by Peter Uduehi (@kogibobo) in Toronto

From the fight against radicalization and professional roadblocks to the question of whether a Black police chief would have any impact in Toronto, here are some recent headlines in the African-Canadian diaspora media.                             

Radicals Have No Chance With Our Youth: Toronto's Somali Community

Somalis in Toronto are not taking chances. Neither will they take a wait-and-see approach.

Tired of reports of how Jihadist terrorists have successfully recruited African youths in the U.S. state of Minnesota, Kenya and several European countries, community activist Jibril Muhammed told the African World News, “We cannot pretend that our children in Canada could not be influenced by these crazy people who call themselves Muslims. We are aware of how terrorist groups like Al-Shabaab and ISIS have poisoned the minds of innocent Somali and other African youths everywhere they can find them.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Canada has been good to us and any terrorist trying to harm this country has no chance to use our kids against it.” - Mohammed Abdi, community activist[/quote]

Muhammed, who is also a former coordinator of many Somali community groups, said several organizations and individuals in the Somali community are working with the RCMP, the police and their parliamentarians in the Toronto area. “We have to protect our children against these bad eggs,” he says.

Another community activist, Mohammed Abdi, concurs. “Canada has been good to us and any terrorist trying to harm this country has no chance to use our kids against it. On my part, I am constantly educating my teenage children about what is the right Islam,” he explains. “I tell them always that the ISIS and Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab people they see on television are practising the wrong Islam.”

Will a Black Police Chief Really Make a Difference?

Writing in Pride News Magazine, educator and community organizer Ajamu Nangwaya says that simply having a Black police chief at the helm in Toronto is no cure for the poor relations between the force and the city’s African-Canadian community.

The organizer with the Toronto-based Network for the Elimination of Police Violence argues it’s like saying that the soured relations between American Blacks and the police would improve just because a Black president, Barack Obama, was elected the president of the United States.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“For a sobering dose of reality about race, class and policing, we may look at the behaviour of the police in major American cities that have or had African-American police chiefs or at police violence in global South countries such as Nigeria, South Africa, Brazil, Haiti, Kenya and Jamaica.” - Ajamu Nangwaya, educator and community organizer[/quote] 

He adds: “For a sobering dose of reality about race, class and policing, we may look at the behaviour of the police in major American cities that have or had African-American police chiefs or at police violence in global South countries such as Nigeria, South Africa, Brazil, Haiti, Kenya and Jamaica,” stressing that police-versus-society issues are institutionalized matters. 

Taking a swipe at those who are now calling for either deputy chiefs Peter Sloly (pictured to the left) and Mark Saunders (two African-Canadians in the Toronto Police Service) to replace the outgoing chief,  Nangwaya doubts that any police office that has successfully gone up the ladder would not belong to the same systemic ideology from which they emerged. “To what extent are we realistically expecting an African-Canadian police chief to be more committed to fighting institutional racism than a white one? Deputy Chiefs Peter Sloly and Mark Saunders have not made it this far up the organizational ladder, because of their tendency to ‘comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable,’” he writes. 

Why African Professionals Make Career Advancements Later in Canada

Many new African immigrants to Canada are often surprised to find themselves shut out of jobs in their professional disciplines.

So, not surprisingly, many African graduate and post-graduate degree holders end up driving taxis or taking menial jobs to make a living. The question is, why do newly arrived African professional immigrants to Canada make inroads to their chosen professions late?

Dr. Adeleye King (pictured to right), executive director of the Canadian Institute of Leadership and Development (Africa), told African World News the reasons are both professionally demanding and personal. He says when African professionals first come to the country as immigrants, they are shocked to learn that they must do more learning in their fields, “because Canada requires a different level of certification and designation from the ones in Africa.”

“Certain professions like engineering, for example, require a designation before you can be accepted for work as an engineer. It’s different in Africa where you are required only to be certified,” King explains. “[T]he same applies to other professions.”

