New Canadian Media

Research Watch #8: The Same Canada?

Written by  New Canadian Media Thursday, 10 December 2015 09:10
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Spoken-word artist Faduma Mohamed poses in the large box she carries everywhere to raise awareness about autism. A new study by Pathways to Prosperity finds that Somali parents of children with autism face significant barriers in accessing support systems.
Spoken-word artist Faduma Mohamed poses in the large box she carries everywhere to raise awareness about autism. A new study by Pathways to Prosperity finds that Somali parents of children with autism face significant barriers in accessing support systems. Photo courtesy of Faduma Mohamed

by Priya Ramanujam in Scarborough

Members of visible-minority groups have a stronger sense of loyalty to federal government than provincial government, reports a new study from the Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP).

This is particularly true of first-generation Canadians, say researchers Antoine Bilodeau, Luc Turgeon, Stephen E. White and Ailsa Henderson in Seeing the Same Canada? Visible Minorities’ Views of the Federation.

The study focuses on both first- and second-generation visible minorities living in Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec, posing two questions:

a) Do visible minorities hold similar views to other Canadians with regard to Canada, its institutions and its national policies?

b) Are there differences between visible minorities who immigrated to Canada and those born in Canada?

The answer: across all four provinces, visible minorities – especially those born abroad – express a higher level of confidence in the House of Commons. The level of engagement seen in this fall’s federal election from new immigrant communities as voters, candidates and elected members of Parliament is evidence of this.

In B.C. and Alberta, second-generation visible minorities tend to become more involved provincially with time, while in Ontario – where the study states political views tend to be more federally oriented – visible minorities regardless of generation are engaged at both the national and regional level.

However, in Quebec, where there is no provincial policy on multiculturalism, both first and successive generations of visible-minority groups face difficulty integrating into regional politics.

The authors suggest this points to the possibility of growing tensions between majority and minority groups in Quebec, as they “do not appear to be marching in sync when it comes to their understanding of the federation and identification with Quebec and Canada.”

Somali parents raising a child living with autism in Toronto face significant barriers accessing support systems.

Somali parents of children with autism experience barriers to support

Somali parents raising a child living with autism in Toronto face significant barriers accessing support systems, particularly as a result of language barriers.

This was one of the main findings of a qualitative, cross-national analysis recently released by Pathways to Prosperity looking at the experiences of Somali parents raising children with and without autism in Toronto and Minneapolis.

“I know over 100 parents myself who have a child with autism,” said one father in the study. “Most of them do not get support from anywhere. Many are single mothers who don’t drive or speak English.”

For Faduma Mohamed, a 22-year-old Toronto-based spoken-word artist of Somali heritage, this experience is all too familiar. Her 18-year-old brother Bilal lives with autism.

“We need policies that facilitate [migrant workers’] transition, rather than complicate it."

“There was no treatment offered, no therapies, no extracurricular activities because of a classist system,” Mohamed shares. “The people who know English, the people who have the money, the people who know how to get the resources will get the resources.”

Researchers Melissa Fellin, Victoria Esses and Gillian King also indicate in the study a stigma associated with autism within the Somali community that often prevents parents from speaking about their challenges.

“It’s scary for some parents because we’re all caught up in the definition of normal; when our child falls out of the realm of normal in our culture, we immediately ‘other’ that person,” explains Mohamed.

Despite this stigma, the Pathways study found that there are Somali parents coming together in both cities to advocate for their children and policy changes at their local school boards and in health care.

It’s the type of change Mohamed is hoping for.

Through a 132-day autism awareness campaign (paired with the hashtag #OughtTheBox) she is carrying a large plastic bin – one of the props from her upcoming stage play Oughtism – everywhere she goes.

Why? The first time she brought the box on a bus, people were surprisingly kind – offering her a seat or to help carry it – despite how much room it took up.

The experience was vastly different from people “staring, cutting their eye or grumbling under their breath” when her brother has meltdowns in public.

“I thought it was funny,” she says. “People could help me more with a box than they could with a human being.”

Complex issues for migrant workers seeking permanent residency

Migrant workers pursuing permanent resident (PR) status in Canada should be considered “transitional” as opposed to “temporary,” according to recommendations put forth in a recent study released by the Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP).

"How can you properly pay for a family if you’re being paid low wage?”

“We need policies that facilitate [migrant workers’] transition, rather than complicate it, as is now the case,” state authors Delphine Nakache and Leanne Dixon-Perera in Temporary or Transitional? Migrant Workers’ Experiences with Permanent Residence in Canada.

The study gathered qualitative evidence from 99 participants ranging from migrant workers who became permanent residents to nongovernmental organizations, and focused on factors leading to migrant workers seeking permanent residency, challenges faced during this transition and implications of the two-step migration (temporary to permanent) for settlement.

Based on the experiences put forth by respondents, the study makes several policy recommendations, including eliminating the 4-in, 4-out rule – which allows employers to constantly replace workers – implementing the right for migrants working in low-skilled positions to have their family accompany them to Canada, and offering free language training and more settlement services to transitional migrant workers.

Aimee Bebosa, chair of the Ottawa-based Philippine Migrants Society of Canada, says that while these recommendations are a good start, more must be considered when implementing.

“For example, how can you properly pay for a family if you’re being paid low wage?” she asks. “They have to consider also properly remunerating workers so they can support their families.”

The IRPP study also recommends reconsidering both employer-driven immigration contingent on full-time permanent job offers and employer-specific or “tied” work permits to reduce barriers to transitional workers successfully receiving PR status.

Authors Nakache and Dixon-Perera make note that the study’s findings confirm the complexity of navigating multiple ever-changing immigration programs and policies at both the federal and provincial level.

“We are not suggesting that there is an easy fix,” they write.


Research Watch is a regular column on NewCanadianMedia.ca that looks at recently released and emerging research relating to immigration, settlement, immigrant/ethno-cultural communities and multiculturalism. Researchers or organizations releasing studies we should consider are encouraged to write to priyaramanujam@outlook.com.

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

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