New Canadian Media
Saturday, 11 March 2017 14:47

A Tradition of Thrift

by Lucy Slavianska

Victoria Bechkalo, a social worker from Ukraine, and Aleksandr Aksenov, a bank analyst from Russia, had only five guests at their Toronto wedding — the groom’s brother, his wife and children, and a family friend. Since their home countries were at war with each other, dividing their friends, and their parents couldn’t make it to Toronto due to visa issues, Bechkalo and Aksenov couldn’t plan a big wedding.

Still, they say their ceremony at Christ the Saviour Russian Orthodox Cathedral was the happiest moment of their lives, because what mattered to them was not the number of guests, a drive in a limo, or a lavish reception, but the decision to create their family in peaceful, tolerant Canada and their ability to do this by blending traditions from their respective homelands with those from their new home.

One of these traditions is affordability.

There is a long history of church weddings in eastern European communities, not just because of the opulent atmosphere — the candles, richly decorated altars, clerical vestments, murals, and iconography — but because the churches make a point of keeping costs down.

Many churches, for instance, charge more than $1,000 for wedding ceremonies (the Metropolitan United Church in Toronto charges $1,500 for a wedding, and the Anglican St. Clement Church charges $1,725), but eastern European churches tend to have much lower fees. Some, like the Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church and St. Mary’s Polish Roman Catholic Church, charge between $100 and $500, but if a couple cannot afford to pay, even those charges may be waived. Others don’t charge for weddings at all, though couples often make a donation. 

Elena and Joseph Peccoreli chose to marry in the same Russian Orthodox cathedral as Bechkalo and Aksenov. Before the ceremony, Elena bought a small icon and her wedding ring from the cathedral’s shop. “These things are cheap [there] and everybody can afford them,” she says. “I chose a white gold ring that was brought to Canada from a Russian monastery. But in general, the crosses and the rings don’t have to be golden. The idea is that nobody should be stopped from getting married because of money.”

Aliaksei Androsik, originally from Russia, and Julia Gorbunova, from Belarus, had been wanting to get married for more than a decade. “We met when I was 13 and she was 14 years old,” Androsik says. “At that time we were both attending school in Poland, and she told me to wait till we grew up. We lived in different countries for years, keeping in touch over the internet, and we finally decided that she [would] come to me to Canada.”  They married in a small Belorussian church in Toronto, with 40 guests in attendance. After the ceremony, there was a party in the church hall with cake and vodka, and then the couple hosted a barbecue at home.

This is very much in keeping with cultural beliefs shared throughout eastern Europe. Salaries are significantly lower there than in western countries, so frugality is generally valued. Eastern European priests here presume that young couples, and especially new immigrants, might not have much by way of savings. There is also a widespread belief that couples should use their money for more practical purposes, such as buying a home or providing for future children. Priests emphasize that saving is righteous, and they discourage couples from going into debt over a day of celebrations.

Archpriest Vasily Kolega, from Christ the Saviour Russian Orthodox Cathedral (which doesn't charge for weddings), considers the overspending that's so common unwise: “In Canada, we see a lot of couples who use up their savings or borrow money and spend a lot on big weddings, and then spend years paying [it] back.”

By contrast, he says, couples like Bechkalo and Aksenov (whom he married in the summer of 2016) have a different perspective when it comes to celebrating their wedding. “Such couples who come to us believe that the wedding ceremony is much more significant than a big wedding party or than going to Mexico or somewhere else to spend money. They start their family life. They declare their love for each other, take their vows very seriously, and believe this more important than the material sides of the weddings.”


Lucy Slavianska is a Toronto-based journalist and editor who has lived and worked in Canada, Japan, Bulgaria, Venezuela, and the Netherlands.

This story is the product of a partnership between TVO.org and New Canadian Media.

Published in Arts & Culture
Sunday, 01 November 2015 20:58

Family Not the Best Interpreter of Maladies

by Lucy Slavianska in Toronto

Language barriers can have a negative impact not only on initial access to health services, but also on the quality of health care and treatment outcomes.

In Canada, three main groups of patients can face language barriers: newcomers who still haven’t gained enough fluency in one of the official languages; French speakers with limited English living outside Quebec or English speakers in Quebec with limited French; and some members of First Nations and Inuit communities.

