By: Sara Asalya in Toronto, ON

Newcomers to Canada face numerous challenges from the moment they land; most significantly managing their finances and successfully transitioning within their respective careers. In the majority of cases, acquiring a Canadian education or certification can be the only pathway to enter the local job market. However, given their limited financial resources and the various barriers to essential services, they can be in serious risk of losing their savings and wasting years of their life trying to get back on track. Consequently, they find themselves facing two choices: either start from scratch by going back to school, or accept a low-wage survival job to support their families. In many cases, newcomers don’t have the resources and financial means to access education. I was one of the immigrants who chose to go back to school and obtain some Canadian credentials. 

But how in the first place did I end up being an immigrant in Canada? If ever there was a day that has been burned into my memory, it is Dec 27th, 2008. The first day of the 2008 war on Gaza and the day that changed my life forever. As a Palestinian, I was born and raised in a war-torn country and thus war was familiar to me. However, a time came when the familiar became unfamiliar—when the bombings destroyed my home at the time I had become a new mother. After witnessing 40 days of war and violence in Gaza and losing my childhood home, friends and family members; I decided that I no longer wanted to live there and raise my children in this nightmare. Brushing shoulders with death left an irreversible impact on me. 

Arriving safely in Canada with my family was the beginning of a new journey. I thought all my fears and nightmares were behind me now. But the reality was different. There was a fear and uncertainty of the future. Where to go? How to start? And what do I want? To summarize, what I have learned from my first couple of months in Canada is that it all comes down to your Canadian credentials and who you know to find a job here. With zero connections and no Canadian references or experience, I decided to go back to school and gain some Canadian credentials that might open doors for me.  

In 2015, I enrolled in the Community Engagement, Leadership and Development post graduate certificate at Ryerson University. My educational experience here was not an easy one. On my first day of school, I was stressed because I looked different than everyone I saw walking in the corridors. In my classes, I seemed to be the only mother and mature student whose first language was not English. I felt lost and lonely. I nervously spent two weeks preparing for my first three-minute presentation. I finished my presentation in less than a minute and I just wanted the earth to swallow me. I persevered, worked hard, and finished my certificate with a GPA of 3.96 out of 4. 

Who was that person who was so insecure to do a three-minute presentation two years ago? In the short time of two years, I went from being anxious about a short presentation to being a leader who moderates panel discussions and accepts speaking invitations from Toronto colleges and local media outlets. This is more like the person I was before I came to Canada and someone I relate to as ‘me’.  So why did it take me, then, a new immigrant, this time to navigate this system and return to my former self? There seems to be a fundamental lack of accessible support systems in higher education institutions for people like me, adult immigrant students who need to regain their confidence through adequate information, engagement and empowerment. No one should experience wanting the earth to just swallow them up.

My first-hand experience in a Canadian university campus has prompted me to make changes at Ryerson for the community of new immigrants of which I am a part. I formed the Newcomer Students’ Association of Ryerson (NSAR); the first student group of its kind for newcomer, immigrant and refugee students. I dedicated much of my time to empower this immigrant community with a special focus on their higher education experiences. Moreover, I managed to create the “NSAR Scholarship” for newcomer and adult immigrant students to empower and help them in their educational journeys. One of the biggest challenges I faced as an adult immigrant student was finding a community that I could belong to while re-positioning my identity. Through the group I formed at Ryerson, I aim to build an inclusive community for newcomer and adult immigrant students to help them create their own spaces.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Even though Ryerson has been a leader in supporting immigrant and refugee communities, I believe it has the capacity to do so much more.[/quote]

After I enrolled at Ryerson, I noticed the increasing need to create a support and transition system for newcomer and immigrant students at postsecondary institutions. I also noticed the service gap. There was no system in place nor policies or programs to support my community at Ryerson. Even though Ryerson has been a leader in supporting immigrant and refugee communities, I believe it has the capacity to do so much more. In light of the changing landscape, I think Ryerson University can take a leadership position in changing policies and providing programming for newcomers to facilitate their post-secondary experiences.

Education is a core sector for human development and access to higher level of education can have an extraordinary, long-term and far-reaching impact on empowering communities. Universities should, therefore, invest in creating support systems for migrant students to ease their transition and integration process. 

NSAR aims to build an inclusive community on the Ryerson campus that promotes community development and involvement. Our vision is of an inclusive society that values the skills and contributions of newcomers, immigrants, and their allies and actively engenders a sense of belonging within communities.

My team and I work to help newcomer and immigrant students make a smooth transition into the Canadian education system by providing peer support, cultural integration, information sessions, and networking events. Moreover, we help them in their pursuits educationally and professionally. My team also works on researching the challenges facing newcomer and adult immigrant students at Ryerson by soliciting feedback from these students to provide recommendations to the school. Most recently, we organized an international students' conference for the first time, that focused on the experiences of newcomers, immigrants, and refugees who had moved on to pursue higher educations. We also collaborated with the Scope radio at Ryerson University to create our own radio show that will host migrant students to learn about the challenges they face and their needs in higher education institutions. We also tend to look at the broader picture and analyze some of the immigration policies that might hinder newcomer integration and prevent them from accessing education. 

NSAR has a special focus on immigrant women and that is why we established the “empowering immigrant women club”. The Ryerson club was established when we noticed a large number of female ethnic students struggled to attend their classes because of the lack of an affordable child-care system. Newcomers can’t afford to pay the high costs of childcare and education simultaneously, which results in many of these women dropping courses and eventually withdrawing from university. This club creates a support system for these women by offering free childcare, peer support and professional development. All women in the club work to back each other and build a self-sufficient support system.

Based on my first daunting encounter with the Canadian education system, I would have never thought that I would understand it or navigate through it, let alone flourish and achieve my potential. I made a promise to myself that I will always strive to help make this experience as welcoming and as accommodating as possible for every immigrant and newcomer to this country who has the desire and ability to pursue their passions and dreams.

