By Florence Hwang
Starting a business can be hard. Startup capital, asset management, and just attracting customers; are all obstacles new small businesses must learn to overcome on the fly. But these challenges can be amplified for female immigrants, most especially for those in rural areas that are not accustomed to working with diverse populations.
“It’s a constant battle with people questioning your qualifications because of your background and overlook[ing] your business,” says Tia Luangomba. A small business owner, who immigrated from the Republic of Congo almost 10 years ago. She has worked diligently to build a strong reputation.
“I realize that people fear what they don’t know [so] I let my work and talent speak for me. If you are confident in your work and your talent, people will trust you and the outcome will be a satisfied customer,” she continues.
When Luangomba first moved to Niagara Falls, she had trouble finding salons that could do her hair. This would then force her to trek out to either Toronto or St. Catharines in her various searches. Identifying a glaring need within her community, she decided to become a licensed hairdresser.
In 2012, she came out with her own salon, Hair by Tia Nicole. Beginning as a multicultural hairstylist, in a relatively new country, she didn’t have much support. In need of additional guidance she began a course in business application from the Women’s Entrepreneur Development Program.
“I needed help with the business aspect of things, where to register, how to start, where to build a business, demographics and other important aspect[s] of starting a business,” she admits.
The program has helped her with social media advertisements, gaining clients, adjusting financial strategies and understanding different legal aspects including taxes and name registration. But it has also benefited her in a variety of other ways as well.
“Since the course I have a lot more confidence in how I am running my business,” she says, stating that she would have not been able to start her own business in Congo.
“In my country there is no resources available for one to get help to start a business on their own and with war raging every day and violence, poverty and hunger level rising. No one has time to even try. Here in Canada there are so much resources, help and places like [the] multicultural center available for anyone who is will[ing] to seek help, work hard enough and achieve their dream,” she says.
In her own salon, she takes comfort in the effect she has on those around her. “Knowing that I not only have an impact in my clients’ appearance but their confidence makes it all worth it,” she concludes.
Catering to the Caribbean community
Luangomba’s experiences with a lack of offerings for her individual needs, are one that is all to well known for many immigrants. With Naomie Cesar, it was beauty products for her hair, which she had trouble purchasing.
“Lot of newcomers all of us have the same problem,” says Cesar who originally came from Haiti.
Like Luangomba, Cesar applied and was accepted into the Women’s Entrepreneur Development Program.
Following completion, she purchased beauty supplies from Toronto and went to local multicultural centres, churches and other places newcomers gathered. But she soon realized customers were not just looking for hair products, they were also looking for other things from their homelands – food. Realizing the demand in the area, she opened a shop in downtown Welland called CaribAfrica Specialty Store.
Soon, she was selling Caribbean staples such as okra and cornmeal before eventually moving to full on dinners. A jack of all trades, she now sells food products as well as makeup and hair products.
“In the afternoon I make chicken roti. I also make rice and beans, oxtail, soups. Different meals. I explain to them how to cook it at home. It keeps me busy,” says Cesar, referring to her two children.
But her heart wasn’t always set on entrepreneurship. With previous training as a nurse, she looked at bridging courses upon arrival in Canada, before settling on specialization in foot care. Prioritizing a work-life balance, she looked for alternatives to the scheduling requirements of nursing.
“I love to be independent, meet other people, be inspired, get inspired. I enjoy it. Get to spend time with my kids. The most special time is to have time with kids and be able to do other things. I get to do other things like missionary work. I get to do those things instead of being somewhere [to] just work,” she says.
Providing Welland with ethnic alternatives that were previously missed, its clear there are many in the community that are happy with her decision.
Lori Webster is the coordinator of the Women’s Entrepreneur Development Program and has worked with the organization for the past five years. Meeting with a variety of immigrant women, she identifies language as one of the biggest barriers for those looking to learn about the Canadian marketplace.
“We have seen women start businesses in graphic design, commercial cleaning, hair styling, ethnic food store[s], imported products, online grocery delivery, jewelry-making, seamstress, holistic health care, and pet grooming, for example,” says Webster.
When the program began in 2013, it was originally set up as a two-year pilot project for six programs across Ontario. However, it continues to receive funding almost three years after the initial two-year pilot project. Helping educate immigrant women about the regulations and legal requirements of starting a business in Canada.
Over the years, a total of 102 women have completed the program. And of those, 56 have gone on to start their own businesses within 12 months of graduation.