For immigrants and refugees, language barriers are generally considered a "newcomer" issue, which is overcome once the immigrant learns enough English or French to become independent of interpreters.

However, even after several years in Canada, some immigrants are still not sufficiently able to understand the official language of the province they reside in. According to a Health Canada report, “Language Barriers in Access to Health Care,” such immigrants are “more likely to be women with young children, the elderly, poorly educated or those suffering traumatic events or psychological disorders.”

The report also says that some immigrants are able to communicate adequately in everyday situations, but face difficulties in coping with “highly stressful health-related events in a second language.”

Lack of privacy and confidentiality, embarrassment, and other kinds of psychological discomfort are some of the disadvantages of using family members and friends to translate.

Pitfalls of using non-professional interpreters

For patients who face language barriers, it is a common practice to visit hospitals and physicians’ offices accompanied by family members or friends acting as interpreters.

This practice has its advantages – these non-professional interpreters are easy to find, often compassionate, and in most cases accompany the patient at no cost. The stress of falling sick and visiting a hospital in a new country can be reduced if the patient feels supported, physically and psychologically, by loved ones.

But this experience is not always the case.

Soon after Aiko (not her real name), a 15-year-old girl from Japan, came to Canada to join her father, she started to experience menorrhagia – excessive bleeding that lasted more than seven days each month.

However, with no knowledge of English, she was reluctant to see a doctor. She felt uncomfortable talking to her father or her stepmother (with whom she had a conflict) about her problem, and couldn’t imagine going to a physician’s office with one of them as the interpreter and talking about her period in their presence.

A few months later, she started feeling weak and tired, and she fainted one morning in the kitchen. At the hospital, a blood check showed that Aiko had developed iron-deficiency anemia as a result of the untreated heavy bleeding.

Her father translated during the examination. She was embarrassed when the physician asked her about her menstrual cycle.

“The doctor was a woman and I might feel okay talking only with her in the room,” Aiko remembers, “but because my father was there, I didn’t want to answer. It was terrible.”

Even if good intentions are present, the use of untrained interpreters still carries serious risks of errors in translation that can lead to misdiagnosis and improper treatment.

Aiko had to answer all the questions and eventually made a full recovery, but until her English improved, she dreaded seeing a physician again.

Lack of privacy and confidentiality, embarrassment, and other kinds of psychological discomfort like those Aiko experienced are some of the disadvantages of using family members and friends to translate.

But there are other, even more serious disadvantages: sometimes the interpreter may not act in good faith and can twist the information in a way that can harm the patient. Also, important sensitive information – about domestic violence, psychiatric illness, substance abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, and so on – may be hidden from the physician or distorted. 

But even if good intentions are present, the use of untrained interpreters still carries serious risks of errors in translation that can lead to misdiagnosis and improper treatment.

A 2003 research paper, “Errors in Medical Interpretation and Their Potential Clinical Consequences in Pediatric Encounters,” concluded that mistakes in medical interpretation are common, and errors made by untrained interpreters are significantly more likely to have potential clinical consequences than those made by professional interpreters.

Professional interpreters: specially trained

For all these reasons, hospitals in Canada often use independent and specially trained interpreters.

In Toronto, for example, many hospitals find professionals though RivInt Interpretation and Translation Services, managed by the Elspeth Heyworth Centre for Women (EHCW). The centre has a roster of about 600 professionally trained people who cover more than 80 languages. 

The good news for the patients is that they don’t pay for interpreters – the expenses are covered by the hospitals.

“Since our clients are most often hospitals, our interpreters are mainly specialized in health care,” says Sunder Singh, executive director of EHCW.

“We don’t take anyone who is not language tested and trained. One of the main elements of the training is mastering the medical terminology. The participants have to become familiar with all kinds of medical words and learn their equivalents in their own languages.”

Singh adds, “Another important element is the understanding of the responsibilities of the job. For example, interpreters have to be aware that the information communicated between the patient and the medical staff is strictly confidential. Interpreters who don’t obey that rule would not be called to work again and will lose their income."

Training is provided by different colleges and organizations like Seneca College, Barbra Schlifer Commemorative, Multilingual Community Interpreter Services and others.