Sara Alysa is the founder and president of the Newcomer Students’ Association of Ryerson (NSAR) as well as the Vice President of Events and Outreach at the Continuing Education Students' Association of Ryerson (CESAR). Her main interests are in looking at the experiences of migrant students in higher education and what post-secondary institutions offer for these students. 

Published in Commentary
Friday, 10 March 2017 02:34

Looking Beyond the Name on a Resumé

Commentary by Vivian Li in Toronto

In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare gave us the famous line “What is in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” While he was stating, with a noble intention, that it’s not the name of a person but their content and character that truly matters, we know that in 2017 our relationship with our own names and how they’re perceived by others isn’t so simple.

Names matter. For many people they’re a major reflection of our identities, origins, family histories, and the expectations and wishes of our parents symbolized onto us by the very word we use to not only personally identify with but also to introduce ourselves to the world.

When it comes to employment, recent research has shown that names definitely do have an impact on how people are perceived and unfortunately this can manifest in a negative way.

A newly released joint University of Toronto and Ryerson study shows discrimination and hiring bias are present when it comes to applicants with Asian (defined in the study as Indian, Pakistani or Chinese) names. In a study of data from a 2011 Canadian employment audit, researchers analyzed nearly 13,000 job applications for over 3000 job postings in Toronto and Montreal.

Even when all qualifications were equal and the individual was Canadian in origin, the study found that applicants with an Asian name were 28 per cent less likely to get called for an interview compared to applicants with a more traditional Anglo-based name. The callback rate for an interview deteriorates even further when the applicant’s education or work experience was from outside of Canada.

Small vs. Big organizations

The study also shows that smaller companies exhibit even worse discrimination than larger organizations, likely due to lack of resources and internal diversity awareness programs. In companies with fewer than 500 employees, the chance of an applicant with an Asian name and of Canadian origin getting a call for an interview was 42% less, and this drops to a staggering 68% less when the applicant’s education and work history was international.

Following the release of the study, RBC and Ryerson University co-sponsored a panel discussion event moderated by Ratna Omidvar, Senator and Visiting Professor, Global Diversity Exchange at the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University. The goal was to explore the challenges discovered by the research and identify ways to eliminate these types of persisting hiring biases.

Hiring from the community

As an Asian Canadian and one of the RBCers who were invited to the event and discussion, my feelings were hopeful but also bittersweet. On the one hand, I continue to be very proud of working for a company like RBC where 33 per cent of our workforce is made up of visible minorities, surpassing the Canadians average of 25 per cent by a sizable margin.

In my role as Senior Manager, Inclusive Recruitment, I know from a wide range of personal experiences that hiring from the community to serve the community has always been one of our most effective and rewarding guiding principles. We’ve passionately built a suite of forward-thinking programs designed to help immigrants and new Canadians build their career at RBC, including ourCareer Edge internship and TRIEC mentoring programs, and RBC volunteers also actively participate in various speed-mentoring events with newcomers to help us look beyond a resume and meet the person behind the name.

Visible minorities are also highly represented in our own recruitment team, which helps us build the cultural competency needed to truly understand the nuanced needs of new Canadians and leads us to address unconscious bias when it comes to screening resumes.

On the other hand, if the study indicates that society in general still interprets minority status negatively then it unavoidably has a potentially negative impact in organizations all across Canada.

Hiring biases

Canada is an immigrant country and by 2035, almost 100 per cent of the Canadian population growth will depend on immigration. Hiring bias against minorities will hugely impact our ability to build competitive advantage both as a company and a country.

So what can we do differently?

We often talk about how diversity is the mix and inclusion is how we make the mix work well together. The bottom line is that in order to make the mix work well together, each one of us needs to look within and examine our own conscious or unconscious bias. It is human nature to favour people who are most like us and view people who are in our own groups as being more favourable than “the others.” A lot of the time, addressing unconscious is about asking ourselves uncomfortable questions (see graphic alongside).

With that in mind, my challenge to everyone is this: the next time you’re looking at a resume and decide to put it aside, pause for a moment and ask yourself why you are doing it… and then look at the name.

Vivian Li is a Senior Manager responsible for inclusive recruitment at the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC). Prior to her experience in RBC, Vivian worked as an HR professional with Bell Canada.

Published in Economy

by George Abraham in Ottawa

I must confess that I came to Brown: What Being Brown in the World Today Means (To Everyone) and Kamal Al-Solaylee’s thesis as a skeptic. Growing up in India, everybody around me was brown – some lighter-skinned than others – but brown-ness has been a lifelong given.

Moving to Canada, I developed an appreciation for the tension between “white” and “black,” and then a little later, consciousness about indigenous people. Recently, #Blacklivesmatter and #Nativelivesmatter became popular Twitter hashtags, emblematic of a struggle for equality and justice.

The author of this book adds another group to the list of the aggrieved, perhaps calling for a #Brownlivesmatter movement.

Picking up Brown I asked myself, why does Al-Solaylee have to harp on yet another colour distinction?

He seemed to be calling for a new consciousness, “a challenge to white and black hegemony.” What baloney, I told myself. I sensed yet another author adept at milking victimhood for all it’s worth.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]I sensed yet another author adept at milking victimhood for all it’s worth.[/quote]

That would have been the essence of my take but for happenstance.

I read the main sections of Brown during a visit to India, which at the time was roiled by a rather bizarre series of attacks on African nationals staying there for university studies or business. While the political class appeared to be in denial, the national media were unsparing, labelling the attacks “pigment-based discrimination” and brazen racism.