Although the true success of these start-ups cannot be accurately measured until more time has elapsed, if the 2013 program is any indication, they should continue to thrive. Of the 23 net new businesses started since that initial program, 20 are still in operation.
Coordinators of the project hope to further the progress they’ve made and await a funding decision that could extend it for at least another 3 years.
This piece is part of the "Ethnic Women as Active Participants in Ontario" series.
By Florence Hwang
In Mansoor Ladha’s new book, Memoirs of a Muhindi: Fleeing East Africa for the West, he contrasts life in Africa to Canada, and how a person’s skin colour can make a difference. He writes about his journey from Zanzibar, Tanzania to Canada and the adjustments he had to make along the way. He hopes his book helps people deal with the problems and issues that immigrants encounter. He also hopes these problems and issues can be avoided.
“Employers have to be reasonable and fair in hiring immigrants and not demanding Canadian experience as a prerequisite,” says Ladha, who is a freelance journalist.
“It was amazing that employers demanded Canadian experience from South Asians from East Africa because here was a community which was educated, westernized, spoke English well and believed in western values,” he added.
The book spans from Ladha’s childhood to adulthood. He was born in Zanzibar, Tanzania, brought up in Lindi, southern Tanzania and worked in Dar es Salaam as a copy and features editor of The Standard, the largest circulating English daily in the capital city. He says his experiences have made him a better person and better equipped to tackle problems.
“I have gone through problems of discrimination, displacement, acceptance and search for a home. With hard work and with the grace of God, I have been able to surmount these,” he says.
He now considers Canada his home and is quite comfortable living here as there are less political tensions that are prevalent in Africa, which is still undergoing political maturity and economic uncertainties.
He left Tanzania in 1972 when Ugandan president Idi Amin expelled Africans of Indian descent, which caused a massive exodus from the region. At that time, Ladha was living in Nairobi when he decided to leave and come to Canada.
His book is available on amazon.ca
Republished with permission from The Asian Pacific Post
by Florence Hwang in Regina
Vivek Shraya does not mince words. In even this page is white, her language is visceral, and even the form of her poetry helps to draw attention to the sensitive issue of racism.
Most of the poems in even this page is white are written in the style of spoken word poetry, and as such, the words can be quite shocking and blunt. Shraya’s debut collection of poems focuses on the physical entity of skin and racism, centring on the idea of being white and drawing upon current events and modern poetry.
Conforming to racial roles
She begins with her “white dreams,” describing how she was raised in a society that is predominantly white and how she tries to fit in. In exploring the idea of identity, Shraya includes the perspectives of a white person.
She explores the word “skin,” its physical element, and its function. She points out that within “white,” there are a range of colours, such as fair and talc.
The text hints at how Shraya must also conform to white society’s expectations before her views on racism can be heard.
In the poem “You are so articulate,” she explains that there is a standard she must meet in order to be considered normal in mainstream society. The poem is a checklist of steps that minorities are expected to follow in order to be considered successful in North American culture.
In another checklist, Shraya reveals the things she, her mother, and her father had to do so that she could become a poet and express her thoughts in writing. Her father, for example, worked three jobs and sacrificed time with Shraya as a child to pay for her post-secondary education.
The more the world makes her aware of her brownness, the more she focuses on how race and racism are connected to every aspect of her life. She writes about the ways her race intersects with her desirability, her desires, her gender, her religion, and how she connects or doesn't connect with others.
Deciphering popular messages
Shraya questions the actions of celebrities who have also confronted the topic of race through their work. In one poem, she lists reasons why Kanye West should be banned from performing at the Pan American Games closing ceremonies, which took place in Toronto, Ont., in 2015.
Most of her reasons attack West’s character with words like “selfish” and “childish,” but also attack his talent, describing him as a terrible musician. The most interesting accusation against West is that he “will turn the games into a racism issue.”
It seems ironic that Shraya critiques him this way, when she seems to view most things through the lens of race as well. Shraya says her goal was to highlight how seemingly inoffensive and dismissible pop culture moments speak to systematic racism.
In “Oscars So White,” she draws on the controversy of celebrities boycotting the Academy Awards for not nominating more non-white actors. In this poem, she points out contradictions, questioning whether the Academy should start nominating more non-white actors simply because of their skin colour.
In another examination of miscommunication, Shraya describes the sounds heard at a Gay Pride event on June 24, 2015 – the voices of protesters, police, the main speaker, and those who were trying to silence the message.
