The New African Diaspora in Vancouver : Migration, Exclusion and Belonging [1 ed.] 9781442695184, 9781442611597

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The New African Diaspora in Vancouver : Migration, Exclusion and Belonging [1 ed.]
 9781442695184, 9781442611597

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The New African Diaspora in Vancouver documents the experiences of immigrants from countries in sub-Saharan Africa who have se led on Canada’s west coast. Despite their various national origins, many of these immigrants are actively engaged in creating a new collective ‘African community’ within their adopted homeland. In this study, based on interviews with sixty-one women and men from twenty-one African countries, Gillian Creese documents the processes of communitybuilding that occur in the context of marginalization and exclusion as it exists in Vancouver. Creese reveals that racial and gender discrimination, social isolation, and the devaluing of foreign educational credentials by potential employers o en contribute to downward mobility for African immigrants. In showing how African immigrants negotiate these challenges and forms of exclusion while at the same time creating new spaces of belonging and collective identity, The New African Diaspora in Vancouver makes an important contribution to the literature on diaspora, racism, and citizenship. illian creese is the director of the Centre for Women’s and Gender Studies and a professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of British Columbia.

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The New African Diaspora in Vancouver Migration, Exclusion, and Belonging


© University of Toronto Press Incorporated 2011  Toronto Buffalo London  Printed in Canada ISBN 978-1-4426-4295-9 (cloth) ISBN 978-1-4426-1159-7 (paper)

Printed on acid-free, 100% post-consumer recycled paper with vegetable-based inks. ___________________________________________________________________ Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication Creese, Gillian Laura, 1955– The new African diaspora in Vancouver : migration, exclusion, and belonging / Gillian Creese. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-1-4426-4295-9 (bound). ISBN 978-1-4426-1159-7 (pbk.) 1. Black Canadians – British Columbia – Vancouver – Social conditions – Case studies. 2. Africans – British Columbia – Vancouver – Social conditions – Case studies. 3. Africa, Sub-Saharan – Emigration and immigration – Case studies. 4. British Columbia – Emigration and immigration – Case studies. I. Title. FC3850.B6C74 2011  305.896΄071133  C2011-902670-8 ___________________________________________________________________ This book has been published with the help of a grant from the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, through the Aid to Scholarly Publications Program, using funds provided by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. University of Toronto Press acknowledges the financial assistance to its publishing program of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council.

University of Toronto Press acknowledges the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund for its publishing activities.

For Edith, Mambo, and our research participants, with hope for a promising future for all our children

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Acknowledgments ix Introduction: Migration, Diaspora Spaces, and ‘Canadianness’ 3 1 A New African Diaspora 20 2 Erasing Linguistic Capital 33 3 Downward Mobility, Class Dislocation, and Labour Market Barriers 61 4 Reproducing Difference at Work 107 5 Gender, Families, and Transitions 147 6 Identity and Spaces of Belonging 192 7 Practices of Belonging: Building the African Community in Vancouver 210 Notes 233 References 247 Index 265

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Every book wri en by an individual author is really a collective enterprise. It is especially true in this case. Were it not for the intellectual and personal support and encouragement of my collaborators and friends in Vancouver’s African community – in particular Edith Ngene Kambere and Mambo Masinda – this book would not have been wri en. Although they were far too busy to take a hand in writing up this project, I am indebted to both for their sharing of the wisdom gained in their own voyages and through years of helping others to negotiate migration to Canada, and for their meticulous research (both paid and unpaid), their generosity of critical reflection, and their faith that an ‘outsider’ could, with much help, get it mostly ‘right.’ I have learned a great deal and am thankful for our ongoing ties of friendship and collaboration. Along the way my life has been deeply enriched by my involvement with other board and staff members at Umoja and by travels to Uganda to meet Edith’s family and the women in the Rwentutu microcredit program. I owe special thanks to the sixty-one women and men who agreed to be interviewed for this project and who trusted that sharing their experiences, disappointments, and hopes for the future would help to create a be er world for their children and for newer immigrants from subSaharan Africa se ling in the Vancouver area. I have tried to speak with rather than for participants in this research, and although I am sure none will agree with everything I have wri en, I hope it will spark further community discussions about migration, exclusion, and belonging in Canada. Although much remains to be done, the remarkable growth in community organizing among the new African diaspora in Vancouver over the past five years – with the emergence of African-run se lement agencies, women’s support groups, churches, businesses, and

x Acknowledgments

numerous cultural events – speaks to the resourcefulness, resilience, and talents of its members. In addition to the research assistance of Edith Ngene Kambere and Mambo Masinda, who conducted all of the interviews with African immigrants and refugees, I was fortunate to work with talented graduate students. While Edith was pursing her master’s degree in social work, she transcribed all the interviews and surveyed the services available to African immigrants and refugees. Brandy Wiebe took time out from her doctoral studies to meticulously code the interviews using qualitative so ware (MAXQDA). It was Brandy who first noticed the frequency of the term survival employment in many narratives, and she helped to tease out the multiple aspects of economic marginalization, which appear in a co-authored article forthcoming in International Migration. In addition, doctoral student Anisha Data conducted an extensive search for relevant literature. I am indebted to all these research assistants for their careful a ention to detail. I also want to thank colleagues who read portions of this manuscript and provided valuable feedback: Margery Fee, Arlene Tigar McLaren, Leslie Roman, and Veronica Strong-Boag. In addition, Vijay Agnew, Amos Kambere, Edith Ngene Kambere, and Mambo Masinda read and commented on the entire manuscript, for which I am eternally grateful. Mambo not only pushed me to rethink the balance between marginalization and belonging among Vancouver’s African community but also drew on his extensive local knowledge to document the burgeoning community development that had occurred between the time of the interviews (2004) and the final revisions to this manuscript (2010). In so doing he has helped to ensure both greater accuracy and relevance to the present situation, for which I am enormously thankful. Finally, I want to thank the anonymous reviewer on behalf of the University of Toronto Press. The reviewer’s thoughtful comments have helped me to improve the manuscript. I am also extremely grateful to the University of Toronto Press, especially my editor Virgil Duff, Jenna Germaine, Anne Laughlin, Doug Richmond, Angela Wingfield, Shoshana Wasser, and indexer Anne e Lorek who have skilfully guided me through publication of this book. Thanks are extended to the following journals and publishers where earlier versions of some of this material appear: University of Toronto Press (‘From Africa to Canada: Bordered Spaces, Border Crossings, and Imagined Communities,’ in Interrogating Race and Racism, ed. Vijay Agnew, 2007, 352–85); Journal of International Migration and Integration (‘Erasing English Language Competency: African Migrants in Vancouver Canada,’

Acknowledgments xi

2010 [11]: 295–313); and International Migration (‘Survival Employment: Gender and Deskilling among African migrants in Canada,’ in press). Thanks go also to the anonymous reviewers who commented on parts of this work as it made its way through various peer review processes. I owe a great debt to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and to Metropolis BC (formerly RIIM) for funding this project. The original pilot project with African women was funded through a Metropolis BC research grant, and the main study was funded through SSHRC. A qualitative study of this kind – which produced well over one hundred hours of tape-recorded interviews (thousands of pages of transcripts) that had to be transcribed and coded – is simply not possible without significant funding for research assistants. I am grateful that SSHRC provided that funding. I am also very thankful to the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences. This book has been published with the help of a grant from the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, through the Aid to Scholarly Publications Program, using funds provided by SSHRC. The book took much longer to write than I had imagined, interrupted by other projects with more pressing publication deadlines and by administrative responsibilities that leave li le time for writing, even when the teaching term is over. Throughout most of the writing of this book I was, and continue to be, the director of the Centre for Women’s and Gender Studies (CWAGS) at the University of British Columbia. Although this no doubt slowed the writing process, it was richly rewarding in many other ways. I am fortunate to work with a talented, interesting, generous, and supportive group at CWAGS: from our administrators, Jane Charles and Wynn Archibald, to faculty colleagues Nora Angeles, Wendy Frisby, Sneja Gunew, Leila Harris, Sharalyn Orbaugh, Becki Ross, Deena Rymhs, Nikki Strong-Boag, and Sunera Thobani. I thank all of my colleagues at CWAGS for creating a home away from home, of which it is a pleasure to be part. I would also like to thank my colleagues in Sociology with whom I have shared intellectual discussions during the long process of germination – Jennifer Chun, Dawn Currie, Sylvia Fuller, Tom Kemple, Nathan Lauster, Renisa Mawani, Becki Ross, and Wendy Roth – as well as the head, Neil Guppy, and administrators Radicy Braletic and Kristin Sopotiuk for their support. Finally, I would like to thank my mother, who has always supported me and never misses an opportunity to tell me how proud she is of what I have accomplished. My father, who was equally supportive, passed

xii Acknowledgments

away before this book was finished, and I miss him daily. Most of all, I want to thank my daughter, who has gone without her mother’s full a ention for too many days to count. She reminds me that there is much more to life than academic pursuits, no ma er how engaging they are, and that opportunities for cherished moments need to be seized and celebrated.


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Introduction: Migration, Diaspora Spaces, and ‘Canadianness’

How can I identify myself as being Canadian when every other person doesn’t think like that, you know? So it’s kind of hard. – Bizima ( Interview F5)

Nearly one in five Canadians was born abroad, and two hundred thousand to three hundred thousand new immigrants arrive in Canada each year (Statistics Canada 2007, 7–9). Only Australia has a higher proportion of immigrants in its population (Statistics Canada 2007, 8). Not surprisingly, given its centrality for Canadian nation building, immigration is o en a topic of political controversy. The subject of these political debates is invariably the imagined Canadian public, social fabric, or economy, with putative newcomers positioned as objects of policy interventions: Should numbers be increased or decreased? What types of immigrants should be recruited? How can ‘bogus’ refugees be discouraged? How can social cohesion be facilitated? Such questions assume that immigrants and refugees, though critical for economic and population growth,1 are social problems to be managed. When we turn our analytic lens to position immigrants as subjects, as this book does in exploring the ways in which the new African diaspora in Vancouver negotiate spaces of belonging and exclusion, the problems and solutions associated with immigration in Canada look fundamentally different. There is no common standard immigrant experience in Canada. Gender, racialization, ethnicity, social class, sexuality, age, class of immigration, and language, in addition to historical contexts of migration, affect se lement (Agnew 2003; Boyd 1999, 2001; Boyd and Yiu 2009; Creese and

4 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

Dowling 2001; Dossa 2004; Pra 2004; Stasiulis and Bakan 2005; Thobani 2007). For some migrants, adjustments may be fairly minimal, and a sense of belonging may develop quickly; for others, migration is a profound dislocation that involves lifelong processes of negotiating the very borders of ‘Canadianness,’ creating conditions in which belonging is always contingent and partial. As Bizima observes above, her experience as a migrant from Zambia illustrates the la er situation, where belonging is ambiguous because a aining Canadianness in the eyes of others remains elusive. My own experience as an immigrant from the United Kingdom illustrates the former situation of minimal dislocation. My family moved from England to Canada in the late 1950s. Our immigrant origins were visible in particular ways: my parents’ different accents (my sister and I quickly learned the local vernacular), some odd vocabulary (such as woolies and flannels, instead of sweaters and facecloths), and, most noticeably, the absence of extended family nearby. My parents’ London accents and white skins proved no barrier to anything in our new life; jobs, housing, and new networks of friends (both fellow emigrants from the ‘old country’ and Canadians) were all quickly acquired. Although the absence of extended family was no doubt felt strongly, particularly in the early years, there was li le dislocation. Institutional structures and culturally accepted practices were, in most respects, very familiar. In particular, prior work experience, education, and skills were accepted at face value and served as passports to the same occupations in Canada (as a plumber and a bookkeeper) that, over time, translated into a higher standard of living than that experienced by relatives le behind in the United Kingdom. This almost seamless transition from England to Canada was not only historically contingent, linked as it was to the extended post-war economic boom in Canada and a period of mass European migration, but also related to our ethnic and racialized origins. The combination of Anglo-dominance and White privilege provided a context in which the feelings of belonging in this new space, both our own sense of inclusion and that conveyed by others, were unproblematic. Being British could somehow encapsulate being Canadian. There appeared to be no contradiction between the two; there were few psychic, social, or cultural borders in need of traversing. Over time we became ‘Canadian,’ adopted formal Canadian citizenship (ironically by swearing allegiance to the British monarch), and the Canadian identity came to predominate without any apparent sense of loss or ambiguity.

Introduction 5

The contrast between Bizima’s experience and my own partly reflects the shi in the kinds of bodies that migrated to Canada in different time periods. The most recent immigrants to Canada enjoy neither white-skinned privilege nor the ease of Anglo-dominance that, for all the emphasis on multiculturalism today, continues to shape the basic institutional arrangements in Canada. Changing trends in immigration coincided with changes to Canadian immigration policies, particularly the inauguration of the points system in 1967 that supplanted a system of preferred migration from the United Kingdom, the United States, and western Europe and a history of exclusionary policies towards those from other parts of the world. With new immigration policies in place in the 1970s, demographic changes in Canada soon followed. Today migration reflects global diversity; yet, where someone comes from continues to affect se lement experiences in Canada. In the 2006 census more than six million people, or nearly one in five Canadians who were born abroad, reported more than two hundred different countries of birth (Statistics Canada 2007, 7–9). Nearly 60% (58.3%) of recent immigrants now come from Asia, 16.1% from Europe; 10.8% from Central or South America and the Caribbean, and 10.6% from Africa (Statistics Canada 2007, 9–11). For the first time, the proportion of foreign-born Canadians who were born in Asia (40.8%) surpasses the proportion born in Europe (36.8%) (Statistics Canada 2007, 9). According to the census, three-quarters of recent immigrants are people of colour, or visible minorities; in total more than five million Canadians, or 16.2% of the population, identify as visible minorities (Statistics Canada 2008, 12–13).2 Most immigrants to Canada se le in the major urban centres, transforming cities like Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal into diverse cosmopolitan metropolises. Smaller centres and rural areas remain much less diverse. In 2006, immigrants made up 45.7% of the population of Metropolitan Toronto and 39.6% of Greater Vancouver; over 40% of the population in these cities (42.9% and 41.7%, respectively) identify as people of colour (Statistics Canada 2007, 27 and 32; 2008, 29 and 32). In contrast, less than 2% of the population of Newfoundland and Labrador were foreign born, and only 1.1% were people of colour (Statistics Canada 2007, 15; 2008, 18). Hence the social geography of migration also makes the place of se lement within Canada important for shaping migration experiences.

6 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

Multiculturalism and Belonging Multiculturalism is a contested concept that ‘posits difference as something “others” bring to the nation, and as something the nation can have through how it accepts, welcomes or integrates such others’ (Ahmed 2007, 235). As Sneja Gunew (2004) has argued, multiculturalisms are ‘situated’ within specific colonial histories that shape their meanings and contestations. In the Canadian context, policies of multiculturalism developed almost simultaneously with changes in immigration policies, although other national concerns, particularly Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s desire to undercut a growing sovereigntist movement in Quebec, were arguably as critical as were the demands from the socalled third force of European multi-ethnic communities for recognition of multiculturalism in Canada.3 Multiculturalism has since become a defining ideology of the nation, although many critics point out that it does as much or more to contain, manage, and reproduce racialized systems of inequality as it does to valorize the diversity that has become a demographic reality of the country ( Bannerji 2000; Mackey 2002; Thobani 2007). The promise of multiculturalism, at the level of ideology at least, is the promise of a society in which origins are unrelated to life’s chances. Although this promise remains far from reality, it is a potent discourse that o en obscures debates over immigration and citizenship in Canada. Avtar Brah (1996) argues that nation states are multiply bordered spaces in which nationals who have a right to residence are distinguished from foreign ‘others’ against whom they must be guarded: ‘[Borders are] arbitrary dividing lines that are simultaneously social, cultural and psychic; territories to be patrolled against those whom they construct as outsiders, aliens, the Others; forms of demarcation where the very act of prohibition inscribes transgression; zones where fear of the Other is the fear of the self; places where claims to ownership – claims to “mine,” “yours,” and “theirs” – are staked out, contested, defended, and fought over’ (198). Projects of nation building, in Canada and elsewhere, define who is inside and outside the nation’s border in material terms – through political and geographic distinctions – and in psychic terms that rely on defining circumscribed ‘imagined communities’ of belonging.4 Nation building in Canada is embedded in British and French colonial occupation, subjugating Aboriginal populations and building a society in which British (and, in Quebec, French) economic, political,

Introduction 7

and social structures, cultural values and ideologies, and immigrants soon dominated (Stasiulis and Jappan 1995; Li 2003; Thobani 2007). Ideologies of British and western European racial superiority were explicitly defined through immigration policies. Assumptions about appropriate heterosexual gender roles and different social classes were also critical to immigration strategies and se lement processes (Abu-Laban 1998a; Arat-Koc 1997; Perry 2001). The imagined nation of Canada that came into geopolitical existence in 1867 was firmly embedded in images of Whiteness. The continued vitality of Indigenous communities, the presence of Africans (from the seventeenth century), and the presence of Chinese and other Asians (from the early nineteenth century) were redefined as something other than Canadian (Gonick 2000; Li 2003; Puplampu and Te ey 2005). Imagining the nation as White, British, and French simultaneously worked to erase the presence of ‘others’ from early Canadian history and put them in their proper (subordinate) place in the here and now. The result, by the mid-twentieth century, was characterized by John Porter (1965) as a ‘vertical mosaic,’ an ethnic and a racialized (and a gendered)5 hierarchy of class, power, and privilege that crossed all major social institutions. Changes in immigration policies and the advent of official multiculturalism in the early 1970s unse led these historical imaginings of community, as nation-building processes became more complex and contradictory (Satzewich and Wong 2003). The introduction of the points system in 1967 shi ed immigration away from Europe and towards other parts of the world, particularly Asia. Multiculturalism replaced Anglo-conformity as official government policy. The recruitment of immigrant investors, entrepreneurs, and professionals altered the class dynamics of immigration processes that had previously brought industrial workers, farmers, and peasants. The growth of the Quebec sovereigntist, Indigenous, civil rights, anti-colonial, and women’s movements in Canada and abroad created a climate in which issues of racialized and gendered equality were placed on the public agenda. Mackey (2002) argues that new discourses of nationhood emerged that included idealized versions of multiculturalism at its core. With changing immigration pa erns and the ‘whitening’ over time of formerly non-White European groups, ethnic differences among European groups ceased to form a central fault line in Canadian society.6 However, a racialized hierarchy continues to disadvantage Aboriginal peoples and those of non-European origin (Li 1998).7

8 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

Contemporary Canadian discourses of nation building no longer explicitly rest on a British and French Canadian ideal to which immigrants are compared and found wanting; instead, multiculturalism and difference are deeply embedded within nationalist discourses (Mackey 2002). However, discourses of multicultural diversity are superimposed on a White, imagined community that privileges ‘traditional’ (that is, European) immigrant groups while emphasizing cultural pluralism and ‘difference’ over substantive equality and anti-racism (Mackey 2002, 16). Multicultural tropes are abstracted from concerns with substantive equality and embedded in notions of tolerating what, apparently, may otherwise be deemed to be intolerable differences ( Bannerji 2000). Women are either absent from multicultural discourses or cast in conservative cultural roles relative to the maintenance of fossilized cultural traditions (Abu-Laban and Gabriel 2002; Das Gupta 1999). Moreover, as Sunera Thobani (2007) has argued, state policies of multiculturalism have helped to valorize ethnic community linkages while undercu ing other forms of association and politics, including antiracist, feminist, and class-based forms of organizing. Multicultural imaginings remain firmly racialized in Canada, skin colour constituting a cue for assigning immigrant status. Common-sense discourses routinely construct people of colour as immigrants, and immigrants as people of colour (Abu-Laban and Gabriel 2002; Bannerji 2000; Gonick 2000; Ng 1990; Razack 1998; Thobani 2000).8 Such processes erase the Canadian birthright of many people of colour (Pra 2004), 9 while dissolving the immigrant status of those (like myself) from Europe or its former White-se ler colonies. So while one in five Canadians has an immigrant heritage, some people are defined by that status while others are not. And while some White Canadians may choose a ‘hyphenated’ ethnic identity so common in Canada, everyone else can only ever be a hyphenated Canadian (Puplampu and Te ey 2005). For Canadians of colour in particular, designation as immigrant and foreign never disappears, even for the Canadian-born, and belonging is at best contingent. In this sense, Bizima’s experience, quoted at the beginning of this introduction, resonates with Rinaldo Walco ’s observation that ‘to be black and “at home” in Canada is to both belong and not belong’ (1997, 45). Immigrants are positioned by a disjuncture between multicultural discourses of Canada as a pluralist society in which origin is irrelevant to life’s chances, and the realities of marginalization faced by Canadians of colour. Immigrants of colour negotiate shi ing boundaries of

Introduction 9

Canadianness in which it is o en made clear they are not fully accepted. Formal Canadian citizenship is held by 84% of immigrants in Canada,10 but this cannot be equated with belonging to the imagined community of Canadians (Gonick 2000). Belonging is negotiated in specific material sites: neighbourhoods, workplaces, schools, shops, and street corners. These sites are gendered, classed, racialized, and sexualized spaces that people move through as they define and redefine their subjectivities and sense of belonging (Anthias 2002a; Brah 1996; Dyck and McLaren 2002; Fortier 2000). Brah refers to these as diaspora spaces: ‘the point at which boundaries of inclusion and exclusion, of belonging and otherness, of “us” and “them” are contested’ (1996, 208–9). Immigrants must navigate diaspora spaces as they traverse the social, cultural, and psychic borders that separate ‘us’ (Canadians) from ‘them’ (immigrants) ( Brah 1996). Unable to cross these spaces once and for all, many are consigned to what Anzaldua refers to as ‘the borderlands’ or the ambiguous ‘spaces in between’ (1987; 2000). To fully belong somewhere means finding a home ‘in the imagining of a collectivity’ and hence seeing oneself included in discourses of community and nationhood (Anthias 2002b, 277). It is in this sense, I argue, that meanings of Canadianness constitute a diaspora space that immigrants of colour struggle to enter. At the same time, negotiating belonging involves recognizing and transforming spaces that can become home (Sandercock, Dickout, and Winkler 2004). Creating home in new places is central to migration processes as new forms of community are built, a generation of ‘Canadian’ children is raised, and public spaces are claimed through diverse practices that enact forms of belonging. Hence, migration experiences in Canada are framed simultaneously by processes of exclusion and by practices that resist exclusion by carving out spaces of belonging as newcomers actively negotiate the diaspora spaces of Canadianness. Framing the Study The New African Diaspora in Vancouver also employs the concept of diaspora in a second way. The book focuses on a neglected part of a much larger African diaspora, or descendents of peoples in Africa who live in other parts of the world, through a case study of women and men from sub-Saharan Africa living in the Greater Vancouver area. This case study explores the ways in which a relatively new African diaspora experiences the processes of exclusion and simultaneously constructs spaces of belonging in a social geography shaped by hyper visibility

10 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

of Blackness and very small numbers. Hence African immigrants in Vancouver navigate the contradictions between the multicultural discourses of inclusion and the diaspora space of Canadianness that is so o en marked by exclusion, as they carve out new forms of identity, community, and belonging. The study provides an analysis of the migration processes sensitive to intersecting relations of gender, racialization, and class, as well as the specifics of time and place – se lement in the Greater Vancouver area in the first decade of the twenty-first century. The research is informed by debates in feminist methodologies and ethics that point to hierarchical power relations in the research process, particularly when working with groups in marginalized social locations (DeVault 1999; Reinharz 1992; Razack 2000; Smith 1999; Wolf 1996). In the context of the partiality of all social locations, feminist scholars have debunked notions of ‘neutral’ objectivity in knowledge (Collins 1990, 1999; Haraway 1991; Harding 1998; Mohanty 2003; Smith 1987). Some scholars have argued that marginalized social locations provide a form of epistemic privilege or a clearer vantage point from which to make sense of the social world. Others argue that epistemic privilege is a problematic concept rooted in essentialist epistemological assumptions about knowledge producers. Donna Haraway (1991) argues that the social context of knowledge production should lead us to embrace ‘embedded objectivity,’ resulting in the production of consciously and socially engaged ‘situated knowledges.’ Moreover, if we seek to create knowledge for and not just about research subjects, we must acknowledge that the la er are knowers, and begin our research from their actual experiences (Smith 1987; DeVault 1999). At the same time, as Beverley Skeggs (1997) reminds us, beginning the research process with participants’ experience does not mean we end there; the researcher has an ‘epistemic responsibility,’ by virtue of ordering, si ing, and analysing the data, to acknowledge her authorial privilege. This book strives for embedded objectivity in an a empt to explicate the situated knowledges of sub-Saharan African immigrants in Vancouver, pu ing their experiences at the centre of the research process, while at the same time acknowledging the author’s own epistemic responsibility as the researcher most responsible for ordering and interpreting the data. The New African Diaspora in Vancouver is a product of collaboration between the author – an ‘outsider’ to the African immigrant community – and two ‘insider’ collaborators. The idea for the study germinated in discussions with Edith Ngene Kambere over

Introduction 11

a period of several years. Edith had arrived in Canada from Uganda only three years before we met at a focus group that I was running with a diverse group of recent immigrant women. For the next five years, as part of a longitudinal study of immigrant families in Vancouver’s lower mainland, Edith and I met to discuss what was happening to her and her family. These discussions o en extended to broader observations about the situation facing others, especially women, in the newly emerging African community in Vancouver. Edith was working as a service provider in the local immigrant se lement sector while completing a degree in social work and women’s studies, and she convinced me that not only was research on African immigrants in Vancouver sorely needed but also we should undertake to do it. In 2002, as Edith was completing a bachelor’s degree of social work and was about to further her studies with a master’s degree in the same field, the timing for the research seemed auspicious. In the spring and summer of 2002 we conducted a pilot project that consisted of two focus groups, with a total of twelve African immigrant women (Creese and Kambere 2003).11 We pursued grounded theory (Strauss and Corbin 1990) and put African women’s experiences at the centre of our analysis. We chose to construct focus groups as African-women-only spaces since one researcher shared the participants’ ‘outsider-within’ status (Collins 1999) and the other did not, thereby enhancing the possibility of candid discussions. The choice of focus groups rather than interviews provided spaces in which power relations were more amenable to negotiation and a enuation, and created a relatively safe space for women to engage in the collective generation of knowledge ( Barbour and Kitzinger 1999; Pra 2000; Wilkinson 2004). The knowledge gained in these initial focus groups alerted us to the centrality of accent discrimination and the erasure of English-language competency among fluent English speakers. Although we did not set out to frame the focus groups around issues of language or accent – asking eight open-ended questions that focused on experiences with employment, housing, se lement services, mothering, changing gender relations, language, and social policy – analysis of transcripts made it clear that participants identified accent as a perennial problem, even though all but one focus group member had migrated from a Commonwealth nation and spoken English prior to coming to Canada (Creese and Kambere 2003). Thus the focus groups allowed us to begin the process of mapping out key issues as they were identified by African women, and accent discrimination emerged as one of these key issues.

12 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

The pilot project demonstrated both the need for more research on the processes of se lement and community formation experienced by those from sub-Saharan Africa who are living in the Vancouver area, and the feasibility of conducting more in-depth research with members of this community. Based on the results of the pilot project, the author applied for a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council grant to work with Edith Ngene Kambere in conducting a more in-depth study of African immigrant women, though we soon expanded the scope to include men as well.12 This book presents the results of that study, based on interviews conducted in 2004 with sixty-one women and men from sub-Saharan Africa. Given the demographic realities of this population in the Vancouver area – constituting about twenty thousand people with no large concentrations from any individual countries13 – we decided to recruit subjects from a diverse range of countries. Those from former British colonies had been raised in contexts in which British institutional structures predominated and for whom English was the primary language of education. We expected this legacy to provide Commonwealth immigrants with a certain degree of cultural and linguistic capital compared to those from other parts of Africa. We also wanted to explore in more detail the issue of accent discrimination, so the study was designed to include comparisons between those from Commonwealth African nations and those from non-Commonwealth African nations, with attention to English language fluency at the time of migration to Canada. However, language tied to Commonwealth and non-Commonwealth legacies has not proved to be a central distinguishing feature among participants. Instead, almost all African immigrants (and particularly women) identified language as a significant barrier in Vancouver, including those who were educated in English in British-modelled school systems. Se lement experiences in Canada are shaped not only by language fluency and cultural familiarity but concomitantly by processes of racialization. This suggests that, in the Canadian context, otherwise privileged British or Commonwealth heritage can readily be erased when not a ached to white skins. As we shall see, in most respects the experiences of those from Commonwealth and non-Commonwealth African nations are more similar than they are different, which is reflected in the shared ambiguities about the possibility of belonging in the local community and the development of a new diasporic African identity in the local context. Thus the erasure of Commonwealth cultural and

Introduction 13

linguistic capital and the development of a diasporic pan-African identity emerged as central themes in this study. The initial phase of research involved consultations with community members. We organized a focus group with key se lement service providers of African origin to discuss our research. The overall shape of the research project, and the content of the interview schedule, was redesigned as a result of these consultations. As noted above, the research was originally intended to focus only on women; fortunately, service providers insisted that, since so li le was known about the experiences of immigrants from Africa, the research should focus on men as well as women. As a result we decided to interview an equal number of women and men, a decision that allowed a much more nuanced gendered analysis across the themes pursued in this study. The original research design proposed to focus on four sites of negotiating se lement and belonging in Vancouver: (1) employment, including issues of volunteer work, foreign credentials, language and accent, underemployment, and potential discrimination in the labour market; (2) practices of belonging and community formation, including issues of identity formation, networks, and community activism; (3) parenting, including experiences with schools and social services and negotiating generational and cultural differences; and (4) gender relations, including changing expectations around gender roles, parenting, domestic work, and divorce. Service providers identified the first two – employment and belonging – as central focuses and advised us to limit questions around parenting and gender relations with a mind to exploring these more in a later study. The questionnaire was thus revised to reflect this advice, and we asked far fewer questions about parenting and gender relations than we had originally intended. This kept the interviews to a more manageable average time of two hours. As a result, although all four focuses are explored in this book, the material on economic integration and belonging are somewhat richer than that on parenting and changing gender relations in households, themes we are continuing to explore elsewhere.14 The decision to expand the research to include men’s experiences led to another fortuitous change: we recruited another researcher – a man from within the sub-Saharan African community – to interview the male participants while Edith interviewed the women. We hoped that being interviewed by someone of the same gender15 who shared experiences of migration from sub-Saharan Africa would facilitate candour. Of course, other differences, including national origin, ethnicity,

14 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

class, and age, for example, might still have affected interviews in ways that we have not accounted for. Luckily, Mambo Masinda, who was a political scientist trained in Quebec, originally from the Congo, and one of the se lement workers involved in our community consultations, joined Edith and me on the research team. Mambo’s depth of knowledge about the local African community, his extensive experience in the se lement field, and his passion for research and community organizing have shaped this study and other ongoing collaborations in critical ways. Sixty-one participants, consisting of thirty-one women and thirty men, from twenty-one countries in sub-Saharan Africa were interviewed in the spring and summer of 2004. The interviews were semi-structured and open ended, providing the opportunity to explore issues in considerable depth, and averaged two hours in length. Participants were recruited through a combination of methods: referral by service providers at key se lement organizations; referral by other participants; and response to a recruitment notice published in a local newspaper, The Afro News, which caters to the local Black community. Participants responded so quickly that not only did we not do a second recruitment round but we were unable to follow up with some later inquiries from potential subjects.16 A small honorarium was paid to everyone who agreed to be interviewed. Interviews were recorded, transcribed by Edith, and then coded using MAXQDA, a so ware program for the analysis of qualitative data, to uncover core themes in the interviews.17 Some Contentious Issues Although essentialist views that one must limit research fields to those bearing on one’s own social location are highly problematic, feminist post-colonial writers rightly critique White northern feminists who appropriate marginalized voices and reproduce relations of power and privilege while ‘othering’ and exoticizing research subjects (Mohanty 2003; Ramazanoglu and Holland 2002). As a privileged, White academic, recognizing one’s location involves conscious efforts to engage in reflexive research processes that problematize these power differences. This research would simply not have been possible without the collaboration and support of Edith Ngene Kambere and Mambo Masinda. Both Edith and Mambo are community activists as well as scholars and recognize that research can be an important resource for creating change. Hence as our research collaborations and friendships have developed over time,

Introduction 15

we have also become allies in local African community development through involvement in Umoja, an African-focused se lement organization that was created by Edith, Mambo, and a handful of others in the African community a few years a er the start of this research.18 The research would also not have been possible without the trust of all those women and men who agreed to be interviewed for the project. We have tried to negotiate multifaceted power relations in an effort to speak with or beside, rather than for, those who participated in this study (Dossa 2004, 22; Strong-Boag and Gerson 2000, 5–6). The text reflects this effort with the use of extensive quotations from interviews,19 as well as ongoing conversations between the author and her collaborators about interpretation.20 The terms used to describe the subjects of this study – sub-Saharan African and African immigrants – are also fraught with contradictions. Africa is, of course, a continent and not a country. There are fi y-four countries in Africa, with more than two thousand languages, with diverse religious communities and different histories and cultural traditions (Jacquet et al., 2008). To refer to participants as African rather than, for example, Ugandan, Sudanese, or Zambian – or specific ethnic groups within each country – can be an intellectual process of homogenization that reaffirms the general ignorance about differences between African countries that is typically found in Canada. At the same time, this study is about the experiences of particular migrants, and much of that experience is about processes of homogenization in the local Vancouver context. Processes of homogenization are both external and internal. External pressures exist in a context where ignorance about African countries is endemic and where connections with groups from the same continent are fostered by the small numbers in Vancouver from any particular African nation. This specific social geography also creates internal pressures towards homogenization with the emergence of pan-African diasporic identities layered through discrete national and ethnic identities. Most participants in this research embraced the term African to describe themselves and their links with other Black men and women from diverse countries in Africa. This raises another issue of terminology: the term sub-Saharan African is increasingly used by local service providers to identify African immigrants who are racialized as Black. The sub-Saharan African immigrants at the centre of this study are all racialized as Black, and those from Africa who are not racialized as Black (who may be racialized as White, Asian, or Arabic, for example) are excluded from this analysis.

16 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

Similarly, the term immigrant is a socially constructed concept rather than simply a legal or factual description of someone who was not born in Canada but arrived sometime later in life. As discussed above, in the Canadian context the term immigrant is selectively employed to suggest that people of colour are by definition newer arrivals with less right to define what Canada is or should be. Hence using the term African immigrant, rather than African Canadian, for example, can reinforce the ‘othered’ status of research participants as immigrants rather than as Canadians. However, African and African immigrant are the terms most o en used by participants themselves, and the term African Canadian was either absent from or explicitly rejected in the vast majority of narratives. Thus to employ African Canadian in this study would violate participants’ own sense of identity and the complexity of ambiguous, contradictory, and situational feelings of belonging in Canada. For want of be er terms then, and realizing that in some ways we re-centre the very processes of homogenization and ‘othering’ that we critique, the terms most frequently voiced by study participants themselves – African immigrants and the African community – are used to refer to the subjects of this study, while recognizing both the diversity of peoples and countries of origin and the very real contributions that participants are making as Canadians. Organization of the Book This study focuses on the ways in which women and men from countries in sub-Saharan Africa negotiate belonging in Vancouver, in key diaspora spaces – in the labour market, family relations, and civil society – while creating community and redefining identities in the local context. Chapter 1 places this study in a broader context of literature about African migration to Canada generally, and the Greater Vancouver area specifically, and outlines the general characteristics of the research sample, including country of origin, class of immigration, gender, fluency in English, education, and occupation before migration and at the time of the interviews. Migration experiences and the ease of se ling into a new context are shaped in complex ways by all of these factors. The subjects of this study were precisely the type of immigrants that Canada hopes to recruit; most were highly educated, professionally employed in their countries of origin, and already fluent in English. And yet se lement has been challenging, and almost all experienced significant downward occupational mobility in Canada.

Introduction 17

Chapter 2 considers the issues of language and examines the differences in treatment of accents and English-language proficiency experienced by those from Commonwealth and non-Commonwealth countries. Whether or not participants were fluent in English prior to arrival in Canada, language was experienced as a form of exclusion, not because most had difficulty comprehending or communicating in English but because English fluency was unacknowledged by others, and African English accents were routinely denigrated. Gendered dimensions to accent discrimination are also addressed, with women reporting more frequent challenges to their accents. Difficulties in asserting competency in English is interpreted within the broader historical context of British colonialism and Bourdieu’s concept of linguistic capital. Migrants from Africa experience the erasure of their linguistic capital in Canada, a process that simultaneously undermines perceptions of their competence as workers, neighbours, and citizens. At the same time, participants’ accents emerged as central elements of pride in African identities. Chapter 3 assesses integration into the labour market with a focus on structural issues in the local labour market. Employers’ demands for Canadian experience, Canadian education, and local accents constitute systemic processes of deskilling. Both women and men experience devaluation of their educational credentials and work experience and a general downward mobility in relation to the jobs and status held in their countries of origin. Given the gendered labour market in Canada, women had fewer options for ‘survival employment’ than did men, who were likely to find low-wage, low-skilled, blue collar labouring positions well below their professional qualifications. Women’s entry-level jobs are largely located in clerical and service work, which African women could not access without Canadian experience. As a result, women were more likely to continue post-secondary education locally in order to get any employment, and Canadian educational credentials led to some improvement in their labour market status over time. Men tended to get trapped in low-wage, insecure ‘survival jobs’ and thus experienced sharper downward mobility in the long term. While chapter 3 addresses larger structural issues of labour market exclusion, chapter 4 looks more closely at micro-level experiences on the job. This chapter explores multiple ways in which the marginalization of African workers is reproduced in everyday practices on the job. We consider the way that hiring practices, management techniques, social networks, cultural capital, relations among co-workers, and overt

18 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

forms of racism operate in the Vancouver labour market. Chapter 4 also examines how African immigrants resist and negotiate spaces of belonging by exploring strategies devised to improve their situations in the labour market. Chapter 5 examines the gendered dimensions of the changing circumstances of African immigrant families in Vancouver. It focuses on two sets of relationships that undergo considerable stress and transition in the process of migration: relations between spouses, and practices of child rearing. Although most participants had mixed responses to changes in family life, women on the whole were more likely to experience gender relations shi ing to greater equality in some respects than before migration, while men were more likely to see relations between husbands and wives as being more problematic. Both women and men expressed significant concerns about raising their children in the more individualist and rights-oriented Canadian culture and worried for their children’s futures and their African identities. The chapter also examines the strategies used to cope with changing circumstances, and the uneven ways in which parenting practices, femininity, and, to a lesser extent, masculinity were redefined by participants while the central locus of ‘home’ shi ed from extended kin in countries of origin to belonging in the local community. Chapter 6 explores questions linked to identity and perceptions of belonging in Canada. We explore some of the ambiguities to belonging that are embedded in participants’ ‘learning to be Black’ in Canada and in the emergence of pan-African diasporic identities. Various diaspora spaces – in the labour market, in neighbourhoods, and in cultural imaginations and everyday interactions – serve to emphasize difference from Canadians and produce a general sense of ‘unbelonging.’ Hence few participants (including those who were Canadian citizens) adopted unqualified forms of Canadian identity. At the same time, many identified spaces and contexts of belonging and, equally important, asserted their right to belong in Canada alongside a critique of multiculturalism and racism. Chapter 7 examines the development of a local African community in Greater Vancouver. Participants identified a diverse range of formal and informal practices of community building as well as strategies that could be used to create a more united African community. Different forms of community organizing also highlight the gendered nature of community building because women organize more around family and support services, and men focus more on the realm of formal politics,

Introduction 19

a cultural centre, and relations in the home country. Activities of community building are part of claiming physical and psychic spaces of belonging, which in the long run not only brings the African community into existence as a community but also enacts demands to be recognized, to be accepted, and to belong in the broader society.

