Not all immigrant children created equal: A post from New Canadian Media

October 22nd, 2014
Written for  New Canadian Media Tuesday, 21 October 2014
Canadian schools may have become better at welcoming immigrant students, but we need better policies and practices to ensure every student succeeds.
Canadian schools may have become better at welcoming immigrant students, but we need better policies and practices to ensure every student succeeds. Photo Credit: Tulane Public Relations

by Charles Ungerleider in Vancouver

Canada’s economic prosperity and population depend upon immigration. Canada would not exist nor could it survive without immigration. Population maintenance depends upon immigration. The Canadian birth rate per woman is in the region of 1.6, far below the replacement ratio of approximately 2.1 births per woman. Canada’s economic prosperity is linked to having enough well educated people to support an increasingly dependent population.

A high proportion of recent immigrants have university degrees. In fact, by 2001, the portion of immigrants with university degrees was about twice that of the Canadian-born population. Although their parents are well educated, the children of immigrants still face challenges in school. The children of immigrants have lower reading literacy levels than their Canadian-born counterparts. It is fortunate that, over time, this disadvantage disappears for most students, but not all. Despite lower reading literacy, most recent immigrants perform better on average than their Canadian-born counterparts in mathematics and sciences.

… it is important to ensure that students acquire facility in English or French for academic purposes prior to enrolling in courses that depend on such fluency.

As most people recognize, group averages can hide significant variation among groups. When we look beyond the averages for immigrant students, we notice that immigrants from particular backgrounds are doing less well than their peers.  Students from Asian immigrant backgrounds are so numerous and, in general, so successful in school, that their performance obscures the results of the students from other immigrant backgrounds who find Canadian schooling more challenging, who perform less well and sometimes leave school prior to graduation.

Time is one of the challenges faced by immigrant students trying to learn English or French in school. Often they do not have sufficient time to both learn the language for academic purposes and to gather sufficient credits for graduation. The problem is compounded in those jurisdictions that place age limits on who can attend school and limits on the amount of additional support that students are able to receive. Older immigrant students are especially challenged by the limited time they can attend school.

Socio-economic factors

Confusion arising from different cultural expectations is also a challenge for immigrant students and for their parents. The prominence given to student engagement, critical thinking and questioning is sometimes quite different than the prior experiences that some immigrant students have had. For some students and parents, Canadian schools seem less demanding and too informal than their prior school experiences. The mismatch in expectations and experiences between prior and current school experiences adds to the challenge faced by immigrant students and their parents.

Immigrant students whose parents have neither educational nor economic advantages are often among those who find school more challenging, perform less well and leave school early. Even among those who graduate from high school, there are socio-economic differences between those who attend post-secondary school and those who do not, favouring those whose parents are more advantaged.

Child refugees or children of refugees who have not had the benefit of schooling prior to arrival in Canada are among the most challenged. Lacking familiarity with schools, prior school socialization, and basic literacy makes school a daunting set of challenges for refugee students.

Beyond averages

Over the course of their history, Canadian schools have become better at welcoming and educating immigrant students. There are many factors that have contributed to the noticeable improvement. Canadian society is less overtly discriminatory than in the past when immigration was restricted to persons of European origin. While it has not completely freed itself from its past, Canada has acknowledged and apologized to descendants of Canadians of Japanese, Punjabi, Chinese and other backgrounds whose ancestors were excluded and mistreated. This has contributed to a national climate more accepting of difference that influences all of Canada’s institutions, including its schools.

Immigrant students whose parents have neither educational nor economic advantages are often among those who find school more challenging …

Schools have recognized that early and continuing intervention is necessary whenever students exhibit evidence of being challenged – especially in the acquisition of literacy. Parents whose children appear fluent in social contexts with friends often infer that their children possess the requisite knowledge to succeed in courses demanding greater facility with the language than is normally used in social discourse. Although it challenges the expectations and aspirations of those parents, it is important to ensure that students acquire facility in English or French for academic purposes prior to enrolling in courses that depend on such fluency.

Schools know that they must observe student progress closely and make adjustments to the education and supports that immigrant students require to be successful in the school environment. This requires looking beyond group averages to see how individual students are succeeding.