I was shocked to read an African diplomat in New Delhi quoted as saying, “I realized after a while that the taunts of ‘monkey, monkey’ were aimed at me . . .” He was recounting how a group of youth would make primate-like sounds while he was jogging at a public park.

Not just black and white

The exhaustive reporting and commentary in India around these widespread attacks told me that we “brownies” were also capable of racism.

Secondly, it opened my eyes to the possibility suggested by Al-Solaylee: “[W]e are not as privileged as whites but not as criminalized as blacks.” There might be an in-between.

There is no denying that if whites form the top-tier of the world economy, browns and blacks occupy the bottom rungs. However, there is not enough in this book by the widely-published Ryerson University journalism professor to clearly distinguish between the fates of those born brown or black, although he goes to extraordinary lengths to support his basic point that skin colour is destiny.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“[W]e are not as privileged as whites but not as criminalized as blacks.”[/quote]

Brown, he says, serves as a metaphor for a distinct political experience that might include the following: a hyphenated immigrant identity (unlike the Irish and Italian, for example); suspicion at border crossings (perceived as “shifty”); a feeling of disenfranchisement and belonging to a new “global servant” class.

As an immigrant himself, Al-Solaylee pays particular attention to the internationally mobile brown folks who wish to leave the developing world, thereby “browning” the population of countries such as the U.S. and Canada.

Shades matter

The Yemen-born author is at his best when he hews close to the journalism for which he is most known. He cites data to show income disparities based on skin colour in societies such as Brazil (where browns or blacks earn 42.2 per cent less than whites), Sri Lanka and Trinidad.

This book also took him to the Philippines, Hong Kong, Qatar, the U.K. and the U.S. – all in an effort to demonstrate how being born brown inevitably means a life of modern slavery, dim economic prospects, and an endless effort to appear fairer through whitening creams and lotions.

There is, though, no effort to explain brown-on-brown discrimination in countries such as Qatar, where the Asian labour class and local Qataris share a common skin tone. Similarly, the notes from Britain most certainly discount the possibility of a Muslim brownie of Pakistani heritage being elected mayor of London.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Al-Solaylee’s observations and conclusions throughout his travels can be rather facile and foregone, and lack the rigour one expects from a stellar journalist.[/quote]

The author applies the same woe-is-me-because-I’m-brown outlook to Canada. Jumping off some of the overheated rhetoric from the Conservative campaign during the October 2015 federal election, the author infers that “an anti-brown feeling has been gaining momentum, even in liberal Canada.” This, when he himself concedes that immigration to both Canada and the U.S. is predominantly brown.

Al-Solaylee’s observations and conclusions throughout his travels can be rather facile and foregone, and lack the rigour one expects from a stellar journalist. This one stuck out in particular: “Two black friends have suggested to me that the relatively light skin tones of Syrian refugees explain why Canadians have opened their wallets and homes so generously.”

I’m not sure if the author proves what he set out to demonstrate – that being brown predicts your life trajectory more than any other circumstance.

My own career has taken me to some of the very same countries that Al-Solaylee visited. I know first-hand that skin colour can be defining and shorthand for a “pigmentocracy,” in which white and fair is viewed as competent, while everybody else falls short.

I’d say Brown is a good read for those who are convinced they will never catch a break because the deck is forever stacked against them.

For everybody else, it is yet another thesis in search of a convincing argument.

George Abraham is the founder and publisher of New Canadian Media.


{module NCM Blurb}

Published in Books

by Sandhya Ranjit in Toronto 

Bridging programs are giving newcomers an opportunity to gain new skills and integrate more easily into the Canadian job market. 

Kamo Mailyan studied public administration, worked in hospitality and promoted civic participation in his native Armenia. Now in Canada, he works as an international commodities trader, thanks to a bridging program offered at Toronto’s York University. 

“We take a holistic approach to enabling immigrant professionals to connect to jobs,” says Nora Priestly, program manager of York University’s Internationally Educated Professionals (IEP) Bridging Program. “We build on the individual’s education and work experience.” 

Mailyan couldn’t agree more. He credits York University’s program for giving him an opportunity to upgrade his skills in marketing. 

“I realized that sales and marketing had many jobs, and decided to reskill myself. I could do that in my bridging program, where I picked up the fundamentals of marketing,” he says. 

Rene Berrospi, a lawyer from Peru arrived in Canada with legal experience in Peru and the United States. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“I joined a bridging program in HR to understand HR practices in Canada and upgrade my business knowledge.”[/quote]

“As an employment lawyer, I decided to work in alternative areas such as immigration law and HR (human resources) consulting,” says Berrospi, who is also in the York University program. “I joined a bridging program in HR to understand HR practices in Canada and upgrade my business knowledge.” 

It is a similar story to Saviz Rahbar’s, who arrived from Iran with an undergraduate degree in statistics and work experience in human resources and marketing. 

“Because I didn’t work in statistics, I didn’t have the knowledge that comes with experience. And though I worked in HR and marketing, I didn’t have a degree in those areas,” she explains. 

She says this was a major barrier for her to connect to a job in her preferred area – human resources. 

Things started looking up when Rahbar got into a bridging program. 

“York University’s program was like doing a real certificate program, where I was doing full credit courses, studying the same courses that other regular undergraduate students were studying. I realized that I could leverage my IEP bridging program to go onto a graduate program.” 

Understanding cultural nuances 

Many colleges and universities in Toronto deliver bridging programs for a variety of disciplines. 

Because barriers such as lack of workplace communication skills, not being a ‘fit’ to an organization’s culture and lack of networks delay the process of immigrants’ integration into the job market, most bridging programs teach not only the language, but the cultural nuances that will help integrate and provide opportunities for networking. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][D]oing a bridging program is an effective way to demonstrate to an employer that an IEP has made an investment in time and energy to be better prepared for a new career in Canada.[/quote]

Moreover, doing a bridging program is an effective way to demonstrate to an employer that an IEP has made an investment in time and energy to be better prepared for a new career in Canada, explains Priestly. 