The main speaker’s message makes up the bulk of the text, but there are other voices present in the margins. Imagine the main speaker being talked over by the police, while listeners are shushing and trying to compete with the authorities to listen to the message.
Working together against racism
In the middle of the book, Shraya records a discussion she has with four white women regarding racism, focusing on their white privilege, their awareness of other races, and their reaction to racism. One admits she recognizes that she is undereducated about anything outside “the white gaze” and “under-practised in talking about racism.”
The interview is interesting because most stories about racism are shared from the perspective of those who are targeted. These white friends of Shraya recognize there is a disparity between races, but admit they are sometimes afraid to do anything about it or not sure what to do in response.
The author asks her friends to make an “allyship towards people of colour,” suggesting the need for white people to support the idea of eliminating racism or racist attitudes, rather than being divided against people of colour.
In the end, Shraya says the most important thing is that a person listens and takes action against racism. She doesn’t indicate what kind of action, but that people should start by communicating to come to an understanding of the problem of race-based discrimination.
While Shraya starts with discussing white dreams, she ends with brown dreams – the need to justify the pigment of her skin. In her note at the end of the book, she states that she wants this book to act as a catalyst for discussions about anti-black racism, as well as racism towards indigenous people who continue to face racial violence.
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.
This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org
by Florence Hwang in Regina
Attendees from across North America gathered to discuss ways to revitalize Canada’s Chinatowns at the Edmonton Chinese Chinatown Conference, held on June 11 and 12. It’s possibly the first of its kind in terms of scale and scope, says one organizer.
Topics included “Transforming Chinatowns: Social, Economic and Cultural Trends” and “Development Strategy and Planning and the Chinatowns of the Future: What Would This Look Like and How to Sustain Them?”
The first conference on this topic was held in 2011, but it focused mostly on the City of Edmonton. This year’s conference took the issue to a larger stage, drawing on the expertise and experience of Chinatown activists from all over Canada and United States.
Conference organizer Lan Chan-Marples says some recommendations for revitalizing Chinatowns that came out of the weekend included hosting night markets, cultural festivals and historical walking tours.
Chinatowns were formed in the 1880s in major cities in the United States largely because of the Chinese Exclusion Act. In Canada, they arose with the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway, on which many Chinese immigrants worked.
These enclaves enabled Chinese immigrants to form tightly knit communities, capable of defending themselves against hostile external forces, and create job opportunities.
Before the 1950s, most Chinese immigrants in the United States and Canada came from the southern province of Guangdong. Since then, the population has became much more diversified.
Intention of the conference
Claudia Wong-Rusnak is the City of Edmonton Project Manager for the Chinatown plan. She was also one of the panelists at the conference.
Wong-Rusnak says there have been many decisions made in the past few decades that impacted the city’s Chinatown, but that they now need the residents’ assistance to put those plans into action.
“That’s why we’re having a conference. That’s why we need a comprehensive plan because the old one [that was made in the 1980s] didn’t materialize. The city council is extremely dedicated to seeing Chinatown thrive,” notes Wong-Rusnak.
She says the two Chinatowns in Edmonton, which are quite close to one another, have had competing interests, making progress difficult.
“The north Chinatown is a very commercial centre. South Chinatown is more of a destination and houses the multicultural centre, the Benevolent Association and the seniors’ home. Ideally, Chinatown should have both elements of business and culture,” she says.
“We’re suggesting we grow a core so that we can have a destination and explore those connections to downtown and to each other physically,” Wong-Rusnak explains. She also hopes that they can “continue storytelling and celebrating our Chinese culture through softer means.”
Revitalising Chinatown’s across Canada
Named Toronto’s first Chinese historian, Valerie Mah discovered very little had been written about the Chinese when she attended Teachers’ College in Toronto.
Mah was born in Brockville, Ontario, where her grandfather had a laundromat and her parents opened a restaurant in 1930. When her mother was born, there were only two Chinese families in town, but many “bachelor” Chinese men owned or worked in Chinese restaurants.
Mah is still involved with the Chinese community, even in her retirement from teaching. She sits on both the Yee Hong and Mon Sheong Board of Governors, two major Chinese retirement homes.
“My hope is to try and help 'East Chinatown' become a vibrant community. Some of the older owners are retiring and I am working on their offspring who are carrying on in the community,” says Mah.
Creating change through collective dialogue
Yi Chen, a filmmaker who was born and who grew up in Shanghai, China, was asked to speak at the conference about her 30-minute documentary that explored Washington, D.C.’s Chinatown.
