Realities of Growing Up as a Minority in Canada

Realitiesof Growing Up as a Minority in Canada


Realitiesof Growing Up as a Minority in Canada

Accordingto the United Nations, adopted by consensus in 1992, refers tominorities as basing on ethnic or national, cultural, linguistic andreligious identity (Delbruck, 1997). The United Nations providesthat countries should protect their existence. Currently, there is nointernationally recognized definition of a minority as there are somedifficulties in arriving at the exact meaning of the term minority.The problem comes in because different people view minority based onthe kind of oppressions that individuals’ subject matter isexperiencing. Some minorities live together in well-defined areas,separating themselves from the dominant group. On the hand, otherminorities exist in scattered places throughout a country. In Canada,the South Asian girls moved in the country as migrants as they soughtfor education and other social amenities. There was marginalizationof the girls in the schools, and they had to live in Canada asminorities as they were struggling to adapt to the lifestyles ofCanadians. In some cases, minorities have a strong sense of belongingand shared values while others may retain only a fragmented notion ofbeing members of the marginalized group.

Accordingto the United Nations, minority refers to national or ethnic,religious and linguistic marginalized people (Delbruck, 1997). Thisarticle is seeking to address the issues of minority and identitywithin South Asian migrants in Canada. Identity is an importantfactor that facilitates integration in society. Integration is adialectical process and not only an individual process. Integrationinvolves some conflict in a person’s identity. Integration wouldimply both construction and reconstruction of social relationsassociating with an individual`s experiences in the society. Canadiangirls of South Asian origin were striving to live a life that theywould admire other relevant others that associated with them wouldwant them to live. Most of them were mostly concerned of how othermembers of the society would view them. They wished to create acondition of a hybrid identity in a new environment of Canada usingpart of the cultural values of their parents. However, the girls werecreating a hybrid identity for them to suit the culture of theCanadian society. The issue of struggling with their identity woulddevelop some effects on the girls’ performances in school.Therefore, it would necessary to understand the identity concept andget to know its construction. There are important issues relating tocharacter within any minority and implications it would have on theyoung girls’ self-esteem, school achievement, and theirempowerment.

TheConcept of Identity

Accordingto the poststructuralist disclosure of feminist, the struggle over anindividual identity within the subject cannot be separated struggleto know the meaning of identities and the position. The position thatgirls hold is important in trying to understand their experienceswithin a particular society (Hall &amp Du Gay, 1996). Identities aredifferent names that people give to different positions they areexpected to hold in the society. Identity also refers to positionsthat individuals consider themselves far from being fixed. Theinfluence on the current understandings of identity is by thepostmodern and postcolonial writers. The writers tended to reject thetheoretical discourses that interpret identity as a state that thatcan be measured and not a process. The traditional discussions onidentity were in the area of personality (Hall &amp Du Gay, 1996).

Somesocial identity researchers challenge the individualistic view andsubjective definition of identity as a stabilized factor and as anessential personality trait. Identity is no longer considered staticand unitary. Identity is currently being formed in a social processand is in terms of relations since human beings are always in themaking through socialization. People develop identities within thesociological framework they live. Therefore, identities are alwaysshifting. The search of a modified identity involves a copingmechanism that creates confusion due to regional migrations andglobal changes. Therefore, the South Asian girls had a problem thatresulted from the confusion that came in when they were struggling toconstruct a modified identity to fit in the Canadian culture. At anindividual level, when someone identifies with a group, he/she canredefine the meanings and norms of their group identity (Hall &ampDu Gay, 1996). The Canadian girls did no experience any problem inschool because they were members of their cultures, therefore, had noidentity confusion.

Effectsof Identity Conflict on South Asian Girls

Effectsof conflicting identities on the South Asian girls in Canada would ofvarious categories. One would, therefore, get the concern with thenotion of identity construction in South Asian girls that were fromminority cultures for integration and interaction with the dominantculture of Canadian. The issues of concern that affected the lives ofthe girls in schools could be from different perspectives. One wouldstart by seeking to understand the relation that existed between thenew identity construction and the girls’ academic performances. Itwould also be important to know the importance of discussing theconcept of minority children within Canada. Another issue that wouldbe the concern is to get to understand the roles that identitycontraction played within the South Asian girls in the socialintegration with Canadian society.

