This place is becoming too Immigranty! | Social Commentary

| April 19, 2017 | 21 Comments

“They were not him, he was not them, yet they were all the same”

I was waiting for the elevator along with another tenant in my apartment building in downtown Calgary. I commenced a courtesy chit-chat with this tenant. At one instance, I asked him how he liked living here (I meant in Calgary as most people who live here are not from this City) and his answer was so unexpected. He said he wasn’t too excited living in our building as it had (in his own words) just become too immigranty.

The usage of the word Immigrant as an adjective was new to me. Upon inquiring further, the person indicated that when he had moved in to the building it had a relatively good mix of demographics (presumably meaning more Canadian born residents) but now it had become full of immigrants (the new Canadians).

It was spring of 2011. Calgary was slowly recovering from the energy bust of 2009. Indeed I had noticed that over the previous 4 months, there had  been a sudden influx of new residents, most appearing to be new Canadians. What he stated was a fact.

Now hold a breath! Would it surprise you to learn that this neighbor of mine is a relatively recent immigrant to Canada himself (and a person of visible minority)?

So now you must be confused. Why would a person of visible minority AND a new Canadian be so upset with the fact that the building he resides in has an influx of others like him – The Immigrants?

I was intrigued by his statement. Since our elevator arrived and we had to depart on separate floors our conversation ended there. But I made it a point to catch up with him a few days later. At a point during our second chat I brought up the elevator conversation from earlier, and told him I was curious to know why he felt (and what he meant) by the place becoming “too immigranty”. This is what he had to say.

[Heirarchy of Immigrants]

A common misconception by most Canadians is that all immigrants (regardless of country of origin, religious background, ethnicity) face a common set of experiences (opportunities and challenges) as a group. There-in lies the basis of misunderstanding of the immigrant phenomenon by most Canadian born residents.

[He explains further]

The immigrant set can be generalized in to two distinct groups. Lets call one group CONGREGATES and the other DISSIPATES.

The Congregates, upon arrival to a new country/city/environment, tend to be drawn to those most similar to them. This behavior can be oft-times mistaken as cliquish or xenophobic to an outsider of that Congregrate group. In reality, it is simply a matter of simple economics and practicality. Language barriers of the new environment tend to foster immediate group cohesiveness among the Congregrates (who presumably share their native language). The group bonding overcomes all individual deficiencies and works as a shield against external bias and prejudices that a congregate member is more likely to face as an individual. Everyone looks out for the other within this group. As a result, there is not much incentive to move beyond or outside of the group, even for employment reasons. Over time, the group bonding becomes more rigid thus making it ever more impractical (or harder) to move outside of the group.

Dissipates on the other hand tend to be sole survivors. They either don’t wish to belong to any identifiable group out of their own volition (for personal, social, religious, political reasons) or because their particular identifiable group is so small or dispersed that group bonding is impractical. As solitary survivors, these individuals tend to immerse faster and harder in to the mainstream culture. They adapt and rewire their behavior to learn, integrate and exude attitudes and the lingo of the people of “visible majority”. However, the acceptance by the junta is not always reciprocal. The Dissipate is after all and outsider attempting to enter the circle of trust. Thus Dissipates traverse a path of the nomad – belonging neither here nor there – but moving on nevertheless and never looking back.

[Realization]

He was a Dissipate. The “immigranty” folks in the building as referred by him were the Congregates. Get this! He was from the same visible minority group as them. Yet they were not him and he was not them but they were all the same!

[Why he cares]

Well from social, economic and political viewpoints it matters a lot. Canada is a young nation of relatively small population that is evolving through its generous immigration policy. While the case for diversity and talent and population growth for sustainability of this nation is commonly touted in the media, there is another aspect that is often overlooked.

It is the aspect of maintaining the Canadian Identity. What that identity is always evolving; just ask any Canadian on the street and you will get a different response each time. Yet not everything can be clearly defined by words. There is a non-verbal understanding of what it means to be Canadian. It is something you feel inside about yourself, about others around you, about the world. There is an established identity that has passed down from generations. It is based on political freedoms and social ideology. The onus is on the newcomers to grasp some understanding of this identity. Consider the simple case of heritage buildings in a City. Do you tear it down to build way for modern structures? OR do you preserve the shell and renovate the interior with contemporary finishing?

