Displaying items by tag: Sukaina Jaffer - New Canadian Media
New Canadian Media
Saturday, 24 March 2018 16:20

Adapting to a New Country

by: Sukaina Jaffer in Brampton, ON

It is difficult to replicate how an immigrant feels when they arrive in the country of their adoption. Imagine wearing summer clothing all year long and then being plopped on to a snowbank the next second. How would you feel when everything from the aroma of your food and the sound of your prayers, to the clothing on your back to your very employment status is re-arranged? How do women cope when their language is a barrier?

Across Ontario, women are making adjustments to ensure they are in a position to succeed in a new land.

For Hedaya AlDaleel who immigrated from Singapore in April 2016, her family found the weather quite daunting. Wearing winter gear was not something they were familiar with coming from warmer climates. “Our first winter was tough, the kids loved the snow, but I dreaded walking or driving in it,” admits AlDaleel. 

In addition, upon arrival financial limitations also proved a challenge as they looked to adapt to their new lives. “The first few months are the hardest, with total uncertainty and no clear vision of the future, it was a very stressful period,” she says. “We were blessed that my husband found a job a few months after we arrived, but the idea of a career ‘downgrade’ will continue to be a struggle.” 

Initially, AlDaleel set out by renting a space within a Hair Salon & Spa so she could open her own massage practice. Using the Dorn-Method she treated patients with neck, shoulder and back pain. Although the approach is safe and pain-free, it is not covered by most insurance policies and is very uncommon in Canada. Thus, through various struggles, the business eventually closed within months.

“Having no network or connections, social circle or support group around me, made it hard to grow a customer base,” recalls AlDaleel. Unfazed, she enrolled in a Global Business course at the Newcomer’s Centre of Peel to familiarize herself with different strategies. 

The material helped her in “understanding the economy, taxation, resource management, marketing and business communication as well as networking.” Working with three advisors, she was able to go over content that was applicable to her interests. “[It] was a great learning experience [which] gave me the foundation to build on,” AlDaleel continues. 

Cultural Barriers

Discrimination has also been cited by some academics as a key cultural barrier for newcomers. Dr. Soma Chatterjee is an Assistant Professor of Social Work at York University, she explains, “The idea that mainstream Canadian ways are more progressive than [the] rest of the world's. Many immigrant women I know of are under pressure to 'measure up' to the dominant standards.”

She notes that newcomers may face discrimination when they are refused housing or asked offensive questions about the kind of food they cook when applying for rent. This type of experience may force new immigrants to change some of their most deeply held cultural values.

Furthermore, not all immigrants have an easy time adjusting, especially if language is a barrier. As was the case with Esraa Ali whose biggest challenge, upon arrival from Iraq, was learning English. An issue that is only magnified with statistics that show over 70 per cent of immigrants as having a mother tongue other than English or French.

While Ali has a Bachelor of Science in Biology back in Iraq, her current part-time jobs include working as a lunchroom monitor and supply teacher in a private school. She prefers the reduced hours so that she is able to spend more time with her kids. Joining the 32 per cent of middle-aged women that have made the same decision to care for their children.

Difficult Adjustments

Sadaf Hussain, a Pakistani native who immigrated to Toronto in August 2016 from Dubai found the adjustment particularly challenging. She came alone with her two children because her husband was still working in the Emirates. 

Hussain mentions that one of the greatest challenge she faced was leaving behind her loved ones. The busy bustle of life in Canada, lead to loneliness within the first few months. A feeling that only intensified in winters that offered shorter days and less to do outdoors.

She also grew frustrated with the constant searches for basic amenities, often travelling to multiple destinations before finding what she needed.

“We spent hours going through every single supermarket before we figured out where things were sold,” she explains. In addition, making it even harder, she would often evaluate the value of goods by converting local prices into the currency used in her native land.  

Even routine activities such as driving in the snow presented challenges, having never lived in a region with snow. 

She misses the stronger sense of community she found elsewhere. “I miss the sound of the call to prayers five times a day. I miss the way Ramadan (Islamic month of fasting) was so festive and how the entire United Emirates seemed to break their fast together (a cannon would sound).”

