Listen Up! Canadians Have Feelings, Too!

Evelina Silveira, President, Diversity At Work in London

I have been working with New Canadians for many years and as a child of immigrant parents, I grew up with a lot of anti-Canadian sentiments.  Usually my parents’ complaints had to do with the leniency to which Canadian parents treated misbehaving  children or the relative pemissiveness of Canadian society that was a sharp contrast to where they were from.  While they would complain occasionally about Canada , they would always end the conversation about how wonderful  Canada is and how grateful they were to be here.

Now that I am working in a field with many New Canadians, I hear similar statements.  Complaints about the educational system, health care, judicial system and the list goes on.  I have found myself on many occasions sitting back and saying nothing, even though at times I feel offended, or maybe even disappointed.  On the other hand, I have  encountered similar comments, even ethnocentric ones from Canadian born individuals related to immigrants.  For whatever reason, it seems that it is easier to challenge a Canadian co-worker than a New Canadian about stereotypes or ethnocentrism.  Is this truly fair? 

The truth of the matter is that both need to be challenged.  Often times the New Canadian is making these statements out of frustration with the whole acculturation process.  Sometimes everything is so new that they wish it was the same as it was back home, where they understood everything and knew how to navigate everyday life.  Unfortunately, these expressions of frustration can also be expressions of  racism, ethnocentrism and lack of appreciation for life in Canada.   Despite your cultural background, making racist comments about other cultures,  “Canadian bashing”  can result in feelings of hurt and degradation. 

My suggestions to New Canadians who are prone to “Canadian bashing” is to:

1.  Ask Questions – Why are things done this way?  What are the values behind these institutions?  Get to understand the country and its people before you criticize it.

2.   Get involved.  Isolation from mainstream society can make your feel more negative about life here.  There are many things you can do – take a course, do volunteer work, get involved in politics. Conduct research on Canada etc.

3.  Stop and think for a moment.  If you heard Canadians or other groups making comments about your culture the way you do about them, how would you feel?  What would you call it?  Would you report it?

4.  Remember, just because you have not received a reaction or received  a reprimand does not mean that your comments do not have an impact.  Canadians have a tendency at times to be passive aggressive with these types of views by avoiding direct confrontation and instead showing their resentment in other ways. 

In this day in age when so much turmoil is going on in the world., where wars, hunger and intolerance dominant our media, we have so much to be thankful for living in a country that is a haven of peace and sanity in an insane world.  Quit the Canadian bashing and instead look at what the country can offer you and your children. Remember, Canadians have feelings, too!

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The Canadian Immigration Policy Needs An Overhaul

Evelina Silveira, President, Diversity at Work in London

This week my family and I will bid farewell to a family that we have grown attached to and have gotten to know well.  All family members speak English, French and Spanish fluently, and have been employed for most of the four years that they have lived here on a work permit.  They decided to go the honest route of coming to Canada legally and applied for a work permit.  Within a short period of time (less than a year) they began to all work, contributing to our economy and often doing the work that many Canadian born people would not do.

The father was a civil engineer in his country of origin.  He was offered several managerial jobs in London because of his skills but they could not hire  him since he only had a work permit  that would soon expire.  The employers’ needed his skills as they could not find them amongst the current labour pool,   but  they couldn ‘t not hire him since they didn’t know if he would be around the complete the project.  As Canada embarks on more natural resource development, a person with his background in this area would be very useful to our country.  Nevertheless, he took jobs as a driver to earn a living and his wife and children were able to find work and contribute to our society.

These individuals applied for refugee status in Canada and were denied.  Their lives have been threatened for most of the time that they lived in their country of origin.  Some of the  refugee claimants who have been returned have been killed.

I completely understand what the Harper government is trying to do.  Their goal is to bring the best and the brightest to Canada and crack down on people who want to exploit the system, or who will not want to acculturate.  However, there are people right now who are being sent back who have been contributing here, who do speak the language and have come to see themselves as “Canadians”.  In another example, a family is being deported that runs a successful small business?  Small businesses are the backbone of our communities — they were serving a niche market that was currently underserved.  Why then do we want to send them back to face uncertainty when they have proven themselves to be worthy of staying?  It is not like our borders are ripping through the seams and we are facing a population explosion!

Why have we denied and punished this family for going the legal route and rewarded others who came here illegally?  What kind of precedence are we setting?

Mr. Kenney, I urge you to take a look at this system more closely.  These are only two examples, but how many more are there?  I assure you if you had the chance to personally meet these families and others  you would be proud to grant them citizenship. They embody the values of this wonderful country and would be appreciative and contributing members for a long time.  But for my dear friends, it is too late as they will be leaving in two days after living abroad for 12 years.  What a loss to Canada!

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