Immigrants & Refugees in Canada: A National Perspective on Ethnicity, Multiculturalism & Cross-Cultural Adjustment // Review

By Sharma, Satya P.; Ervin, Alexander M. et al. | Anthropologica, January 1, 1994 | Go to article overview
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Immigrants & Refugees in Canada: A National Perspective on Ethnicity, Multiculturalism & Cross-Cultural Adjustment // Review


Sharma, Satya P., Ervin, Alexander M., Meintel, Deirdre, Anthropologica


Many will remember the 1988 Canadian Ethnology Society's meetings in Saskatoon. Immigrants and Refugees in Canada owes many of its chapters to papers presented there. Its 25 chapters are spread across three vital areas of ethnic research, namely, ethnicity of immigrant groups, the refugee experience of relocation and the immigrant and refugee experience in Quebec.

Part 1, "Cultural Dimensions of Ethnicity among Immigrant Groups in Canada," deals with both theoretical and substantive issues. Sharma's introduction provides one of the most succinct overviews of ethnic research in Canada, drawing on the contributions of various disciplines and anthropology in particular.

Anderson summons the reader to consider a dynamic model of ethnicity, namely, the response of minorities to "dominant social control mechanisms." The usual emphasis on cultural vitality and institutional completeness is too static a view, according to him. Anderson's search for new research dimensions is laudable, although it may be a matter of disappointment to him (and to us) that gaps and biases beyond the control of researchers will continue to frustrate many researchers. Vital statistic bureaus do not record ethnic background of marrieds, and research-fund gatekeepers are still more likely to reject applications for qualitative research on aged widows than the more quantifiable sort of research on the non-aged. Anderson pinpoints both the traditions and weaknesses of nine academic fields that have an interest in doing ethnic research, and urges us to move to a higher theoretical plane of greater value to current issues and policies.

The articles by Parin Dossa and George Kurian, on old Ismailis and South Asian youth, respectively, make it possible for us to see the relative position of the old and the young among new Canadians. The old try to sustain meaning in their life by drawing on the whole community, while the young see more meaning in drawing away from the community that emphasized arranged marriages.

A less satisfactory article by Samuel and Jansson on immigration levels and the economic and demographic environment misses an important point in their analysis of dependency ratios. Surely, the economic relationship between those under 65 and those over 65 years of age expresses a cultural ethos. How does the prevailing gentler attitudes of immigrants towards those over 65 enter into their equation? Surely, even the term "dependency ratio" is a statistical artifact, not one that denotes cultural and social variables.

Ather Akbari's all-too-short article on the question of whether immigrants contribute more to the public treasury than they receive offers empirical evidence that immigrants make a positive contribution to the overall economy.

Part 2, "Cross-Cultural Adjustment: The Refugee Experience of Relocation," takes a more practical bent, focussing on refugee settlement policy, application and practice. Groups under consideration are Vietnamese refugees and Southeast Asian women. Articles on E.S.L. tutoring and cross-cultural misunderstandings between refugees and social-service agencies explore the practical applications of refugee work.

Ervin's introduction sets the tone in this section and aims to bring a practical application of anthropology. Donald D. Taylor's discussion of Vietnamese refugee adaptation offers a strikingly different image from Linda Fuchs' study of Southeast Asian refugee women in the same city. Taylor's article underscores the positive dimensions of resettlement, while Fuchs hones in on less-than-satisfactory levels of happiness among refugees.

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