While most Canadians appreciate what cultural, ethnic, and linguistic groups have to offer, sometimes these differences have been the source of misinformation, misunderstanding and even conflict. It is not uncommon for students who are new to the country to experience discrimination, bullying and harassment simply because they are unable to communicate, don’t understand cultural conventions or look different. This is more likely to occur in schools that have not intentionally taught and reinforced respect for diversity.
Newcomer families come to Canada representing a broad spectrum of ethnicities and cultures. The term newcomer refers to people who are classed as immigrant or refugee according to Statistics Canada. Generally, the children of newcomer families are first generation in Canada. For the children of newcomer families, adjusting to life in Canada can be challenging. Children must often learn a new language, make new friends, learn new cultural norms and sometimes deal with issues related to troubling or traumatic past experiences. As the demographic face of Canada changes, teachers must be proactive in helping all students understand each other’s worldviews, cultures, traditions and celebrations so that respect is fostered between all groups and conflict is significantly reduced.