The design and the cost of these programs vary by school and so does the outcome of a program. A good bridging program can shorten the wait for a job considerably, she adds. 

Bridging programs offer support for professionals from both regulated and non-regulated professions. York University’s program is focused on non-regulated professions, such as management, finance, marketing and public policy. It includes mandatory foundation courses that are common across the program. 

“The foundation courses take business norms and provide a better understanding of the expectations here in Ontario,” Priestly says. 

“For example, people’s experience with law and ethics might be different than the expectations in Ontario’s job market. The same goes for management skills, learning how these nuances are the same or different will give the IEP a strong understanding.” 

Providing alternative skills, Canadian-based curriculum

In a regulated field, like healthcare, where it is very difficult for internationally trained medical doctors (ITMD) to get licensed to practise, Ryerson’s ITMD bridging program provides additional skills required to work in health research and health management areas as an alternative to medical doctor licensing. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"For me the bridging program helped to move quickly into the labour market in Ontario.”[/quote]

“For me, the bridging program helped to move quickly into the labour market in Ontario,” says Dr. Syed Jaffery, an ITMD with experience in hospital administration. 

“It helped me build on my existing skills and competencies, without having to duplicate what I already had.” 

Other programs like IPLAN, which is run in partnership by JVS Toronto and Ryerson University for IEP architects, aim to provide students with the tools required to successfully integrate into a Canadian workforce. 

“Architecture and construction are basically the same everywhere, but the building codes and materials used are different,” says Sam Exeeson, a recent graduate who secured a job at RAW Design shortly after he completed the program. 

“By completing the Canadian-based architectural curriculum and softs skills training,” adds program manager Philip Hollett, “internationally trained architects can walk into any local architectural workplace with confidence in knowing they can fulfil the job requirements and successfully integrate.”

{module NCM Blurb} 

Published in Education

by Jacky Habib (@JackyHabib) in Toronto

Mohammad Shahadat Hossain is the kind of person who doesn’t just have a plan B, he has a plan C as well. In 2011, he left his job as a chief consultant at a private hospital in Bangladesh to immigrate to Ottawa. Together with his wife and teenage daughters, Hossain came looking for a better life – and found just that.

“I have a good connection with the community and it’s positive – our social status, my kids’ education and wife’s situation. I just bought a house and we moved in last month,” he shares, excitedly. “The only negative thing is that I’m not getting a job as a physician.”

For years after his move to Canada, Hossain was focused on one thing: obtaining his licence to practise as a physician. It’s a process he’s decided to put on hold after passing two out of four required exams.

A Bleak Picture

Hossain is one of over 15,000 internationally trained doctors who have immigrated to Ontario since 2007, according to estimates by HealthForceOntario.

Approximately 1,500 international medical graduates apply for the 250 residency positions available every year in Ontario. The success rate for internationally trained medical graduates of Canadian origin (Canadians who went overseas to study) was 20 per cent, while the success rate for medical graduates who immigrated to Canada is only six per cent, according to research from St. Michael’s Hospital.

Knowing these statistics, Hossain enrolled in the Internationally Trained Medical Doctors (ITMD) bridging program at The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education at Ryerson University, which began earlier this year as a pilot project.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]After participating in the program, Hossain says he’s more knowledgeable about the Canadian health field, has increased confidence and is redirecting his career goals.[/quote]

Accepting a position in the program meant he would have to move to attend the daily classes. Hossain said goodbye to his family and rented a house in Toronto to attend the four-month program. “I’m thankful for my family,” Hossain reflects. “They sacrificed a lot for me.” 

After participating in the program, Hossain says he’s more knowledgeable about the Canadian health field, has increased confidence and is redirecting his career goals. 

“I was thinking that if I studied a lot I would be able to pass the exams and get my licence, but in reality, even if I pass all the exams it’s very hard to get a residency,” he says.

The ‘Brain Drain’

A study released in 2014 by researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital examined the ‘brain drain’ of doctors who immigrated to Canada, based on a survey of internationally trained doctors.

Respondents overwhelmingly said information on the difficulty of obtaining residency was not clearly communicated, and a substantial number of respondents said they were misinformed about the reality of obtaining residency in Canada. Several respondents indicated regrets of immigrating to Canada.

The study recommended that Canada ensures, “the immigration process clearly outlines the relatively low likelihood of obtaining a career in medicine after immigration … it should be acknowledged that obtaining Canadian experience is a near impossibility …”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Hossain, for one, has redirected his path and is no longer seeking to work as a physician. “I am thinking of switching over from a licencing pathway to a research pathway because I think it’s much easier,” he explains.[/quote]

Thousands of internationally trained doctors find out about this 'near impossibility' too late.

Hossain, for one, has redirected his path and is no longer seeking to work as a physician. “I am thinking of switching over from a licencing pathway to a research pathway because I think it’s much easier,” he explains.

Hossain’s clinical placement through the ITMD bridging program was at St. Michael’s Hospital, where he had opportunities to network, which is largely responsible for landing him a job. He now works remotely as a coder on the Millennium Death Study – an initiative of the Centre for Global Health Research, which is examining causes of death in India over the last 100 years. 

“We look for common causes of death in India. Hypertension is one of the causes of death, so if we find that most people die by this, they will change the system and health policy to focus on how to prevent hypertension,” he shares.

Remaining Optimistic

Hossain was one of three of the ITMD program’s 14 students to receive a job after graduating earlier this month. The work is fulfilling, but part-time, so he continues to seek opportunities to contribute as a research assistant in the areas of global health and non-communicable diseases.