1 A New African Diaspora

The White man sees us as Africans. We are all the same, we are just Africans. You are a Black man, you are a Black man. – Kivete ( Interview M50)

Defining an African Diaspora Migrants to Canada enter existing relations that are embedded in a specific history of place. The history of colonialism in Canada generated centuries of preference for European migrants and, until the late 1960s, laws and practices that were designed to limit or prevent the immigration of Africans and Asians. Peoples of African origin have a long, though o en unrecognized, presence in Canada that dates back to the seventeenth century; they include slaves who were brought to the new colonies and, a er the abolition of slavery in the British Empire, loyalists and escaped U.S. slaves who arrived through the underground railroad (Este 2008; Puplampu and Te ey 2005). By the nineteenth century, however, immigration policies had effectively curtailed the migration of peoples directly from Africa (Konadu-Agyemang and Takyi 2006). In the period prior to 1961, Africans represented less than 1% of all immigrants to Canada (Opoku-Dapaah 2006, 69). With the adoption of the points system in 1967 the numbers of migrants from Africa began to slowly increase. During the 1970s Africans accounted for 5.8% of all immigrants (Opoku-Dapaah 2006, 69), rising to 10.6% of all newcomers in the period from 2001 to 2006 (Statistics Canada 2007, 11). Significant migration from Africa to Canada began to occur only in the 1980s

A New African Diaspora 21

(Konadu-Agyemang and Takyi 2006, 4)1 but in the context of ‘neo-racist’ practices that significantly limited the number of Africans arriving each year (Puplampu and Te ey 2005, 33–4).2 Thus recent immigrants represent a new African diaspora that is distinctive from those Canadians who have African descent but have never lived in the African continent (Konadu-Agyemang, Takyi, and Arthur 2006).3 As discussed in the introduction, the history of colonization in Canada has produced a White imagined community that continues to underpin racialization processes today ( Bannerji 2000; Mackey 2002; Li 2003). Most immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa are racialized as Black in the North American context and must negotiate a society marked by norms and power relations of Whiteness. In studies of African Canadian youth, for example, Jennifer Kelly explores how youth ‘learn to be Black’ in this context of White domination (1998). She suggests that Blackness is negotiated as a shi ing and heterogeneous point of identification amid diverse differences – those peoples with long, sometimes centuries-old Canadian roots, and migrant families from the Caribbean, Africa, the United States, South America, and elsewhere (Kelly 2004). The master category of Blackness, embedded in a specific Canadian history and refracted through the omnipresence of U.S. race politics and popular culture, reshapes African Canadian identities in diverse ways (Alexander and Glaze 1996; Este 2008; Kelly 2004; Matsuoka and Sorenson 2001; Ruggles and Rovinescu 1996; Walco 1997; Walker 1980; Wane, Deliovsky, and Lawson 2002). The term African Canadian is typically used to describe this diverse diasporic community, as in George Ellio Clarke’s definition of anyone in Canada ‘possessing, to some degree, an ancestral connection to sub-Saharan Africa’ (1996, 118). Such definitions equate African with Blackness, excluding those from Africa racialized as White, Asian, or Arabic; at the same time, the emphasis on Blackness leads to the near invisibility of those who migrate directly from the African continent (Te ey and Puplampu 2005a, 5). Jayne Ifekwunigwe (2003), writing in the British context, which is equally applicable to Canada, notes that hegemonic discourses of Blackness invoke a process of de-territorialization or ‘dis-Africanization’ for those who come from diverse nations within Africa. In this book we focus on the new African diaspora, on recent migrants from sub-Saharan Africa rather than on the larger population of African descent. At the same time, the history of the larger African diaspora is critical to this engagement. African immigrants do not enter Canada as unmarked subjects. They enter into a history of racialized

22 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

relations, representations, and assumptions through which bodies are marked by centuries of a European – North American engagement with Africa. ‘Old’ colonial and ‘new’ post-colonial African diasporas constitute diverse and shi ing entities as local contexts and identities are engaged and reformed (Gilroy 1993; Hamilton 2007; Ifekwunigwe 2003; Koser 2003; Manger and Assal 2006; Zack-Williams and Uduku 2004). The language of diaspora does not signify an essential sameness linked to racialization, nor is it only a gesture to global migration. Instead, following James Clifford, it is the meeting place of the global and the local in constructing new belongings in contexts of displacement: ‘Thus the term diaspora is a signifier, not simply of transnationality and movement, but of political struggles to define the local, as distinctive community, in historical contexts of displacement’ (1994, 308). Migration is a process of displacement whether it occurs through conscious choice (as in the case of independent immigrants) or as the result of circumstances beyond one’s control (for refugees). In these contexts of displacement, diasporic communities also create new ways of belonging as they mix, redefine, and recreate cultures, identities, and new forms of hybridity (Matsuoka and Sorenson 2001). The new African diaspora in Greater Vancouver experiences a situation quite different from that of the larger Canadian cities of Toronto and Montreal. Indeed, more than three-quarters of African immigrants reside in the Toronto area (Opoku-Dapaah 2006, 75). In addition, both Toronto and Montreal have significant Black populations with long established histories and a strong political and community presence (Mensah 2002). The social geography of Vancouver, though a diverse multicultural and multiracial city, has historically had a very small Black community. Vancouver is Canada’s third largest and, after Toronto, its second most diverse city. A recent United Nations report ranked Vancouver fourth in the world in terms of its percentage of foreign-born population.4 According to the 2006 census, 39.6% of the population of the greater metropolitan area are immigrants,5 and 41.7 % identify as people of colour (Statistics Canada 2007, 32; 2008, 32).6 More than one in every three residents of Greater Vancouver identify their origin as Asian, with the largest groups being of Chinese and South Asian origin (18.2% and 9.9% of the total population, respectively) (Statistics Canada 2008, 32–3). Among non-visible minorities the largest group, one-third of the total population, identify as being of British descent (Statistics Canada 2008, 34). In this context of embodied diversity within Vancouver, home to people of over two hundred different origins but in which

A New African Diaspora 23 Table 1 Sub-Saharan African immigrants in Greater Vancouver, 2006 Region in Africa



Eastern Southern Northern Western Central Total African

13,725 8,295 3,070 1,690 480 27,260

50.3 30.4 11.3 6.2 1.8 100.0

Source: Masinda and Kambere 2008, 30.

a handful of origins dominate, Black African immigrants form a very small minority. According to the 2006 census, slightly less than 1% of the total population of Greater Vancouver identify themselves as Black.7 Nearly 1.3% of the total population, and 3.3% of all immigrants, identify their place of birth as Africa.8 About two-thirds of 1% of all Vancouverites identify their origin as ethnic African in the census: South African (4,120), Ethiopian (1,625), Ghanaian (1,100), Somalian (1,325), and other African (6,490) (Statistics Canada 2006d).9 The population of new sub-Saharan African immigrants continues to grow, with the addition of 8,935 new migrants from 1996 through 2006; the majority of recent migrants came from southern (3,075) and eastern (2,960) Africa, with much smaller numbers from northern (1,695), western (955), and central (250) Africa (Masinda and Kambere 2008, 30). These pa erns parallel earlier trends, as seen in the geographical distribution of all African immigrants in table 1. South Africa accounted for half of all sub-Saharan African migration to Vancouver between 1996 and 2006, with Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Mauritius, Ghana, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Rwanda being among the other top ten source countries (Masinda and Kambere 2008, 39). There is an even gender distribution among African immigrants in Greater Vancouver (49.4% female and 50.6% male), though this varies a li le by region of origin (Masinda and Kambere 2008, 36 – 8). The new African diaspora is spread across the various municipalities that make up Greater Vancouver, with the largest concentrations being in the City of Vancouver, in Burnaby, and in Surrey (see table 2). There is no neighbourhood or district that can be identified as the centre of a pan-African community or of any specific African nation. Thus, by any

24 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver Table 2 Sub-Saharan African immigrants in municipalities comprising Greater Vancouver, 2006 Municipality City of Vancouver Burnaby Surrey Richmond Coquitlam New Westminster

Number 5,885 4,635 4,080 2,320 1,570 915

Source: Masinda and Kambere 2008, 30–4.

measure, Black African immigrants have the distinction of being both hyper visible within Vancouver in relation to the majority populations of European and Asian origins and a tiny minority in terms of numbers in the local area. This social geography of hyper visibility and minority locations forms the context within which African immigrants negotiate the local landscape and act to create an emerging African community in Vancouver. The experience of being a very small yet highly visible minority – as Black and as migrants from Africa – shapes changing notions of identity. In spite of the diversity of countries of origin, languages, religions, and cultures, the similarities in experiences within Vancouver have given rise to a new pan-African diasporic identity in the local context. Participants in this research did not typically identify as part of a larger and more inclusive Black community in Vancouver. Instead, their African origins and immigrant experiences suggested that they had less in common with Canadian-born Black women and men or those who had migrated from the Caribbean, the United States, or other parts of the world. No doubt the small size of the larger Black population is a factor. Similarly, their racialized bodies suggest few similarities with migrants from Africa who are not Black, particularly the significant population of White South Africans. As we will discuss in chapter 6, ambivalence about belonging in Canada seems so far to preclude the development of hyphenated identities (whether African-Canadian, Nigerian-Canadian, or Somali-Canadian, for example) that is so typical among immigrant groups in Canada. Thus the construction of a pan-African diasporic identity in Vancouver illustrates the importance of place and space in migration experiences and the way in which new identities are constructed and reconstructed in

A New African Diaspora 25

different locales. It is a Black sub-Saharan African immigrant experience that shapes emerging notions of community and struggles over exclusion and belonging. The experiences of immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa have received very li le a ention among scholars of migration in Canada (Konadu-Agyemang and Takyi 2006, 6; Owusu 2006, 275). Immigrants from Africa are o en lumped under the broader category of ‘African Canadian’ or Black Canadians, highlighting the importance of racialization but also erasing the specificities of migration experiences (Cannon 1995; Mensah 2002). What li le research there is has provided broad overviews of migration or focused on issues of marginalization in the labour market, particularly in Toronto; in addition, there is some research on discrimination in housing and other spheres and on hybrid identities among specific groups such as Ghanaians, Eritreans, and Ethiopians (Adjibolosoo and Mensah 1998; Danso and Grant 2000; Henin and Benne 2002; Konadu-Agyemang and Takyi 2006; Matsuoka and Sorenson 2001; Mensah 2002; Mensah and Adjibolosoo 1998; Te ey and Puplampu 2005a; Teixeira 2006). Key issues of labour market barriers, downward occupational mobility, problems with ‘foreign’ credentials, and racialized discrimination have strong resonances in this research. Scholarship on sub-Saharan African immigrants that considers the centrality of gender in the migration process also raises issues of gendered labour markets and changing gender relations, which inform this study (Elabor-Idemudia 2000; Donkor 2005; Manuh 2003; Matsuoka and Sorenson 2001; Mianda 2004; Musisi and Turri in 2006; Okeke-Ihejirika and Spitzer 2005; Opoku-Dapaah 2006; Owusu 2006; Wane, Deliovsky, and Lawson 2002; Yesufu 2005). Most Canadian research focuses on immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa residing in the Toronto area.10 The size of the population from sub-Saharan Africa, the concentration of some large national diasporas (for example, there are almost as many Ghanaians in Toronto as there are Africans in Vancouver),11 and the presence of a significant diverse Black population in Toronto suggest important differences from Vancouver. One of the most marked differences is the development of a pan-African diasporic identity and community building in Vancouver, in contrast to the stronger nationspecific community building and broader pan-Black identity reported in Toronto. There have only been two previous studies of African immigrants in Vancouver: a province-wide overview commissioned by the provincial government in the late 1990s (Adjibolosoo and Mensah 1998, and Mensah and Adjibolosoo 1998), and a more recent report on immigrant

26 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

se lement services in 2008 (Masinda and Kambere 2008). The 1998 study documents the diversity of the population; the variety of challenges faced by newcomers in the labour market; problems tied to recognition of educational credentials; cultural and racial discrimination; the inadequacy of existing se lement services; and the implications of such a small community for ge ing services. A decade later Masinda and Kambere (2008) document the growth of the population, a more detailed assessment of ongoing needs in terms of se lement services, as well as the recent emergence of organizations created to provide services for immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa (the Centre for Integration of African Immigrants and the Umoja Operation Compassion Society). In addition to these two descriptive reports,12 specialized working papers have recently been released by Metropolis BC on housing and homelessness among African refugees (Francis 2009), francophone African youth in schools (Jacquet et al. 2008), and trauma among refugee women ( Wasik 2006). However, apart from research by the author that is linked to the present study (Creese and Kambere 2003; Creese 2007a; Creese 2010; Creese and Wiebe, in press), the larger se lement and integration processes, including reshaping identities, belonging, and changing gender relations, among the new African diaspora in Vancouver have been largely ignored by migration scholars to date. This study aims to fill that gap. Profile of Research Participants This study is based on interviews with sixty-one women and men who migrated from sub-Saharan Africa and reside in the Greater Vancouver area. Participants originate from twenty-one different countries in Africa and have diverse ethnic, linguistic, and religious backgrounds (see table 3). Nearly two-thirds (64%) came from countries in Commonwealth Africa, one-quarter (26%) from countries in the Francophonie, and one-tenth (10%) from other countries in Africa. Men were evenly split between Commonwealth and other parts of Africa, while threequarters of the women were drawn from Commonwealth countries. The importance of colonial history is linked to legacies that might be shared with Canada. Since Vancouver is profoundly shaped by its British colonial history, we expected migrants from Commonwealth countries to have some advantages, including English-language skills, education modelled on British institutions, and other British cultural capital.13 Hence we paid close a ention to Commonwealth and nonCommonwealth distinctions in the se lement process.

A New African Diaspora 27 Table 3 Participants by country of origin Number of women interviewed

Number of men interviewed

British British British British British British British British British British

4 3 0 6 1 1 1 4 1 3

1 1 2 3 2 0 1 3 0 2

Burundi Congo-Brazzaville DR Congo Guinea-Conakry Rwanda Senegal Togo

French French French French French French French

3 0 2 0 0 0 0

2 2 2 1 2 1 1

Cape Verde Island Ethiopia Mozambique Sudan

Portuguese Italian Portuguese Other*

0 1 0 1

1 1 1 1



Country of origin

Colonial history

Ghana Kenya Malawi Nigeria Sierra Leone South Africa Swaziland Uganda Zambia Zimbabwe


*Sudan has a complex colonial history that includes Turkish, Egyptian, and British control.

Class of immigration also affects se lement experiences. Those who arrived as independent immigrants came by choice, with goals of improving the future prospects for themselves and their children. Independent immigrants have been evaluated through the points system and can be expected to have high levels of education and occupational skills. Family class immigrants are sponsored by spouses or parents who have migrated ahead of them, and have some family support upon arrival. Refugees have been forced to flee their homelands and o en spend years in refugee camps before coming to Canada; for those who claim refugee status within Canada there are many years of uncertainty while their claims wind their way through the refugee determination system.

28 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver Table 4 Participants by class of immigration Immigration Class Independent Family Refugee Unknown* Total

Women (%)

Men (%)

Combined (%)

19 29 42 10 100

23 7 70 0 100

21 18 56 5 100

* Three women did not identify their class of immigration; two of these women are currently landed immigrants, and one is a Canadian citizen.

Refugees are more likely to experience family separation for extended periods of time and to have lived through traumatic events, all factors that can make se lement more difficult. Participants in this study came through a variety of immigration streams (see table 4). The gendered nature of Canada’s immigration system, which favours men as independent economic immigrants14 and in refugee selection and favours women as family dependents, is well documented ( Boyd 1997, 2001). It is li le surprise then that African women were four times as likely as men to be sponsored as family class immigrants, and African men were more likely to come as refugees and as independent immigrants. The sample in this study is skewed towards those who came through the refugee stream, perhaps because recruitment occurred partly through se lement organizations.15 Among women, 42% arrived as refugees, 29% were sponsored by family, and 19% were independent immigrants. Among men, 70% come as refugees, 23% came as independent immigrants, and only 7% were sponsored by family. Regardless of the route of entry into Canada, the vast majority of participants were either landed immigrants (46%) or Canadian citizens (43%) at the time of the interviews; 10% of participants were refugee claimants (see table 5). Interviewees had resided in Canada for at least one year at the time of the interviews. Only three had been in Canada less than three years, and two people had migrated more than twenty years earlier. In all, one-third of participants had been in Canada less than five years, one-third between five and ten years, and one-third had migrated more than ten years before. Three-quarters of the participants in the study were fluent in English before migrating to Canada (see table 6). As expected, this included all

A New African Diaspora 29 Table 5 Participants’ current status in Canada Current status in Canada Landed immigrant Canadian citizen Refugee claimant Unknown* Total

Women (%)

Men (%)

Combined (%)

48 45 6 0 99

43 40 13 3 99

46 43 10 1 100

* One man did not state his current status within Canada; he arrived as a refugee. Note: Rounded numbers do not always total 100. Table 6 Participants’ knowledge of English prior to migration Knowledge of English

Women (%)

Men (%)

Fluent in English Spoke some English Did not speak English Total

81 6 13 100

70 7 23 100

but one of the participants from Commonwealth Africa (and the one who was not fluent said she knew ‘some English’) and more than onethird of those who had migrated from other African countries. These high levels of English fluency are also an indication of the middle- or upper-class backgrounds of the sample, with more affluent Africans likely to be educated in English. Since a higher proportion of women originated in Commonwealth countries, it is not surprising that a higher proportion of women (81%) than of men (70%) spoke fluent English when they arrived in Vancouver. Canada’s immigration system selects highly educated and skilled newcomers through the independent class. The trend is clear in the educational qualifications of participants in this research. Even though a disproportionate number of African immigrants in the study arrived through the refugee stream rather than the economic class of independent immigrants, the majority had post-secondary qualifications16 (see table 7). More than half (60%) of all men had a university degree; 80% of men had either a university degree or other post-secondary education. Almost one-third (29%) of women had a university degree; two-thirds of women (64%) had a university degree or other post-secondary education.

30 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver Table 7 Participants’ highest level of education before immigration and as pursued in Canada Before immigration Highest level of education Some high school High school graduation College/technical diploma Some university Bachelor’s degree Graduate degree Unknown before migration* No further education in Canada Total

In Canada

Women (%)

Men (%)

Women (%)

Men (%)

6 23 35 6 23 6 0 n/a 99

0 10 20 0 47 13 10 n/a 100

3 3 29 16 3 10 n/a 35 99

0 3 17 7 7 3 n/a 63 100

*Three men did not disclose their level of education prior to migration to Canada. Note: Rounded numbers do not always total 100.

The majority of participants were highly educated before coming to Canada, and many continued to pursue higher education a er se ling in Canada (see table 7). Two-thirds of women pursued further education in Canada: 42% a ained a college diploma or university degree, and another 16% took some additional university courses or were still pursuing a university degree. Unlike the majority of African women, only one-third of men pursued further education within Canada: 27% a ained a diploma or university degree, and another 7% took some university courses. When we combine educational credentials a ained before and a er migration, 67% of men and 39% of women earned a university degree, a figure that increases to 83% and 74%, respectively, when we combine all post-secondary credentials (see table 8). The gendered differences in educational a ainment, both before and a er migration, are also clear, with men more likely than women to have university-level qualifications. Not surprisingly, these high levels of pre-migration post-secondary education corresponded to middle-class jobs for the majority before they migrated to Canada. The majority of women (51%) and men (60%) were employed in professional, managerial, or semi-professional occupations prior to migration to Canada (see table 9). The gendered labour market is evident too, with men concentrated in professional and managerial fields. Only 24% of men and 13% of women were employed in less skilled blue-collar (mostly male) or white-collar (mostly female)

A New African Diaspora 31 Table 8 Participants with post-secondary credentials at time of interview Post-secondary credentials

Women (%)

Men (%)

39 35 74

67 16 83

University degree (bachelor or graduate) College/technical diploma Total

Table 9 Participants’ occupational status in Africa and Canada In Africa Occupational Status Semi-skilled blue collar Semi-skilled white collar Semi-professional Professional and managerial Self-employed Business owner Student, full-time Homemaker, full-time Unemployed Total

In Canada

Women (%)

Men (%)

Women (%)

Men (%)

3 10 19 32 6 6 23 0 0 99

17 7 7 53 3 0 13 0 0 100

16 23 13 10 3 3 13 3 16 100

55 14 7 10 3 0 0 0 10 99*

*One man declined to identify his current occupation except to say that it was ‘significantly less prestigious’ than his previous work as a manager. He is excluded from this column. Note: Rounded numbers do not always total 100.

jobs. Although the gendered labour market is evident in both Africa and Canada, occupational outcomes in Canada are much lower, with most African immigrants located in lower-level working-class jobs. At the time of the interviews a majority of men (55%) were employed in blue-collar manual labour, 14% were in low-skilled white-collar jobs, and 10% were unemployed. Only 17% were in semi-professional, professional, or managerial jobs in Vancouver. Of the women, 55% were employed in either low-skilled white-collar jobs or blue-collar manual labour, or were unemployed, and another 16% were full-time students or homemakers. Although more than half (58%) of the women had postsecondary education aĴained within Canada (see table 7), only 23% were in semi-professional, professional, or managerial jobs. Thus African

32 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

migrants in Vancouver face a situation of significant downward occupational mobility. For those fortunate enough to a ain professional, semi-professional, or managerial jobs in Canada, two-thirds had specialized post-secondary training within Canada that was directly related to their current jobs in Vancouver (for example, as a nurse’s aide, a teacher, and an accountant). Only four African immigrants in this study held professional, managerial, or semi-professional jobs and did not have additional Canadianacquired qualifications. In each case, however, these men and women had had advanced university degrees (in two cases, graduate degrees) prior to emigration. And in each case they also experienced considerable downward job mobility within their professions. As this profile of research participants shows, the majority of African immigrants in the study had been highly educated, professionally employed, and fluent in English before migration to Vancouver, and a majority came from Commonwealth countries that share some British institutional structures. In these respects, such people are just the type of immigrants that Canada wishes to recruit. Nevertheless, even though two-thirds had been in Canada for more than five years, and half were Canadian citizens, their difficulties with assertion of English linguistic capital, with downward economic and social mobility, and with exclusion and marginalization were standard themes in the interviews. As we shall see in subsequent chapters, whether focusing on language, employment, family, or identity, African immigrants encountered innumerable diaspora spaces that simultaneously privileged the local or Canadian over the foreign or immigrant and erased the advantages that might have accrued from a shared Commonwealth heritage. At the same time, women and men actively carved out spaces of belonging as they created a new African community through networks of support, shared experiences, and emerging new identities.

2 Erasing Linguistic Capital

It’s like the moment you start speaking the language – because the accent came out – you don’t know anything. – Ntombi ( Interview F3)

The majority of immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa (81% of the women and 70% of the men) in this study reported having fluency in English before migrating to Canada (see table 6). This included all but one participant from countries that form part of the British Commonwealth (97%)1 and more than one-third of interviewees from other parts of Africa (36%). The legacy of British colonialism in Commonwealth Africa marks English as an official national language, which is widely spoken among the educated middle class, and indeed education beyond primary school is largely conducted in English (Phillipson and Skutnabb-Kangas 1995). Immigrants who are fluent and educated in English expected their linguistic capital to facilitate integration into the local labour market and civil society. Only four participants who were not fluent in English were also not fluent in French, a parallel legacy of French colonization in many African nations. Francophone migrants also expected French language skills to aid integration in Vancouver because Canada is officially bilingual. For most African immigrants, however, language constituted a diaspora space of exclusion and an ongoing site of struggle. Surprisingly, those who were fluent in English were just as likely as those who learned English a er migration to identify accent discrimination as a feature of daily life in Vancouver. This chapter draws on Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of linguistic capital to understand the processes that erase African immigrants’ linguistic capital

34 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

in Canada, and their ongoing struggles to have their English linguistic competency recognized. Colonialism and Linguistic Capital As Pierre Bourdieu observes, ‘language is an instrument of power’ and not just a means of communication (1977, 648). In his theory of multiple interrelated capitals, Bourdieu (1986) identifies three main forms of capital that interact and reproduce advantage and disadvantage in societies: social capital (social networks), economic capital (various forms of wealth), and cultural capital (dispositions, tastes, and modes of thinking and speaking). Bourdieu’s approach helps us to explain the uneven processes of immigrant se lement and, in particular, the ways in which the various forms of capital – such as educational credentials and linguistic skills – that migrants bring with them to a new context can (or cannot) be translated into resources in the new se ing; as a result, differential evaluations reproduce existing power relations while rendering the forms of capital invisible ( Bauder 2003a, 2005b; Kelly and Lusis 2006). Bourdieu defines linguistic capital as one form of embodied cultural capital that is ‘unrecognized as capital and recognized as legitimate competence’ ( Bourdieu 1986, 245). For Bourdieu, linguistic competence has less to do with the use of grammatical structures and more to do with the ability to command the right to speak and the power to be heard ( Bourdieu 1977, 648). A speaker’s social location and power always shape responses to language: ‘speech always owes a major part of its value to the value of the person who u ers it’ ( Bourdieu 1977, 652). Thus some people – those from lower social classes, women, and colonized peoples – are perceived to be less competent (or, indeed, to be incompetent) and have more difficulty being heard or having their speech taken seriously. Forms of English linguistic capital are embedded in histories of British colonialism. The expansion of English – more than a means of communication – and its privileged place within colonially imposed systems of government, economics, and civil society were tied to the exertion of British power and control within the colonies. Language ‘was used to regulate and police access to authority and knowledge among colonized peoples’ ( Willinsky 1998, 191). The indigenous populations in British colonies in Africa and North America were subject to ‘civilizing’

Erasing Linguistic Capital 35

missions to simultaneously transform, contain, and undermine local ways of knowing, expressing, doing, and being in order to create subordinate and inferior versions of English men and women (Harris 2002; Mackey 2002; McClintock 1995; Thobani 2007). British colonization within Africa, for example, was explicitly tied to the subjugation of African languages amid the exaltation of English and its corresponding ways of knowing. Phillipson and Skutnabb-Kangas (1995, 339) argue that the subjugation of African languages ‘is directly paralleled to the economic underdevelopment of these societies.’ Teaching English to the colonized simultaneously conferred some degree of ‘civilization’ on various Aboriginal populations at the same time that it racialized them as inferior ‘others’ (Pennycock 1998, 4). Asserting the superiority of the English language vis-à-vis other languages and valorizing native speakers over non-native speakers has a long history (4). The spread of English was a project of linguistic domination that, among other things, created a legacy in which not all forms of English are considered equal. Native speakers in predominantly White English-speaking nations remain its privileged purveyors while ‘traces of the history of imperial conquest and dominance’ are embedded in accents, syntax, and pronunciation ( Willinsky 1998, 194). Since knowledge is power (Foucault 2003), the power to define legitimate forms of knowledge or expression is central to maintaining power relations in post-colonial contexts, including immigrant societies like Canada. Accents provide critical clues to where persons were raised, to what might be their first language, their gender, class background, and racialized bodies even in the absence of visual cues. Perhaps not surprisingly, accents remain crucial forms of social differentiation in many societies (Adams and Smith 2006; Purnell, Idsardi, and Baugh 1999). According to Bourdieu (1977, 653), accents are an ‘index of authority’ such that ‘the efficacy of a discourse, its power to convince, depends on the authority of the person who u ers it.’ Of course, everyone has an accent, but those in positions of power are perceived as speaking ‘normal, unaccented English’ (Lippi-Green 1997, 59). Linguist Lippi-Green (1997, 65) argues that the myth of unaccented English is part of ‘standard language ideology’ in North America that ‘provides rationalization for limiting access to discourse.’ One way of speaking English is perceived as superior, while other forms of English (including, in the U.S. context, forms of English that developed among African American descendents of slaves2 as well as various groups of immigrants) are perceived as

36 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

threats that undermine and debase the language. She argues that accent discrimination is widespread in the United States: ‘Accent discrimination . . . is so commonly accepted, so widely perceived as appropriate, that it must be seen as the last back door to discrimination. And the door stands wide open’ (73).

Practices of misrecognition, trivialization, and the ‘refusal to hear’ non-standard accents can be seen as everyday forms of linguistic domination. Although accents that are not ‘local’ can sometimes lead to miscommunication, research suggests that ‘foreign’ accents do not necessarily impair communication; instead, it is the negative perceptions of ‘foreign’ accents that have social consequences (Derwing, Rossiter, and Munro 2002; Lippi-Green 1997; Munro, Derwing, and Sato 2006). This has led some linguists to argue that instead of trying to modify the accents of speakers of English as a second language (ESL) through accent-reduction courses, which is an increasingly common practice in North America, native listeners who work in professional capacities with immigrants should be sensitized to negative associations and trained to become ‘more willing to hear’ different accents (Derwing, Rossiter, and Munro 2002; Munro, Derwing, and Sato 2006). Accents are markers for inclusion and exclusion in the contexts in which discrimination on other related bases – such as race, ethnicity, and national origin – is no longer socially permissible. In the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada, educational institutions and labour markets have been identified as central sites of accent discrimination (Creese and Kambere 2003; Creese 2007a; Henry 1999; Henry and Ginzberg 1985; Lippi-Green 1997; Munro 2003; Munro, Derwing, and Sato 2006; Norton 2000; Roberts, Davies, and Jupp 1992; Scassa 12994). In Frances Henry’s (1999; Henry and Ginzberg 1985) research in Toronto, for example, four accents were tested through telephone contact with potential employers – a ‘Pakistani’ accent, a ‘Jamaican’ accent, a ‘Slavic or an Italian’ accent, and a ‘local’ accent. Telephone testers were instructed to use standard English grammar so that fluency in English would not be a factor in the ability to acquire interviews for jobs advertised in a Toronto newspaper. Even so, the research found differential screening that significantly favoured those with a ‘local’ accent over all other groups, and the White immigrants over immigrants of colour. Overall, the ‘Jamaican-’ and ‘Pakistani-’accented callers had to make eighteen calls to a ain ten potential job interviews, while the ‘Slavic- or

Erasing Linguistic Capital 37

Italian-’accented callers needed thirteen calls, and the ‘locally’ accented ( presumed White) callers needed only eleven or twelve calls to a ain the same number of job interviews (Henry 1999). Munro (2003) identifies three forms of accent discrimination that have been raised in human rights cases in Canada: hiring decisions that inappropriately considered accents (either where language proficiency was not a bona fide occupational requirement or where accents did not impair communication); denial of access to jobs or rental accommodation based on accent stereotyping; and harassment or ridicule of a speaker because of accent. Robert Phillipson (1992) coined the term linguicism to refer to these forms of linguistically related racism (see also Chen-Hayes, Chen, and Athar 1999). Practices of linguistic domination are rooted in Canada’s colonial history in ways that continue to undermine Aboriginal peoples and many immigrants’ right to speak and be heard (Norton 2000), even as global pa erns of migration are rapidly transforming major urban centres. Given that nearly 40% of residents in Greater Vancouver are immigrants (Statistics Canada 2007, 32), many different English accents can be heard daily. Some accents are perceived as local, and others are defined as foreign; for the most part, local accents are privileged as standard, unaccented, and authoritative while marking the boundaries of ‘us’ (Canadians) and ‘them’ (immigrants). Linguistic capital in Canada is embodied in complex ways that bear traces of colonial histories. Indeed, some non-local accents (not coincidentally, most o en a ached to white skins), like British and Australian English accents, are heard in the local environment without difficulty. Other non-local accents, including those a ached to migrants from former British colonies in sub-Saharan Africa, are more likely to be defined as undesirable or incomprehensible foreign accents. Speech constitutes a critical diaspora space that migrants must negotiate around the borders of ‘Canadianness’. This is so for all ESL speakers, who are routinely reminded that their accents, and hence their speech, are deficient. However, it is also true for those sub-Saharan Africans who were fluent in English before migrating to Canada. For almost all participants in this study, the struggle to be recognized as competent speakers of English was an ongoing process. Women experienced the denigration of their language more persistently than did men, even though more women than men (81% compared to 70%) spoke English at the time of their arrival. The gendered dimensions of Africans’ linguistic capital are linked both to gender differences in authority (and thus who

38 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

can speak and be heard) and gender segregation in the labour market that provides more opportunities to use accent as a means of screening and monitoring female employees. Below we consider the multiple ways in which English language competency is erased for those who were fluent in English prior to migration and for those who learned it a er arrival; we examine how erasing linguistic capital undermines recognition of competencies in other areas, such as employment and, indeed, as ‘Canadian’ citizens; we explore how processes of linguistic domination are gendered; and we outline how participants resist and reinterpret linguistic domination through valorizing African English speech. Acquiring New Linguistic Capital: Learning English a er Migration One-quarter of Africans in this study did not speak fluent English when they first se led in Vancouver, although most of those participants spoke French and some also knew ‘some English.’ Only four research participants were not fluent in either of Canada’s official languages when they arrived.3 All interviews were conducted in English; those who had not been fluent at the time of migration had mastered enough English to communicate effectively some years later when they were interviewed, though levels of fluency did vary. African immigrants who came from countries in the Francophonie were aware of Canada’s official status as a bilingual country and naturally expected their command of French to be an asset in Vancouver. The discovery that knowledge of French was not very useful in British Columbia at all was an unwelcome surprise for many. Kazi commented: azi: Before I came here, you know, everybody say Canada is bilingual. Everybody can speak French, can speak English. So really when I came here for me it was French and English. So I have been surprised just to find that there is no French here. ( Interview M46)

Francophone Africans remembered seeking out French speakers whenever they could to help navigate the first difficult months or years. This strategy was particularly effective in certain situations, such as accessing federal government services provided in both languages, or in banks that increasingly offer multilingual services. For the most part, however, fluency in French was of li le help to African immigrants who did not also speak English. Those with a limited command of English

Erasing Linguistic Capital 39

struggled to make themselves understood, to acquire necessary information, to negotiate the initial demands of housing, social services, and the medical system, to navigate their children’s schooling, or to acquire jobs in an English-speaking environment. aykimwa: Like when I first came, it [ language] affected me because wherever I went, people, when they are talking to me, I didn’t know how to answer them. Sometimes I knew how to answer but was slow. I had to tell them to repeat or if – like, when I was doing my English. And like when I go for shopping. It affects you because you don’t know what they are talking about. Or whenever you go to the bank, sometimes I had a problem to open my account. But I was lucky because sometimes there’s some people who speak French and English. So every time I go to offices, I used to ask [for] someone who speaks French. ( Interview F25) neila: When we came first of all, it’s so difficult. You have to ask somebody to interpret, something like that. But I got these people [to interpret] like one month, then I’ll try by myself. If somebody cannot speak, he can speak with hands. I tried. I go there, with my dictionary, French-English. Takes me more time, but I can, people can understand me. ( Interview F17)

Learning another language at the same time as negotiating a new social and cultural environment is particularly stressful and requires considerable resourcefulness, patience, and the understanding of friends and strangers, which was o en in short supply. Neila speaks five languages including French and Portuguese. She observed that although many Canadians are unilingual English and unable even to speak Canada’s other official language, newcomers are o en made to feel inferior because of their weak command of English. Neila pointed out that her ‘deficient’ English linguistic capital overdetermined perceptions of her general competence as a person: ‘if you speak bad English, they think you are stupid’ ( Interview F17). It is hard enough for adults to learn a new language in a strange environment, and to be personally demeaned in the process makes language acquisition even more difficult. Neila also observed that not all newcomers to Vancouver face the same pressures to learn English. Some groups have large enough local communities that they can find work, housing, and services in their native languages. Such migrants can adjust to Canadian society in the context of an ethnic or linguistic enclave that eases initial transitions and even makes it possible to continue to live largely in one’s native language.

40 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver neila: Because everywhere I go for work, I find Chinese people, Philippine people, Korean people; they didn’t speak English but they have jobs, you know. I come back. ‘You don’t speak English.’ I can tell you how many people there are, they don’t understand English. I understand more than them. ( Interview F17)

However, for members of the small and linguistically diverse African community, and in the context of a very small local francophone population as well, learning English as quickly as possible was an essential part of se lement in Vancouver. Not surprisingly, limited English-language fluency poses particular problems in the local labour market. English is a requirement for jobs outside of the ethnic business sectors of the larger immigrant communities such as the Chinese and Punjabi business sectors. Jobs within those communities also require language skills (Mandarin, Cantonese, and Punjabi) that African immigrants do not possess. As Mohamadi notes, language is the first problem that non-English speaking Africans face because ‘if you come here, you can’t get a job if you don’t know the English’ ( Interview M52). Those who were not fluent English speakers at the time of migration worked hard to learn English as quickly as possible, usually through ESL classes. Basic classes are available to all new immigrants, and additional training is offered in a variety of educational institutions.4 Once English is mastered, however, language difficulties do not disappear. As Courouma recounted, while he became more fluent in English he discovered that speaking English with a ‘non-Canadian’ accent still had significant consequences. courouma: Of course, the [ language] problems will diminish as time goes by. But the language problem will still be there because, I think, you know, I am an adult so I won’t be able to speak as quickly as Canadians, and I won’t be able to pronounce it as Canadians, which will, I think, still be a problem because I am – ‘Oh, what is this accent, where are you from?’ ( Interview M48)

He pointed out that local response to different types of accents is not simply a question of effective communication with the goal of mutual comprehension. Acceptable accents are related to specific linguistic preferences of employers, which in turn are related to expressions of authority and competence, or degrees of linguistic capital, in the broader society.