Canada’s need for immigrants often translates into action designed to increase the likelihood of school success because adult productivity, health and engaged citizenship are built upon a foundation of successful schooling. But action is not uniform across all schools or for all immigrant students. To ensure greater uniformity, we need better policies, practices, close monitoring and a willingness to change practice and policy when the evidence suggests that they are not working to the advantage of all students.


Charles Ungerleider, a Professor Emeritus of Educational Studies at The University of British Columbia, is Managing Partner of Directions Evidence and Policy Research Group, LLP,  a partnership of professionals with experience in applied research, policy analysis and evaluation in a variety of domains, including K-12 and post-secondary education, social services, justice, and health. He has served as Deputy Minister of Education in British Columbia, Director of Research and Knowledge Mobilization at the Canadian Council on Learning, and Associate Dean (Teacher Education) at The University of British Columbia.

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be freely re-published, with appropriate attribution, please.

Toronto Star op-ed: Canada tightens rules on immigrant and refugee children

July 30th, 2014

Ashley Chapman’s op-ed in the Toronto Star, published on Sat Jul 26 2014. All rights reserved.

“While much of the country is enjoying the summer, the federal government is quietly amending its immigration and refugee protection regulations. With only $62,000 set aside for both implementation and communications, it’s clear that they’re not wanting much public attention.

“And no wonder.

“As of Aug. 1, Canada is tightening the rules on which immigrant and refugee children are eligible to come to Canada with their parents. Until that date, unmarried dependants aged 21 and under could be included in their parents’ immigration or refugee applications. Exceptions were made for full-time students over 21 who were financially dependent on their parents. Under the new regulations, the cut-off age is 18 and under, with no exceptions for students.

“According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, “The amendments to the definition of dependent child respond to government priorities of having an immigration system focused on Canada’s economic and labour force needs.” Their own regulatory impact analysis statement cites evidence that the younger a child is when they immigrate, the better their long-term labour market outcomes. On average, they claim, Canadian education yields a higher financial return than foreign education.

“The economic evidence may stand, but Canada will likely lose out on some highly qualified immigrants who are understandably unwilling to move to a new country or continent without their 19- or 20-year-old progeny. What’s more, the changes go against one of the official objectives of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act — to reunite families.

“Still, economic migrants make the choice to come to Canada; the amendments will have a much graver impact on those with very little choice in their immigration — refugees and others in the humanitarian immigration stream. In fact, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees took notice when the changes were first previewed in the Canada Gazette last year. So did the Canadian Council for Refugees, the Canadian Bar Association, the Canadian Refugee Sponsorship Agreement Holders Association, and the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants.

“In total, 60 groups and individuals submitted written comments after the changes were first proposed. Most were in opposition.

“Many refugees and asylum seekers will now have to decide whether safety in Canada is worth leaving a 19-year-old son or daughter behind in a potentially life-threatening situation.

“At the Canadian Council for Refugees’ Consultation last year, refugee settlement workers explained the gendered dangers this would create in countries where women are oppressed. No longer in their parents’ household, they could be forced to marry, face destitution or worse.

“One worker recounted a situation under the previous regulations where a 22-year-old daughter was the only remaining family member left in a new country (the neighbouring country where the family fled to make their refugee claim). The family pleaded with the minister of citizenship and immigration for an exemption, to no avail.

“Ironically, it was only after the daughter attempted to commit suicide that the situation improved. As a result of her new mental health issue, she could now be considered a dependant.

“With the age of dependency being lowered by three years, it’s estimated that 7,000 young adults will lose their chance to come to Canada with their families next year. About 800 of them will be the children of refugees. This is what happens when we let economic motives determine our immigration policy.

“Of course the government also claims the regulatory changes better reflect life in Canada, where — apparently — young adult children are fully independent by age 19.

“The Canadian reality is that most high school graduates are neither ready nor willing to make it entirely apart from their parents’ financial, social and emotional support. In fact, 42 per cent of 20-somethings in Canada still live with their parents, and most have never faced war, famine or torture.

“It’s no easy feat to qualify for refugee status internationally or in Canada; those who are accepted have been through more than most can imagine. Adding a forced familial separation onto that load is not only unconscionable, it’s unthinkable.

“But the government isn’t asking us to think about it. The meagre communications budget allotted the change will not reach anyone but those who are no longer eligible to apply. The rest of us will continue with our summer holiday plans and continue to joke that our 27-year-old offspring will leave the nest — someday”.

