“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.” ~ Viktor E. Frankl
I wear many hats. One of them is my role as a career/employment counsellor for immigrants to Canada.
In almost six years, I’ve probably seen it all, but I’m always grateful and honoured for the fact that I get to know so many people from so many different countries and cultures: I have the rare privilege to hear their stories of challenges and successes while they struggle to settle in a sometimes completely different country from that they were expecting…
As someone who has experienced similar struggles myself; I can relate and be in a better position to help.
One of the most heartbreaking roles (but not negotiable for me, as doing otherwise would be unethical and against my values) is to help my clients to face reality as it is and re-adjust their dreams and expectations, so they are better able to decide their next move.
For others, any reality is better than what they left behind…but that doesn’t mean that they would instantaneously embrace this new culture and thrive.
Immigration and displacement is nothing new. People have migrated from one place to the other for centuries, most of the times being displaced by famines, wars or resource depletion in the area they used to inhabit.
Immigrants have always found challenges: a new culture, a new and unknown language, being marginalized and discriminated against and having to live in ghettos to protect themselves from abuse or just to find support networks among their own.
There are, however, immigrants and immigrants: some have no other option but fleeing their countries and no time to prepare, do research or connect with the new culture. The advice here is for those in more privileged positions to compare themselves and fight to change what’s wrong in the first place. Histories like those highlighted in this article about migrants from South and Central America through Mexico and US are more than appalling and tell us a story difficult to swallow about how dysfunctional our civilization has become…
Many of us are descendant of immigrants who struggled to make a life and may have been subject to many abuses: European migrants to South America in 1800 and early 1900 used to live in the poorest conditions and done the worst jobs. Women would become maids or even prostitutes, men worked as just a level higher than slavery. In many places (including Canada), abuses to immigrants tend to come from the same ethnic groups: exploitation of seniors, close-to-slavery conditions for those with little or no English or with the excuse of not having local experience (as if working for nothing for someone in your own community would build that “local” experience at all!)
Other discrimination is more subtle, and that is the one coming from locals who are too nice and politically correct to voice their real fears and thoughts: that they find you too different, that they suspect your clothes and accent may create issues among their staff, customers or suppliers, that they suspect your skills are lower from those expected in Canada under same profession, that they think your religion or practices are not a good match to their organization, and so on…
While all these things are very real, I urge those who are in a different position to act accordingly:
If your reasons for immigrating to Canada were slightly different, and you are privileged enough to apply for a visa and wait for it, my advice to you is: do your research before you come, and do even more research once you are here…
Do not expect governments, agencies or “others” (whoever these others may be) to do the work: there is no perfect society, governments don’t get to intervene and decide whether a profession is regulated; agencies have limitations on who and how they may help; organizations all look for the best fit for them, so they can continue working in their business line.
There are some cultures and countries that currently enjoy the privileges of not having social, political or economic challenges as deep as other countries. I’m not going to dig into why this is as it is in this post, but the reality is that even those countries have their own hidden stories: there is poverty, injustice, hunger, discrimination and exploitation in Canada…
Canada is, as well, a highly regulated country: about 20% of all occupations are regulated, meaning you will not be able to work in your profession until after you have had all your credentials evaluated by the proper regulatory body. This may also include that you will be asked to work under the supervision of another professional until you can get the accreditation (such as it is the case for engineers in BC and most of Canada). There are local regulations, approaches and even philosophies of how to do certain things (from education to social services, just as some examples) that may be very different from where you are coming from.
I know all of the above may not sound fair. But it is the reality we have. Complaining and blaming will not change it.
Observing and interacting with this imperfect reality will allow you to decide your next step, which may include staying and trying to change it and making yourself strong so you can help others to overcome similar or even worse obstacles.
My suggestion for all those planning to move to Canada or those already here and still struggling to find employment such as the couple depicted in this article, is this: do your research, prepare yourself for a hard landing, don’t expect to be welcomed with a commensurate job and a life like in the movies.
For all of those much less privilege who are already in the move and all of those we can expect to be displaced in the upcoming decades due to civil unrest, social injustice, wars, famines, resource depletion and climate change with all its ramifications, we owe them to be strong, accept our own (not earned but situational) privileges and use them to change the structures and build resilience so we may all live in a fair and just world for all.