Colour Our World: Calgary’s child settlement program

Calgary’s Centre for Newcomers, with funding from Citizenship and Immigration Canada, runs a settlement program for immigrant children, aged 2 – 12, accompanied by a parent or family member. The program provides one-on-one support as well as group activities, all with the goal of providing information and support for children integrating into Canada. For more information, see the webpage and/or contact program coordinator Zainab Qaiser Khan, (403) 569-3348.

Are other provinces/jurisdictions conducting similar programs specifically for children’s integration/settlement?

Separate school for immigrant children?

The Edmonton Public School system is planning to develop a new program to assist immigrant children with integrating into school, a way to ease them into their new formal environments. Starting as a pilot program, the CBC reports that school board trustees are already considering expanding the program into its own school for immigrant and refugee children. Joseph Luri of the Mennonite Centre for Newcomers in Edmonton welcomes the idea. He wants to see a separate school for immigrant/refugee children with the children grouped not by age but by their knowledge:

“Some have been in the refugee camps for 10 years … never gone to any formal school but now coming here and they begin learning English as a teenager, you don’t get it”.

Diversity matters conference, BC

Conference call. Diversity Matters: An Ongoing Conversation, sponsored by Providence Health Care, BC and Covenant Health, AB will be held November 2-3, 2009 at the Coast Plaza Hotel in Vancouver BC. From the conference brochure:

Conference Description 

Healthcare practitioners, educators, and community service providers face increasingly diverse populations in their professional work. This diversity includes an expanding range of unfamiliar patient beliefs, preferences and expectations about the “right” way to learn, maintain health, make treatment decisions, and communicate. These changes are also often accompanied by significant language and other symbolic barriers between providers and the people served. New or different inter-professional competencies and organizational approaches are therefore needed to ensure the provision of safe and ethical care. Presenters at this conference share their knowledge and practical experiences in transforming models of health care to better serve our culturally diverse patient populations. 

Conference Objectives 

1. Raise awareness of the implicit values and premises of health care delivery 

2. Provide knowledge about diverse health models, beliefs, and practices encountered with multicultural and multi-religious patient populations 

3. Learn culturally competent approaches for engaging with religious and culturally diverse patients, families, and communities 

4. Understand the communication issues and skills needed to provide education to diverse patient and provider populations 

5. Identify systemic barriers and solutions for serving limited or non-English speaking patients, residents, families, and communities.

Settlement needs of BC immigrant and refugee children

Last June, Welcome BC held a Learning Forum and Consultation on the Settlement Needs of Immigrant/Refugee Children 0-6 years of age and Their Families.

The purpose of the day was to provide government with specific advice regarding appropriate programs for newcomer children from birth to age six, and their families “in the intersecting areas of Early Learning and Early Childhood Development”.

Available online now are some very useful resources and materials prepared for the conference by various BC government departments, including: the Attorney General; Children and Family Development; Health; Education; Public Library Services Branch; and from the Burnaby ECD Table. Resources include current (2006) demographic information on countries of origin, home languages, strategic directions of the various departments and etc. There is also a written report on the learning results/outcomes of the conference consultation and participant evaluations:

2 page Executive Summary

Report on the Results of the Learning Forum and Consultation on the Settlement Needs of Immigrant/Refugee Children 0-6 Years of Age and their Families. Prepared by Karen L. Abrahamson.


Call for papers: The economics of integration – children of immigrants and temporary migration

The Economics of Immigration: Children of Immigrants and Temporary Migration will be held May 11-12, 2009 in Vancouver BC.

The conference is intended to provide a forum for discussing innovative theoretical and empirical research on two important topics in migration research: economic issues related to the children of immigrants, and temporary migration. Possible topics (of interest to readers) include:

  • economic conditions faced by the children of immigrants
  • intergenerational integration
  • racial/ethnic stratification, segregation, and attitudes
  • social capital of immigrants and their children

Those interested in participating should submit a complete paper, in PDF format, to the program committee by January 1, 2009. Submissions must be made via e-mail to:

All presenters will be provided with hotel accommodations for 3 nights plus all meals for the 2 days of the conference. Funds may become available for air transportation …Major funding for this event is provided by Citizenship and Immigration Canada and Metropolis British Columbia. Institutional support is provided by Metropolis British Columbia, CReAM, and Simon Fraser University.

Source: CERIS November 2008 Newsletter.

Alberta expands family sponsorship program

The Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program has amended its policies to allow “eligible Albertans” to sponsor family members, even those without a job awaiting them. Alberta Employment and Immigration Minister, The Honourable Hector Goudreau, in a news release entitled “Invite your uncle to pack his arc welder for a new life in Alberta“, says that adding to the family stream will support employment, “while creating more diverse and welcoming communities for all our families“.

Multicultural to intercultural: Libraries connecting communities

The International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) is holding a satellite meeting Aug 5-7/08 in Vancouver BC (prior to their 2008 Conference and Congress, Libraries Without Borders, in Quebec City).

The satellite meeting theme is Multicultural to Intercultural: Libraries Connecting Communities. See the site also for a call for papers.

Visit the IFLANET site to learn about how libraries and other institutions come together to meet the needs of culturally diverse populations. Here you’ll find strategic plans, work schedules, publications and more.

