Immigrant Youth in Canada: A preview

The Canadian Council on Social Development (CCSD) is publishing a companion report to the 1999-2000 edition of their annual report, The Progress of Canada's Children. The new report, entitled Immigrant Youth in Canada, will provide a statistical profile of children and youth who have recently immigrated to Canada; describe the acculturation experiences of these young people; and detail the capacity of social service organizations to respond to the needs of immigrant children and youth.

Analysis in the report is based on data from the National Population Health Survey, the Longitudinal Immigrant Database from Citizenship and Immigration Canada, focus group discussions among recent immigrant children and youth, as well as a survey of organizations that serve immigrant families, children and youth.

Findings at a glance

Each year, nearly 200,000 immigrants come to Canada, and since 1996, one-third of these new Canadians are under the age of 25. While most of these youth come to Canada with their families, others come to pursue an education.

Most of the youth appear to be integrating well in Canada and most are happy to be here. In fact, most have adapted more easily than their parents. They reported that learning the language either French or English was one of their greatest challenges and the English as a Second Language (ESL) programs offered at school were an important method of integration. Not only do these programs enable young people to learn the language, they also provide an opportunity to form friendships with other youth in similar situations.

"Freedom" and "opportunity" were identified most often by very recent immigrants as "the best things" about being in Canada. In many cases, this was the result of increased freedom from their parents that they had gained by moving to Canada's more permissive society. In other cases, it was the result of having more human rights and freedom from state-sponsored oppression. Most youth believe that Canada offers greater economic opportunities than their countries of origin, with more access to jobs and post-secondary education.

The majority of respondents reported that the ability to maintain their culture, heritage and language was very important. Canada's focus on multiculturalism has made this possible for many immigrants. One participant stated, "When I want to be Indian, I can be Indian and when I want to be Canadian, I can be that too, but I don't feel like I have to be Canadian all the time."

Unfortunately, racism and bigotry were experienced by most participants in the CCSD's focus groups, particularly by immigrant youth who are members of visible minority groups. For younger youth, the problem occurred mainly at school; for older youth, it was felt when looking for work. Very few individuals were overly concerned about this problem, because they recognized it as being part of human nature and an issue that is endured in all parts of the world.

As Canada explores the possibility of opening the doors to an increased number of immigrants in the coming years, the findings in this report will prove particularly useful and hopefully will help to improve the experiences for all new immigrants to the country. Look for more interesting findings within the report, which will be published by the CCSD this spring.

For ordering information, visit the CCSD website at www.ccsd.ca or call (613) 236-8977.

Reproduced from: Preventing Crime Through Social Development, bulletin n3, 2000.