Isolated, Deceived and Blamed: Toronto’s Immigrants

By:Jennifer Ouch, Emma van Wijngaarden, Lisa Im, Katie Koob, Carson DeRuiter, Charvine Mercado, Yar Matin, Mykhaylo Kosykh, & Katie MacPherson

According to Statistics Canada, the country welcomed over 300,000 immigrants in 2016. Over the course of many months, we have been working with immigrant populations within some of Toronto’s most ethnically diverse neighbourhoods.

Whether it be at a Community Centre, a nursing home, or a school, it is clear that one of Toronto’s greatest strengths is its multiculturalism and ethnic diversity. Despite this strength, our interactions with immigrant people have opened our eyes to the challenges of moving to a new country.

Numerous immigrants reported that moving to Canada is an extremely isolating and confusing experience. Take a moment and ask yourself; What is your quality of life when you can’t speak English and don’t know where to get food or health care? A Torontonian shared “I felt “so alone and I got lost a lot. It was hard to find friends because I couldn’t speak English and there was so much stigma about my situation”.

Immigrant families and children also reported a disconnect between accessing government resources or lack thereof. One community member said “I know there are resources out there. I just have no idea where to find them and I have a hard time reading the forms because English isn’t my first language”.

Finding employment is another barrier that immigrants face when moving to Canada. A long-term care resident disclosed that the Canadian Embassy told her she could find work in Canada, but when she arrived, her credentials were not validated; “I felt misguided and deceived. I thought I could find a job but instead had to go back to school.”

Culture shock and adjusting to Canadian climate is another common struggle for immigrants in Toronto; “It’s a challenge coming to a new country looking for a better life when the culture and weather is so different from what you’ve always been used to” said a community member.

Immigration is crucial to Canada’s economy, helping support the sustainability of this great nation. However, it is evident to us that immigrants face a multitude of struggles when moving to Canada but no one takes the time to listen to their stories or lend a helping hand. The negative attitudes of the greater population towards immigrant people needs to stop. This involves the general public debunking false cultural perceptions and not tolerating degrading comments directed towards immigrants.

Immigrants are experiencing unfair stigmatization, victim blaming for their hardships, and everyday stereotyping. We are advocating for social reform to correct these misconceptions and the preservation of dignity for the immigrant population. Services need to be changed and policies reformed. Canada as a whole needs to embrace immigrants, seek to understand their lived experiences, and provide the necessary supports they need. Please spread #StopTheBlame to raise awareness.

Immigrants seeking further assistance can access: http://www.costi.org/index.php

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