It is true that Canada does have varying regional identities of some sort. One can broadly identify the English Canadian identity, the francophone identity, the Native Indian identity and so forth. But the immigrant identity is much more diverse and for most part is in direct contact with the so called English Canadian identity.

[He asks the question]

What happens if the Congregates persistent on indefinitely? Will it lead to social ostracisation reminiscent of the Paris riots etched in our memories from not too long ago?

The Province of Quebec has been contemplating this very same question as they felt their Quebecois Francophone identity was dissipating. It appeared to them that it was no longer just enough that newcomers in the Province had to learn to speak French . Immigrants had to also exude a strong desire for adopting the Francophone culture.

How can our nation’s immigration policy be altered to accommodate this attitude (viz. less congregation, more dissipation in to mainstream society)?

[He anwers]

First, while all existing criteria for selection and acceptance of applications to enter this country permanently are valid, there must also be an element of being able to judge how likely the person is going to immerse and adapt to the Canadian identity. This can be easily resolved through the various foreign offices that serve as first point of contact with the potential newcomer. The officers of the consulate are trained to understand the local culture well. They are best placed to make an informed non-biased judgement on how likely a particular applicant will become a Congregate or Dissipate in Canada.

Second, policies need to go beyond job-training workshops and ESL classes. Classes must stress the importance of establishing Canadian values that must be respected by everyone just as a Canadian would be expected to respect the culture and traditions of a foreign country.

[Talks about social policy]

An interesting phenomenon that can be readily observed by anyone is that in large urban centers that are generally multicultural and diverse, the congregate phenomenon tends to happen more than in small urban locales where the dissipates tend to proliferate better. A reason behind this can be attributed to availability syndrome. More congregate members available more easier to form insular groups. So if social policy allows incentives to locate to small urban centers, then it is likely to see positive net benefits to both the new settler as well as to the local community.

Movements away from the core lead to seismic shifts. To maintain stability it behooves all people in the nation to continue to define and preserve its core identity and share these common values while also respecting individual traditions and cultures. The expectation is that the newcomers leave behind some of their “excess baggage” at their departing airport and try on some “new clothes” upon arrival in Canada!

This is the first of a two-part series on Canadian Immigration commentary from the perspective the immigrants themselves and not by any think tank or policy maker.

Thank you  for taking time to read this post. Blogging is a labor of love. Reader donations in the form of comments or sharing on other social media channels below are much appreciated.

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Category: Cultural Musings, Social Commentary

About the Author ()

Larkycanuck is the pseudonym for the spirited, spontaneous and zestful Canadian. The Blog is focused on showcasing budget adventure travels for working families. Larkycanuck has traveled to over 15 countries, 38 cities in 10 years. He has never quit a job to do this. He travels with his wife and on some trips with the house rabbit (Pepper).

Comments (21)

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  1. careerbabs says:

    Reblogged this on careerbabs and commented:
    Larky Canuck;s new blog “This place is too immigranty” is one I highly recommend. We are all immigrants to Canada and all share in the immigrant story through our families as they emigrated from other countries. As the blog suggests, it is not just enough to come to a country, you have to open yourself up to it and value the experience of being in this case, a Canadian citizen. Creating divisions by criticizing others or being too wed to the past is not the route to go

  2. Nick Noorani says:

    Good article! Many immigrant groups have a tendency of creating mini groups and those groups practice a clear superiority based on education, social, financial and even geographic reasons. These hierarchies are usually prevalent in their home countries and are carried on in Canada!

    • larkycanuck says:

      Yes, I read your piece on this aspect. It is so true and more prevalent in large urban centers like Toronto and Montreal. Interestingly, I found this less prevalent in small urban centres.

