area (MAGMA).
He describes a rite of passage for boys of a Brazilian tribe as an extreme example. A glove or gauntlet is made of grass. Bullet ants, whose bites feel like bullet shots, bite the young boy’s hand. He is not allowed to cry out in pain.
“Here, that would be the most violent consideration of child abuse possible. There, it’s the process which you become an adult,” says Ryan. “If I did that to my daughter, they would take her away.”
New immigrants coming to Canada may be conflicted on Section 43, Canada’s law on corporal punishment, which the government agreed to revoke late last year as a result of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's recommendations.
This is often because they are coming from vastly different cultural backgrounds – some from strongly patriarchal societies with very little infrastructure and where domestic violence is relatively common, Ryan notes.
In some cultures, for example, a father backhanding his child for speaking back, or not cleaning up or not being obedient is acceptable.
Ryan says the most common response he gets from immigrants is surprise that there is a law regarding corporal punishment and that the government reinforces it.
He explains that in a developing nation that has little infrastructure, there may be a law that says parents can’t strike their children, but there is little follow-up or action taken.
Understanding of Canadian way is vital
Gary Direnfeld, a social worker who has 33 years of experience helping parents manage behaviour with children, says many immigrants come from countries where they place high value on respect, particularly for elders.
“That is a kind of respect that comes without questioning, where we expect the child to heed what the elder has to say and follow through and all will be well, so to speak,” he explains.
Contrast that with Canadian culture, which has more value on individualism and freedoms, which the children are often influenced by. Meanwhile the parents may come from a country where corporal punishment is sanctioned and considered reasonable.
“The child, having learned of their rights and freedoms, in the Canadian context, may then complain about the corporal punishment and that brings the parent to the attention of child protection services,” says Direnfeld, who is based out of Dundas, Ontario.
“If you come from a war-torn country, where one is fearful of the political structures and institutions, the thought of a children’s aid worker coming to your home is more than frightful,” he says.
“As disconcerting as it is to have a visit from the Children’s Aid Society with concerns of abusing your kids, for these families, those concerns are amplified given their lack of trust and faith in institutional services.”
Direnfeld says this issue of corporal punishment is deeper and broader than the average non-immigrant Canadian often appreciates. In acclimatizing new immigrants to Canada, settlement organizations should help them to appreciate our parenting approaches, he suggests.
“If you take a cross-cultural perspective on what [parenting expectations] are, then this gets a lot murkier a lot faster, which means we have to work a lot more closely with clients to communicate and make them understand what the implications are of Canadian law,” adds Ryan.
Lost in translation
Ryan notes that in the case of immigrants, language is also a barrier in communicating with, for example, social services. These barriers may also make it impossible to understand subtle, but crucial, differentiations.
He says that a classic example would be, when asked, “How do you discipline your child?” they may reply, “I beat them,” when what they really mean is “I spank them.”
“They simply don’t have the language skills to choose the word that has the right connotation and correctly carries the reality of what they’re doing.”
MAGMA works to ensure that all parents understand the Canadian standards of child care. This is particularly the case with refugees, due to the recent influx. Child protective services delivers group sessions to proactively address these issues, such as explaining what is considered acceptable measures of discipline in Canada.
“One of our primary requirements is to instruct our clients [on] what our appropriate Canadian values are starting as soon as they get here regarding the stuff that’s likely to get them in trouble with the law,” Ryan says.
As to the impact of repealing Section 43, which would effectively criminalize even those actions such as corporal punishment, organizations like MAGMA have to be even more proactive in passing on that understanding to their clients.
“Part of that is that the Canadian government is far more involved with managing family dynamics than most other countries,” Ryan explains. “Generally elsewhere … the government is not seen as having a role in such private matters. It’s therefore an adjustment for both sides in this equation when Canadian governments become directly involved in the lives of immigrant families.”
by Winnie Hwo in Vancouver
In 2010, the David Suzuki Foundation, a Vancouver-based national environmental non-governmental organization (ENGO), made a move no other Canadian ENGO had done – it added a multicultural component to its climate change and clean energy team.
“Out of the experience of the United Nations Climate Summit in Copenhagen in 2009 and the 2010 Winter Olympics, it became clear to the foundation that there is a hole that needs to be filled when it comes to public outreach,” says Ian Bruce, science and policy director at the David Suzuki Foundation.
The “hole” that Bruce refers to is the lack of diversity in Canada’s environmental movement, which became abundantly clear when speaker after speaker at the Copenhagen Climate Summit, who shared their heart-wrenching stories of surviving climate change-induced extreme weather disasters, were individuals who looked very much like our own diverse Canadian population.
Our diversity was also one of the key facets of our country that we shared with a global audience during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.
As a nation, Canada is increasingly anything but homogenous, and we pride ourselves on celebrating our differences.
The question is, when will the environmental movement reflect the real diversity of Canada? Well, the answer began with the David Suzuki Foundation and the multicultural public engagement and communications work we have been doing for more than five years.
Creating a sustainable diversity network
Last November, the David Suzuki Foundation felt the time was right to share the learnings from our multicultural public engagement work. It was a culmination of five years of public outreach to and communications with Canada’s diverse communities.
While the findings were mostly focused on projects and initiatives conducted in metropolitan Vancouver, the lessons learned could easily apply to engaging diverse communities across the country.
Fast-forward three months to the birth of the Sustainable Diversity Network. Just like a three-month old child, the fledgling network is working hard to find its footing and gingerly mapping out next steps and projects.
Members of the network are as diverse as you can imagine.