Hossain is hopeful that he will find a job, but has a Plan C just in case. He says he will travel back and forth between working as a gynaecologist in Bangladesh and spending time with his family in Ottawa. The hospital Hossain formerly worked for has an open offer for him to return to his previous job, and he says this security is reassuring.

According to the ‘brain drain’ study, however, significant harm can be done to the health care systems in the home countries of immigrant doctors.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Amongst the study’s recommendations was advice to health care systems in low-income and middle-income countries to offer incentives for physicians to stay in their home countries such as improved working conditions or financial perks for working in rural or underserved areas.[/quote]

“It often means health workers lose their skills and may not be able to perform tasks effectively if they return home to work …” the study reveals.

Amongst the study’s recommendations was advice to health care systems in low-income and middle-income countries to offer incentives for physicians to stay in their home countries such as improved working conditions or financial perks for working in rural or underserved areas.

Although Hossain may have to return to Bangladesh to find work, he remains optimistic. “I’m not at all frustrated,” he says, reflecting on the time he spent studying for his licencing exams in Canada. “I was practising professionally for almost 20 years and I have professional satisfaction.”

This is part two of a series of profiles of graduates of the Internationally Trained Medical Doctors program.

{module NCM Blurb}


Published in Education

by Jacky Habib (@JackyHabib) in Toronto

Like many immigrants, Sadia Sohail was looking forward to starting a new life in Canada when she moved here with her young family in 2000.

“Pakistan was a troubled country. I didn’t want to raise my children in that political environment,” Sohail says. “Safety was a huge thing for us, and we felt it was important to raise our children in an atmosphere where we could be ourselves, really.”

The family settled in Mississauga, and Sohail planned to continue working as a pediatrician. “I came with an open mind. I’m such a go-getter. I thought I’d get back into medicine as soon as possible,” she says. 

Instead, Sohail received a rude awakening within months of arriving. She was told her medical qualifications were the equivalent of a Bachelor of Science degree here. Sohail knew the road to practising as a doctor in Canada would be a long one, but she didn’t expect it to have as many bumps as it did.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]She spent her evenings and weekends preparing to write medical board exams. Three years and $12,000 later, Sohail was elated to have passed the exams.[/quote]

Since she needed to provide a secondary income for her household, Sohail enrolled in an ultrasound program at a technical institute and began work as an ultrasound technician. She spent her evenings and weekends preparing to write medical board exams. Three years and $12,000 later, Sohail was elated to have passed the exams.

Now, one final step was needed to complete her equivalency process: residency.

It has proven to be the most challenging aspect. Sohail has been seeking residency since 2013 through the Canadian Resident Matching Service, which opens residency to international doctors twice a year.

“I’ve applied four times and haven’t gotten a single response for an interview. It’s disheartening. You wonder: why is this?” Sohail questions. 

Bridging the Gap

The answer that her mentors told her was that she was missing clinical research, and some experience in this would increase her chances of obtaining residency. To familiarize herself with research, Sohail enrolled in the International Trained Medical Doctors (ITMD) bridging program at The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education at Ryerson University, which launched last December and began earlier this year.

Through the program, Sohail learned the fundamentals of research methodology and familiarized herself with clinical research in Canada. She also participated in a clinical placement at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), which helped her begin volunteering on a research project with Toronto Public Health.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]She acknowledges this volunteer research experience isn’t a direct entry into medicine, but she says it’s bringing her closer to her goal ... Sohail says participating in the ITMD program and volunteering in research has been empowering.[/quote]

“I feel like I’m making a huge difference with the projects I’m working on,” Sohail says. “I’m doing a project now on homeless mothers and their babies, so it’s bringing me back to what I love most.” 

She acknowledges this volunteer research experience isn’t a direct entry into medicine, but she says it’s bringing her closer to her goal. It’s also made her consider a possible career in clinical research. Sohail says participating in the ITMD program and volunteering in research has been empowering.

Participants from the first cohort of The Chang School’s ITMD bridging program graduated earlier this month. The 14 participants are from 10 countries and have varied backgrounds in the medical profession, as the program targeted internationally trained physicians, dental surgeons and clinical public health professionals.

A Starting Point

The success rate of international medical doctors who wish to pursue a career in medicine is six per cent, according to researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.

“This represents a lost opportunity for our province to benefit from the advanced academic and professional credentials of these highly skilled professionals,” explains Dr. Marie Bountrogianni, Dean of The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Many immigrants come here and don’t know where to go. Some people say: drive [a taxi], or become a security guard. They’re frustrated.” - Shafi Bhuiyan, The Chang School and Faculty of Community Services[/quote]

The program was founded to help internationally trained professionals find non-licensed health-care jobs in Ontario. Shafi Bhuiyan, an internationally trained doctor who is a distinguished visiting professor with The Chang School and Faculty of Community Services, initiated the program. According to his research, Toronto has 6,000 internationally trained doctors who are working survival jobs.

“I’m also a newcomer to this country. I don’t have anybody,” says Bhuiyan, who knows the difficulties of navigating professional systems as a newcomer. “Many immigrants come here and don’t know where to go. Some people say: drive [a taxi], or become a security guard. They’re frustrated.” 

Bhuiyan says licensing for international doctors is an expensive and lengthy process, with no guarantee of obtaining a residency. Because the medical system is not absorbing these professionals, the ITMD bridging program’s goal is to lead these professionals to non-licensed careers, which are in demand, such as project managers, research managers and analysts in the health-care industry.

“If we can involve [internationally trained doctors] in a non-licensed area of the medical field, they will be happy,” Bhuiyan says. “A bridging program is not the solution. It’s a starting point.”

At The Chang School, a recruitment committee scored applications out of 100 based on the applicant’s letter of intent, health and research experience, academic degrees and qualifications and English communication scores.