Slowly, she has learned to overcome her initial difficulties but continues to adjust as she spends more time in the country she now calls home. 

Sense of community

For many immigrants, retaining their sense of cultural identity is essential. 

Having lived in a number of countries, AlDaleel was prepared for the diversity that exists in Canada. She constantly educates her children about their cultural roots. “It’s important for our children to maintain their identity, as they learn to navigate their way into their new Canadian life,” she says.

Despite the adjustments they have been forced to make, both women are grateful for the opportunity they are now presented with.

Al Daleel goes on, “there’s so much room for personal growth and career change. I have learnt that in Canada, the job you do, doesn’t define who you are, or who you are striving to be. Unlike many other places around the world, you can dream big here...”


This piece is part of the "Ethnic Women as Active Participants in Ontario" series.

Published in Top Stories

by Sukaina Jaffer in Brampton, Ontario 

Despite an increase in outreach efforts, some members of Brampton’s ethnic media still feel disconnected from the City. 

“There is a broken link between the City of Brampton and ethnic media,” says Jagdish Grewal, the editor and publisher of the Canadian Punjabi Post, a daily newspaper that has been published in Brampton for the past 14 years.

This is despite a case study released late last year by Ryerson University’s April Lindgren titled “Municipal Communication Strategies and Ethnic Media: A Settlement Service in Disguise”, which suggests that the City of Brampton has made wide strides in reaching out to its ethnic communities.

Following a 2007 study that deemed the City of Brampton unresponsive to the needs of its immigrant community, Lindgren says the City expanded its ethnic media strategy to fund the translation of press releases, corporate communications materials, and pertinent advertising messages among other initiatives. To date, the City of Brampton’s website shows press releases translated from English into French, Portuguese, Punjabi and Urdu.   

But Grewal says that the press releases and service updates in Punjabi, which he receives from the City via e-mail, are not effective. 

“The translated news sent out is not helpful,” Grewal explains. “The City is spending a lot of money on translation, which is not worth it as I have to rewrite the releases. This does not make sense to me.” 

“Leaders of ethnic media outlets are educated enough to translate English press releases into their own language."

He adds: “Leaders of ethnic media outlets are educated enough to translate English press releases into their own language. My reporters are capable of writing news in English and Punjabi.” 

If he could publish the translated press release as is, he would use it, but he points out, “Translation does not work like that.” He has to rewrite many of the press releases from the City into suitable news content for his paper. 

A need for more authentic relationships 

Grewal also mentions that in previous years, city council and the mayor had closer relationships with ethnic media outlets and held personal meetings with them, but now he does not find them as media friendly. 

He recommends that the City build better relationships with ethnic media groups by keeping them updated on municipal issues through meetings and press conferences. This would lead to more coverage of city events, Grewal explains. 

"Punjabi-speaking people are more aware about policy changes in the city because of coverage by ethnic media outlets.”

“Our readers are interested and want to know what’s happening in the city. Punjabi-speaking people are more aware about policy changes in the city because of coverage by ethnic media outlets.” 

Rakesh Tiwari, editor of the Hindi Times newspaper, agrees with Grewal. 

“I do not see any difference made by the City of Brampton,” says Tiwari, who has been with the newspaper for the past 12 years“The local library and hospital approach me and send me messages in English,” he says, but adds that the City does not send him updates frequently. 

“They need to connect better with the ethnic media,” asserts Tiwari, who also runs Atna Radio, a show on 101.3FM where local, national and political topics are discussed in Hindi. 

He adds that if the City would keep in better touch with him, he could cover more city-related news and talk to the appropriate people. 

“There is no support from them,” he says. 

“In terms of bringing the community together, the City of Brampton has done a lot.”

Some positive change happening: residents 

While the ethnic media may not be benefiting from the City of Brampton’s efforts, area residents do see improvements being made to reach the ethnic community. 

Rabab Kassam, a pharmacist who has been living in Brampton for four years since migrating from Kenya to Canada, finds that the City’s money has been well spent on ethnic outreach. 