  3. Thanks for posting. A great piece and a worthy read. Many good perspectives are provided. The reference to ‘visible minorities’ is most interesting to me. I’m not sure that term really applies so much any more, or if it does it does not mean what it used to mean. Recently filling out some forms, I was intrigued by the questions about whether or not I was a visible minority. As a white Caucasian male > increasingly I feel that I am more so a visible minority than those that this is meant to apply to. I do not intend this in any negative way > it just is an observation and comment. While it certainly matters where I make such an assessment, but the so called visible minority seems mostly outdated to me.

  4. Chuck Barton says:

    It’s seems to me you are endorsing the ‘melting pot’ attitude/policy of the U.S. It is my understanding that Canadians new and old wish to follow a ‘multi cultural’ model of citizenship.

    • larkycanuck says:

      Hi Chuck
      oh no I am not endorsing anything. I do recognize that Canadian integration is different from the US melting pot concept, myself having experienced integration on both sides of the border. All I am doing is explaining a phenomenon that most Canadians do not get to understand about new Canadians ie. not all new immigrants face same integration issues. And keeping distinct social values is uniquely Canadian and in our best interest, but it can possibly have harmful effects if taken too far (i.e. silo effect).
      I really appreciate your input on this.
      Cheers

      • Chuck Barton says:

        I have remarked how Canada, the land, and environment, has reshaped many a new Canadian. From the color of their skin, to the cloths they wear and the food they eat, to their attitude towards others and nature . Many people have a poor idea of what wilderness, and winter are like, and they are a big factor in what makes us Canadians.

    • Hiram says:

      Greetings to all you guys in Calgary from Houston, Texas. I read with interest your article and was wondering what was meant by the “US melting pot” remark. How is that different from “Canadian integration?”

      You’d might be very surprised to find that as a native-born Texan (2nd generation) AND a member of a “visible minority” (grandparents originally from Mexico), I was in 100% agreement with your remarks. I’ve always thought that unless a country has some sort of process to teach new immigrants its history, values, ideals, etc, then the new immigrants aren’t really fully integrated into the country — they just happen to be living there.

      Here in Texas, you see a lot of new immigrants from Mexico (like my grandfather). They form their own groups and the current policy of “political correctness” essentially prevents any real integration since there’s no incentive to do so or penalty if they don’t. So are these people true Americans? Yes, they might have the proper citizenship papers. They might have a passport and the right to all the benefits of a natural born citizen. But are they really an American of Mexican decent or are they a Mexican that just happens to live in America?

      It should be obvious that i’m a “dissipate.” I grew up in the 50’s before the age of political correctness and cultural diversity. English was my first language and I speak broken Spanish with an accent, not the other way around. Most of my childhood friends were W.A.S.P.’s (white, Anglo-Saxon Protestants). Most importantly, the values I learned growing up from my Scout Masters and religious leaders were true-blue American ones (George Washington, baseball, apple pie, etc, etc).

      Here’s the true test — when the Viet-Nam war was in full swing and it came my time to graduate High School, heck yes I enlisted. It was my duty. It was MY country. How many new immigrants would heed THAT call? I still firmly believe that unless you’re willing to actually fight for your country, you’re not really a true citizen (OK, maybe I’m too much of a cowboy ).

      However, I agree with larkycanuck that “The onus is on the newcomers to grasp some understanding of this (country’s) identity.” But how does a newcomer do that if there’s no set process in place? Also keep in mind that any such process is most likely to be decried as racist and/or discriminatory in today’s political climate.

      I agree that cultural diversity is a strength if, and ONLY if, everyone is “pulling in the same direction” (ie: have the same values). Only that makes a strong Canada (or any other country). Otherwise, that same diversity steadily pulls you further and further apart.

      America stopped being a “melting pot” years ago. Now we have a multitude of cultural groups — each one with their own political lobby — all trying to gain more and more social benefits at the expense of the group as a whole. Who wins in that situation?

      You see this happening all over the world. Even the French see their unique culture being diluted.

      I look forward to your next article.