Erasing Linguistic Capital 41 courouma: [Local employers] really would like you to sound Canadian and be able to a ract their customers. They want you to speak – not speak – to sound Canadian. That you have this African accent, even if you can make yourself understood, [they] don’t like it . . . If you have an accent which is close to Canadian accent, I think that would give you more opportunity than the one who has this huge Nigerian or Ghanaian accent. ( Interview M48)

It was well understood among participants who learned English in Vancouver – and, as we shall see in the next section, also among those who learned English in Africa – that African English accents command li le linguistic capital in Vancouver. In fact, African English accents were frequently cited as barriers in the local labour market. This was truer in some kinds of jobs than in others because some jobs require extensive communication skills and others do not. atura: Think about this. If you are working as – working in customer service, [a large department store], [a supermarket], so on and so forth, a call centre, you have to speak with your customers. They have to hear you. They have to understand you. And if you work as a receptionist, yeah, you have to answer the phone. You have to speak. So definitely they won’t give you that job. ( Interview M40)

Although he does not mention it, most of the jobs identified by Gatura are also feminized, suggesting, as we discuss below, that erasure of African’s linguistic capital has the greatest impact on women’s job prospects. The rental accommodation market was another sphere where African English accents put people at a disadvantage, shaping prospective landlord’s assessments about appropriate tenants. neila: You ask your friend [to] call for you – because of your accent they don’t take you. But you ask somebody [to] call for you. And when you show up, they tell you, ‘Oh yeah, it’s rented already.’ But you, you still see . . .  edith: The sign? neila: The sign is there for rent. But ‘Oh, no, no, it’s rented already.’ And always I ask, ’Because I am Black?’ ( Interview F17)

Neila’s comments remind us that, as Bourdieu points out, linguistic capital is tied to the value or social status of the person speaking. Perceptions

42 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

about accents cannot be separated from processes of racialization because, as Neila observes, speech is always performed by particular bodies. The subjects of this study are, in numerous ways, foreign-immigrant-Black bodies moving in spaces where White privilege persists amidst increasing demographic diversity. Research participants who learned English a er migration were well aware that everyone speaks with an accent, including local Canadians, and that not all foreign accents are treated the same way in the local context. Those from Europe, Britain, the United States, Australia, or even other parts of Canada may sound different than those raised locally in Vancouver without it affecting their ability to get jobs, rent houses, or generally feel included in the local community. This leads some to observe that the real issue is whether other Canadians consider Africans to be part of their imagined community, perceptions that are shaped by political and economic power relations: courouma: It is a problem because of how people think about Africa. Because if you are from East, like if you are from Quebec or wherever, the people here will still know that you are from their people, you are one of them. ( Interview M48) miri: If you have economic power or political power you can speak with your accent. People will accept you. But if you are in position that you are asking, you are expecting to get something, to go somewhere, at times you must have strategy to succeed . . . to change your accent. ( Interview M59)

On one level, many of the difficulties facing African migrants who arrive without strong English-language skills are not much different from those of other non-English-speaking immigrants from other parts of the world, especially those who do not have large co-ethnic communities already residing in the Vancouver area. Learning a new language as an adult is invariably difficult, time consuming, and expensive, delaying the ability to pursue full-time employment and quickly se le family into a new environment. At the same time, limited Englishlanguage skills significantly narrow the range of jobs available and the ability to pursue higher education within Canada and effectively negotiate many facets of the local environment. For the African immigrants who were not already fluent in English, learning English was a priority, and general mastery was accomplished over time. Almost all non-English-speaking migrants from Africa already spoke fluent French, but this turned out to be li le help in se ling in Vancouver. The

Erasing Linguistic Capital 43

small local francophone community and lack of provincial services in French underscore the limits of Canada’s brand of bilingualism where all provinces but one operate as effectively unilingual territories.5 In spite of Canada’s bilingual status, then, francophone Africans found few contexts in which knowledge of French was either valued or useful in Vancouver. In critical ways language remained a contested site for African immigrants long a er communication in English had been mastered. Indeed, as we shall see, language was a problem even for the three-quarters of research participants who had been fluent in English before migration. In the next section we focus specifically on the experiences of fluent English speakers from Commonwealth Africa in order to illustrate the processes of erasing African’s linguistic capital and the ways in which perceptions of English-language competency are racialized. Commonwealth Africans in Vancouver The African immigrants from Commonwealth countries were fluent in English and educated in British-modelled secondary and postsecondary institutions. Language, as such, was not anticipated to be a problem, and many research participants recalled that English fluency had been a considerable asset, enabling them to quickly gather information about ways to negotiate housing, employment, and services. One’s ear takes a li le time to adjust to colloquial differences in syntax, pronunciation, and phrases, but comprehension of local Canadian English was not experienced as a significant problem. In contrast, the struggle to be perceived as competent speakers of English was a surprising, significant, and ongoing problem. Eighty-seven percent of fluent English speakers from Commonwealth Africa (33 out of 38 participants) identified their ‘African accent’ as a barrier to equal treatment in Vancouver. Only five participants said that it was not a problem they had experienced. For the vast majority, then, the process of crossing the border into Canada erased their facility to communicate effectively in English. This erasure occurred in a number of different venues, including educational institutions, the labour market, and daily interactions with other Vancouverites. Educational institutions are primary sites of ‘standard language ideology’ that routinely enforce dominant forms of ‘standard English’ (Lippi-Green 1997). Local educational institutions symbolically erased the linguistic capital of Commonwealth Africans in a number of ways,

44 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

including directing them to ESL classes, cra ing required ‘professional English’ classes to remould accents, and selectively requiring English tests (such as the Test of English as a Foreign Language [TOEFL]) for those who had been educated abroad in English-language institutions. People encouraged to enrol in ESL classes witnessed the explicit denial of their competence in English. Although English was seldom the first language of participants from Commonwealth Africa, most had learned English as children and, as middle- and upper-class Africans, had been educated in English-language secondary schools and post-secondary institutions. Pressure to take ESL classes signalled the inadequacy of participants’ command of English and the superiority of the local variant of standard English. Most resisted the suggestions that ESL training was necessary, but those seeking entry to local post-secondary institutions o en had li le choice when ESL classes were a prerequisite for admission. ESL classes provided for immigrants in British Columbia are geared to those with li le or no previous background in English, thus, Ntombi argued, ESL was a ‘waste of time’: ntom i: In VCC [Vancouver Community College], when I go there, I was like, ‘I have my high school education at home.’ I presented it to this lady. This lady said, ‘What? This doesn’t mean anything. We don’t accept foreign documents here. We don’t. You have to go to ESL.’ Like I don’t belong to ESL . . . Just looking at me, I belong to ESL. But I feel I – ESL program is very low, very, very low, because I have been in adult education. I went there to see what they are doing there, and then I saw it’s really very low for me. You are just wasting your time. ( Interview F3)

Participants who sought entry to Canadian educational institutions also faced requirements to take English-language tests. These tests could be expensive and time-consuming and o en had to be repeated for each separate educational institution. As Bizima explained, she had to keep proving her competency in English every time she undertook a different program of study. izima: I had problems with my – with people accepting my English, especially in school. I really have to do a lot of English assessments. Even if my accent is not like Canadian, I think I can write as well as a Canadian . . . But even having done the English at the University College of the Fraser Valley, I am still asked to write other assessment tests to prove to these [other] colleges. It’s really so discouraging. And it’s not that those tests are free; you have to pay money. ( Interview F5)

Erasing Linguistic Capital 45

The cost of English-language tests poses an additional barrier to pursing further education within Canada, which in turn limits re-entry to professional fields. As Culibali explained, for example, ‘I don’t have the money to pay for TOEFL, so that means I can’t enter UBC’ ( Interview M36). His inability to a end the University of British Columbia to add Canadian credentials to his degree in computer science prevented him from ge ing work in his profession. Discounting foreign educational credentials is a major problem for immigrants in Canada, not only those from Africa (Frene e and Morisse e 2005; Li 2003; Picot and Sweetman 2005; Reitz 2003). The legacy of colonialism is evident in the recognition of degrees from institutions in Britain and its White se ler colonies (the United States, Australia, New Zealand) while typically discounting those from other parts of the Commonwealth. Failure to accept most foreign educational qualifications is widely recognized as the central reason for the poor performance of immigrants in the Canadian labour market (Aydemir and Skuterud 2004; Frene e and Morisse e 2005; Galabuzi 2006; Li 2003; Picot and Hou 2003; Picot and Sweetman 2005; Reitz 2003; Tran 2004). Some African immigrants who pursued higher education in Canada were also compelled to take ‘professional English’ courses as part of their program of study. Depending on one’s field of specialization, technical language may be unfamiliar and require some reorientation, but, in some programs at least, professional English courses also focused on accents. For example, Vatisi, a long-term care aide who wished to upgrade to a licensed practical nurse, was required to take professional English courses to ‘upgrade my English to the level they want’ ( Interview F8). As Vatisi noted, however, ‘what they want’ had to do more with the acquisition of an appropriate local accent than with any actual deficiencies in her command of English: atisi: So, I am finding that a bit tough because they want me to actually speak – have the accent they have and to be admi ed to do this course, and I am finding that a bit tough. edith: Did they actually tell you that they want you to speak or to articulate like Canadians? atisi: Yeah, because they keep telling me, “I don’t understand, you don’t say it this way. We don’t – ” you know, those kinds of things. So they have a requirement, which to my own thinking is not – is not necessary for me. If I want to go and do that school, they should give me a test to see my writing, to see my – my language, like grammar, like that. But this other thing, they are saying you have to really say it the way that they do. ( Interview F8)

46 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

Similarly, Kasunga, with an MBA from Nigeria, was taking additional courses at the University of British Columbia that demanded he upgrade his English. In his view this was really pressure to learn to speak with a local Canadian accent. kasun a: I come from West Africa, Nigeria. Our high-school certificate, we use school certificate or General Certificate of [Secondary] Education, the GCSE of London. You come to this part of the world, they don’t really evaluate it as a Grade 12 or Grade 11. They have to tell you to take English 11 or take this. mambo: While you did your studies in English? kasunga: You did your studies in English. So they will still ask you to go back and get re-evaluated or to go and take English. It is an indirect way of telling you to go and change your accent . . . to change your way of speaking. They are trying to mould you from what you have been moulded from, and recast you into the way it is suitable for them in this part of the world. ( Interview M38)

These practices of channelling English-speaking newcomers into ESL classes and insisting on reshaping accents in professional language classes were more common experiences among women than among men. A much higher proportion of women pursued post-secondary education within Canada. As we discuss further in chapter 3, the gendered division of labour made it more difficult for women without local educational credentials to get paid work, so two-thirds of women in this study pursued further education within Canada, compared with only one-third of men. Channelling English speakers into ESL classes, selectively enforcing English-language admissions tests, and discrediting forms of African English speech as inadequate for professional practice undermined African immigrants’ linguistic capital in Canadian post-secondary institutions. These practices occurred in a much larger context of linguistic domination that shaped African women’s and men’s ability to get good jobs and to be treated as competent, capable, and respected adults in a variety of social situations. As Bourdieu (1977, 648) argues, one’s accent either facilitates or hinders the ability to be ‘believed, obeyed, respected, distinguished.’ Research participants identified numerous ways in which many other Canadians conveyed their lack of belief or respect for Africans as they

Erasing Linguistic Capital 47

were reminded that African English accents are inferior to the local variant and inadequate for performance as competent Canadians. bara: Yes, the moment you open your mouth and you speak differently, you know what happens. You don’t need me to explain that. Yes. So I really would say it is discriminatory, and it is a fact. ( Interview F30) bizima: Since we can’t talk like them, it’s really hard to convince them that you can talk sense, when they find out what accent you have. ( Interview F5)

The inability to have her speech counted as credible, or as ‘talking sense,’ undermines Bizima’s status as a competent professional (she previously taught at the college level in Zambia). She is simultaneously silenced and marginalized. A er three years in Canada working as a janitor she has returned to university to pursue a degree in adult education, hoping that Canadian educational credentials will demonstrate that she can indeed talk sense. What is it about an African accent that turns speech into non-sense? Sangara, who has lived in Vancouver for more than a decade and possesses a Canadian MBA, points to the way her accent and body overdetermine perceptions of her linguistic competence. She suggests that an African accent renders her speech unintelligible because the listener is preoccupied with locating her ‘foreign’ body: sangara: That accent turns them right off. I mean, when you get – I mean, the thing is like when you speak, people are not prepared to listen to you. They hear the accent; that’s all they hear. It takes some kind of person to listen to what you have – forget about the accent business. Yes, and that’s what I call it. Once you open your mouth, the first day, they won’t even understand what you say. What’s going on in their minds: ‘Where is she from, where is she from, where is she from?’ ( Interview F9)

The foreignness of the African accent or body is a foreignness to the imagined community of Canadians that has been produced through centuries of colonial practices that a empted to instill White, British, and English-language dominance as central parts of nation building and identity ( Backhouse 1999; Bannerji 2000; Harris 2002; Mackey 2002; Thobani 2007). For African immigrants, Canadians’ locating of their foreign accents and bodies outside of the boundaries of Canadianness, while simultaneously appearing deaf to the content of the speech, were

48 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

not short-term inconveniences during the first few months or years of se lement. Most participants in this study, even those who had been in Canada for more than a decade, experienced accent discrimination as an ongoing problem that created significant barriers to belonging in the local community. Several Commonwealth participants recounted that their first awareness of accent discrimination occurred during their a empt to rent accommodation in Vancouver. Studies of African immigrants’ experiences in the rental housing markets in Toronto (Teixeira 2006) and Calgary (Danso and Grant 2000) document discrimination based on accents and skin colour. These findings are corroborated in Francis’s study (2009) of the housing situation of African refugees in Vancouver, with most refugee claimants and government- assisted refugees residing in cramped substandard accommodation being subject to various forms of discrimination by landlords, and being particularly vulnerable to homelessness.6 Given the immediacy of housing needs, such encounters in the rental market are o en the first indication that accents and or racialized bodies ma er in interactions in Vancouver. Several participants in this study observed that accents are a common means of screening potential tenants. For example, Kalumbi recalled testing his belief that disinterested landlords were responding to his accent, by having a White person with a local accent call about the same house: kalumbi: Housing was the problem. Whenever you were on the phone trying to look for accommodation, they listen to your accent, they will just automatically say no. And we went through this for about two to three months trying to phone here and there – we could not get accommodation – until we discovered that it was the accent. And how did we discover this? By using a White person calling the same number that we have previously called. We called; they say, ‘House taken,’ a er hearing your accent. And the next person calls when you are si ing together with them, and they say, ‘It is available’ . . . Then you know that it was your accent. They have not seen your colour, but they have listened to your accent. ( Interview M32)

As Kalumbi notes, his accent serves as a proxy for his racialized body, and neither was welcomed by some prospective landlords. Access to housing is a particular problem for immigrants who o en have low incomes and precarious jobs (see chapter 3) in a city that for many years has had the most expensive real estate and the lowest rental market vacancy rates in the country (Vancouver Foundation 2007, 2008). Hence

Erasing Linguistic Capital 49

any discerning among potential tenants by the additional means of accents and racialized bodies poses significant extra difficulties for subSaharan Africans seeking accommodation. The most commonly identified site of accent discrimination was the labour market. Almost all participants in this research identified African accents as a barrier to finding work, to ge ing more desirable jobs, and to accessing professional fields of employment (Creese and Wiebe, in press). Local employers o en screened out African accents on the telephone before offering an interview, a finding that is consistent with Henry’s research in Toronto (Henry 1999; Henry and Ginzberg 1985). Moreover, many commented on perceptions about their competency shi ing between paper résumés and in-person interviews, which they a ributed to accents: sangara: I remember giving people résumés, and they call me, and I talk to them on the phone. Just like when you hear my accent, they don’t want to finish the conversation. ( Interview F9) wetu: Because you just go, and maybe somebody calls you on phone or for an interview. You are called for an interview, but then the accent comes in play. Because if you sent your résumé, the résumé doesn’t speak. It has no accent. But now when they call, they hear an accent, then it changes. ( Interview M49) ndungo: Somebody reads your résumé, just because you are not talking to him, and they find it really good. So they call you for an interview. And they are very excited when they are calling you for an interview. You almost think they are hiring you. But once you open up your mouth, and you have an accent, they kind of get discouraged. And you get all these ‘pardons.’ And you are just wondering, which word of all them didn’t he understand, really? And you just know it’s almost intentional to put you down, just to know that, even if you are not taken, it’s your accent. ‘We won’t hear what you are saying, so what do you expect from the rest,’ you know. An accent has always been a barrier. ( Interview F26)

In some types of work, demands for the local variant of standard English were explicit. As Mokoli observes, even in these cases some types of non-local accents are more acceptable than others. mokoli: There is a problem of the perceived accent acceptable to Canadians. And in the field of teaching, that has put many people off. I mean, many people have been rejected employment because of one thing, an accent.

50 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver mambo: Strong accent? mokoli: It is perceived not to be right for Canadian children, and it is more so if the accent is African, and it is convoluted when it is from someone of colour. Because the German can come with an accent, somebody from Quebec can come with accent, some from France can come with an accent, an Australian can come with an accent, British can come with an accent. But when it is an African accent, then the eyebrows are all up. ( Interview M33)

As Bourdieu (1977, 653) notes, accents function ‘as an index of authority.’ The relative authority of different English accents in Canada is rooted in colonial histories and contemporary geopolitics, in which Africans remain subordinated to Britain or Europe and their former White se ler colonies. Through the intonations of speech alone, speakers are marked as African, Black, immigrant, and male or female, and their linguistic authority is undermined. This erasure of linguistic competence simultaneously undermines notions of competence as potential employees and as new Canadians. In the Canadian context, then, African accents are embodied markers of individual incompetence, regardless of the individual’s actual accomplishments. Thus local responses to African English accents simultaneously mark the low social value of the person who u ers and the perceived incompetence or unintelligibility of what is u ered. One dimension of the erasure of Africans’ linguistic capital is experienced as a pervasive policing of African accents. Both men and women talked about the frequent interruptions of ‘What did you say?’, ‘Pardon me?’, and ‘Can you say that again?’, and most believed these power dynamics had li le to do with genuine miscommunication. zaley: The idea is not like telling you directly that you have an accent. No, but people tend like asking you – if you say something, some people will tend to ask you once or twice the same question. mambo: ‘What did you say?’ zaley: ‘What did you say?’ or ‘What is that?’ Or something like that you know, ‘Pardon me?’ or ‘Excuse me?’ as if they didn’t get you. They get you, but they really want you to pronounce exactly what you said before, so that they will just catch you up, like, ‘This person is not from here,’ not from Vancouver, or in fact not from Canada. Those are small, small, I call it, ‘tactics’ – how people do get to know that this person is an immigrant. ( Interview M51) sonata: So I think people are using that as an excuse, but it’s not a big issue. Once you are fluent in English and it is really pure English, especially if

Erasing Linguistic Capital 51 you are coming from a British colony, thus it’s English. And even if you go where it is the English, it only differs where some people – maybe you write z, and other people write s maybe, for organization. But it is the same English . . . But I think they are just using it as an excuse. ( Interview M47)

A few participants downplayed the effects of explicit ‘language policing’ and found ways to rationalize such encounters through the interlocutor’s own limitations, or simply refused to let it bother them: kwame: English is a means of communication. Is that right? Yes. As long as I can communicate with somebody, I can express myself to somebody, and that somebody can hear what I am trying to say. Well, so many people have come across me and say, ‘Oh, you have an accent!’ It doesn’t bother me, no, it doesn’t. No, it doesn’t. And why it doesn’t bother me is because I know that that person hasn’t travelled a lot around. Because travelling is part of an education. ( Interview M42) saley: As good as I can try to speak like them – but you know you can’t get it because you weren’t born here – the accent is going to stay there. But it seems that they don’t understand me. You see, even if I am talking, they will say, ‘What you are talking?’, ‘What is this?’, ‘Try again,’ ‘What is this?’, ‘Try again,’ ‘Say it again,’ you know. mambo: You have done ten years [here]? saley: Yeah. mambo: Still they will be asking you, ‘Can you repeat what you said?’ saley: Yes, yes. Then I take it easy. mambo: You don’t mind? saley: Yeah, I don’t mind really. I just take it easy. ( Interview M54)

Most participants were much less sanguine about this common form of language policing. Although almost everyone reported such experiences, women tended to identify language policing as more pervasive.7 Many women commented on the almost daily a empts by acquaintances, co-workers, and even strangers to ‘correct’ their pronunciation, a practice they found both routine and demeaning. laziati: What always annoys me is when people think they can teach me how to pronounce words. I can never remember exactly – I mean you will be saying an English word, and someone will be saying, ‘Say it again,’ and then you will say it again, and then the person will say, ‘Oh, you meant – ’ you know, identity, let’s say identity. ‘Oh, you meant identity.

52 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver But the way you said it, it didn’t seem like identity. Oh, identity.’ And I say, ‘Okay, am I in an English lesson here or what? The way you say it and the way I say it might differ, but it’s the same word, you know. I am not in an English-accent lesson here. I didn’t come here to speak like Canadians.’ ( Interview F6)

Such interactions were perceived to have less to do with genuine miscommunication and much more to do with establishing power relations in social interactions. silata: When a customer calls and says, ‘I want to speak to a supervisor,’ and then gets to me, and then they are like, ‘Where are you located?’ ‘Vancouver.’ They know there is Vancouver I guess, in Sea le, and then they want to know, ‘Where in British Columbia?’ ‘I want to speak to an American,’ you know. They hang up on you. Or some people, they go as far as telling you, ‘Go and take an English course.’ ‘I am speaking to you in English. What type of English are you looking for?’ you know. edith: ‘And I am hearing you.’ silata: Yes, ‘I can understand you and you can understand me because you are even answering me.’ ( Interview F22)

The gendered nature of racialization processes in Canada shapes the licence for public corrections of speech. Adult women are more likely than are adult men to be infantilized in public spaces; so Black-African women may be perceived as safer targets than Black-African men for practices that so explicitly and publicly aim to put people in their place. At the same time, accent discrimination occurs more in some types of jobs than in others, and these differences are also gendered. The majority of African men in this study were employed as blue-collar manual labour, where communication skills were not as central to work and fewer opportunities for policing language were provided. Solola observes: solola: It depends on what you want to do. If you want to work in factories where you don’t have to communicate, but just do what you have to do, there is no problem. But if you are going to have to be reading, writing, or communicate, there is a problem. But where you have to take something and put it somewhere, you know, where you don’t have to talk – cleaning or assembling – you know, manual jobs, you know there is no problems. You can do that anywhere in the world. But it is where you have to read

Erasing Linguistic Capital 53 something, write something, talk to people during the process of doing your job, language can, you know – can be a factor there. ( Interview M39)

In contrast to the men, the majority of African women in this study, like other women in Canada, are employed in white-collar clerical work and in service occupations, including the public sector, such as health care and teaching. These jobs typically involve serving bosses, customers, clients, or patients and require considerable oral and/or written communication. On the one hand, the gendered division of labour initially made it harder for African women to find work at all (and, as we shall see in chapter 3, was the chief reason for two-thirds pursuing post-secondary training in Canada); on the other hand, most women eventually found work in jobs where language could readily be monitored by bosses, co-workers, and clients. Thus, for women more than for men, the workplace was a central site of language policing. Many men and women from Commonwealth Africa argued that the problems experienced with their African accents had li le or nothing to do with effective communication. Indeed, the misrecognition of meaning was o en perceived as intentional. Ndungo pointed to the many ‘Pardon?’ that punctuate her speech when ‘somebody is choosing not to understand you’ ( Interview F26). Abasi commented that people ‘do it on purpose, just to make you – let you know that you are speaking with a different accent’ ( Interview F18). Ndungo suggested that ‘everybody has an accent. An accent is what you choose to hear’ ( Interview F26). And Mokoli observed that miscommunication was conveniently situational: mokoli: [Accent] is a problem for the other side, if it is for giving you income. It is not a problem when you go to shop in the shops; when you are giving them money, it is not a problem. It is not a problem when you travel in their buses. It only becomes a problem when it [comes] for you to get some benefits. mambo: When you compete? mokoli: Yeah, when you have to compete. So I went through a lot of trouble with that. I mean, if it is a problem, then it should always be a problem. It should be a problem one time and then a problem another time. ( Interview M33)

As he went on to suggest, if language competency is not really the issue, then concerns raised about African accents must be an excuse for something else.

54 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver mokoli: You know, I believe my English is sufficient. I believe my English is good. I use it doing shopping, I use it when teaching, I use it when going to church, I use it everywhere I go. My kids know the language, all teachers understand it . . . So I think that is a very artificial problem, a problem that doesn’t exist. It is a problem – as I said, it is further extension of discrimination, another reason to discriminate. ( Interview M33)

Some African immigrants provided compelling examples where ‘unsuitable’ accents rationalized discrimination. For example, Vira worked in the warehouse of a garment factory but wanted a promotion to customer relations in the front office, work that was more in line with her administrative experience in the financial sector in Zimbabwe. As Vira recalls, she was told she did not get the job because her accent made her unsuitable for this type of work. However, according to Vira, her suitability for the front office was not really related to her language competency at all. vira: I didn’t get the job . . . They want an accent that is clear and like them, which will understand them. But when I talk to them, when I pack things, when I read their things, and I pack and I send it to Calgary, I send it to Minnesota, Mississauga, everything is okay. But when it comes to accent, I am no good. edith: That’s what they tell you? vira: Yeah. edith: And you also believe it? vira: I don’t believe it. That’s discrimination. They don’t want a Black thing in front, that’s it. That’s it. They just don’t want a Black thing in front. I am capable of doing that. edith: But they want you at the back? vira: Yeah, they want you at the back. ( Interview F20)

In a context where accents are markers of racialization, how does one separate reactions to one’s accent from reactions to one’s body? Not surprisingly, connections between accent discrimination and anti-Black racism were made by many Commonwealth participants in this research. vatisi: You can’t generalize everything or everybody, but is it only the accent, or is it sometimes the colour? ( Interview F8) abasi: I think my English is okay. I can communicate with people. I can look someone in the eye and talk to you. My facial expression, I smile. But some people are not responsive to a different colour. ( Interview F18)

Erasing Linguistic Capital 55 vira: I think [that,] to them, Black means even our brains are black, they are not sharp. They think we are not smart, we don’t know what we are doing. ( Interview F20) kavuo: It’s your accent, it’s how you look, you know. ( Interview F23) ndungo: If they don’t think you are doing the right thing, [it’s] just because probably you are Black. You know, being Black is not being foolish. I hope people – and I wish they would understand that. ( Interview F26) kalumbi: It is all a way of hiding racism in accent. Someone will hide his racism through accent [discrimination]. ( Interview M32) culibali: So the accent part – what I should say is the main thing is your colour; it is not the accent, you understand. It is not the accent. The accent has nothing to do with it. Yeah, it is your colour . . . They use all kind of tools, all kind of weapons, just to put you on the corner, yeah. They will try to find out something that you know it is – will make you not to go ahead, you understand. Tomorrow – they talk about your accent now; tomorrow they will talk about the way you dress. Tomorrow they will talk about the way you comb your hair. ( Interview M36) yalala: I think what – the reason why they are bringing that accent into it is just if somebody is trying to block you. He will look for an excuse, yeah. You look for an excuse in order to get hold of you, so that is it. So it is just an excuse to block you away, to tell you that you should go home and go to where you belong. ( Interview M45)

The focus on African accents was, therefore, identified as another way to distinguish racialized immigrant ‘others’ and establish the superiority of the local, White Canadian to the outsider. With race and immigrant status unnamed, accents provide an accepted rationale for discrimination without the troubling liberal discourses of equality and diversity. In a context in which most immigrants’ voices have li le linguistic authority, we should not be surprised that naming accent discrimination as racism is rarely heard in the public domain and, given the selective ‘hearing’ of differently accented speech, is probably unlikely to be considered credible by dominant members of the local community. Nevertheless, policy implications that could help alleviate accent discrimination against immigrants seem clear. Public education should focus on facilitating the willingness to communicate and on listeners learning to hear diverse accents, rather than on expecting unrealistically that newcomers should (or can) develop local accents (Derwing, Rossiter, and Munro 2002; Munro, Derwing, and

56 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

Sato 2006). Accent discrimination should be explicitly prohibited in human rights policies. Employers need to re-evaluate what constitutes bona fide occupational requirements in ways that enhance the value of the diverse human capital that immigrants bring to Canada. Post-secondary institutions need to rethink the need for ESL courses for those whose previous high-school or post-secondary education occurred in English, and institutions should standardize English tests to avoid the time and expense of redoing tests for separate postsecondary institutions. Collectively, these measures could help to redress some of the systemic linguistic inequalities identified by subSaharan African immigrants, though the broader issue of the ways in which accents constitute a means of patrolling spaces of Canadianness remains intact. Resistance and Identity As we have seen, African immigrants do not passively acquiesce to claims that their language skills are inferior. Women and men who were fluent in English resisted the pressure to take ESL or professional English classes and reinterpreted local language practices as proxies for racism. Indeed, participants from Commonwealth countries affirmed as great a sense of ownership over the English language as did other Canadians. Although not usually their mother tongue, nevertheless, English is a language in which most have been immersed since childhood, and, in the context of Commonwealth African countries, a good command of English is a mark of middle- or upper-class status. To deny their linguistic capital in English, then, also denies privileged-class locations in Africa and a broader Commonwealth lineage that is shared with other Canadians. For African immigrants, one way of resisting the erasure of their linguistic capital in Canada is to reassert claims of ‘ownership’ over the English language. These claims draw on narratives of a more recent connection with Britain that can be read to valorize African English relative to Canadian forms of English. So, for example, Vatisi reminded us that her claim to competency in English is at least as strong as that of other Canadians because she was ‘taught by the British, the original people of the English language’ ( Interview F8). Ndungo compared herself to other Canadians, suggesting that ‘I have be er English than

Erasing Linguistic Capital 57

many of them. I can even spell be er’ ( Interview F26). Nzanzu argued that ‘the African accent is beautiful because we have British accents’ ( Interview F13). And Sonata suggested that people from British colonies speak ‘pure English,’ implying that other forms of English are inferior to his own ( Interview M47). Accents are firmly tied to identity and linked to the ‘sound house’ created in childhood that shapes subsequent language acquisition (Lippi-Green 1997). Although pronunciation can be altered to some degree through instruction (Derwing, Munro, and Wiebe 1998), foreign accents are a standard feature of learning a second language or shi ing to a different variant of the same language (for example, shi ing from African English to Canadian English). African men and women were very aware of this and criticized the unreasonableness of the demands that they develop local Canadian accents. Mbula noted that ‘there is no way I can change. I have been here for thirty years, and my accent is still there’ ( Interview F16). Ngalula commented that the African accent is ‘inside us’ ( Interview F29). Kivete argued that ‘you cannot give a new name to an old dog,’ in explaining why children quickly learn Canadian accents and adults do not ( Interview M50). And Silata and Kavuo pointed out that their mother tongue would always shape their English: silata: This is our mother language, and we cannot turn this tongue and twist it to an English accent, because that’s our mother tongue. And we were born Africans, we are very proud to be Africans. ( Interview F22) kavuo: You know, Africans are from different places, different accents . . . You know, the accents are different because we have different – so many languages. How do you do it? There are so many languages, how do you make these people talk all the same, you know? And people already speak English. How do you change your habits? ( Interview F23)

A small minority of research participants accepted the notion that, for some newcomers with very ‘heavy accents,’ African English accents can constitute a problem of communication (rather than simply an excuse to discriminate) and suggested that those with especially thick accents need to work harder to localize accents and improve their prospects in Vancouver. Konate suggested, for example: ‘nobody is saying you should throw your mother tongue away,’ but some people could be encouraged to go for ‘language therapy’ ( Interview F2). Other strategies

58 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

that were suggested to help people localize accents included making courses in standard Canadian pronunciation available to immigrants; encouraging newcomers to socialize more and practise speaking with other Canadians; and le ing the passage of time help to modify strong African accents. However, most African immigrants rejected this view entirely. These participants argued that the expectations that adult immigrants learn to speak like Canadians are unreasonable. Not only did many actively resist the pressures to try and modify their accents, but they celebrated the beauty of African English as central to their identities. Some African immigrants even chastised those who might seek to try and change their accents. sangara: When I am talking, you know I am from Nigeria. You know I am a Black woman from Africa. That defines me, but I don’t need anybody to validate who I am . . . I don’t mind my accent. My accent defines who I am. ( Interview F9) ndungo: I would say, don’t try to, you know, overcome anything, your accent. That is where you are from. As long as you are understood, talk the way you know best and represent your country. We represent Africa when we talk with African countries, with our African accents. As long as we are talking English, and it is understood, that is all that ma ers. When I speak my mother tongue, nobody tells me I speak with an accent. ( Interview F26) ortais: I don’t know whether if it will be a good idea to change the accent into a Canadian accent because we live here. But remember, even if you come here, you le from your country, you loved your country. You le your country because of some reasons, and even if – people must accept the way we are without changing our language or accent . . . I think we are kind of proud of our accent. I am proud of my accent. I want people to recognize me because I am an African. ( Interview M34)

Some went even further and turned the tables by questioning why Canadians living in Africa never think of changing their accents to sound like Africans, or by envisioning a time when Africans might constitute a significant presence in Vancouver and demand that others speak African English. kalumbi: There is no reason why we should learn their accent. When they come to Africa, they don’t learn African accent; they go ahead with their Canadian English. So there is no point why you should force yourself to learn someone else’s accent. ( Interview M32)

Erasing Linguistic Capital 59 vira: What I can only encourage my African friends to do about this accent of ours: don’t change our accent; stick to it. We will die, we are born with it. They will understand it, whether they like it or not. They will understand it, yeah. Don’t change it. Why should we change? We are Africans, we are born Black, and we speak in that language; that’s our mother language. That is what our ancestors used to speak; they taught us. Why should we change, just because we are in Canada, and the Canadians want us to change? Oh, yeah, I am not against Canadians, but I am against them when they say ‘your accent.’ What’s wrong with my accent? As far as I am concerned, oh my God, that’s a blessing from God, that’s so beautiful. I like my accent. Come on, Africans, stick to our customs, to our accents. One day we will have our offices and we will be – and the White people will come, also asking for job, and I will ask, ‘How can you improve your accent?’ . . . When somebody looks at you, look him back in the eye. When they say ‘your accent,’ and then you say, ‘Oh, your accent too.’ ( Interview F20)

Both Kalumbi and Vira place the construction of local (acceptable) and foreign (unacceptable) accents in the broader realm of larger power relations within Vancouver, pointing to language as a diaspora space where belonging and otherness are contested. Vira even envisions that these power relations could change in the future as she reflects on the growth of a pan-African diasporic community in Vancouver that could set its own terms of acceptance. These visions of resistance are important means of reaffirming African claims to identity and to Englishlanguage competency, which simultaneously implies assertions of competency as citizens, workers, and neighbours. In the final analysis, most African immigrants rightly argued that the problem to be addressed is not how African immigrants speak but how other Canadians refuse to hear. Hence the problem is that other Canadians need to be more accepting of immigrants who have different accents: laziati: [ We have to] accept people for who they are, accept them for their accents. You also have an accent. You might not know it, it’s a Canadian accent. Everyone has an accent. ( Interview F6) silata: We are very proud to be Africans. And so it’s all about them. So, now I don’t know because it’s their issue. You know, how we can put sense in their minds, just to – I guess it’s all about just accepting any person. You know, just accepting people. ( Interview F22)

60 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver ortias: It is just like marriage. You marry a woman who may be short. She is short, and then you must – you accepted that. Which means they accepted us into Canada as immigrants, knowing that we are from Africa with accents, they must accept us as we are. ( Interview M34)

These views echo arguments made by some linguists that the problem is not the way in which immigrants speak, but the problem is the way in which other Canadians hear and value differently accented speech ( Derwing, Rossiter, and Munto 2002; Munro, Derwing, and Sato 2006). As the participants argued so eloquently, accent discrimination perpetuates significant systemic inequalities, undermines respect for diversity in an immigrant society, and contradicts dominant discourses of multicultural equality in Canada. Identifying local responses to African accents as forms of discrimination and stressing the beauty of African English as key parts of African pride and identity were central elements of reasserting competency in English and greater belonging in Vancouver.

