Friday, 30 September 2016

The journey is long but every step counts!

By Aliraza Alidina

My placement at the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg has officially ended but the project I am working on will take a while to get completed. 

Following up on the report published by the Immigration Partnership Winnipeg in April 2015 titled “Creating inter-cultural understanding: Relationship between Urban Indigenous Communities and Immigrant and Refugee Newcomers in Winnipeg’s inner-city” authored by Muuxi Adam, I am working on a report that will outline different organizations in the settlement sector who are engaged in initiatives regarding Newcomer Indigenous relations. I am interested to know how the initiatives have been designed, what elements have been incorporated, the expected goals, challenges faced, next steps and the way forward. 

The report by Muuxi Adam – which was based on focus groups of about 88 participants from each of the Indigenous and Newcomer communities and facilitated by Jackie Hogue – included important recommendations such as the following:

  • Indigenous leaders should be given a role in the orientation of newcomers, specifically in the welcoming process
  • There needs to be more programs and workshops that can stimulate awareness about the cultures of both communities
  • There needs to be partnerships between Indigenous serving organizations and Newcomer serving organizations
  • There is a necessity to create programs that specifically cater to the youth segment

An interesting theme that has subtly emerged – though not extensively at all – from the literature on ‘Newcomer Indigenous relations’ is on the role that ‘cultural brokers’ can play in smoothly bridging relationships particularly for the youth. I first heard about this term from Dr. Jan Stewart of the Faculty of Education at the University of Winnipeg. Cultural brokers include a wide range of activities that not only facilitate interaction between different groups, but also create greater understanding. In many cases, these brokers can produce an effective change. The cultural brokers that have shown to be very effective in different parts of the world are sports and creative arts (drawings, photography, digital projects, cultural exhibitions, etc.). Through these activities youth develop self-esteem, self-advocacy skills and most importantly understanding and relating to each other in an often intimate and experiential way. 

This is an important area which I think is very relevant to the project that I am working on. In my opinion, this has not received enough attention in the literature on Newcomer/Indigenous relations. In fact, some of the good initiatives in Winnipeg do include cultural brokers (though often not acknowledged as such); however the use of cultural brokers is not much mentioned in policy recommendations. There is also some indication that some of these cultural brokers can play an important role in the healing process from an Indigenous perspective. Giving importance to ceremonies, circle talks, and interactive dialogues has a lot of potential.

There is much more that I would have loved to engage in, but it’s beyond the scope of this project. Maybe for another time! I can mention a few areas here though: international student’s orientation, citizenship tests, citizenship oath, language tests, country guide, and overseas orientation initiatives.
There is certainly a long way to go. For that reason, the conversation has to carry on.

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