FAMILY and KINSHIP among
FIRST NATIONS, IMMIGRANTS and VISIBLE MINORITIES
by Phil Bartle, PhD
They have many features of their wider social environment in common
The histories and experiences of these three categories are different (eg Akan), so social organisation among them, including family life, will necessarily be different.
We put them together here because they have many features of their social environment in common, and it is those features which we should examine for their effects on families.
The social environment is composed of two elements: (1) the regulatory and legal environment and (2) the informal social environment. (Compare with enabling environment for empowering communities).
The regulatory environment is composed not only of the laws of the land, but also the departmental and ministerial regulations of civil services at local, provincial and federal levels.
Some of these are not overtly written down but include practices and behaviour of governmental decision makers and officers even when they are seen as discretionary.
The informal social environment includes the thoughts and actions of ordinary people in the community with whom the subjects come into contact.
These include both prejudice and bigotry as well as more tolerant and accepting attitudes and behaviour.
Remember that there is no monolithic or standard family, in form or function, for any society, and therefore for the people in these three categories.
Family life is difficult for these three categories, and the main source of those difficulties are the two environments mentioned above.
Conflict sociologists suggest the best way to understand these is through looking at power relationships between families and the social environments within which they are found.
The effects of these factors include poverty, poor health, inadequate housing and marginal employment.
All of these are important in family form and function. All of them contribute to weakening families among these three categories of people.
Historically, Canada’s immigration policy was outright racist.
The Chinese had to pay a head tax to immigrate.
Encouragement was given mainly to immigrants from the British Isles and northern Europe.
After World War II, immigration opened up for some others, including Eastern Europe and other British Commonwealth countries.
Since then, using the point system, the policy allowed immigrants to come more from other countries.
For the first half of the previous century, inter racial marriage and intimate relations were prohibited, and there were several cases when police raided the homes of inter-racial couples to arrest them and take them to police stations to book them.
Before he became Prime minister, Pierre E. Trudeau introduced legislation to counteract this with his famous statement, "The state has no business in the bedrooms of the citizens."
Most families from these three groups are sources of support and strength for their members, but the external social forces working to break them down counteract that.
Because of the environment, large numbers of immigrants who are also visible minorities found it more welcoming to move to urban areas where others had already settled.
This caused the creation and growth of ethnic enclaves in urban areas, which in turn contributes to ethnic stereotypes and ethnic conflict and misunderstanding.
Assimilation and integration means the process of immigrant groups becoming more like mainstream families, and interacting more with them.
The late Stanford Lyman, my first sociology teacher (see the Bartle text book) did research in the 1960s, comparing Japanese and Chinese immigrants to USA and Canada.
He found that the rates were comparable in Canada and the USA; Japanese assimilating more quickly and Chinese assimilating more slowly.
His research also demonstrated that the official policies of Canada (the mosaic policy) and the USA (the melting pot policy) had little effect on their assimilation rates.
Culture of origin was a more influential variable.
Migrants who tend to move to ethnic enclaves tend to assimilate more slowly than others.
If those persons who are fighting, in the name of strengthening and protecting families, the recent introduction of legislation to allow same sex couples to become married, would spend as much energy, resources, interest and support to families of immigrants, First Nations and visible minorities, they would do far more to help families to survive and grow.
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