The Family (Or most of them)

The Family (Or most of them)
The Family

February 6, 2007



This isn't a whole lot different from America, Great Britain, Germany or any number of countries that have welcomed other people to their lands with open arms.

It gives us variety. It gives us spice, in more ways than one. It gives our lives value and diversity and opens up our hearts and minds to other ways of living, much as blogging does.

But as we invite and allow more people from India, Korea, Chile, the Phillipines, Indonesia, African nations and those from the Middle East to live within our shores, we're screwing up.

We should consider ourselves honoured and fortunate that people from other parts of the world want to move here and live here, even despite our cold climate, for so many reasons.
We have far more land -- beautiful, mostly untouched land -- than we need, and we can share that. We have resources coming out of our ying-yangs. We are, for the most part, accepting of other ways of life.
Here in Winnipeg, we celebrate something called Folklorama every summer where the different cultural communities show us how they dance, how they eat, how they dress, how they celebrate living.
They invite us to do that with them. And we do. Some of my kids' best friends are from China, from Korea, from India, Pakistan, the Middle East. It's globalization in its most pure, ideal form.
Over time, it will break down the stupid barriers we have between us now.
But it has gone wrong in some ways. We're inviting people here to share our vast wealth, but we're not giving them the basics to help them do that. We're not helping them enough to integrate.
I volunteered as an English language tutor for more than a year at a place called the International Centre, a one-stop resource for new immigrants to Winnipeg from other countries.
Initially, I wanted to help out an individual or family that had been displaced from their home country by war, by persecution, by death threats, something like that.
Instead, the demand is so great for language tutors that the centre operates on a first-come, first-served basis. There's a shortage of tutors. What more could a new immigrant need than to be able to communicate in his new country?
I was handed the next name on the list: a family from South Korea. The gentleman's name is Jung Soek. He moved here with his wife and two young sons (now three young sons) and he could barely speak English.
Over that next year or so, I met with Jung Soek once a week at a local shopping mall that I could hit on my way home from work. We of course worked on learning English, but more importantly, we became friends.
We talked about how his Canadian/Korean employer gave him little power and insisted he not speak English during lunch breaks. We talked about what to say and how to say it to his banker, his landlord, etc.
I became his link to Canada. Not just his literal translator but his cultural translator too...what does this mean, that mean? How do I deal with this or with that?
I learned a lot about Korean culture and he learned a lot about Canadian ways of living, and the two don't naturally intersect. I no longer tutor him, but he still calls me and wants to be my friend.
And all of this is to say that in Canada, we invite people like Jung Soek and his family into our country, but we don't give them what they need to assimilate and to mix a whole lifetime of who they are with who we are.
It's not that we don't have good intentions, it's that we don't set aside enough money for the resources and people we need to help honourable immigrants like Jung Soek become comfortable, beginning with language.

I hope that changes over time.


  1. WW ur a very kind and understanding Canadian! Im proud of ya that u came up with this great post. Well-done!


  2. thought provoking. When everyone realize we are all one people and we live for one goal, then the localization will in turn be simply an accommodation for living and not putting up newcomers as exhibits. Canada has opened her arms to the citizens of 3rd world countries for so long, and it continues to do so with all the flair it can afford.

  3. *checking to see what resources are coming out of my ying-yang*

  4. Now if only we could get everybody to leave behind old hatreds, ridiculous mythology and oppressive traditions before they get here instead of waiting for the next generation to discover reality and the 21st Century.

    In HÉROUXVILLE, Quebec,
    there is an uproar because the town of 1,300 made world headlines with its controversial code of conduct that, among other things, warns any immigrants that they cannot stone or burn women or make them wear veils.

    A couple of generations ago the general idea was to incorporate the New World fashions and customs and become a North American..then political correctness decided that immigrants should have the right to settle here and live exactly as they did in their old country..HUH?

    The reason that people moved here was to escape the OLD world and try something escape the mindnumbing oppression of archaic religious and chauvenistic political systems that failed.

    I would hope that this place was treated as a NEW place and not a makegood effort for transplanting injustices overseas.

