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.

~

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.

~

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.

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.

~

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.

~
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.

Four questions for … Waterloo Region Immigration Partnership Council Member Dr. Elif Günçe

I asked Council Member, Immigration Partnership Waterloo Region Dr. Elif Günçe:

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

They either become introvert or they learn to hate very early. But racism and stereotyping can exist in both parties. This fact is mostly overlooked. Children can learn to hate within their own family if the parents transfer their learned anger and hatred to them. And as the families try to keep their cultural identity, children are exposed to a new culture outside the family and if the family or the community at large is not supportive, they may end up in a limbo where they feel that they belong neither here nor there.

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

Children need to be with their peers in the host community as much as possible and as soon as possible. I do not support their segregation within their own communities because of barriers made up in adults’ minds such as the language barrier. There is no language barrier for children! They may not know the language yet but they will learn it quickly if we do not impose ‘our’ barriers to them.

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

Create safe spaces for children where they can explore their new environment, like summer camps. But do not separate newcomer children from other children. All children of Canada (Aboriginal children, children who were born in Canada, children who recently immigrated) need to be together. They will be each other’s best support systems.

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

I will not recommend a book but I will recommend this: Take the children to libraries, let them explore the world of books and the world’s books. Most newcomer children may have not seen a library in their life, neither have their parents. And libraries may become the best shelter for newcomer children.

~

Dr. Elif Gunce is a Council Member with the Immigration Partnership, Waterloo Region , an Adjunct Assistant Professor at UWO Centre for Transitional Justice and Post-Conflict Reconstruction, Adjunct Professor at the University of Western Ontario Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and Instructor at McMaster University FHS Global Health MSc Program.

Elif blogs at Look How Small the World Is. Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

~

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.

Four questions for … immigration policy expert Andrew Griffith

I asked Andrew Griffith:

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

From what I see, and some of the points made by activists, academics and some policy initiatives, is the risk of low expectations and not necessarily pushing and encouraging children to fulfill and develop their potential. This issue has been raised in particular by members of the Black communities. It seems to be less of an issue for other communities given their high levels of post-secondary education compared to non-visible minorities. The overall risk of alienation remains but in general the Canadian school system appears to be doing a relatively good job on integration.

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

For newcomer children, I think the main place integration occurs is through the public school systems. Given that family members in some communities provide childcare, there may be a need for additional ESL support in early years. For parents who opt for private faith-based schooling, there may be further integration challenges. There remain challenges in determining what is reasonable and what is not reasonable accommodation, as excessive accommodation can undermine integration efforts (e.g., sex ed debates in Ontario).

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

Talk to teachers, educators and CMEC and others to assess gaps (apart from funding!). But this issue is more appropriately dealt with at the local and provincial levels than federal.

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

Too far removed from the days our kids were small and we would read to them and encourage them to read. Obviously, books that highlight a range of communities/identities should be part of the mix.

~

Andrew Griffith is the former Director General – Citizenship and Multiculturalism Branch, Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Andrew led policy and program development to strengthen citizenship, inclusion and participation, and intercultural understanding.

He is a fellow of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

Andrew is the author of several books, including Multiculturalism in Canada: Evidence and Anecdote, providing an integrated view of how well multiculturalism is working, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias: Resetting Citizenship and Multiculturalism, describing the relationship between the bureaucratic and political levels. Andrew comments on citizenship, multiculturalism and related issues, in his blog and the media.

 

 

 

 

Follow Andrew on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn and learn more about his books.

~

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.

The Conference Board of Canada: An Innovative immigration system at 150 and beyond

The Conference Board of Canada recently released a report following their Canadian Immigration Summit, 2017. Titled “An Innovative Immigration System at 150 and Beyond”, it includes a summary of the summit, key findings, and recommendations to “improve settlement, integration, and citizenship policies”.

There’s lots of good stuff here, including identifying initiatives that work, or are promising, and solid recommendations from those in the fields of immigration and settlement, integration, and immigrant employment.

The federal governments’ department of immigration, refugees, and citizenship Fraser Valentine flags three keys for successful immigration:

  1. targeted immigration to meet Canada’s goals
  2. positive integration so that immigrants are welcomed into Canadian society
  3. strong public support for the immigration system.

Ilse Treurnicht, MaRS Discovery District suggests that Canada work to strengthen ‘the immigration-innovation nexus’ by:

  • retaining more international students
  • equipping cities to receive immigrants
  • creating a “comprehensive approach for immigrants to contribute to the economy to leverage their global connections, cultural competencies, knowledge and experiences”
  • having greater alignment between immigration and innovation, technology and education systems
  • demonstrating that immigration benefits Canada economically, and that the business community must champion this, and not leave this to politicians and policy makers alone.