King says that personal issues also prevent African professionals from making quick inroads into the Canadian marketplace. One issue is that many don’t do enough research about Canada before coming into the country. “If they did,” he says, “they would know exactly the type of skills needed to survive with their professional know-how.” He says it’s important to plan ahead before immigrating and, once here, “never lose concentration of why [you] are here, don’t straddle your life between here and the one you just left.”                                                                                                                            

Education Funding Cut May Negatively Impact African Nova Scotians

Recent cuts in funding to the Council on African Canadian Education (CACE) by Nova Scotia’s ministry of education may severely affect learning standards for Africans in the province, says the organization’s chairwoman Alma Johnston-Tynes.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“The lack of staff and resources will have a detrimental impact on CACE’s ability to identify and meet the needs of African Nova Scotian learners.” - Alma Johnston-Tynes, Council on African Canadian Education[/quote]

“The lack of staff and resources will have a detrimental impact on CACE’s ability to identify and meet the needs of African Nova Scotian learners and to fulfil its mandate under the Education Act, which is to monitor and continually analyze the policies of the Department of Education with respect to the needs of Black learners,” she said in a statement reported by the African Nova Scotian News.

The axe comes as education minister Karen Casey (pictured to left) announced that staff funding to CACE will no longer continue because of an audit that, “raised questions about the body’s governance and financial situation.” Casey described the findings as “very troubling.”

CACE was set up in 1996, after race riots in 1989, and following findings that not enough attention was being paid to improving standards for African and Black school children in the province. The council’s focus was to advise the education ministry on how to improve learning in African Nova Scotian communities, after a recent statistic showing that while reading comprehension test scores for third-graders in the Halifax regional school board was 70 per cent, it was particularly lower for African students at 54 per cent.

Immigrants Change Diet After Arriving in Canada

report by Statistics Canada cites studies that show immigrants who change their traditional diet after arriving in Canada tend to become less healthy later. Overall, the studies show, newly arrived immigrants to Canada had lower mortality rates than the Canadian-born, and also reported lower levels of fair or poor health. Those mortality rates tended to rise, the further removed immigrants were from their arrival in Canada, as did the reported levels of fair or poor health. 

Tanzanian-born Toronto resident Dr. Wasira Bokore, a family physician, told African World News that generally the African immigrant succumbs to, “a new environment where time is limited for cooking your meals and begins to adopt new eating habits, eating burgers, fast foods and fatty foods and these things are not good for your health.” She adds that matters are made worse when, “an exercise regimen is absent in one’s daily existence.”

Peter Uduehi is a journalist and publisher of the African World News in Toronto.

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Published in Africa

by Dr. Jelena Zikic at York University

Recent policy changes on removing the ‘Canadian experience’ barrier and some successful initiatives by organizations such as the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council have helped address the problem of underemployment among immigrant professionals. These initiatives are seen as major steps in facilitating the transitions of migrants into the Canadian labour market. However, there is still a lot more work to be done on this front. In particular, little is known about the intricate identity transitions that migrant professionals experience once they are faced with the inability to be ‘who they are’.

In many conversations and first-hand witnessing of migrant career journeys in Toronto, I was led by academic curiosity to search for answers (between 2009 and 2012) to what seemed to be complex structural issues. As a psychologist, with a passion for understanding the human condition, and experience in helping manage career transitions, I was concerned by comments such as: “I am a fish out of water … I was a physician back home. I can serve people and I can help people. Here, I am nothing."

Based on 58 in-depth interviews – 32 with International Medical Professionals (IMPs) and 26 with International Information Technology Professionals (IITPs) – my study explores the professional identity experiences of individuals who are not working in their chosen professions -- as yet. This study also compares the experiences of medical professionals to the labour market re-entry experiences of IT professionals. It explores migrant responses to the rules and procedures they encounter when they seek to practise in their respective professions. These experiences often involve coming to terms withwhat we can no longer doand withwho we can no longer be.

