by Florence Hwang in Regina

Cultural differences between young new Canadians and their parents can compound the struggles youth normally experience within their families during childhood and adolescence.

A Guide to Overcoming Conflicts with Immigrant Parents (Qurtaba Publishing Houseoutlines how young first-generation immigrants can handle conflict with their immigrant parents. Hodan Ibrahim, an artist and entrepreneur, wrote this five-chapter booklet to guide young immigrants towards pursuing their dreams, with a particular emphasis on conflicts within Muslim families, based on her own experiences and upbringing. 

Often, children of immigrants are expected to obey their parents without questioning their authority. Ibrahim writes that immigrant children may be left unhappy in the struggle to continually live up to their parents’ expectations.

“I was able to fight through and escape the overbearing cultural pressures put on young people to essentially live up to the expectations of our community and parents when we have very different expectations for how we want to live our lives,” she writes. 

Culture impacts aspirations 

In her booklet, Ibrahim emphasizes why it is important for children to discover and work towards fulfilling their own dreams - not living out the dreams of their parents. Her approach is more in-line with Western culture, in that it is more individualistic, rather than Eastern culture, which is more holistic.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Like many of you, I grew up in an environment where I was persuaded to not find my talent, let alone allowed to follow my dreams.”[/quote] 

She notes that individuality or sense of independence can scare parents. It makes them very uncomfortable because they don’t understand or don’t want to understand why their child wants to be different. 

She says immigrant parents may react by saying, "You don't listen,” but that this really means, “You don't listen to my way of doing things.”

“Like many of you, I grew up in an environment where I was persuaded to not find my talent, let alone allowed to follow my dreams,” she writes. “As a Muslim woman, no one wants to hear you doing this. Actually, no one cares, as long [as] you find a nice husband, work 9-5, have a baby. But is that all I was made for?” she asks. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Ibrahim says she also focused on faith and spirituality to find her passion and realize her goals.[/quote]

Children need independence 

To help learn about her personal interests and passions, she went to libraries and listened to speakers and personal development gurus. 

“I had no real understanding of what my life passions were but I knew that the only way to find it was to not be afraid to try new things,” writes Ibrahim, who says her parents expected her to become a doctor. 

She says a child’s purpose in life supersedes the wishes of their parents’ and anyone else’s opinions. She encourages immigrant children to explore, try new things and travel to find out what their passions are and potentially discover their calling in life. 

Ibrahim says she also focused on faith and spirituality to find her passion and realize her goals. 

“I only had God ... who I called on when I had nothing else to call on, who nurtured me when I fell deep into my pain and kindly guided me to where I was supposed to go, not where I thought I wanted to go,” she writes. 

“I learned that you really can’t survive on your own and that a deeper and much higher force is there for you, to guide you and help you,” she adds.

First- and second-generation immigrants must discover who they are, what they want to contribute to the world, and the families they want to have – all while balancing their faith with their careers, writes Ibrahim. Parents don’t often understand the difficulty of balancing it all, she notes. 

She points out that the children of immigrants return from school or work to deal with society's problems while facing another internal battlefield at home – the result of language barriers and other cultural divisions. 

“You are just set up to lose. So what do you do? You must learn to separate your thoughts and ideas from your family, community and culture,” Ibrahim writes. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Immigrant parents do want their children to become financially independent and successful in their careers.[/quote]

Not fair to generalize 

As an immigrant and child of immigrants myself, not all of Ibrahim’s points resonate with me.

My parents did not expect me to become a doctor, accountant, or lawyer. They encouraged me to become anything I wanted to be, which was a journalist and later a librarian. They did question my choice as a journalist initially, but were eventually supportive. They did prefer my second choice, though, as it is a more stable profession.

While Ibrahim focuses on Muslim families, it is still a generalization to argue they are mostly set in their ways and do not change. Immigrant parents do want their children to become financially independent and successful in their careers.

A Guide to Overcoming Conflicts with Immigrant Parents offers practical advice and at the same time touches on the roots of intergenerational conflict. She looks at the differing philosophies of parents and their children and paints the parents as having an insular view of the world while the younger generation’s is non-hierarchal. 

“I’m here to tell you: you are not alone,” she writes. “I get it and wanted to open up the discussion about the challenges and solutions to life's problems that many young, career-oriented individuals from ethnic backgrounds have to face.”

Florence Hwang used to work as a print journalist before becoming a media librarian. These days, she is also a freelance writer, whose work has been featured in several publications, including New Canadian Media. Outside of work, Florence spends her time making short films about her family history.