“In terms of bringing the community together, the City of Brampton has done a lot,” she says, “They are encouraging people from different cultures to adapt to a better life here.” 

She mentions that the library near her house offers English language classes for newcomers as well as computer classes in Punjabi since Brampton has a large population of Punjabis from India. 

She has also noticed information posted on bus stops and inside buses in different languages with messages related to housing. 

“[The City of Brampton] is making a good investment so elders can participate in society,” says Kassam. “It’s a different language for elders, so if they can learn computers in their language then at least they can learn how to do banking from their homes and not have to go out in the winter.” 

June Dickenson, manager of marketing and communications at the Brampton Public Library, says that her branch provides a lot of free multicultural services to the public. 

These include English conversation clubs, a Punjabi writers’ club and a Hindi writers’ guild. In addition, they also have computer classes for Punjabi, Hindi and Urdu speakers. Community members can register for these opportunities through the City of Brampton. 

“Our computer classes are extremely popular,” says Dickenson. “They fill up quickly. There is more demand than space.”

Editor's Note: Efforts were made to receive comment from the City of Brampton, but response was not provided by deadline.


Journalist Priya Ramanujam mentored the author of this article through New Canadian Media’s mentoring program.

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Arts & Culture
Thursday, 07 January 2016 07:42

How Tax Changes Affect Newcomers

by Sukaina Jaffer in Toronto

A tax cut introduced by the new federal government looks to strengthen the middle class, but some Canadian immigrants disagree about how it will help newcomers.  

The new change will provide about $3.4 billion in tax relief to nine million individuals, according to Stéphanie Rubec, a communications officer from the Department of Finance in Ottawa. 

Canadians earning between $45,282 and $90,563 will see taxes drop from 22 per cent to 20.5 per cent. 

Single individuals who benefit will see an average tax reduction of $330 every year. Couples that benefit will see an average tax reduction of $540 annually.

A mixed bag for newcomers

Rida Zeeshan and her husband, who works as a senior analyst at CIBC Mellon, emigrated from Pakistan six months ago. They see both advantages and disadvantages to the changes.

“The government here gives more benefits to people.”

“[It’s] a good move for middle-class families who are earning above $45,000; however, it won't help lower-class families because tax rates for [the] first taxable income threshold ($45,282 or below) haven't changed at all,” Zeeshan wrote in an email interview with New Canadian Media.

According to Canada Revenue Agency’s most recent tax-filing data and income statistics for the 2012 tax year, around 66 per cent of people had income below $45,000. This group would not benefit from the tax cut.

Although she says the benefits of living in Canada are much better compared to Pakistan, Zeehan says there is no clear information available specifically for new immigrants.

“There should be a website or printed brochures that describe benefits available to new immigrants.”

Zeeshan mentions that they do not utilize any government benefits. They took advantage of just one when her husband bought professional attire through an employment centre.

As for Basim Al-Ali, who relocated from Dubai to Canada in 2011, he says he feels the taxing system in the country is fair. “The government here gives more benefits to people.” Al-Ali mentions that in Dubai, non-nationals do not pay tax.

Syed Furqan Zaidi, an inventory controller in a manufacturing company, says that by paying his taxes regularly here, he is able to take advantage of the government’s benefits, such as the child tax benefit, GST/HST premium benefit, universal childcare benefit and the Trillium benefit. He moved from Pakistan to Canada three years ago.

Volunteer tax clinics, like the one at Northwood Neighborhood Services in Toronto, are available help people complete their tax forms.

The government also intends to introduce the Canada Child Benefit – a tax-free and more generous benefit to help families raise their kids.  

Faheem Mazher, a senior tax analyst with Deloitte LLP in Toronto, says that this benefit will help families for a longer time than the previous Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB).

In addition, the government plans to repeal income splitting for families with children. Zeeshan says this is “not a good move because this was the only tax relief available to lower-class families, which has now been relinquished.”

