It is difficult enough for adults to decide to leave their home countries and start a new life in another culture, but imagine how much harder it must be for children who don’t get a choice in moving away from everything they know.
Nov. 20 is World Children’s Day and this year’s theme is equality and inclusion: “Kids will stand up for a more equal, more inclusive world,” UNICEF states in this year’s announcement. The date was first established in 1954 as Universal Children’s Day to focus on awareness and child welfare worldwide.
Immigrant kids in Canada face several challenges, including culture shock, language barriers and adapting to a strange new life. Many of them are forced to migrate from their homelands due to war, hunger or political unrest.
“Children are extremely resilient. They are adaptable, they have many strengths,” said Shazeen Suleman, a pediatrician at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto and an assistant professor at the University of Toronto’s Temerty Faculty of Medicine.
“If we approach children from that perspective, then we can support them in the best way possible.”
Suleman cares for kids who are newcomers to Canada may have medical developmental diagnoses or and mental health issues. She said that in her experience, children never choose to immigrate to a new country — they come because of a decision that an adult in their life has made.
“What children need to know is that they can be safe, that they are cared for, and that their family is there for them through all these changes,” Suleman said.
According to Statics Canada, the record number of immigrants who arrived in Canada from 2016 to 2021 increased though it was restricted in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. And children of immigrants who have at least one foreign-born parent rose from 26.7 per cent in 2011 to 31.5 per cent in 2021.