Regulatory barriers

The findings reveal that identity experiences are highly dependent on the extent of regulatory barriers as well as individual characteristics such as age, years of previous experience, identity adaptability, and resilience.

A strong identification with their professional role as doctors was a significant part of their accounts. Their experiences highlight the various structural factors that impede IMPs from entering their profession. These factors include a lack of clarity regarding regulatory requirements and procedures, inability to enter residency programs, and subjective evaluations by gatekeepers on their suitability to practise. These barriers led IMPs to experience identity struggles and to feel incapable of becoming doctors again. They even felt ‘inauthentic’ in their social interactions.

Despite many attempts to repair their sense of identity, through resilience and resourcefulness such as customizing their identity to other roles, putting their identity ‘on hold’ while engaging in survival work, and engaging in identity shadowing as volunteers in hospitals, IMPs’ experiences led to an identity crisis. In other words, they felt a major discontinuity between the person they had been and who they wanted or needed to become after immigrating to a new country.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]In other words, they felt a major discontinuity between the person they had been and who they wanted or needed to become after immigrating to a new country.[/quote]

IT professionals fare better

In contrast to structural barriers faced by doctors, IT professionals encounter a much less regulated profession and generally exhibit weaker identification with their IT careers. IITPs were primarily concerned with managing and navigating the expectations of local employers. Lack of local experience led them to survival jobs and to putting their identity ‘on hold.’ In other cases, they downshifted to lower level positions and customized their identity to what was available in the labour market.

While IT labour market wasn’t necessarily ‘open’, it had enough flexibility and clarity to encourage rather, than discourage entry. Initially, IITPs faced significant career downshifting, often starting from level one; but eventually their transition experience led to acquiring new skills, identity enrichment, and even identity growth.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]While IT labour market wasn’t necessarily ‘open’, it had enough flexibility and clarity to encourage rather than discourage entry.[/quote]

In contrast to these somewhat optimistic transition experiences of IT professionals, the situation facing internationally-trained doctors remains extremely complex with multiple stakeholders involved and strong forces of occupational closure from the local labour market. The stories of IMPs must also be seen in the context of the local health care system, which is in need of doctors and is characterized by long wait times.

While these interviews were conducted before the policy on removing the ‘Canadian experience’ barrier was introduced, it will be important to see how long it takes for employers to truly implement this policy.

Dr. Jelena Zikic is Associate Professor at the School of Human Resource Management at York University. Her research and expertise center on career transitions of diverse populations, stress, and coping. Currently, her studies examine career transitions of immigrant professionals, looking at the individual and organizational context as well as strategies to be successful in the new labour market.

This post was adapted from a CERIS blog post, with permission from the author.

Published in Policy
Friday, 22 August 2014 04:00

NCM NewsBriefs: launch edition

by Maria Assaf (@MariaAssaf) in Toronto

Punjab teachers graduate from training program

Fifty teachers from the Indian state of Punjab who came to Canada for a teaching development program at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) picked up their diplomas today and are getting ready to return to India.

The teachers, who were carefully selected from public schools, spent four weeks in Toronto taking courses at OISE designed to give them tools to improve the educational system back home.

For many of these teachers, the experience was unique in their lives. 

“This is the first overseas program we are coming to,” says Nutan Sharma, an English teacher of grades 11 and 12 in India. “We like Canada very much. We have learned so many new strategies to teach. Critical thinking and community learning. And the people were very nice, very nice and cooperative to us. We liked it,” she says.

The program also promoted collaboration in teaching methods between India and Canada, offering lessons for each side to make teaching more effective.

“It was really four weeks of sharing our knowledge on how we do things,” says Elizabeth Coulson, program organizer and internship coordinator at OISE. “Just as businesses are globalizing, education is also globalizing in many ways,” she says.

While Canada provided training in classroom technologies and critical thinking exercises for students, Indian teachers shared their expertise in language and grammar teaching, says Coulson.