Tax benefits

For newcomers to Canada to be able to access benefits, income tax forms must be filed. Volunteer tax clinics, like the one at Northwood Neighborhood Services (NNS) in Toronto, are available to help people complete their tax forms.

“In a year we serve an average of 400 people whom we help to file income tax returns,” says Francois Yabit, executive director of NNS, a non-profit organization running for more than 10 years.  

This service is provided for low-income community members who qualify and assists a diverse clientele of Chinese, Spanish, South Asian and African newcomer Canadians.

The organization offers income tax clinics from March to April by appointment. However, during the year, they offer services to those who face problems such as forgetting to file their tax forms on time.

“If you do not file tax forms, then you cannot get benefits from the government,” says Yabit.

Some taxpayer benefits include the child tax benefit, GST/HST premium benefit, disability support, universal childcare benefit, medical credits, children’s fitness and art credits, tuition credits and the Trillium benefit.

While the new tax cut is set to benefit the middle-class population, it still may not help many immigrants who are struggling to make ends meet in low-income jobs.

But to ensure that one is eligible for such benefits, Mazher says newcomers need to be “transparent” and to “not cheat the system in any way, shape or form” because the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) can enforce heavy penalties.

In addition, Mazher points out, “Many newcomers don’t realize that they have to pay taxes on overseas income.” This may include property overseas or accounts, stocks, investments and bonds that are generating interest.

Tax-filing for newcomers 

Mazher advises newcomers to retain their receipts, transit passes and donation receipts and to file their taxes even if they have no income so they can get tax credits to carry over.

He also recommends people to retain their receipts for six years in case of an audit by the CRA.  

“It is essential that tax forms be filed by the end of April or one can accrue penalties and interest from the CRA,” states Mazher.

But while the new tax cut is set to benefit the middle-class population, it still may not help many immigrants who are struggling to make ends meet in low-income jobs.

Zeeshan has a couple of suggestions for ways the government could help those who may need a little more support.

“We think the government should also introduce a tax relief or discounted tax rates for new immigrants living in Canada for two years or less,” she says.  

“This will help them to decrease their expenses and to get settled here quickly.” 


Journalist Samantha Lui mentored the writer of this article, through the New Canadian Media mentorship program.

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Economy
Thursday, 17 December 2015 10:19

Peel Region Releases Sex-Ed Guide for Parents

by Sukaina Jaffer in Toronto

Unlike those in the Toronto and York districts, the Peel District School Board’s (PDSB) schools have taken a proactive approach in creating a 14-page sex-education guide for parents in the Peel region based on the controversially revised health curriculum issued by the Ministry of Education.

The guide provides information about the sexual-development topics introduced this year by the Ministry of Education. The PDSB translated the guide into 11 different languages and sent it home to all parents in November.

“The new curriculum has caused lots of questions and concerns about what was going to be taught, and there was a lot of misinformation circulating in the community,” says Ryan Reyes, communications officer at PDSB, who was the lead on creating this guide.

“This will help dispel misinformation and allow parents to play an active role in their child’s education.”

He says he gathered content for the guide by working in consultation with different departments and taking feedback from community members.

The guide was translated into multiple languages in order to meet the needs of diverse populations in the Peel district, and has received endorsements from several of these diverse groups.

“The Peel District School Board’s parent guide to the revised health and physical education curriculum provides parents with a clear understanding of what their children will learn in each grade,” writes Eileen de Villa, medical officer of health at the Region of Peel. “This will help dispel misinformation and allow parents to play an active role in their child’s education.”

Balancing today’s realities with cultural values

Zaynab Zaidi received the guide from her four children’s public schools in Mississauga.

“I’m not a naive parent,” she says. “I understand why the curriculum is changing, because knowledge is power.”

“Teaching a child the proper names of their body parts is a way to protect them from sexual predators so a child is less vulnerable,” she adds. “I don’t have a problem with my kids learning about anatomy, physiology and human reproduction in an age-appropriate manner.”

However, she says she is concerned about the curriculum because it treats relationships between boys and girls as normal.

"We can reinforce our values without demonizing other people.”