Ashley Chapman is with Citizens for Public Justice, a member-driven, faith-based public policy organization in Ottawa.

6th On New Shores: Immigrant and ethnic minority families: Bridging across cultural boundaries

July 12th, 2014

Update August 12, 2014: The 6th On New Shores conference will take place October 16-17, 2014 in Toronto, Canada.

ONS Tentative program.

ONS Registration.

ONS Travel information.

The conference is capped at 100. Get your registration in soon!

Contact organizer Dr. Susan Chuang for most current information: schuang@uoguelph.ca

Canadian Council for Refugees Youth Network seeks submissions from youth

May 7th, 2014

The Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR) Youth Network is developing a guide whereby newcomer youth can share their experiences and provide useful insights for youth who are just arriving in Canada.The purpose of this alternative guide is to:

Provide an introductory resource that is primarily led by youth and that is specifically directed towards a youth audience.
Create a space for newcomer youth to voice their different experiences in Canada and to facilitate the sharing of useful tips on accessing information.
Connect experiences faced by Indigenous and newcomer youth across the country.
The CCR Youth Network would like to invite youth with immigrant and refugee experiences to contribute to this guide for youth arriving in Canada, by sharing your own stories and views on:

~Adjusting to life in Canada.
~Finding out about different ways of navigating the system in Canada and in different provinces (e.g. finding a school, finding out how to move around and where/who to ask for help in different situations).
~Services, organizations, groups and/or individuals that supported you the most when you arrived to Canada and in what ways.
~Resources you found most useful to learn about how things worked and to meet new people (e.g. community resources, after-school programs, employment, financial and/or legal resources, among others).
~The things that marked your experience the most, both before and after coming to Canada.
~The advice you would like to be able to give to yourself at the time you arrived in Canada.

Criteria for submitting your experiences:
The CCR is looking for stories that speak to refugee and immigrant youth’s experiences in different formats and media and that can be useful in some way for youth who are arriving in Canada. Formats and media may include but are not limited to:
~Poems
~Short recordings/videos
~Short stories
~Illustrations
~Photographs
… and more…

The CCR also welcomes any input about useful resources: for example, you could give us a list of the top 5-10 resources that were most useful to you when you arrived in Canada.

Languages:
All stories can be submitted in English or French. If you would like to submit a story that reflects on your life experiences before and after arriving in Canada, you may also send it in your first language. If you choose to do so, please send an English or French version as well.

Stories may be published anonymously if desired. If you wish to remain anonymous please indicate this in your email and the CCR will not publish your name. Stories must respect the CCR’s anti-oppression policy.

How to submit:
Send your submission by email to yn@ccrweb.ca by May 31, 2014. Submissions sent after that deadline may still be considered.
For more information, please contact the CCR by email.
The CCR strongly encourages submissions from people of colour, gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, and queer people.

Source: Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR)
Posted: May 7, 2014 at 12:51 on SettlementAtWork.org

6th ‘On New Shores’ conference: Immigrant and ethnic minority families ~ Bridging across cultural boundaries

January 28th, 2014

For the 6th time, the University of Guelph is hosting an ‘On New Shores’ conference (search immigrantchildren.ca for information about previous ONS conferences). This year’s theme is Immigrant and ethnic minority families: Bridging across cultural boundaries. The conference will be held in Toronto from October 23 – 24, 2014.

From the call for proposals:

The goal of this conference is to bring together various stakeholders (researchers, community and governmental providers) to collectively examine and discuss issues of children, youth, and families in the context of culture and immigration. Whether individuals and families are new to a country and/or belong to a visible minority group, they share many experiences and challenges.
What lessons can be shared? How can we synergize our efforts to develop more culturally sensitive and culturally appropriate research strategies or programs and services in our respective communities? Discussions of organizational stresses and the strategies used to deal with these issues will also be addressed. Researchers from various disciplines (e.g., psychology, sociology, social work, education) are welcomed. Community service providers and governmental agencies are encouraged to present work on research, effective programs, social issues, and challenges.
UPDATE: Proposal submission deadline is March 15, 2014. All proposals must be submitted to Dr. Susan S. Chuang by email (schuang@uoguelph.ca), and must be accompanied by a submission form.

