A version of this piece was first published on the Wellesley Institute blog on November 7, 2017, and can be accessed here.

Statistics Canada recently released a series of reports analyzing key results from the 2016 Census, including figures on immigration and ethnocultural diversity. The data paints a familiar picture of the Canadian social landscape – a landscape that is increasingly defined by culturally diverse peoples and communities.

The census brief on “Children with an immigrant background: Bridging cultures” captures important data that should prompt us to think critically about the live experiences of this large population segment, as well as its implications for Canadian social, political and economic life.

There were many interesting trends and figures highlighted in the report, including the number of people with foreign born parents, shifts in origin country demographics, family and household dynamics, and linguistic and cultural practices.

For example, in 2016, close to 2.2 million children under the age of 15, or 37.5 percent of the total population of children, had at least one foreign-born parent. The report also notes that children with an immigrant background could represent between 39 percent and 49 percent of the total population of children by 2036.

Further, most people with an immigrant ancestry that were younger in age (under 30s) had origins in Asia and Africa, whereas the older cohort of Canadians with immigrant ancestry (over 30s) tended to trace their origins to Europe and the Americas. This a reflection of shifting immigration trends in Canada over the years.

There were other insights capturing immigration dynamics at the household level. Children born in Canada to at least one foreign-born parent were most likely to live in a multigenerational household, with grandparents, parents, and children under the same roof. In the report, they were interested in how this might affect and drive the transmission of origin-country language and culture.

As with all census data, the information gathered here is limited. While it provides a helpful snapshot and indication of how global migration trends intersect with changes in Canadian demographics, it also leads to some deeper questions that emerge that require further inquiry and debate among practitioners, policymakers, academics, immigrant communities, and young people alike.

How much do we really understand about the social and cultural practices of children of immigrants and their families? Do we account for these lived experiences in how we design programs and services, frame public discourse, and plan for the political and economic future of the country? Are we adequately leveraging the opportunities and addressing the issues presented by these transnational social landscapes? Read the rest of this entry »

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The last cards in Amanda Todd’s video read “I have nobody, I need someone… my name is Amanda Todd”. Now the tragic irony of it all is that just a month later, upon conclusion of her short and tumultuous life, we would all know her name.

Over the last several years a number of equally tragic cases of teen suicide have also gone viral, inspiring a wave of public awareness campaigns and policy reform debates addressing bullying. This is an incredibly important development. This world profits from young people, but is not kind to them… so its high time people started recognizing the everyday challenges youth are facing today. It goes without saying that bullying is cowardly and destructive and needs to be addressed in every way possible. However, we must also recognize that this is often a reactive, rather than proactive approach to the issue. Read the rest of this entry »

On June 2nd, Christopher Husbands (23) opened fire in the food court of the Toronto Eaton Centre, tragically killing Ahmed Hassan (24), and injuring a number of others including a 13-year-old boy. Being a sunny Saturday afternoon, I knew that several of my friends and family would be at or around the Eaton Centre, but was relieved to learn everyone was safe. However, I stayed glued to my computer in the UK as the incident unfolded in Toronto, constantly refreshing my browser… tense, as I waited to learn more. Toggling between Google and Facebook, I saw a friend’s status, which read: “Please don’t be black, please don’t be black, please don’t be black …” Reading this, I realized that this was the unsaid concern that was keeping me awake into the wee hours of the morning, thousands of miles away from an incident that had not affected anyone I knew. But that’s just it. I’ve witnessed the politicization of youth violence in Toronto unfold enough times to know that if the shooter was black, this incident would affect far too many people that I know. Read the rest of this entry »

I had never read a Hunger Games book when I went to watch the movie a few weeks ago. I enjoyed the movie, as I do most. There weren’t many black characters, but I found myself really impressed with the ones that were there. They were not playing stereotypical roles, they were complex, and on the whole, the most sympathetic characters in the film. As it turns out, that was a problem. Tweens took twitter by storm outraged that the fan favourite, Rue, was played by a black actress. The tweets fell along the spectrum of expressing surprise to KKK-esque. Somewhere in the middle of that spectrum was this young man who tweeted: “Kk call me racist but when I found out rue was black her death wasn’t as sad #ihatemyself”. Read the rest of this entry »

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Sometimes you go through life smelling roses, tasting snowflakes – unbothered by the Big Questions. Other times you find yourself reflecting on the fundamentals of human nature. Go figure.

I blame Dr. Elaine Storkey. She recently gave a great talk at the Christianity and the Life of the Mind conference, where she challenged social scientists to interrogate their assumptions about human nature before they begin their analysis about human behaviour. Still fresh in my mind, I attended a seminar to hear about the work of Dr. Randall Hansen and his new book on global governance and migration.

He began by explaining that he saw states as ‘rational actors’ which were ‘self interested’ and ‘profit maximizing’. (I thought only undergraduate political science textbooks talked like that!?) While his talk was very interesting, I found myself unsettled by where it ended. Read the rest of this entry »