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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Ode to the immigrant

May 28, 2012

I’m increasingly convinced that immigrants are among the most resilient people on earth. Yesterday, someone shared a story with me about his recent encounter with a young Ethiopian woman in London. Her appearance and condition gave the impression that she was a defeated soul. As she shared her story with him, he learned that she left Ethiopia some years ago travelling through Sudan, the Sahara Desert and Northern Africa. One can only assume that a good portion of this journey was on foot. She found her way to Italy, France, and finally England… likely crossing a number of borders before then. Along the way, this woman was conned, raped several times (including by police), and her best friend who joined her on this journey died along the way. And now in England, she faces new challenges as she navigates through the unforgiving asylum adjudication system. When he met her, she was homeless and alone, hesitant to share her story and suspicious of his intentions. It was only after sharing his own story of migration, survival and settlement that she let her guard down and allowed him the opportunity to offer some support. He was able to lead her to some temporary accommodation and a centre where I pray she is offered the access to resources she deserves. The age of this incredible woman? 22. Read the rest of this entry »