I am Canada: Celebrating the art of Canadian picture books

Readers of immigrantchildren.ca will know that I am passionate about children’s literature and the role it plays in supporting and promoting integration of newcomer children and their families. The blog has regularly featured picture books related to immigration, refugees, citizenship, anti-racism, and etc. I am happy to continue by promoting an exhibit launched yesterday by the Toronto Public Library on the Canadian picture book. The exhibit can be seen at the Toronto Reference Library at 789 Yonge St, just north of Bloor St. It runs until January 21, 2018.

Content below taken from the TPL website:

I Am Canada: Celebrating Canadian Picture Book Art

Image credit: © 2017 Danielle Daniel

About the Exhibit

Hope, happiness, possibilities … home. What does Canada mean to you?

Children’s picture books tell many stories about what it is like to grow up in Canada. This exhibit celebrates the work of best-loved Canadian illustrators who bring these stories to life.

I Am Canada showcases original picture book art from Toronto Public Library’s Osborne Collection of Early Children’s Books and the private collection of Scholastic Canada, which has been introducing young people to the joys of reading for 60 years.

From I Am Canada: A Celebration, © 2017 Barbara Reid

Guided Tours

Every Tuesday at 2 pm. Meet inside the TD Gallery. Drop in. No registration required.

To organize group tours or class visits, please contact: ndawkins@torontopubliclibrary.ca

From The Paper Bag Princess, © 1980 Michael Martchenko

From Jillian Jiggs, © 1985 Phoebe Gilman

Related Programming: I Am Canada Storytimes

Join us for stories inspired by growing up in Canada. Select dates feature special guests, Irene Luxbacher and Stella Partheniou Grasso.
Every Tuesday at 10 am
TD Gallery

To organize class visits, please contact: ndawkins@torontopubliclibrary.ca

From Caribou Song, © 2001 Brian Deines

From The Dragon’s Egg, © 1994 Frances Tyrrell

TD Gallery logo TD Gallery Sponor

Child detention in the Canadian immigration system

Between 2010 and 2014, an average of 242 children were detained annually for immigration reasons in Canada, according to the International Human Rights Program at the University of Toronto. Worth noting here that the numbers are actually higher and do not include children who are not in detention themselves, but who accompany a parent who is detained.

This week, Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) responded and issued a News Release, opening with these statements (links and emphasis added):

“As part of the Government of Canada’s work to create a better, fairer immigration detention system, the Honourable Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, today issued Ministerial Direction to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) on the treatment of minors in Canada’s immigration detention system. This direction is in addition to improvements currently being made to the system.

The key objective of the Ministerial Direction is to – as much as humanly possible – keep children out of detention, and keep families together. The Ministerial Direction makes it clear that the Best Interests of the Child must be given primary consideration”.

Best Interests of the Child, or BIOC, is language from the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Canada is a party. It means that the BIOC must be “a primary consideration in all state actions concerning children”.

In addition to the Ministerial Direction, CBSA also released:

A critical responses from the field comes from the Canadian Council for Refugees. Read The CCR welcomes government directives to reduce detention of children, but more needs to be done.

Resources:

Kobina: Locked Up, Canadian Human Rights Commission

Canada Keeps Kids in Detention, a resource page of the Canadian Council for Refugees CCR Youth Network

Nov 6, 2017 CBC report

Canada’s Detention of Children, Human Rights Watch

Ten years of immigrantchildren.ca

immigrantchildren.ca was founded on November 3, 2007. Ten years ago today. Initially a project of the now defunct Canadian Coalition for Immigrant Children and Youth, since 2008 it’s been a personal passion of mine. I like to gather and share information and the blog has been a great outlet for me. I hope it’s been useful for you.

Over 10 years, immigrantchildren.ca has shared fun items, engaged in policy discussions, shared calls for papers and conference announcements, posted resources, raised issues and proposed ideas.

The 10 most popular posts:

  1. bzzzspeak ~ how children around the world interpret animal sounds
  2. A re-post of Barbara Kay’s column on the Burka Barbie
  3. Santa Claus gets Canadian citizenship
  4. 10th anniversary of Baker v. Canada
  5. Interculturalism is the new multiculturalism
  6. The Drummond Commission missed opportunities to address immigrant children and families
  7. Top 10 moments for immigrant and refugee children in 2015
  8. Refugee, Aboriginal, Francophone, Multicultural = The Celebration days of summer
  9. Policy advice for the #cdnimm Minister
  10. Books for children on immigration and refugees

A big thank you to everyone who participates on and offline and especially to the five people who have shared so generously their time and insight on immigrant children and youth through my recent ‘Four questions for …’ interview series.

