Adopt-A-School: Helping refugee children overcome the traumas of their past

By Gerry Bellett, Vancouver Sun | “We’ve all been broken before, but we heal. We do have the darkness still, but we have to learn to live without the darkness.” — a handwritten sign pinned to the wall in Guildford Park Secondary. For many refugee students attending Surrey schools, their bodies may be safely in a classroom, but their minds are still inhabiting the dangerous places they fled. Surrey likely has the largest population of refugee families of any city in B.C., and the number of refugee children exhibiting signs of trauma led the school district to establish its Expressive Arts program — designed to heal mental anguish — in 13 schools. A total of 120 refugee children from kindergarten to Grade 12 are presently enrolled in these programs and The Vancouver Sun’s Adopt-A-School campaign is being asked for $6,000 to pay for two of them. “Expressive Arts is for refugee students to work through the emotional turmoil they have experienced. It’s designed to make them more emotionally settled so when they go back to class their minds are ready for learning,” said Surrey school district official Andrea Henriquez. Most of the children are from Syria, Iraq, Somalia or the Congo, and given what has gone on in those countries some have been exposed to horrors. The Expressive Arts program at Guildford Park is in a tiny anteroom on the second floor, its walls covered in paintings or messages of hope such as the one above. Samantha Svensk runs the program here. “Trauma can manifest in many ways. Some children are hyperactive and not able to focus in class,...

Is it OK to ask, ‘Where are you from?’

Douglas Todd, Vancouver Sun | A seemingly innocuous question has become contentious. “Where are you from?” has turned into a multicultural minefield. What some used to consider a basic curiosity has become politicized. Activists and a number of scholars have added “Where are you from?” to the list of phrases they judge as “micro-aggressions,” which they define as inadvertent slights that can do lasting psychological damage. Asking someone about their place of origin seems to be especially loaded in Metro Vancouver and Toronto, where a minority of the population is white and almost half is born in another country. Given such cosmopolitan contexts, one would think asking “Where are you from?” could be a helpful way to get to know a fellow human being. But things are not that straightforward. I recently conducted informal surveys of friends, family and colleagues and found roughly half, regardless of ethnicity or migration history, are OK with the question. Another half are wary of it. One white person suggested that inquiring about origins “others” someone. However, one woman, a recent immigrant, cheerfully said she quickly tells people where she’s from, so people can get to know her. Another said she used to like it when people asked why she had a red dot in the middle of her forehead, but these days most North Americans pretend they don’t notice. “Where are you from?” is even the focus of a viral YouTube video, in which a stereotypically buffoonish white male actor asks variations of the question of an Asian-American women, who explodes with sarcasm. The “educational” video has been watched by 9.2 million people....

SkyTrain attack on Muslim teen inspires fear, anger and forgiveness

By Randy Shore, Vancouver Sun | Hate attacks like the incident earlier this week sow fear in the community, especially when the victim is young and female, local Muslim leaders say. “It’s such a terrible disappointing thing to happen and terrifying for the young woman who was accosted,” said Haroon Khan, trustee at Al Jamia Masjid Mosque in Vancouver. “Women outwardly show their faith and modesty with the hijab and this guy became unhinged and assaulted her. It’s an assault on all people.” Eighteen-year-old Noor Fadel was riding the Canada Line SkyTrain wearing a hijab Monday when a man accosted her, screaming insults and threats to kill “all Muslims.” When he tried to grab her head, fellow passenger Jake Taylor intervened. The suspect, Peirre Belzan, 46, is charged with threatening to cause death or bodily harm and assault. Transit police are also recommending he be charged with sexual assault. While he has no criminal record, Belzan is known to police and apparently homeless. “Incidents like this are upsetting and it makes you feel real anger,” Khan said. There was also disappointment in the Muslim community that only one passenger stood up for Fadel. “I hope most of us learn from this incident that keeping silent is as good as helping the attacker,” said Ajaz Ahmed, city manager for the National Zakat Foundation Canada. “This gives courage to cowards like (the man) who attack people they think are weaker than them.” Fadel has since allowed her fear to turn to gratitude, that someone was brave enough to stand up for her. Overtones of racism and Islamophobia in the public arena...