Chen said she wanted to be part of this conference because it gathered Chinatown activists from major cities across Canada and the United States to talk about a topic she’s very passionate about.
“More importantly, this kind of collective dialogue about Chinatown’s future is unprecedented and much needed,” she says.
Like in Edmonton, the Chinese population in D.C. is hoping to revive their Chinatown by working with grassroots and non-profit organizations with similar interests, as well as the municipal government.
Nicole So, who has helped establish the Youth Collaborative for Chinatown group and organized the "Hot and Noisy" mahjong social events in Vancouver, saw the conference as “a unique opportunity that brings together individuals from Chinatown all across North America."
These events are vital “to further the conversation about the different Chinatowns, especially given the rapid developments and changes seen in recent years,” she says.
“Who we are, what we do and where we come from is nested in the history and lives [and] the actions of all those who came before us,” she continues. “So I think it is important to remember and cherish that, especially for someone like myself—to learn about their roots and remember how things used to be.
“New things are always coming along, but once old things are lost, they are gone for good.”
by Florence Hwang in Regina
Skilled immigrants are more likely than Canadian-born citizens to be their own boss, according to the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council.
By the late 2000s, 19 per cent of Canada’s immigrants were self-employed. The report from the Metcalf Foundation and Maytree examines the challenges and opportunities immigrants face with regards to self-employment and entrepreneurship
While in the past Canada has used immigration to fill its labour market needs — Chinese migrants who helped build the railway, temporary foreign workers to supplement the agricultural industry — creating their own businesses also allowed many immigrants to bring family over from their homeland.
Riding the wave of Italian immigration
Ever since Ralph Chiodo was young, he has loved cars. His dream was to open his own autobody shop. He now has 72 franchise locations in Ontario.
When Chiodo was 12, he worked in a blacksmith shop in Italy. He shoed horses, repaired wagons and plows for farmers. But what he really wanted to do was fix cars.
At 14, he landed at Pier 21. In 1959, he started working at a gas station in Toronto — getting the job was the easy part.
In the ‘50s and ‘60s, thousands of Italians immigrated to Canada annually. Many were sponsored by family members already in Canada, including Chiodo.
Once he got his mechanic’s license in 1965, he opened his own garage and auto repair centre. By 1972, he opened an autobody shop, followed by a Chrysler Dodge dealership in 1980.
His advice for new immigrant entrepreneurs: “Treat people fairly. This includes not only the customers, but the suppliers, landlords and everybody [else]. There’s no substitution for treating everyone fairly.”
Iranian engineer starts own business
Mahboob Bolandi, who came to Canada from Iran in 2008 on a student visa, keeps himself motivated by not losing the big picture about the future of his business, Texers Inc.: “I always think of the objective and the success I will face and I will achieve through hard work. It has helped me to do and go forward.”
He started his ceramic materials business after he took the Entrepreneurship Connections program ACCES Employment in June 2014. Texers specializes in technical ceramics used in high technology, engineering or medical applications.
Starting his own business meant a lot of work because he was the only person running it: “I was doing everything by myself [. . .] doing accounting, doing a website, doing social media [. . .] Now I have enough time to focus on real business and growing the business.”
Bolandi gained valuable insight into contributing to Canadian society by serving as a board member on non-profit organizations, particularly those that were serving newcomers.
“But I’m thinking out of box now […] that being useful to your society, to your community, to serve your country does not necessarily mean doing something related to what you studied,” he notes.
Hire yourself if no one hires you
When Rene C. Berrospi first came to Canada from Lima, Peru in July 2011, he had more than a decade of international experience in immigration law, but he couldn’t find an entry-level position.
His solution was to start his own consulting firm: A&R Global Consulting.
There weren’t any programs to help immigrants with starting their own business, Berrospi says.
Luckily, he was able to get a business plan in place: “Because I have a legal background, I did my research … people without a legal background … have no idea … what kind of legal structure they need,” Berrospi says.
Another challenge is adapting to marketing in North America: “The marketing is different in North America than other countries so you have to adapt to that too and what kind of market you will have.”
“I [started] with two clients from two different countries. Now I’m helping a lot of different people from different backgrounds and nationalities. The Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council chose me because part of the business I’m running [is] an internship program for young Canadians,” he says.
In addition to securing clients from all over the world — Korea, Ireland, Indian, Hungary, Romania, Brazil, Argentina — four of his interns have found work in legal or consulting firms.