    My grandfather arrived from Belgium not knowing any English. As he travelled west he told me that he pointed to items on the menu and hoped that it was something good to eat. Sure they decorated their home as if it was in the Brakel and yes they spoke Flemish to each other and were proud of their roots but all of their children became Canadians.

    I had better stop...I believe that the world will never ever advance until we accept that we are all one species and base our lives on an empirical/scientific basis and celebrate freedom FROM dogmas that separate us and actually promote differentness...
    let us just say that if we simply transplant old grievances and religious ideologies and plop them all in a big pile here..then it will end up being a disasterous mess instead of a new beginning.

  5. Keshi:

    Thanks...I think Australia is pretty similar in its openness to other people, isn't it?

    Ghost Particle:

    Newcomers shouldn't be exhibits, but they're not just going to become invisible either.

    There's always going to be some issues with assimilation, but there are too many hiccups right now...


    Ha! Let me know if you find anything that could make me rich. Need any help?

    Homerly Entendre:

    OK, I get you.

    But you can't just expect people to leave behind a whole lifetime of culture and the way they do things -- regardless of how archaic or backward we think they are -- the moment they step on Canadian soil.

    A lot of these people might have been oppressed and forced to leave their home countries. Others might just be here for the quality of life and opportunity.

    My point was if we're going to allow them in, often for our own selfish reasons to fire up the economy or pad our population numbers, we should give them a starting chance.

    And helping them speak our language would be a good place to begin.

  6. I think that teaching them the language is an excellent place to begin their transition. It's too bad the resources aren't in place to do so on a larger scale.

    Great idea to tutor WW. You are a nice man.

  7. Why shouldn't they expect government services in their native tongue?
    Isn't everybody equal?

  8. Shelley10:13 a.m.

    I agree that there should be a system to help people integrate, but not necessarily assimilate.
    I had a friend who worked in the office for Danish/Foreign integration and he had much the same feeling that I do. However, in Denmark, if a foreigner doesn't learn Danish they are eventually given the boot. In order to stay there you have to take integration classes by law.

    I still feel that there need to be translators so that there are no misunderstandings when it comes to important issues. In my own country people get their panties in a twist over things printed in anything other than English, but to those people I say, Kiss my Ass, once on each cheek, and then I walk away from them.

  9. Shelley10:16 a.m.

    This Gloogler thing is annoying. Because of my email I get logged in as something besides my blogger name, so I am leavin it all behind and just leaving comments as whatever I feel like that day.

  10. part of the reason people are persecuted in their home land is because of a foreign policy that we accept as the natural order of things. we let slave children procure all the cocoa we need so that our kids can have a happy halloween, accept that thousands of people will be killed so that we can wear diamonds on our fingers, and are apathetic towards wars so that we can drive our cars wherever the hell we want for pennies. maybe if we actually paid for the resources we acquired and stopped propping up governments that oppressed their populations so that we could live so comfortably then people might have a chance to enjoy life to the fullest in their own lands.
    in the meantime, we should welcome immigrants with open arms, and provide full opportunities to succeed. i mean, we'll do that for any corporation, right?

    we certainly should expect services in the native tongue of the land, unfortunately i can't go buy house insurance on the corner because they don't speak saulteaux.

    "The reason that people moved here was to escape the OLD world and try something new..."

    i'd suggest that the reason people moved here was money. and in the quest for money and ever greater power, weren't the original inhabitants destroyed and/or quarantined and told they had to assimilate to the 'new' way of life? this was no new place anymore than wind is a new resource.
    the world will never advance beyond its current state until everyone starts living like north american white people...and liking it, because the white man will not rest until the uniqueness of life has been eradicated from every soul, and everyone becomes a working, clunking fixture in the world's dominant lifeform, the economy.

    happy valentine's day.

  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

  12. as always very human and warm...

    We Aussies used to work on the boundless plains to share theory, but that kinda changed, now we (government) believe in mandatory detention regardless of age. Indefinate detention of those already fleeing a heartless and cruel government. It makes me very sad.