“Since this type of socializing is not in line with our values, we prefer to cover the material at home in the context of our values,” she says.

She adds that in Islam, there is a certain code of conduct for “appropriate social interaction between boys and girls.” The Zaidis are opting to pull their daughter, who is in grade seven, out during these lessons.

“We'll cover what material we think is appropriate at this point within the framework of the Islamic value system and the Islamic guidelines for interacting with the opposite gender,” she says.

Zaidi concurs that not participating at all is not possible because her daughter will be exposed to the issues by her classmates.

“We cannot ignore this and have to be involved parents, but the information has to be handled in the framework of our value system. We can reinforce our values without demonizing other people.”

Arun Anandarajah, president of the Senior Tamils Society of Peel, echoes Zaidi’s sentiments.

“Immigrants are coming into a new environment here, and kids here are more exposed than in other immigrant societies,” he says. “It was taboo to discuss sexual matters in the old environment, but in the new environment we live in, it has to be addressed.”

He says he believes that the provincial government has not made the changes blindly. “They have looked at it before introducing it and the impact it will have,” he says.

More resources are available

Not all school boards have taken the step in creating such a guide.

“The TDSB has not created resources like those in Peel,” says Ryan Bird, communications officer at the Toronto District School Board (TDSB). “We have been encouraging parents to look at the Ministry of Education resources, which are available online and through schools. We also encourage parents to speak with their school principals for more information.”

Christina Choo-Hum, York Region District School Board (YRDSB) communications manager, also notes that they have sufficient material on their website from the ministry in multiple languages, and some simple guides for parents in different languages.

Although the human development and sexual-health component of the curriculum will be taught in all public schools in the spring of 2016, Reyes says, “Any parent can make a choice to apply for religious accommodation to pull out their child from class,” as parents will get notice two weeks before lessons are taught.

Sometimes kids may feel more comfortable speaking with their teachers than parents.

However, there is no exclusion granted when inclusion and different kinds of family systems are taught. Inclusion is taught throughout the year in all forms of the curriculum.

Communication with children difficult but necessary

Indira Sayanam (name changed for privacy), whose two daughters attend a public school in Richmond Hill, says she likes the new curriculum.

“It’s really hard for parents to explain these matters to their kids,” she says.

Sayanam’s daughters are in grades eight and five. She says she is concerned that her older daughter must be informed of all these issues before going to high school.

However, she says, she finds it challenging to speak to her because her daughter avoids the conversations, as she feels uncomfortable hearing about it from her mother.

“It’s necessary children are educated,” says Sameena Bhimani, a Grade 5 school teacher in the YRDSB. “In grade five, students are beginning to go through puberty and very early in the year are asking questions and talking amongst their peers.”

Bhimani says that parents need a push to discuss these matters, although she acknowledges that sometimes kids may feel more comfortable speaking with their teachers than parents.

According to Bhimani, there is not very much difference between the old and new curriculum.

She advises parents to discuss their values with their kids in order to open up the lines of communication.

“Many parents want to shelter their kids, but don’t realize kids are already discussing with their peers,” she says. “Unfortunately, children today are maturing faster.” 

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Education
Sunday, 15 November 2015 20:22

Saving With RESPs Not Un-Islamic

by Sukaina Jaffer in Toronto

Hussin Masaud, originally from Iraq, has resided in Canada for over 26 years. A father of three, he attests to having Registered Education Savings Plans (RESPs) for all of his kids, who are 14, 11 and nine. 

“It is important to have funds for their future education,” says Masaud, a supervisor for a clothing company. 

For many new immigrants, moving to Canada comes with the hope of starting a new life filled with dreams of a better future for their children. 

One of the ways parents can save for their child’s post-secondary education is by opening up an RESP, which is an education savings account that is registered with the government of Canada.

Financial institutions (banks or credit unions), certified financial planners and group plan dealers all offer RESP options to their clients.

Masaud opened accounts for his kids with Knowledge First Financial (KFF) after a friend of his told him about the organization.

According to Masaud, it was relatively easy for him to open the accounts as a KFF representative came to his home and explained the whole process to him, which enabled him to proceed forward.