Berrospi warns that entrepreneurship is not a nine-to-five job: “I’m very busy. I cannot complain.”
He advises new immigrants looking to become entrepreneurs not to be scared. As history has shown, he thinks there are a lot of opportunities to do business in Canada: “This is the advice I also give my clients: If no one wants to hire, hire yourself.”
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 House) outlines 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.
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.
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.
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.
by Florence Hwang in Regina, Saskatchewan
As International Women’s Day is being celebrated, and there have been many advances made for women’s rights in the past decade, there is still a lot of work to be done, say three influential women leaders.
Fariba Pacheleh, Jaswant Johal and Maggie Ip came to Canada looking for a better life and to experience more freedom and equality.
They ended up having a huge impact on their respective communities.
Effecting change in the science and technology sector
Pacheleh still sends flowers or calls her mother every International Women’s Day.
Growing up in Iran, she remembers learning about International Women’s Day from her mother who was an activist.
“Internally in the family I learned that I should have a voice. But externally when you went to the community, culturally, you couldn’t have,” says Pacheleh, an information technology specialist.
She moved to Canada in 1998 to experience freedom of expression and what she hoped would be a more equal society. She loves living in British Columbia.
“Wow, this is a women’s world. I love it here. I felt freedom. I could be myself,” she says.
After starting her career in Canada, she wanted to be a board member of an organization that focused on women.
She first worked with Iranian Engineers of British Columbia Association (IEBCA), Engineers Without Borders (EWB) and Boys and Girls Club of Vancouver. These organizations weren’t what she was looking for.
Then she joined Strategic Development of Society for Canadian Women in Science and Technology (SCWIST), which ensured that women would have opportunities to fulfil their aspirations. For the past two years, she has been president and director of SCWIST.
On International Women’s Day, SCWIST hosted an event for women called Wonder Women Networking Evening. The women leaders supported other women in the community and learned about SCWIST’s Make Possible mentorship program.
“We need to support each other, especially when women get leadership roles,” says Pacheleh.
Building a media empire from scratch
Not surprisingly, Johal, executive producer of Punjabi Word Television Ltd., was named one of the 100 most influential women in British Columbia. Her sense of determination and strong-will helped her build an entire media empire catering to the Indo-Canadian community in British Columbia.
Moving to England at the age of seven, Johal had to learn her Indian culture. And when she came to Canada from England in 1989, she realized the lack of Punjabi media and started a local Punjabi radio show focusing on entertainment.
“If I could pick up Indian culture so quickly and get to love it, then obviously I can make the same thing happen here with community residing in Canada,” says Johal, who has been in the media industry for 26 years.
But the radio show wasn’t enough. She had an intense drive to do something significant.
“I want to do something in this world. It has to be something different. It has to have an impact. It has to be powerful. It has to be a challenge. It has to be something that nobody else can do,” says Johal.
What that something was, was a media empire. Once established, it wasn’t easy for her as a female leader because of the men’s responses.
“I had to deal with them very diplomatically because to be in media, you have to be liked, especially if you’re going out and doing everything yourself. Marketing, advertising – you’re out in the community a lot. And I was,” says Johal.
Johal is a pioneer of women’s events in her community. In the late 1990s, she realized few women were attending the concerts that were available for the Indo-Canadian community. This led to a first-ever concert just for women at the Cloverdale Rodeo. More than 13,000 women attended.
Her two daughters are part of a generation that is stronger than hers, says Johal.
Encouraging women to help fellow immigrants
Ip came to Canada in 1966 from Hong Kong for her masters of education at the University of Ottawa. A year later, the Cultural Revolution took place. Her mother, who had heard how much Ip enjoyed living in Canada, encouraged her to stay there and in 1970, she and her husband moved to Vancouver.
In the early 1970s when volunteering with YWCA Vancouver and the United Way, she noticed the large influx of immigrants, particularly from Hong Kong. Sensing the YWCA was not equipped to provide services for immigrants, Ip went on to develop the organization known as S.U.C.C.E.S.S. today.
“Starting S.U.C.C.E.S.S. was almost like preparing a doctoral dissertation,” says Ip.
The organization helps immigrants before and during their settlement into Canadian society. Ip notes the logo of the organization is two bridges: connecting immigrants to Canadian society and vice versa.
“We feel the government has a major responsibility to help the immigrants to integrate rather than the system before – you come, you swim and you survive,” says Ip, who was named in the top 25 Canadian immigrants in 2010.
