Bahá’í Community of Toronto

Integration of newcomer youth in society

The period of youth is a critical time in the life of an individual, during which one is undergoing tremendous change and taking on more responsibility. Many youth in Canada experience this stage of life as newcomers to this country. Young newcomers, in addition to the challenges faced by other youth, have the added task of learning the ways of a new country and culture.

Individual Canadians, communities and social institutions have responsibilities to support the efforts of these youth to integrate into and participate in Canadian society. By “integration” we mean more than learning the ins and outs of Canadian culture and obtaining employment, although these are undoubtedly important. Some other aspects of integration are the ability to form meaningful friendships with one’s peers, strengthen relationships with the members of one’s extended family, and contribute meaningfully to one’s community.

Canada has a long tradition of welcoming newcomers. Despite what we have learned as a country, immigrants and newcomer youth face particular challenges with the process of integrating and participating fully in the life of society. These challenges do not have easy solutions; rather, they require careful thinking and analysis in light of social research and the application of relevant moral and ethical principles. This paper will explore some of the challenges faced by newcomer youth, and raise questions for discussion. This analysis is informed by the experience of the Bahá’í community of Canada with diverse groups of youth across the country, many of them newcomers, in the context of programs that seek to develop their capacity to serve their communities, and to develop their intellectual and spiritual powers.

Youth is a time of life marked by physical, emotional, and psychological change, processes that are compounded for newcomer youth. Upon moving to Canada, many encounter a radically different worldview from that to which they are accustomed. In some cases, this might mean different expectations about academic achievement, gender roles, sexuality, norms regarding how to interact with elders and authority figures, and the role of religion and spirituality in society. Many youth also face the challenge of learning a new language, and experience racism and other forms of discrimination, as well as bullying in both physical and virtual spaces. These challenges are exacerbated by the fact that many young people come to Canada after having experienced trauma in their home countries, which was brought on by war, violence, and/or economic hardship. Many newcomer youth have also been separated from their families prior to coming to Canada and need to get to know them again in a new environment.

Read the rest of this thought piece on the website of the Bahá’í Community of Canada.