3 Downward Mobility, Class Dislocation, and Labour Market Barriers

They are accepting people who are educated, and when they come here, they treat them like uneducated people. Then what’s the use? Why not take people who are not educated then, if what you want are janitors. – Lwanzo ( Interview F10)

Labour market integration is a central measure of successful se lement for new immigrants. Canadian immigration policies are designed to recruit skilled workers, professionals, and entrepreneurs in the belief that their human capital will readily translate into employment opportunities. However, in reality, local labour markets devalue people, skills, and qualifications that are not defined as ‘Canadian.’ Hence the Canadian labour market constitutes a diaspora space that immigrants find difficult to negotiate – a space where foreignness of experience, education, and accents is a synonym for deficient, and where broader processes of belonging are contested. African immigrant women and men, like many other immigrants, must negotiate multiple barriers in their efforts to a ain work, especially their a empts to re-enter professional fields, and deskilling and underemployment are the most common outcomes. This chapter begins with an overview of recent research that documents the broad racialized and gendered pa erns of inequality in the Canadian labour market. Both recent immigrants and other Canadians of colour are disadvantaged in the labour market, as are women relative to men. The evaluation of human capital – the skills, experience, and educational qualifications central to a aining different kinds of work – continues to be shaped by the gender, race, and immigration

62 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

status of prospective employees. We will then examine the ways in which African immigrants fare in the Vancouver labour market, and explore how labour market practices erase their prior human and cultural capital. These overall processes of deskilling and downward mobility, and strategies to improve job prospects, are shaped by relations of gender and class. Gender, Racialization, and the Canadian Labour Market Gender segregation is a marked feature of every labour market, though it may be more rigid in some national or local contexts than in others. In Canada today gender segregation is noticeably less marked than it was a few decades ago, but in spite of the growth in women’s employment since the 1970s, it still remains a central way in which work is staffed and tasks are organized. Labour force participation rates of Canadian women, including those with preschool children, are now very similar to those of men. Nevertheless, women continue to be concentrated in a narrower range of feminized occupations – with a majority still in clerical, sales, and service positions – and earn lower wages on average across all occupational groups and all levels of education (Statistics Canada 2006a).1 What is equally clear, and equally critical in an era of global migration from diverse regions of the world, is the extent to which the Canadian labour market is also racialized. Within the overall context of a gendered labour market that disadvantages women, the White and Canadian-born men and women fare be er than do their counterparts of colour, immigrants, or Aboriginal Canadians with equivalent educational backgrounds and skill levels ( Boyd and Yiu 2009; Galabuzi 2006; Li 2000, 2003; Statistics Canada 2003b, 2006a). Of special importance for this study is a large body of research that documents a substantial and growing wage gap between immigrant and non-immigrant Canadians, which particularly highlights the disadvantages faced by recent immigrants (Aydemir and Skuterud 2004; Badets and Howatson-Leo 1999; Chui and Zietsma 2003; Frene e and Morisse e 2005; Hiebert and Pendakur 2003; Li 2000, 2003; Picot and Hou 2003; Picot and Sweetman 2005). When studies control for differences in education, occupation, and other human capital among immigrants, White immigrants fare be er than do immigrants of colour; a wage gap also persists between Canadian-born people of colour and Canadian-born Whites (Galabuzi 2006; Pendakur and Pendakur 1998, 2004; Tran 2004). The racialized nature of these cleavages has become so

Downward Mobility, Class Dislocation, and Labour Market Barriers 63

marked that Grace-Edward Galabuzi (2006) characterizes the polarization of the Canadian labour market as a form of ‘economic apartheid.’ Changes in the Canadian labour market over the last two decades have created a more polarized economy with increasing emphasis on labour market flexibility and the growth of non-standard work ( parttime, contracted-out, temporary, multiple-job, and self-employed). These trends, along with state deregulation, constitute the central tenets of the neoliberal restructuring that has been under way since the late 1980s. The resultant polarization of the labour market, with sharper differentiations between ‘good’ jobs and ‘bad’ jobs, is both gendered and racialized (Cohen 1997; Das Gupta 1996; Fudge and Vosko 2003; Gabriel 1999; Galabuzi 2006; Krahn, Lowe, and Hughes 2007; Zeytinoglu and Muteshi 2000). Women have long formed the bulk of non-standard workers, and recent immigrants now ‘comprise a disproportionate number of workers in non-standard work’ (Fudge and Vosko 2003, 204; Reitz 2004). Badets and Howatson-Leo (1999, 21) liken the situation of recent immigrants to that of youth, with the majority of both (58% of recent immigrants aged 25– 44 years and 68% of youth) working parttime or part-year. In addition to the loss of manufacturing jobs (which have historically employed many immigrants), as well as the increase in non-standard service-sector jobs and the increase in homework in some industries, two decades of restructuring in the public sector have eliminated many previously good, relatively secure, and well-paying standard jobs held by women in the public sector. These job losses are concentrated among the most recently hired employees, a disproportionate number of whom are immigrants and other workers of colour (Gabriel 1999, 137; Creese 1999, 163–201). Hence the position of immigrants of colour, and in particular of immigrant women who are already marginalized in a gendered labour market, has considerably worsened in the last two decades as economic restructuring and ‘flexibility’ have increased low-wage, non-standard ( particularly part-time and temporary) work. During the same time period, highly selective immigration policies have widened the educational advantage of immigrant workers over Canadian-born workers. Between 1990 and 2000, for example, the percentage of Canadian-born men with a university degree increased from 16% to 19%; at the same time, it increased from 25% to 44% among recent immigrant men (Frene e and Morisse e 2005, 231). The educational advantage of new immigrants should, according to human capital theory, provide immigrants with an advantage in competing for jobs.2 On the

64 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

contrary, however, a growing body of research demonstrates that new immigrants have been hurt more than have other groups in the new flexible economy ( Badets and Howatson-Leo 1999; Chui and Zietsma 2003; Tran 2004). These trends also coincide with the historical shi in immigration sources from primarily European to primarily non-European (Aydemir and Skuterud 2004; Frene e and Morisse e 2005; Picot and Hou 2003; Picot and Sweetman 2005). One result of these trends is the increasing racialization of poverty, even among highly educated immigrants (Kazemipur and Halli 2000, 2001). In 2000, for example, 27.5% of recent immigrants with university degrees were living below the Statistics Canada poverty line, a rate that is seven times that of their Canadian-born counterparts (Picot and Sweetman 2005, 13). The undervaluing of immigrants’ skills, education, and experience results in significant disadvantages in the Canadian labour market (Aydemir and Skuterud 2004; Basran and Zong 1998; Bauder and Cameron 2002; Geddie 2002; Henin and Benne 2002; Li 2003; Reitz 2003). Li (2003, 120–1) shows that the undervaluation of university degrees, relative to White, native-born Canadian degree holders, is greatest for immigrant women of colour with foreign degrees, and a wage gap exists even for immigrants who earned their degrees within Canada. Reitz (2003) finds that immigrants’ post-secondary credentials and professional skills are significantly ‘discounted’ by employers, a process of skill discounting that has increased over time. Picot and Sweetman (2005, 11) argue that since the 1990s ‘immigrant university graduates were increasingly unable to convert their education and experience into earnings in the way the earlier cohorts had.’ Aydemir and Skuterud (2004, 3) show that one-third of deterioration in earnings among recent immigrants is due to the failure to recognize foreign labour-market experience, a situation that appears ‘almost exclusively in non-traditional source countries.’ Li (2000, 2003) concludes that the evaluation of human capital in Canada is neither gender nor race blind, raising questions about the efficacy of an immigration points system designed to recruit skilled and professional labour in the belief that they constitute the most flexible and readily integrated newcomers. Instead, most immigrants of colour experience integration into the labour market as a form of ‘disempowering inclusion’ (Anthias 2002b, 285). While the job prospects and wages of immigrants have been deteriorating (relative to those of Canadian-born Whites), it remains the case that employment is a central focus for newcomers. More than a means to provide the essentials of life, though this is certainly important,

Downward Mobility, Class Dislocation, and Labour Market Barriers 65

employment is also a means of negotiating Canadianness. Becoming a productive (economically independent) member of Canadian society has become even more critical in an era of neoliberal restructuring where individual self-sufficiency has become the watchword of government (McLaren and Dyck 2004). The ‘ideal immigrant’ is typically defined as an economically productive individual who contributes skills, capital, and other resources to the Canadian economy. For men this means being a good economic provider for one’s family; for women it more o en centres on interconnecting between mothering work and paid work. The points system of immigrant selection that favours men as independent immigrants and relegates most women to dependent status through the family class (Abu-Laban 1998a; Boyd 1997, 2001; Thobani 2000) reinforces the primary responsibility of women for parenting and family support and in turn shapes the family strategies that privilege men’s economic contributions (Creese, Dyck, and McLaren 2008, 2009). At the same time, McLaren and Dyck (2004, 44) argue that immigrant women use ‘paid work as a primary entry point for negotiating their positions as mothers, immigrants and citizens.’ Discourses of ‘good’ immigrants versus unwanted immigrants o en centre narrowly on economic status, ignoring both gendered realities of paid and unpaid labour and the fact that local employment practices present obstacles to achieving this state of economic self-sufficiency. As we have seen, evaluations of skills, credentials, and experience do not automatically translate across borders. Like the perceptions of English-language competency discussed in chapter 2, notions of skills and educational qualifications are part of cultural capital, recognition of which is socially constructed in a field of power relations that has much to do with the social status of the bearer of the cultural capital ( Bourdieu 1986). Hence educational credentials, work experience, and job skills receive a different ‘value’ depending on the person to whom they are a ached. The notion of skill, for example, has long been recognized as a highly gendered concept (Cockburn 1985). In clerical work, for example, men’s jobs tend to be defined as ‘technical’ and ‘skilled,’ and similar women’s jobs as ‘unskilled’ and ‘non-technical’ (Creese 1999). Similar observations have been made in other sectors, for example in the garment industry, where White, male pa ern cu ers are considered skilled workers and women of colour who operate the sewing machines are considered unskilled (Das Gupta 1996). As the research cited above shows, perceptions of skills and the value of education are also racialized in Canada. As we shall see below, and contrary to theories of

66 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

human capital, in most cases the wholesale dismissal of the skills, experience, and education a ained before migrating to Canada redefines African immigrants as unskilled workers, who undergo a process of deskilling in the Canadian labour market. Moreover, deskilling is not unique to those from sub-Saharan Africa. Skilled workers are defined as those with post-secondary education through which the skills valued in the labour market are honed (Man 2004). Deskilling occurs when immigrants are unable to have their (foreign) educational credentials recognized and therefore cannot gain access to jobs in Canada that are commensurate with those held previously ( Bauder 2003a). For highly educated professionals, deskilling is o en encapsulated in the new reality of having to rely on hands rather than on minds in an effort to make a living in Canada (Mojab 1999). The longer that immigrants face a situation where they are unable to use their mental skills acquired through higher education, the more likely that their skills will become outdated and they will face long-term deskilling, an outcome that is particularly prevalent among female immigrants in Canada ( Bauder 2005b; Mojab 1999; Ng 1990, 1998; Man 2004; Preston and Giles; 1997; Shamsuddin 1997). All newcomers in Canada must negotiate unfamiliar labour practices without the same social or cultural capital that the native-born workers take for granted. Social capital includes networks of friends and acquaintances who can offer help in job searches, and cultural capital includes things as simple, yet important, as local conventions around résumés, interview techniques, appearance, and demeanour. Immigrants’ social capital tends to develop in networks with other immigrants; invaluable advice and contacts may be passed on that are particularly important for finding entry-level jobs, but gaps in cultural capital or even misinformation that may limit access to be er jobs can also be shared (Creese, Dyck, and McLaren 2008). Se lement agencies are on the front line of cultivating social and cultural capital for newcomers and hence are critical agencies for fostering economic integration. How se lement agencies shape African immigrants’ economic integration is therefore an important issue. Se lement agencies pass on knowledge, contacts, and employment strategies in ways that can both foster and hinder access to jobs. For example, employment programs designed for new immigrants help to channel immigrant workers into the lowest echelons of the labour market (Creese 2006; Dossa 2004; Geddie 2002; Giles and Preston 1996; Lee 1999a; Ng 1990, 1998; Preston and Giles 1997). Lee (1999a) and

Downward Mobility, Class Dislocation, and Labour Market Barriers 67

Ng (1990; 1998) have demonstrated that even as se lement agencies try to help women overcome barriers to employment, funding constraints and program design combine to actively construct immigrant women as cheap labour by designing programs that reinforce their domestic responsibilities and ‘naturalize’ their skills and aptitudes. Similarly, Geddie’s (2002, 25) research shows that se lement counsellors have an ‘overwhelming influence’ in directing foreign-trained engineers into particular jobs and giving ‘negative or inappropriate advice’ that made it more unlikely they could ever re-certify as engineers in British Columbia. As neoliberal restructuring proceeded in the 1990s, the focus of immigrant employment programs was further narrowed in accordance with new government directives. Accountability was measured by the number employed at the end of a program, regardless of the type of job, and programs provided for immigrants were reduced to job clubs and résumé services, while funding for more complex skillsbased bridging programs for skilled immigrants disappeared (Creese 2006). Thus employment programs offered by se lement agencies are both limited in scope and actively push immigrants into low-wage employment, raising questions about the nature of the government’s role in facilitating economic integration. Not only do se lement agencies help to channel immigrants into low-wage work, but they also provide some of the language through which experiences of se lement are framed. For example, the discourse of ‘survival employment’ that is common among immigrants can be traced to se lement counsellors urging immigrants to take any job they can find. As Geddie observes (2002, 24), ‘terminology such as . . . “hidden market,” “survival jobs,” and “telephone techniques” rolled off the tongues of engineers who otherwise found difficulty expressing themselves.” Se lement agencies, professional associations, and employers shape immigrants’ access to jobs in less tangible ways as well. The ethnic or racialized stereotypes of such gatekeepers can be more important than personal networks (social capital) in explaining the way that different immigrant groups are channelled into the local labour market ( Bauder 2003b, 2005a). Employers and professional associations play an especially pivotal role in the deskilling of immigrants. The failure to recognize foreign credentials helps stream immigrants into low-wage employment, and the lack of clear mechanisms to bridge international and Canadian degrees in various professions helps keep them there. As Guo and Andersson (2005–6) argue, credential recognition is a political

68 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

process that reproduces existing power relations to the advantage of Canadian-born workers. An important component of deskilling immigrants is the operation of cultural capital. As Pierre Bourdieu argues (1986), cultural capital is central to the transmission of power, privilege, and inequality across time. Forms of cultural capital most relevant to immigrant integration into the labour market include institutionalized cultural capital (academic credentials) and embodied cultural capital (accents and other local cultural competences). Embodied cultural capital operates on a symbolic level ‘recognized as legitimate competence’ or incompetence and hence remains largely unacknowledged as a form of power ( Bourdieu 1986, 245). Institutionalized cultural capital is more visibly converted into economic capital. However, as our study shows, academic credentials are also embodied because the body of the possessor shapes how (or if) the educational credentials are converted into jobs in the local labour market. The failure to recognize immigrants’ educational credentials, along with the absence of other forms of embodied cultural capital (like the ‘right’ accents, work experience, and cultural knowledge), constitutes a systemic process of deskilling that results in downward occupational and class mobility in Canada. This chapter adds to a small body of literature that examines the situation of African immigrants in the Canadian labour market. Laryea and Hayfron (2005) used 1996 national census data to compare the incomes and occupations of African-born immigrants to those of Canadian-born workers and found that African-born immigrants are less likely to be employed in high-skilled jobs and more likely to earn lower incomes. Opoku-Dapaah (2006) provides a general overview of economic marginalization, underemployment, and social networks among African immigrants in Toronto in the early 1990s, with a brief discussion of the employment discrimination that focuses on demands for Canadian credentials and experience. Two qualitative studies conducted in the mid 1990s focus on African immigrant women in Metropolitan Toronto (Elabor-Idemudia 2000; Musisi and Turri in 2006), documenting high levels of education, employment in low-skilled jobs, and devaluation of credentials. Musisi and Turri in (2006, 222) argue that demands for Canadian experience are ‘a sophisticated and elaborate scheme of discrimination.’ Ninety-eight per cent of Elabor-Idemudia’s (2000, 101) interviewees also identify ‘having an “accent”’ as a barrier to employment, though she does not explore this in any detail. Finally, a study

Downward Mobility, Class Dislocation, and Labour Market Barriers 69

based on focus groups with African immigrant women in the city of Edmonton in 1999 (Yesufu 2005, 144) identifies similar pa erns of nonrecognition of foreign credentials, ‘Canadian experience,’ downward occupational mobility, and racism that create difficulties for ‘African women to bond with any community.’ My study builds on this literature and contributes to it in a number of ways. It presents a more in-depth qualitative analysis of the processes involved in transforming skilled immigrants into unskilled workers. It focuses equally on men’s and women’s experiences and therefore allows a gendered comparison of African immigrants’ experiences in the labour market. This chapter also compares the employment situation of immigrants from Commonwealth countries with those from countries that do not have a British colonial past. Africans from Commonwealth countries can be considered to be model immigrants in the context of the immigrant points system – highly educated in English in Britishmodelled post-secondary institutions – and might be expected to fare be er in the labour market than do those from other parts of Africa. Finally, this chapter examines the new African diaspora in Vancouver, about which very li le is known, and which may differ in some ways from that in Toronto or Edmonton. African immigrants in Vancouver, like most immigrants of colour, quickly discover that local labour market practices restrict rather than facilitate the entry of newcomers, limiting it to the low-level and lowpaid jobs that are of less interest to other Canadians. There are three overlapping barriers that privilege local Canadian-born workers over foreign newcomers and collectively constitute a process of deskilling skilled immigrant workers: (1) the demand for Canadian work experience, (2) the demand for Canadian educational credentials, and (3) the demand for a local Canadian accent. None of these are measures of the skills, aptitudes, capabilities, and experiences that potential employees bring with them to Canada, but together they serve to systematically deskill African immigrants while reaffirming their non-Canadianness and pushing them into insecure, low-wage survival jobs that mark the transition out of their former middle- or upper-class social locations. Below we provide an overview of where African immigrants are employed in Vancouver, before examining in detail each of these three strands of deskilling and some of the gendered strategies that participants developed in order to improve their prospects in the labour market.

70 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

Employment in Vancouver The majority of immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa in this study were highly educated and brought considerable human capital with them to Canada. These educational credentials, occupational skills, and work experiences should be useful for negotiating jobs in Vancouver that ideally, over time, would be commensurate with the jobs le behind in Africa. The wholesale failure of participants’ employment experiences to live up to these expectations is central to the prevalence of class dislocation and ongoing expressions of unbelonging. Two-thirds (64%) of women had post-secondary education, including 29% with a university degree. Men were even more highly educated: 80% had post-secondary education, and 60% had a university degree (see table 7). Education varied somewhat by country of origin, with those who came from Commonwealth countries more likely to have post-secondary credentials than were those from other parts of Africa (among men, 86% and 73% respectively; among women, 70% and 43% respectively).3 Higher education among Commonwealth Africans was also reflected in the much greater proportion having university degrees at the time of migration: 37% of women and 73% of men from Commonwealth countries had university degrees, compared to no women4 and 46% of men from other parts of Africa (see tables 10 and 11). As we will see, these differences in educational a ainment – and credentials largely a ained in British-modelled educational institutions – did not, on the whole, translate into be er job opportunities for African immigrants from Commonwealth countries. The la er were not exempt from the general processes that erased immigrants’ foreign credentials. The proportion of Africans who pursued further education within Canada was also slightly higher among those from Commonwealth countries: 40% versus 34% of men, and 67% versus 57% of women respectively (see tables 10 and 11). This is likely connected to differences in English-language fluency at the time of migration, such linguistic skills being possessed by all but one Commonwealth immigrant and only one-third of non-Commonwealth Africans. However, gender was the main division separating those who pursued further education a er migration from those who did not; overall, two-thirds of women and one-third of men completed further education in Canada (see table 7). These differences in educational background, both before migration and a ained in Canada, reflect and affect gendered differences in access to jobs in the Canadian labour market and the different employment strategies that men and women pursued.

Downward Mobility, Class Dislocation, and Labour Market Barriers 71 Table 10 Commonwealth Africans’ highest level of education before immigration and as pursued in Canada Before immigration Highest level of education Some high school High school Graduation College/technical diploma Some university Bachelor’s degree Graduate degree Unknown before migration No further education in Canada Total

In Canada

Women (%)

Men (%)

Women (%)

Men (%)

4 21 33 4 29 8 0 n/a 99

0 7 13 0 60 13 7 n/a 100

0 4 25 21 4 12 n/a 33 99

0 0 27 13 0 0 n/a 60 100

Note: Rounded numbers do not always total 100.

Table 11 Non-Commonwealth Africans’ highest level of education before immigration and as pursued in Canada Before immigration Highest level of education Some high school High school graduation College/technical diploma Some university Bachelor’s degree Graduate degree Unknown before migration No further education in Canada Total

In Canada

Women (%)

Men (%)

Women (%)

Men (%)

14 29 43 14 0 0 0 n/a 100

0 13 27 0 33 13 13 n/a 99

14 0 43 0 0 0 n/a 43 100

0 7 7 7 7 7 n/a 66 101

Note: Rounded numbers do not always total 100.

The occupational hierarchy in Canada, like other post-industrial economies, is divided along lines of skill, education, and levels of authority, as well as being fundamentally shaped by gendered notions of how such characteristics are evaluated and who should fill different positions (Clement and Myles 1994). At the lower end of the occupational hierarchy, in jobs requiring less formal training or education than those ranked in the middle and upper levels, a key division in employment

72 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

lies between jobs that entail primarily mental (white-collar) labour and those that entail manual (blue-collar) labour (Rinehart 1996; Krahn, Lowe, and Hughes 2007). The occupational classification system can be visualized as comprising two bo om tiers (blue-collar and white-collar semi-skilled labour), a middle semi-professional tier, and a top tier composed of professionals and managers. Historically these differences among occupations also correspond to differences in remuneration and social status and the gendered and racialized division of labour.5 At the bo om of the occupational hierarchy are blue-collar and whitecollar occupations. Blue-collar jobs involve mostly physical or manual labour, some of which require very li le formal training (for example, the jobs of labourers or factory workers), and others require training that is typically acquired on the job or through workplace apprenticeships (for example, in the construction trades). Throughout the twentieth century, blue-collar work has belonged disproportionately to men, a continuing trend that we can see in table 12. In the early part of the twentieth century, white-collar work (like that of office clerks) was o en done by men, but in the post-war period it has been a feminized sphere; a massive expansion of the service sector (and a corresponding decline of blue-collar work) since the 1970s has resulted in more men being employed in whitecollar work again (Krahn, Lowe, and Hughes 2007). White-collar work also requires li le formal training (for example, the work of sales clerks) or requires short, specialized courses (on, for example, new computer applications for clerical workers). As we can see in table 12, the majority of Canadians are employed in blue-collar or white-collar jobs, with the former still predominantly male and the la er predominantly female. Ranked above these two lower tier occupations are semi-professional jobs. Semi-professional jobs do require formal education, o en specialized one- or two-year college diplomas (for example, nursing aides, dental assistants, or computer technicians) but do not require the same level of education as professionals. At the top of the occupational hierarchy are professionals (for example, teachers, nurses, lawyers, or doctors) who need at least a four-year university degree to practise,6 and managers, who o en also have university degrees today and who exert considerable authority and control over the labour process. Professionals and managers are also located at the upper end of the status and income scales in Canada. Using table 12 as a point of comparison with the general population, and remembering that participants in this research are much more highly educated than the general population (74% of female and 83% of male participants have post-secondary education),7 we turn to employment trends among African immigrants in Vancouver.

Downward Mobility, Class Dislocation, and Labour Market Barriers 73 Table 12 Employment in Canada, by gender, 2004 Occupation Semi-skilled blue-collar* Semi-skilled white-collar** Semi-professional and professional*** Managers Total

Women (%)

Men (%)

8.4 53.5 31.0 7.0 100.0

40.6 26.8 21.8 10.8 100.0

Source: Statistics Canada (2006a, 128). * Includes trades, construction, primary resources, and manufacturing. ** Includes clerical, sales, and service. ***Statistics Canada compiled this data by sector (e.g., ‘nursing, therapy, other health-related’), making it impossible to separate semi-professional and professional jobs in each sector.

As we saw in chapter 1 (table 9), the majority of men from subSaharan Africa were in professional and managerial jobs (53%) prior to emigration; a er se ling in Canada only 10% held similar employment. Seventeen per cent were in blue-collar jobs before emigration; 55% of men now work in blue-collar jobs. Although no men reported being unemployed prior to emigration, 10% were unemployed at the time of the interviews. This shows considerable downward occupational and class mobility, especially when we consider the high levels of postsecondary education possessed by participants in this study. Women faced similar pa erns of downward mobility, though this was mitigated somewhat by the increased levels of post-migration education that the women a ained in Canada. One-third of the women were in professional and managerial jobs prior to emigration; only 10% are so employed in Canada. Three per cent of women were in bluecollar and 10% in white-collar jobs in Africa; more than five times as many women (16%) are employed in blue-collar jobs in Canada, and more than twice as many (23%) in white-collar work. In comparison to other Canadian women (see table 12), African women are significantly over-represented in blue-collar jobs and under-represented in whitecollar employment. In spite of additional Canadian post-secondary education, most of which was linked to semi-professional occupations such as those of nursing aides and long-term care a endants, employment in semi-professional occupations dropped from 19% in Africa to 13% in Canada. Women were still more likely to be employed in semiprofessional positions than were men (13% versus 7%), but they were

74 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

also more likely than were men to be unemployed (16% versus 10%) or full-time students (13% versus none) (see chapter 1, table 9). In comparison to participants from other parts of Africa, those from Commonwealth countries had higher levels of English fluency at the time of migration, higher levels of pre- and post-migration education, and the benefit of educational institutions modelled on the British system. We would expect this cultural capital to provide advantages in the Vancouver labour market in comparison to participants from other parts of Africa. We do find that those from countries in the Commonwealth fare a bit be er, but we also see considerable similarities in employment across the two groups (see table 13). The most significant difference lies in rates of unemployment. Women have much higher unemployment rates than do men overall, and participants from non-Commonwealth countries were twice as likely as Commonwealth participants to be unemployed at the time of the interviews (29% of women and 14% of men). Those from Commonwealth countries were also more likely than their non-Commonwealth counterparts to hold white-collar jobs. Both trends are likely related to differences in fluency in English. Other differences are marginal. More than half of men in both groups are concentrated in blue-collar jobs. Commonwealth women enjoy greater employment advantages over their non-Commonwealth counterparts (for example, none of the la er is in a professional or management position), but a majority of both are located in blue-collar or white-collar work or are unemployed. This descriptive overview of educational a ainment and employment trends among migrants from sub-Saharan Africa serves as a critical context within which to explore the processes of deskilling that transform skilled professional migrants into unskilled workers. Thus the labour market operates as a diaspora space that produces or reproduces critical distinctions of foreignness and Canadianness. Negotiating the Labour Market For most migrants, finding employment is arguably the most important and the most difficult part of se ling in Canada. Newcomers routinely confront parochial demands for Canadian experience, Canadian credentials, and local accents. In a country where immigrants make up one-fi h of the total labour force and account for the majority of labour force growth (for example, 70% of growth during the 1990s),8 demands for Canadian experience, credentials, and accents are troubling. This is

Table 13 Participants’ occupational status in Canada by gender and Commonwealth or Non-Commonwealth origin Women

Occupational status Semi-skilled blue-collar Semi-skilled white-collar Semi-professional Professional and management Self-employed Business owner Student, full-time Homemaker, full-time Unemployed Total


Commonwealth origin (%)

Non-Commonwealth origin (%)

Commonwealth origin (%)

Non-Commonwealth origin (%)

17 25 12.5 12.5 4 0 12.5 4 12.5 100

14 14 14 0 0 14 14 0 29 99

53 20 13 7 0 0 0 0 7 100

57 7 0 14 7 0 0 0 14 99

Note: Rounded numbers do not always total 100.

76 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

all the more so in one of Canada’s largest cities and immigrant receiving centres; four in every ten people in Vancouver are originally from somewhere else. Yet employers’ insistence on Canadian experience, education, and accents is so routine that its legitimacy is rarely publicly questioned. There are a number of rationalizations we might consider to explain employers’ preferences for Canadian experience and credentials. These include the growing supply of well-educated labour ( both through immigration and the domestic trends in higher education) that makes it possible for employers to be more selective; the polarization of the economy that simultaneously creates fewer ‘good’ jobs and thus increases competition for them; the lack of familiarity with conditions elsewhere (for example, in Africa), which makes it difficult to draw equivalencies between local and international experience and credentials; the perceptions of the lower value of some international experience and credentials (evaluations inherently shaped by broader power relations); the simple ability to exploit immigrant workers in order to increase profitability; and the processes of racialization in Canada that devalue people of colour. Systematic demands for Canadian experience and credentials arise from a complex combination of these factors, and while such requirements are not simple results of racism, the outcome is no less discriminatory. It is more difficult to explain employers’ demands for local accents. It is reasonable to require that employees need to be able to communicate effectively with bosses, co-workers, and customers, but, as we saw in chapter 2, the ways in which the presence of African accents erases perceptions of English-language competency have li le to do with effective communication. Profit may also be a motive if employers believe that customer preferences for local accents will affect their businesses. Accent discrimination is embedded in processes of racialization where accents selectively mark ‘us’ as local and ‘them’ as foreigners and simultaneously devalue the competency of the foreign speaker as a potential employee. So, although there may be some contexts in which particular language skills are a bona fide occupational requirement for specific jobs, generalized preference for local accents should be understood as a discriminatory hiring practice, whether it panders to employers’ or clients’ xenophobia. Most participants in our study had few social contacts (li le social capital) when they first arrived, and turned to se lement agencies to help

Downward Mobility, Class Dislocation, and Labour Market Barriers 77

them integrate into the local labour market. Although jobs commensurate with prior education, skills, and experience were expected, for most these expectations proved illusory. Se lement agencies helped to shape job search strategies and framed participants’ experiences in the labour market. In particular, se lement workers encouraged newcomers to focus on finding any job just to survive, no ma er how short-term, lowpaid, or unrelated to prior training it was. Indeed this discourse of ‘survival jobs’ was prominent among our research participants. Although interviewers did not use this language, fully three-quarters of participants described their current work situation as a survival job.9 With job-finding programs at se lement agencies largely limited to shortterm job clubs and résumé services, most were funnelled into low-wage employment. In a gendered labour market, low-wage employment usually means manual labour for men and white-collar (clerical, sales, and service) jobs for women. As we will explore more below, African women had difficulty gaining access to women’s entry-level white-collar jobs, so se lement agencies helped to channel women into retraining for feminized caregiving occupations. The prevalence of women retraining as care a endants and nursing aides reflects these pressures. Se lement agencies were not equipped to help newcomers re-enter professional occupations. Participants with professional degrees consulted relevant professional associations but had difficulty ge ing useful information, meeting the requirements of local professional bodies and programs, or developing strategies to re-enter their professional fields – short of completely redoing qualifications within Canada. Power and knowledge are intricately related (Foucault 2003), and failure to acknowledge prior education and experience disempowered participants, erased their claims to knowledge and skills, and channelled them into lowwage survival jobs. African men and women employed discourses of survival employment to describe the jobs that are the low-skilled, low-wage, insecure, contingent forms of employment and did not provide an adequate minimal standard of living. More o en than not the term survival employment was shorthand used by participants to refer to the experiences of downward mobility and class dislocation, when they contrasted their present circumstances with their occupations prior to migration and with the expectations they had had for their new lives in Canada.

78 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver Table 14 Occupational mobility of African immigrants in Vancouver Occupational mobility Downward Lateral Upward Total

Women (%)

Men (%)

75 20 5 100

77 18 5 100

alala: The type of job we get here is the type in Nigeria you get people to come and do for you. You even beg them and give them free food and drink before they can do it for you. Those are the type of jobs we are ge ing, so that one is completely out of proportion. You don’t get the job that require your qualification here; you just work to pay rent and to survive. ( Interview M45)

Yalala, a former Nigerian chief executive officer with a degree in business administration, worked odd jobs wherever he could find them. His was a common experience of class dislocation with insecure low-wage jobs that made economic survival difficult and signalled loss of social status for a well-educated professional who was reduced to performing jobs usually reserved for the poorest and ill-educated citizens. Three-quarters of African women and men experienced downward occupational and class mobility in the shi from their countries of origin to Canada. As table 14 shows, 75% of women and 77% of men were in jobs that required fewer skills, educational credentials, and/or authority and that commanded less prestige and income than did their previous jobs.10 A small number of participants (20% of women and 18% of men) had jobs of roughly similar status. With very few exceptions (a chef with a degree in culinary arts and a manager who found work in the multicultural sector), those who maintained jobs of roughly similar status fell into two broad categories: those who were not professionals in Africa (for example, a seamstress who became a housekeeper, a truck driver who became a janitor, and a self-employed retailer who had the same occupation in both contexts) and those who earned graduate degrees in Canada in order to re-enter their professions. Only two participants can be viewed as having a ained a higher skilled job in Canada: one was a former secretary who retrained in Canada to become a nursing assistant (a semi-professional), and the other was a former tour guide who a ained a Canadian master’s degree and became

Downward Mobility, Class Dislocation, and Labour Market Barriers 79

a consultant and educator (a professional). In addition, fully 13% of all participants were unemployed (16% of women and 10% of men).11 All of the unemployed men and all but one unemployed woman had postsecondary training prior to migration, and 60% of unemployed women had Canadian post-secondary training. Such high levels of downward mobility among a well-educated, middle- or upper-class, largely English-speaking group suggest significant problems for individual immigrants, for Canadian immigration policy – premised on questionable faith in the transnational portability of human capital – and for Canadian society and its claims to equality. The three critical employment practices, requiring Canadian experience, credentials, and accents, will be considered in turn to tease out both the processes that constitute deskilling and the gendered strategies that sub-Saharan African immigrants use to negotiate a place in the labour market and, ultimately, a place in the imagined nation. Canadian Experience: ‘If You Have Never Worked Here, Where Will You Get Experience?’ Both women and men recalled the intense frustration of looking for work in the Vancouver area. A few participants researched the job situation before migrating to Canada but were still unpleasantly surprised by the apparent contradiction between the number of advertised jobs and the difficulty of finding work. edia: I came with high hopes because before I came I even searched on the Internet, and I found at that time Canada was advertising 250,000 jobs. And I found – I tried to find out whether I was in the categories of the people they would want – yes, this is me, this is me – only to come here, and I got the surprise: the jobs are not there. ( Interview F4)

Most participants sent out hundreds of résumés, as se lement agencies suggested, but receipt of résumés was seldom even acknowledged. This lack of response from potential employers made it more difficult for newcomers to understand how the process worked, and many were baffled as to why a job was not forthcoming. When more direct contact was made, however, by dropping off résumés in person, following up résumés with a phone call, or, for the very lucky, being called for an interview, the nature of the barriers became clearer. Lack of Canadian experience was a typical rationale for the inability to get a job.

80 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver izima: They look at what you have a ained here in Canada and not what you already had from back home. That does not count. ( Interview F5) vira: I didn’t have to go to ESL classes because we learn English from home, my English was good, what I told them. But with some jobs, they have got some qualifications which they say they want Canadian experience. So the problem I can say: I applied several places, and they said we need Canadian experience. ( Interview F20) portais: Ever since I came here I remember I have been faxing maybe some faxes, it might be twenty at times. I don’t get response. Sometimes you are called for response, and then sometimes you are asked, ‘Did you do anything in Canada?’ Maybe when they find out that you haven’t done anything in Canada, they tell you we need a Canadian experience. ( Interview M34) mwenda: The education people had in their own countries didn’t much help them to find a job as soon as they arrive in Canada. Because definitely they tell me that they are asked for the Canadian experience in spite their qualifications, skills, and the knowledge they have. They will always be asked for Canadian experience. ( Interview M43)

It was o en difficult to separate employers’ concerns about Canadian experience from broader issues of immigrant status and racialization processes (evoked through a person’s name, colour, or accent). It is, a er all, immigrants from specific locations who lack Canadian experience or its equivalent (meaning U.S., UK, or Australian experience); this seems to automatically disqualify them from jobs regardless of qualifications. Many participants saw these barriers as part of a broader process of excluding Africans. ourouma: They said I don’t have education – Canadian experience [and] Canadian education. And also I suspect that people were suspicious about my English. ( Interview M48) kivete: Squeezing, trying to find a job, it doesn’t work – no job. Anywhere you go you bring your résumé from other country, they don’t recognize it. They don’t even look at it. In fact, they start looking for the name. From your name, they know this. mambo: This is bullshit. kivete: Yeah, sometime you go – ‘Have you had Canadian experience?’ ‘No. No Canadian experience.’ They don’t look at you. mambo: So the résumé is already into the garbage? kivete: It is true. It is true.

Downward Mobility, Class Dislocation, and Labour Market Barriers 81 mambo: No Canadian experience – garbage? kivete: Garbage. Looking at your experience. Garbage – you don’t have a Canadian experience. ( Interview M50) banda: Because what I have found is sometimes there [is] a job which you think you know. You apply, and they will tell you that you don’t have experience on that job. You need experience, and you can’t get experience unless you are employed. So this is what most Black people are finding here. Because when you go to a job, they tell you that you have the qualification but you don’t have a Canadian experience. ( Interview M60)

In addition to the general frustration associated with the demands for Canadian experience, many participants recognized the irrational logic behind such demands. A er all, it is impossible for newcomers to get Canadian experience if no one will give them a job. kizito: Like here, it’s really very, very hard especially in Vancouver. Whenever you apply, they ask you for Canadian experience. And if you have never worked here, where will you get experience? ( Interview F 11) alala: So if an architecture, or you are what have you, they – say, you are an interior decorator, they ask you, ‘Where is you[r] Canadian experience?’ Why they never give you an opportunity to exhibit what you know or what you have? They are asking of Canadian experience. So how can, if you don’t give somebody a chance? mambo: A job. yalala: So how will he have any experience? So that is where a real problem is. ( Interview M45)

The unquestioned belief that local experience is necessarily be er than experience elsewhere was also mystifying. kazi: It is really difficult. The big problem everywhere I went is about Canadian experience. But to get a Canadian experience you have to start somewhere. And according to me, experience is experience. Even France experience, Burundi experience is work experience, is same as Canadian experience. But unfortunately is Canadian experience, and I don’t have it. ( Interview M46)

One strategy to navigate Canadian experience was to a ain additional Canadian education. However, even those with Canadian educational credentials sometimes found Canadian experience was still required for a job in the field in which they had retrained.