Difficulties of saving

Not all parents are able to maintain an RESP for their children, however. 

Haadi Al-Jawaad (whose name has been changed for privacy reasons) moved from Iraq to Canada in 1991 and worked in the construction business for a long time before retiring. 

In 1992, he opened up RESPs for his five children with the Royal Bank of Canada and used to make monthly contributions. Unfortunately, after two years he had to close the accounts. 

“I regret it, but the circumstances didn’t allow me to continue,” he explains in an e-mail to New Canadian Media. “I needed the money for my business. However, I wish I had [strove] to keep the accounts even if I made small contributions.” 

Al-Jawaad adds that an RESP is crucial as, “It gives importance to the children’s education and makes them strive towards their education. It’s also a saving account so money is being saved for the benefit of the family as a whole.” 

“I regret it, but the circumstances didn’t allow me to continue."

His five children grew up and all of them had to take yearly Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) loans in order to pay for their education. 

Two of his sons ended up going to college, two daughters attended university and one son did one year of university before taking private courses. Al-Jawaad’s children all had to find part-time jobs in order to pay for their loans as well as cover their own personal expenses. 

Many families like Al-Jawaad’s may miss out on opportunities like the RESP due to financial struggles when trying to fulfill family expenses of food, shelter and clothing. 

For low-income families, however, it’s possible to get up to $2,000 via the Canada Learning Bond for a child’s education just by opening an RESP — before even contributing any money toward it. 

Misunderstandings of RESPs and Islam

There is often a lack of information or misinformation that prevents people from investing in RESPs. 

Professor Imam Syed B. Soharwardy is president of the Calgary-based Islamic Supreme Council of Canada, which has chapters across Canada and caters to over 10,000 members ranging from South Asian, Arab and African heritage.

Soharwardy mentions that many imams – religious leaders of mosques – are misinformed about RESPs and need to be educated about them. 

He mentions that many Muslims think RESPs are prohibited because of “Riba,” an Islamic term for interest charged on loans, which is not permissible in Islam. 

He says that the RESP is in fact “Halal” — meaning legal — and people should take part in them. 

“It is our right to receive benefits provided by the Canadian government as we are also paying taxes in this country,” he states. 

He adds, “We should take part in [RESPs], but we must know how to invest in them.” 

He says that the RESP is in fact “Halal.”

Atta Hussain, a trustee of Al-Hussain Foundation in Markham, Ont., which serves thousands of people from the Middle Eastern community in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), as well as the India-Pakistan region, mentions that his centre does not promote RESPs only due to a lack of staff and resources. He hopes in the future to be able to spread awareness of RESPs amongst his congregation.

According to Soharwardy, RESPs must be chosen carefully when coupled with other investments in order to ensure the decision is in line with Islam. For example, a person should choose an RESP with mutual funds, but not one with Guaranteed Investment Certificates (GICs) because these deal with interest, which is not permissible in Islam.

With more understanding of people’s religious and cultural make ups, it would be possible for even more people to take advantage of RESPs for their children including those from the Arab Canadian community. 

Anver Jaffer, a sales representative with Canadian Scholarship Trust Plan (CST) Consultants (a non-profit foundation) for over 18 years, emphasizes the importance of this.

“It is never too early to start saving for a child’s future as post-secondary education will help children to succeed.”


 Journalist Priya Ramanujam mentored the writer of this article, through the New Canadian Media mentorship program.

This is the fourth in a five-part education series (click for part onepart two and part three) on New Canadian Media looking at the experiences of different families with saving for education in Canada. November is Financial Literacy month across Canada and November 15 - 21 is Education Savings Week.  

Visit SmartSAVER.org to learn more about Registered Education Savings Plans (RESP) and to start an RESP with your choice of six major banks and credit unions. RESP information is available in 16 languages. Apply online between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31, 2015 and you will automatically be entered to win one of nine $1,000 weekly prizes! Learn more here 

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Education

by Sukaina Jaffer in Toronto

With schools back in full swing this week, many parents are breathing a sigh of relief as their children head back to learning. However, for new immigrants to Canada, adjusting to a new education system can bring about a myriad of unique challenges and worries.