“Our plan was to start with 10 people and nearly 180 people applied for the program. We found 36 very strong people who scored well and were interviewed, and from that we offered 14 students to join the program and all of them accepted,” Bhuiyan says.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“I still don’t know if I’ll be able to get residency in Canada, but I will keep trying. I will knock on 100 doors and I hope that finally one will open.” - Sadia Sohail[/quote]

The 11-week program, which took place daily in the evenings, included a four-week volunteer clinical placement. Topics covered in the curriculum include: health research, project management, data management in health care, professional communication and workplace culture.

By the completion of the program, three graduates received job offers and six received an extension to their volunteer clinical placements.

Bountrogianni says the next cohort of the ITMD bridging program will begin in fall 2015 and that there has been a 50 per cent increase in applications for the program’s 15 spots.

Knocking Down Doors

The 15-year journey in pursuing a medical career in Canada has taken a toll on Sohail and her family – and it isn’t over yet.

When Sohail moved to Canada with her young family, she was pregnant and had a two-year-old toddler. Now, her children are teenagers. 

“My children – all they’ve seen growing up is their mother studying,” she says. “My routine has been very hectic and because I work, my evenings are dedicated to studying. My family is extremely supportive, but it seems like there has to be an end to this.” 

Despite being open to relocating and applying for residency positions across the country, Sohail is yet to hear a response, but she maintains her optimism.

“I still don’t know if I’ll be able to get residency in Canada, but I will keep trying. I will knock on 100 doors and I hope that finally one will open.”

{module NCM Blurb} 

Published in Education

by Samantha Lui (@samanthalui_) in Toronto

Author Pico Iyer may have been based in western Japan since 1987. But he is hesitant to call the country his home; he’s been living there on a tourist visa for the past 28 years.

“Home and the notion of home has never been something I wanted to complete,” he says. “I choose to live on a tourist visa because I can’t ever claim a Japanese (identity) nor do the Japanese want to claim me.”

Speaking to a full auditorium at Ryerson University Thursday night, Iyer shares his ideas on diversity and migration as the featured guest for the Global Diversity Exchange’s (GDX) inaugural annual lecture.

Based out of Ryerson’s Ted Rogers School of Management, GDX is an initiative that aims to provide leadership and analysis that will help service providers work with immigrants through things like employment and entrepreneurship. 

Iyer, the author of a dozen books such as The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere and Video Night in Kathmandu, has been writing about his travels, movement and the notions of home for more than 30 years.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“We are all migrants. On some levels, I think we are all minorities.[/quote]

Born to Indian parents in Oxford, England, Iyer has been traveling since the age of nine, having moved back and forth from England to California during his childhood.

His adventures have since taken him to places like North Korea, Easter Island, Bhutan and Ethiopia. 

During his lecture, the writer talks about how his well-traveled upbringing has allowed him to adapt to new settings.

For him, he has never felt the need to have a sense of belonging in one set place.

“Maybe it’s because I grew up having just one foot outside,” he says. “I feel naturally at home in the margins and outside of things.”

Hesitant to commit to a physical “home,” Iyer also adds that the word’s meaning is always evolving as one’s environment is constantly changing.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“My sense of home and my sense of self has always been a work in progress. I always grew up with the sense that home is not the place I came from. It’s where I’m coming to.”[/quote]

“We are all migrants. On some levels, I think we are all minorities,” he says, noting that our homes are always changing throughout time with new developments, roads and areas being built.

Instead, he says he believes that home is what he makes it.

“My sense of home and my sense of self has always been a work in progress,” he says.

“I always grew up with the sense that home is not the place I came from. It’s where I’m coming to.”

A Fluid World

Dennis Bedeau, an immigrant from Trinidad and Tobago, says he came to see Iyer’s lecture because he has always been interested in issues involving global diversity, migration and inclusion.

When asked what “home” means to him, he agrees with Iyer that the concept comes from the heart.

“I’ve been in Canada for about 46 years and (when I go back to) my home country, it’s changed. I cannot identify with that anymore,” he says.

However, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t seen change in Toronto either.

“Some of the places in Toronto I’ve been, I cannot identify with them after a few years,” he adds.  

“All the parking lots are gone, the farmlands are gone and condos are popping up. The world is very fluid. It’s not static. It’s very dynamic and that’s what I like about everything (Iyer) talked about.”

{module NCM Blurb}

Published in Books
Tuesday, 24 March 2015 16:22

Restoring a True Canadian Narrative

by Danica Samuel (@danicasamuel) in Toronto

It is time for Aboriginals to reclaim their power and influence in Canada. 

This is what author, essayist and president of PEN International John Ralston Saul is advocating for. Host of ‘A New Conversation: Indigenous and New Canadian Perspectives on Canada’ held at Ryerson University Monday night, Saul aims to bring this message to the forefront. He has already sparked a lot of global and national attention on citizenship and the public good with his books A Fair Country: Telling Truths about Canada and The Comeback.

“Here we are in the new Canadian city with the majority of its population unborn here, it is also the biggest reserve in Canada,” says Saul (pictured to the right). “There’s 75 to 100 thousand Aboriginals and there’s basically no conversation going on, between the people who are from here and the people who are coming here.” 

With both the Native and newcomer voice present, event panellists include: Indigenous author and poet, Lee Maracle, senior advisor to the president of the University of Manitoba, Ovide Mercredi, director of zone learning at Ryerson University, Randy Boyagoda, and executive director of the Global Diversity Exchange, Ratna Omidvar. 

After an opening prayer from Cree elder, Joanne Dallaire, panel members deliver individual opening statements, all underlining the main point: reissue the Canadian narrative back to its original state and find out what the original conversation surrounding Aboriginals consisted of. Furthermore, once the original conversation and narrative is brought to life, share it consistently.