82 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver lwanzo: People will tell you – people told me, ‘If you get Canadian education, that will be much easier.’ So I said, ‘Oh right then.’ But that was not the whole story. It’s not just Canadian education. You need much more than that. Now they are telling me, ‘You need Canadian experience.’ So I said, ‘Give me a break! Where do I get Canadian experience?’ It’s right here! If I get employed, I will get it right here, you know. ( Interview F10)

As a basic job requirement Canadian experience constitutes a significant and persistent barrier for new immigrants. Women and men from sub-Saharan Africa developed a number of different strategies to negotiate this barrier, o en with long-term implications for future employment options. The most common strategies were (1) to accept any ‘survival’ work at all (usually low-wage manual labour), no ma er how unrelated to previous education and experience; (2) to perform volunteer work to gain some relevant Canadian experience without being paid; and (3) to pursue further education within Canada to gain entry into the local labour market. These job strategies were gendered. Men were most likely to adopt the first strategy of accepting any survival work they could find, for a number of reasons. First, it was easier for men to find low-wage jobs without having Canadian experience. Low-skilled manual labour does not usually require any Canadian experience, because the nature of the work is physical, drawing on strength, dexterity, or technique that has li le to do with cultural capital acquired locally. Moreover, blue-collar work is largely defined as ‘men’s work’ (employing over 40% of all men in Canada). In addition to having relative ease in a aining jobs in manual labour, the men we interviewed were already very highly educated: 80% had post-secondary qualifications, and 60% had a university degree prior to migration. Many men were unwilling to redo the extensive education they already possessed, and those who might be willing had limited financial resources to do so. Some female participants also believed that men were more emotionally wedded to regaining their previous professional positions. For example, one woman who had already completed a two-year diploma at the BC Institute of Technology in a new field reflected on the different employment strategies pursued by her and her husband: lwonzo: Oh, he hasn’t got a job in his area. He’s just doing pe y jobs. Nothing in his field. At least for me, I have come to realize and I am going into something else. But for him, he doesn’t want to throw all that education

Downward Mobility, Class Dislocation, and Labour Market Barriers 83 away, all those years away. He still thinks that he’ll get into that field some day. ( Interview F10)

Overall, only one-third of men pursued further educational qualifications in Canada: 17% pursued a college or technical diploma, 7% completed a few university courses, and 10% completed a university degree in Canada (see table 7). Thus, taking any kind of survival work available was the most common strategy adopted by men. It was o en an initial strategy for women too, even though they were less likely to find manual work available to them. Family survival was the first consideration for all newcomers. bizima: Oh yeah, I did work before I went to school [in Canada]. I worked as a janitor because that’s all I could do. My papers were not – my credentials were not recognized. As a result, I had to go for the easiest job I could fine. Just because I have a family and I could not sit back and start crying, waiting for finding be er job. ( Interview F5) banda: I have to do any type of job in order to survive. ( Interview M60)

A major limitation of this strategy, however, was that experience gained in manual labour was not considered relevant for any other type of work. So the strategy of taking any survival job available filled an immediate economic need but did not constitute a stepping stone to broader employment opportunities in the future. Tungu illustrates this dilemma as she describes the situation of her husband who, unable to get work in his professional field, took a job as a tree planter. Hopeful that any Canadian experience would help in his long-term quest to regain his professional employment, he soon found that this new Canadian experience was only funnelling him into more tree planting. tun u: Always experience, always experience. What’s he going get when he say, ‘I got experience for tree planting’? Not experience. You have experience for tree planting, you must go tree planting again. And he have problem of the back because he got accident on the job . . . They know if they bring us from our country, we doesn’t born here. When they never give you – give us job, what we going to do? What we going to get that experience? ( Interview F1)

Thus while taking any available survival job has some immediate financial benefits to help sustain body and soul, it can also limit later job

84 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

options. For the majority of highly skilled African men in this study, then, manual labour soon became a job ghe o. Tungu’s reflections about her husband’s work as a tree planter raise another dimension of downward mobility: not all blue-collar jobs are equal in pay, skill, or status, and the jobs that African men acquired were typically the least skilled and most precarious (short-term, parttime, minimum-wage). These are not the types of blue-collar jobs in which pride develops through honing cra skills; these are jobs that provide li le more than meagre financial rewards and frequent bouts of unemployment. For example, Furaha, an unemployed Sudanese veterinarian, described going from ‘one job to another . . . trying to collect some money’ ( Interview M44). Culibali, a Malawian with a post-graduate degree from an Eastern European university, lamented, ‘Despite my education, I was sweeping just to earn a living’ ( Interview M36). Banda, an accountant from Mozambique who was now working as a security guard, explained that despite his qualifications he has ‘to do any type of job in order to survive’ ( Interview M60). Mimi, a former cabinet minister, explained, ‘I just work as a simple worker. The one I am doing now is just to survive, yes. If I can get something be er I could quit’ ( Interview M59). Demands for Canadian experience in most other sectors of the labour market, combined with non-recognition of educational credentials (as discussed further below), made survival jobs with low pay, job insecurity, no opportunities for promotion or personal development, and low status in Africa and Canada the long-term realities for most men from sub-Saharan Africa. In contrast to men, women had fewer initial job options of any kind. The gendered labour market provides li le blue-collar employment for women (only 8% of all Canadian women hold blue-collar jobs),12 and the white-collar jobs that employ most women in Canada were largely unavailable to African immigrant women. White-collar jobs typically demand both Canadian experience and high levels of English-language literacy that, as we saw in chapter 2, African immigrants were perceived to be lacking. This placed women in a double bind. portais: African women, they have a very big problem as I said before when we started our conversation. Women – you know, here in Canada it is very hard on African women or men in the offices. You know, most of the jobs which we are looking for, we end up because we have not been given the chances, especially for women. It is hard for them to get jobs in the offices, but also to get physical job for them is strangest thing . . . Women don’t even have option of physical labour, which men do. ( Interview F34)

Downward Mobility, Class Dislocation, and Labour Market Barriers 85

With less ability to a ain manual survival jobs, women were more likely to adopt the second or third strategies, volunteer work or further education in Canada, in order to make themselves employable. Performing unpaid volunteer work as a way to gain Canadian experience was a strategy communicated by other immigrants and by se lement workers. The notion that volunteer work is really voluntary when it seems almost compulsory for future employment is, of course, an oxymoron; yet volunteer work has become central to immigrant strategies of negotiating entry into the Canadian labour market, especially for women. Some men also talked about the strategy of doing volunteer work, but for men it was targeted to efforts to gain entry into their previous professional fields. Volunteer work was more common for women and was o en essential in order for them to be considered for the kinds of paid employment that women could access. For example, Fulani explains how she got her first job in a gas station by taking up the offer to train without being paid. ulani: When I went there [to the gas station], he had got a guy. He told me, ‘Oh, there’s somebody who is there, so we can’t hire you. There’s someone who is training. But if you feel like you want to really to do it, you can do the training, but we are not paying you. Because we pay the person we are hiring, but we are not hiring you. But if you want to do training, you can still do the training.’ Then I am like, ‘OK, I’ll do the training.’ If I don’t get the job here, I will use it somewhere else, and maybe I will get another shi . So I start going there, working twelve hours at night, and I am not expecting to be hired. I am not paid for training five days. And then you know what, the person they were supposed to hire quit before he was hired. He quit. He was a guy, but he quit even. ‘No, no, I can’t do this.’ He quit. And so the manager is, like, ‘You know, I don’t always hire women for the graveyard, but you have proved yourself.’ ( Interview F21)

In exchange for some instruction during her sixty hours (twelve hours for five nights) of training, the manager received the equivalent of a week and half of free labour (assuming a standard work week of forty hours). In Fulani’s case, this decision to do volunteer work was successful, and a paid job materialized at the end of her training period. Securing volunteer work is not always so easy, nor is it so clearly connected to a job at the end. Indeed, volunteer work typically requires submi ing résumés and being interviewed, much like for a paid job. As Culibali recalls, he found the process of applying for volunteer work to teach computer skills to be disheartening. Even with a

86 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

master’s degree in computer science, his offer of free labour was not always welcome. ulibali: So I went there to volunteer. I met this Chinese [man] who is the leader of that organization. He picked what we were talking about, [my] color due to an African. I saw him look to me, like [to] another girl; [she was] whitish, yeah. He took that girl, and she started working at the same time to volunteer. And when it was my turn, I showed him the document where I have worked and the type of job I was to volunteer, which I exactly did [before], which I know, and which I told you. I was instructor at CDI. He told me, ‘You are not the type of person we are looking for.’ I said, ‘You are not going to pay me money, I am just going to volunteer. What else do you need, eh?’ He said, ‘No.’ mambo: ‘Let me show you what I can do.’ culibali: Yeah. He asked me a question. I said, ‘Look at my résumé. It is already there indicated that this I did. This is the paper from CDI, reference le er that I worked there. So what do you mean that I am not the type of guy, that I am not the type of guy are you looking for?’ ( Interview M36)

In other cases, where volunteer work was obtained, but paid work in the same field remained elusive, the disjuncture in valuing the same qualifications was difficult to accept. For example, Courouma questioned why he was qualified enough to teach for free but was unqualified to be paid to teach. courouma: For instance I was trained back home as a teacher. And here in Canada I went to apply for – like, for a teaching position in elementary school. They didn’t accept me. They said, ‘You don’t have a BC or Canadian certificate.’ But when I went to apply to volunteer in a school, they accepted me. And I was able to teach, and they appreciated my teaching. So that is a paradox. ( Interview M48)

Volunteer work was one way to get some Canadian experience that was recognized by local employers. As Culibali and Courouma pointed out, volunteer work was also a strategy used to try to a ain work in professional fields, though we heard of no cases where volunteering helped successfully transition to a paid professional position. Women’s volunteer work was more likely to occur in non-profit organizations, including se lement agencies, that routinely create volunteer positions or in entry-level jobs (as in Fulani’s case) where employers saw an

Downward Mobility, Class Dislocation, and Labour Market Barriers 87

opportunity to extract free labour while assessing the competence of a potential employee. While providing women some entry to the labour market, most white-collar jobs still proved out of reach. Hence women most o en combined volunteer work with their preferred employment strategy, further education. In some cases, volunteer work was also required for admission to specific vocational programs at local colleges. For African immigrant women, Canadian education (institutional cultural capital) was clearly the best way to gain access to white-collar jobs and more skilled semi-professional and professional occupations. Some specialty courses, for nurse’s aides and care a endants, for example, could even provide an entrée to women’s jobs without any prior Canadian experience. Obtaining Canadian education was a strategy that women were twice as likely as men to pursue. Not surprising, those who completed educational qualification within Canada were more likely to a ain higher status and be er-paid employment (at least within the context of the gendered labour market). For example, of the three African men with professional jobs, two had a ained a university degree in Canada. The one who had not, worked in the non-profit multicultural sector, an environment that was more open to recognizing the value of his Ethiopian university degree. Similarly, all three African women with professional jobs had graduate degrees from Canada or the United States. At the same time, Canadian education did not guarantee a job in the field in which an individual retrained. Only three men had completed a university degree in Canada: two were working in professional jobs (a teacher and an educator-consultant), and the other was employed in non-managerial white-collar work in a bank. Of the five men who had completed a college or technical diploma in Canada, two were working in areas related to their training (accounting and running a small business), while three were working in manual labour unrelated to their Canadian training ( janitorial, housekeeping, and factory work). Two other men, both of whom earned a master’s degree in business administration before coming to Canada, took some additional university courses. One worked a series of odd jobs (in a warehouse, as a driver, as a courier, and in telemarketing), and the other declined to identify his job in Canada, except to say that it was ‘significantly less prestigious’ than his previous administrative position in Rwanda. Four women completed a university degree in Canada, three of whom completed graduate degrees: two were in professional jobs (teaching and public relations), one was still a student (completing her doctorate),

88 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

and one was parenting full-time at the time of the interview. Nine women completed college or technical diplomas in Canada: three were unemployed at the time of the interviews, five were employed in fields related to their training (four of whom were care aides or nursing assistants), and one had opened her own business related to her training in cosmetology and hairdressing. Of the five women who took some university courses, four were still students working towards completing a degree (two of whom also worked part-time, as a care worker and a tax preparer respectively), and the other was a nurse’s aide, upgrading her qualifications to her previous occupation as a registered nurse. Although not a guarantee of employment in the field in which training or retraining occurred, pursuing Canadian credentials was a successful strategy for many African immigrants, especially for women whose initial job options were more limited than were men’s. The reason for this is simple enough: with very few exceptions, educational credentials a ained in Africa, like previous work experience, were simply not recognized by Canadian employers or professional associations. The failure to recognize educational credentials a ained abroad constitutes a critical barrier that African men and women, like many other immigrants, must negotiate in the labour market. For those educated in Commonwealth African countries, o en with post-secondary qualifications that are recognized in the United Kingdom, this barrier is particularly demoralizing. And, unlike the problem of Canadian experience, which can be negotiated in a number of ways, demands for Canadian credentials are essentially non-negotiable, short of completing new educational requirements within Canada. Credentials: ‘They Are Accepting People Who Are Educated, and When They Come Here, They Treat Them Like Uneducated People’ The failure to recognize credentials a ained abroad, with a few exceptions,13 is a systemic issue confronting highly educated immigrants in Canada. On the one hand, the points system selects new immigrants largely on the basis of education; on the other hand, these same credentials are seldom recognized in the Canadian labour market. The result, as we have seen for sub-Saharan Africans, is occupational deskilling, class dislocation, under-employment, short-term work punctuated with frequent periods of unemployment, low wages, and limited options for upward mobility. The systematic undervaluation of immigrants’ skills and capabilities in the labour market also profoundly undermines class

Downward Mobility, Class Dislocation, and Labour Market Barriers 89

privilege and social status in the broader society, which in turn affects newcomers’ self-esteem and their conditions of belonging in the local community. The following discussion of the ways in which African immigrants experience the failure to recognize their credentials, and in turn the reaffirmations of their ‘foreignness’ and ‘deficiencies,’ in contrast to other Canadians, focuses on those from Commonwealth African countries. It is not that those from other parts of Africa do not experience similar difficulties; in fact, since a majority of those from other parts of Africa learned English a er migration (though most were fluent in French), and pre-migration education was not quite as high, we have seen that non-Commonwealth Africans’ employment situation is more precarious with much higher levels of unemployment. However, the focus on Commonwealth African countries highlights difficulties in what should be a best-case scenario for credential recognition: prior fluency in English, and high levels of post-secondary education (86% of men and 70% of women; see table 10) conducted in English in British-modelled education systems. The erasure of post-secondary credentials among such ‘model migrants’ should raise alarm bells about the efficacy of the immigration points system. Educational credentials a ained in Africa were routinely dismissed as worthless by Canadian employers and professional associations, usually without any serious consideration of the actual content. Rationales behind such rejection could be difficult for participants to fathom. For example, Bizima, who has a degree in and taught fashion design in Zambia, was hard pressed to understand how the principles behind designing women’s clothing could be fundamentally different in Africa and North America. bizima: I had to forget about what I did back home. I couldn’t get a job even in fashion design. And I expected to go to school and do fashion design because I believe that the skirt being made from Africa and the skirt being made from Canada would just look the same, you know. So there is really not much difference, but this has really disappointed me. And I feel we are unfairly treated. ( Interview F5)

Unable to use her skills, Bizima was only able to find work as a janitor; she has since returned to school to complete a degree in adult education. Culibali has a bachelor’s degree from Malawi and a master’s degree in computer science from an Eastern European university; he

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has specialized computer training that, he suggested, should be the same the world over, but he has been unable to find employment in his field. culibali: Things like computer, they are the same everywhere in the world. You study the same program, same languages. But when you come to ask for a job, they will never accept you. ( Interview M36)

Culibali had a series of jobs in manual labour (‘sweeping just to earn a living’), and for a time he had a part-time job teaching basic computer skills. At the time of the interview he was unemployed, and a er fi een years in Canada his skills were becoming stale. Courouma has a university degree from Uganda and experience as a social worker and teacher. He too was unable to use his education at work. courouma: You know, the first thing actually when you come here, they don’t recognize the foreign credentials. So when I came to Canada, you are just working to get money to keep you going. So here in Canada I have worked as a cashier, I am now working as still partly as a cashier and also as kind of – as warehouse work sometimes. Mostly I have been working as a cashier with [a gas station]. mambo: How do you feel about that job? courouma: Well, it is not something which I trained to do, so I am just doing it because I need the money. ( Interview M47)

Like Bizima, Culibali, and Courouma, most Africans who arrived with university degrees found jobs that required no post-secondary education at all. Almost perversely, some research participants had their education recognized by employers only when it was used to their disadvantage. Many recounted stories of prospective employers who had told them they were overqualified for less skilled work, even though their education did not qualify them for more skilled work. Media has a master’s degree in planning and had worked at a Ugandan university as a planner. Although she was overqualified for clerical work in Canada, she decided that her only hope of ge ing a job at a local university was by learning to type. media: It becomes very hard for someone with some kind of education back home, because you are either – they consider you either too qualified for the

Downward Mobility, Class Dislocation, and Labour Market Barriers 91 job, despite the fact that you wouldn’t mind doing that job. And those jobs which are, you know – which are very low, people are not – the managers are not – they feel threatened a bit. And they really don’t want to take you. If you try to take the jobs which are, you know – to apply for the jobs where you feel you qualify, those jobs are already filled with people. I mean it is – the competition is very high. And they will always bring something as small as typing, your speed. Like I tried to work for the university, and they said, ‘You don’t have a typing speed,’ despite the fact that I was a university planner. I knew a lot of university ma ers in the senate. I have worked [there], but you don’t type. Like in Uganda, we – if you are an officer, you have a secretary. Here, it is the opposite. You’ve got to do your own work. So right now I am doing typing. ( Interview F4)

Culibali argued that the concept of overqualification was nonsense; he believed it was just another way to deny Africans employment. culibali: You go to this job, they say you are overqualified, so they try to – I mean, they try to segregate you from the real thing. Because there is nothing as overqualified when you are looking for a job. Even if you tell them, ‘I don’t mind how much you are going to pay me as long as I can work in my field,’ they say no. So there is nowhere you can go to and complain. ( Interview M36)

If qualifications are rarely recognized except when it hurts employment chances, one strategy that some participants adopted was to leave higher education off their résumés. san ara: Sometimes I even have to hide my qualifications so I can. Because who is going to – he sees you with your masters and your – he’ll never put your résumé. Ask you, ‘Why do you want this job since you have all this education?’ All I was trying to say, I want to look for this job. I needed something. I need to support my family in Africa too. ( Interview F9)

African migrants with professional degrees, such as teachers, nurses, and engineers, contend not only with local employers but also with professional associations that certify professional status within British Columbia. Processes of provincial accreditation are complicated for those with foreign degrees, and enquiries o en prove fruitless or result in extensive retraining in a Canadian university. In some cases the system of accreditation requires not only taking additional courses and

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writing examinations but also securing a placement with a local employer before accreditation can occur. For example, a er meeting other requirements (equivalent to a four-year bachelor’s degree of engineering in Canada and the passing of a series of exams), foreign-trained engineers must work as engineers in British Columbia for one year before acquiring designation as a Professional Engineer; however, engineering companies will not hire foreign engineers unless they already have their professional designation (Geddie 2002). A similar situation exists for foreign-trained doctors who must a ain a residency position in British Columbia before they are qualified to practise (a er passing extensive examinations, on top of an equivalent medical degree); however, as the province reserves only a handful of residency positions for foreign-trained doctors, most are never able to practise here.14 Processes of certification or re-certification are more difficult for refugees, many of whom do not have access to proper documentation. Masika was working as a nurse’s aide while hoping to redo her training and become recognized as a registered nurse in Canada. She found the experience of working in a less skilled health-care position to be personally degrading, and she feared for the loss of her professional skills. edit : Were your education qualifications accepted in Canada when you came? masika: It wasn’t accepted. They wanted proof, which I didn’t produce by the time . . . That throws me back because I am losing a lot of the skills of my profession I had in Africa . . . They tell you to start from the very beginning. Even they don’t even recognize you as a nurse or your education at all. It is really unfair, qualifications not recognized. edith: Are you satisfied with your present employment? masika: I am not satisfied because [it] sort of degraded me. I used to be registered nurse, and here I am working as a nursing aide, which is something like a demotion. ( Interview F7)

Others found it extremely difficult even to find out what additional courses might help them find a job in their field. As Lwanzo commented, African degrees are not even treated as partial qualifications that require supplemental training for similar professional fields in Canada; instead her degree in environmental health was treated as if it were ‘nothing.’ lwanzo: They should be able to recognize their education that these people have. Not just treat them, like you know, ‘We don’t care what education you have gone through. Ours is the best.’ That’s the impression I have. Unless

Downward Mobility, Class Dislocation, and Labour Market Barriers 93 it is Canadian or American they are not going to look at it. They should be able to recognize that education that you have, and this certifying board should have a way of accepting you. If they had said, ‘OK, this is what you are lacking. Do this and do this.’ You know, that’s what they should have told me and said, you know, ‘We have looked at what you have. I think you are lacking in these two areas. Go to BCIT15 or where they are offering this course. Go and do these two and then we’ll take you.’ You know? Not just, ‘Oh no.’ It’s like that’s nothing. Give me a reason at least so that I know what I am working on. ( Interview F10)

For many participants their African degrees and experience were not simply devalued in the local context; for all intents and purposes these credentials were completely erased. To address ongoing problems with foreign-credential recognition, and employers’ claims that they have no way to translate them into local equivalencies, British Columbia created a provincial agency, the International Credential Evaluation Service ( ICES), in 1995. For a fee, ICES will evaluate foreign degrees and provide a le er that translates an international degree into its Canadian equivalent. Although some participants made use of this service and a ached ICES evaluations to their résumés, it seemed to have li le effect in facilitating recognition of the value of foreign credentials.16 As Ndungo argues, this leads her to think that the problem is not really connected to problems of translation from one educational system to another but to her embodied ‘foreignness.’ ndun o: I have been trying my best to sit registration exams, but it takes a while to be evaluated to do that. I have had my evaluation go to Toronto University because that is what they want. And that’s all money, you know. Take your evaluations there, take them to ICES, you take them everywhere, and that is a lot of money just so I can go into the career that I love so much. But nobody still would employ you even a er that. Here they are, they are looking at the credentials, they are evaluated. They still won’t give you a job. It says I am equivalent to the same person learned in Canada, for that level, but they won’t give me the level that I require for that same job. So, I think being Black and having an accent contributes a lot. ( Interview F26)

African women and men really only faced two choices when their educational credentials were not recognized: they could either accept

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whatever less-skilled work was available (if any) or pursue further education in Canada. Only one participant out of the sixty-one people interviewed was able to build on a low-skilled job and transform it into an opportunity to show his skills and move up the occupation ladder within the same firm. solola: I am in a very low situation as for now. Because in Zimbabwe I was, you know – I was carrying a title administrative assistant where I was controlling a large table and total staff of about twelve people. Yes, but okay, here actually I work by myself, answerable to the house manager who is project manager. I do not, you know, have any subordinates. The inventory control function is just with me alone. Yes, it is a new position, which was – mambo: Created? solola: – which was created, yes. And, like I said, they still regard it as a trial and error. mambo: They haven’t decided whether they will keep it? solola: Yes. But even though I am permanent in the company – because I did not start with that function. I used to be in the assembly department, and when I produced my experiences and qualifications, they thought they could try me. ( Interview M39)

Although he was not working at the same skill level as he was in Zimbabwe, Solola was given the opportunity to begin working in his field of inventory control and thereby demonstrate his capabilities to his employer. This critical first step could eventually lead to more upward mobility within the company or to experience that could be used to find a be er job elsewhere. However, Solola’s experience is instructive precisely because it is so rare. For whatever reason, employers rarely provided opportunities for their foreign-trained employees to demonstrate untapped skills. Many participants (two-thirds of women and one-third of men) attained new Canadian educational credentials. Although it was a costly and time-consuming strategy, it was widely recognized as the best way, indeed perhaps the only way, to a ain some upward occupational mobility in Vancouver. However, professionals seldom redid their professional credentials and o en decided to retrain in shorter, more occupationally specific programs. So, for example, Vatisi moved from accounting to long-term-care aide because ‘it was the best choice I had at the moment’ ( Interview F8). Mbula gave up her dreams of continuing as a teacher and enrolled in culinary training at a local college; she now works in catering

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at a hospital ( Interview F16). And a er working in ‘warehouses,’ ‘driving jobs,’ ‘deliveries,’ ‘courier,’ and ‘marketing,’ Kasunga accepted that his Nigerian MBA would never be recognized, and he began to take courses at a local university ( Interview M38). Retraining within Canada did not lead to recognition of African qualifications, but it did provide new qualifications that had value in the local context. As we have seen, however, Canadian education is not a panacea. Although it improved employment prospects, it did not diminish the persistence of other racialized employment practices where names, accents, and Black bodies remain markers that shape perceptions of competency. As Kavuo observed, Canadian education is only one factor that affects the ability to get work in Vancouver. kavuo: When the accent comes in, there’s a lot of ‘No, I can’t hire you,’ you know. You find people who came here and have engineering degrees and still can’t find work in engineering. Yes, I know they have to take their refresher courses and all that. But it’s so difficult for them to find work because at the end of it, the qualifications are not the only things that are going to give you the job. It’s your accent, it’s how you look, you know. ( Interview F23)

Kivete was a manager in the health-care field in Sierra Leone. In Vancouver he took a one-year program to become a care a endant in a nursing home but was unable to find related work. kivete: I couldn’t get a job. I tried, tried, tried. I went to this job web on the human resources. I was distributing everything, every week, twenty-five résumés. Some I sent by post, some by fax, some I go on foot. Out of these twenty five résumés, twelve I go to myself. Facilities, long-term facility, nursing homes. I distribute. mambo: You never get a call? kivete: I never got a call from them. I never get a call from them. I did that for a long time. Every week, twenty-five résumés I distribute. I never got a job from that field. mambo: Surprising, even though it is Canadian education? kivete: Yeah, it is Canadian education, and I couldn’t get a job. ( Interview M50)

Kivete did not speculate about why he could not find work with his Canadian qualifications, though it could be that gender was a factor

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since most long-term care a endants in Canada are women. At the time of the interview he was working as a cleaner and had given up hope of using either his Canadian or his African education and experience in health care. Participants blamed the government for the systematic failure to recognize foreign credentials or to provide clear avenues through which immigrants could upgrade qualifications to Canadian standards.17 Many felt they were mislead by immigration officials before coming to Canada, causing them to expect to find jobs related to their fields of expertise. Those who felt mislead wanted accurate information to be made available to immigrants before they moved to Canada in order to allow them to make more informed decisions about whether or not to come. Others felt that it was the responsibility of government to provide se lement services that helped immigrants, once here, to get jobs in their fields rather than just survival jobs. What these views have in common, as Lwanzo and Laziati suggested, is assigning responsibility to governments in Canada to find workable solutions to what is clearly an intolerable situation for newcomers. laziati: Canadian government, when they ask people to immigrate to Canada and tell them, ‘Oh, with your skills, oh, you won’t have any difficulties finding a job’ – it has to be very honest with people and say, ‘OK, with your skills and your education, this is what you are going to face. This is the hurdles that you have to go through in order for you to be able to be here and make it and get into your profession. You have to go to school, you have to do this, you have to write exams, you have to pay so much money for all those expensive exams and the licensing until you get here.’ Not to tell people, ‘Oh, with your skills and your knowledge and your experience, oh, you will have no problems se ling and integrating into Canada and ge ing a job.’ People come here with all these foreign credentials, very intelligent people that have worked so hard and so long, and with great experiences, and there is always something that closes them out of the loop, you know, [of] integration. So, for me, I feel that if you want to immigrate to Canada you be er come up with a unique – and a profession that is in very high demand, that you know you’ll get in immediately with very li le whatever hurdles. Or you come here knowing full well what lies ahead of you so that you make the decision. Do you really want to come and face all these hurdles and difficulties a er that long, or you don’t. Or you simply just want to go to the U.S. where you know that there won’t be so many hurdles. ( Interview F6)

Downward Mobility, Class Dislocation, and Labour Market Barriers 97 lwanzo: I was naive. If somebody had told me, ‘Oh my dear, no. This is what is the real Canada,’ I think this would have given me a be er picture of what to expect. Because I went out there thinking here people are treated equally, everyone is treated for who they are – That’s what I thought. But if I was given the right picture, I think right from the beginning I could have chosen a [different] career. Because I thought if I have the right qualifications and I go out there and look for a job and meet somebody, they’ll look at my qualifications and judge me on those basis, so I’ll be fine. But then I found out too late that it’s not like that. It doesn’t always work like that. ( Interview F10)

Once immigrants arrive in Canada, Lwanzo continued, it is up to the government to fund appropriate se lement services, internships programs, and job placements to help people integrate into the Canadian labour market. To be effective, such programs must go well beyond generic résumé services and job-finding clubs that prepare newcomers for survival jobs. Specialized services are required for professionals to gain entry to employment in their fields. lwanzo: I know there are so many employment agencies that are working assisting immigrant women, but most of them have said they are assisting . . . for people who assist you ESL, you know. They are assisting areas that are not catering for people with high education. They are catering for people who don’t have that much education. That’s what most of them are doing. Like, I go there, they say, ‘We’ll assist you training in cashiering.’ You know, things like that. So I said, ‘My goodness! This is not what I want. Assist me to get a job in my field,’ you know. I have gone to them, and I said, ‘Assist me get a job in my field.’ ‘Oh, we’ll assist you write a résumé.’ That’s not what I need. A er writing a résumé, contact those people who are in this field and say, ‘We’ve got this candidate,’ you know. Even if it’s just internship, assist them in those areas because they need Canadian experience, because these are things that immigrants should be doing. Things like internships, you know, or job placement where they add whatever money. But assist people who have got post-secondary education to get into the field, their right fields. ( Interview F10)

In Lwanzo’s view, the onus falls on governments to resolve this dilemma because the immigration points system misleads prospective immigrants into believing their education, skills, and experience will count in the Canadian labour market. Since immigration is a federal program, there is some obligation to address the disjuncture between

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the policies that recruit those with international educational credentials and the local practices that discredit those same qualifications. If governments cannot address this contradiction, then perhaps Canada would be be er to recruit uneducated immigrants who might be happy doing the kinds of unskilled work available to them in Canada. lwanzo: You know, when you are coming here, they say they cannot accept people who are not educated. They are accepting people who are educated, and when they come here, they treat them like uneducated people. Then what’s the use? Why not take people who are not educated then, if what you want are janitors, you know. Bring people who are janitors then, who’ll do that job gladly. Because I know people from home wouldn’t go to school if they came here to work as janitors. They would do that job very gladly. But I’ll not do that happily. I will not do it happily. I’ll complain, you know. So if their immigration process needs you to have that kind of education, there should be provisions here for those people, you know. If there are points to say, ‘Oh, we need people in this area,’ you get a point. If you have a degree, you get this point. If you have master’s, and so on. There should be provisions why they need people for that kind of education. It’s very frustrating. It’s easier to go [elsewhere]. I have my sister, she’s a nurse. She went to UK, you know. Right away she, her papers, they get. Look at her degree, look at everything; it gets accepted. She is working as a nurse. It’s a straightforward issue. ( Interview F10)

Indeed, several other participants suggested that other immigrantreceiving countries, in particular the United Kingdom and the United States, do not seem to have the same barriers to recognizing foreign educational credentials.18 Comparisons like this made Lwanzo’s own experience in the Vancouver labour market all the more disheartening. She has a degree in environmental health from Zimbabwe and a two-year degree in environmental engineering from a local technical institute; three years a er a aining her Canadian educational credentials, Lwanzo was still unable to find a job in that field and was unemployed at the time of the interview. Accents: ‘You Walk into a Place, and You Don’t Get a Job Because of Your Accent’ Employer preferences for local Canadian accents are the third barrier that African immigrants routinely encounter in the labour market, and unlike strategies to address Canadian experience and credentials,

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there are no effective strategies that have been developed to address accents, which are, in any event, symbolic of much more than communication. As discussed in chapter 2,19 African English accents were actively demeaned in daily encounters as part of the reproduction of power that constructs and privileges local White Canadians while reproducing and marginalizing foreign non-White immigrants. Different accents are heard, misheard, or not heard in a field of power relations that shape perceptions of an individual’s value, competency, and desirability as a potential employee ( Bourdieu 1977). Embodied by racialized, gendered, and classed subjects, accents cannot be separated from their bearers. As participants in this research pointed out, their accents undermined perceptions of not only their linguistic competency but also their competency as potential employees. Employers’ quest for Canadian accents therefore had profound consequences on African immigrants’ employment prospects. As we saw in chapter 2, many participants noted that a potential employer’s a itude towards them could change once they opened their mouths in an interview or that body language, interruptions, a ention, or interest communicated a problem with African accents. It is impossible to get most jobs without first speaking to an employer, so it is impossible to hide an African accent in the same way that inconvenient educational credentials can be le off a résumé, or to add a new Canadian accent in the same way that Canadian educational credentials or experience can be acquired. Accents are embodied and cannot easily be altered (Derwing, Munro, and Wiebe 1998). Moreover, as discussed in chapter 2, it is usually the negative perception of foreign accents, rather than any impaired communication, that has social consequences (Derwing, Rossiter, and Munro 2002; Lippi-Green 1997; Munro, Derwing, and Sato 2006), so expectations that foreign accents should be changed are unreasonable. This means that there is really no effective response to the way African accents pose a barrier in the Vancouver labour market. Having the ‘right’ (for example, local Canadian) accent is especially important in occupations where language skills are a significant part of the job. Women are more likely than men to be found in such occupations, including clerical workers, sales clerks, health-care professionals, and teachers. In these occupations, not only did employers’ a itudes towards African accents affect job opportunities, but responses from clients, patients, and students also shaped experiences in the workplace. For example, Bara pointed out that teaching is one occupation where expectations for local accents are made by both

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employers and students. She described her experience of teaching at a local university. bara: I taught students who were doing the professional development [education] program or were intending to take that. And I would teach them how to approach the second-language methods, in other words, how to teach the student who comes here speaking a different language. But because I don’t speak in a Canadian accent, in the way that the language is coded in North America, it would be like, ‘What can we hear from you?’ Those were challenges. They were around my experiences. I had always enjoyed to teach, but it was very cruel. ( Interview F 30)

These responses from students undermined both Bara’s authority in the classroom and her self-esteem. She did not complete her doctorate, and le teaching altogether. She now works in a hospital doing housekeeping, where she says, ‘It’s amazing that working in hospital ended up being sort of my way of escaping from these frustrations’ ( Interview F30). Encountering accent discrimination in the workplace was a near universal experience among the participants in this research.20 Anticipating such reactions lead some African immigrants to choose employment carefully, gravitating towards situations in which they were less likely to find African accents a barrier to finding jobs and less likely to be subject to ongoing language policing at work. As we saw above, Bara le a university environment where she was teaching and completing her doctorate, to become a housekeeper at a hospital. Her move to a less skilled and more physical job was a way of escaping from a work environment that undermined her competency because of her accent and racialized body ( Interview F30). Similarly, Laziati reflected on why she chose to work in the multicultural sector where she was accepted for who she was. laziati: Working with multicultural communities in which most of the people, English is their additional language – it might be second, but of course it might be third or whatever additional language – so for me, we all have accents, so we have kind of – we all accept each other’s accents. We never try to correct each other, how you say things, or how you should be saying things . . . I never feel like I have to, but I always worry as to what if I ever get a job where it is just me, the only African person in that office and everyone is Caucasian? And I will be – just be a student.

Downward Mobility, Class Dislocation, and Labour Market Barriers 101 edith: Recognized? laziati: A student all the time because everyone will always be saying – trying to tell me how I am supposed to be saying things. So I always worry about that. That’s why I am always, you know, thinking about what kind of environment do I want to work in. Would I fit it in, in this environment? Like, at times, I don’t apply for jobs simply because of that. Because I ask myself, will I fit in there? How would I feel to work in there, day in and day out? ( Interview F6)

One strategy to negotiate the accent barrier, then, was to try to avoid it by choosing workplaces where many different non-local voices were heard (such as the multicultural sector), or where language skills did not form a major component of the job (such as manual labour), or where overt accent discrimination was less likely to be tolerated (such as companies with employment equity policies; see chapter 4). Such jobs were not always the product of choice; for many African immigrants, work in manual labour was the only option available. Moreover, intentionally limiting potential areas of employment could further ghe oize African immigrants and additionally constrain the already limited access to white-collar jobs or higher level professional and management positions. However, with few ways to effectively challenge and change the a itudes of employers, colleagues, or clients towards African accents,21 a empts to avoid difficult environments could at least reduce the emotional strain of an inhospitable workplace where linguistic abilities are routinely demeaned. Unlike occupational experience and educational credentials, accents are very personal, embodied markers of identity. For employers, colleagues, or clients to dismiss the efficacy of a particular accent is truly to dismiss the value of the person who speaks and to mark the la er as a perennial outsider to the diaspora space of Canadianness. Underemployment, Precarious Work, and Belonging The increasing concentration of highly educated immigrants in lowskilled, non-standard ( part-time, short-term, contracted-out, and/or self-employed), flexible, low-wage, and generally precarious work has been well documented. What has received much less a ention are the ways in which this process of marginalization works and newcomers make sense of it. As this chapter illustrates, the cumulative effects of labour-market practices that privilege Canadian experience, credentials,

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and local accents constitute a process of deskilling skilled immigrant workers. As we will discuss more in chapter 4, African immigrants understand these processes to be part of racism in Canadian society. When university planners become telemarketers, graphic designers become merchandise checkers, nurses become nurse’s aides, marketing experts become janitors, accountants become bank tellers, teachers become housekeepers, fashion designers become janitors, engineers become warehousemen, executives become itinerant labourers, social workers become cashiers, and managers become housekeepers, the individual and collective experiences of deskilling in the African immigrant community form an overall narrative of marginalization, exclusion, and unbelonging. Although the majority of participants had successfully negotiated the local labour market to the extent that most were employed, employment in and of itself is not a good measure of economic integration. The quality of the job is equally important. Quality work involves providing a decent standard of living, job security, a healthy and safe environment, the encouragement of worker innovation and initiative, and the ability for skills and knowledge to be used and developed (Lowe 2000). Such job a ributes usually correspond to the requirement for high levels of education. Few participants in this study could be said to work in such jobs. Most African immigrants experienced a form of ‘disempowering inclusion’ (Anthias 2002b), achieving only partial and contingent access to the Canadian labour market. Any job might have been an improvement for those who were unemployed, which included 16% of all women and 10% of all men, and 29% of women and 14% of men from non-Commonwealth parts of Africa (see tables 9 and 13). As Abasi put it so eloquently, ‘You can’t live without a job . . . If we have a job, you have a life’ ( Interview F18). Kivete pointed out that work is about much more than the means for material sustenance; it is an essential part of integration into Canadian society. kivete: We are accepted to come here. We are given this landed immigrant status. Okay, that is very good, very good thing. But coming here and giving us landed immigrant status is not enough. We need to work and live. We do not need – me in particular, I don’t want any support from government or from any source. I need to work. If I had a job . . . ( Interview M50)

As noted above, Kivete, a former health-care manager, completed a Canadian diploma as a resident care a endant but was unable to find work in that field. The student loan he borrowed to complete his training

Downward Mobility, Class Dislocation, and Labour Market Barriers 103

in Canada was an additional financial burden, and he was willing to accept any work he could find. Eventually he found work at a local convenience store. kivete: I applied for jobs, I applied for jobs, it never comes. So finally . . . I got a job at [a convenience store]. But I could not go far with [that] job because they gave me four hours, which is night. mambo: Only four hours? kivete: Four [hours] which is night, and eight dollars an hour. And I go 11:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. in the morning. Finish job, I don’t have money to come home. I had to come on foot. I asked them to change my shi . They said, no, they could not change my shi , the employment was for night shi . Well, with four hours, I could not withstand it because every time I finished work I have to walk on foot to come home. And it is scary. mambo: No buses? kivete: No buses at three o’clock, no buses. If I had money I would take a taxi. But the money I work it goes to tax. And my shi could not change, so I decided to leave the job. ( Interview M50)

Kivete’s job at one of a well-known chain of convenience stores illustrates a number of themes common for many participants in this study: work that is part-time, low-wage, with undesirable hours (or too few or irregular hours), and, in his case, unsafe working conditions (with no public transit running at 3:00 a.m.). Although he voluntarily decided to quit, it was the working conditions that resulted in another short-term position. The majority of participants in this research survived through a series of such short-term, non-standard jobs. For some people, these jobs were obtained through casual employment agencies that contract out workers to employers, so the workers knew that the jobs would be short-term. For others, being laid off a er working for only a few months was an unwelcome surprise, the more unwelcome the more o en it happened. As Yalala explained, he had already endured seven years of such precarious work. yalala: That is what life is here about employment, because you work for some time, they tell there is no more job. You have to go. And most of the time when you apply, they won’t even give you the job. mambo: So you keep ge ing small jobs and then you lose them very quickly? yalala: Yeah, exactly . . . I would say I lose 75% of my proportional background in job wise. And then in finance, I will say I lost 75% of it since I came to

104 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver Canada. I will only say, in terms of jobs I have had, I think the only place I have done a steady job was in Eaton store; a er, that closed up. That is the end of the whole scenario. The rest of the places we were working like six months. Contracts are very short, no security, or no guarantee at all. ( Interview M45)

The short-term, part-time, and low-wage nature of most of the jobs that participants were able to acquire meant that some juggled more than one job at the same time. Fulani’s case was a bit unusual in that she was working two full-time jobs at the same time; most participants were unable to find that much work even if they wanted it. ulani: I actually work two jobs. I work with [a] garden centre in Burnaby, and I work in a cafe, as a cashier, as a kitchen helper. And also I work at [a gas station], I work as a cashier. edith: Wow, you are a busy woman, eh? fulani: Yeah. edith: OK. How many hours a week do you generally work? fulani: I have been working forty hours at night, and I work thirty hours during the day. ( Interview F21)

At the time of our interview Fulani was married and raising two children, a daunting task with such a crushing workload. But because both Fulani’s jobs paid minimum wage, her annual income was less than $20,000 a year. Few people can sustain such long working hours, even if the work were available. More common was the necessity of fi ing together two part-time jobs to try to make ends meet. For example, Sivuka held two part-time jobs because one job did not provide enough hours to pay her bills. One of her part-time jobs ended, and she was in the process of finding another job and thinking about doing additional work from home. sivuka: [A supermarket], I work there evenings, at times three days or two days. This time the job is slow; so at times once or two – two days. But when I started [it was] every day. edith: You worked every day? sivuka: Yeah. edith: What about with the salon, how many days a week?

Downward Mobility, Class Dislocation, and Labour Market Barriers 105 sivuka: With the salon, three days. But recently, I don’t go there. They have sold the salon. This [is the] last week. So I am now looking for [another salon], or I can do at home. ( Interview F27)

Sivuka was not the only participant to consider self-employment as a way out of the precarious labour market, although only three participants in our study were actually self- employed (see chapter 4). Not only were most participants employed in precarious, flexible, non-standard work, but few got much satisfaction, beyond the pay cheque, from the types of low-skilled jobs they performed. The skills and experience developed before migration were seldom used. Even for the few people who had acquired professional jobs in Canada, such as Laziati, these jobs were typically less rewarding or challenging than were the jobs they had le behind. laziati: Well, I have to say that, no, I don’t think I have really fully utilized my experiences and my knowledge here in Canada. I feel like I still haven’t reached my full potential of making sure that I have utilized all the skills and the experiences that I have. I feel like I have only just used part of my skills, and at times I feel like I am losing some, some of my other skills. And I am always looking for opportunities to do that, to be able to utilize my skills. ( Interview F6)

Laziati has a master’s degree from the United States. In her country of origin she was a senior epidemiologist for the ministry of health. In Vancouver she retrained and works as a teacher, a good job by most standards but without the same career mobility or autonomy she once enjoyed. Media has a graduate degree in economic policy and was a university planner in Uganda. In Vancouver she had worked as a housekeeper, a sales clerk, and a telemarketer, which were such limited options that she was training to do clerical administration. As Media noted, the working conditions in telemarketing and other sales jobs affected both her health and her ability to earn a decent living. media: What I get especially from the telemarketing job is depression. edith: Depression? media: Yeah, they are very depressing jobs. The working conditions here are very depressing, you know . . . In telemarketing industry if you can’t

106 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver make the sale, they just say, ‘Stop and go home.’ You know you can’t make a budget on a telemarketing job because you never know what hours – if you are lucky to make a sale or sales, then you get the eight hours a day. If within four hours you haven’t made a sale, and that is also very easy, you are told to go home. ( Interview F4)

Not surprisingly, these are not the kinds of jobs to which most African immigrants aspire. The sense of frustration about lives marked by underemployment, precarious job security, frequent unemployment, low wages, and unchallenging work was palpable in most interviews. The psychological toll of downward class mobility should not be underestimated; the loss of social status, autonomy, and self-actualization at work can be just as crushing to the human spirit as material descent into poverty. Many expressed a sense of betrayal to the values of diversity, openness, and equality for which Canada claims to stand. Instead, for the African women and men in this study, their experiences negotiating the Vancouver labour market could more accurately be described as parochial, closed, and intolerant. At the same time, the strength and resilience of African immigrant women and men are also clear, as they found ways to negotiate the barriers encountered in the labour market and developed strategies to carve out niches of belonging. While this chapter has focused on the larger structural issues of marginalization in the labour market (Canadian experience, credentials, and accent requirements that constitute processes of deskilling), the following chapter will look more closely at micro-level experiences on the job, explore some of the ways that African immigrants experience racialization and racism in Canadian workplaces, and consider strategies of resistance that also facilitate belonging.

