Great Expectations

Immigrant families under pressure

Each year tens of thousands of newcomers land in the GTA. Some have jobs, or family and friends waiting for them. But for others, there is nothing but hope - and the road ahead can be a long and arduous one.

As parents and children try to carve out a new life, expectations are high, and tensions can flare.

During the week of February 6, Metro Morning and CBC News Toronto at 5, 5:30, 6 looked at the different experiences of immigrant youth and their parents in Great Expectations, Immigrant Families Under Pressure.

Our stories

Matt Galloway spoke to two guests who know the area - and the issues - well. Moy Wong-Tam is the executive director of the Centre for Information and Community Services. Naila Butt is the executive director of York Region's Social Services Network which serves the South Asian community. Listen audio (runs 6:58)

Growing up fast
Joseph Wong is a Chinese-Canadian who broke from tradition to follow his dreams. But that caused him considerable problems. Listen audio (runs 5:40) Joseph is blogging about these issues - share your experience.

The Thanesh family

A better life?
Like thousands of immigrants who come to Canada every year, the Thanesh family came to Toronto hoping for a better life.

Instead, they have found insufficient employment and a hostile environment for their son.

Kiruba Thaneshsays she's managed to access some services, but feels they didn't really provide the kind of support she and her family need most. (Watch)

Youth discussion
We assembled a group of immigrant youth to talk about the pressures they face to succeed at school, the expectations of their parents when it comes to relationships, and how they straddle two cultural identities. Nicole Tsang, 16, immigrated from Hong Kong in 2006. Farah Tahsin, 19, immigrated from Bangladesh in 2010. Kulsum Khalfan, 21, immigrated from Kenya in 2005. Suluxan Paramaguru, 22, immigrated from Sri Lanka in 2002.

The pressure to succeed, and the academic expectations of parents. Listen audio (runs 18:15)

Culture and Identity
Many immigrants feel caught between two worlds. How do you define your own identity? Listen audio (runs 12:16)

Dating and marriage and how romantic dreams compare with the hopes of parents. Listen audio (runs 9:31)

Words of Wisdom
Advice to other newcomers hoping to find their place a new land. Listen audio (runs 4:09)

Some feel that failure is not an option

"My Dad says I don't have a learning disability"
Reporter Marivel Taruc looks at the difficulty that learning disabilities create for people from cultures that do not accept them.

She brings us the story of a young man who is struggling in high school because his learning disability is the source of a stigma. (Watch)

Words of Wisdom
Advice to other newcomers hoping to find their place a new land. Listen audio (runs 4:09)

Professional obstacles
Many immigrants arrive highly qualified, but struggle to find work in their chosen fields. A.K.M. Alamgir was a cardiologist in Bangladesh, who moved to Toronto with his wife and kids almost two years ago. He has yet to find appropriate employment. Listen audio (runs 3:21)

Language barrier
Eight years ago, Sherry Ghasemi arrived in Canada knowing very little English. Now she's a family and diversity worker at the York Centre for Children, Youth and Families. Listen audio (runs 3:00)


Slipping through the cracks
Zahra Dhanani is a lawyer, activist and community worker who has seen what happens when the pressures on new Canadians become too much - when they escalate and erupt in violence. Listen audio (runs 6:57)

Pros and cons
Reporter Marivel Taruc talks to a group of Markham, Ont., teens about the pressures and perks of being part of an immigrant family. (Watch)

I wish I could tell my parents...

Notes from the Canadian Tamil Youth Development Centre.

Share your own story on our blog.

York Region and immigration

10,000 - 12,000 newcomers a year
On average, 10,000 - 12,000 newcomers land in York Region each year, from countries including China/Hong Kong, India and other South Asian countries, South Korea and Iran.

Fastest growing in Ontario
Between 2001 and 2006, York Region was the fastest growing census division in Ontario and the third fasting growing in Canada. As of February 2011, York Region has a total estimated population of 1,065,159 people.

Immigrants will account for more than half
By 2031, York Region's population will be 1.5 million and immigrants will account for more than half (55 percent) of York region's total population.

Outpacing Toronto
Between 2001 and 2009, York Region saw a seven per cent increase in the number of immigrants directly landing from their country of origin, whereas Toronto saw a decrease of 27 per cent in the same period.

Needs reported to exceed services
When the York Region staff surveyed newcomer organizations, 44 per cent said that newcomers' needs exceeded capacity of their programs/services.

Highly educated
Newcomers arriving in York Region are highly educated. About 50 per cent have a certificate, diploma, bachelor's degree or higher.

First impressions don't always last
Within the initial months of landing, 52 per cent of newcomers "always" feel at home. After being here 3-5 years, this drops to 42 per cent.

Discrimination still reported
11 per cent of newcomers said they experienced discrimination. Those respondents who had experienced discrimination were twice as likely as other newcomers to feel at home either "rarely" or "never."

Alienation lingers for many
26 per cent of newcomers feel either "sometimes", "rarely" or "never" at home in their community.