What’s next? I’ll keep you all posted! And, I invite you to share what you’d like to see. Leave a comment here or tweet at me.

Thanks!

Canada’s new multi-level immigration plan

The government of Canada today released details on its new multi-level immigration plan.

The “growth-oriented” plan answers three key policy questions:

  1. How can Canada best respond to its ageing population?
  2. How should Canada address its labour needs while supporting innovation?
  3. How will Canada maintain its reputation on the world stage as a humanitarian nation and ensure those who need protection get it?

Some mentions of how immigration reflects Canadian values and the importance of integration. Nothing specific to immigrant children and youth. The plan is centered on economics.

Over three years, the plan is for Canada to increase immigration levels of about one million. Details here.

 

Exile

“Exile is strangely compelling to think about but terrible to experience. It is the un-healable rift forced between a human being and a native place, between the self and its true home: its essential sadness can never be surmounted.

“And while it is true that literature and history contain heroic, romantic, glorious, even triumphant episodes in an exile’s life, these are no more than efforts meant to overcome the crippling sorrow of estrangement.”

Edward Said, Reflections on Exile

Statistics Canada on children with an immigrant background

Statistics Canada have released census findings from 2016 including a Census in Brief on children with an immigrant background. As on their website, here are some highlights:

  • “In 2016, close to 2.2 million children under the age of 15, or 37.5% of the total population of children, had at least one foreign born parent.
  • “Children with an immigrant background could represent between 39% and 49% of the total population of children in 2036.
  • “Almost half of children with an immigrant background were from an Asian country of ancestry, while less than one quarter were from a European country of ancestry or the United States.
  • “Close to 15% of children with an immigrant background lived in a household with at least three generations.
  • “More than one third of children with an immigrant background spoke only an official language at home, compared with less than 10% of their parents”.

Read the entire brief here.

Migration Matters

Migration Matters is a European non-profit with a mission  to “empower the public to have more nuanced and evidence-based conversations about migration”. Migration Matters “produces bite-sized video courses that complicate commonly held preconceptions with original ideas, research, and solutions-oriented perspectives from leading thinkers in the field: researchers, practitioners, as well as migrants and refugees themselves”.

immigrantchildren.ca is pleased to promote its work and encourages you to take their course “Rethinking Us and Them: Integration and Diversity in Europe“. The course examines Germany and Canada and their efforts in integrating migrants. The course is a series of accessible and informative videos that challenges misconceptions and invites viewers to rethink us and them. Good stuff!

Four questions for … Divonify’s Colleen Sargeant James

I asked Divonify co-founder and principal consultant Colleen Sargeant James:

What’s the effect of racism, discrimination and stereotyping on newcomer children?

I run a diversity and inclusion consulting company, and while most of my work involves facilitating workshops with adults to create inclusive environments, I often see how years of exposure to racism, discrimination and stereotyping affects individuals in the workforce and the community.

The effects of discrimination on newcomer children can result in low self-esteem and feelings of low self-worth. This is especially prevalent in a community where they are a visible minority. Children will learn from a young age that they are different and that being different is not positive and stops them from achieving their full potential. As a result, they will end up trying to “fit in” and not embrace their true authentic self. I think parents of newcomers also experience this as they will tell their children to try to blend in with the other children. Stereotyping has a major effect on children; not only are they faed with stereotypes in their schools and communities but the media has a profound impat on reinforcing stereotypes especially when we look at race and culture. Racism, discrimination and stereotyping are learned behaviours, and when I speak to participants in my sessions I help them to understand that to think inclusively means unlearning most of what they have been taught.

There’s much discussion on integration of immigrants. What kinds of services or supports do newcomer children need to successfully integrate in Canada?

Supports and services are available; however the issue is reaching out to communities that may feel marginalized or isolated. We do not do a good job of ensuring that everyone in the community knows what resources are available to them. This is not an issue that is limited to newcomers, but I find this a concern for many people in communities where knowledge transfer is lacking. We need more organizations working with the school system to ensure children know what is available and we also need to ensure that parents of these children are aware. Communication is key when it comes to integration. This is essential for both adults and children.

New immigrants need mentors within the community. I am a supporter of ambassador programs that allow community members the opportunity to interact with newcomers and work with them to ensure a smooth, supportive transition into the community. a mentorship program would be an excellent resource to newcomers and could be facilitated through our school system similar to a buddy program. This would enable children at a young age to help foster an inclusive environment where all feel welcome.

