"Visions of World Benefit & Global Responsibility: Perspectives of McGill Students

Thursday, August 9, 2007

First steps for immigrants in Canada

The purpose of this essay is to explain the steps that an immigrant has to undertake to become familiar with the Canadian environment. This paper uses Maslow’s theory of the Hierarchy of Needs to examine the stages of integration an immigrant will go through upon arriving in Canada. Maslow’s five stages are: physiological, safety, love/belonging, esteem, and self actualization. According to Statistics Canada, the country received 254,818 immigrants in 2006; these immigrants are classified in four different categories: family class (101,124), economic immigrants (95,802), refugees (52,348), and other immigrants (5,544). Canada has gone to great effort to attract highly educated immigrants; however, many immigrate as refugees or come along with their family members, and they often do not have the education or economic skills to be successful in Canada. Foreigners arrive in this country from all parts of the world from countries like Russia, Turkey, China, India, Poland, Brazil, Mexico, and numerous other countries. Thus, people who come to this country sometimes lack resources and have difficulty to acclimatize to the North American lifestyle. This is why we need to create a program in which they will feel empowered and ready to challenge their new environment.

The first level is related to physiological needs such as eating, sleeping, dressing, washing, and numerous other essential necessities. An immigrant family has to be able to find a place to stay upon their arrival. I suggest that we create a transitional house for all newcomers for the first three weeks. In this house a translator will assist them in their progression by explaining basic information. He will teach them how to find places to live, how a supermarket works, where to buy clothes, and to answer any other questions. During those weeks they will start to experience the North American lifestyle and will gradually feel more confident about themselves.

Once the first step is accomplished, a family will require needs for safety and security. Those needs are associated with a security of health, employment, family, and resources.
§ For the health issue a family will require a Canadian Medical Card that is provided by the government. This card will give them the possibility to get their vaccinations, a general medical test and any free services that are associated with their health. They will learn that hospitals and CLSCs are free in Canada.
§ For the employment issue, a family will first start to learn French or English through community centers or the YMCA. Once they have mastered some basic skills, they have the choice to go back to school and brush up on their education in order to more easily find work. Family will have to learn how to find a job through the use of newspapers, web sites, and the employment centre.
§ In order to obtain a Canadian driver’s licence immigrants must pass a written test and wait one year before passing the practical test. However, if the person has their driver’s licence from their native country, they will need to pass only the written test to learn all the rules and road signals.
§ The last safety concern is to explain families the significance of emergency services. Instructing new immigrants when it is appropriate to dial 911 is important if they are to receive the appropriate service during an emergency.

The third level of Maslow’s hierarchy is love and belonging. This level is often reached through the love and support of family members. However, for foreigners that come alone or with part of their family, it may be necessary to create activities for them, such as coffee houses, exploring the town by a treasure hunt, and numerous other activities that allow newcomers to interact with one another. These activities will give the chance to find friendship.

Esteem is the fourth level of Maslow`s theory, a term which includes self-esteem, confidence, achievement, respect of others, and respect by others. To reach this stage it takes time and effort because the family has to learn a foreign language, understand the culture, the lifestyle, political issues, and has to feel comfortable with the new environment. This layer can be easily reached by young people because they have the facility to adapt quickly; however it takes time for older people to reach high esteem because they tend to resist changes. Finding ways to connect with older immigrant is important. Thus, for these immigrants we may need to turn to alternative activities like church groups, sightseeing tours or other things that may interest them. It is also important for all immigrants to become with the culture of their host country. In order to educate them about Canadian culture, it would be a good idea to hold workshops and seminars on topics like Canadian politics, environmental issues, women`s rights, civil liberties, tolerance, etc.

The top of the pyramid and the last level is called self-actualization which includes morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, tolerance, and acceptance of facts. The top level is reached only by a few people because it first requires fulfilling physiological, safety, love, and esteem needs. Immigrants who are passionate and determined will reach this level by acquiring a high level of knowledge and by accepting the reality of the country while also working to change it for the better.

In conclusion, immigrants will be more prepared if we surround them with professionals that will support them to go through each level of the Hierarchy of Needs. They will provide all necessary resources like translators, someone to assist them with different problems that they face, and resources to help them to overcome difficulties. In the long run all the money spent to integrate immigrants will benefit the government because they will provide a better workforce.

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