    The government refers to them as queue jumpers, they bully the voiceless to show a tough line on imigration under the guise of national security. Canada has a fantastic immigration policy comparitively.

    That is awesome that you volunteered to be that first vital contact for a new citizen. I life my metaphorical hat to you.

    As a traveler i know how important local language and customs become, with out language skills the simplest of tasks become an absolute nightmare.

  13. I have mixed feelings about your post. I, like you, also love the multiculturalism in our country. I'm thrilled and grateful that our country welcomes immigrants the way it does. However, I don't think I agree with your point about providing them with tools for success.

    My parents and two oldest brothers are immigrants and they didn't speak a word of English or French when they came here. My parents managed just fine - as did hundreds of my relatives and thousands of other immigrants I know. My parents managed to learn one of the two official languages just through exposure. I don't think we need to spoon feed immigrants. I don't think they need it. Besides, language courses are available everywhere for beginners. The resources are already there. People just need to have the drive to succeed in their new environment.

  14. I agree very strongly with HE.
    I wouldn't like to see Canada turn into Canadastan.
    AND I understand very well the caring and concern and the pleasure to help and the fun of learning of each other towards people who want to integrate and to become a part of the society you live in.

  15. Laurie:

    I think it's a good thing to offer language services too as a welcoming thing...but watch the discussion unfold...


    Your second comment -- or at least the sarcastic tone of it -- is surprising to me.

    I don't think anyone realistically believes that the Canadian government should be willing to pay for providing language services in the native tongue of immigrants from hundreds of countries.

    Anyone coming here would know we're a country of great diversity but only two official languages, English and French.

    And all I'm saying is if we let them in, we should help them as much we can learn how to communicate in our language.

    Nobody's saying they should be allowed to bring over every negative part of their cultures, although that does happen sometimes.

    By and large, though, people coming here are good people with hopes and dreams like anybody else.

    And I think everyone moving into a new neighborhood needs a bit of help getting adjusted.

    How can that be bad or wrong?

  16. I spent time on what I felt were valid comments and the BLgooglerpolitz did it again! (The copy/paste trick didn't work!)

    I'm not going to attempt to rewrite my entire diatribe (the rain is easing so I have to make a dash), but I will say that Reyspoutine's comments are pretty close to the way I feel.

  17. Shelly:

    Welcome! Thanks for visiting.

    I get and agree with your distinction between integration and assimilation, it's a very intelligent and important one.

    Because any person new to a country can never be expected to immediately be assimilated. But they can be integrated.

    And I think I agree that people coming here should be forced to learn to speak English in English Canada and French in French Canada.

    But at whose cost? Many immigrants don't have the money to spend on language classes (although that might raise a question about why they were allowed in anyway).

    This is a complex part of the debate. I'd say immigrants with the money to pay should pay and otherwise governments should offer at least to defray the cost and in some cases pay it entirely.

    Many times with this South Korean fellow, I had to go to the bank with him to be the go-between on financial matters. I even had to help him buy a cell phone, or he would have been ripped off.

    I can't generalize, but based on my experience a lot of these people are very afraid and they feel marginalized and ignored because of their inability to communicate and by the impatience of those who they're trying to deal with and understand.

    He would keep saying he was sorry that he couldn't understand me or I couldn't understand him.

    And I kept trying to tell him how I might feel if I just showed up in South Korea and didn't know a word of their language and how that might feel to me.

    I agree there should be translators assigned to these immigrants for important discussions such as legal matters, etc. But really, I was his lifeline in these issues. Should that responsibility fall to a volunteer language tutor?

    I don't think so. The International Centre I volunteer for should be providing those services, properly funded by a government that wants these people here or is accepting them here, I think.

    Twisted panties, huh? Good luck with Gloogler...

  18. Reymondo:

    Agree entirely with that first paragraph, but that's for another rant, really, our own role in all of this.

    Now your second part, that really IS assimilation, right? I don't think the sole reason people move here is money. Some of them, like people from Chile or some of the South American countries or African nations, aren't here on a picnic. They were going to die.