If you could influence the federal minister of citizenship, refugees, and immigration to do one thing for newcomer  children, what would it be?

To answer this question, one needs to not look solely at the children,  but the family unit as a whole. Citizenship needs to follow up with the families to ensure that they are successfully transitioning into their new communities. Also, demonstrating support by providing ongoing funding for programs and services as most agencies supporting newcomers are dependent on government funding. When governments cut their funding, it has a negative effect on newcomers, especially children who often benefit the most.

What is one of your favourite children’s books that you would recommend for newcomer children? Why?

One of the books I highly recommend for adults who have young children is “It’s Okay To Be Different” by Todd Parr. This book talks about differences and lets the reader know that differences are a part of life. It also helps to open up a conversation between parents and their children about diversity and inclusion and being your authentic self.

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Colleen Sargeant James is the co-founder and principal consultant at Divonify, which specializes in providing innovative and diversity and inclusion consultation, coaching and training. Colleen is a dedicated member of her community. She has over fifteen years of experience working in public administration, social-profit, and the private sector. Colleen is a recent graduate of Leadership Waterloo Region. She has studied Leadership and Inclusion at Centennial College and obtained her degree from the University of Toronto.

Follow Colleen on Twitter @colnerissa.

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immigrantchildren.ca is asking Canadian experts and advocates in immigration, settlement, refugees, and newcomers about their views on newcomer children (birth to age eight). For more interviews, see here.

CMAS | Care for Newcomer Children launches a parenting webpage

CMAS | Care for Newcomer Children * is a federally funded program that provides supports, resources, and helps organizations, to provide culturally appropriate child care for newcomer families participating in the Language Instruction for Newcomers in Canada program.

They have just launched a section on Parenting in their website. The Parenting pages provide useful information and resources, including multilingual resources in:

Parenting ~ information to help newcomer families adjust to parenting in Canada, including multilingual resources covering general parenting practices

Child development ~ information, resources and ideas to encourage the cognitive, social, emotional, and language development of children

Health and safety ~ information on nutrition, immunizations, mental health, physical activity guidelines, and product recall information

School readiness ~ information on how to support a smooth transition to the school system.

*CMAS (formerly known as Childminding Advisory and Support Services) is  funded through Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and was founded in 2000.  More recently, it supports and promotes the care for newcomer children model. “Childminding” is no longer used.

Scars as beauty

“I ask you right here please to agree with me that a scar is never ugly. That is what scar makers want us to think. But you and I, we must make an agreement to defy them. We must see scars as beauty. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived”.

Little Bee, Chris Cleave

Four questions for … social worker, facilitator and diversity consultant Ilaneet Goren

I asked social worker, facilitator and diversity consultant Ilaneet Goren:

What’s the effect of racism, discrimination, and stereotyping on newcomer children (birth to age eight)?

I am part of a team of equity educators who facilitate diversity programs for children and youth in school boards across Ontario. While every school and community is unique in terms of their experience with immigration, when it comes to inclusion and well-being, the barriers newcomer children face are similar across the board. Even in communities where resources and supports are readily available, there is no immunity to implicit bias, prejudice, and anti-immigrant sentiments in the current political climate that emboldens hateful nationalist ideologies. Children learn and absorb messages from the adult world around them and, when anti-immigrant attitudes become the norm, it teaches all children that taunting someone for having an accent or for wearing a hijab is ‘okay’.

In my experience as a social worker – and speaking as a two-time immigrant who first emigrated at the age of 10 – newcomer children want to belong, more than anything else. They want to feel a part of their school community. They want to be and feel Canadian. While they are aware of their differences in terms of ethnicity, language, culture, or faith, they are more interested in the commonalities that help them connect to their classmates and identify them as friends. In fact, the speed with which newcomer children adapt to their new environment and culture never ceases to amaze us: it is a testament to their amazing resiliency and potential which we, as educators, must nurture.

Inside the school as outside of it, prejudice, bias and discrimination are most often expressed in implicit and unspoken ways. Negative and belittling attitudes, deficit-based thinking, or a lack of understanding that equity doesn’t mean equality and that some newcomer children may need specific supports in order to integrate into school are commonplace in all environments. Biased thinking occurs when newcomer children are automatically placed in a lower grade, or when students facing language barriers are not afforded the extra time they need to complete an assignment because ‘everyone needs to be treated equally.’