S.U.C.C.E.S.S. is built on volunteers – many of which are former immigrants. When a group of women decided to give back to their community they started cooking Asian food for Meals on Wheels. Not only does this service provide food for those who are not so mobile, it also builds relationships within the community.
“When they deliver the meals, they can see if there are problems, they can report to organizations like health departments to send a nurse to see if there is anything wrong with the senior. That is a very important service,” she says.
Pacheleh says there is still much work to be done for women to be treated equally as men.
“This is a journey. This is a path that we have to take with men. We cannot do it alone. To be honest, I think this is the first thing we have to discover,” says Pacheleh. “This is a collaboration; this is a paradigm shift that we need each other and we complete each other.”
This article first appeared in The Source. Re-published with permission.
by Florence Hwang in Regina
With the current influx of refugees coming to Canada, academic researchers are studying immigrants’ resiliency — their ability to overcome hurdles and challenges — so that they can help future immigrants adapt to their new environment.
Daniel Kikulwe is an associate professor at the University of Regina in the Social Work department. He and assistant professor Donalda Halabuza are working on a study about what factors help immigrants make the transition to Canadian life — specifically in Regina, Saskatchewan.
Similar studies have been conducted in other provinces, like Alberta and Ontario, but none in Saskatchewan.
“I think it’s really important because since 2007, at least according to the statistics that we’re looking at, there’s been an increase in the number of newcomer families coming to Saskatchewan, so that might give [us] some level of awareness of what helps people through that transition,” says Kikulwe, who originally is from Uganda.
Implications of the research
The researchers will study immigrants who have been living in Regina for at least five years, so they say they won’t include the most recent wave of refugees in their considerations.
The study will look at 20 individuals and examine a range of factors for adjustment, such as food, weather, school registration and access to health services.
Kikulwe hopes the study will be completed within the year.
“We are waiting for ethics approval to proceed to the next stage of gathering data or interviewing the heads of the households of refugee families who have been settled in Regina for at least five years,” says Donalda Halabuza, who is the principal researcher of this study.
The study will look at a combination of immigrants from different countries and backgrounds with the intention of being able to apply the current research to future immigration and refugee situations.
“That will give us a good understanding of different experiences,” Kikulwe says.
Kikulwe is particularly interested in civil countries where there is high incidence of violence and from where Canada might accept future refugees. “It could be from one of those countries that we’ll be looking at, for example, Rwanda because of the war, or Sudan,” he says.
Need for resettlement services
The topic of immigrant resilience and the need for resettlement services is of growing interest to many Canadian researchers.
Bruce Newbold, professor and director of the School of Geography and Earth Sciences at McMaster, recently wrote an article looking at the resilience of immigrant women in Hamilton. The paper, which he worked on with two of his students, Karen Chung and Ellie Hong, was titled “Resilience Among Single Adult Female Refugees in Hamilton, Ontario".
Newbold began his research to discover whether immigrant women were particularly vulnerable or more vulnerable than other segments within the population.
“How are they coping? How are they doing? Are they just as resilient but using a different set of support mechanisms or are they falling through the cracks?” asks Newbold.
The study found that all participants were dependent on sources of support such as NGOs and the government when adjusting to life in Canada. Personal characteristics such as their resourcefulness, determination and strength also played a role in their resettlement.
Because of these findings, Newbold has been working with the City of Hamilton to make resources available to new arrivals and service providers, such as by translating materials to make them more accessible.
“Timing is critical. There’s so much going on in the early days when people first arrive. In part, we see some of that discussion around the arrivals of the Syrians in Canada,” he says.
Because immigrants require so many services — whether it be finding a job or getting a referral to health or mental health resources — when integrating into Canadian society, Newbold thinks a one-stop-shop would best serve all immigrants.
Current assistance in Saskatchewan
One settlement agency that is attempting to offer many services to newcomers is the Moose Jaw Multicultural Council (MJMC).
Stefanie Palmer, executive director with MJMC, says her organization offers services for immigrants ranging from picking them up from the airport, to finding accommodations for them, to setting them up with language services, to helping them adjust to Canadian culture and society.
“We work on a settlement plan with them. So if they have young children, we try to set them up with different programming throughout the community. Our biggest goal is community integration,” Palmer says.
Other organizations like the Regina Immigrant Women’s Centre (RIWC) offer various services under one roof, but with special accommodations for women, such as child-minding, so they can attend English classes, pre-employment programs or employment counselling.