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Published in Books
Thursday, 17 March 2016 15:24

Breaking Silence Around Elder Abuse

by Beatrice Paez in Toronto

Asking seniors subtle questions about their daily routines opens up dialogue – and can point to signs of elder abuse, which rarely reveals itself in obvious ways.

Nirpal Bhangoo-Sekhon often asks seniors she meets about what they’ve been eating, who handles their finances and if their basic needs are being met. It is her job as case manager of the Punjabi Community Health Services (PCHS) to be curious.

“Unfortunately, if we don't ask those questions, we wouldn't know what's happening,” she says. “It gives you a better picture of what goes on at home.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Abuse isn't limited to physical violence; it can extend to the withholding of financial resources, verbal threats and isolation from the household.[/quote]

In a 2009 report, Statistics Canada found that two-thirds of seniors who experienced family violence – physical force or threats – didn't sustain injuries. Seniors most at risk, based on reports to the police, are between 65 and 74.  

During her one-on-one meetings with seniors, Bhangoo-Sekhon will also illustrate scenarios to raise awareness of how common an issue elder abuse is. Holding such conversations regularly helps ease reservations about breaking their silence, which can take months, if not longer, she says. 

Reluctance to speak up

While elder abuse cuts across different cultural groups, they may contend with different obstacles. 

Language barriers and distrust in the police – mostly worries about being deported – aren't the only concerns stacked heavily against the decision to come forward, says Kripa Sekhar, the executive director of the South Asian Women's Centre (SAWC) in Toronto.

There's the perception that speaking out would fracture family ties and bring shame on the community. 

“I don't think they want to be seen as a community that's going to expose their families or seen as betraying their families," says Sekhar. "They've almost accepted that ‘this is what's meant for me.’”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Cultural groups have different attitudes about what constitutes abuse.[/quote]

Burial customs can also play a role in the struggle to come forward for seniors of certain faiths.  

With funeral rites traditionally being the responsibility of the son or a male family member, some express concern that their spiritual needs will not be looked after if they speak out, says Sekhar. “They're not worried about today. They're worried about the afterlife. It's hard to understand that – you're struggling in this life, but it's such a part of who they are.”

Abuse isn't limited to physical violence; it can extend to the withholding of financial resources, verbal threats and isolation from the household, she explains. 

Statistical profiles on elder abuse as it relates to the South Asian community aren't traced by front-line agencies such as the police and social services. Statistics Canada instead analyzes the prevalence of family violence along gender lines, while acknowledging that cultural groups have different attitudes about what constitutes abuse.

Possibilities for intervention

The immediate response to cases of physical abuse might be to find alternative housing, but in other instances, intervention through education is crucial, says Bhangoo-Sekhon.  

"If we can go in and educate the families – that, in the end, would be much more helpful and useful for the community than just pulling seniors out [of the home] and placing them in shelters," she says. 

Finding subsidized housing or placing elders in shelters isn't always the most feasible solution in cases of neglect or isolation, particularly if they're not used to living independently and are in need of a personal support worker, she says. 

PCHS has a caregiver support program, an extension of its efforts to address elder abuse, which is offered to those who are caring for family members. It is intended to relieve the strain of household demands. The program attempts to engender a culture of empathy, recognizing that the caregiver may be stressed, while getting him or her to understand the vulnerabilities that seniors face. 

"We help them understand the aging process," says Bhangoo-Sekhon, adding that changes in a senior's behaviour may create friction within the family if it's not recognized as a health issue.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"Housing for seniors should be guaranteed. They need enough funding to live in dignity."[/quote]

"[It's to help] them understand what's happening to their body, their brain, and that's out of their control."

Networks for seniors living alone

SAWC, through its community network, tries to locate housing for seniors so they can live independently, but finding affordable housing can take an average of seven years, according to the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association. Thirty per cent of seniors make up the wait list, as cited by the Toronto Star from the organization's 2015 report.

Sekhar communicates regularly with seniors who live independently and tries to ensure that their landlords are responsive to building safety issues. "Many say they do that, but their concerns aren't always attended to," she says. 

SAWC holds a seniors’ workshop every Thursday where they can gather to discuss health and safety issues, along with abuse. It's a support network for seniors who live on their own, where they feel comfortable conversing in their mother tongue, says Sekhar. 

"Housing for seniors should be guaranteed," says Sekhar. "They need enough funding to live in dignity."