When we talk to students about their school climate the conversation often reveals the lack of safety experienced by students who are on the receiving end of bullying and stereotyping because of their identity. The bystander effect is also revealed: their peers are unwilling to intervene when they witness bullying. These conversations can be challenging for newcomer students who may not have the confidence or the language to talk about their experiences of exclusion, or may not know about – or trust – the supports available to them.

When students don’t feel safe, they can’t learn. A lack of safety affects their stress levels and well-being. While student mental health is now part of the conversation in many schools, there is still much work to be done to address the link between bullying, racism, and student mental health and well-being.

Rather than expecting that students affected by racism and discrimination reach out for support, educators and administrators need to be proactive and engage the students directly, while addressing and interrupting bullying every single time they witness it.

There’s much discussion on integration of immigrants. What kinds of services or supports do newcomer children need to successfully integrate in Canada?

Newcomer parents need support in navigating the education system and in advocating for their rights and the rights of their children in that system. Currently, this support is spotty and fragmented: some areas have it or some form of it, though many don’t. Even in areas where schools have settlement workers, these workers may be over-stretched, trying to meet growing needs with shrinking resources. When it comes to institutionalized racism, settlement workers are not equipped with the tools, nor are they encouraged or funded, to engage in advocacy for systemic change.

Before talking about services though, it’s important to remember that safety, followed by love and belonging, is among the first three most basic human needs, according to Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs. From an equity perspective, emphasizing and actively supporting a safe, welcoming and inclusive environment for children where they live, learn and play is fundamental to their healthy development. For newcomer children, safety and belonging are especially important factors that shape their experience with immigration. This is the philosophy that we want to see permeate every facet of our society, not just within settlement services.

I’d like to see more discussion about safeguarding services against operating like a machine devoid of a human heart. Sometimes services are well-intentioned and look good on the books but fall short when it comes to authentic human connection and genuine expressions of care, empathy and compassion. I say this as both a service provider and as a youth who once received these services. Restricting the length of time people can stay connected to their case workers, for example, or requiring certain documents in order to be connected to services, are just two examples of administrative practices that create barriers and reproduce oppression.

To continue to meet the challenges brought about by global migration, Canada needs to re-think its approach to newcomer support in many areas and re-design our system and the ways in which resources are allocated. Services need to be more integrated, holistic, comprehensive and consistent, taking into account the unique needs of each geographical immigrant area. The examples are too many to list here, but an illustration is evident in the ways in which refugee families from Syria have been treated, with different types of sponsorship revealing major gaps in how services are coordinated and funds are allocated.

If you could influence the federal minister of citizenship, refugees, and immigration to do one thing for newcomer children, what would it be?

Support newcomer families.

Newcomer children do well when their families do well and their basic needs are met. The effects of social and economic inequality on newcomers are imprinted on their children. Too often, newcomer children carry the burden and stress of their parents because of the barriers they face, be it unemployment, financial struggle, inadequate housing, racism, or a combination of all of these factors. When supporting newcomer children we have to include the whole family unit in our analysis and understand the interconnected nature of forms of inequality and the ways in which they influence one another.

What is one of your favourite children’s books that you would recommend for newcomer children? Why?

I think children’s books offer a lot of insight and wisdom for adults, as well as children! One that I particularly like as a diversity educator is “Why Are All The Taxi Drivers…?” by Canadian educator Christopher D’Souza, with illustrations by Nadia Petkovic.

The little girl in the book, Dakota, is curious and, like many children, she asks her Mom about the things she is noticing – unknowingly uncovering hidden bias and stereotypes embedded in the world around us through the eyes of a child. I like this book because it’s a good entry point to a conversation with a child about the inequality they might be witnessing in the world around them. It validates the stuff many racialized immigrant children already know and feel but may not have the words to describe, and gives ideas about ways to create change.

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Ilaneet Goren is a social worker, facilitator, and diversity consultant with over 15 years of experience in the nonprofit sector in Toronto. Committed to equity and social justice, she has worked with immigrants as a counselour, group facilitator, and career mentor. Ilaneet specializes in experiential education and mindfulness techniques with a focus on addressing bias, prejudice, and discrimination. In her current role as manager at Harmony Movement, an equity and diversity education organization, Ilaneet designs and delivers diversity education programs for community organizations and private sector partners. Her early life in Soviet Ukraine and in Israel have given her a unique and intimate perspective on how social and political contexts shape a person’s identity and culture.

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immigrantchildren.ca is asking Canadian experts and advocates in immigration, settlement, refugees, and newcomers about their views on newcomer children (birth to age eight). For more interviews, see here.