Isabelle Koerber, The Circle
People around the world come to Canada to create a better life but is this what they achieve?
Canada has accepted many immigrants over the last 150 years. Approximately 20.6 percent of the Canadian population is composed of immigrants (Immigration and Ethnocultural Diversity in Canada, 2016). While Canada is one of the most accepting countries towards immigrants, this does not mean that immigrants have an easy time adapting when they arrive.
Firstly, children of immigrant families feel like they have to choose between their two cultures and are more vulnerable to joining gangs. Also, immigrant women are discriminated against not only as immigrants, but also as women. Many immigrants also have difficulty finding jobs even if they are qualified for the position that they are looking for. Immigrants face many barriers when they come to Canada.
It is clear that young Canadians are under a lot of stress. However, the stress experienced by young Canadians who are also first or second generation immigrants is much more substantial. Dr. Audrey Kobayashi, a professor at Queen’s University, said many children of immigrants feel torn about their identity (Rieti, 2012). Immigrant children often feel that they are disappointing their parents if they embrace Canadian traditions rather than follow the traditions of their previous countries.
Research suggests that because of this, immigrant youth often face parental criticism at home as well as bullying at school. An example of this is Ronia Arab who often argues with her parents because of the “Canadian” way she dresses, in contrast to the traditional Muslim clothing worn by her family. “My parents…want me to be like them, but I do not know anything about their culture,” says the young woman of 16 years (Rieti, 2012). Several academic papers have also raised the issue that many young Canadian immigrants end up in gangs and other illegal activities. Dr. Hieu Van Ngo, an Assistant Professor at the University of Calgary, started a research report which examined why children of immigrant families join gangs. According to Van Ngo’s study, immigrant children often join gangs to fill an emotional void; gangs give them a sense of belonging, as well as security, power and access to money (Breit, 2015). Amir Javid is a young immigrant who has experienced the danger of gangs. At the age of 16 Amir and his brother began getting involved with small crimes and eventually created their own gang, resulting in his brother’s arrest. Amir now runs a charity called Real World Truth which aims to educate young people about the dangers of gangs (Escaping gang life, 2011). Most people believe that discrimination against women and immigrants does not exist; this is unfortunately not true. Today, one in five women in Canada are immigrants (Rose, 2013). Immigrant women are more likely to have completed university than Canadian-born women, nevertheless, they are more likely to be unemployed than Canadian-born women or even immigrant men. In 2011, 27.7 percent of female immigrants age 15 and over had a university degree.
Comparatively, 19.2 percent of women born in Canada of the same age have a university degree. In the working age group, 8.8 percent of immigrant women had no job, compared with 5.2 percent of Canadian-born women and 6.1 percent of immigrant men (Study: Women in Canada: Immigrant women, 2015). A female immigrant named Jane recounts her experience with discrimination in Canada. “I graduated from SFU with a degree in computing science,” she says. Jane tells of a case where one of her instructors took her aside during a training exercise. “She said ‘You realize you need to have very high standards in your work because you’re going to be judged both as females and as visible minorities.’ [So] I was always really aware that I had to outperform in order to prove [myself]” (Ibid). This is a clear demonstration of the discrimination and pressure that Canadian immigrant women face in their daily lives; they must work harder than their competitors, simply because they are immigrants as well as women. One of the biggest injustices facing Canadian immigrants is that they are not fairly considered for jobs.
According to Statistics Canada, one of the biggest challenges for immigrants is finding a job (The Biggest Difficulties, 2016). In 2005, immigrant men earned 63 cents and immigrant women earned 56 cents for every dollar earned by men and women born in Canada. They also had difficulty finding a job even though they were more likely to have a university degree than those born in Canada. The unemployment rate for immigrants in 2006 was 11.5 percent; more than double that of the Canadian-born population: 4.9 percent (Rennie, 2013). As a result, many immigrants who came to Canada did not stay. According to Statistics Canada, one third of male immigrants leave Canada within 20 years of arriving.
More than half of those who leave will do so in the first year of their arrival (Roy, 2012). Zain Mir, a Canadian immigrant spoke of his struggles finding a job in Canada. “I feel like my career is going nowhere. I am overqualified for the position that I have currently” says Mir (Roy, 2012). Mir is ready to leave Canada and return to Pakistan; he believes he will get a more deserving position there. Mir admits that leaving Canada is a very small price to pay to be professionally satisfied (Roy, 2012). Samer Elbanna, another immigrant, stated “Pm thinking about going back to Egypt. I have everything there. It’s very difficult, you feel like, so what’s the benefit of my experience? What is the benefit of my education? It’s nothing.” (Rennie, 2013). It is unfortunate that highly educated people cannot achieve their potential simply because they are immigrants. After examining the evidence, it is clear that Canadian immigrants face many struggles. Children of immigrants often feel torn between their two cultures and resort to joining gangs in order to feel that they belong. Immigrant women are discriminated against as women as well as immigrants. In addition, immigrants have great difficulty finding jobs, even though they are more qualified than those born in Canada. It is unfortunate that many immigrants do not get the life they hoped for when they come to Canada.