We have a lawyer and human rights activist, a new mother and writer, a retired social worker and citizenship judge, a father and entrepreneur, a university student who sprinkles his busy schedule with intergenerational exchanges with his grandparents and environmental activities, a 30-something “youth” who is working hard to combine culture and sustainability, two immigrant service specialists who constantly remind us that environmental engagement is a two-way street and two fantastic women with lots of ideas, passion and determination to make changes for a better future by bringing different cultures together.
Coming back to the crux of this commentary, how does the David Suzuki Foundation build relations with diverse communities in Canada?
We did that by observing, listening and acknowledging with respect, passion and action. We have done that for over five years now and with the inception of the Sustainable Diversity Network, we will share our recipe widely.
A healthy environment requires us all to participate
Recently, our co-founder, Dr. David Suzuki, joined foundation staff, students and administrators from Richmond, British Columbia to celebrate the REaDY Summit – a youth-led earth day event of which the David Suzuki Foundation is a key partner.
The summit won the Our Canada Project Award, chosen from 190 youth projects across the country by the Learning for Sustainable Future and the Royal Bank Foundation. Bravo!
But sustainability works best when we all take part.
Change for a healthy and greener future is right in front of us, if only we would open our eyes and arms to embrace it.
At one point, we were newcomers too, who came here for better lives and a healthy environment.
Winnie Hwo joined David Suzuki Foundation’s Climate Change Team in 2010 after a long and stellar career in Journalism. She is passionate about Canada’s multicultural policy and healthy environment.
by Matt D’Amours in Montreal
It can be difficult for reporters to get information or comment from an organization for their reporting in general, but for immigrant journalists, language barriers and a lack of familiarity with public relations (PR) create unique challenges.
Chantal Francoeur, a journalism professor from the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), gave a talk at Concordia University last week focusing on the PR-journalist dynamic, and the power held by PR professionals.
“When a real reporter wants access to an organization, there is just one entry, one person with whom the reporter can talk to: the PR professional,” Francoeur explains to a group gathered at Concordia’s Centre for Broadcasting and Journalism. “It’s the PR professional who holds the key that opens the door to an organization, and he or she acts as a gatekeeper and journalist watchdog.”
Navigating language barriers
For Jonathan Caragay-Cook, news editor at Concordia’s The Link newspaper, the PR doors may not open as easily as they do for other reporters. Cook arrived in Canada less than two years ago, and as an American of Filipino descent, he says that his inability to speak French often presents barriers when he reaches out to organizations in Quebec.
Last Fall, Cook reached out to an official from the Cégep du Vieux Montréal, a French-language college with a politically active student body. The official answered the phone in French, and Cook tried his best to string together a question using the limited words he knew. After a few seconds, the official told him that he couldn’t speak English and hung up.
“I then realized that I just wasn’t going to get that perspective in my story,” Cook recalls.
In other instances, Cook says that francophone PR professionals who do speak English have their prepared statements crafted in French, and are therefore wary of straying from their native tongue.
Gaining more access
Although Cook’s experiences in Quebec represent clear obstacles, other immigrant journalists like Rita Latif has had a different type of difficulty when dealing with the PR machine.
Latif, a Concordia University journalism student who arrived in Canada from Egypt in 2014, says that her biggest challenge has been adapting to the relative openness of corporations and institutions in Canada.
“In Egypt, trying to reach these people is not as easy as here … it’s not something we’re used to,” Latif explains. “For us, these [officials] are restricted.”
Latif says that she is still getting used to the notion that a journalist can simply perform a Google search and call a PR person or government official; she says it is hard to break out of her “safe zone.”
Mistaking press releases for advertising
This lack of familiarity with public relations among immigrant journalists was examined in a 2015 study by April Lindgren, founding director of the Ryerson Journalism Research Centre. Lindgren looked at the case of Brampton, Ontario, and how the municipality’s attempt to reach out to the city’s ethnic media was initially plagued with issues.
In 2007, Brampton’s communications department began distributing press releases to ethnic media outlets such as the Canadian Punjabi Post in an attempt to better reach out to the city’s immigrant population. According to Lindgren’s findings, however, this led to some confusion.
The study indicates that there was a lack of familiarity among ethnic outlets with this form of communication, and some newspapers simply published the releases in full. Others even sent the city a bill for advertising fees.
“Some new arrivals [to Canada] don’t understand the PR world,” Lindgren says. “These newspapers were not able to distinguish between a press release and an advertisement.”
In light of these difficulties, the city of Brampton made changes to their communications process, which included a plan to hire a “specialty media coordinator”, and to translate all media releases into French, Punjabi, Urdu and Portuguese.
Understanding the intention
While this type of outreach can be useful in acclimating immigrant journalists and ethnic media to Western-style public relations, Tom Henheffer, Executive Director of the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, says sometimes there are other intentions at play. He points to former minister of national defence and multiculturalism, Jason Kenney, as an example.
“Kenney, under Stephen Harper, made a point of being in the ethnic press at every chance he could … they thought a small paper would be excited to be able to get someone high-up in government,” Henheffer says.
“But [Kenney] really infantilized them because ... it was an opportunity to speak to these guys and get a positive headline.”
Issue not often discussed
Speaking with New Canadian Media after her lecture on public relations, Francoeur says that different outlets will have unique perspectives on the challenges of dealing with PR professionals.
When asked if the issue of limited access for immigrant journalists has ever come up in her classroom, Francoeur says it has not, but that this shouldn’t be taken as a sign that the problem doesn’t exist.
“Our journalism programs are pretty homogenous ... and it doesn’t provide the whole, representative picture,” Francoeur explains.
“Student journalists already have difficulties reaching PR people. Do they have more difficulty because their name sounds different? I don’t know … and maybe I don’t know because we don’t have that many [immigrant students].”
-- Canada's economic development minister Navdeep Bains at a Public Policy Forum economic summit