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8.3: Reading- A New Life in Canada

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    104451
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    Before You Read

    What do you know about refugees in Canada? Write your thoughts in the space below.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    The Reading

    Read the article, and answer the questions that follow.

    1           It’s a long way from Hazelton, British Columbia, to the top of the Olympic podium in Beijing, China. When Carol Huynh, a freestyle wrestler, beat Japan’s Chiharu Icho to win the gold medal in the 2008 Olympics, she was so overcome with emotion that she shed tears during the medal ceremony. Carol’s gold medal was no fluke: she has been Canadian champion eleven times, and has won medals at the Commonwealth Games, the world championships, and the Pan-American Games. She would go on to win a bronze medal at the London Olympics in 2012.

    clipboard_e30deb199275c6ade7ee84650d9e30d2b.png
    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): Winter can be a difficult time for recent immigrants.

    2           For a young woman from a small town in B.C., achieving international success in a sport not normally associated with women is a remarkable achievement. What is more remarkable is the fact that Carol’s parents, Viem Huynh and Mai Trinh, were refugees, part of the large numbers of “boat people” who fled their homes in Vietnam after the Communists came to power in 1975. These people set sail from Vietnam, often in flimsy boats and with little more than the clothes on their backs. Many died, falling victim to starvation, storms, or pirates; for those who survived the weeks at sea, new homes were found around the world. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, more than 60,000 boat people found new homes in Canada.

    3           Carol’s parents and her two older siblings, Ngoc and Hui, survived the perilous journey, and after spending some time in a refugee camp in Indonesia, they found themselves in Hazelton. Carol was born in Hazelton in November, 1980; she was given the name “Carol” because her parents wanted to choose an English name, and it was nearly Christmas.

     

    Refugees in Canada

    4           Refugees are people who, like the Huynhs, have been forced to flee from their home countries, usually as a result of civil war, or of political, religious, or racial persecution. The story of the Vietnamese boat people is well known to Canadians, but they are not the only example of large-scale migration to Canada in recent years. In 1992, 5,000 Muslims were admitted to Canada to escape the Yugoslavian Civil War. In 2006, nearly 4,000 Aboriginal refugees from camps in Thailand were admitted. Most recently, between November 2015 and January 2017, Canada opened its doors to 40,000 refugees from Syria, a country torn apart by war.

    5           Refugees can be sponsored to come to Canada by individuals or organizations such as church groups. While many go to big cities, some end up in small towns far away from large urban centres. The Huynhs were sponsored by the United Church in Hazelton; they did not choose to go to Hazelton—Hazelton chose them.

     

    Adapting to life in Canada

    6           The process of adaptation is a long and difficult one. Newcomers must attend to everyday needs: finding a place to live, getting children enrolled in school, finding a doctor, learning to use the transportation system, and looking for a job. In many cases, the newcomers have very limited English; the Huynhs spoke almost no English when they arrived in Canada. One of the first steps is enrolling in English language lessons, which are provided through the government-funded Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada program.

    clipboard_e3219b977ea3848809fc80457bb72b072.png
    Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\): Canadians rally in support of the government’s decision to allow Syrian refugees to settle in Canada.

    7           Home for the Huynhs was initially a two-bedroom house on the land of one of their sponsors. Both Viem and Mai worked at various jobs to support their five children: Viem worked as a carpenter and at a sawmill, and Mai found work as a waitress and seamstress. They worked hard and eventually were able to buy a small motel. The Huynhs were fortunate to be able to make a living for themselves and their five children. Refugees are often unable to do the same jobs in Canada that they did in their countries of origin; those who have professional training often find that their credentials are not recognized in Canada.

    8           Another consideration is weather. Carol’s parents arrived in Canada in January, 1980—maybe the most difficult time of the year to move to Canada. Newly arrived refugees not only need to make sure they have the right coat, boots, hat, and mitts, they also need to be aware of the dangers of frostbite, falling on icy sidewalks, and other hazards of the Canadian winter.

    9           For refugees who come to small towns, the adaptation process can be especially challenging, no matter how welcoming the community is. Culture shock can be a serious problem. For those in larger cities like Vancouver, there is often a local support system of people who have experienced the transition and can provide help. In a small town, there may be no local people from the same country; there is often no meeting place, such as a temple or mosque, where newcomers can meet, share experiences, and support each other. There is no market where they can purchase the food items used in their own dishes. There are no newspapers printed in their first language. The sense of isolation can be very strong.