IdentityConstruction and education

Howan individual viewed themselves and their thoughts would determinetheir educational process (Mohanty, 1993). Knowledge directly relatesto people`s differences in terms of being from a dominant group orthe minority group. The differences affect education life because itlocates and situate individuals about the positions they hold in thesociety. The differences connect knowledge, empowerment and educationlinks with the inequalities in the society. Some scholars of culturalreproduction have given their contributions on the effects of schoolslegitimizing their functions information of social hierarchies by theuse of schools knowledge.

Thosewho do not belong to the dominant culture and have the culturalcapital and do not know their language code do not easily succeed inschools (Mohanty, 1993). There was an alienation of the minorities inschools because of ethnic, racial, gender and class differences(Luke, 1992). Owning the dominant culture capital and the languagecodes is termed as cultural and linguistic skills as they acquire theculture and language through socialization.

MinorityChildren and the Construction of Identity

Aminority group in the sociological sense refers to individuals whoare powerless compared to the dominant group in any community. Theminority is viewed on both objective and subjective standing points,meaning that, the problem of discrimination and the awareness to thedisadvantaged and the society. The children’s minority status wasnot based on the strength of numbers but a political basis (Hall &ampDu Gay, 1996). One would argue that gender, ethnic and raceidentities are ascribed to birth. In addition, the South Asianchildren were not in a position to change that, they were able tochange their class position that was also assigned at birth. Associological ideas, the concepts of cultural differences do changeand are not fixed. For instance, in the modern Canada, discriminationon racial differences is mainly directed at nonwhite groups.Discrimination is different from the traditions where other whiteswere also victims. Europeans were also subjected to racialindifferences in Canada when some white races were seen as superiorto others whites (Hall &amp Du Gay, 1996).

Girlsand their Identity

Whileare of larger numbers and enjoy the numerical majority in Canada,they are considered the minority when it comes to allocation ofaccess to power and other privileges in society. The young girls ofSouth Asian in Canada grew up in a community with the minority statusas females and were likely to experience discrimination. However, itwas not only that they were subjected to sexism and racismoppressions, but there was a combination of the two that made themmore vulnerable. The multiple levels of oppression could multilayeredmarginalization (Mohanty, 1993). Another reason for focusing on girlswas to unveil the underlying power differentials in gender relationsin North America.


Whenthe South Asian girls were experiencing some difficulties in adoptingthe new culture in Canada, they had to develop ways for survival.Hybridity is the act of modifying to suit a particular culture. Onewould need a cultural capital and the linguistic code for survivalwithin a particular society (Luke, 1992). For modification purposes,the South Asians and other Non-Canadians were learning the languageand cultural skills of the Canadians for them to adapt to thelifestyle. They were socialized to the new cultures. There were casesof cross-dating and intermarriages between South Asian and theCanadians to facilitate the process of hybridity. The South Asianladies were from countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, SriLanka, and Nepal. These countries may be heterogeneous in languagesand their religion, but they mostly share a common history andsocio-cultural heritage.


Marginalizationis evident when individuals within a given community are not equallytreated when it comes to rights to social amenities. Marginality maybe on the basis of racial differences. A race is a social categoryand not in the biological sense of race. One would argue that thereare no scientific basis categorizing people into races. However, theconcept of racial discrimination social consciousness was real inNorth America. In the case of Canada, &quotBlack&quot and &quotwhite&quotdid not represent skin color, but they were just inaccuratedescriptions. According to Ogbu &amp Simons (1998), there was afirst difficulty of children of voluntary minorities who werevoluntarily in Canada. What the children went through was differentto the minorities who were either in Canada or brought to the countryin schools that had problems with language and differences in theirbehavioral and styles of cognition. Those students that had not knownthe Canadian language were clearly identified as non-members of thecountry and were treated differently from other students that wereCanadians.


Inthe modern societies, any social institution do comprise ofindividuals from different cultural background. Currently, peoplehave been migrating from one country to another for some reasons. Theflexibility of institutions such as schools to accommodateindividuals from various cultural backgrounds would be necessary forsuch an organization to be considered complete. In most cases, someschools have adopted the style of teaching some foreign languages toequip their students with necessary knowledge of such languages andcultures.


Onewould, therefore, argue that the South Asian were not from a completeinstitution in their countries of origin. In case the South Asiangirls were taught Canadian language prior to their migration, theywould experience the same challenges they went through in modifyingthemselves to suit the Canadian Culture. Canadian schools also werenot complete institutions are they could come up with suitable waysto integrate the newcomers into their schools.


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