    Although I have little doubt that your words about everyone becoming white and North American and the eradication of other cultures has some truth to it...


    What do you mean mandatory detention? For who? People who want to immigrate to Oz legally or those who just show up, supposedly illegally?

    Thanks for those last two paragraphs. I think unless you've worked with new immigrants who don't have a clue about language, it's hard to know what challenges and helplessness they face.

  19. Anna:

    Fair enough, points taken with respect and admiration.

    But can I throw this back at you?

    Canada and Montreal and many other places here have burgeoning Italian populations, I'd suggest, that are long established and that are able to provide comfort, familiarity and help to other Italians, including help in language.

    That's not to demean at all what Italians and specifically your parents and brothers did, and how they did it independently.

    I just wonder if all immigrants from all nations are in that position, that's all.

    I agree with what you say about not spoon-feeding immigrants and babysitting or coddling them.

    I guess what I'm saying is if it's very obvious that some immigrants clearly can't communicate properly, is it so bad to offer them a leg to stand on by assisting them learn our language.

    You're right, language courses are available. In Winnipeg, anyway, my friend was told all the courses are filled. He did mention something about prohibitive cost, too...but I don't think he was as helpless financially as I originally believed he was.

    That's also when I told him he should go and pay for an English language tutor who was a pro and who could teach him far more quickly than I could.

    Still, I believe the basic services our government is providing aren't enough because I KNOW there's a lot of people arriving here who are far worse off than my friend.


    There are quite a few people out there who ARE concerned about Canada becoming Canadastan.

    I'm not one of them, I guess.

  20. I understand what you're saying about Italian communities being a source of support on their own. I don't know what it's like in Winnipeg, but in Montreal there's a community for just about every nation - some bigger than others, but a source of support nonetheless.

    Your points are well-taken, but I'm still not convinced immigrants need more or better services than what they already have. I guess we'll have to just agree to disagree on this one. A first for us, I think! :)

  21. People who show up as asylum seekers, our government has mandatory detention in fairly ordinary conditions, shipped off shore. regardless of age there are many children amoungst the refugees, indefinately held....

    I conceed there should be some level of customs, but we need a more human aproch to the situation.

  22. Dinahmow:

    Sorry to hear you're still suffering from Glooglerism. Thanks for your thoughts.


    It's cool for us to agree to disagree, although I'm not sure I would put it that way.

    I'm sure you're exactly right about what you say...I just am not sure that all immigrants fall into the situation where they don't need more help than we have on hand and available to them.

    It sounds to me like if we were sitting on a couch talking this over, we could come to an agreement.



    That's kinda what I'm saying...thanks, mate.

  23. "i'd suggest that the reason people moved here was money."

    i was responding to .calm's statement:

    "The reason that people moved here was to escape the OLD world..."

    and thinking about why anyone came here in the first place, because they saw a wealth of new potential resources to exploit in a manner that our ancestors and contemporaries have a significant aptitude for.

    at any rate, i think we should have some kind of program in place for the numbers of immigrants that Canada so graciously allows entry to. it's just like everything else. we subsidize education because it provides a benefit to the individual and society. we provide social programs, health programs, pre-natal classes, the list goes on and on, and i haven't even touched on the programs and tax breaks available to big business. if a non-english speaker comes here to live, should we let them flounder, expecting them to find their way as some sort of tough love measure? or should we provide simple language services that give them a leg up so that as soon as possible they are able to contribute to the society which we all belong to.

    people are a resource, and need to be cared for as such. it doesn't matter where they come from or what their native tongue is.

    there's a great song by the (winnipeg) punk band propagandhi called 'fuck the border'.
    great song and sentiment.

  24. Rey:

    Salut. Cheers. Exactimundo. Will you run to be our next prime minister? In place of Layton?

  25. Australia is trying to work it so that people have a certain level of english language before they come out here - that sits fine with me, but gets others jumping up and down.I do think that if people want to move here, separate themselves so as not to fit in(I don't mean that they should lose their culture), speak out against the country and try and change the way we live here to suit themselves,they should bugger off.