4 Reproducing Difference at Work

Some places you would find people not wanting to talk with you. If it is teamwork, you find that they don’t want to join in your team. Or if it is a group that is working together, they will not want you to be in that group. – Wetu ( Interview M49)

Workplaces are sites where difference and ‘otherness’ can be reproduced, contested, and/or redefined. In a cosmopolitan city like Vancouver, relationships among co-workers and between employers and employees, supervisors and the supervised, and service providers and clients are o en simultaneously interactions across differences. This chapter explores the ways in which African immigrants experience these everyday practices in workplaces as part of the jobs they perform. While for many participants their workplaces were sites where friendships formed across differences, everyday interactions also helped to construct African women and men as ‘others’, underlining both difference from Canadians and marginalization at work and in the broader society. Racialized differences have been well documented in the Canadian labour market, showing that advantages accrue to White, native-born Canadians vis-à-vis visible minorities, Aboriginal peoples, and immigrants even when levels of education, occupation, and experience are controlled.1 Disadvantages for immigrants, as we have seen, are embedded within the three Cs of Canadian experience, Canadian education, and Canadian accents that most employers explicitly consider in making their selections when hiring. However, employers’ preferences

108 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

for locally a ained qualifications and speech are only part of the story and are lodged in more deep-seated relations of White privilege. These relations of White privilege, embedded in Canadian nation building from its origins, continue to disadvantage Canadian-born and educated visible minorities and Aboriginal Canadians, as well as immigrants of colour. A recent study by Oreopoulos (2009) documents the scope of this racialized advantage and disadvantage. In a carefully designed field experiment in 2008, Oreopoulos created thousands of equivalent, randomized, fictitious résumés and applied to online job postings across twenty occupations in Toronto that required a university degree and three to seven years of experience.2 He compared responses to names (English, Chinese, Indian, or Pakistani) among candidates with Canadian education and experience; experience outside Canada, only in Canada, and a combination of both for foreign degree holders from the United Kingdom, China, India, and Pakistan; additional Canadian education for foreign degree holders; and degrees from higher and lower status universities in Canada, the United Kingdom, China, India, and Pakistan respectively. His results ‘suggest considerable employer discrimination’ (2009, 12). Among résumés showing only Canadian education and experience, those with English-sounding names were 40% more likely to be contacted than those with Indian, Chinese, or Pakistani names (23). Résumés indicating foreign experience received significantly fewer callbacks than did those with only Canadian experience, unless that experience was in Britain (25). Résumés showing degrees from higher ranking universities (in Canada or abroad) did not change results, nor did the addition of further Canadian educational qualifications for those with foreign qualifications. ‘The results imply that an applicant’s name ma ers considerably more than his [or her] additional education’ (26–8), and that ‘employers value Canadian experience far more than Canadian education’ (38). These results varied li le by type of occupation (28, 37).3 The ethnicity of the evaluator4 had some impact on callbacks: those with Asian or Indian backgrounds were ‘more likely to call back resumes with Asian or Indian names but still favour resumes with English-sounding names by a factor of 1.42’ (33– 4). Hence he concludes that ‘employers discriminate substantially by the name provided on the resume,’ making discrimination ‘a leading explanatory factor’ for the underemployment of immigrants (39– 42). Corroborating Oreopoulos’ findings, several participants in this research pointed out that, in addition to penalization for foreign experience

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and credentials on their résumés, their African names were a barrier to employment. Laziati, for example, tried to understand why her name put employers off and pointed to the comfort level a ached to things that are familiar. aziati: If you have a peculiar name, you know, a different name, then it really also puts you at a disadvantage. Because people look at this name that is so different, they just put your résumé aside and, you know, look for familiar names . . . So, when you yourself apply for jobs and you never even get a reply, and yet you think you stood a chance of ge ing that job, you always wonder if it has anything to do with your name. You know, just people looking at your name, and say, ‘Oh my goodness, even if this person worked here, how are we going to pronounce her name anyway? So let’s just put her aside. Let’s hire Sherry. At least I can pronounce Sherry.’ ( Interview F6)

The foreign is by definition unfamiliar or strange. Whether comfort is a key concern in employers’ search for markers of Canadianness, as Laziati suggests, or at play is a more fundamental devaluing of the foreign, the outcome is the same: fewer and lower-income job opportunities for African immigrants. Moreover, even if newcomers were inclined to change to a non-African name (as immigrants from many parts of the world have felt pressured to do), this is not an option, as Portais pointed out, because ‘our documents have got those names,’ and documents are essential for employment in the formal labour market ( Interview M34).5 Without the benefit of controlled field experiments, African immigrants draw on their own life experiences to understand how names, accents, bodies, and the social geography of credentials and experience combine to shape employment opportunities in Vancouver. Although, to paraphrase Wetu ( Interview M49), résumés may not speak directly in the way accents do, employers mine résumés for information on foreignness and Canadianness. Where Canadianness is embedded in an imagined community of White Anglo-dominance, other names signify non-Canadian heritage – even for the people of colour who are born and raised in Canada. As Oreopoulos’s research shows, the more foreign signifiers a résumé contains, the less likely an employer is to respond favourably. Discrimination against names and most foreign credentials and experience is embedded in broader practices of racialized discrimination in the Canadian labour market that affect who has access to particular

110 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

jobs and that shape interactions and experiences in the workplace. Racialized employment practices are experienced in a host of other ways, including differential treatment at work, unequal access to promotions, exclusion from informal networks and knowledge, hypervigilant supervision, isolation from co-workers, and harassment by bosses or co-workers. These forms of discrimination in the workplace have implications for workers of colour, employers, and the economy as a whole. Racial discrimination in employment is a serious problem that prevents the efficient operation of the labour market and causes significant losses for the national economy in terms of underutilized human resources as well as the personal suffering and loss of fair opportunities to a large segment of the society. (Agocs and Jain 2001, 16)

The prevalence of racialized and gendered inequalities in Canadian workplaces cannot be explained by reference to individual acts of discrimination. Racism has less to do with consciously racist a itudes and more to do with the organization of social relations. Racialized and gendered inequalities are ‘collectively or organizationally induced, reflecting inherently relational processes and pa erns of affiliation rather than individually rooted a itudes and traits’ (Vallas 2003, 390). Racialized divisions, tensions, and inequalities in the workplace are not dependent on prejudiced a itudes of individual employers, managers, or co-workers, who may eschew prejudices but still organize the workplace and differentially affiliate within the workplace so as to marginalize and disadvantage particular groups. As Das Gupta (1996, 14) points out, when it comes to discrimination, the individual a itudes and intentions ma er less than do the outcomes: ‘Racism is the effect of rather than the intention to cause deprivation to people of colour.’ Essed (2002) coins the term everyday racism to refer to a process that is ‘routinely created and reinforced through repetitive everyday practices,’ which consists of, and only has meaning within, complex and ‘interrelated instantiations of racism’ (177, 189–90). She argues for studies that make visible the ‘lived experiences of racism,’ particularly the perceptions that draw on ‘double consciousness,’6 to understand how racism operates in a given society. This chapter takes up that challenge and explores the lived experiences of racism encountered by African immigrants in the Vancouver labour market, with the understanding

Reproducing Difference at Work 111

that these everyday practices are part of a larger constellation of interrelated practices, structures, and ideologies. As we saw in chapter 3, African immigrant women and men, like other immigrants of colour, are disadvantaged in the labour market in ways that limit the jobs that most are able to a ain and contribute to the growing racialized cleavages that constitute a kind of ‘economic apartheid’ in Canada (Galabuzi 2006). Steven Vallas (2003) argues that there is a similar ‘colour line’ in the United States that shapes the jobs that are available to different groups of workers. According to Vallas, the colour line is reproduced through informal social networks and cultural exclusivity. Social networks and social dynamics among affinity groups affect employers’ initial hiring decisions, as well as employees’ ability to find mentors and other social support in the workplace. Not only are managers more likely to hire people like themselves,7 but the ability to acquire skills and knowledge on the job is also facilitated or hindered by racialized social networks (Vallas 2003). Hiring by word of mouth, which is prevalent in many industries, is one practice that activates informal networks and further reproduces racialized access to different kinds of jobs (Das Gupta 1996). Many African immigrants in this study identified the importance of networks, affinity groups, and friendships that affect finding jobs, interacting at work, and having access to promotions. Participants commented on the importance of nepotism for ge ing a job in Vancouver, where who you know can be much more important than what you know. The small size of Vancouver’s African community and its marginalized social location places African immigrants at a disadvantage because it means that who they know is rarely a resource that can be drawn on to help search for employment. imbido: I didn’t know they have that here in Canada, like who knows you. So those people got the job. I didn’t get the job. And one of them came to me, ‘You know, this is how we get in.’ I say, ‘Oh.’ Because I don’t know anybody here, you know. That’s why I didn’t get the job. ( Interview F31) tungu: If you don’t have any family here who work in higher job you cannot got job, because they hire each other . . . Is true they hire according the family, according the friend. ( Interview F1) kizito: I think you get job by if you know somebody. ( Interview F11) bandi: Most of times you find Black – they find it hard to get job. They find it hard because they don’t know anybody in the company . . . It is

112 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver not your qualifications that ma ers; it is who you know that ma ers. ( Interview M60)

Building social networks, or developing social capital, is also important in government employment and other more skilled jobs, where short-term contracts can lead to more or be er employment later on. aziati: And the way things work here, is who you know, yes. And if you really have known people and you have really made yourself known to certain individuals, then people always remember that. When it comes to hiring, that – ‘Oh yeah, we know this person. We know her work, and we have – we have known her and we have worked with her.’ But if people don’t know you, and your résumé alone won’t do it for you, you know. I was just reading an article just the other day about the lucrative jobs here in Canada are always given to who you know . . . And I think it’s the same thing in the – in the lower levels of government. It’s really who you know, who you have really worked closely with. ( Interview F6)

Social capital develops from diverse networks of friends, acquaintances, and family members who are positioned throughout the labour market. These networks are a form of social capital when they can be drawn on in the search for work or to move on to be er job opportunities. It takes considerable time to develop a wide range of social networks that might provide such information and support. In addition, the quality of those networks is critical. As Bourdieu notes, social networks form part of the social capital that reproduces class divisions in a society precisely because the quality of the networks is linked to existing class inequalities ( Bourdieu 1986). Recent immigrants have limited social capital in both senses: typically they have few social networks on which to draw, and, since they develop most social connections with other immigrants, particularly other African immigrants in this case, networks form with others who are also poorly connected in the labour market ( Bauder 2005b; Creese, Dyck, and McLaren 2008). ulibali: So the only people you know is this middle class or the lower class who are amongst you, who are also suffering like you. Those are the only people. mambo: Who can’t give you any support? culibali: Those who cannot give you any support apart from complaining to, ( Interview M36)

Reproducing Difference at Work 113

As Gaturu observes, migrants who arrive with large ethnocultural communities already in place are much be er positioned in this regard than are Africans, who are doubly disadvantaged by the small size of the African community in Vancouver. gatu u: If you take, like, a Chinese or Indo-Canadian immigrant who come here, when they arrive here they have a social network and they have mosques, they have temples, they have places of worship, they have businesses, they have a network, they have shops, they have dentists, they have lawyers, they have – all these services are there, all right. But you look around Africa: number one, most Africans I know here are either unemployed or doing some menial jobs. Some are doing good jobs, but most of them are really underpaid, right? mambo: Underpaid, underemployed. gaturu: Unemployed, all right? So how are you going to network with these people who don’t understand the system, who are barely making ends meet themselves? ( Interview M40)

With few African business owners to provide employment opportunities, and few in management positions in mainstream companies who were involved in hiring, the social networks that most participants built up over time within the African community provided limited additional support for accessing the labour market. Networks of friends outside of the African community tended to be drawn from work and were o en made up of other immigrants who also had low levels of social capital, though more diverse networks developed through church affiliations (see chapter 7). Hence, the scarcity of Africans or other Black women and men in management positions, the tendency of managers to hire people like themselves (Vallas 2003), and the evidence of widespread preference for Anglo-Canadian employees even among minority mangers (Oreopoulos 2009) contribute to marginalization in the labour force. As Frances Henry’s research in Toronto documents (1985, 1999), race ma ers a lot in the Canadian labour market. Black workers are much less likely than White workers with equivalent experience and qualifications to be hired even when both are Canadian (with local accents, qualifications, and experience). Henry and Ginzberg (1985) conducted a field experiment that examined hiring decisions, by pairing single-sex teams of Black and White job applicants who had similar résumés and sending them to interviews for jobs advertised in a Toronto newspaper.

114 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

They documented a pa ern of differential treatment that systematically disadvantaged the Black applicants, including being told that a job had been filled when it was still open to the White applicant, being offered a lower-level job than that applied for, and being shown rudeness and hostility that was not shown to the White applicants. Overall they concluded that White job applicants received three job offers for every one received by Black applicants even though they had equivalent qualifications for the relevant jobs and the Black applicant always applied first. In addition, they tested four accents through telephone contact with potential employers – Pakistani, Jamaican, Slavic or Italian, and a local accent – and found differential screening that significantly favoured those with local accents over others, and the White immigrants over the immigrants of colour. Henry and Ginzberg’s original study was conducted in the mid 1980s. Henry did a second study with the same format in the early 1990s. She found similar discriminatory screening on the telephone, but this time Black applicants were as likely as White applicants to be offered jobs in person. She argues this was due to the then tight labour market at the time, when employers were having difficulty filling positions, and to the research protocol that specified that Black applicants always had to apply before White applicants. Half of the Black applicants were offered jobs on the spot before the employer knew that a White applicant was available. When these on-the-spot job offers were removed from the sample, the results again showed that White applicants received significantly more job offers than did Black applicants, indicating similar levels of racial prejudice in hiring decisions (Henry 1999). Participants in this research eloquently described how their Black bodies shaped their chances of ge ing work and, once work was acquired, the nature of interactions on the job. Some went so far as to suggest that their immigrant status, even language ability, was largely irrelevant to their labour market experience; in the end, being Black was all that ma ered in Vancouver. For example, in comparing her experiences with those of White immigrants who had completed a local program in cosmetology and hairdressing, Neila was convinced that being Black was the reason she did not get jobs while they did. n ila: I think it’s not being immigrant . . . Here, everybody is immigrant. Nobody belong here this country. Everybody, your dad, your great grandpa, we are immigrants. Nobody can tell us, ‘I am Canadian.’ It’s nothing they are Canadian. Everybody. But what quality of these

Reproducing Difference at Work 115 immigrants? You cannot – you can see me, I am Black. Black immigrants, it’s most difficult to find something be er. White immigrants, is nothing. It’s not – they can find. You finish the same time job, the same time training. And two weeks a er that, they find job. And you can send, I don’t know, 500 résumés. Nobody call you. But you can – your program to school – all White immigrants, they find job. I asked, ‘For what?’ I think it’s for my colour. ( Interview F17)

Unable to find work in her field, Neila turned to self-employment and opened her own home-based beauty salon. In contrast to Neila, Fadela believed that African immigrants shared similar problems with other immigrants and that immigrant status, and not race, was at the heart of his problems in the labour market. Fadela worked in a factory and as such had contact with recent immigrants from many other countries. Like him, many of his co-workers were university graduates who were unable to move beyond jobs in manual labour. adela: I have been working in the factories with other immigrants from Europe, from Yugoslavia; they have also been discriminated like me. So their degrees have not been accepted, they have to repeat again in their education. So I think that for my case as an African teacher, I think it involves all immigrants I know, except maybe those from South Africa and London. But the other ones, I think we are in the same basket. mambo: So race doesn’t play any role here? fadela: As far as I am concerned, maybe for other immigrants, but for me we have been together, crying, other immigrants from Yugoslavia, from Romania. So for me it is not race. ( Interview M37)

More commonly, African immigrants observed that racialization was intertwined with immigrant status and accents in the operation of exclusion and marginalization in Vancouver. twagira: European immigrants, when they come here, they are fully accepted to be in. But us, you know, it is problem. So your English firstly is bad. You’re having accent like. They said, ‘No, no, we don’t understand what he is saying.’ And sometimes it is about our colour. mambo: The colour of your skin? twagira: The colours of, you know. Accent. I can say language and colour, they are the big barriers to us. ( Interview M55)

116 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

With very few exceptions, such as Fadela above, the centrality of being Black in Vancouver was an overdetermining reality in people’s lives. Being Black was experienced as a problem because there are so few Black people in Vancouver (and hence association or hiring by other affinity groups leads to exclusion) and, more important, because the largely pejorative or racist images, assumptions, and stereotypes drawn from popular culture and elsewhere shape the interactions with those who are not Black. As Konate observed, Canadian-born Black men and women face discrimination too. konate: I mean like, let’s face it, if you are a Black person your chances of survival in this system is not as high as that of Canadian born, even if you are Canadian born and your skin is Black. You’ll always face discrimination, racism, that is. It’s as real as natural. You know, it’s like a natural thing, it’s a natural phenomenon. Like you go to look for a job, and you know you are well qualified for the job. But they will give it to somebody in White skin. That’s just how the society is running. ( Interview F2)

Men were the most vocal about experiencing anti-Black racism in the Vancouver labour market. For those men with higher status, who had held mostly professional jobs before migration and were stuck in bluecollar jobs in Canada, the realities of downward class mobility – which was largely a ributed to racism – were starker. In addition to losing class privileges, African immigrant men found that the masculine privileges they had taken for granted were seriously challenged in Canada (see chapter 5). Hence men were acutely conscious of the loss of their previous middle-class masculine authority and were frustrated by what they saw as their inability to fairly compete in the labour market. olola: You need to be much be er, much, much be er to be in the same position as a White person. You need to be . . .  mambo: Ten times more? olola: Yes, beyond doubt that you are be er than the other person in order to be in the same position. Otherwise, you don’t stand the chance at all. That is my experience so far. ( Interview M39) alala: Well, I think especially those of us who are of African origin, yeah, we have the most difficulties in ge ing jobs. Because they look at us the way I would think we don’t count in their minds. That is why before they would give a job to an African immigrant you will – unless there is not any other person, even though you are the most qualified. They will make

Reproducing Difference at Work 117 sure they don’t give you the job unless there are no other people to be given jobs. Then they will give it to the African Black or African immigrant. ( Interview M45) ki ete: I think because I am a Black person; as I told you, Blacks are hardly recognized. It is very hard for you to be recognized somewhere and be promoted. ( Interview M50) bangila: Because basically you are Black, and they will put you on the back burner and let you do what, you know, even new people coming in are not doing. But you have been there maybe for three months, and they are asking you to continue in your entry position. And then you have always new people coming in, and a er two weeks they are somewhere [higher]. ( Interview M41)

Managing Difference Many African immigrants identified other forms of differential treatment at work that hampered their employment opportunities. For example, similar to some of Henry’s (1985, 1999) findings outlined above, participants identified behaviour during interviews that made it clear they had no hope of being hired. Examples included uncomfortable and very brief interviews; interview questions that were not job related (such as questions about Africa that illustrated an interviewer’s stereotypes and prejudices about Africa); the frequent statement that a job (which continued to be advertised) had already been filled; and the promise by an interviewer of a follow-up phone call that never happened. One woman spoke of her humiliation at being singled out in a crowd of job applicants and told that she would be called if they wanted to interview her; all the other applicants in the waiting room remained behind to be interviewed. Another women spoke of a list of jobs that had not lasted for more than a couple of days: a sales job that was offered to her one day and then rescinded the next day before she reported for work; a warehouse job that lasted three days, but her two new co-workers were kept on; and a telemarketing job that ended a er only one day, with no explanation for what she had done wrong. African women and men also identified management practices that were critically important for reproducing racialized inequalities within workplaces. Das Gupta (1996, 35– 40) identifies a range of management practices that are experienced more o en by workers of colour, including targeting, scapegoating, excessive monitoring, marginalization,

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infantalization, blaming the victim, bias in work allocation, underemployment, denial of promotions, segregation, co-optation, and tokenism. Vallas’s (2003) observations in the United States point to additional processes that are important for understanding racialization in Canadian workplaces. Like Das Gupta, Vallas observes the way in which racialized status hierarchies at work are tied to closer supervision of minority workers. He also suggests that closer supervision can lead to forms of defiance or insubordination, reproducing harsher job evaluations and unfair terminations. In addition, hiring practices that produce spatial segregation in many workplaces – with workers of colour located in the back offices of factories, hospitals, restaurants, hotels, and the like – symbolize differences in status and power, which in turn reinforce practices of defending territorial boundaries within workplaces (Vallas 2003). Participants in this research identified many of these management practices as part of the processes of marginalization. In some instances, differential management practices were connected to favouritism being shown to those from the same ethnic or racialized group as the manager’s; in other instances, African women and men were singled out for differential treatment. Unequal task allocation among co-workers, usually with Africans being assigned more menial and unpleasant tasks, or the arbitrary movement from one task to another at the whim of the supervisor was a common complaint. kizito: Because all our supervisors are Indians, and majority are all Indian housekeepers, we are only about 3 [Africans] in 160 housekeepers. Among all these people, the Indians they have their specific places. Every day you come, you go to your place. But for us, if they take you today, you work there. You will start to work, and again they say, ‘No. You leave this to so-and-so. And you are going to start that job again, fresh, you have to finish it with that person.’ That’s totally discrimination. ( Interview F11) culibali: I worked in two places: in a warehouse as a labourer, in [a chocolate manufacturing company] and [a liquidation company]. I think the nearest one is [a large department store]. I worked in these places, so you find that your supervisors are either Indians or Chinese. When – for example, when I was working in chocolate factory, this man could only send me to do the job. Even if I am not near him he could call me from very far and talk to me in a harsh way. Then he has own people, his country people who do not even speak English. They have been here three months, they have the job. He talks to them in their language, yeah. So it happened one of my

Reproducing Difference at Work 119 friends, who happened to be Black also, he was sent to carry things which was not in his department. He was called by the same Chinese guy, but me I confronted him, ‘Why do you behave like that, why do you behave like that?’ Later on, because he is the one who makes schedule, timetable for the job, he never called me again. mambo: Because you challenged him? culibali: Yeah, I saw it was purely discrimination because of who you are. Because you cannot be doing the whole job alone, eight hours, tell you to do this, do this, while he does not tell anything to his country people the way he talks to me and to my friend. ( Interview M36) ndalula: One day who is supposed to do overtime work – somebody didn’t come to work. And the employer will just call the people from his country, and they do the overtime. And I didn’t participate in the overtime because they know they will make money from it, and they just call their people to do the overtime. ( Interview F14)

These examples point to the complexity of racialized power relations in a diverse multi-ethnic metropolis. Power and privilege may be exerted by those who are in positions of authority or in numerical superiority in a workplace, regardless of skin colour, and racism against other groups is o en as prevalent within communities of colour as among White residents. For Black or African immigrants – constituting such a small minority in Vancouver – these power relations are almost never to their advantage, with significant consequences. In Ndalula’s case, supervisor favouritism affected her pay cheque by denying her the opportunities to work overtime. While Culibali’s narrative reminds us about the costs of challenging unfairness in the workplace, the loss of already precarious employment may be even more difficult to manage than a hostile work environment. Differential tasks among co-workers hired to do the same job was one form of discrimination; another form was the inability to even be considered for certain kinds of work. Vallas’s observation that a colour line exists in most U.S. companies – hiring Black workers for jobs in the back, and White workers for preferable jobs in the front – was illustrated by Vira’s experience, discussed in chapter 2, when she tried to cross the line from packing in the warehouse to customer service in the front office. Although her employer insisted that a strong African accent prevented the promotion, Vira believed the company simply ‘just don’t want a Black thing in [the] front’ office ( Interview F20).

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Some participants pointed to having greater difficulties in ge ing promotions than their co-workers had. For example, Kalumbi completed a management training program at his employer’s expense and then watched while newer hires instead were promoted to supervisory positions. kalumbi: You get a job and you can stay on the same job forever, and they can promote other people who are even less educated than you. And that is what I go through right now. mambo: Do you mean just because of being an immigrant? kalumbi: That is what I think, because the company I work with gives me money to go and train in order to be promoted. But then they do not promote you even when you finish the training. But they can promote someone who has not done the training. And when you look at your colour and your background, then you conclude that I think they do not give me that job because I am an immigrant or because I am Black. And they give to some who is just coming from the street, either because he is White or because he knows somebody who may not be White but who works in the higher circles of the company. ( Interview M32)

In Twagira’s case, he was laid off without any indication that he had not been performing adequately. To add insult to injury, he trained a new employee, who was kept on a er he was let go. A key factor in these management decisions, of which Twagira may not have been aware but other participants certainly were, is the magic three-month timeline in BC labour standards that requires employers to provide benefits such as medical coverage a er three months. twagira: When I came here I started working in the mill. I spent three – three months working there. And a er that they call another guy who was coming from Spain. So they ask me – say, ‘Twagira, show this guy, teach this guy here how to work with you here.’ I say, ‘Okay.’ We are working together with that guy. A er one month they laid me off. That guy stays there. ( Interview M55)

Such practices of constant staff turnover help keep labour costs down while keeping workers poor and insecure. Many African immigrants noted that they were subject to closer or more capricious forms of supervision than were their co-workers, and this was an object of considerable stress and anxiety. When supervisors

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made the work environment too stressful, it was common for people to decide to quit and find other work or to at least wish they were in a position to do so. media: All we had to learn [was] how to punch in keys on the computer, something very easy. I didn’t even have to have speed. And we had to talk to sell credit cards to people in the USA. But then they – I realized the managers would come and frustrate us. There was also another lady, a Black lady, again from Uganda. She was also very qualified. But then they would come and try to frustrate us . . . until we realized that we were not wanted. ( Interview F4) neila: One place I work is like that. They are more – they [supervisors] push you a lot more than they are pushing the people from here. They don’t – they make nothing to the job. They are there, and they are pushing you. ‘You didn’t do that.’ And you feel – you don’t feel comfortable. You feel like you have to work for everybody and you don’t feel comfortable. And you lose this joy to go to job. And you quit. Like they are pushing you to quit. Like they don’t need us, you know. They are treating you like – dog is treated be er than you. And you feel just sad, and sometimes if you don’t take courage, you quit. But we stay because we have kids. We cannot do. We have to give some food to kids, and you accept all treatment they give you and sometime you go home you are crying. But we have problem back home, so we stay. ( Interview F17)

Hostile supervisory practices took many forms, from hyper supervision and constant criticism to refusal to pass on information, equipment, or other things critical to performing one’s job. These are all ways for a supervisor to let an employee know how li le she or he is valued compared to other employees. ka uo: She was the one who was supposed to train me, but she didn’t. Now, without having the training, I had to ask a lot more questions. So, at the end, I figured out my thing. I figured out how things are done. I figured my own way, and eventually some of my workmates were saying, ‘You were not told that?’ I was not given a key to the office. I didn’t know that I was supposed to be given a key. Everybody else had a key, that if they go early they can open the door and at least set up the place and start work. I was not given a key. I was not even told that I could have a key. ( Interview F23)

Supervisors who behaved in these ways towards African employees were o en not the ones in charge of hiring. Had they been, African

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immigrants might never have been hired at all. Sometimes a change in supervisor created a hostile environment. Other times, line supervisors resisted the more open hiring policies of higher management. konate: In my workplace where I was, I was doing my job. But because I was the only Black among the White. The one who was hiring – because the former one who hired me le , and I knew if he, the new one, [was hiring] there’s no chance me coming there. But the new one, the new one that came, that replaced the old boss, he doesn’t want no Black in that place. Purely his own creed. Anything else, Indian is OK, but Black, no . . . And I thank God that eventually I retained job until I resigned to go to Nigeria. It was tough though. His presence would create a lot of havoc for me. I knew if it was him, he would have thrown my application in the garbage. ( Interview F2) ortais: I got a job, and that job was full time, and the person who hired me liked me. But the boss who I was working with showed that he didn’t like me, and you could tell even the way to face me. And the next day I was told, ‘You, there is a shortage of job,’ and was just told to go home. That was the end of the day. And even up to today sometime I feel bad about it and you had no choice. I wish I knew the higher authorities to take these things. ( Interview M34)

As Portais’s experience illustrates, when conflicts arise, some managers at least are willing to collude with prejudiced supervisors to the detriment of African workers who have no recourse available. Fulani’s story of a supervisor who thwarted her ability to learn all aspects of the restaurant job she was hired to do, preferring to keep her washing the dishes, also ended with a management resolution that hurt Fulani without penalizing the supervisor. fulani: When I started there [at the cafe] I was told I am supposed to do everything. I am supposed to take the cash, I am supposed to serve, I am supposed to take in the kitchen with the rest of the staff. But it wasn’t as easy as that because, like, the supervisor wouldn’t allow me to do that. Like, what I was expecting is not what she wanted me to do. All the time she was trying very much to make sure I don’t – I don’t, like, do the cashier. She wanted me, like, dishwashing, to take the garbage . . . By the time I finish doing all that . . . it’s a er four o’clock and they have closed for the sandwiches. So I don’t do that. And every day is the same . . . Every time I tried to go there, she’s like, ‘Fulani, go do the dishes,’ and, you know, she doesn’t even talk to me nicely. She is like commanding. And in my heart, I go, `Wow, this

Reproducing Difference at Work 123 is discrimination because they are East Indians and I am Black.’ . . . The manager is like, ‘OK, now you guys, it looks like you can’t work together.’ So what they do instead, they cut my hours! I was supposed to come at eight, supposed to, because in the morning they prepare breakfast, sandwich preparations before the serving begins. And I was supposed to be training for that one. Now, instead, they say I start at eleven because I can’t work with her. Now I am like – so I am being punished! I didn’t do anything wrong . . . I gave a notice. I told them I will stop working, just today. ( Interview F21)

Like many others who find themselves in a hostile environment where they are the ones who are penalized for causing problems, Fulani expressed the only agency she had by eventually qui ing. The types of management practices described above, where African workers are assigned more difficult, unpleasant, or capricious tasks than their co-workers are, where important information for doing one’s job is withheld, where promotions are not available, where layoffs violate norms of seniority, and where employees are subject to personal abuse, all create highly stressful and unhealthy work environments. As these examples illustrate, management practices can make it extremely difficult for employees to do a good job, to acquire the skills necessary to move up in an organization, and even to find the stamina to face work every day. The individual stories presented above form part of a more common narrative in this research. Neila addresses the conundrum that many participants face when they are confronted with a demeaning climate at work: to quit and perhaps be unable to find another job or to stay for the money and be treated as ‘worse than a dog.’ The participants quoted above had a range of responses to such situations: many quit as soon as they could (Neila, Konote, Media, Fulani), some were fired (Portais, Culibali, Twagira), and others persevered despite unfair treatment in comparison to their co-workers (Ndalula, Kizito, Vira, Kavuo, Kalumbi). Sometimes the unfair treatment experienced by African immigrants was not directed only at them but was part of a broader economic exploitation of immigrants of colour. The organization of work as non-standard, low-wage, and precarious is a product of management decisions to create temporary rather than ongoing positions, many part-time jobs rather than fewer full-time jobs, and jobs with minimum wages and no benefits rather than with higher salaries and benefits. Some employers pay lower wages during a period of probation, even for unskilled work, and use high turnover as a way to keep costs down.

124 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver culibali: I was sweeping – despite my education I was sweeping just to earn a living. [A liquidation company] in Richmond. This man gave two weeks just for probation. I had to work very, very hard, yeah. mambo: So that you can do the job! culibali: Yeah, very hard, pulling everything, walking outside to carry things in the warehouse, which was not part of my job. I had to do it. A er two weeks he asked me, ‘How many times have been working here?’ I said, ‘Two weeks.’ He said, ‘Today is your last day.’ I said, ‘Why?’ He said, ‘You are not the kind of person we are looking for.’ So there is no way I can go and complain that this is finished. ( Interview M36)

A feature of labour standards in British Columbia provides that employers only need to pay benefits (for example, medical insurance and for statutory holidays) for jobs that are structured as full-time and last more than three months. Many employers structure jobs to avoid paying any benefits, either by creating part-time work or by routinely laying off full-time employees without cause as they near the three-month timeline. The concentration of recent immigrants in such positions means that these common management practices are racialized. neila: Sometimes they take you for these three months and they lay you off. They use you a lot. You give the best you can, three months. Before three months, two days before three months, they lay you off because they don’t give you medical. They don’t give you nothing and they lay you off. You go home crying, you see the kids, you look like stupid. And you have to start again. ( Interview F17)

Racialized inequalities at work are reproduced through a range of formal and informal processes of inclusion and exclusion. Such processes do not depend on managers, supervisors, or co-workers actively discriminating against African workers in the ways already described. Processes of inclusion and exclusion can also derive from the way the work is organized, from the social networks and friendships that develop, from the cultural assumptions that predominate, and even from the particular forms of humour that might permeate a workplace. Many of these forms of inclusion and exclusion operate among co-workers. These are referred to as ‘micro inequities’ (including racism, sexism, and homophobia) that are part of the normal daily practices of dominant groups ( Beagan 2001; Das Gupta 1996; Essed 1991, 2002; Herbert et al. 2008). Although they are part of the normal practices of

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privilege, the result may be a toxic or poisoned environment for subordinate groups (Das Gupta 1996). Essed (2002) points out that ‘instantiations of racism’ are complex and interrelated and cannot be understood as isolated events. If we focus on the isolated incident, these micro inequities might seem trivial, but they have powerful consequences when placed within the context of the broader power relations in which they are experienced. Individual episodes or instances are experienced in the context of the whole of one’s life, in the context of one’s own past experiences of racism, in the context of stories of racism experienced by others, and in the context of potential racist violence. The power of the ‘trivial’ racist joke or assumption is that it may come on top of an unending series of incidents that form an overwhelming pa ern. ( Beagan 2001, 590)

African immigrants identified many forms of exclusion practised by co-workers that created an uncomfortable, difficult, or sometimes intolerable working environment. These include many micro inequities that might remain invisible or trivial to others but had profound effects on participants’ feelings of acceptance and value. In some instances, racism was very overt, but more o en it was felt through everyday slights and practices of dominance. With such small African and Black communities in Vancouver, African immigrants are almost always working in contexts in which they are the only African and Black person present. In some cases, exclusion and marginalization were connected to the presence of a large ethnic or racialized affinity group among coworkers (typically South Asian or Chinese, given the demographics of Vancouver); in other cases, individual co-workers singled out Africans for harassment. Whether they be micro inequities of everyday racism or more overt racist practices, we should not underestimate the consequences for African immigrants’ feelings of acceptance and belonging in Canada. One of the most common experiences in the workplace was isolation. Being the only African and Black person present can be difficult in itself, especially if co-workers treat one differently from the way they treat everyone else. In diverse ways other employees conveyed that African workers were not valuable members of the larger group. As Wetu and Kizito point out, forms of exclusion can be subtle yet pervasive: not sitting together during coffee breaks, not cha ing, or not wanting to do collaborative work.

126 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver wetu: Some places you would find people not wanting to talk with you. If it is teamwork, you find that they don’t want to join in your team. Or if it is a group that is working together, they will not want you to be in that group. ( Interview M49) kizito: And sometimes even break-time, I don’t know, you sit, they [coworkers] will come. You know if they see you si ing near them, all of them, they’ll go away. You will remain there as you did. Really, something bad. I don’t understand. It makes me even I can’t enjoy my job. ( Interview F11)

Some forms of exclusion are more direct, like the refusal to answer questions, as if a co-worker has not spoken and is literally invisible. This was particularly problematic when, as in Kavuo’s case, it was her supervisor who would not respond until Kavuo had proved herself worthy. ka uo: At work, even the one I just did, I had a problem with the lady who was in charge . . . I asked questions, and then she would ignore me. I would go say hello; she ignored me. And so I mean a er a while I just le her. Later on, she saw me do my work, and doing it properly, she started talking to me. ( Interview F23)

Other participants pointed out that it was hard to contribute as an equal when co-workers would not listen to your ideas. Some participants, like Gatura, saw this as an issue of miscommunication, making it incumbent on him to learn to think and communicate differently. Courouma and Masika, however, experienced refusal to communicate with them as a clear practice of discrimination. gatura: But for instance in my department I am the only Black, the only African. In fact, the whole institute, I am the only Black African male. So when you have that, then it is lonely. Sometime you feel isolated that way when you present your ideas, people don’t really understand them clearly. You have to think like them. You have to adjust that way in your thinking, in your presenting, even dispute resolutions, you know. ( Interview M40) courouma: For instance, you know in the workplace you sometimes go ask questions to your colleagues about what you are doing. And you can see that for some people when they go, they talk nicely and every question is answered and the person smiles at you. But that was not the case. I go ask questions about what I have to do, the person doesn’t answer me. And if she answers, that was one word. She didn’t want to go in details,

Reproducing Difference at Work 127 and when she heard it, she shows that she had no interest in me at all. ( Interview M48) masika: I feel as if I am not being considered as part of the group. Either because I come from a certain culture or because these people that I am working with don’t want me to be giving ideas. ( Interview F7)

Refusing to answer questions was one form of exclusion; as Masika notes, refusing to listen to or discounting the contributions of African workers was another form of marginalization. Vatisi explained that her ideas were routinely ignored by her co-workers unless someone else made a similar point. atisi: Sometimes they question you, and then you wonder, ‘Why are they questioning me?’ And somebody else, they won’t ask that kind of question. Or you see they are doubtful when you say what you did. Or like if you are in a meeting, when you suggest something, they won’t take your word, they won’t take your word. It has to have somebody to back it up or somebody to say the same thing next time for them to take the word. But when you suggest yourself, they kind of downplay it and just ignore it or pretend they don’t hear sometimes. I don’t understand, but you see it in areas like that. edith: And do you call that discrimination? vatisi: Why not? It’s discrimination. How can they not take my word and they will take somebody else, why? Why would they not listen to me? ( Interview F8)

Kakoto found that interactions with co-workers demeaned her selfworth in other ways. She was treated as if she were dumb and unable to understand complex English. She also had other employees talk about her as if she were not present. kakoto: Well, for me I found that – I found that sometimes there is a presumption that brown people are dumb. The way people are explaining things to you and using gestures and all that, and the way they talk about you even when you are on the job. Like in the bank. I found it very strange, my co-workers talking about me in front of me and in front of the clients, discussing me. It was very unprofessional . . . I felt like an animal in the zoo. ( Interview F12)

Kakoto’s co-workers clearly conveyed their belief that she didn’t really belong in a white-collar job in a bank, though they might have

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been less surprised if she were cleaning the bank floor. In a similar way, Bara remembered working as a research assistant for a professor when she was a PhD student at a local university. Clerical workers in the department made it clear that they considered her out of place and with no legitimate business in the department’s photocopy room. Instead of asking her who she was or how she got access to the photocopy room, they quickly had the access keys changed to deny her entry. ( Interview F30) Although very few participants in this study were in positions of authority over other workers, the few who were faced another kind of everyday racism, resistance to their authority. As Solola explained, some of his co-workers tried to frustrate the performance of his job. solola: You see it every day, just the fact that you are of a different colour, but it is something that you see every day. At work, public places. But if I were to deal, you know, on employment, yes, the management may have a policy which is government policy. mambo: Promoting equality? solola: Yes, but the fact that you work with other people, no ma er what you may be doing, they may actually resist your presence, resist your decisions, and resist you totally, yes. mambo: Just because of being a Black? solola: Yes, because you are a Black. Like, and I am in the inventory control system, my job is to make sure that there are inventory. But I notice every day that my efforts are, you know – mambo: There is some resistance? solola: There is, you know, a purposeful frustration. ( Interview M39)

Many of the micro inequities identified above remain invisible to those who perpetuate these forms of exclusion and to others who may be witnesses. Each incident can be dismissed as trivial, but the cumulative weight bears down on African immigrant women and men. When they respond to these slights, o en enough they are the ones accused of being oversensitive, difficult, or hard to get along with, which in turn contributes to negative job evaluations that limit the possibilities for promotion or for maintaining their employment. In some instances co-workers expressed clear hostility to African workers and took it upon themselves to police behaviour and report every infraction to management.

