Adaptation to the Canadian Society

The Arab Canadians may be divided into three groups in accordance with their degree of adaptation;

This group includes those who prefer to be identified as Canadians. Sometimes they adopt Canadian names and speak French or English at all times. They might isolate themselves from other Canadian Arabs and choose Canadian friends, especially those who are married to Canadians. m This group of Arab Canadians is the smallest.

These individuals prefer to live in areas with high concentration of other Arab speaking residents and with services catering to their specific cultural needs. They speak Arabic at all times in their homes and with their friends. They do not feel that they need to learn English or French. They go to shops and services where Arabic is spoken. In some communities Arabic newspapers provide them with news and information. Their children often go to private Arabic schools. They maintain their traditional practices inside and outside of their homes. Most of the recent newcomers who have been forced to leave their homes due to wars, political conflicts and poverty belong to this group.
This group of Arab Canadians is the second largest of the three groups.

Members of this Arab Canadians group have chosen to combine the best of both the Arabic and Canadian cultures in their lives. They are usually well educated, open minded and rationalist. They don not fear the challenges poised by the new society regarding values, culture or identity. They are able to negotiate with their culture of origin and the new culture in both theoretical and practical terms.
This group of Arab Canadians is the largest of the three groups.

Problems in Integration
• Many Arab Canadians fall between these three groups. There are many dynamic forces that immigrants must confront. The greatest is the cultural differences that revolve around issues such as the structure of the family, sex, dating, homosexuality and single parent families. They find the differences to their traditions and culture intimidating, disturbing and difficult to cope with.

Parents find themselves challenged when questioned by their children with respect to these differences. Many feel their authority is threatened and in response impose their traditions on their children more rigorously than if they would in their countries of origin.

Arab Canadian children and youth suffer not only from the common peer pressure other Canadian children experience, but in addition they have to cope with cultural differences and prejudices of race and colour.

Seniors in their country of origin are normally cared for by their family with support from the extended family. In Canada that is not easily done and they find themselves in institutions for care. This causes their children a great deal of distress and guilt.

• Many Arab professionals and highly skilled individuals are unable to find work commensurate with their qualifications due to lack of Canadian experience or because their credentials are not recognized by the licensing authorities.

They are forced to perform menial work to survive. Unemployed or underemployed and unable to provide for the basic needs of the family, results in loss of self esteem, diminished authority in the family. Saving face is extremely important in the Middle Eastern culture, consequently many families can't cope and return to their country of origin to survive economically and regain self esteem.

• The Western media portrayal of Arabs in stereotypical ways had profound negative effects on Arabs and on their integration process. Former CBS news consultant, scholar and author Jack Shaheen (PhD) studied this issue and demonstrated the harmful effects stereotyping perpetuated in all channels of the media (read his book Real Bad Arabs).

He noted that continuous harmful stereotyping of Arabs denigrates people, narrows vision and blur reality. He noted that portrayal of Arabs is limited to three caricatures; bombers, belly dancers, billionaires. Hollywood uses these three repeatedly causing huge misconceptions and misrepresentations of Arabs.

Factors Facilitating Integration
• The Canadian multicultural environment provides a warm and gracious welcome for the new immigrants. With the social, educational and health benefits provided by the government, immigrants begin their new life with a sense of security and optimistic look to their future.

Instruction of English or French is provided to those who need it at no expense. Settlement programs help immigrants to find housing and jobs. Translation and interpretation services are offered at no expense to those in need.

• Plights to immigrants whose credentials are not recognized, or who can't work due to lack of Canadian experience are appreciated and steps to resolve this problem are under way. Prospective immigrants on the other hand should be informed before leaving their countries to make the additional preparations that facilitate their work in their fields when they arrive.

• Families of new immigrants should also be informed of the Canadian culture, rearing practices of children and the Canadian family law before arrival to Canada.