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Published in Health
Monday, 15 February 2016 00:58

Spanking Kids: Culture is No Defence

by Florence Hwang in Regina 

Cultural differences in childrearing require settlement organizations to provide newcomers with information and support in understanding Canadian laws on corporal punishment, also known as 'spanking', say experts. 

Nothing is more indicative of culture than the process of raising children to become adults, explains Justin Ryan, public education and communications co-ordinator with the Multicultural Association of the Greater Moncton Area (MAGMA). 

He describes a rite of passage for boys of a Brazilian tribe as an extreme example. A glove or gauntlet is made of grass. Bullet ants, whose bites feel like bullet shots, bite the young boy’s hand. He is not allowed to cry out in pain. 

“Here, that would be the most violent consideration of child abuse possible. There, it’s the process which you become an adult,” says Ryan. “If I did that to my daughter, they would take her away.” 

New immigrants coming to Canada may be conflicted on Section 43, Canada’s law on corporal punishment, which the government agreed to revoke late last year as a result of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's recommendations.

This is often because they are coming from vastly different cultural backgrounds  some from strongly patriarchal societies with very little infrastructure and where domestic violence is relatively common, Ryan notes. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][I]n a developing nation ... there may be a law that says parents can’t strike their children, but there is little follow-up or action taken.[/quote]

In some cultures, for example, a father backhanding his child for speaking back, or not cleaning up or not being obedient is acceptable. 

Ryan says the most common response he gets from immigrants is surprise that there is a law regarding corporal punishment and that the government reinforces it. 

He explains that in a developing nation that has little infrastructure, there may be a law that says parents can’t strike their children, but there is little follow-up or action taken. 

Understanding of Canadian way is vital 

Gary Direnfeld, a social worker who has 33 years of experience helping parents manage behaviour with children, says many immigrants come from countries where they place high value on respect, particularly for elders. 

“That is a kind of respect that comes without questioning, where we expect the child to heed what the elder has to say and follow through and all will be well, so to speak,” he explains.

Contrast that with Canadian culture, which has more value on individualism and freedoms, which the children are often influenced by. Meanwhile the parents may come from a country where corporal punishment is sanctioned and considered reasonable. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"[T]he thought of a children’s aid worker coming to your home is more than frightful.”[/quote]

“The child, having learned of their rights and freedoms, in the Canadian context, may then complain about the corporal punishment and that brings the parent to the attention of child protection services,” says Direnfeld, who is based out of Dundas, Ontario. 

“If you come from a war-torn country, where one is fearful of the political structures and institutions, the thought of a children’s aid worker coming to your home is more than frightful,” he says. 

“As disconcerting as it is to have a visit from the Children’s Aid Society with concerns of abusing your kids, for these families, those concerns are amplified given their lack of trust and faith in institutional services.” 

Direnfeld says this issue of corporal punishment is deeper and broader than the average non-immigrant Canadian often appreciates. In acclimatizing new immigrants to Canada, settlement organizations should help them to appreciate our parenting approaches, he suggests.   

“If you take a cross-cultural perspective on what [parenting expectations] are, then this gets a lot murkier a lot faster, which means we have to work a lot more closely with clients to communicate and make them understand what the implications are of Canadian law,” adds Ryan. 

Lost in translation   

Ryan notes that in the case of immigrants, language is also a barrier in communicating with, for example, social services. These barriers may also make it impossible to understand subtle, but crucial, differentiations. 

He says that a classic example would be, when asked, “How do you discipline your child?” they may reply, “I beat them,” when what they really mean is “I spank them.” 

“They simply don’t have the language skills to choose the word that has the right connotation and correctly carries the reality of what they’re doing.” 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"[T]he Canadian government is far more involved with managing family dynamics than most other countries.”[/quote]

MAGMA works to ensure that all parents understand the Canadian standards of child care. This is particularly the case with refugees, due to the recent influx. Child protective services delivers group sessions to proactively address these issues, such as explaining what is considered acceptable measures of discipline in Canada. 

“One of our primary requirements is to instruct our clients [on] what our appropriate Canadian values are starting as soon as they get here regarding the stuff that’s likely to get them in trouble with the law,” Ryan says. 

As to the impact of repealing Section 43, which would effectively criminalize even those actions such as corporal punishment, organizations like MAGMA have to be even more proactive in passing on that understanding to their clients. 

“Part of that is that the Canadian government is far more involved with managing family dynamics than most other countries,” Ryan explains. “Generally elsewhere … the government is not seen as having a role in such private matters. It’s therefore an adjustment for both sides in this equation when Canadian governments become directly involved in the lives of immigrant families.”