Reproducing Difference at Work 129 alala: I remember some time ago I was working in one [ large hardware store]. And then most of the time they [the co-workers] end up reporting me to the manager that, oh, I don’t greet, I am not smiling, and all those stuff, and they use all that type of nonsense . . . And in every place you have those who are your close friends whom you can relate with. You have some you don’t mostly like. One guy he don’t want to see me; he just told me, ‘I don’t like you.’ But I told the manager. The manager said I should just forget. A er a very long time they frustrated me a lot. I told the manager that I was going, and I le . ( Interview M45)

In larger workplaces with a significant concentration of workers from one ethnic community (usually Chinese or South Asian), inclusion and exclusion were based on close associations among the ethnic group that formed the majority, the prevalence of languages unfamiliar to African immigrants, or explicit practices of nepotism. bizima: Where I worked, maybe only three Africans and the rest were Asians, and I found that to be intimidating. Yeah, a lot of people from one race really treated the other races unfairly. edith: OK, what do you mean ‘other races’? Like, which races that were treated unfairly and other races were treated fairly? bizima: Yeah, actually it was not from the employers, but it was just amongst the employees. Yes, so people tried to get rid of the others so that they bring their relatives. Yeah, but from the employers themselves I had no problems at all; it’s just from the employees themselves. ( Interview F5) ndalula: The places where I work, we work with a lot of Indians. They do a lot of discrimination, and they speak their language when you are with them. They will not speak English, the one you will understand. They continue speaking their own language. And you yourself will be overlooked. ( Interview F14) banda: I find some kind of discrimination but I don’t take it very seriously. Like for instance where I am working I am the only Black there. So most of the people who are working there are Chinese, White Canadian . . . And that is what is there. And I being a Black I find it somehow difficult. But since I have been in Canada for quite a long time, I have come to terms that I have got used to the situation. ( Interview M60)

At the more extreme level, a few participants had to endure coworkers who harassed them with racist taunts. Hagey, Turri in, and

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Das Gupta (2007) have noted the importance, and the difficulty, of maintaining control when one is subject to racism at work. Sonata’s almost casual reflections on co-workers who feel superior in ‘mouthing you out’ illustrate a high level of control over emotions, while in Kasunga’s case the harassment was so abusive and persistent that he eventually fought back. sonata: You wouldn’t avoid finding things like people feeling superior because of the fact that they are of a given race and you are of a given race. You would find somebody mouthing you out, doing all that kind. You would find somebody saying, ‘I don’t like people of this nature, you Black people.’ You know that kind of thing. That happens once in a while, yeah, you can’t refute. ( Interview M47) kasunga: I was in the warehouse and I was told to operate the forkli and the one – the machine they call the other picker. And one of the boys that work – that was my colleague happened to be a Caucasian. And I was quite new in the country at that time. He called me names, believe me sincerely. He kept doing this over and over, and I was – mambo: Sometimes you will be ‘Niger’? kasunga: He called me ‘Niger,’ ‘you Black monkey,’ and all kind of such things, you know. Making jokes like, ‘Oh, Black people are very good, and that I would love to buy them as my slaves,’ and all that kind of stuff. mambo: What! kasunga: You know, this thing kept going on and on. I reported to the supervisor; he did not take action. I was pushed to the point where I had to physically deal with the guy myself – banged his head on the wall – and he collapsed. The ambulance came and picked him up, and the cops came, and I told them exactly what has been going on, and that lead to the firing of the manager because – mambo: He was fired? kasunga: – a few other people had witnessed it, but all along he did not say anything. So if [only] he had stepped in earlier. ( Interview M38)

Kasunga’s story goes well beyond the micro inequities of everyday racism. What is perhaps most shocking, beyond the depth of anti-Black racism displayed, is the failure of the manager or other co-workers to intervene in the persistent harassment occurring over a considerable period of time. Their failure to intervene could even have cost Kasunga his liberty had he been charged with assault. In the end it did cost the manager his job.

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A contrast between the infrequency of incidents of blatant racism and the frequency of micro inequities that constituted everyday racism was observed by some participants. Ndungo, for example, argued that Canadians generally avoid the appearance of discrimination, yet it permeates the society ‘like the wind,’ something you can o en feel even when you cannot see it. ndungo: [Direct discrimination] is something I would say Canadians try to avoid, you know, doing that directly, just so you don’t accuse them. But obviously it’s there. You would almost feel it on top of your skin, you know. It is there. It is like the wind; it lands on you as it blows. ( Interview F26)

As we have seen, relations among co-workers can be just as important as management practices for creating an uncomfortable, difficult, or hostile environment. Some forms of inclusion and exclusion are common outcomes of the way in which friendship networks form along gendered, linguistic, ethnic, and racialized lines. Such networks provide support and friendship for those inside their boundaries but o en isolate and disadvantage those outside. As a small minority in Greater Vancouver, African women and men o en find themselves outside such affinity groups. The research participants were more likely to form friendships with co-workers across these differences, and hence build niches of belonging, in the more multi-ethnic contexts that were not dominated by one ethnic group. At the same time, racialized segregation in the labour market o en made connections across difference more difficult and shaped feelings of unbelonging. konate: You just came, you have an accent, you are Black. So you start from here, or cleaning is the only thing you can do because that is what features. And if they will treat you equal. You go for job interview; you get the same job as a White man will. Even though they have this illusion that our brains don’t function very well like theirs. If you look beyond all this, then you will feel like you belong. But the situation where you can’t even find a job in the same office with White people because you are Black, hello, does it make you feel like you belong here? ( Interview F2)

Processes of exclusion also occurred between African workers and their clients, customers, and patients. These forms of micro inequities were most likely to be identified by women engaged in caring or other personal service occupations. For example, racialized social relations

132 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

can affect Africans running their own service-oriented businesses. Neila, who was earlier quoted reflecting on how her White colleagues in the cosmetology and hairdressing program got jobs while she did not, also notes the way in which being Black affects her small business. As she explained, she has been unable to a ract customers outside the African and Black communities to her home-based beauty salon. neila: Like to my salon, it’s difficult to find White people come here. It’s very difficult. Most of my customers there are Black. They are from Africa, they are from Caribbean. Because, yeah, it’s not their fault, because they don’t know [me]. They don’t believe me because they don’t know me. Because you know, I cannot tell. But it’s a raction. White go to White, Indian go to Indian, Chinese go to Chinese, Black go to Black. It’s natural. ( Interview F17)

If Neila’s assertions are correct, the small size of the African and Black communities is a serious impediment to the potential growth of African businesses, including her own. Instances of such preferences for service or care from members of one’s own ethnic or racialized group, or, more pointed, to not receive service or care from members of particular racialized groups, were relayed by several research participants who were employed in mainstream caring and other service-related occupations. These extremely demeaning instances of exclusion practised by clients or patients usually involved their explicitly refusing to accept care or service from Black women. mbula: When I used to work as a nurse’s aide, there was discrimination even among the patients. Like the old people. I remember there was one guy who used to call me ‘Shadow.’ edith: What? mbula: Shadow. edith: What does that mean? mbula: Well, I don’t know. Because I am Black, I am shadow. Like if you – you see the shadow is Black, right? edith: Yes. mbula: So, that was it. He used to call me ‘Shadow.’ And at times some of the patients won’t let you touch them. They say, ‘No, you can’t touch me.’ Like if you are going to dress them up or something, they will say, ‘No.’ ( Interview F16) kimbido: For the past four year when I was working as a nursing assistant, yes, a lot of discrimination . . . I will say one of the discrimination that I had

Reproducing Difference at Work 133 was an experience before with a patient. Like, when I get into the room in the morning to give care to her, and she is like, ‘Oh, no, I don’t want you to come to my room. I don’t want you to take care of me, you Black bitch.’ mambo: Oh! kimbido: I said, ‘What did you say?’ Well, like I just walk off. Because in the field you can’t argue with a patient. You have to go to the nurse. So I went to the nurse and then I reported, you know, what she said to me. And she really refused me to take care of her. And then they have to switch me with somebody else who is a White. ( Interview F31) sivuku: When I was in [hairdressing] school, I was [working] on their head last. My supervisor asked me to do one of their heads. ‘I don’t want you to do my hair.’ edith: She didn’t want you to do her hair? sivuku: Yeah, yeah, I heard it. So the lady – my supervisor changed, and I said, ‘Oh, why?’ She said, ‘Oh, no problem, Sivuku, your customer will come.’ But I heard it. She doesn’t want me to do her hair because I am a Black or what? ( Interview F27) neila: I was working for one lady, a cleaning company. The lady was very good at first, and I find this job by [a se lement agency]. We start, she – she had lot of contracts: house, house, house. All the time we were going with my partner. If the lady, the lady of house is not there, is working, is OK. But when these people see me with second, with partner, a er that, they quit. They cut contract. And, this lady, she lost five contracts, and five houses, when I went and worked there . . . They are White. I washed the house like three times. They went to work. But one day one lady was there. And when we came, she is still talking just to another lady she knows, but she didn’t give me – say to me hi. She treats me like I was not there. But I don’t care. I just did my job. But a er that, they cut contract. And I know they tell the lady, ‘If you send the Black lady, we cut contract with you.’ And my boss cut contract with them. But she cannot lose five contracts for me. edith: So you decided to quit? neila: I decided. I tell her, ‘I like you too much but I cannot do that to you.’ ( Interview F17)

Like Kasunga’s story of abusive racist taunts, these examples of service refusal were fairly infrequent but deeply hurtful instantiations of racism. As in Kasunga’s experience, management did not take steps to address the racism, instead providing a different caregiver or service provider as requested by the patient or client and without a ending to the worker’s feelings about the situation. Only Neila’s boss was willing

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to forgo cleaning contracts rather than submit to the racist demands of clients. African women were more vulnerable than were men to this kind of abuse because they were more likely to work in service or caring occupations. In such contexts African caregivers and service providers have no way of knowing when or where such a itudes may appear, have li le or no power to challenge patients or clients, and cannot count on management to back them up when such instances do occur. Pursuing Employment Equity These illustrations of different and unequal treatment at work paint a picture of racialized discrimination that is both extensive and barely acknowledged in the broader society. Most of the discrimination that African immigrants experienced takes the form of micro inequities linked to the everyday racism embedded in the relations of power and privilege in Canada. ‘Like the wind [that] . . . lands on you as it blows’ (Ndungo, Interview F26), it remains invisible to others until it transforms from a breeze to a gale in the shi from micro inequities to more blatant forms of racism. The everyday nature of these practices made it more difficult for research participants to know how to respond. Research on nurses in Toronto found that those who reported racial discrimination usually experienced reprisals (Hagey, Turri in, and Das Gupta 2007). Fear of reprisals was one impediment to complaining to management; being dismissed as oversensitive or, worse yet, being redefined as the problem were other possible outcomes of complaint. As Abasi explained, she was careful not to be cast as an ‘aggressive Black angry woman.’ abasi: Some of these [incidents], you have no proof. And you really can’t, you know, say, ‘Oh, you turned me down because I am this colour, and the other person is that colour.’ They turn it around to be that you are aggressive. They want to portray – they always want to portray you as the aggressive Black angry woman. And it’s a form of manipulation. And I have to be very careful not to play into their hands. ( Interview F18)

Employing this stereotype of Black women and men as aggressive and angry is a strategy to discredit those who complain, without addressing the substance of the grievance. With li le faith that individual employers will address racism in the workplace, especially since employment practices are part of the

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problem, some African immigrants called for government intervention. They demanded government action that included the monitoring of hiring practices, more effective employment equity programs, and human rights challenges, to try to create a more level playing field for Africans. Culibali ( Interview M36), for example, argued that the government had a special obligation to ensure equitable hiring opportunities for government-assisted refugees. In fact, however, government policies actually decrease employment opportunities for refugees by issuing special social insurance numbers that begin with the number nine. This ensures that potential employers know that the applicant is a refugee. Other participants pointed out that more effective laws needed to be enacted in Canada to ensure more diverse and equitable hiring practices. As Mokoli observed, access to be er jobs has positive long-term effects on the African community as a whole. mokoli: It would help if the laws allowed for opportunities to come. There are forces that force employers to employ immigrants on diversity reasons . . . Anybody who chooses to discriminate basically gets away with it. And we don’t have the laws that enforce the presence – that ensures that immigrants are present in the workforce. And because we don’t have those laws . . . [that] create reasons for hiring immigrants. And that results into low population of immigrants in the work environment. And because of that, then the youth coming do not see role models in the society to entice them to join the professions . . . But that situation could be broken. Government will have to have a major role, including legislating ways of equitable employment especially for the minority groups. ( Interview M33)

As Mokoli observed, equity programs have a role to play in creating more balanced integration for generations to come. At the same time he recognizes that only the most egregious examples of direct discrimination can be tackled through human rights law,8 leaving the everyday micro inequities intact. mokoli: Direct discrimination can be challenged in the court of law. But covert discrimination, the one that is generally present, is not mentioned but is generally present and is the worst that are faced. One, when it comes to competing for positions, immigrants face elevated requirements. When it comes to allocation of positions, immigrants do not get the most preferred positions. When building up relationship, oh, mainly immigrants are looked

136 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver at a li le bit different. They are not really part of perceived ‘us’ . . . So the work environment, much as we want to try to say, you know, it is free and fair for everybody, still affects immigrants. I mean, it’s only when you are an immigrant that you feel it. Maybe – maybe they, the society, doesn’t think that immigrants are oppressed. But, boy, if you are an immigrant, you realize you are. ( Interview M33)

Employment equity policies aimed at ameliorating systemic discrimination in the labour market do exist in some Canadian jurisdictions,9 but their effectiveness in creating equal opportunities for people of colour has been limited. Employment equity was first implemented at the federal level in 1986, a result of one of the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Equality and Employment chaired by Rosalie Abella (Abu-Laban and Gabriel 2002). Employment equity was intended to improve the employment situation of four groups who are disadvantaged in the labour market: people of colour, Aboriginal Canadians, women, and people with disabilities. Ontario also passed employment equity legislation in 1993, when a short-lived New Democratic government passed the most far-reaching employment equity legislation in Canada. The law was quickly repealed by the newly elected Conservative government in 1995 ( Bakan and Kobayashi 2004; Abu-Laban and Gabriel 2002). In addition, seven provinces – British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island – subsequently developed employment equity policies (but not legislation) that applied narrowly to the provincial public service ( Bakan and Kobayashi 2004). The limitations of Canadian employment equity policies have been well documented. Federal employment equity measures require public sector employers and federal contractors to develop employment equity plans, but there are no mechanisms to ensure effective adoption of such plans (Abu-Laban and Gabriel 2002; Bakan and Kobayashi 2004). As a result, employment equity polices have done li le to improve the situation of Aboriginal workers, visible minorities, women, and people with disabilities ( Bakan and Kobayashi 2004). As Vallas (2003) points out in the American context of even more hotly contested affirmative action measures, without effective legislation employers are unlikely to institute substantive changes. The narrow, short-term performance orientation of corporations reinforces minimal a ention to the issues of racial or other inequalities in the workplace that are beyond exposure to the risk of lawsuits. So long as legal interventions like lawsuits

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are based on the fiction of the ‘legal individual,’ they will provide only limited individual remedies while ignoring the ‘collectively generated character of racial inequalities’ (Vallas 2003, 390). Government commitment to employment equity is particularly precarious in British Columbia, where participants in this research live and work. There has never been legislation passed to establish an employment equity policy in the province, but in 1994 a New Democratic government passed a legislative directive, the Public Service Act: A Directive on Employment Equity ( Bakan and Kobayashi 2004). The directive applied only to the public sector and, like its federal counterpart, relied on voluntary cooperation and had no penalties for failure to meet goals. It did, however, mandate that the Equity and Diversity Branch of the Public Service Employee Relations Commission collect statistics on hiring and perform equity audits. According to Bakan and Kobayashi, in 2001 the newly elected Liberal government quickly dismantled the employment equity policy ‘through the back door’ while sidestepping public scrutiny (2004, 62). The directive remains on the books, but the reporting process has been dismantled. Indeed, the government no longer collects equity data; employment equity positions and the Equity and Diversity Branch itself have been eliminated; and instead a ‘Merit Commissioner,’ without a mandate to promote equity, was introduced. Without public discussion, the Liberal government scu led employment equity in the BC public service. Although some African immigrants suggest employment equity as a remedy and may believe that British Columbia has employment equity laws, the absence of legislation and the nullification of the directive suggest it is unlikely that the current government of British Columbia will take a stronger role in monitoring equity in Vancouver workplaces.10 In spite of the limited effectiveness of employment equity policies, moreover, a backlash against employment equity in Canada developed in the 1990s that dismissed evidence of racialized and other inequalities in the workplace and fostered the myth that equity groups are ‘special interests’ enjoying unfair advantages in the workplace (Abu-Laban and Gabriel 2002; Creese 1999). Although this view might seem outrageous to the participants in this research, nevertheless the backlash against employment equity was responsible for the repeal of employment equity legislation in Ontario and the dismantling of the policy in British Columbia. Backlash has also been experienced on the ground in the workplace. A study of equity struggles in one white-collar union, for example,

138 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

demonstrated that myths of unfair advantage are embedded in the erroneous belief that hiring, training, and promotion practices are already based on the skills and merit of individual workers without regard to gender or race (Creese 1999). If we believe that neutral principles of merit are actually working, then taking race, gender, or disability status into account is perceived as a violation of the principle of fairness and merit in the workplace. Ironically then, campaigns against employment equity in the workplace – o en mounted by unions simultaneously attempting to advance equality on other fronts – reinforce existing unequal power relations while claiming to foster fairness and equality for workers (Creese 1999). Other union traditions that privilege seniority as the key to ensuring fairness, and sameness as the only measure of equal treatment, can also disadvantage equity groups who are more likely to be recently hired (thus lacking seniority) and may require some form of differential accommodation (rather than the same treatment as everyone else) in order to ensure equality at work (Creese 1999). The backlash against employment equity also tends to undermine the accomplishments of workers of colour and other equity groups through commonplace assumptions that promotions are based on their equity group status rather than on their own merit. In this way, the marked disadvantages in the workplace experienced by people of colour (such as the African workers in this study), along with Aboriginal workers, women, and those with disabilities, are quite literally turned on their heads to recast such workers as unfairly advantaged in the labour market. Widespread resistance to employment equity in the face of persistent and growing racialized inequalities in the Canadian labour market illustrates the concept of democratic racism in action. Democratic racism is a term coined to explain the ability of Canadians to hold to democratic ideals of equality while simultaneously engaging in forms of racialized exclusion. Democratic racism is an ideology in which two conflicting sets of values are made congruent to each other. Commitments to democratic principles such as justice, equality, and fairness conflict but coexist with a itudes and behaviours that include negative feelings about minority groups and differential treatment of and discrimination against them. (Henry et al. 1995, 21)

Shi ing a itudes towards multiculturalism and immigration in recent years, and the mixed signals that people of colour receive about

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inclusion and exclusion from the imagined community of Canadians, arguably constitute other examples of democratic racism in practice (Abu-Laban 1998b). Negotiating Niches of Belonging African immigrants identified their experiences in the workplace as central to the production of their difference from other Canadians. Part of this difference is the heightened need to prove oneself in order to be accepted in the workplace. Gaturu observed that Africans ‘have to work a hundred percent harder’ than their colleagues in order to prove themselves ( Interview M40). Bangila suggested that he had to work ‘three times as hard as the other people’ to be accepted ( Interview M41). And Bara concluded that being be er allowed her to compete with people from dominant groups who were only mediocre. bara: If you are an African and an immigrant in this society, you have to be really good at everything you do in order to succeed. Then you can compete with those who are mediocre in the mainstream. ( Interview F30)

Indeed, working very hard and being very good at whatever occupation one pursues was common advice that participants had for other African immigrants. As African women and men discussed strategies to carve out niches of belonging in Vancouver, proving themselves was invariably a central theme. Bangila, who held a white-collar job in a bank, argued that keeping a positive a itude and reaching out to co-workers were important ways to negotiate a space of belonging at work. bangila: Well, I think staying positive, keeping a positive a itude is very, very important. What I have seen myself is that Africans are sometimes – they try to isolate themselves . . . If you are working with people, allow them to get to know you even though they may not like your colour. But in the end, if they come to the realization that you are this great person, but only that your colour is the only pain that people would judge you from. But once they realize you are a good person. So my assessment of – not assessment, but I would [say] basically if we were to get involved and we have to prove ourselves. That is the bo om line. We have to continue to prove ourselves every day. ( Interview M41)

140 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

Recognizing that everyday micro inequities between co-workers can lead to the isolation of African workers, Bangila believed that his becoming more integrated into the work group would help co-workers get over any prejudices they might have and get to know him as a competent person. Vatisi, who worked as a care aide in a nursing home, also focused on the importance of integrating as a route to becoming appreciated and accepted by co-workers. vatisi: What I tend to do myself is to not fear these people, just to be bold and do what is right, and do what I know I am supposed to do. Because what else can you do? You have to mix up with people and integrate with them, to be for them to come to know you and understand you and appreciate you. You can’t say that we are going to do our own work separately. You have to be with everybody else . . . There is nothing else you can do because you’ll keep on ge ing angry and seeing these things, other things you are not doing. You have to ignore those things and keep going, keep working, keep loving the people, keep smiling, keep doing your job well, that’s what you can do. It’s the only way I see myself succeeding, because if I try to say I don’t want to work here, where will I go? If I get another job, it will be the same thing. ( Interview F8)

These comments underline the importance of relations between coworkers for negotiating belonging at work. Measures of integration include the ability to form friendships and networks with other employees. Vira suggested that this might mean ignoring many of the micro inequities that occur and just ‘keep smiling, keep doing your job well.’ Many participants formed friendships with some of their co-workers, and these friendships were critical to feeling accepted at work and to a aining a greater sense of belonging in the broader society. Konote, for example, argued that belonging occurs when co-workers really care about each other and want to know what is happening in each other’s lives: ‘If your trials and problems are their problem, if your happiness is their happiness,’ then she feels she belongs ( Interview F2). Some participants identified these types of close friendships with co-workers that developed over time, but others, including Konote, did not. When workplaces are so isolating for African immigrants that friendships do not form, belonging is also more elusive. Some African immigrants looked exclusively to spheres beyond the workplace to develop social connections and belonging. Like many participants, Kakoto found community and connection through her ‘church family,’ while recognizing that work remained a site of exclusion.

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kakoto: I feel more Canadian than when I first came. I guess it was culture shock in the beginning. Other than these issues of discrimination at work – for me it is mostly at work – I have not problems. We belong to a church family, and so we feel we are part of a big community. But when it comes to work, that’s where the issues are. ( Interview F12)

As we will discuss more in chapter 7, for many participants, their faith and the support found through churches or mosques were critical to negotiating difficult circumstances in Canada and to finding spaces of belonging. At the same time, the workplace is where most people spend the greatest portion of their waking hours, and for most African women and men their jobs were sites where difference was actively reproduced. Although community and belonging were created in diverse ways, employment remained a foundation upon which everything else was built. mokoli: You cannot build a community if your only engagement is to struggle for survival. You cannot build a sense of belonging if you do not know if you are going to be there the next day or even you don’t know where you going to sleep the next day or worried about what you are going to eat, and you know. You cannot build a sense of belonging in that way. ( Interview M33)

In the context of continued marginalization and everyday racism in the labour market, African immigrants identified a number of concrete strategies that helped many carve out a more satisfying working life in Vancouver. As we saw in chapter 3, pursuing Canadian education was an important strategy followed particularly by women. Another common response, adopted equally by men and women, was taking forms of discursive resistance that reaffirmed their own competency as educated professionals and that critiqued racism and multiculturalism within Canada. In the broader society, economic marginalization of immigrants is o en portrayed as a result of their personal ‘deficiencies,’ including problematic accents and lack of local experience and credentials. Rather than accepting these as personal inadequacies in need of redress, most African immigrants in this study reframed their experiences through critiques of discrimination in Canada. As we have seen, the refusal to recognize foreign education, the demands for Canadian experience, and the preferences for Canadian accents were redefined as forms of racism. Through these counter-discourses, participants resisted the discursive construction

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of immigrants as ‘problems’ and actively took up citizenship claims with demands for greater equality within Canada. Critiques of racism were o en most prevalent among those with locally a ained university education. For example, Konate was completing a bachelor’s degree at a local university while working part-time as a care worker. She identified racism and, in her view, the façade of multiculturalism to explain the situation of African immigrants in the local labour market. konote: Where is the multiculturalism? Hello! I need somebody to tell me that and explain that to me. The multicultural is zero. If you take a survey right now of people that work in different companies, how many Blacks are there? If they can point to me the Black population in workplaces, a be er job. I am not talking about cleaning and factory, because that one, my grandmother who doesn’t have teeth can do it, who doesn’t even speak. ( Interview F2)

Although largely symbolic, naming racism was also a political strategy to expose gaps between ideologies and practices of multiculturalism in Canada and to shi demands for change back onto the larger society.11 African women and men also identified two other, more concrete ways to carve out a be er position in the local labour market. Some, particularly women in clerical work, sought employment in companies with anti-racist or employment equity policies in place. A handful of others chose self-employment as a way to exert more control over their working conditions. Vira worked for a private company that had an anti-racist employment policy, and considered this a very positive situation. vira: The job I am in here, I thank God for it. I call it my family, this job, this [company name]. They have got a policy whereby they don’t allow racial discrimination at job sites. And people, they try but this means if they do it, you know, under the table . . . By this I mean, they do it secretly so that the management won’t see it. And if you discover that once somebody is doing this to you, you are ready. You are asked to go and report it straight to the management. ( Interview F20)

Vira was enthusiastic about her employer’s a empts to promote equality at work and clearly felt validated by the very existence of an explicit anti-racist policy. In spite of the policy, she also suggested that the

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day-to-day experiences of racism could be pushed ‘under the table.’ Overall, however, Vira was one of only a handful of participants working for a company with an explicit anti-discrimination policy that she could turn to should any problems arise. A few others sought jobs with non-profit organizations in the multicultural and se lement sectors for similar reasons. While the employment found in the non-profit sector was generally underpaid and unstable (usually contract work), immigrant workers at least felt respected. They were also more likely to have their prior credentials acknowledged, and took pride in contributing to Canadian society by helping others negotiate the o en difficult process of se ling in Canada. Kakoto, an accountant in Uganda, had a ained clerical work in Canada’s federal public sector before leaving to raise her children. She also told us that work as a government employee was a positive experience, at least partly because employment equity policies created a more inclusive environment. kakoto: I was respected because the government – the federal government is supposed to be the role model for good treatment, for employment equity. I felt respected. I had my own office. Everyone related to me nicely, politely. I felt at home, and so if I have to apply for a job, I am fighting to get into the federal government up to today. Try to get into an environment that recognizes minorities and supports employment equity. ( Interview F12)

Even though her educational credentials from Uganda were not recognized, she felt respected in a government environment that recognized minorities and supported employment equity. Other unionized jobs in the federal public sector also provided higher pay, more job security, and employment equity policies. As noted previously, Kalumbi worked at Canada Post, where he was generally happy to have a stable union position with relatively high pay and to work alongside a diverse multicultural workforce ( Interview M32). Although he had completed management training courses, he believed his opportunities for promotion were limited because company anti-racist policies were not effective enough to prevent supervisors’ practices of promoting people from within their own ethnic communities.12 Nevertheless, he considered himself fortunate to find work in the public sector where at least equity was an explicit goal, even if the policy could be strengthened. These more positive employment experiences suggest that one way some African immigrants carved out niches of belonging in the labour

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market was by targeting certain sectors of employment where discriminatory practices were less likely to be tolerated. At the same time, it should be noted that few private sector companies in Canada have employment equity or anti-racist policies in place, and neither does the provincial public sector in British Columbia, so this strategy largely targets the federal public sector and non-profit se lement and multicultural organizations. Unfortunately decades of government restructuring and downsizing have made public sector jobs scarce and employment in the non-profit sector even more precarious than in the past. Another strategy that a handful of African immigrants in our study followed was to pursue self-employment through small business ventures. This option was difficult to accomplish owing to limited financial resources. Only two women (Neila, who opened her own home-based beauty salon, and Ngalula, who ran a home-based retail business) and one man (Salula, a martial arts instructor) had successfully pursued this path. Ngalula’s struggle to open her own business illustrates just how hard it is to accomplish success in the context of precarious work, or, in her case, no work, which was both an incentive and a barrier to becoming self-employed. ngalula: When I was about to start the business I don’t have money. And I don’t know the way to take a loan, because I don’t have anybody. I am just alone. So, the few money, I get from the welfare. Then I was on welfare for one year. A er I paid my rent I used to save $50. And I saved that $50 for one year. Even at times I used to come to you in the Commercial [Drive], you used to give me food, give me [bus] ticket.13 Then when I get food like that, get ticket around like that, that month I can save $100. It is that money I take to start my business today . . . I keep the money, keep the money for about a year. I realize $1,000 something. I start the business. ( Interview F29)

Ngalula’s ability to save such a large sum from meagre social assistance rates is remarkable. Her business soon expanded, and at the time of the interview she was a small business owner with one employee. Neila also saw self-employment as preferable to wage labour a er a series of negative experiences described above,14 even though the financial rewards were not greater. neila: I know everything because I was working with beauty for fi een years. And I bring my diploma here, but nobody can give me licence. I went to school because here they don’t consider a diploma from outside. That’s

Reproducing Difference at Work 145 why I spent money, I spent time, I go there, but I don’t regret . . . That’s why looking for job here, and lay off here, and I decide, ‘Let me open my small thing.’ . . . I am my own boss. Is giving money, small, small, but I am so quiet and nobody can stress me like slave . . . Is not financially much be er, but I can – I can have my dignity and my personality, you know. And I work by myself and I make myself small place . . . Because nobody hate me again. ( Interview F17)

All three participants who were self-employed small-business owners pursued it as a direct response to experiences of discrimination and precarious survival employment in the Canadian labour market. Self-employment is o en financially precarious too, but it brings with it a level of autonomy and dignity that many African immigrants in this study were hard-pressed to find in the Canadian labour market. Although African businesses were few and far between at the time of the interviews, starting small businesses has become a more common strategy in the years since and, as discussed in chapter 7, constitutes an important element of building the local African community. Marginalization in the local labour market was embedded in broader relations of power and inequality that reproduced African difference within Canada. This chapter has focused on the construction of difference in ways that disadvantaged African workers, largely through the micro inequities of everyday racism. At the same time, African immigrants took steps to carve out more satisfying relations at work, including working harder to prove themselves, making extra efforts to get to know co-workers, seeking out workplaces with employment equity or anti-racist policies, leaving intolerable employment situations, and becoming self-employed. Almost everyone interviewed for this study had developed counter-discourses that critiqued racism and the hollowness of Canadian multiculturalism, and some turned to political solutions with demands for more extensive and effective employment equity and human rights legislation. The la er might appear to be purely symbolic forms of resistance that do not affect conditions faced at work (at least, short of legislative success), but they also indicate the staking of claims as Canadians with the right to reshape Canadian society. These themes will be addressed more in chapters 6 and 7 when we turn to the ways in which African immigrants construct identities and negotiate community and spaces of belonging in Greater Vancouver. Although a central site of integration, the labour market is not isolated from other aspects of people’s lives. Workplaces are negotiated

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around family life, and vice versa. In chapter 5 we consider how family life is reshaped through the process of migration to Vancouver, and how this has affected women and men differently. Relations between spouses and between parents and children undergo dramatic transformations that affect identities not only as Africans and as Canadians but also as men and women, husbands and wives, and fathers and mothers.