While there are government organizations set up to help new immigrants settle in, it seems that they aren’t able to fill all the needs of new immigrants, notes Newbold. In his research, he has found that community organizations have been filling that gap.
While Newbold cited many instances of successful integration in Canada, he says not everyone will be resilient like the subjects interviewed for his study.
“Not everyone is going to have that personal strength. In part, it allowed us to say, ‘How can we try to ensure the resiliency and the reception, to make sure it’s a positive reception? What can we strengthen?’ We can think about what groups we want to work with or what [we] should be saying to groups [and] service providers,” he says.
Kikulwe hopes this study will give hope to newcomers who are worried about establishing a life in Canada.
“There’s a silver lining,” he says.
by Florence Hwang in Regina, Saskatchewan
Immigrants not only have to learn a new language when they arrive in Canada, but also adopt the values of Canadian society. This can often impact their parenting methods.
“This is part of how we should be settling new immigrants into our community,” says social worker Gary Direnfeld, who has 33 years of experience and works out of Dundas, Ontario. “I’m of the view that there should be a structured approach to that. More often it’s kind of a haphazard approach. They have to pick [parenting methods] up almost by osmosis and trial and error.”
With the Liberal government contemplating revoking Section 43, the corporal punishment section of Canada’s Criminal Code, otherwise referred to as the “spanking law”, some immigrants to Canada may be forced to rethink their parenting methods.
Separating discipline from anger
Alden Habacon is the founder of Schema Magazine, an online magazine described as “a blend of pop culture and identity for the interculturally-minded.” He was born in Manila, Philippines and raised in western Canada.
He refers to an International Parenting study that examined “criminality trends” of over 11,000 university students in 15 different countries, showing that spanking was associated with higher rates of criminal behaviour.
He says that after watching a documentary that made a correlation between spanking and prison incarceration, he was convinced not to spank his two sons.
“The documentary found that spanking actually leads to more violent behaviour as an adult,” he explains. “That all incarcerated men were spanked. True? I don't know. But it won me over.”
He has told immigrant parents that it is hard to separate discipline from anger when using spanking.
“Spanking does not necessarily teach children about the consequences of their actions,” he says. “What it does demonstrate to them is physical violence [causing pain] is acceptable in some circumstances.”
While Habacon says there might be a "right way" and “wrong way” to spank children, he wonders if it is worth the risk.
“Are you disciplining or just acting out in anger towards someone who has no defence? Hard to know when you are overwhelmed with emotion,” he points out.
The choice not to spank
Clara Chung Der, who was born in Malaysia, remembers being spanked until she was about 11 years old. She vividly recalls having to either stick out her hand for ‘lighter punishment’ or pull down her pants and lie over the edge of the bed, face down, for more severe ones.
“I remember feelings of fear and anger towards my mom and because she is not one to work through emotions,” says Chung Der, who now has four children and lives with her family in Regina, Saskatchewan. “It took me a long time to resolve the resentment, which is one of the main reasons I do not spank my kids.”
Chung Der once tried spanking her eldest daughter when she was a toddler.
“I was angry and frustrated with her actions and did not know how else to communicate for her to stop, so I slapped her arm, which took her by surprise and she ended up laughing, which woke me up to my actions,” she says. “We decided then, we did not want to resort to a 'violent' act to communicate with our kids.”
Now, she and her husband parent based on being relational with their children.
Using strategies that don’t shame
Direnfeld agrees that spanking can run the risk of children becoming resentful for being shamed or being hurt by their parents.
He notes that while spanking seems to correct the child’s behaviour, they may act out in different ways.
“So instead of being openly defiant, maybe now I steal from your purse. So superficially the parent thinks I’ve dealt with it,” he says.
He adds that corporal punishment can create a new set of behaviours for parents to correct.
“Now this child goes to school and somebody offends the child, and the child believes, ‘If my parents can hit me, then certainly I can hit another child,’” says Direnfeld. “So we’re inadvertently role-modelling behaviour that clearly, if acted upon by the child, is going to be deemed inappropriate.”
He recommends using other strategies that don’t shame, demean or hurt the child, but continue to hold the child accountable.
“Strategies could be loss of privilege, time-out, restitution, returning something or doing something on behalf of the party that was hurt, apologizing, talking with the person who may have been hurt or offended so that the offender better appreciates the impact of their actions on others and can develop empathy – you don’t get any of that from a smack on the rear end,” he says.