“Training is expensive,” Singh says, “usually between $800 and $2000, but if the participants become good interpreters and the hospitals are satisfied by them, they are called again and again. And if the language is on demand, then there is a quick return on the investment.”

The good news for the patients is that they don’t pay for interpreters – the expenses are covered by the hospitals.

“The hospitals pay [the fees for] the language services to us,” Singh explains, “and we pay the interpreters at market rate. The federal budget, unfortunately, doesn’t pay a lot for interpreters’ services, so the hospitals keep aside some budget for that – because they understand how important professional translation is.”


While across Canada there are organizations that provide new immigrants with information about the Canadian health-care system, there is a growing number of newcomers who still don’t know about these resources. As such, this is part of an occasional series by NewCanadianMedia.ca that will look into access to health care for immigrants.

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

 

Published in Health
Wednesday, 28 October 2015 15:06

Reframing Racism as a Public Health Issue

by Shan Qiao in Toronto
 
Scholars and students recently gathered at Canada’s top health education institute to discuss racial health inequities experienced by immigrants, refugees and racialized groups.
 
The eighth annual Dalla Lana student-led conference titled Racial Justice Matters: Advocating for Racial Health Equity took place at University of Toronto’s (U of T) Dalla Lana School of Public Health this past weekend. 

Approximately 200 undergraduate and graduate students from U of T, along with academics and researchers, health policymakers and members of immigrant community agencies were in attendance. 

The goal was to share trans-disciplinary thoughts and solutions to achieving racial health equity in the Greater Toronto Area. The organizers hoped the conference could shift the conversation in public health by reframing racism as a public health issue.

“We chose this theme for our conference because of the staggering inequities faced by racialized individuals in Canada that not only affect their social outcomes, but health outcomes as well.”

“We chose this theme for our conference because of the staggering inequities faced by racialized individuals in Canada that not only affect their social outcomes, but health outcomes as well,” says Anjum Sultana, one of the co-chairs of the conference and a student in the masters of public health program at the Dalla Lana School. 
 
The two-day event examined topics ranging from racism and health inequities to immigrant mental health services, refugee health insurance, culturally safe patient care and indigenous study. Specific subjects such as sexual health promotion for racialized communities were also addressed. 

Culturally competent services
 
Dr. Lin Fang, one of the conference’s speakers held a session titled “Culturally Responsive Mental Health Services for Racialized Groups”. 

She shared that despite how important “culturally competent” services are to immigrant communities the government still worries that branding services as such will discourage social service inclusiveness. 

“It’s scary (to them),” she admits.
 
Fang, an associate professor at University of Toronto, specializes in mental health services for immigrants, refugees and racialized groups and is also the board chair for Hong Fook Mental Health Association, a community agency that has served East and Southeast Asian communities for three decades. 

Immigrants are not immune to suffering from mental health issues, explains Fang. 

“[Just over six per cent] of immigrants [have] had at least one major depressive episode,” says Fang, “[and] 0.5 per cent of immigrants reported experiencing problems related to alcohol dependence. First- and second-generation immigrants were at elevated risk for psychosis.”

[D]espite how important “culturally competent” services are to immigrant communities the government still worries that branding services as such will discourage social service inclusiveness.

 
And while suicide rates for the immigrant population were about half of those of the Canadian-born, psychological distress, post traumatic stress disorder and depression are high in refugee groups, Fang continues. 
 
“New immigrants and refugees are also less likely to seek out and be referred to mental health services, or use less services,” Fang indicates, explaining that language barriers, inadequate time and fractured support networks all contribute to such a reality.
 
Culturally responsive services can play an important role in bridging this gap. 

In Hong Fook’s annual report one of its clients describes how such services helped: 

“During the Lunar New Year, I was back to square one with my depression. I did not pick up the phone at all, and my mental health worker ended up paying me an unscheduled visit, and helped me to connect with my family. She knows my culture and the meaning of the Lunar New Year for me, and I value her support a lot,” the client said. 

Factoring in poverty 

Factors contributing to immigrant mental health issues include pre-migration events and post-migration stress. 