Yes, good stuff, but in the above examples – and others in the report – of how to support immigrant employment, there is no mention of providing child care so that newcomers can participate in training and jobs initiatives. If they have children younger than school-age, child care is an issue.

Number 2 of IRCs Fraser Valentine’s 3 keys to success is “positive integration so that immigrants are welcomed into Canadian society”.  Having a safe, high quality child care program for your children while you work, train or study is a strong welcome to newcomers. It says we care about you, we see you as a whole person, with a family and not just as a worker.

Treurnicht’s call that cities be equipped to receive immigrants should mean receiving the newcomers entire family, including its non-school-aged children.

The Conference Board of Canada says: “Canada needs to identify how to better integrate immigrants in the labour market by continuing to strengthen the linkage between the immigrant selection process and its labour market needs…” I invite them to look at Canada’s labour market needs against its resources, and how to strengthen those resources.

The Conference Board of Canada missed an opportunity to highlight the importance of child care for immigrant employment and the Canadian economy. Next year’s summit?

 

 

Four questions for … author and storyteller Rukhsana Khan

I asked Ruhksana Khan:

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

They suffer. Feeling like they’re less. I’m not sure if there’s much the host country can do to change this. It comes down to people valuing personal character above possessions and that kind of goes against human nature. We tend to get impressed by fancy things.

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

I think it would be good to get students to partner up with the newcomer students so that they might feel less lonely and isolated. The local students could learn about where the newcomers are coming from, and read Coming to Canada to gain empathy of how difficult it would be to uproot oneself.

They can also take a look at my book Big Red Lollipop which deals tangentially with assimilation as it’s a story of a family that’s new to North America and the idea of only the invited child going to birthday parties.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Find ways in which newcomers can contribute to the host country as soon as possible. I think it needs to be a two-way street. Newcomers have to feel as though they’re not beholden, that they’re making a contribution towards bettering Canada so the ‘charity’ isn’t going only one way.

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

My book Coming to Canada is used by the Settlement Workers in the Schools program to help newcomers adjust to life in Canada. I would recommend it. I think it contains realistic expectations and I focused on the resources that make Canada such an amazing country like the library and education systems.

~

Rukhsana Khan is an award-winning author and storyteller. She was born in Lahore, Pakistan and immigrated to Canada at the age of three.

She grew up in a small town in southern Ontario and was ruthlessly bullied. When a grade eight teacher told her she was a writer, she thought the idea was crazy. Writers were white people. They were from England and America.

To be ‘sensible’ she graduated from college at the top of her class as a biological-chemical technician. When she couldn’t get a decent job she decided to be ‘unsensible’ and become a writer. It took eight years to get her first book published. Now she has twelve books published (one of which was chosen by the New York Public Library as one of the 100 greatest children’s books in the last 100 years).

Rukhsana Khan’s website & YouTube channel

~

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.

Sessions on immigrant/refugee children at the International Metropolis conference

This year’s theme for the International Metropolis conference is Migration and Global Justice.

immigrantchildren.ca has reviewed the program (to date) and have found what looks to be a fascinating workshop about children’s sense of belonging and play.

From the conference website, this description of the workshop (links added):

Integration and social belonging through play

“As migration presents a long-term, multi-faceted process of finding belonging, it presents a unique opportunity to address innovative methods for supporting immigrant and refugee children as they integrate into their new communities. By creating an environment of play – focusing on recreation and arts-based methodologies – it is possible to successfully support social, emotional, linguistic, physical, and cultural integration. Settlement has traditionally focused on the immediacy of physical basic needs, with interventions that did not necessarily place enough emphasis on the emotional needs of the whole resettlement journey. Over the last 20 years, research and practice, have proven the value of not only considering, but incorporating, arts based interventions and pro-social recreational opportunities that contribute to whole family wellness and children’s wellbeing. According to the International Play Association‘s Declaration on the Importance of Play: ‘playing is vital to the understanding, development, and maintenance of valued relationships with others. Playful interactions ‘help in understanding relationships and attachment, language, roles, and social structures.’

“It is these principles that also guide the idea that children should be considered with their own agency, capable of developing social capital in their own right, not only in relation to adults: ‘ the social capital of children in often ‘invisible’. Further, it is often seen as an ‘asset’ for future benefit, not something ‘in their lives in the present’ (Colbert, 2013). A pro social, experiential, approach to programming could employ a culturally competent and trauma informed approach to learning and development that draws on the participants innate resilience in a time of significant adjustment and resettlement.

“It has been our experience that play promotes normalcy, healing, and healthy behavioral development – as well as supports the complex process on integration into a new community following a period of crisis, trauma, or forced migration. This workshop will speak to the approaches used towards establishing a range of partnerships in order to engage children and youth in the local community, culture, and language through various forms of play, while remaining sensitive to culture and background”.

