Somali-Canadian community says youth face barriers
Monday, March 04, 2013
New research that suggests young Somali Canadians face barriers
integrating into Canadian society is no surprise to those who are trying
to reach out to struggling youth.
"These people are Canadian.
They are not going anywhere. They can be productive citizens and they
can benefit Canada both socially and in economics," said Faduma Mohamed,
who co-founder of Positive Change, an advocacy group that fights
negative perceptions of Somali Canadians.
"Somali young people
feel that they are Canadian, but they still have close ties to Somalia
and to Muslim culture... Integration goes two ways," Mohamed said.
research, done by University of Toronto adjunct professor in Diaspora
studies Rima Berns-McGown, was based on interviews with young
Somali-Canadians in Toronto.
Those interviewed said they often
faced racism from teachers, in which their ability to succeed was often
questioned. They also complained of stereotyping by police officers and
stereotypes about their identity as Muslims after the Sept. 11 terrorist
Somali people who moved to Canada did not have an
already established community and often had to learn English, retrain,
find housing and deal with racism and trauma on their own, Berns-McGown
But the research, which was published last January by the
Institute for Research on Public Policy, found that those who were
interviewed identified strongly as Canadian, but that didn't conflict
with also being Somali and Muslim.
The interviews were done
between 1995 and 2004 with youth in their late teens and 20's who
arrived in Canada as refugees or were the children of refugees.
doing this study, I wanted to look at the experience of Somali
Canadians to turn a spotlight on Canadian society," Berns-McGown said in
"We need to get it right. We shouldn't just be
talking about being multicultural, but about what's working and what's
not in our society and our institutions," she said.
difficulties faced by young Somali Canadians did not stem from a lack of
desire to be part of Canada, but from institutional barriers in the
education system and in law enforcement, Berns-McGown concluded.
Hussein, national president of the Canadian Somali Congress advocacy
group, agrees integration is a two way street and says Canadian society
should learn more about the Somali community.
"People don't really
know that much about our community. We want to build cross-cultural
relationships as part of the integration process. We need to learn from
each other, that's what Canada is all about," he said.