A large part of post-migration stress can be tied to income. For example, in Toronto, the poverty rate of some immigrant groups – 69.5 per cent for the Somali community, 27 per cent for the Tamil community and 56 per cent for the Afghan community – is much higher than the city’s 17 per cent average.

"[W]hat we really want to do is find an institutional solution to improve our responses to aboriginal and indigenous people, immigrants and refugees.”

 
Poverty is often linked to unemployment and underemployment. Unemployment is 30 per cent higher for immigrants than for those who are Canadian-born. 

Not to mention, many immigrants arrive highly educated, but are forced to work in unrelated ‘survival’ jobs just to make ends meet due to a lack of Canadian experience or their foreign credentials not being recognized.
 
Next steps
 
“[The results of this conference] will definitely not disappear,” promises Meena Bhardwaj, co-chair of the conference and also in her second year of the masters of public health program at Dalla Lana. 

“We have a website. Every single talk will have notes that will be available online. We also have some forward direction that we will take after the conference.”

Sultana adds that Toronto is well positioned as a city in which real change can happen. 

“After the conference, what we really want to do is find an institutional solution to improve our responses to aboriginal and indigenous people, immigrants and refugees,” she says. “We are going to ask our faculty here to start pushing forward.”

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Health
Tuesday, 13 October 2015 17:11

Calling for Racial Health Equity in Canada

by Lucy Slavianska in Toronto

“Racism and racial health inequities are a hidden and serious concern with detrimental consequences for all people in Canada.”

This is the position of the initiators of the 8th annual Dalla Lana student-led conference “Racial Justice Matters: Advocating for Racial Health Equity”. The conference will take place on October 23 and October 24, 2015, at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto.

“In the last two years we’ve been hearing a lot about racial issues in the U.S. and Canada,” says co chair of the student-led conference Anjum Sultana, “and there has been quite a lot of research showing that there is racism and it affects people’s health.”

Some of the recently released high profile reports that support this statement include: “Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Recommendations”, “First Peoples, Second Class Treatment” and “Colour Coded Healthcare” by Wellesley Institute and “Racialization and Health Inequities in Toronto” by Toronto Public Health.

Sultana explains that many people of colour have lower incomes because there is racial bias in the Canadian job market, which results in lower employment and lower wages.

“There are many different pathways that lead to negative health outcomes due to racism,” Sultana says. “One of them is poor access or lack of access to health-care services in Canada due to living in remote locations or the inability to pay – although we have a publically funded health-care system, not everything is covered.”  

Medications, eye exams, dental care and physiotherapy, for example, are not covered by the provincial insurance plans and people with low income often can’t afford them. Sultana explains that many people of colour have lower incomes because there is racial bias in the Canadian job market, which results in lower employment and lower wages.

Impacts on immigrants of colour, refugees

The same tendency exists among new immigrants from many countries. Even though they might come to Canada with high education and qualifications, their credentials might not be recognized. 

Also, they often face barriers like lack of Canadian experience, lack of trust and others. As a result new immigrants can be underemployed, do low paid and health hazard jobs to cover their basic expenses and cannot afford medication and other paid health care services. 

“As for the ‘healthy immigrant effect,’” Sultana explains, “the tendency that new immigrants are generally healthier than Canadian-born people, but their health declines as their years in Canada increase, research shows that the health of the immigrants of colour declines faster and gets worse than the health of the Europeans and Americans.”

"[R]esearch shows that the health of the immigrants of colour declines faster and gets worse than the health of the Europeans and Americans.”

Even more critical is the situation of the refugees in Canada. “In the [recent] years there were a lot of cuts in refugee health care,” Sultana says. “And now refugees, many of whom are of colour and racialized, are receiving less and lower quality of health care.”  

“Not only [is] the poor access to health care affecting the people of colour and racialized patients,” Sultana says. “It is also the quality of treatment they get in the health-care institutions. There is lot of bias there, especially against the indigenous people.”

Sultana cites Brian Sinclair as an example. Sinclair, an indigenous person, went to an emergency department in Winnipeg with a treatable infection. After waiting in his wheelchair for 34 hours, he died without receiving medical help.

“Because of his [indigenous] background, he was thought to be drunk and not really sick and this resulted in his death,” Sultana explains. “This is just one case, but there are many other cases where institutions don’t provide the same quality of health care to everybody.”