      Hiram

      • larkycanuck says:

        Great insight and commentary, Hiram. Thanks for taking time for writing this. I see this means a lot to you. To answer your question about American “melting pot”, there is a general perception of people who have lived in American and then lived in Canada (or vice versa) is that in America, a newcomer is expected to show deference to the incumbent culture (the American culture) more so than anywhere else in order to ‘fit in’. In Canada, one can keep a distinct identity (remnants of Trudeau’s multiculturalism policy) without being bothered to have to fit in. As you indicate, this latter approach is now happening in USA. While self-identity is core tenet of democracy, in its extreme form, it can lead to silos and divergent interest that may work against the best intentions of a nation as a whole.

      • Chuck Barton says:

        United ‘States’ of America. A land of religious, cultural, and social (no king etc.) freedom. I am not trying to take a side here but only bring up points of discussion.

        New citizens must be law abiding, that goes without saying. But does Johny Appleseed (my hero) have to be their hero?

        I joined the Canadian forces during the Vietnam war, for the ‘adventure’. Does that make me a lesser citizen than my mates (in your eye’s)? I trained them well, as they became Captains and Majors, a General, and a deputy Commissioner (the second highest RCMP rank in Canada) and I, became a gardener.

        The french have a saying ‘viva la differance’ .

        I fully agree there should be easy access to a process that informs and/or educates new comers to the ways of our Country (and how to get a job). However systematic indoctrination by the Federal Government I believe would curtail the freedom of being a Canadian and destroy the international reputation of Canadians.

        When I took a summer backpacking Europe and N. Africa in my twenties, I was invited into many homes. People who had never before met me, welcomed me, and trusted me, because I was Canadian. I felt safe travelling as a Canadian, and soon found that the true wealth I carried with me, were tales our great land and it’s wilderness. This and our freedom are the carrots that entices new Canadians to want to be Canadians, not the grist mill of indoctrination.

        • larkycanuck says:

          Great insight Chuck. No way should there be any indoctrination of any kind by any government. yikes, that sounds creepy and fascist. But there does remain the question is how does one allow integration in a new nation while also preserving and respecting the cultural values of the immigrant at same time not allowing silos to form. Truth is Canada has done an excellent job of the previous. To date. It remains to be seen where it evolves in future, eh.

  5. Jacelyn says:

    Anyway to get your new articles delivered to my email?
    Or perhaps just an email announcing there are fresh articles on your site?
    That would be truly fantastic! Please tell me if that
    is possible.

    • larkycanuck says:

      Yes. There is an email subscription option on my site. Located on the right side of the page about the middle way down. You just put in your email and you are subscribed. Thanks for your patronage.

  6. Jean says:

    Groan, this is altogether tiring to talk about melting pot situation. Come on, forces of assimilation are VERY powerful. You have no idea, not really. Walk in the person’s shoes and that includes the recent visible minority immigrant. Example: Am Canadian-born (Ontario) and have lived in Canada all my life. I didn’t learn English until kindergarten…I just lived in a protected world of my Chinese-speaking parents (father taught himself English while he and mother had 6 children. He was a restaurant cook.). I had to take some ESL sessions in gr. 1-2.

    I can’t believe I used to dream only in Chinese…because right now I’ve (well, sibling also) have lost so much Chinese we can only barely communicate with mother in basic, broken Chinese.

    This is what assimilation means….a person just naturally forgets their language and all the stuff that’s embedded in the language. If you don’t use it (language), you lose it.

    As for that immigrant you met…I didn’t read the whole thing and his rationale….except he’s just waaaay too self-conscious of himself. More fresh off the boat unease.

    From a Canadian with a Chinese face…oops I’m sorry I’m not an immigrant. Just a daughter of 2.

    After being around here for um…@54 yrs.,I’m not sure what being “immigrant” means. Does it mean whenever I hang out with other non-whites and we’re all chatting up English, with some non-English words thrown in…? Does it mean walking down the street with your relatives, going shopping that we appear immigrant?

    Ah well, let me play my game with my partner who is a German immigrant (as a young boy) where we test each other’s fluency of our respective mother’s tongue. We choose a English word,etc.: he inevitably knows over 50% more German than I can shore up my Chinese.

    Celebrate Canada’s diverse jigsaw puzzle….we are the envy of Europe and Asia…more than you could ever dream of.

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