    10       While refugees in Canada are safe from physical harm, the emotional scars from their experiences often take years to heal. Many refugees have experienced war and other forms of violence, such as torture and sexual abuse. They didn’t choose to leave their homeland, and they had no choice in where to go. Once in Canada, there is anxiety about friends and family members left behind; there are concerns about money and about the future; and there may be a feeling of alienation from the new country. Many newcomers feel a sense of optimism on entering Canada and starting a new life, but this can quickly change to a sense of disillusionment. In some cases, negative feelings are exacerbated by racism and prejudice in the new community.

    11       Immigrants who come to Canada voluntarily know that they can always go home if the move doesn’t meet their expectations. However, refugees know that they cannot go home again, and they must learn to adapt. As a result, there is a high risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD) and depression among refugees. Estimates of the occurrence of mental health issues among refugees are as high as 40%, with higher rates in small communities where refugees are isolated from their home cultures.

     

    Success

    12        Transitions take time and effort, but for many refugees in Canada, the story has a happy ending. Carol Huynh’s story is a perfect example. Explaining her tears as she stood on the podium in Beijing to collect her gold medal, listening to the playing of O Canada and watching the Canadian flag rise, Carol told CTV News: "I was just thinking how proud I am to be Canadian."

     

    Questions

    A.   Check Your Understanding

    Answer the following questions in your own words.

     

    1.      What did Carol Huynh achieve at the Beijing Olympics?

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    2.      Who were the “boat people”?

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    3.      What immediate needs do newcomers need to attend to on arrival?

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    4.      Why can a refugee doctor often not work as a doctor in Canada?

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    5.      How does weather play a role in the settlement process?

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    6.      Why is it harder to move to a small town than to a big city?

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    7.      What mental health challenges can refugees face? 

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    8.      Carol’s parents integrated successfully into Canadian society. Explain this statement.

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    B.   Develop Your Vocabulary

    Use each of the following words or expressions to complete the sentences below. Each one can only be used once.

    fluke               perilous          persecution               sponsored                 culture shock           

    transition       alienation       disillusionment            exacerbated               voluntarily

     

    1.      When you do something _________________________, you do it by choice.

    2.      The difficult mental process of getting used to living in a new country is called _________________________.

    3.      Something that is _________________________ is dangerous.

    4.      If you are disappointed that something is not as good as you had hoped, you are feeling a sense of _________________________.

    5.      If someone is _________________________, they are given financial support.

    6.      A _________________________ is a change to a new way of living.

    7.      A _________________________ is an unexpected success.

    8.      The feeling of having no connection to your community is _________________________.

    9.      When something is _________________________, it is made worse.

    10.  _________________________ occurs when a group is treated badly because of race, or political or religious beliefs.

     

    C.   Think about It

    Think about the following questions. Write your thoughts, or discuss your ideas with your class.

    1.      Have you ever moved from one community to another? Why did you move? What changes did you have to make in your life?

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    2.      What advice would you give to someone who is experiencing a sense of alienation from the community where they live?

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    3.      Write five facts about Hazelton. If you do not know Hazelton, choose the community where you live.

    a)     ______________________________________________________________________

    b)     ______________________________________________________________________

    c)      ______________________________________________________________________

    d)     ______________________________________________________________________

    e)     ______________________________________________________________________

    Now write five opinions about Hazelton or your chosen community.

    a)     ______________________________________________________________________

    b)     ______________________________________________________________________

    c)      ______________________________________________________________________

    d)     ______________________________________________________________________

    e)     ______________________________________________________________________

    4.      How easy do you think it would be for a newcomer to adapt to life in the community you wrote about in Question 3? What could your community do to make the transition easier for newcomers?

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    D.   Go Further

    Talk to someone who has moved to your community from another country. This could be someone in your neighbourhood or an international student at your college. Find out about this person’s experiences making the transition. What was easy? What was difficult? What kind of support did the person have? Write your information in the space below.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Share your findings with your class.


    8.3: Reading- A New Life in Canada is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.