For Zohra Mawji, a homemaker who emigrated from Mozambique about two years ago, this is the first year she is sending her two daughters – ages seven and 11 – to public school versus a private Islamic one.

“[Alisha and Nidah were] a little nervous about going to a new school,” explains Mawji, “but on the whole they were looking forward to it as they love Canada.”

Adapting to Canadian education

Mawji has mixed feelings about the new school. On one hand, she praises the principal and teachers at the Richmond Hill school as being very helpful, and states “the exposure will be good for my daughters as it is not good to live in a bubble.”

On the other, Mawji is concerned about Ontario’s new sex-ed curriculum and that her kids will be exposed to particular subject matter too soon.

“Don’t put things into their mind that they don’t need to know,” she says. “Parents know when their kids need to know these things.”

Mawji is considering pulling her younger daughter out of the Grade 2 classes during these particular lessons.

“The only thing we considered was to protect our kid from the negativities of ‘English’ culture.”

She is not alone in her concerns.

Asgar Daya, who moved his family from France to Canada a year ago, says he would pull his seven-year-old daughter Misbah Fatema out of public school and send her to private Islamic school if it was financially feasible.

“[I am] highly concerned and worried about the impact on my daughter,” he explains, of the sex-ed curriculum.

The decision to switch from public school to faith-based school is one that Brampton resident Zaffar Bhayani and his wife also made.

Bhayani left Pakistan two years ago with his wife and son due to sectarian and religious violence. When his four-year-old son started public school here, he says the family did not face any difficulties and the teachers were very helpful.  

“The only thing we considered was to protect our kid from the negativities of ‘English’ culture,” he says. 

He recalls that his son would question his mother about why she covered herself with the veil while other children’s mothers who came to school did not and would be dressed in shorts.

To preserve the values of their Islamic faith, the Bhayanis decided to enroll their son in an Islamic school when he turned five years old.

English as a second language

Another main concern many newcomer parents have for their children heading back to school has to do with language.

While Daya’s daughter attends a French school and has been able to fit in well as French is her first language, he still worries that she is not fluent in English and, as such, is not able to converse well in it. His wife also only speaks basic English, while being fluent in French.

Bhayani, who speaks fluent English, says sometimes there is another issue. He finds that having a foreign accent is a big challenge and a lot of time and practice is needed to adopt a Canadian accent.

Fortunately several school boards have different programs in place to help students improve language skills and feel more comfortable in their new setting.

For instance, the York Region School Board offers LINC – Language Instruction For Newcomers to Canada programs and the Peel District School Board has set up a Welcome Centre for newcomer students and families.

The Canadian government also provides assistance through various services, one of which is the Welcome Centre Immigrant Services, which offers English language classes for newcomers as well as a host of different services.

“Get your kids involved in extracurricular activities so they can gain their language skills faster through interaction with other kids.”

Mary Fowley (who asked her name be changed for privacy) has been a public school teacher for over 20 years and teaches English as a Second Language (ESL). She says that when it comes to students new to Canada, “the younger kids aged four to seven years (old) are able to learn English faster and it is less of a challenge for them to fit in with their peers.”

According to Fowley, older children nine to 12 years old face more difficulty learning English and forming friendships because of cultural barriers. 

Sameena Bhimani, an elementary teacher with the York Region District School Board, says she partners up newcomer kids in her class with a buddy who helps them to get acquainted with things like class routines and where to go for recess.

From an academic perspective, Bhimani works one-on-one with newcomer kids and teaches them different concepts related to the subject at hand.

Bhimani advises new immigrant parents to, “Get your kids involved in extracurricular activities so they can gain their language skills faster through interaction with other kids.” 

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Education

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The honest truth is there is still reluctance around immigration policy... When we want to talk about immigration and we say we want to bring more immigrants in because it's good for the economy, we still get pushback.

-- Canada's economic development minister Navdeep Bains at a Public Policy Forum economic summit

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