When parents spank their children, they lose opportunities to teach children lessons and learn about the impact of their behaviour on others.
“It’s what the child internalizes in what we call a conscience that facilitates the best behaviour,” Direnfeld adds.
This is the third and final part of our series on spanking and what it means for new Canadian parents. The first and second articles in this series sparked a lot of debate on social media. Here is just a sample of what some people had to say:
by Florence Hwang in Regina
Integrating new immigrants quickly and seamlessly when they arrive in Canada not only makes their lives easier, but benefits the rest of society.
For this reason, Garen Direnfeld, a social worker in Dundas, Ontario says that providing refugees and their sponsors with services that allow them to integrate into society is in everyone’s best interest.
“The degree to which we can facilitate one’s transition to Canada and the quicker that transition, the sooner these folks can be productive in a way harmonious with our values. That’s in everyone’s interest,” he says. “So spend that money upfront, and you get a faster payback in the back end.”
After the Liberal government pledged to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada, settlement agencies across the country had to quickly respond to the wave of queries from private sponsors and the general public.
Debbie Douglas, executive director of Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI), knew that her organization needed to supplement its services with something that was both accessible and informative for newcomers and eager volunteers. That something ended up being Welcome Ontario, a site that would provide both volunteers and refugees with all the information they needed in one place.
“We knew that we needed to play an information role because we are often the first point of contact for folks,” says Douglas.
Resources for refugees and sponsors
OCASI was formed in 1978 to act as a collective voice for immigrant-serving agencies in Ontario, sharing the needs and concerns of newcomer Canadians.
After Canada announced its Syrian refugee plan in November 2015, the organization was inundated with phone calls and email inquiries from folks who wanted to volunteer, donate and even offer offer jobs to the refugees.
“One of the things we’re trying to do is harness the enthusiasm we were getting from Ontarians and folks from the across the country wanting to do something to help,” Douglas says.
Dave Montague, the OCASI IT and media manager, put together a simple, clean and easy-to-use website to act as a portal specifically for those involved with the Syrian resettlement process.
“What we really wanted to do with this site was — [for] sponsors or people trying to help Syrian refugees — to introduce the settlement sector, if you will, because a lot of them will be new to the whole idea of immigration and settlement,” explains Montague, who has been with the organization for more than 15 years.
He says people may not be aware of all the services, so they put together a database of all the settlement agencies of Ontario. The site also provides information regarding referrals for legal advice, housing, health care and more.
Similar initiatives across the country
OCASI is not the only organization trying to develop resources to help newcomers and refugees integrate.
In Alberta, Immigrant Services Calgary connects new immigrants to services and resources, such as employment agencies, government offices, schools, daycares, libraries, legal aid and therapeutic counselling agencies.
They also offer an Integrated Mentorship program to help immigrants find unpaid internships in the fields they are interested in working for.
Meanwhile in Newfoundland, the Association for New Canadians has orientation and integration programs as well as settlement social workers that work with newcomers to adjust and take steps to become established in their new home.
The Local Immigration Partnership (LIP) is yet another program that can help connect new immigrants with services in their respective communities.
These programs all build on existing networks to make services more accessible to newcomers who might not know where to begin their search.
Coordinating with settlement groups
In order to make the OCASI site useful for resettlement organizations, two additional forums were created for Lifeline Syria, a group in Toronto working with private sponsors, and Refugee 613, an Ottawa group working with private sponsors.
Over the next two years, Lifeline Syria hopes to recruit, train and help sponsor groups to welcome and support 1,000 Syrian refugees coming to Canada as permanent immigrants to resettle in the Greater Toronto Area, according to its website.
Refugee 613 offers ways for citizens to sponsor, donate or volunteer their time or resources for privately sponsored immigrants.
“This is not only what we’re about, but it’s what we can do and what we’ve proven we can do,” wrote John Tory Toronto Mayor on the Lifeline Syria website.
Nevertheless, many settlement agencies have felt overwhelmed by the number of Syrians arriving in the country, making resources like Welcome Ontario and Immigrant Services Calgary, which allow Canadians to learn more about resettlement services on their own, especially useful.
So far, Douglas says that the feedback on the site has been good.
“Often at meetings, I’ll hear, ‘Oh, we went on your site’ or somebody who used your site they’re thankful because it’s so easy to use and the information was quite relevant,” Douglas notes.
-- Canada's economic development minister Navdeep Bains at a Public Policy Forum economic summit