Toronto panel discussion on immigrant children and families

January 10th, 2014

CERIS, the Ontario Metropolis Centre is hosting a panel discussion on immigrant children and families on Friday, January 31st from 12noon to 1:30pm in Toronto.

From the CERIS site:

“This panel discussion highlights two unique research projects and one local initiative on immigrant children and families. Monica Valencia will present the findings of her participatory research with a group of Latin American immigrant children in Toronto. Focusing on the growing phenomenon of education migration, Eunjung Lee and Marjorie Johnstone will take up the case of South Korean transnational families mobilizing for their children’s education in Canada. Aamna Ashraf will discuss some of the ways Peel Newcomer Strategy Group is working with the settlement sector, local government, and community stakeholders in order for newcomer families to succeed once they arrive in Peel”.

Presenters:
Eunjung Lee, Ph.D., and Marjorie Johnstone, Ph.D. Candidate, Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto
Aamna Ashraf, M.Ed., Peel Newcomer Strategy Group
Discussant:
Rupaleem Bhuyan, Ph.D., Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto

Now we are six

November 1st, 2013

immigrantchildren.ca turns six this month. Of course we are reminded of the wonderful A.A. Milne poem and book “Now We Are Six“:

When I was One,
I had just begun.
When I was Two,
I was nearly new.
When I was Three
I was hardly me.
When I was Four,
I was not much more.
When I was Five, I was just alive.
But now I am Six, I’m as clever as clever,
So I think I’ll be six now for ever and ever.

Researching resilience, a workshop for those working with marginalized and vulnerable populations living in challenging contexts

October 1st, 2013

Dr. Michael Ungar and Dr. Linda Liebenberg are offering a five day long workshop entitled ‘Researching Resilience’.  From the announcement/poster:

“the workshop will present a comprehensive review of resilience theory as well as theoretical and methodological approaches (both quantitative and qualitative) to investigate the phenomenon across cultures and contexts. The workshop is designed to equip researchers in academic, government and NGO sectors, as well as graduate students, with the skills and tools to study resilience as a process across the lifespan”.

The workshop is being held April 28 to May 2, 2014 at the Resilience Research Centre, Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and will be followed by two concurrent workshops on May 5th and 6th.

Using visual methods in challenging contexts with Dr. Linda Liebenber. A brief description: “Image-based elicitation methods are gaining prominence in social science research. This workshop will review the grounded theory behind elicitation methods, current approaches to using image-based elicitation, the value of these approaches in answering particular research questions, and the integration of these approaches into research designs. Participants will discuss ethical considerations of elicitation research, and the limits and cautions to consider when using these approaches. The workshop will also provide hands-on experience with the steps to organize and analyze image-based data, which include coding visual tools and developing coding categories. No prior knowledge of or experience with visual methods or grounded theory is required”.

Counselling children, youth and families with complex needs: An Ecological approach to nurturing resilience across cultures and contexts with Dr. Michael Ungar. A brief description: “When treating children, youth and families who have experienced poverty, violence, marginalization, or psychological trauma, the focus is often too narrowly placed on individual complex needs and problems. Such focus on delinquency or conflict between children and caregivers misses the broader sources of healing and resilience in people’s lives. This workshop will present a strengths-focused model of intervention that draws on the potential capacity of people’s social ecologies (e.g. friends, cousins, parents, teachers, community and cultural mentors, government service providers, NGOs, etc.) as sources of resilience in contexts of significant adversity. Participants will learn how to identify and facilitate people’s access to seven factors that enhance resilience: 1) relationships; 2) a powerful identity; 3) a sense of personal control, agency and power; 4) social justice; 5) material resources like food, clothing, and safety; 6) a sense of belonging, life purpose, and spirituality; and 7) cultural rootedness. Participants will also learn 20 skills to help the people they work with experience each of these seven factors in their lives in ways that are psychologically meaningful and contextually relevant. Finally, the workshop will discuss a five-phase model of clinical practice to make interventions effective”.

Bonus: If you register for both the 5-day workshop and a 2-day workshop, you will receive a 50% discount off your registration for the 2-day event.

Learn more about the workshops here.

See highlights from the 4th On New Shores conference: Resilience of immigrants – Coping with stress in various cultural contexts where Dr. Ungar was a keynote speaker.