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Published in Health
Thursday, 21 January 2016 11:01

Spanking: Lots of Studies; Little Change

by Florence Hwang in Regina

Experts say revoking the law that allows parents to spank their children can help clarify for newcomers the "mixed messages" they receive about corporal punishment in Canada.

Parents want to understand the law in Canada and how it fits in with their parenting style, notes Jean Tinling, the family program director at Mosaic Newcomer Family Resource Network.

“Their worries are reduced when they realize that they have a choice about keeping the best from their culture, adding in the best from Canadian culture and creating their own new third culture here in Canada,” she says. “They relax when they gain a better understanding of the law and when they realize that CFS [Child and Family Services] does not want to take their children or destroy their culture.” 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Researchers and parenting experts agree that overhauling section 43 is long overdue, as it infringes on the human rights of children. [/quote]

Tinling feels this confusion for all parents can be done away by changing section 43 of the Criminal Code.

The Liberal government has agreed to remove a section of law that allows parents to spank their kids following the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was set up to inform Canadians about the experiences of indigenous children in residential schools

Children’s rights

Researchers and parenting experts agree that overhauling section 43 is long overdue, as it infringes on the human rights of children. 

“It’s overwhelming talking about the harm of physical punishment,” says Ailsa Watkinson, Faculty of Social Work graduate studies coordinator at the University of Regina’s Saskatoon campus. 

Watkinson says she thinks children should be treated like any other human being. It’s important to maintain warmth and connection between parent and child and to build on mutual trust while understanding the child’s stage of development, including physical, mental and emotional, she adds.

Dr. Joan Durrant, Social Studies professor at the University of Manitoba, says that mild physical punishment has consequences for some children, and cites research that shows it is linked to aggression and mental health problems that can continue into adult life.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Already, 48 countries have banned all forms of corporal punishment of children.[/quote]

Durrant has been studying the physical punishment of children for about 25 years. She points out that spanking raises the risk of injuring the child, makes the child fearful of the parent, and affects the child’s brain.

In Saskatchewan, the Victims of Domestic Violence Act protects those who are abused by their partners. If there is a child who observes their mother is being beaten, that child is considered in need of protection; but if that child is being beaten, he or she is not protected under the Act, says Watkinson.

Making changes

Already, 48 countries have banned all forms of corporal punishment of children. Canada and the U.S. are not on that list.

Most parents – newcomers and Canadian born – parent the way they were parented, unless they learn and believe there is a more positive alternative, says Tinling. Physical and humiliating punishment is a very common method used to control children’s behaviour around the world, she adds.

“However, worldwide, it has been my experience that all parents love their children and want what is best for them,” says Tinling. “They want their children to learn to be respectful, to have positive social skills, and they also value having a positive relationship with their children.” 

“Using aggression against a person does [the] exact opposite,” says Durrant.

She says she finds section 43 illogical, as there are laws that protect all other segments of society from physical harm, but not children. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“That’s why we need a very black-and-white law saying don’t do it. Ever. At all.”[/quote]

“When it comes to your child, the law gives you a green light. There’s a message to parents that it’s not only OK, but actually the law says it’s justified,” she says. “It’s placing children at risk. And I find that absolutely unjust.”

Every culture thinks it is their tradition to spank their children, she notes. Durrant feels it isn’t a tradition, but an entrenched habit that people have a hard time giving up because they haven’t seen viable alternative solutions. 

“There’s an assumption there that they are incapable of change,” notes Durrant, who doesn’t believe this assumption is correct.

Judy Arnall is an author and parenting expert. She takes issue with section 43’s wording of “reasonable force,” which she feels is very subjective.

“That’s why we need a very black-and-white law saying don’t do it. Ever. At all,” she says. 

It’s an age-old issue.

“I remember talking to reporters 20 years ago and not much has changed. I think it is time [for this law to be abolished]. I tell my kids, ‘In your lifetime, I’m sure we’re going to change the law on this, because 48 countries have,’” she says. 

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Published in Health

by Tazeen Inam in Mississauga, Ontario

According to the 2015 child poverty report for Toronto, newcomer children, children of colour and children with disabilities are among the largest groups living in poverty. Families that fall into more than one of these groups face even more grim circumstances.

Sean Meagher, Executive Director of Social Planning Toronto suggests that immigrants with non-European backgrounds taking care of children born with disabilities face financial crises often.

“English speaking [people], compared to the significant number of immigrants who are not from that background, are successful in getting jobs and we do have a racially segmented employment market [that] people with coloured skin face.”