Urgent need for action

“Considering this growing evidence of the presence and role of racism in our health-care system,” Sultana says, “we at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health think that there is an urgent need of actions – because these issues are impacting the lives of so many people. We have to be proactive in our efforts to put an end to racism, especially now, when Canada is becoming more and more diverse.”

"We have to be proactive in our efforts to put an end to racism, especially now, when Canada is becoming more and more diverse.”

The conference at The University of Toronto aims to raise awareness about the findings of the newest research and to facilitate knowledge exchange between organizations, researchers and individuals working on the issues of racism and health. 

Also, the Dalla Lana School of Public Health strives to create opportunities for developing innovation collaborations locally and to empower participants to apply the learned knowledge into future projects on reducing the negative impact of racism in all forms.

Two initiatives Sultana strongly supports are including anti-racism training in the curriculum of medical schools in Canada and organizing anti-racism training at health-care institutions.

“Mount Sinai Hospital and a couple of other hospitals are looking at such training,” she says.  “We all have stereotypes that we may not even be aware of, and one way to uncover them is to go to training and start talking about them. Discussions would help health-care professionals become aware of their stereotypes and help them stop acting according to them.”

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Health
Saturday, 26 September 2015 16:56

Navigating Health Care as a Newcomer

by Lucy Slavianska in Toronto 

When Jasmine, a young engineer from Iran, arrived in Toronto, she immediately applied for the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP). 

She knew she had to wait three months to receive her health card, but since she was generally healthy, it didn’t occur to her to look for an alternative health insurance while waiting for OHIP. 

January, however, was extremely cold and just three weeks after Jasmine landed, she fell sick. She had a high fever and, due to acute laryngitis, lost her voice. Over-the-counter medicines didn’t work and she had to see a doctor. 

Her visit to a walk-in clinic, as well as her treatment, cost more than $200. “This was so expensive,” she says, “but it could have been worse.” 

Insufficient knowledge is one of the biggest barriers newcomers in Canada face when they seek medical help. Often, the mistakes they make can be prevented if they receive guidance and accurate information about the ways the Canadian health-care system works. 

To avoid unexpected high medical expenses during the first three months after arriving to Canada, Marwan Ismail, executive director at Polycultural Immigrant and Community Services, advises newcomers to buy travel insurance. 

“It is really important to be insured. Treatment is very expensive in Canada.”

“You go to the doctor,” he explains, “you pay, and then you send the claim to your travel insurance company, which will reimburse you.” 

This is something Ismail’s team at Polycultural underlines for many newcomers who don’t know how health insurance works. 

“It is really important to be insured,” Ismail continues. “Treatment is very expensive in Canada.” 

Ismail cites, for example, that elderly people can easily fall and have a fracture. If they need a surgery and have to stay in the hospital for two or three days, the bill could reach about $50 000. 

“Some newcomers think, ‘Why should I to pay $50 per month just to be insured?’ Well, $50 may save you $50 000 – you never know,” he says. 

Seeking help 

People who have no health coverage at all may be eligible for treatment at a community health centre, but these centres – depending on the location – often have extensive waiting lists and it may take several months to see a doctor. 

Not knowing where to seek medical attention, many newcomers go to the emergency departments at hospitals – even if their conditions are far from critical. 

The large number of new immigrants who go directly to the emergency departments has recently provoked discussions at Health Canada.

The large number of new immigrants who go directly to the emergency departments has recently provoked discussions at Health Canada. 

“There are newcomers who don’t know how to find family physicians; some don’t even understand what an appointment means,” says Nadia Sokhan, director of monitoring, reporting and partnerships at Polycultural. “But they easily learn what 911 is and can also go to the emergency.” 

Those who are not insured are often surprised with very high bills when they go to emergency. On the other hand, for those who have provincial coverage, their treatment costs much more to the government than if they had gone to family physicians or to walk-in clinics. 

“Each visit to the emergency department costs the Ministry of Health about $975,” Ismail explains. “Even if the person just has a cold, the hospitals would send the Ministry a $975 bill – while if the patient goes to a walk-in clinic or to a family doctor, it would be about $30. So it is very important to educate the newcomers and make them understand the importance of having family physicians – this is in the best interest to everyone.” 

