Immigrant Youth - Calgary Catholic Immigration Society

Every family group and cultural ethnic group arrive in Canada with their
own set of issues and “learned behaviours”. Every set of circumstances is
different. The challenges facing immigrant youth are different within those
It is important to remember that the same five developmental
characteristics that are needed for non – immigrant youth are imperative
for immigrant youth to develop too.
• Sense of Security
• Sense of identity or self concept
•Sense of belonging
•Sense of purpose
•Sense of personal competence
(Canadian Mental Health Guidelines)
For some immigrant youth arriving here as refugees from horrific
circumstances in their home country, their family focus is on survival in the
beginning and little else.
Other immigrant youth arrive with fewer challenges as they are emigrating
by choice, they already speak english, and their parents have transferable
professional jobs.
• Conflicting values at home, school and with peers
• Challenges of learning a new language and culture
• Parents have strict rules regarding socializing, offer limited freedom
• Inter - generational and extended / nuclear family conflicts
• Poverty - lack of funds for extra curricular activities or knowledge of them
• Lack of support programs for youth in rural areas
• Parents not always aware of community resources and services
• Limited participation of some immigrant parents in school activities
• Older siblings are often the primary babysitters in their home
• Parents often have higher educational expectations for their children
• Youth have limited access to positive role models and mentors
• Need to “belong” but may face discrimination, racism and social isolation
• Impact of internalised racism or post traumatic stress syndrome
• parents are often E.S.L. students themselves, have their own pressures
• for some “survival mode” is a big factor, focused on paying bills, food etc.
• some have jobs as well , maybe more than one, not able to be home,
• often youth help parents in janitorial jobs but parents fear letting them get
a job on their own
• fear letting youth travel alone on a bus - fear of racism, gangs, drugs
• worry about lack of discipline in Canada in schools and in homes
• prefer that their children spend time with family rather than friends
• observe Canadian youth as having no supervision and no rules to follow
• some have a fear of authority figures – police, principals, counsellors etc.
• believe in building relationships and trust which takes time and patience
• fear of the unknown, ambiguity, confusion and insecurity
• fear of being “judged”, “losing face”, and “status” by actions of youth
• some lack parenting skills not acquired in own culture
• prefer to spend time with those of same culture if possible, integration is
• reversal of roles and family dynamics
• Lack of E.S.L. training in University - limited and not always adequate
• Limited knowledge of cross cultural awareness / communication
• Might unwittingly make assumptions or use stereotypes etc.
• Approach learning from their own perspective
• Challenge of teaching Youth of many different cultures and languages
• Modifying lessons for ESL students in a class with many other needs
• Difficult to build relationships and trust with student and parents
• Challenge to include the varying needs of the students in lesson
• Challenge to use different feedback mechanisms to test understanding
• Use of translators / Interpreters if necessary
• Better diagnostic tests for students eg. some are put in special needs
classes when lack of english is the challenge not learning ability
low self esteem
low attendance in school
aggression / fighting / bullying
withdrawal / depression
lack of or denial of cultural identity
hypercritical of self
over achiever
low motivation
Some immigrant students excel in school, pursue higher education and are
successful but at the other extreme:
The drop out rate for Immigrant students is high : between 61 – 74%
Some youth are vulnerable to gang membership in their desire to “belong”
Gang membership may lead to criminal activity
Some students are so unhappy that they threaten or attempt suicide.
A boy in High School in Red Deer felt frustrated in his classes and found a place to belong
in the wrong crowd. Its as though some students prey on these students. By the end of last
year he was doing better in school and seemed more motivated. In this case the parents
work nights and so are not home in the evenings to see what their children are doing. Over
the summer he decided to work to save for a car. The same members of the wrong crowd
were working there. When school resumed in September he didn’t show up. After meeting
with his mom, I found out that he had gotten involved in doing and dealing cocaine through
people at work. His mom kicked him out of the house and doesn’t know where he is. She’s
heard he’s living at a drug dealer’s house.
Amy Paran
I had another young male who I also saw hanging out with this crowd at school. I contacted
the V.P. to find out the boy’s attendance record etc. Mom was called in to meet with us and
her son. This student expressed how difficult it is to be successful in High School. He felt
like he didn’t understand anything and felt stupid. He had a hard time connecting with
Canadian students so he too turned to the “wrong crowd”. Because of mom’s determination
to keep tabs on him and the student’s own determination to be successful, he has turned
things around for himself. He is now a leader for newcomer students in the NOW program.
Amy Paran
The biggest social challenge for the kids is the “have gots versus the have nots”. Youth are
surrounded by kids who in the majority have a lot of everything – or have access to
anything they want. Many immigrant youth are in a low income home, with hard working
parents, who are not at home because of financial obligations. Getting “stuff” takes time,
credit and access to cash flow.
Helen Dunbar
Edmonton Immigrant Services Association : Bridge – 2 – Success Program for Newcomer
students, Youth Civic Engagement Alliance, Global Youth Network
Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers : SSIS (Settlement Support in Schools)
Homework Help, Trauma Counselling
Calgary Catholic Immigrants Society (CCIS) : Immigrant Youth Outreach, Youth Connections
Program, Youth Cultural Ambassador Training
Catholic Social Services – Culture Link, Newcomer Children and Youth Program,
Youth Support, Homework Club Programs, E.S.L. Programs for Teachers
Calgary Bridge Foundation for Youth : After – School Life Skills Program, In – School
Settlement Program, Immigrant Student Mentorship Program, NOW Program
Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association – Girls Culture Club, Youth Standing Committee
Centre for Newcomers Calgary – Stepping Out Program, Youth Possibilities Program, Youth
Immigrant Services Calgary – Youth Inclusive Neighbourhoods Project, Youth Volunteer
Central Alberta Refugee Effort, Red Deer : Immigrant Youth Program, SSIS (Settlement
Support in Schools, NOW Program, Public Awareness C.A.R.E. Clubs and Culture Clubs
SWIS - Settlement Workers in Schools (Ontario)
Costi Immigrant Services (Ontario)
Engaged Immigrant Youth – Vancouver School Board
Boys and Girls Club
Scouts Canada
Clubs ( in schools, youth centres, libraries eg. C.A.R.E. Club) for immigrant
youth and mainstream Canadian youth
Sports teams eg. Red Deer’s Global Soccer Team
Multicultural Groups /Associations
Welcoming Community Committees
eg. Olds, Innisfail, Rocky Mountain House, Lacombe
Buddies in School
Homework Help Groups
Church Youth Groups
Multicultural Events / Celebrations
Inspirational Speakers (Immigrant Success Stories)
4H Clubs (sharing of experiences)
Boys and Girls Clubs
Immigrant Children, Youth and Family Program Directory
Suggested Reading
Pathways to Success: Immigrant Youth at High School – Research Project
by the Centre for Research and Education in Human Services
Services for Immigrant Youth – Coalition for Equal Access to Education –
H. Van Ngo
DVD and Guide – “Growing Up Among Strangers” (Aspen Youth
Programs) Immigrant Youth put together this DVD
DVD – “Playing Fair” (National Film Board of Canada) series of four
discussion starters about racism, respect and equality
DVD -” People” – based on book by Peter Spier (Celebrating Our
Differences – Discussion Program)
DVD – “For Angela” Stimulating film re enacts a racial abuse incident that
takes place on a Winnipeg bus. About empowerment of victim.
Book – “It Takes a Child” Craig and Mark Kielburger Story of how Free the
Children Foundation started
Book –” Ryan and Jimmy” about Ryan Hjerlic – started Ryan’s Well