Sacrificing to take care of family

Those taking care of someone with a disability often relinquish their own plans, as is the case of Ottawa resident Maryem Hashi (name changed for privacy).

Hashi has three younger siblings between the ages of 22 and 26 years old who all have disabilities. She gave up her university studies and a full-time job to fulfill her responsibilities at home.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][I]mmigrants with non-European backgrounds taking care of children born with disabilities face financial crises often.[/quote]


Hashi, who moved here from Pakistan, recalls her initial days in Canada, when her mother had to face the ordeal of raising her siblings, without much access to Internet. With difficulty in speaking and understanding English, she had to navigate things like funding, health care and programs that suit the needs of her children.  

“My siblings didn’t receive any government funds and didn’t go to any specially designed programs to cater to their needs as my parents were not aware that some services were available,” explains Hashi. 

Hashi’s siblings have delayed development, which usually starts showing up after a child is two to five years old. It is a “mild” condition that affects their ability to do things “independently.”

“They tend to forget things easily and [have an] inability to do things on a daily basis like managing money, packing a [backpack], remembering directions, etc. and the challenge is to keep them in conversation,” shares Hashi.

Today, Hashi is a program assistant and works part-time in occupational therapy, serving children with disabilities under the age of three to five years old.  

What happens after 21 years old?

For Hashi’s siblings, a crucial time came when they each turned 21, as that is the cut-off age for school programming for kids with a disability.

“Due to the lack of government funded after school programs, people with disability after 21 years of age usually stay at home as there is a long waiting [lists] to get into programs suitable to their needs,” says Hashi. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"[P]eople with disability after 21 years of age usually stay at home as there is a long waiting [lists] to get into programs suitable to their needs.”[/quote]


She says that such programs are a support for caregivers too, and allow the young person not to lose what they have learned from school.

“My siblings [have been] home for a couple of years, and [are] alone with depression and low self esteem; it’s hard to deal with their ordeal,” she shares. “If we take programs privately, it starts at $90 a day, which is unaffordable with multiple siblings [with a] disability.”

Rabia Khedr, executive director of the Canadian Association of Muslims with Disabilities, runs a program in Mississauga, Ont., DEEN (Disability Empowerment Equality Network) support service, which is an extended-hour day program and works on the capacity building of individuals with disabilities who have aged out of school programs.

“It will be an 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. program,” explains Khedr, “and gives enough time range to caregivers – particularly those who are striving to earn.”

The school has a sliding scale fee structure and the rest is fundraised through charitable donations.

In the long run, Khedr is planning a residence service, especially for people with disabilities who do not have caregivers. She shares that in Ontario alone 12,000 people with intellectual disabilities are waiting for housing.

Khedr’s extension of the school in Ottawa, where Hashi will provide some of her services too, is at the initial stage and individuals with disabilities will get three hours of activities on Sunday only starting in the new year.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"[W]e want at least medication to be cost-free for all.”[/quote]


Making ends meet

Every year on Dec. 3 is the International Day of Persons with Disability. The theme in 2015: Inclusion matters, access and empowerment of people with all abilities.

According to the department of finance, in 2011 the Canadian federal government transferred almost $4 billion to low-income families and spent $19.9 billion on Employment Insurance benefits alone.

Still for some, medications, dental care and eye check-ups are not included. And in the cases of people with disabilities things like electronic gadgets, crutches, wheelchairs and scooters to assist in daily life are also not fully covered.

“They have to hire special vans to take these individuals from place to place. This all has a cost,” says Hashi. “And we want at least medication to be cost-free for all.”

Khedr says that people who don’t have the experience of poverty won’t understand how choices can become increasingly limited when a person is on welfare assistance.

She suggests, “The solution lies in a combination of a few hours of activity and government funds.”

Journalist Priya Ramanujam mentored the writer of this article through the NCM Mentorship Program.

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Published in Health

by Mahsa Bakhshaei (@mghezeli) in Montreal, Quebec

Recently, four teenagers allegedly left Quebec to join extremist groups in Syria. Their departure prompts concerns about whether we are doing an adequate job of integrating children of immigrant families.

Do some youth become radicalized and develop oppositional identities even though Quebec’s immigration and integration policy tries to promote intercultural rapprochement, common values and solidarity?

As far as this issue is concerned, media reports highlight Muslim communities in general, and North African and Middle Eastern communities in particular.