Cultural sensitivities

Finding a family physician, however, can be challenging for newcomers. 

There are some immigrants who prefer to be treated by doctors who come from the same countries of origins, speak their language and understand their culture. 

Gender can also be an issue for newcomers from certain parts of the world – mainly the Middle East and South Asia Ismail says – as some would like to see a family doctor who is of the same gender.

For an immigrant living in a multicultural city like Toronto or Vancouver finding a family physician with the same cultural background is more likely, but even then the physician’s practice can be far from the place the immigrant lives. 

Gender can also be an issue for newcomers from certain parts of the world – mainly the Middle East and South Asia, Ismail says – as some would like to see a family doctor who is of the same gender. 

Some newcomers find family physicians by asking people from their ethnic communities. Others search online. 

In Ontario, for example, the website of the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons offers an “all doctors search” option with information about physicians’ genders, the languages they speak, the areas they practise and their training and qualifications.

Not all the listed physicians accept new patients though and some of them have waiting lists. While waiting, newcomers can still use the walk-in clinics and, if necessary, find interpreters to accompany them.


While across Canada there are organizations that provide new immigrants with information about the Canadian health-care system, there is a growing number of newcomers who still don’t know about these resources. As such, this is the first of an occasional series by NewCanadianMedia.ca that will look into access to health care for immigrants.

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Health

by Lucy Slavianska (@lucylsl) in Toronto, Ontario

As mainstream media focus on the war in Ukraine and Canada’s position on it, headlines in the Eastern European diaspora media reveal some of the other challenges, struggles and joys of its community in Canada.

Canada Relaxes Visa Requirements for Citizens of Romania And Bulgaria

Romanian and Bulgarian media report on the Harper government’s decision to relax the visa requirements for Romanian and Bulgarian nationals.

According to new regulations coming in 2016, Bulgarian Flame reports, Bulgarian citizens who have held a Canadian visa in the last 10 years or who hold a U.S. non-immigrant visa will no longer need to apply for Canadian visas, but will only have to register for an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA). The same regulations apply for Romanian citizens.

The news came after Romania and Bulgaria, both European Union (EU) members, declared they would not ratify the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), a EU-Canada free-trade agreement, if Ottawa would not lift the visa requirements for their nationals. In order for CETA to come into effect, all 28 EU members must ratify it.  

Prior to Bulgaria and Romania, the Czech Republic declared it wouldn’t ratify CETA if Canada didn’t lift the visa requirement for Czech citizens. The Harper government removed visas for Czech citizens, but only relaxed the requirements for Bulgarians and Romanians.

“It is a step towards the total lifting of visas for Romanians,” Pagini Romanesti writes, “but it seems unlikely that the Canadian authorities will take this decision very soon.”

Canadians, on the other hand, don’t need visas for any of the EU countries, including Romania and Bulgaria.

Biometric Data Collection Expands for Visitors to Canada

The federal government announced that the collection of biometric data from people entering Canada would vastly expand.

Polish website Bejsment.com, however, informed its readers that Poles who cross the Canadian border do not have to provide such data, because the new regulations do not apply to nationals of countries with which Canada has visa-free agreements. Also, the website explains that the biometric data of the Polish citizens are already saved in the electronic chips of their passports.

However, citizens of 148 countries who require visas will be subject to biometric data collection which includes fingerprints, facial and iris scanning. According to the federal government, the tightening of border control would not only increase the internal security, but would also limit the influx of unwanted people.

The drawback of the new project is the high cost – about $200 million for installation, and about $20 million annually for maintenance of the system.

Despite the expenses, security expert John Thompson believes that other countries should follow Canada’s example. In fact, collecting biometric data is already a common practice in Europe, the USA, Australia and New Zealand. 

Photo Credit: Bejsment.com (Accompanied original referenced article.)

The Fight for Kindergarten Ukrainian-Language Programs

Parents, teachers, community activists and organizations are concerned about anticipated changes in the decades-old Ukrainian language program running in three kindergarten classes in Toronto’s Eastern-Rite Catholic schools. In five articles, the Ukrainian-Canadian news portal New Pathway followed the heated discussions and actions of the Ukrainian community to preserve the language program.