  26. Ok, I am officially moving next door to you.

    When I do, can we have coffee?

  27. Re:HÉROUXVILLE Quebec rules about living here..this is what they mean! This is completely unacceptable....

    A 33-year-old mother of three young children was found murdered in her Surrey, B.C., home Wednesday morning

    The victim is the third Indo-
    Canadian woman murdered in Surrey in recent months.

    Navreet Kaur Waraich was stabbed to death in her Surrey home last Oct. 29. Her husband, Jatinder Singh Waraich, has been charged with second-degree murder.

    Earlier in October, Surrey teacher Manjit Panghali was killed and her body set on fire in Delta, B.C. No one has yet been charged with her murder.

    On Oct. 19, Port Coquitlam, B.C., nurse Gurjeet Ghuman was shot and seriously injured by her estranged husband, who then killed himself.
    (CanWest News Service 2007)

  28. Lee:

    I agree entirely. If they're malcontents back home and are just immigrating to a new place to be miserable and bring all their problems with them, stay at home.


    OK, but I live inside a hollowed out tree in the middle of the Canadian wilderness and eat wild game and berries for sustenance and have confrontations quite often with bears, wolves and skunks, so I smell and look a little skraggly.

    There's no Tim Hortons around the corner for coffee, keeping a fire going 24/7 can be a bit of a nuisance and electricity is scarce (I have a 20-mile extension cord running this computer).

    But I'm the neighborly type. Can you and your kids chop and carry wood?


  29. HE:

    If I get what you're saying -- that too many of these people are bringing their own personal baggage and hates and disputes to Canada from their homelands for your liking -- yeah, I think that's SOMETIMES true.

    But like any of those kinds of reports in the media, I think they're selective and don't represent the much larger majority.

    When and if stuff like that happens, those people should be shipped back, if it's clear that they're going to be troublemakers wherever they go.

    Now do a new frickin' post on your Homo Escapeons Gloogler blog!

  30. As far as I know Honor Killing is still illegal.

  31. i hate to keep harping on dot calm's posts (well, not really) but he's the only one i know well enough to be argumentative with, but here we go.

    does this mean that we should ship out every canadian born person who commits murder? and where do we send them? or should we move everybody out of PEI and move all violent criminals there, turn it into a prison island?

    in more than a few cases, people who have come to canada have been victimized by others of their nationality who already live here. the reason they can do this is the newcomers sometimes lack the confidence in our police or judicial system and are afraid to report them to authorities.

    Robert Pickton? Clifford Olson? Paul Bernardo?
    and what about Colin Thatcher? he was canadian enough to be elected as a member of parliament.

    we can't isolate people when they come here and hope that it all works out in the end, and we can't enforce a foreign policy that rapes weak nations of their resources and then deny people the right to enter canada.

    of course there are people who can manage with little or no help, but there are those who will desperately need it. there has to be something in place for them.

    oh, and canada has immigration detention centres too.

    and, ww, tell her the REAL reason you are smelly and skraggly.

  32. OK I have had it!
    You know damn well that I am talking about allowing ANY tolerance for mysogenistic archaic barbarian their countries they wouldn't even get to trial and they know that they can get away with it...while we're at it let's discuss female castration..I suppose that this should be tolerated because it is a time honored custom?
    At some point we need to establish the fact that we have advanced (albeit at a glacial rate) for the simple reason that church and state are separated and science has (by osmosis) inadvertently begun to get some traction as the basis for examining our very existence.
    All of the intolerance and mythical traditions that allow MEN to do whatever the hell they feel like is NOT acceptable.
    Plus you are well aware that I would have summarily sent our serial killers into the great unknown in a heartbeat and freed up the $100,000 per annum wasted on giving them cable TV and a University Diploma ands used it to combat poverty which I think is the root cause of most of our crime...maybe spare a few kids from veering off the track.