Discrimination and negative public perception

From 2009 to 2013, immigrants from these regions constituted more than one-fourth of Quebec’s immigrants. In Quebec schools in 2011, North Africa was the first birth region of students born outside of Canada, and Arabic was the first foreign language most often spoken by students whose mother tongue was neither English nor French.

Despite their high social and cultural capital and strong knowledge of French, these immigrants have a very high unemployment rate, due in part to the discrimination they face.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]For many immigrants who leave their country for a new, better life in another, the academic success of their children can usually – but not always – suggest they’re generally engaged in a positive, harmonious immersion into this new society.[/quote]

In Canada and Quebec, the dominant public perception of Arab-Muslim immigrants has become more negative over the past decade. While a 2001 Leger Marketing poll found that 71 per cent of Quebecois reported the events of 9/11 did not change their opinion about Muslims, a meta-analysis of public opinion and sampled interviews conducted in the 2000s clearly shows that Muslims systematically rank as the least favoured group compared with other religious or cultural communities. Moreover this negative public opinion is more pronounced in Quebec than in the rest of Canada, especially within French-speaking communities.

Studies show strong academic success overall

In 2011, the Research Group on Immigration, Education, and Schooling (GRIES) conducted a systematic follow-up of two cohorts of immigrant-origin students entering Quebec high school in 1998 and 1999. The study distinguished between those enrolled in the French and English sector, and between their major regions of origin: East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, North Africa and the Middle East, the Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe, and Central and South America.

In the French sector  where, due to 1977’s Bill 101, the majority of immigrant-origin students are required to attend school  3,715 students out of the sample’s 24,099 first- and second-generation students originated from North Africa (mainly from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia) and the Middle East (Mainly from Egypt, Lebanon and Syria).

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][R]esearch shows that immigrant students belonging to marginalized groups adopt different ways of coping with discrimination towards them.[/quote]

According to this province-wide study’s findings, in Quebec French-language high schools, first- and second-generation adolescents originating from North Africa and the Middle East have the highest graduation rate in comparison with native third-plus-generation students (after their East Asian and Eastern European peers).

A specific analysis of these students that I conducted shows that their academic performance is due to their high language skills. Although many of them are born outside of Canada, nearly half have French as their mother tongue or the language most frequently spoken at home. Only 10.6 per cent of these students need linguistic support in high school.

The features of their schooling process and the characteristics of their schools also play an important role in their success.

These students have high primary-level entry rates, over-representation in the normal age upon entering high school, high private-school attendance rates and a moderate presence in public schools attended by students from low socio-economic backgrounds. The study also found that students born in Canada and those who were French speakers were more academically successful. In addition, students from Lebanon, Syria and Egypt performed better than those from Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.

In a more long-term study about the same cohorts of students, the researchers of the Research Group on Immigration, Education, and Schooling (GRIES) – Gerard Pinsonneault, Marie McAndrew and Jacques Ledent – found that students from North Africa and the Middle East have a higher college and university registration rate compared to other geographical groups.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][E]thno-racial devaluation in the new society leads to anger and distress, less satisfaction with the new society, and even poorer physical and mental health.[/quote]

All of these findings could soothe educators’ concerns about the apparent tendency of North African- and Middle Eastern-originated youth feeling separated from Quebec society. For many immigrants who leave their country for a new, better life in another, the academic success of their children can usually – but not always – suggest they’re generally engaged in a positive, harmonious immersion into this new society.

Different ways of coping with discrimination

However, research shows that immigrant students belonging to marginalized groups adopt different ways of coping with discrimination towards them. Some groups, especially those from a high socio-cultural background, may strive for academic success because they consider school a way to improve status.

Others who feel that social mobility for their ethnic group is limited may see few links between academic success and a good social position. As a result, they may develop oppositional identities as a way to show their resentment at the discrimination.

Either way, research indicates that ethno-racial devaluation in the new society leads to anger and distress, less satisfaction with the new society, and even poorer physical and mental health.

We may never discover what really motivated those young people to try to leave the country. However, the broad lessons we can learn from these studies are the need to eliminate discrimination, and to improve our culture of meritocracy.

In the coming years, when immigrants and their children will account for most of Canada’s population growth, educators and policy makers should consider these important lessons.

Mahsa Bakhshaei is a Postdoctoral Fellow with joint affiliation between McGill University and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Her current interest is the educational performance of immigrant-origin youth. Her postdoctoral project, which is granted by the Fonds de recherche du Québec - Société et culture (FRQSC), is a comparative study of the educational performance of South Asian high school students in Canada and the U.S.

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Published in Commentary

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