blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Afghan ghetto

I've been sent the minutes of a meeting I attended; I find that the secretary (Dianne) has summed it up so well that my own account would be superfluous. I gather that Dianne got the permission of the speaker to record what was said and has had this summary checked by her, which is another reason for sticking to the script on this blog. The lady who'd come to make our acquaintance at the meeting was a representative (but apparently atypical) member of the Afghan community in Ottawa. Here are a few paragraphs from the minutes. The last sentence raises debatable questions!
There are some 10,000 Afghans in Ottawa, according to the 2011 census speaking Pushtun, and 6,050 are Persian speaking. She noted that Dari is much the same as Farsi, the language of Iran. There are larger communities in Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto. Many come from refugee camps, in Pakistan particularly, and many are professionals who lack Canadian experience and therefore have little access to job markets in their fields. They own small businesses, sell carpets and real estate, work as mechanics or in construction and they have their own band playing Afghan music at weddings, which are huge. There are 4 or 5 Afghan restaurants in Ottawa and two bakeries where their version of Naan is available. As with many new immigrants, professional accreditation is difficult to obtain, and there are language barriers, so many members of the community are highly overqualified for the jobs they can get. 

She emphasized the Afghan community in Ottawa has only moved geographically. They have brought their misogynist and hard line Islamic values with them. [... ] They tend to live in large groups like the Bayshore area, isolated from mainline Canada. The families are large. The fact that the Canadian child tax benefit is allocated to mothers rankles in this patriarchal group. Most women are unaware of available assistance to attend school and to get childcare.
In the schools the Afghan-Canadian children attend, even the youngest exhibit the prevailing cultural views of the adults, with examples of children’s lunches being criticized for containing items that do not conform to religious standards or for playing with children of the opposite sex.
[She] suggested that Canada’s attitude toward freedom of religion and acceptance of ‘multiculturalism’ was allowing such strict religious and cultural mores to continue.

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