Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

The Social Reconstruction of "Home" among African Immigrants in Canada

Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

The Social Reconstruction of "Home" among African Immigrants in Canada

Article excerpt

Abstract

Many Africans migrating to new countries view this as a temporary economic move. Most hope to return to their homelands, after acquiring sufficient money and resources to live comfortably. However, for many African immigrants relocated in Canada, there is an "emotional reconstruction" of "home" as they begin to regard their adopted country as their permanent home. This deconstruction and reconstruction process involves very complex processes of emotional, cultural, economic, and social adjustment. This study of African immigrants in three Canadian cities--Montreal, Toronto and Winnipeg--demonstrates how they continue to maintain a strong attachment to their homelands, while struggling with adapting to their new country.

Resume

Beaucoup d'Africains qui emigrent dans de nouveaux pays, pensent que ce n'est qu'un geste temporaire de caractere economique. La plupart esperent revenir dans leur patrie, une fois acquis l'argent et les ressources qui leur permettront de vivre confortablement. Cependant, pour nombre d'emigres africains relocalises au Canada, une <> d'un <> s'elabore au fur et a mesure que leur terre d'adoption devient pour eux un domicile permanent. Ce processus de deconstruction et de reconstruction comprend un mecanisme tres complexe d'ajustement emotionnel, culturel, economique et social. L'etude ci-dessous d'emigres africains dans trois villes canadiennes--Montreal, Toronto et Winnipeg--montre comment lis continuent a maintenir un lien fort avec leur pays d'origine, tout en luttant pour s'adapter a leur nouveau pays.

INTRODUCTION

Since Confederation in 1867, more than fourteen million people have migrated to Canada, initially from Europe and then gradually from all parts of the globe, dramatically expanding the ethnic, racial, and religious diversity of Canada's population. Millions of newcomers from different parts of the world have settled and begun new lives in Canada (Canadian Heritage 2000). Traditionally, immigrants to Canada came mainly from Europe and from the United States, countries with racial and ethnic profiles similar to that of the earlier settlers of Canada.

In 1967 Canada adopted a new universal "Open Door" Immigration policy: a points system that allowed immigrants to be admitted into the country from the non-traditional European and American sources. African migration into Canada is, therefore, a recent phenomenon, starting from this period through the 1970s and reaching a peak in the 1990s (Torczyner, 1997). With the exception of a few studies (Kasozi 1986; Opoku-Dapaah 1993; Owusu 1999), Africans are the least researched of all the immigrant groups in Canada. Researchers either deliberately ignore African immigrants in Canada or typically lump them and Caribbean immigrants together in one analytical category (Owusu 1999). Most important, Africans are categorised with Caribbeans in the Canadian census because they share the same skin colour. This is misleading since there are considerable differences in the socio-economic, demographic, and cultural profiles of these population groups. By the same token, it should be recognized that African immigrants are also not a homogeneous group. They are diverse in terms of socio-cultural practices, language, education, length of residency or migration to Canada (Naidoo 1985; Owusu 1999), and country of origin.

This study seeks to provide a basis for understanding some aspects of the integration challenges that face immigrant populations from Africa in Canada. It seeks to provide answers to what "home" means to people of African origin who have migrated to Canada, and how this concept of home changes over time due to the pressures associated with migration, settlement, and adaptation in the host society. The paper first takes a brief look at the concept of "home." Second, it discusses the immigration processes that have brought thousands of Africans to Canada over the past forty years. …

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