Until 2014, the three kindergartens, which included separate half-day classes in Ukrainian, were partly funded by parents. When they became fully funded by the province, John Yan, senior coordinator at the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB), said there would be changes to the Ukrainian language component’s delivery.

After several meetings, the prompt and united actions of the Ukrainian community members resulted in successful negotiations with TCDSB.

Meanwhile, a petition stated, “Teachers were informed that they have to abandon their separate Ukrainian classrooms and assume support duties within the regular English curriculum.”

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) Toronto branch announced a committee of parents and community activists would challenge the changes. Some of the group’s main concerns were, “the difficulty of combining instruction in two languages for young children in a single session,” “the volume of instruction in Ukrainian” and “ways to ensure the interests of Ukrainian teachers in the new circumstances.”

After several meetings, the prompt and united actions of the Ukrainian community members resulted in successful negotiations with TCDSB. On June 3, 2015, the UCC and TCDSB released a joint statement announcing children would spend half a day with an English teacher and the other half with a Ukrainian one and an ECE (early childhood education) team.

Photo: St. Josaphat Catholic School Celebrates 50 Years // Photo Credit: tcdsb.org

Annual Competitions Encourage Reading, Writing and Spelling in Polish

To stimulate young people of Polish background to learn, use and improve their Polish-language skills, Polish schools in most provinces organize competitions in essay writing, reading and spelling at the end of every school year. Polish portal Goniec published Teresa Szramek’s report on the most popular competitions in the country.

This year, the Best Essay in Polish Language competition was held for the 50th time. According to Szramek, the jury did a tremendous job, reading and evaluating hundreds of essays sent from Polish schools from all across Canada. Among the grading criteria were the ability to use the language beautifully and the courage to speak out on difficult subjects.

The reading contest, “Champion at Reading Beautifully,” took place at John Paul II Polish Cultural Centre Mississauga. Children read a text by Barbara Gawryluk’s My Bullerby, a novel about a girl who faces challenges when her parents decide to emigrate from Poland to Sweden.

“The reading contest for children is really important,” Szramek writes, “especially in the era of ubiquitous Internet. The contest aims, among other things, to arouse interest in books, which are a cultural asset of every nation, and to encourage reading, because books develop the imagination and enrich the vocabulary of the young readers.”

A record number of candidates also competed for the title of Spelling Champion of the Year 2015.

Photo Credit: Goniec (Accompanied original referenced article.)

Volunteers Run “Food Bank On Wheels”

People who use the Canadian social assistance system should not just passively wait for help – many of them could be more actively engaged in improving of their situations and the lives of others in need, says Lada Alexeychuk in Russian Week.

Alexeychuk is involved in an organization created and run by volunteers who call this activity “food bank on wheels.”

The work is simple: the volunteers talk to grocery store and warehouse managers and, at the end of the day, pick up the food that has not been sold. They immediately deliver this food to the homes of people in need. In this way, about 100 people receive fresh fruit and vegetables every week.

Since products are delivered the same day, the “food bank” doesn’t need storage or administrative staff. All it takes is the will to help others.

Alexeychuk writes that elderly people are especially grateful for this home-delivery service in winter, because they don’t have to walk the slushy, slippery streets to get food.

Since products are delivered the same day, the “food bank” doesn’t need storage or administrative staff. All it takes is the will to help others.

“The reasons people need help are different – unemployment, sickness, old age, immigration,” Alexeychuk says. “However, if a person is in need of social assistance, this doesn’t mean that he or she is completely helpless. If you think about it, every man, even the weakest person with disability can be of some help in some way.”

Photo Credit: Russian Week (Accompanied original referenced article.)


Lucy Slavianska is a Toronto-based journalist who has lived and worked in Bulgaria, Japan, Venezuela and the Netherlands. She has a PhD in clinical philosophy and background in editing and publishing.

 

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

 

Published in Eastern Europe

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The honest truth is there is still reluctance around immigration policy... When we want to talk about immigration and we say we want to bring more immigrants in because it's good for the economy, we still get pushback.

-- Canada's economic development minister Navdeep Bains at a Public Policy Forum economic summit

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