“The kind of technology these Canadian schools and universities use are really state of the art and these were something novel for us,” says Rajiv Kumar Makkar, a political science teacher from India.

One of the main problems Indian education is facing is not having enough funding from the government to be able to use technologies such as projectors in every classroom, says Makkar.

He adds that one of the main differences between the Canadian and the Indian system of teaching is the number of students per classroom and the degree of teacher participation. In a lot of public schools in India, classes can have 100 students, while in Canada, the average class size is 35 students. 

Doctor doesn’t lose hope

Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, the Palestinian doctor in Toronto who is trying to bring 100 children from Gaza to be treated at Ontario hospitals, is heading to Gaza tonight, while he still waits for the government to respond to petitions to reconsider refusing his initiative.

“I feel these children are my children. I feel sad, I feel outraged. I want everyone to look in the eyes of these children and to see them as if they are theirs. If you have a child suffering, would you like others to help? We need to think of these children as ours.”

He and his supporters have sent letters to members of the Canadian government including Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Chris Alexander, petitioning for bringing these children. He has also met with the leaders of other parties including Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau, as well as with representatives from the Green Party.  But, so far, he has received no reply at all from the federal government.

“People are waiting just to act. The public, the community, the people from everywhere, throughout all of Canada, who were writing me hundreds of emails asking me what can we do, we are ready to open our houses and to host these children when they come. We want to cure them, to help them and [for them] to leave Canada with a smile on their face. We are not planning for these children to stay here. They have their country, they have to go there. But we want them to leave functioning well, happily and healthy,” says Dr. Abuelaish.

 “Where is our humanity? We need to save lives and these are children I am talking about. Children.  Children who are the life, who are the future, who are the hope. These children will be disabled and most of them, they lost their loved ones. We need them to be independent, to run a normal life. We can make a difference,” he says.

But without the government’s approval, these children will not get the help they need. “At the end of the day, these children they need visas,” says Dr. Abuelaish.

If his initiative fails, he says, “I will feel sad, I will feel in pain. I will feel angry about it. But I tried, I tried my best.”

Dr. Abuelaish saw three of his daughters getting killed by an Israeli shell that fell on his home. He is a promoter of peaceful discourse and has been nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Writing to inspire

Nick Noorani, managing partner of “Prepare for Canada” is embarking on yet another community enterpise. His “What’s Your Secret” contest is awarding $1000 every month from March to November 2014 to an immigrant who shares their success story.

The best stories and those with the most votes will win the cash prize.

“All they have to do is write a story and get their friends on Facebook to vote for them. Now it’s not necessarily that the person with the most votes will win, but the quality of the story is very important,” says Noorani. 

He is also the author of a seminar titled 7 Success Secrets for Canadian Immigrants. “This year, what we decided was to turn the focus and talk to immigrants and ask: what is it that helped them? They can write their own stories, they can use the points of 7 Success Secrets or they can come up with their own points. I want to hear from immigrants,” he says. 

The founding publisher of Canadian Immigrant magazine thinks there needs to be more success immigrant stories in the media. “I need to know that there is hope. You know it’s so hard when you come to Canada as an immigrant.”

There have been two winners so far, the first one was Nonita Mole (pictured), originally from the Philippines and now living in Winnipeg. 

He also talks about the challenges immigrant professionals face when trying to make it in their field in Canada. “The number one problem, of course, we all know is the problem of credential recognition. But it’s beyond that,” he says. “There’s a work culture, you know. In Canada, you’re expected to work independently. In a lot of other countries, including India, I know for a fact, you are working very closely with a boss who monitors your movement from one place to the other.”

Other problems, he says, includes a lack of “soft skills” that immigrants from some countries face. “In Canada, doing presentations in public, making presentations is very important,” says Noorani.

“Immigrants are coming from parts of the world where technical skills are being taught rather than soft skills. So these are challenges. This is part of this journey.”

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Published in News

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