Understanding History 

Mercredi says the lack of knowledge on the issues that Indigenous communities face stems from people not having an understanding of Canadian history. He then alludes that the majority of Aboriginals’ history was spent protecting themselves and avoiding poverty as an essence for survival. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“The conversation between the first peoples of Canada and the newest people of Canada is a vacuum, it does not happen.” - Ratna Omidvar, Global Diversity Exchange[/quote]

“Historically, the conversation between [Aboriginals], French and the English, didn’t go too well, because once they got a foothold of our territory they were dismissive of our people our culture and our own sovereignty,” explains Mercredi. 

“Then, began a process of displacement and a process of non-engagement. So, most of the history has been about trying to protect our history.” 

In parallel to Mercredi, Maracle states that European’s colonization over Canada has been nothing, but detrimental.

“Things changed when the British lost their rights to automatic citizenship. It changed because the people coming from the other parts of the world were people of colour,” she explains. “Although, the [British] didn’t lose their place as the dominant white male.” 

Dialogues Without Barriers

The panellists emphasized that the conversation around the land people come to needs to be accurately taught. Boyagoda explains that growing up in the ’70s and ’80s, the talk of native people in Canada was greatly circumvented.

“I probably lived through what I would describe as the institutionalization and professionalization of the conversation around Indigenous rights and relations with the rest of Canada,” he says. He adds the continuation of raw, in-depth conversations would be considered a “luxury good” to a lot of immigrants he knows..

But, Omidvar claims the issue is far more deeply rooted.

“The conversation between the first peoples of Canada and the newest people of Canada is a vacuum, it does not happen,” Omidvar says, passionately. “I think this is a result of the way the country has constructed itself, which encourages people to stay separate as opposed to coming together. It’s the way we have constructed our national narrative.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“We have a short history as far as the nation states is concerned, it will be about 150 years old in 2017, when you’re celebrating these years, look around you, how many Indigenous people will be celebrating with you?” - Lee Maracle, University of Manitoba[/quote]

Maracle adds her narrative began with her not being a citizen at all.

“I am not a Canadian, because to say that I would have to say I colonized myself and I was happy doing it. I was under immigration until I was 12 years old and then one day they said you’re a citizen… of what?” she asks. “Who said [Aboriginals] wanted to be [‘Canadian’]. Nobody asked us.”

Making note of Maracle’s maltreatment, Mercredi encourages audience members to think about where their pride for the Canada they know comes from.  

“We have a short history as far as the nation states is concerned, it will be about 150 years old in 2017, when you’re celebrating these years, look around you, how many Indigenous people will be celebrating with you?” he asks. “If poverty remains the result of Canada becoming a nation’s state and the only opportunity we have on our traditional homelands there really isn’t much to celebrate. We have to envision a better country.”

Developing a Better Country

The panellists all put forth various ideas for how to move the Canadian narrative forward. Ratna says developing a better country involves all provinces working together, as some are progressing faster than others. According to Saul provinces like British Columbia, Quebec, Saskatchewan and Manitoba are ahead in the discussion, but the Maritimes and Ontario fall short.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Stop using the languages that have been forced upon us by universities, because they teach European [education].” - John Ralston Saul[/quote]

Mercredi says that political parties should not dominate the conversations surrounding Indigenous and newcomers – a sentiment the audience applauds.

Saul says the first step in generating a new conversation is changing linguistics.

“Stop using the languages that have been forced upon us by universities, because they teach European [education],” he says. “All of the terminology like ‘nation state’ and ‘sovereignty’ come out of Eurocentric societies and are designed to create monolithic states. This is the fundamental contradiction in the conversation.”

Perhaps most poignant is elder Dallaire, who as she closes the event in prayer, encourages a simple way to start: take the conversation outside academic settings.

“When you meet up with your friends for a drinks bring this discussion to them, and let the conversation spread.”

{module NCM Blurb}

Published in Education

by Robert Liwang

Toronto-area ethnic newspapers tended to cover the Conservatives more extensively than other political parties during the 2011 election, concludes a new study by Ryerson University journalism professor April Lindgren (also a member of New Canadian Media's Editorial Advisory Board).

“The newspapers we looked at for this research tended to give the Conservatives more coverage than the other parties, and I think that had a lot to do with the efficient and effective campaign that the Conservatives ran,” said Lindgren, who is the lead investigator for the Local News Research Project. “It’s also important to note that for the most part, the coverage was either neutral or positive so overall the Tories were getting their message out to readers of these ethnocultural publications in a way that worked well for them.”

Lindgren said the Tories benefited from the effects of incumbency but they also made a point of courting ethnic journalists by giving them special access to interviews and briefings by the prime minister and cabinet ministers. She suggested that smaller news organizations may have been more vulnerable to what she called the Conservative “charm offensive” because limited newsroom budgets made them more reliant on photos and other content supplied by the party. In some cases, party advertising may also have had an effect: The majority of political advertisements in the Canadian Punjabi Post, for instance, were purchased by the Tories, prompting questions about the influence this may have had on coverage decisions.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Analysis of the election coverage also suggested that individual newspaper’s commitment to election coverage seemed to be influenced by the number of candidates from the publication’s readership community.[/quote]

Lindgren’s research, which will be published in the December 2014 issue of the Canadian Journal of Political Science, focused on coverage of the 2011 federal election in five ethnocultural publications in the Greater Toronto Area – the Russian ExpressKorea Times DailyCanadian Punjabi PostPunjabi Daily and Ming Pao. All are daily publications except for the weekly Russian Express. The study concluded that while there was no overwhelming pattern of stories or photos skewed explicitly in favour of the Conservatives, the party did benefit in that more of its politicians were featured in photographs, it was the sole focus of more stories and photos than its competitors, and it was mentioned first most frequently in news coverage.

