ARCHIVED - Chapter 2 – Understanding the Phases and Dimensions of Immigration

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The path that immigrants take from their first interest in moving to Canada to their integration into Canadian society can be broadly separated into four phases: selection, settlement, adaptation and contribution. While selection takes place in the immigrant's home country, the remaining three phases take place once the move to Canada has been made. Selection refers to the time before an immigrant actually arrives in Canada, settlement encompasses the time immediately following arrival when an immigrant needs to find housing, schooling for children and first-time employment. This period is often characterized by dependence on newcomer services. Immigrants move from the settlement phase into the adaptation phase when they have met all immediate needs and begin to plot and put in place their long-term strategy in Canada, e.g. deciding where to live long-term and which professional path to pursue. This phase is characterized by increasing autonomy. Immigrants attain the final contribution phase when they have achieved their goals with regard to social status, employment and a feeling of being at home where they live. At this point they no longer rely on institutions for support but are able to contribute to them on a voluntary basis. At any of these stages, three dimensions of integration are of importance: language, employment and community. Language refers to the ability of the immigrant to communicate at a satisfactory level with his or her linguistic environment. Employment refers to the immigrant's ability to earn a living at a level appropriate to his or her skills and community refers to the social integration of an immigrant.

Phases and Dimensions of Immigration

Table 4 shows how dimensions and phases build upon each other. During the selection phase, i.e. while immigrants are still in the home country, preparing themselves for the new language environment in an official language minority community is crucial as it often requires a functional degree of bilingualism. During the settlement and adaptation phases employment becomes an additional focus. And as immigrants move from adaptation into the contribution phase, they should be comfortable enough linguistically and economically to be able to start to contribute to the community.

The three most frequently cited obstacles faced by immigrants who settle in a minority language context are the following:

  • The extent to which majority official language skills are needed.
  • Severe hurdles in having prior learning, credentials and professional experience recognized in Canada by professional associations and employers.
  • No record of prior employment in Canada (no "Canadian experience"), which causes many employers to be hesitant when hiring immigrants.

Table 5 is a composite picture derived from accounts by immigrants who have not completed the immigration process successfully.

Reasons for Unsuccessul Immigration Integration

What is particularly frustrating if an immigrant's path develops as outlined in Table 5 is the fact that it is so full of promise and potential at the beginning and disintegrates in spite of the immigrant's and the community's best efforts. While the community is often able to help an immigrant through the settlement phase, it is at the point when an immigrant realizes that he or she will not achieve the anticipated professional standing that the initial enthusiasm for Canada can turn to quiet desperation. Often, the immigrant's hope for a secure economic future is then projected onto the children. Personal economic failure causes many immigrant parents to conclude that they have little to gain from any type of involvement with an official language minority community. This is a loss both for the minority community and the immigrants. Even if, after a number of years, immigrants meet with the success they had initially hoped for, in the intervening time they will have distanced themselves from the community to such an extent that it is very unlikely that they will ever be won back.

We will now consider each of the phases and dimensions of immigration in more detail. For an overview of all phases and dimensions, please see appendix I.

From Morocco to Manitoba: A Successful Transition

Testimony

"Of course, the Ouateli family is our model immigrant family," says Robin Rooke who is with the Francophone literacy and employment resource centre Pluri-elles in St. Boniface. Youssef Ouateli works as an aeronautical technician for Air Canada and moved with his wife and their two children from Casablanca to Winnipeg in March of 1999. Their story is, indeed, one of immigrant success. They have become dynamic participants in Manitoba's Francophone community. In 1998, Daniel Boucher, president of the Société franco-manitobaine (SFM), gave a presentation to prospective immigrants in Morocco. Youssef Ouateli was one of those who attended. Having heard Mr. Boucher's presentation, Youssef became curious and started to find out more about immigrating to Canada. One and a half years later, curiosity had turned to reality and the family arrived in Winnipeg.

If one were to paint a rosy picture of the positive contribution immigration can make to French-speaking minority communities in Canada, Mr. Ouateli's story would certainly be one to focus on. However, speaking with him and his wife in their new home in a leafy suburb of Winnipeg, they tell us that their story is something of an exception. Both are proud to have turned their immigration to Canada into a success but caution everyone to think that this is an experience shared by every Moroccan immigrant. "Among the roughly fifteen Moroccan families we know here, I am the only one who works in his own profession," Youssef Ouateli says. His wife, for example, is taking a course at the Collège universitaire de Saint-Boniface to become a health and home care assistant. In Morocco, she had worked as a fashion designer. When she tried to find work in her field in Winnipeg, all she was offered was work as a seamstress. During interviews a supervisor would hold a stopwatch in his hand to check her skills on a sewing machine. Because she had enjoyed helping out in her brother-in-law's medical practice in Morocco and health sector workers are in demand in Manitoba, she decided to pursue a different path and become a health care professional.

Both Ouateli children are happily attending Francophone schools. The local community's efforts to ensure that children of Francophone immigrants attend French schools are, indeed, impressive. As soon as new immigrants arrive, the school bus serving Francophone schools is alerted from the first day after the immigrant family's arrival and picks up the children at one of the motels, which is often their first temporary place of accommodation. This allows the parents to look for permanent housing without having to worry about their children. As they go apartment hunting, a map they receive from the SFM will show them the Francophone school bus routes so that they don't end up in a part of town where their children won't be able to attend school in French.

Few immigrants expect an easy ride in Canada and when asked what he would recommend to new Francophone immigrants coming to Manitoba, Youssef is very clear: "You absolutely need basic English skills as well as a lot of patience and tenacity, especially during the first year. You must not become discouraged."

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