Authentic identities: Immigrant children and multiculturalism

The May 8th editorial in the Calgary Herald is titled Caught Between Two Worlds and lightly touches on immigrant children’s identity development: the Canadian way or the way of the child’s family and culture of origin. “Forging an authentic identity in Canada is not an easy task” concludes the editor. reports Sat May 10th that Governor General Michaelle Jean, during her trip to France, called upon the people to remain “ever vigilant in the face of the slightest sign of intolerance, and to use every means possible to counter the lack of understanding by some that too often leads to the exclusion of others”.

For children, inclusion and identity and inextricably linked.

Media coverage of Jean’s official visit was rife with comments on the success of Canadian multiculturalism. Is (official) multiculturalism the best way to support forging authentic (Canadian) identities for immigrant children?

A reading of the most recent report in the Bernard van Leer Foundation’s series on Early Childhood in Focus, blogged on below, provides a useful framework for this discussion. From the preface, “Traditionally, identity formation has been perceived as mainly as being about processes of development, socialisation and enculturalation, with child-rearing experts offering wide-ranging views on how these can best be achieved. One prominent view has seen the young child as immature, unformed and dependent. Acquiring identity has been understood as a gradual process of embedding into the norms, values and social roles of the parents’ culture, shaped by the training offered by parents and others. An alternative view has seen the child’s identity as largely preformed and maturing through play and exploration in the protected spaces offered by caring adults.

Neither of these views accord with contemporary theories of identity formation, which respect children’s unique identity at birth and their role in constructing and reconstructing personal meaning within cultural contexts. There is also increasing recognition that children negotiate multiple, shifting and sometimes competing identities, especially within complex, multi-ethnic and multicultural contexts”.

The Bernard van Leer Foundation asks us to consider “as children move into group care and education, further sensitive support is needed to enable them to forge new identities which do not conflict with the family and cultural identity they have acquired at home”.

One more excerpt from this excellent report:

” When considering identity development in migrant families, the traditional view has led to seeing migrant children and adolescents as having to bridge two cultures or value systems. In this dominant tradition, it was believed that many children either reject their home culture in favour of the dominant culture (assimilation), or on the contrary reject the dominant culture and cling to the traditional beliefs and values of their origins (separation), although the ‘ideal’ situation would be the integration of both worlds recognising children’s multiple identities….Educational practices that foster children’s multiple identities need to avoid two pitfalls: colour-blindness and tokenism. Colour-blindness is the denial of differences, very often out of an honest concern to treat ‘all children equal’. In practice this means that parents and children from minority communities are welcomed, but receive the (unintentional) message that they need to ‘adapt’ as soon as possible to what is considered ‘normal’ within the dominant culture.

Tokenism on the contrary involves teaching the ‘culture’ of a child’s home life as fixed and static. Parents’ and children’s identities are thereby reduced to their origin by assuming there is something called ‘the Magreb culture’, ‘the Asian way of doing things’ or a ‘typical lesbian family’. In practice this means that special, yet stereotypical, events or displays are set up for children and families (such as a festival celebrating Iraqi new year with traditional clothes and food). Such activities risk being both patronising and stimatising, in that they overlook the complexities of children’s personal histories and family cultures and ignore socioeconomic and other differences.

An important way to avoid these pitfalls is to build real and symbolic bridges between the public culture of the early childhood centre and the private culture of families, by negotiating all practices with the families involved” (Michel Vandenbroeck, Senior Researcher, Department of Social Welfare Studies, University of Ghent, Belgium).

Call for presentations: Diversity and well-being conference, Calgary

The Calgary Health Region has issued a call for presentations for its 5th annual Diversity and Wellbeing Conference. This year’s theme is The Diverse Faces of Mental Health and will be held Nov 20-21/08 at Mount Royal College in Calgary Alberta.

The conference brings together health researchers, practitioners, policy makers and community members/organizations to share best practices in addressing the mental health needs of individuals, families and communities. The conference is an ideal place to raise issues of immigrant/refugee children and families and acknowledge/address the conditions under which they emigrate to Canada.

Topics welcome include:

  • innovations in mental health services to populations
  • mental health needs of diverse communities
  • the role of spirituality in mental health
  • the implications of current health policies and practices in diverse communities
  • incorporating the lived experiences of diverse populations in research and decision making.

Deadline for submission is June 27th 2008.

Contact for a copy of the application form.

BC literacy program for immigrant families/children

As part of WelcomeBC (the provincial immigration initiative) the Minister Responsible for Multiculturalism, the Honourable Wally Oppal, announced last week funding for a literacy program for immigrant families with young children.

The Immigrant Parents As Literacy Supporters (Immigrant PALS) program is targeted to parents and preschool children who have been in Canada for at least 3 years. Immigrant PALS will be piloted in 7 neighbourhood schools in North Vancouver, Abbotsford, Burnaby, Langley and Surrey BC.

Programs will be tailored to specific languages, including Farsi, Karen, Mandarin, Punjabi and Vietnamese. Programs will run for 3 years and accommodate 25 families in 10 workshops a year.

From the press release:

“The language and literacy abilities of refugee and immigrant families impact every area of their lives, said Oppal. This program is another creative approach that WelcomeBC is taking to ensure the successful adaptation and integration of newcomers and their families to British Columbia”.

Immigrant PALS complements the province’s ReadNow BC and the StrongStart BC early learning programs. Visit this site to learn more.