Organizer:
Fariborz Birjandian, Calgary Catholic Immigration Society (CCIS)

Presenters:
Amanda Koyama, Calgary Catholic Immigration Society (CCIS)

Shaun Jayachandran, Crossover Basketball and Scholar’s Academy
(To be confirmed).

Policy advice for the next/new #cdnimm minister

In a Q & A format, New Canadian Media have published a piece on policy advice for the next/new Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, post the Oct 19th federal election. It’s a thoughtful piece by esteemed policy wonks, Andrew Griffith, Robert Vineberg, and Richard Kurland.

I have a few additions to propose. I’ll use the questions that form the NCM piece.

1. What advice would you give an incoming minister of immigration and multiculturalism?

I’m delighted to see the premise of this question because the minister of immigration and citizenship ought to also hold the multiculturalism portfolio.

I support the expert’s advice to update the citizenship guide, Discover Canada, but I’d also propose both child (birth to age eight) and youth (eight to 18) versions. This could be a lot of fun!

2. Would you change the relative proportion of economic, family unification and humanitarian (refugee) migrants arriving in Canada every year?

I agree with Vineberg and would support an increase in family class. See the Canadian Council for Refugees item on family reunification. Policy responses related to transnational families, unaccompanied and undocumented children are also warranted.

3. What’s the ideal number of newcomers (including refugees) that Canada should take in every year (compared to the current average)?

Kurland’s response “No such thing as an ideal number” is valid, but Griffith’s suggestion provides a clearer direction: “Set in place an advisory body, broadly-based, that would review the social and economic integration data, nationally and regionally, to provide recommendations to government for longer-term targets and assess whether current levels and mix are appropriate”. I would hope that such an advisory body would, beyond recommending targets and assessing mix, also examine and recommend ways to support integration for immigrant children and youth.

4. Should multiculturalism be official policy? What needs to change?

As stated, multiculturalism is official policy and entrenched in the Charter. Changes may be warranted and I would propose that early childhood educators and primary school teachers – and parents – be consulted on how the policy can support and promote not only the theory of multiculturalism, but the importance of integration for newcomer children.

5. Should provinces and municipalities have a greater role in immigration? What role should that be?

Yes! Since provinces and municipalities have responsibility for education and health, and these areas impact young children and youth directly, these levels of government must step up their involvement and work to ensure that appropriate policies and programs are in place to support and promote integration, health and well-being of immigrant children and youth.

6. What can a new government do differently to enable “foreign credential recognition”?

The new government must put in place a pan-Canadian child care program that is publicly funded, regulated, accessible, affordable, not-for-profit, and community based. As newcomer parents navigate the foreign credential process (and later, as they enter the workforce), a high-quality child care program is critical. A truly universal child care program would also be culturally relevant and take into consideration the needs of newcomer children and families.

Discounting immigrant families: Neoliberalism & the framing of Canadian immigration policy change

As part of part of the SSHRC project, Immigration Trajectories of Immigrant Families, the Ryerson Centre for Immigration and Settlement has released the paper Discounting Immigrant Families: Neoliberalism and the Framing of Canadian Immigration Policy Change.

From the abstract:

“This paper aims to develop a conceptual framework to assist in understanding how the immigrant family is impacted by recent changes to immigration policy in Canada. We contend that neoliberalism, broadly defined, is a helpful lens through which to comprehend some of the specific policies as well as discursive outcomes which have real effects on immigrant families. Based on our findings from an in-depth literature review, our goal is to identify and summarize the recent changes to the Canadian policy environment and to develop a critical conceptual framework through which to understand policy change in relation to families and immigrants”.

The too-brief discussion of the “ideal immigrant” and the “ideal immigrant family” in the paper is provocative, or at least could be. Children, as part of an immigrant family, are social policy orphans. There is little attention devoted to immigrant children, both from the academic/research community and the federal/provincial government departments responsible for citizenship and immigration. The RCIS papers lack of depth on this issue fails to answer the first research question posed in the SSHRC project, i.e., How do all members of the family facilitate or impede the integration of immigrants? The paper briefly touches on the federal policy changes to the definition of dependent children from 22 and under to 19 and under, for children arriving under the economic class and/or family sponsorship. This is an important issue to highlight. Immigrant children, from birth to age eight, are also an important group to address. A federal policy response is warranted. Children in this age group are ripe for shaping, so to speak. It is odd that given the federal governments focus on integration, they are not developing programs, supports and services that promote acculturation. And why isn’t the academic/research community delving deeper?

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

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.

Canadian Council for Refugees Youth Network seeks submissions from youth

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