Healthy immigrant children, a research study

September 29th, 2013

The University of Saskatchewan is conducting a research study on the health of immigrant and refugee children. The research question is “What is the nutritional status of newcomer immigrant and refugee children and how does it relate to health outcomes?”.

The study – ‘Healthy Immigrant Children”, or HIC, is a cross-sectional design, taking measurements from a sample of children who are newcomers to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. The study hopes to identify the major nutrition and health issues and intervention needs for immigrant and refugee children and their families.

From the website:

“The objective of this research project is to characterize health and nutrition issues that affect immigrant and refugee newcomer children. There will then be a comparison of the impact of income-related household food insecurity on the health and nutrition status of newcomer children to those of Canadian children. In addition, the current support system for immigrants and refugees will be assessed”.

For more information, visit healthyimmigrant.ca

Health promotion and care for newcomer children

September 2nd, 2013

The Canadian Paediatric Society, along with partner organizations have developed a comprehensive website with information and resources for health care practitioners on how to support the healthy development of newcomer children in Canada.

Caring for Kids New to Canada makes clear the notion that “Caring for children and youth new to Canada involves more than a history and physical”. The website offers important information in 7 areas:

  • Assessment and screening
  • Medical conditions
  • Mental health and development
  • Health promotion
  • Culture and health
  • Providing care for newcomers
  • Beyond the clinic

The initiative’s vision statement:

“Children and youth new to Canada do not enjoy the same health status as their Canadian-born peers. We want to eliminate health disparities, so that no child is at a disadvantage because of their country of origin or family status. This website is a step in that direction. Our long-term goals are to:

  • Improve the ability of health care providers to deliver services to children and youth new to Canada.
  • Improve the ability of institutions to develop polices, practices and programs that are evidence-based and that meet the needs of newcomers and their families.
  • Improve the long-term health and developmental outcomes for children and youth new to Canada.
  • Reduce—and eventually eliminate—the gaps between the health of children/youth new to Canada and their Canadian-born peers”.

The site supports health care practitioners – and others who care for newcomer children – to learn about resources for immigrant children and families in their communities; how to provide culturally competent care; and how to assess if the patient is adjusting well to Canada.

Children and toys around the world

April 8th, 2013

Check out Gabriele Galimberti’s collection of photographs of children around the world and their toys.

From the website:

“Yet even children worlds apart share similarities when it comes to the function their toys serve. Galimberti talks about meeting a six-year-old boy in Texas an a four-year-old girl in Malawi who both maintained their plastic dinosaurs would protect them from the dangers they believed waited for them at night – from kidnappers and poisonous animals respectively. More common was how the toys reflected the world each child was born into: so the girl from an affluent Mumbai family loves Monopoly, because she likes the idea of building houses and hotels, while the boy from rural Mexico loves trucks, because he seems them rumbling through his village to the nearby sugar plantation every day”.

Call for papers: Children and migration in Africa and the African diaspora, European Social Science History conference

March 29th, 2013

From the H-Childhood Listserv:

“Call for panelists: Children and migration in African and the African diaspora at the European Social Science History conference, April 23-26, 2014.

“Following a successful interdisciplinary workshop on children and migration in Africa, held at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London in 2012, we invite abstracts for papers that explore this theme further. We particularly welcome papers that will expand the georgraphical scope of the panel into the African diasporas and that emphasize the experience of children themselves.

“While African children are heavily involved in migration, they remain obscure in grey and scholarly literatures dominated by the male labour migratory model. Furthermore, work on young migrants often conflates the social categories of ‘child’ and ‘youth’ and children themselves are divided into the binary states of agents or victims. Although recent scholarships on children and migration in Africa has acknowledged the importance of African children as discrete agents in migratory processes, analytical shortcomings remain.

“Papers could address, but are not limited to, the following issues:

family structures

patterns of fosterage

child circulation between Africa, Europe and the Americas

the role of education

child labour

religion and ritual

cultural exchange and conceptions of place and ‘home’”.

Interested scholars should send us an abstract in English (250 words max) and a short bio (200 words max) by April 15, 2013 to: Marie Rodet mr28@soas.ac.uk, Jack Lord jl79@soas.ac.uk, or Elodie Razy elodie.razy@ulg.ac.be.