  33. okay, i get you now.
    so, it's okay to kill people, just as long as it's us doing the killing and we're only killing people outside our country.

    i see your point. if we allow people into canada who will go around willy nilly killing people here who used to live in their home country, then they are competing with us trying to kill their own people who are still back in their home country, and if we can't keep up numbers wise, we look like a bunch of sissies.

    and yes, thank god we are so advanced that we actually do the right things and drop bombs, not knives, and have abandoned the notion that imperial and/or economic conquests have any right to be in any one else's toolbox but our own.

    and god bless stephen harper for saying 'god bless canada' so that it is clear that we are not simply an appendage of the US but our own damn country with a god who blesses us independently of any other god fearing nation.

    and god bless us for holding university education over the outstretched hands of the poor and disenfranchised (i love that word), so that one day they may be desperate enough to give us a reason to incarcerate them.

    and finally, god bless us all for completely putting behind us the massacre that we perpetrated here so that we could live out our lives in a perfect civilization, unfettered by historical fact and the minor inconvenience of the occasional road blockade.

    (as this is the internet and everything exists here for an eternity (until we extinctify ourselves), i feel compelled to note, even though it derails the impact of the sarcasm above, that the above is pure sarcasm and cynicism on my part. the thoughts expressed above are not ones that i hold, and any reading of my serious work will bear that out).

  34. wow. what multi-cultural thoughts and comments. i agree with reyspoutine also. there is a root problems that starts with greed and ends with power.

    i also feel families have a responsibility to learn the language of the country they live in. aren't there english as a second language programs in canada, ww? and doesn't your volunteerism count as a helping hand?

    the world is a mess. resources are messed up. whether we should celebrate our similarities or differences is not even clear.

    all in all, i say congrats to canada for opening its borders. i'll bet most of those newcomers aren't complaining because they are grateful.

    and last, i say to all of us intelligent bloggers: when we say "they" instead of "we", despite the context, that's a red flag for trouble. we all need to look within before we point without.

  35. Oh yeah...
    I know you are but what am I!?

  36. OK REY!
    In all fairness to our host this is a Women's Issues/Touchy-Feely Guyblog & Sorts Emporium, and certainly not the sort of place where we should be dismantling your utopian pieinthesky antiestablishmnetarianism disenfranchismenting 3litre flushing worldview.

    So what about them Jets?

  37. i had to read that five times before i could see "pie in the sky".
    i was reading it like some sort (sport) of russian philosopher's name, and as such, took it as an insult!

    and aussies are brilliant, as you will see with my (yet to be written) 3 litre flush post.

    and yes, at some point we need to transplant this over to my area, but since i have no readership (other than my very bestest, bloggiest friends), i thought it best to flaunt my wares over here, gain a little street cred, so to speak, in the gloves off environment of the ww spaceship.

  38. Rey/Homo Escapeons:

    I'll just let you two duke it out now...but I'm going to start charging admission.


    There are English as a second language programs here, but not nearly enough. There's a combination of publicly funded ones for adults and certainly through the school system, but there's also private tutors.

    I can't say I know all the details but my feeling and impression is that there are too few resources to handle the influx of those needed English language instruction services.

    And at the very least, my contention is that the government here, which has a policy of trying to attract as many immigrants as it can to live here, knows this.

    But that it's leaving these immigrants largely on their own to fend for themselves, even while it's padding its coffers with their tax dollars.

    And yes, my volunteering is a helping hand and I don't mind doing that through this government-funded International Centre.

    But that's all it is -- volunteerism. I'm not a trained tutor. I don't want to diminish the importance of that, it's just stating a fact that there don't seem to be enough professional tutors around who could get these people up and running and able to stand on their own two feet linguistically speaking much quicker than I can.

    Your last comment is cryptic to me. Who was pointing without who wasn't first looking within?

    Like, can you expand on that?

  39. not to be (even more) annoying or anything but don't forget, they are called EAL programs now, english as an additional language, because for so many people who come here, english is a third or fourth or fifth language to learn.

    i thought for sure HE would have brought you up to speed on that by now, but maybe he's gone to bed already.

  40. Reyspoutine:

    He's sitting not more than two feet from me right now at my place.

    He asked me to ask you: Are you polishing your life-sized statue of Karl Marx right now?

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