How to prove you’re in a common-law relationship for immigration applications

By Canadian Immigrant Magazine | Most Canadian citizens and permanent residents who fall in love with and get married to a non-Canadian understand that they can sponsor their spouses to immigrate to Canada, and will often do so shortly after they get married. Many Canadians also understand that they don’t have to be technically married; they can sponsor common-law partners to immigrate to Canada, too. However, many do not fully understand the definition of a common-law partner for Canadian immigration purposes (as opposed to family law and tax purposes) or understand the documentation requirements. So many people apply for sponsorship later than they could have. What is a common-law partnership? Canadian immigration law defines a common-law partner as being a person who is cohabiting with a person in a conjugal relationship, for a period of at least one year. So, in order to sponsor a common-law partner to immigrate to Canada, you must demonstrate that you have cohabited for one year and that you are in a conjugal relationship. Cohabitation must be continuous Cohabitation means that you are living together, and to qualify under Canadian immigration law, the cohabitation must be continuous for one year. It cannot be intermittent, adding up to one year. Of course, it is permissible for you to temporarily leave the home for work or business travel, family obligations and so on, from time to time. But there is no fixed rule on how short such trips must be. So you must make a judgment call on how long one of you can be away, so as not to jeopardize meeting the 12-month cohabitation rule....

Four in 10 Metro Vancouver workers are immigrants, census finds

By Douglas Todd, Vancouver Sun | Immigrants make up a growing percentage of Metro Vancouver’s workforce, but their participation rates sharply vary by ethnic background. Immigrants account for 43 per cent of all workers in Metro Vancouver, with 586,000 in the labour force, one of the highest proportions in the world, according to new census figures. One of the few major global cities with a stronger percentage of immigrants in the labour force is Greater Toronto, where half of all workers are immigrants. However, the census figures released Wednesday shows the participation rate of immigrants in the workforce differs widely by ethnicity. Filipino, White and Latin American recent immigrants are the most likely to participate in the labour force. These three groups also had the highest rates of employment in Metro Vancouver. Arab, West Asian (mostly Iranian) and Chinese recent immigrants were the least likely to try to enter the workforce in both Canada and Vancouver. Among the largest group of recent immigrants to Metro Vancouver, ethnic Chinese, only 47 per cent of the 35,000 adults who arrived in Metro Vancouver between 2011 and 2016 told census takers that they were available for work. That compares to 80 per cent of recent Filipino immigrants who were available for work, 82 per cent of White immigrants and 71 per cent of recent South Asian arrivals. The low rate of ethnic Chinese participation in Metro Vancouver’s workforce dovetails with other demographic analyses that indicate the city is increasingly becoming home to wealthy trans-national Chinese immigrants, many of whom choose not to work even while they’re able to afford condos and houses....

The 10 most common occupations in Canada last year, according to 2016 census

By Vancouver Sun | The top 10 occupations in Canada last year for men and women, according to the 2016 census: WOMEN 1. Retail salespersons 2. Registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses 3. Cashiers 4. Elementary school and kindergarten teachers 5. Administrative assistants 6. Food counter attendants, kitchen helpers and related support occupations 7. Administrative officers 8. Nurse aides, orderlies and patient service associates 9. General office support workers 10. Early childhood educators and assistants MEN 1. Transport truck drivers 2. Retail salespersons 3. Retail and wholesale trade managers 4. Janitors, caretakers and building superintendents 5. Construction trades helpers and labourers 6. Automotive service technicians, truck and bus mechanics and mechanical repairers 7. Material handlers 8. Carpenters 9. Food counter attendants, kitchen helpers and related support occupations 10. Cooks Read...