“The degree to which a candidate or party can consistently earn first mentions in stories…is a measure of campaign effectiveness in that it means party strategists are choosing the topic and framing the discussion, leaving the competition to react in later paragraphs,” Lindgren observed in the paper, entitled “Toronto-area ethnic newspapers and Canada’s 2011 federal election: An investigation of content, focus and partisanship.”

Lindgren said she was interested in investigating election coverage in the ethnic media because language barriers have limited the amount of research done in this area. During the 2011 election, the Conservative Party, in particular, also launched a media strategy that targeted ethnic communities, because a “growing number of ridings in and around major Canadian cities were home to concentrations of potential supporters from single ethnic groups,” Lindgren wrote.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]In almost all cases the ethnic papers filled in gaps left by mainstream media by providing more extensive coverage of the local races of interest to their readers.[/quote]

Most Canadian voters do not participate directly in political events and therefore depend on the news media to help them make informed decisions, Lindgren noted. In addition to examining whether the Conservative party’s courtship of ethnic media paid off in terms of coverage, the research also examined how much election-related news the ethnocultural publications carried, the subject matter dealt with in the coverage and the geographic focus of the reporting (local campaigns versus national campaigns).

The results showed that interest in the election varied by publication. The Punjabi Daily carried the most election-related coverage – a total of 123 stories and photos, or 32 per cent of all news items the paper published during the study period. The Russian Express, on the other hand, published just 19 election-related stories and photos, which made up a mere 5.9 per cent of their total news items. The study also observed that both the Punjabi Daily and the Punjabi Post were more similar to mainstream news coverage in that both publications ran more stories about election strategy and poll results than issue-related articles.

Analysis of the election coverage also suggested that individual newspaper’s commitment to election coverage seemed to be influenced by the number of candidates from the publication’s readership community. The Punjabi newspapers, which carried the most election news, also had the most in-group candidates to cover.

In almost all cases the ethnic papers filled in gaps left by mainstream media by providing more extensive coverage of the local races of interest to their readers. Compared to the Toronto Star, for instance, the Punjabi papers published much more extensive coverage of the ridings of Brampton-Springdale and Brampton-Gore-Malton, where all three main federal parties ran candidates of Punjabi background.

Since 2011, other parties have followed the Conservative lead in terms of targeting ethnic media. British Columbia’s Liberal party, for instance, established an ethnic outreach strategy in the spring of 2013. Among other initiatives, the strategy called for hiring more people with language skills to deal with media requests and establishing a group of supporters to champion the Liberals in non-English media by writing letters to newspaper editors and calling in to open-line shows.

This article was originally published by the Ryerson Journalism Research Centre.

Published in Top Stories
Friday, 21 February 2014 17:55

How Children Cope with Migration

by Maria Assaf

A recent panel discussion on immigrant children provided interesting insights into how school-going kids cope when their families move home from one country to another.   

Monica Valencia, a Master’s graduate on immigration and settlement studies from Ryerson University, did something uncommon. A lot of her key research interviewees were aged between 9 and 11 years old.

Ms. Valencia set out to study the reasons for poor academic performance among Latin American youth in Ontario schools and its connection with the experiences of new immigrant children.

She researched the adaptation process of a group of Latin American children who had arrived in Canada less than five years ago. Her project “Yo Cuento,” which translates in Spanish to either “I narrate” or “I count,” aimed to find out how children truly felt after moving countries.  

Leaving folks behind

To gain insight into what they experienced, Ms. Valencia gave them paper to draw and write.

“A lot of their significant experiences were getting separated from their grandparents as well as cultural and language barriers at school,” she said.

She showed a slide of a child who drew himself crying and holding on to a house while being dragged by his mother into a car.

As for the interviews, she had to improvise methods to make the children talk more freely. “I told them my story and then let them say theirs,” she said.

She said her hypothesis changed as the investigation advanced. “A lot of them talked about the help they received from classmates.”

Ms. Valencia found that those children who had already gone through the process of learning English and fitting into a classroom often helped and taught language skills to new ones.  

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]She said having children as participants was a vital key part of her research. “People rarely ask children how they feel or encourage them to tell their stories.”[/quote]

“Participation of children in research is limited,” she explained to the audience. Limitations can arise from having to obtain parental consent, but also because children are rarely viewed as credible sources of information.

“English mania”

Valencia was followed by Eunjung Lee and Marjorie Johnstone, who discussed the South Korean student migration experience and the effects it has on families.  

Ms. Johnstone provided a historical account of Canadian government policies that, she said, have consistently and successfully fostered and promoted the arrival of South Korean students to generate revenue for Ontario schools suffering budget cuts, since the 90s. “Immigrant policies were suited to allow students to come here to study,” said Ms. Johnstone. “They didn’t even ask [South Koreans] for visas.”

A move towards the North Americanization of education through an international high school system helped make it easier for youth to come to Canada for school, the team explained

The team said half of all South Korean parents want to send their children to study in North America. They explained this may be linked to the “English mania” in South Korean culture.

The final presenter, Aamna Ashraf, encouraged the audience to become involved in neighborhood organizations working with new immigrants. She is part of the Peel Newcomer Strategy Group.

The group works with local government agencies, the settlement sector, as well as community leaders to help arriving families in the Peel region.

This CERIS panel took place on Jan. 31 at the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto.  

{module NCM Blurb}

Published in Health
Page 1 of 2

New Canadian Media provides nonpartisan news and views representing all Canadian immigrant communities. As part of this endeavour, we re-publish aggregated content from various ethnic media publishers in Canada in an effort to raise the profile of news and commentary from an immigrant perspective. New Canadian Media, however, does not guarantee the accuracy of or endorse the views and opinions contained in content from such other sites. The views expressed on this site are those of the individual writers and commentators, and not necessarily those of New Canadian Media. Copyright © 2019 All rights reserved