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.