For the 10 immigrants who took the oath of citizenship this afternoon in a ceremony at the Citadel Hill Historic Site in Halifax, officially becoming Canadian is a milestone on a long journey.
“This country is more open to all different cultures,” says Muhammad Aashir Javed, originally from Pakistan.
But he and his family were nervous about starting over.
“Just a little fear of uncertainty,” he says, “leaving your existing jobs and then going to a new place and thinking about starting over…you get a little anxious.”
Hope for a better future brings thousands of people from all over the world to Canada every year, and now the federal government is stepping up immigration efforts, aiming to bring 465,000 new permanent residents to the country by 2023.
But a new study by a Dalhousie University PhD researcher finds that initial hope can turn into anxiety and depression for many newcomers.
“Over time, they experience some stressful situations, (e) post-migration stress, including stress in the job market, lack of socioeconomic support, racism and (e) discrimination”, he adds.
Iqbal Chowdhury is in Dalhousie’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology, and his doctoral work explores regional differences in the mental health of immigrants depending on where they settle.
As part of his research, he delved into data from the Canadian Community Health Surveys and found that the longer immigrants stay in Canada, the more susceptible they are to declining mental health.
His work supports a current theory known as the “Canadian immigration paradox,” an observation that immigrant health tends to decline more rapidly than that of the average Canadian, despite often being healthier on arrival.
Chowdhury believes a possible explanation may lie in the disconnect that can happen when a newcomer tries to find a job, an experience he himself witnessed among friends.
Screening immigrants for entry as skilled labor into Canada is done through the Comprehensive Classification System, based on criteria such as age, education, language and work skills.
“In fact, they hold high positions in banking and other sectors,” he says, “and when they come to Canada based on those criteria, they have to fight, and I think that can cause their condition to deteriorate. of mental health. ”
Mobile barber Mohammad Alnabelsi knows what it’s like to start from scratch after coming to Nova Scotia from Syria via Jordan in 2019.
“Everything is difficult, it’s not easy, when I come here my language is not very good”, he says.
Alnabelsi says that without the help of others, his dream of owning and operating his mobile barber shop might not have come to pass.
However, their entrepreneurship is considered valuable in a country that depends on immigration for economic growth.
“Different language, different culture, different everything, you know,” he says, “(but) here in Canada, you need a lot of people to work here too.”
“If these gaps can be minimized, that would be great,” says Chowdhury.
He says that’s why Ottawa needs to do more to help immigrants get jobs in their chosen fields — not just for the economy, but for immigrants’ mental well-being in general.
Chowdhury will present his research next week in Toronto at Congress of Humanities and Social Sciences, Canada’s largest academic gathering.
He hopes sharing his findings will help create better tools to support immigrants in their new lives in Canada.