Vancouver is city crawling with people representing different cultures and backgrounds. According to Statistics Canada’s 2006 Census, visible minorities take up approximately 42 per cent of Vancouver’s population. Unfortunately, most of these minority groups still prefer to be segregated from the rest of this multicultural society.
How it begins:
It is natural for new immigrants to seek out people from their country when they first move to Canada. It gives them a sense of belongingness, and the familiar territory is apparently supposed to help ease them into society. These families then become comfortable just amongst each other, hence keeping them away from meeting people from different backgrounds. The use of their native tongue for driving tests, pamphlets, PSAs, etc., increases this comfort; now they do not even feel the need to enhance their language skills. They establish their own community, one that comprises of just a few families tending to each other’s needs, helping each other, but also keeping them away from integrating.
We are evolutionary creatures with history as proof of how well we adapt to our surroundings. In fact, adaptation to new habitats is deemed crucial for survival. In this case, however, this step becomes unnecessary. The families understand that they are in a different country that has its own traditions, but they still decide to keep their ideologies from home alive and functioning. Religion plays an important role with the place of worship becoming a common ground to meet people from the same background; people who moved to Canada for a new, improved life, yet cannot seem to let go. They do everything possible to preserve their culture, even as their hometowns continue on the evolutionary path and move past them.
Passing it on:
Soon the family begins to grow, children are born. These children spend the first few years of their lives learning everything that their parents teach them. Many times their first language is their parents’ native tongue and they adapt to a culture that only applies to their family’s community. When they start school they instantly notice the difference between themselves and the kids from a different background. Unable to adapt, they too seek a common ground and befriend those that they can relate to. A lot of times they do not have a choice; their inability to speak English puts them in a category of ESL students, which automatically segregates them from the rest of the class. With this the children fall deeper into their home-taught culture, while still struggling to adapt to their new surroundings.
Forming an identity:
The families try to help the children, but cannot due to their own limited experiences in that field. Sometimes the only friends these kids have are their cousins that live around the block.Those who are able to break through the cycle find themselves caught in an upward battle between their home and their school. Hello, personal identity crisis.
As these children become teenagers and then adults, they have their make-it-or-break-it moments. A few are able to free themselves just enough to be able to integrate with others. They are suddenly surrounded by an abundance of new life skills, which in turn shape them to be well-rounded individuals. Some realize that they are happy with their current group and decide to follow in their community’s footsteps. They seeks the same familiarity every step of the way, whether that is in their career or their personal lives. They still try to adapt to the culture outside the home, but the fear of going against the family leads to poor decisions and betrayal. They have life skills too, but the difference between the two is obvious.
Breaking the Trend:
Visible minority or not, if you are living in Vancouver there is a high chance that you or someone you know is caught up in this cycle. In my opinion, the best place to start is when the families first immigrate to Canada. Programs are in place to give them the skills required to integrate into society. Community Centres host events and activities to bring the families together, providing them with a place to meet new people from different backgrounds and learn about each other. These families can do the rest by providing the right knowledge to their children. This may still include teaching the culture from back home, but it also allows them to introduce the new culture at an early age. These children would no longer feel forced to pick between the two and grow up in an environment where they can follow the path of adaptation to be successful.
For families that are already trapped in the cycle, there is still hope, but it is up to you to take the first step.
What are some steps you would recommend to break this trend?