5 Gender, Families, and Transitions

My husband, he is out here more because we don’t have maids, you know like in Africa. Like, he does his laundry. You know, I do the big ones. When – if it’s small ones, he does that himself. So if he wants to eat – I cook all the time, but if I am not there because I am working, he makes his meals. Do you understand? If I say I am tired, I am tired. So, he’ll go and do it. Back home, they’ll call somebody else and do it for them. – Nzanzu ( Interview F13)

Processes of migration and se lement are inherently gendered with different outcomes for women and men (Curran et al. 2006; Donato et al. 2006; Jones 2008; Pessar 2003). Gender relations are mediated through intersecting relations of power and privilege, including racialization, ethnicity, class, family status, sexuality, and age, that create diverse and sometimes contradictory outcomes ( Bose 2006; Itzigsohn and GiorguliSaucedo 2005; Mahler and Pessar 2006). Se lement experiences are filtered through gendered immigration and se lement policies; institutional structures such as labour markets, schools, and social services; and hegemonic ideologies about gender, families, and sexuality in both the migrants’ countries of origin and in Canada. In Canada, for example, scholars have analysed the ways in which the points system that selects highly educated immigrants favours men, with women more likely to be defined as dependents or sponsored separately through the family class (Abu-Laban 1998a; Boyd 1997, 2001; Thobani 2000). Prolonged ten-year sponsorship obligations also reinforce women’s dependence a er se lement, affecting their access to se lement services and employment; reinforce women’s responsibility

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for parenting; increase their vulnerability in situations of abuse; and shape family strategies that privilege men’s economic contributions (Creese, Dyck, and McLaren 2008; Creese, Dyck, and McLaren 2009; Lee 1999a, 1999b; Ng 1990). Research on gender relations in the new African diaspora suggests that gender is reshaped in complex ways that o en increase women’s independence and autonomy in North America. Arthur’s (2000) study of African immigrants in the United States concludes that gender relations are a source of considerable tension and ‘generally more egalitarian than [they] would be in Africa’ (119). Matsuoka and Sorenson’s (2001) study of Eritreans, Ethiopians, and Oromos in Toronto found that the household was ‘a gendered location for negotiating identity’ (142). Lack of nearby family and community support created new anxieties in Canada as well as new freedom from the gaze of in-laws, and new models of femininity that threatened male control. Mianda’s (2004) study of African immigrant women in Toronto and Montreal and Donkor’s (2005) study of Ghanaian women in Toronto also found that migration challenges gender norms, and in particular masculinity, in ways that have positive and negative outcomes. The intensification of domestic tasks created considerable stress, leading to redistribution of domestic work in some households and increased conflict in others. In addition, Manuh’s (2003) study of Ghanaians in Toronto concluded that while the women identify Canada as a site of increased rights and domestic equality, the men see Ghana as the preferred space where relations with women ‘flowed in a stable, predictable order’ (153). These findings are echoed in our study as we explore changing gender relations within African immigrant families in Vancouver. Previous chapters have identified some ways in which gender shapes migration experiences, and these gendered outcomes affect relations between wives and husbands, and parents and children. Both men and women experienced accent discrimination, non-recognition of credentials and prior work experience, underemployment, and a myriad of micro inequities that constituted everyday racism on the job. Some key gender differences also emerged. Men were more likely to arrive as refugees and independent immigrants while women were more likely to be family dependents; men also arrived with higher levels of postsecondary education than did women (chapter 1). The gendered policing of language and English accents was more persistently experienced by women than by men, particularly in the workplace (chapter 2), and the gendered division of paid labour produced more opportunities for

Gender, Families, and Transitions 149

survival employment for men. This produced gendered strategies of post-secondary education in Canada that favoured women, and over time women experienced less dramatic downward occupational mobility (chapter 3). Some forms of racism at work were also gender specific, including the refusal to accept care or service from African women working in service and caregiving occupations (chapter 4). This chapter shi s our focus to the effects of migration on changing relationships within African families and examines men’s and women’s divergent responses to the redefined gender relations and parenting practices in Canada. Immigrant se lement is negotiated through fluid family relationships that are reconstituted in the processes of migration (Lawson 1998). Migration is not simply a ma er of moving from country A to country B; instead, families may be situated simultaneously in a country of origin, Canada, and other spaces, and members may move back and forth (Hyndman and Walton-Roberts 1998). African immigrants, for example, are embedded in extended transnational families located simultaneously in their home countries, Canada, and o en other countries as well (such as the United Kingdom, Australia, or the United States). Se lement strategies negotiate mutual support and family obligations across national borders. Although migration scholarship o en treats migrants as isolated individuals, immigrants are embedded in family relations; strategies of ‘flexible’ adaptation take place within household contexts and across space and time (Creese, Dyck, and McLaren 2008; Walton-Roberts 2003). Families, whether immigrant or not, are also stratified by gender, generation, age, and social class – relations that are mediated through cultural norms and practices (Creese, Dyck, and McLaren 2009; Das Gupta 1995). Even within specific families, different social locations, access to power, and experiences of migration will produce ‘many parallel narratives’ rather than a singular view of pre- or post-migration family life (Pizanias 1996, 351; Dossa 2004). Participants in this study framed se lement experiences around two interrelated focuses: employment and family. Discussions of employment were interwoven into narratives about family provisioning, and issues of shi ing family relations were embedded in concerns about the way in which economic activities shaped time and the resources for supporting family locally and abroad. Families were routinely located across transnational borders. Participants with children and spouses still in their home countries found the bureaucracy of immigration regulations painfully uncertain and heartbreakingly slow. Maintaining

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bonds and support, both financial and emotional, and hopes to reunite either in Canada or a er future return migration figured prominently in many migration narratives. The importance of absent grandparents, uncles, and aunts in child rearing was also a frequent topic of conversation. Other concerns included reunification with children le behind in Africa; dilemmas of raising children ‘properly’ according to traditions and values that sometimes clashed with expectations in Canada; and, above all, ensuring a be er future for daughters and sons. Indeed, migration is o en framed as a trade off between self-sacrifice and future opportunities for offspring (Creese, Dyck, and McLaren 2008; Creese, Dyck, and McLaren 2009; Foner 1997; Rumbaut 1997). Three-quarters of the participants in this study were married at the time of the interviews; an additional 20% were divorced or widowed. The vast majority (84% of women and 83% of men) were parents. Only 5% (one woman and two men) had never been married or become parents. We did not ask any questions about sexual orientation, but in the course of the interviews almost all revealed they were, or had been, married and /or involved with opposite-sex partners. None identified as lesbian, gay, bi, or transgendered.1 Therefore, this chapter discusses changes in family relations experienced in the context of publicly professed heterosexuality. We adopt a fluid, flexible, heterogeneous, and transnational notion of family in analysing shi ing family relations among African immigrants. Ironically perhaps, the African immigrants we interviewed adopted static family forms as two distinct, idealized types of family, one African and one Canadian, to contrast their pre- and post-migration experiences respectively. Participants in this research originated from twenty-one different countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Family-household structures, gender relations, divisions of labour, and child-rearing practices are not identical across Africa. Participants nevertheless self-consciously defined a common set of African expectations, traditions, gender norms, and family forms when discussing changes they experienced as spouses and as parents. In other words, they focused on perceived commonalities that stood in stark contrast to their Vancouver experiences. These experiences were narrated as cultural differences but were filtered through class dislocation; family life in Africa was lived in the relative affluence of the well-educated middle and upper classes, in contrast to the varying degrees of poverty and survival employment in Vancouver. Imagining a homogeneous ‘African tradition’ of gender relations and family forms also reflects the growing sense of a diasporic pan-African

Gender, Families, and Transitions 151

identity developing in Vancouver, generated through shared experiences of migration and se lement (see chapter 6). As such, these narratives draw on caricatures of differences between Canada and Africa writ large, while also reflecting parallel narratives across and within gendered and generational divisions. Writing about tensions and shi ing gendered and generational relations within African immigrant families in Vancouver requires sensitivity to two problematic ways in which families are o en perceived. In one scenario the African family is a static and idealized transmi er of traditional values and culture. To some extent, this romanticized view of the harmonious family, devoid of conflict and tensions in African countries, can be read through many narratives. Another version of family also emerges through narratives of shi ing post-migration gender relations. This is a story of the ‘progressive’ West and ‘backward’ Africa, like other parts of the global south, where women and children are more oppressed (Mohanty 2003; Razack 2004). In this view, the liberal humanist traditions of the European enlightenment are unquestionably superior to other cultural traditions and family forms. In the North American context in particular, this notion of cultural backwardness merges with the pathologization of African American families such that problems are perceived as inherent to Black families wherever they reside (Collins 2005). Views of the African family as idealized or as pathologized are equally problematic, preventing a fuller understanding of the shi ing negotiation of family relations. The idealized family can establish an unrealistic model of kinship that discourages power sharing. Nostalgic memories of unchanging stability at home are common ways of coping with postmigration hardships (Manuh 2003; Matsuoka and Sorenson 2001; Obiakor and Afolayan 2007). The pathologized African family, in contrast, offers problems of a different sort in its reflection of Eurocentrism at its worst. When embraced by state agencies such as the police or social services, this view can lead to more intensive scrutiny of African immigrant families. Ultimately, reference to an idealized past or a pathological present prevents us from understanding the complex and ongoing negotiation of different sets of institutional practices, cultural norms, and material realities in Canada. Scholars of African migration point out that traditional cultural models of gender relations shape women’s and men’s lives and are transformed in complex ways in the diaspora (Arthur 2000; Manuh 2003; Matsuoka and Sorenson 2001; Mianda 2004). Ideologies of essential

152 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

gender differences between boys and girls, the higher status of males, male authority in families, a sharp gender division of labour in households, and a nexus of extended families are identified as central tenets of traditional gender relations across a range of African countries and matrilineal and patrilineal kinship systems (Arthur 2000; Matsuoka and Sorenson 2001; Mianda 2004). Participants drew on various strands of these hegemonic ideas of African family to contrast with their lives in Vancouver. For most men the comparisons drawn were largely negative, while the majority of women reflected on the ways in which shi ing gender relations and family forms had brought both new burdens and new opportunities at the same time. African men and women understood migration, gender relations, and parenting in Canada very much in reference to their image of the idealized African family. Central to their evaluation of life in Canada was the importance of the extended family and the immediate community as the context in which responsibilities for raising children are shared. The more communal forms of child rearing in Africa locate boys and girls within cultural and community traditions and extended family networks. The spatial dislocation of these caring networks made it harder to properly socialize offspring. alumbi: Africans, we depend on extended family back home, and without an extended family you feel like your child is not going to grow up as a community person. Back in Africa the extended family take care of your children if you are [at] work, so you may not even employ anybody. They have – they help you in shaping their morals . . . My son would be calling my brother his father. My sister, he would be calling him his aunt, seriously so, and my wife’s sister would be his mother. But in Canadian life, that is not acceptable and it is very hurting to immigrants . . . It can make the family very dysfunctional. ( Interview M32)

Shaping children’s morals and developing close extended family relationships, particularly those between nephews and uncles, and daughters and aunts, signified important cultural continuity that could be lost to children raised in Canada. Losing these supports also intensified the child-rearing responsibilities for parents. bangila: Well, I think in Africa we – of course we live differently. We have the whole community around us. We have uncles, we have aunties, we [have] cousins. All of them would be around us; they pre y much shelter

Gender, Families, and Transitions 153 you as a community; as a family they shelter you when you are in such an environment. There are a lot of things you may not do for your kids, because the community is always there . . . But in Canada you have to be there all the time. You have to make sure your kids – these are the major changes especially for me in particular – make sure that your kids have everything. You have to make sure someone is there to cook for them, someone is there when they come from school, someone has to pick them up, so that is a huge difference. In Africa, those things, parents don’t do. ( Interview M41)

The shi from an extended to a conjugal family form in Vancouver proved difficult. Without extended family and neighbours providing mutual support, parents faced the full responsibilities of child rearing. In Canada, unlike some other Western countries, publicly funded childcare is not readily available; day care is expensive and beyond the reach of low-income families. Raising children was therefore more difficult and more expensive in Vancouver, the more so because many African families are larger than the Canadian norm of one or two children. Parents did not equally share these augmented responsibilities for their offspring. A sharp gender division of labour assigned domestic tasks and child rearing to women who were charged with inculcating their offspring with African cultural values (Arthur 2000; OkekeIhejirika and Spitzer 2005). As a result, women experienced the brunt of increased parenting duties and other domestic work in Vancouver, as well as new forms of isolation in the absence of a more communal environment in which to accomplish these tasks. Isolation from neighbours, cooking indoors instead of outside, keeping doors locked, and always having to be physically present with youngsters were difficult aspects of women’s lives in Canada. ngila: Having a baby in Canada, number one, being a mother in Canada, you know, it’s not easy. And try to adjust to the system, like being [in] a house, locking your door all the time. Like where we grew up, we don’t used to closing doors, you know. All the time our door is open. We are always outside with neighbours, you know. But now we have changed to being [in] a house without our door open all the time. We have to lock our door, you know, and being in one place without coming out to say ‘Hi, hi’ to your neighbours. ( Interview F28) tungu: To cook in the inside together, I am scared. Maybe kids will do, must be cared a er. But in my country we never cook in the house. We cook, we have kitchen outside, you see. One other thing to change for me, to rush

154 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver home, always home. And when you – some of them, they say, ‘Oh, you must go to park.’ But it’s not like same. Before in my country the kids were put outside to walk, play. And if you go outside you say, neighbour or friend, ‘Watch my kid. I will go market.’ But here you must walk with kids. You must go together. ( Interview F1)

The traditional African family was also conceived in terms of undisputed male authority and respect towards elders. Male authority was acknowledged to free men from domestic labour, provide ample leisure time spent with other men, and sometimes with other women, and discipline spouses and children (see also Manuh 2003; Matsuoka and Sorenson 2001; Mianda 2004). Deference to elders invoked lifelong deference to fathers. etu: Back in Africa, the way we learn the families [is] that there is that respect from young to old. And we relate with a particular kind of – like, an understood way of doing things. We don’t pass those things, but yeah, it is different. It is a total change. Because back at home that is, no ma er how old you are, if you are my son, you are still a child to me. mamb : Absolutely. wetu: When you are forty, thirty years, it doesn’t ma er how old you are. Even if you are married with children, you are still my child. And I have a say in your life. ( Interview M49)

Migration to Canada destabilized these expectations of male authority and challenged men’s power as husbands, fathers, and providers. In short, sub-Saharan African immigrants generalized across their continent to describe the African family as consisting of an extended family form – with a sharp gender division of labour where women are responsible for domestic tasks and child rearing, the undisputed authority of husbands and fathers, and respect for elders – and used it to frame their divergent experiences in Canada. Migration brought significant, and in many cases unwanted, shi s in relations between spouses and between parents and children. The shi to a conjugal family form resulted in the intensification of domestic work. Responsible for day-today child rearing and domestic labour, most women also worked in the labour market but without the family and/or paid domestic support they had enjoyed in Africa. Tensions around men’s contributions to domestic work and childcare infused women’s narratives. For some men, learning to perform non-traditional roles in caring for their children, doing

Gender, Families, and Transitions 155

housework, and preparing meals was also central to their migration experiences. The majority of men, however, appeared not to have changed their practices and believed that women were abandoning their African traditions and adopting incompatible Western visions of spousal relations. Both women and men agonized over the increasing incidences of divorce and the loss of community support. For the most part, however, women identified the men’s failure to adapt as the central issue, while men were more likely to blame women for new and unreasonable expectations. Separation and divorce increased the number of single mothers, adding to concerns about properly raising and disciplining children who were quickly absorbing mainstream Canadian cultural expectations, which most parents believed overemphasized individual freedom and children’s rights. Maintaining the parental authority within the family, the tradition of respect for elders, and the need to link children to their broader community were common concerns. Although migration was almost always conceived as a family strategy to improve future opportunities for offspring, raising children in Canada generated considerable anxiety for both women and men. Domestic Labour and UnseĴling Gender Relations African women and men experienced difficult economic and social circumstances alongside unfamiliar models of family and gender relations in Vancouver. Family tensions were increased by downward class mobility, underemployment, and micro inequities of everyday racism, without the buffers that might be afforded by class privilege or shelter in a well-established immigrant community. Class privilege affords the affluence to buy services and goods (such as childcare, cleaners, and larger homes), and immersion in a well-established immigrant community provides a broader context to maintain desired family forms (such as extended families residing together and dense webs of community networks). In the absence of such buffers, African immigrants o en felt isolated in conjugal family households, stressed by the intensification of domestic labour and child rearing, and challenged to renegotiate family relations that were caught between African and Canadian expectations about parenting and gender norms. Everyone understood these material changes that were reshaping their lives, but there were significant gender differences in the way that African immigrants responded to their new circumstances. For women, new models of spousal partnership provided spaces for greater autonomy

156 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

within the family that most women strove to a ain. Men, on the other hand, were challenged to give up some of their authority, fundamentally redefining their concepts of masculinity. Some men readily accepted the new partnership model of masculinity, but many more lamented their wives’ changing expectations about how husbands should behave in Canada. A few women joined this lament and placed the blame for spousal tensions squarely on women who abandoned their African traditions. On the whole, however, women were more likely to fault men for their failure to adjust to the new realities in Canada.2 The intensification of domestic labour in Vancouver was linked to isolation within conjugal families and the lack of financial resources or family support to a ain help. Wives alone became responsible for domestic work. With the exception of childcare, which involves much more parental supervision in Canada, the tasks associated with keeping the house clean, shopping, and cooking were easier to accomplish in some ways once unfamiliar routines were mastered. The presence of supermarkets and labour-saving devices (such as shopping carts and washing machines) could transform all-day labour into a few hours. n anzu: And you know, here it is easier; you just go to the supermarket and wheel those things. Then you have to go the meat market in Richmond, you have to go the vegetable market . . . To clean is just to hoover. Like me and my husband here. We stay here for a month, we don’t hoover, but nobody comes here, and it’s always clean. ( Interview F13)

Like other Canadian families, the more affluent the household the more reduced is the domestic labour, through purchase of convenience foods, eating out, and hiring cleaners and nannies. Families with more limited financial resources do not have the same options, particularly when it comes to the most labour-intensive work of childcare. Without the help that they were used to in their home countries, middle-class African immigrant women encountered much more domestic work in Canada in spite of labour-saving devices. Most combined a triple day of paid work, childcare, and other domestic work. Managing all this work was exhausting. laziati: I never knew how tough it was to raise kids, you know? Where I come from you are surrounded by so many people and you have got so much help that you never realized just how tough it is to raise kids. So,

Gender, Families, and Transitions 157 yeah, life is stressful. So, I have to say, I have never been so stressed in my life than I have been in this country. So I think my life has really regressed rather than improved since coming to this country. You know, you end up being – because you are so stressed, life is so stressful, everything is just, you know, running up and down. You are dropping your kids, picking them up, you are taking them here, you are going to work, coming back. Everything is rush, rush, rush that you end up ge ing a lot of stressful conditions, diseases associated with it, you know. ( Interview F6) ilata: Because, you know, there are times whereby I feel I can’t breathe. My husband needs a ention from me. My son needs a ention from me. They expect – you know, my husband started cooking six months ago, and we have been here more than three years in Canada. I have to cook, I had to do the laundry, I had to do the cleaning. I don’t have time for myself. ( Interview F22) bizima: I am doing so much [domestic] work right now compared to back home in Zambia. My experience here is so hard . . . here everything has to be done by yourself. You are in your house, you are alone, you have to handle all situations. It just makes life so hard for us. Back home the labour is so cheap that we are able to hire three people to help us in the house. But here you can’t even think of that idea, you have to do everything on your own. ( Interview F5)

As with some other families in this study, exhaustion eventually led to Silata’s renegotiating domestic labour and her husband’s learning to cook. Still, she bore the brunt of the responsibilities for childcare and the other daily tasks alongside her full-time job. Ultimately it is no surprise that Silata concluded, ‘I don’t have time for myself,’ or that Laziati lamented, ‘I have never been so stressed in my life.’ An unbalanced gender division of labour in which women do most domestic work is still the norm across Canadian households. Research on domestic labour shows that it is less unbalanced than it once was; as larger numbers of women entered the paid labour force, Canadian men began to perform a larger share of domestic work, but women still do the lion’s share. In 2005, in dual-earner households with children, women performed 4.7 hours of additional domestic work each day while men performed 3.1 hours (Statistics Canada 2006b, 37).3 Many African women in this study faced significance resistance to redividing domestic labour, though the need to share the work was greater. Immigrant women experience a higher volume of domestic responsibilities than do other women: negotiating unfamiliar

158 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

institutional practices, providing the bulk of emotional support, and transmi ing African culture to offspring. Considerable intermediary work, most of which is invisible yet taxing, is required to navigate the se lement of family members. For example, mediating between children and schools is more complex for immigrant women who are unfamiliar or perhaps even uncomfortable with the norms of Canadian public schools. In addition, offspring may face different challenges than do their peers, especially those who experience forced displacement and interrupted education as refugees, and teachers may not be equipped to help ( Jacquet et al. 2008). Providing emotional support for family members who are encountering adjustment difficulties can be multifaceted and draining; health problems, underemployment or unemployment, subtle or overt forms of racism, and ‘learning to be Black’ ( Ibrahim 1999; Kelly 1998, 2004) all require emotional support in their navigation. Women typically provide such support for other family members but o en receive li le emotional support in return (Creese, Dyck, and McLaren 2009; Das Gupta 1995). The intensification of domestic work increased women’s pressure on their husbands to do more at home. Some women who were able to redefine domestic duties talked about this as a form of liberation that would not have been possible without migration. For example, Bara describes her new-found liberty from the highly constrained expectations for wives in her native South Africa: ba a: As a spouse, really liberty. And I will explain maybe just briefly. You know, from the communities of where I was born, when you are a married woman, especially married woman, the expectations are almost constricting or restraining. And there are things you cannot do because you are married, because of your in-laws here . . . I get to experience what it is not to be expected to wash dishes if I cannot because of time or any other commitment. My husband will really almost raise his voice to say, ‘No, I am going to wash dishes.’ He’s going to wash dishes; in other words, let me not worry about that and many other pressures that women in our society back in Africa come across. Those pressures really are not there. ( Interview F30)

What is sometimes referred to as the ‘dark side of community,’ the pressure to conform to expected behaviour, constitutes the other side of the support of extended family and community that infused participants’ lives in Africa. While loss of family support was much lamented, loss of family pressure to conform, particularly the power exerted by in-laws,

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was also celebrated. A woman’s ability to abdicate responsibility for some domestic work was based on her husband’s willingness to take over those tasks and on the absence of public scrutiny by in-laws that works to reinforce traditional gender divisions for both women and men. At the same time, shi ing gender relations also produced anxiety about how they might be judged in their home countries. For example, Kavuo commented, ‘I think maybe if I was back home I would not be seen like a good wife’ ( Interview F23). Some African men in this study took pride in their new-found expertise in domestic tasks, which was perceived as a barometer of mutual adjustment since both spouses worked and no family support was available to help. Hiring domestic help in Canada or ge ing by with a single male breadwinner were not options for families in this study. In addition, the high cost of childcare was prohibitive and o en led to parents working staggered shi s. Under these circumstances, some men framed successful adaptation to life in Canada through new models of masculinity. m kili: Spousal roles have changed, and you have to do a lot of things that is expected of a husband here as opposed to things expected of husbands in Africa. I have adopted duties that I would not have adopted and I have relinquished duties that I should not have relinquished, but all that are because I came here a long time ago. And I got exposed to education that allowed me to adapt quickly and change. ( Interview M33) kalumbi: The good news for Africa, we were both working during the day and both coming home during the evening. mambo: Oh, so you could see each other. kalumbi: Yeah, here it is different. You have to adjust. Both of you cannot be at home at the same time otherwise the family will – the children will have nobody to take care of them. Yeah, back home you can employ a house girl. You can employ a cleaner. Here you cannot because you don’t have – it cost too much. Yeah, it cost too much. So here you have to do even the cleaning, you know. So that is another thing that has changed when you come to this country. There is no job that you say that is job for a woman. If it means washing dishes, you wash them. So that also is a change since we came to Canada. ( Interview M32)

The duties that some men relinquished included the authority to refuse to do ‘women’s work,’ and the duties they took on included a wide range of domestic tasks such as cooking, cleaning, and childcare. How much

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work was redistributed varied in individual families, and many households in this study saw li le or no change. Where the gendered division of domestic labour was transformed, unexpected pay-offs occurred with the development of closer bonds between conjugal family members. The other side of the conjugal family that so many African women found isolating was a welcomed increased interdependence between spouses and between parents and offspring. Interdependence and ‘closer affective ties’ (Mianda 2004) grew out of daily involvement in children’s activities and were enhanced by husbands’ engagement with other forms of domestic labour. This new model of marriage as a conjugal partnership was seen by some as the glue that kept a family from breaking apart in Canada. ilata: Here you become more a ached to your family than back home in Africa because I guess life is more relaxed in Africa . . . You know, he doesn’t really have that much responsibility for his family like the wife . . . So it has kind of, like, brought us so close. OK, like if we are not going to break apart as family, OK, let’s put a plan. We’ll have to work together in doing the household things and seeing that my son’s schedule at school is all covered, you know. When I am not here, my husband does it. When I am here, I am the one to do that. It has brought us more closer. And another thing, our family is not here. So this is my family, and that’s it. Those are the people that I am so a ached to. ( Interview F22)

The more intensive relationships of fathers and offspring emerged from the different forms of parenting expected in Canada. Kazi argued that child rearing was safer in Burundi, so he had to be more vigilant in Vancouver, and as a result he developed a closer relationship with his children. kazi: With children I am positive – is positive side. And I make more a ention to them now than before, yeah. Because there are many, many things here. There are many TV channels maybe not for children. There are sexual abuses, many sexual abuses. There are drugs. There [are] many things, so I have to pay more a ention to them than before. ( Interview M46)

Kasunga also linked the closer conjugal bonds to the loss of public spaces for collective male leisure. In Nigeria, he said, men had many opportunities to socialize without the presence of their wives and

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offspring. In Vancouver he was not part of a similar community of men, and there were fewer inexpensive leisure venues to divert his energy and resources away from his family. Even the inclement weather for much of the year facilitated marital bonds by hindering such homosocial gatherings. ka unga: There are certain reasons here why you spent most of your time with your family and with your wife more at home here . . . Having that kind of inclusiveness in the family brings a good family bonding of – as a spouse with your wife, as a father to your children, and then with a unified force. mambo: And some closeness? kasunga: Closeness, OK. Like back home, if a man is coming back from work, you serve your dinner. Dinner is served, you are going out from one meeting to another to meet your colleagues for one reason or the other. Other family issues take up your time. But here there is less place to go. The weather, the weather. mambo: The weather itself? kasunga: Two, the weather. Back home the weather is all year around sunny, you can go out any time. Go and enjoy some palm wine somewhere with your friends; you have to sit together. But weather it is cold, you don’t go nowhere. ( Interview M38)

In sum, while most women identified the shi ing gender relations in Canada as liberating from the more rigid expectations of being solely responsible for childcare and domestic tasks, men were likely to be having less autonomy to do as they pleased. The contraction of men’s autonomy occurred in many spheres, including the loss of the homosocial leisure spaces enjoyed in their countries of origin, the pressures to share domestic labour and childcare responsibilities, and the general decline in authority of husbands and fathers vis-à-vis wives and offspring. As some women pointed out, the decline of men’s autonomy was also reflected in men’s increased financial responsibility to their families and less discretionary spending on their personal leisure. According to Nzanzu and Bara, this was a considerable improvement in Canada and decreased the likelihood of marital infidelity. nzanzu: [In Nigeria] the man that will be drinking with friends and coming home anytime. And here they are more disciplined. They don’t go about

162 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver like they would do in Nigeria. And it is easy for a man in Africa, to go and be. e ith: To, mess up? nzanzu: Yes, exactly. They don’t have the time here because they are struggling to keep your mortgage, keep your family. You know, you don’t have the time even if you want to. You don’t have the means to go and be keeping other women like they do in Nigeria. There, there’s a lot of money. They can afford to rent places for them. But in Canada why pay for apartment for somebody and you pay for your own? How much are you earning? So it’s different, ( Interview F13) bara: I must say, it will take a long time to try and analyse where they come from in the Canadian culture, but it is one of the liberties that I have experienced, and my husband is so responsible. If he is at a meeting, I don’t have to think that maybe he is seeing somebody else. You know, all those things, headaches. ( Interview F30)

Several participants referred to common practices in their countries of origin for middle- and upper-class men to maintain mistresses (or additional wives in contexts of polygamy). Financial realities in Canada made such behaviour very unlikely,4 and the overall decline in African men’s personal leisure spending produced more financial commitment to the family, reinforcing closer bonds within the conjugal unit. Many African men in this study were not very happy with these changes. In fact, the majority expressed considerable resistance to sharing domestic labour, to women’s increased autonomy and expectations, and especially to decreased male authority. Kazi’s statement about his wife is illustrative of such anxieties: ‘My wife is not really the wife I know when I was in Burundi’ ( Interview M46). Such comments were never positive. Many men laid responsibility for problems in African immigrant families squarely at the feet of women who abandoned African traditions in favour of Western views of marriage and gender relations. Comments by Portais and Kivete illustrate these frustrations and some of the ways in which men came to understand marital tensions. portais: Sometime I think women, they are easily distracted when they come overseas. They want to adapt into the system of life of where they are, and sometimes they forget their tradition. Just like they forget the roles and that they must do their duties according . . . I have got some friends whom I came along with and I know quite a number of guys that are no longer with their wives.

Gender, Families, and Transitions 163 mambo: They are divorced now? portais: Because women here, they come here and you have a problem. All of a sudden they maybe call cops, and then maybe you are arrested because you are angry too, and it something that you were never used to. ( Interview M34) ki ete: We are used to discipline our wives back home, but here you cannot. Back home if I shout, the wife keeps quiet. She listens to what I say. But here, no. And it is going to worse. There are some – I have learnt there are so many marriages get divorce. They divorce. The wife says no. Because they know, here they say women have their rights. So some women, they take their advantage. It is worse, it is not good. mambo: So do you have some good things you have seen in those changes on the side of the kids and spouses? Have you seen good things? kivete: The only good thing, if you are lucky, if you are lucky your wife doesn’t adopt. mambo: Mainstream culture? kivete: Yeah, to their culture here, okay. But if she adopts, if she forgets her culture and takes up this culture here, you end up losing her. ( Interview M50)

In these narratives, marital conflict, separation, and divorce were understood as emanating from women’s desire to embrace Canadian norms, not from men’s greater difficulty in adapting to changed circumstances. A few women also agreed with this view. nzanzu: We don’t mix two cultures. We are Africans, and if you don’t have a culture, you are finished. So, what happens to some of us [women] is when they come here they throw away the African culture. Because they are watching the soap operas and all that kind of thing on TV so they want the guy to treat them like the way they see on TV, and they can do all kinds of things and all that . . . At the beginning it looks as if the man is domineering. But when it gets to a certain point, when the kids are grown, like everybody becomes an individual and you might be happy. ( Interview F13)

The legal framework of family law in Canada, including women’s equal share in marital property, easy access to divorce, child support, and the criminalization of domestic violence, formed an unfamiliar context for marital conflict. For those who held firmly to a traditional African model of undisputed male authority in families it was easy to conclude that family unity was not valued in Canada.

164 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver adela: The change I see here is not as a spouse, let us say as family, the family fabric. The family design here is different from the family in my country. So here I don’t see the sacredness of the family. I don’t see the respect of the family just like back home. Here I see a family disintegrated. But in Africa a family which is more united, more collected. But here I don’t see that. ( Interview M37)

Not valuing family unity in Canada was a common theme among men who sought to hold onto their pre-migration gendered identities and practices. A particular focus of this critique was state intervention through the police and the courts when physical violence threatened. Manuh (2003) found similar trends in her study of the Ghanaian community in Toronto. She argues that women saw the state’s role in protecting women from domestic violence as benign, while men saw it as interference in their culture: ‘Many Ghanaian men in Toronto are bitter about what they see as the support of the Canadian state for women. They see this as undermining marriage and family life and their control of women’ (154). In our study Yalala expressed this view most forcefully. Women and children were faulted for seizing on new opportunities for protection from male authority. yalala: What government is doing on us, they are just turning the women against the men, men against the women . . . They just allow people you call [when] there is a small crisis. Women, they have a very weak mind so like they call the police . . . They should look at the way they treat family. They should have respect for family. They should try to encourage family to live together in this country instead of free divorce or free separation. That doesn’t help. At the end of the day [it] is the family that suffers. ( Interview M45)

Such observations clearly call into question Canadian juridical practices, including the individual right to protection from physical violence regardless of the nature of intimate relationship. Yalala’s further suggestion that counselling is an appropriate response to domestic violence because it shows respect for family unity is highly contentious. Decades of activism among local women’s groups from diverse ethnic or racialized communities have aimed to recognize domestic violence as a criminal act and not the private family ma er it once was. Any

Gender, Families, and Transitions 165

move to re-privatize domestic violence as a family ma er, in the context of the continued unequal power relations that underlie domestic violence in the first place, can only be seen as a regressive move. At the same time, racism complicates a simplistic understanding of domestic violence. All ethnic or racialized communities encounter family conflict and domestic violence, but some groups become the special target of condemnation and discipline. North American discourses of African American families as dysfunctional (Collins 2005), and White middle-class norms embedded in fields like social work and policing (Henry et al. 1995), can result in more intensive policing of African immigrant families. At the same time, the increased stresses associated with migration and se lement make immigrant families particularly vulnerable and point to the need for culturally sensitive supports for both women and men that might help mitigate domestic violence in the first place (Agnew 1996). Study participants also pointed out that community and extended family members who might traditionally mediate marital conflicts were not present in Canada. Others noted that in their countries of origin it was common for authority figures, including husbands, fathers, and teachers, to mete out discipline through corporal punishment. At the very least this suggests the need for more education about the Canadian legal system, where legitimate use of corporal punishment is interpreted quite narrowly in the context of parental discipline of children. Maintaining the unity of conjugal families was also linked to the future development of the African community in Vancouver. Kalumbi, for example, argued that while the stresses of migration made families particularly vulnerable to spli ing apart, successful adaptation depended on strengthening the family ties needed to build community in the local context. He particularly stressed women’s role as nurturers and community builders. In his view, however, cultural transmission to the next generation necessitated only ‘one culture’ in a household. kalumbi: One other thing that keeps a community united is having a family united. So women play a big role in the African community in shaping the families. A lot of families come from Africa, and when they get here, they separate. They fight over money, they fight over children, they fight over this and that. And as soon as you separate, then the community is not there anymore. So when you keep the family together, husband and wife, you bring the children together. You can create your own community as you

166 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver go along. But when you come here, you separate. Man goes and picks up another wife, maybe White. The woman goes and picks up another husband. You are already lost. And you will never belong because you are now having more than two cultures, when you came as one culture. So that is one more thing that I want to add that keeping families united together is one way of trying to create a community that they can feel they will belong. ( Interview 32)

As we discuss further below, it was difficult enough to pass their cultural heritage onto their offspring, without divorce and remarriage making it even harder. The uneven pace of adjustment to new circumstances was a significant threat to many marriages. The majority of women quickly adopted new gendered expectations in a context where they had more autonomy and more access to resources, yet were overburdened with domestic tasks. Most men were slower to change and o en resisted giving up authority and masculine privileges. Renegotiating gender roles in Canada clearly implied shi ing power within the family in ways that advantaged women. Some participants argued that easing this transition meant finding ways to help men understand that new models of masculinity and femininity were a means to keep families together. In Silata’s experience, for example, family counselling could help to convince husbands that such changes were necessary. silata: I find women adjust more quickly. Now when you have adjusted and your man has not adjusted, it can have an impact in your marriage. And men would say, ‘You have changed because we have come to Canada.’ You know, he doesn’t see it, that you have adjusted. No, he sees it in a negative way because he is still comparing your marriage in Africa, and yet here is another different situation. And so with me, to be honest with you, it’s kind of like a half-half situation. Because I have gone through some problems whereby we have ended having counselling with my own husband, you know, for about six months. Staying in counselling, in counselling, in counselling. And I guess I could say the counselling helped so much, you know. And I wish maybe that would be the first thing that they could do to Africans, you know, to help the counselling first before any damages can be done . . . Marriages have been destroyed. But the thing is, I know they say that it is because of women – ‘Oh, the woman, African woman, has changed, because she has come to a White man’s land.’ Wow, no, no, that’s not the case. ( Interview F22)

Gender, Families, and Transitions 167

Silata went on to say that informal support by family or community elders to help resolve marital conflict was not available in Vancouver. Local immigrant se lement organizations provided some counselling services for new immigrants, but these organizations were overextended and underfunded. Although private counselling services were available, they were expensive and beyond the means of most new immigrants. Moreover, as Silata pointed out, mainstream marriage counselling was unlikely to be culturally sensitive. What would be more useful, she argued, would be to hire African immigrants to provide a range of services to newer members of the community ( Interview 22). The advantage of counsellors who have similar migration experiences is evident. Such counsellors could help couples understand that their problems in renegotiating gender relations are linked to social structures, institutions, and practices in Vancouver that are different from those in Africa and that the problems are not a product of individual personalities. As such, counselling could help to dispel the unhelpful but widely held view that women are the cause of African family problems in Canada. Some participants were part of women’s groups that served a therapeutic purpose. Kizito identified a Sudanese women’s group to which she belonged that provided collective support and offered advice to women having family difficulties. With the provision of informal support, she argued that women were less likely to call the police for ‘small things,’ and thus the group helped keep families together. As Kizito commented, it was much be er to ‘solve [problems] by ourselves’ than to involve state authorities. kizito: Sometimes we gather and sit down because we have problems with our children here . . . And also we have a lot of problems between husbands and their wives. So a li le bit of – even if they have small thing they call 911. But all these things have stopped since we started to sit together. edith: So have problems stopped? kizito: If we have problems, we be er solve by ourselves first. If we can’t, then we can consider [other help]. But our women, a li le thing with the husband inside there, automatically they call 911. If 911 [police] comes, they are going to separate them. They’ll take away the husband, and the wife will remain. ( Interview F11)

Among other things, Kizito suggested that being able to talk about family problems with a group with the same cultural background and

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experiences of migration could help women distinguish between the small issues that can be resolved without resorting to the authorities and those that required outside intervention. Women’s support groups could also help inform women about legal procedures and other alternatives, which is particularly important for recent arrivals or for those who do not have a fluent command of English (Agnew 1996). Support groups are an important source of information and emotional support. Formal support groups are o en facilitated by immigrant se lement organizations and are invaluable both for building a sense of community and for helping women to negotiate se lement processes in Vancouver (Agnew 1996; Lee 1999a; Ng 1990). We identified a small number of support groups for women,5 but we did not uncover any similar groups for men, even though men could equally benefit from such groups. silata: My husband had to go to another counselling, and we couldn’t get it [at] the same place because they couldn’t accommodate men. So, that’s another issue, you know. Because OK fine, it’s good that they are looking a er women, but especially when it comes to immigrants, and with these different cultures, they have to accommodate both to save the marriage . . . We have to be educated about this culture and how to fit into the culture but at the same time keeping our own culture and identifying ourselves as African and that men should get the help. ( Interview F22)

Although men have generally be er access to se lement services in Canada, including language and employment programs, these services are not aimed at men ( Boyd 1997; Creese and Dowling 2001; Lee 1999a). Programs related to family issues, though few, tended to target women.6 Some participants observed that African women do not face the kinds of disadvantages in Canada that they do in African countries, ‘where females are the most disadvantaged’ ( Bangila, Interview 41). Indeed, several men thought that women needed fewer se lement services because women were doing be er than men were in terms of employment (see chapter 3) and general adaptation. As Solala commented, ‘I think in Canada women have be er chances than men. That is my observation so far’ ( Interview 39). In fact, se lement organizations, though critical for aiding new immigrants and refugees in Vancouver and other large metropolitan centres, do not have the necessary resources to meet many pressing needs of the newcomers, whether they be male or female. Precarious non-profit

Gender, Families, and Transitions 169

groups are contracted by the federal and provincial governments to provide a set of core services including ESL training, employment programs, and orientation or bilingual counselling services (Creese 2006; Lee 1999a). They are underfunded, overworked, staffed largely by poorly paid immigrant women, and tied to a treadmill of constant grant applications for new projects (Creese 2006; Lee 1999a). In this context it is not surprising that few services respond to gendered differences in migration or to immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa who constitute a very small percentage of the immigrants arriving in Greater Vancouver every year (see chapter 1).7 During our study, support services that might have helped to smooth transitions between differently gendered cultures, norms, traditions, and institutional practices were few and far between. This applied equally to support for spouses renegotiating gender relations in the family and to support for parents navigating changing relationships with their children, as we shall see in the remainder of this chapter. Parenting on ShiĞing Terrain Raising children in the context of migration is particularly challenging. We learn to parent from our own parents, our extended family, and the community around us as we absorb lessons in appropriate behaviour among and between group members that vary by gender, age, and life course. Migration to a new context shi s the terrain on which views about appropriate parenting are forged. Expectations about parenting may be harder to implement, with new gaps between parents’ and children’s assumptions and behaviours being mediated through new sets of institutional and cultural norms. Hence African women and men experienced considerable dissonance between their experiences of parenting in Africa and the unexpected problems they encountered in Vancouver. This dissonance was exacerbated by downward class mobility in Canada. Like other well-educated parents, and perhaps more so given their own experiences in the Canadian labour market, research participants put considerable emphasis on higher education for their children. When adjustment to the Canadian school system proved difficult for youngsters and parents, many feared that the next generation of African Canadian youth could be ‘lost.’8 Four key trends fuelled anxieties and challenged parenting practices of African immigrants in Vancouver: (1) the shi from extended family forms to an insular conjugal family; (2) new sets of dangers facing children in Canada; (3) changes in their offspring’s behaviour; and

170 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

(4) unfamiliar institutional norms and practices that demanded different kinds of parenting strategies. Since cultural expectations about how to appropriately mother and father children are gendered, women and men o en responded differently to the forces reshaping parenting in Canada. In their countries of origin the traditional division of labour identified by participants placed most responsibility for child rearing on mothers and extended female kin. Although many men were more involved with child rearing in Vancouver, African women, like other Canadian women, continued to have primary responsibility. The context of migration posed uneven challenges to African parenting practices. Pressures to adjust mothering practices were significant and o en difficult but did not threaten women’s identities as good mothers. In contrast, since being a good father was so closely linked to authority, men were more likely to encounter profound challenges that threatened to undermine their masculine identities. Some parents were physically separated from their children, and this caused considerable stress. Eight participants in this study (six women and two men)9 were separated from their children owing to cumbersome immigration regulations. All but one of these parents had arrived as a refugee claimant,10 though the majority (five) were landed immigrants at the time of the interviews, and two had already been in the country for six years. The refugee process in Canada is extremely slow, and once permanent status has been a ained, it can take several more years, extensive documentation, and considerable expense to bring children to Canada. Parenting under these circumstances was mixed with deep loss, guilt, and in some cases ongoing fear for the safety of offspring. Transnational parenting involved trying to keep in contact as best as they could through telephone calls, email, and le ers, and providing care by sending money and gi s. For those whose offspring were in small villages without ready access to phones or computers, maintaining contact was particularly difficult. Children o en expressed their incomprehension about these forced separations. Not surprisingly, gilt and abandonment figured centrally in these participants’ narratives, especially for mothers. media: That’s my biggest problem actually. That has been even my biggest cost here because I have to keep contact. Because before I came I heard about other people who – children who no longer care about them because of the

Gender, Families, and Transitions 171 separation. And I sort of sense it among my family. So I make it a point to make contact every week. I call them every week, and it is damn expensive for me, but I have to do it otherwise it affects me very much. I was so used to being with my children, and they were so used to being with me. This separation has affected both sides. Yeah, I feel sometimes to the extent of even weeping. I miss them, I really miss them. And when they call me they say, ‘Mummy, we miss you.’ It is very disheartening. That’s the most difficult part of what comes on the status of a refugee. It is very difficult, the time taken to process things is very long, is very long. So it’s like people don’t have hearts . . . I feel bad. I feel like I abandoned them. ( Interview F4)

One mother, Vira, experienced the almost unbearable pain of her daughter’s death while she was still overseas. She was still waiting for approval to bring her other daughter to Canada. Another mother, Masika, reflected on the frustration of dealing with immigration officials who communicated the clear message that the more she pushed for information about her application the longer the process would take: ‘They said, “If you continue calling us on the same issue, then we’ll push your file back.”’ ( Interview F7). Ngalula had been separated from her children for fi een years and only recently reunited with them in Canada. Although she was overjoyed at the reunion, she was also distressed not to recognize one child. ngalula: Since my children came to Canada, my life is changed. I have missed my children for more than fi een years. So, I just saw them about four months ago, a er I spent a lot of money. So I just saw them. Our first Mother’s Day we made for the past fi een years about two weeks’ ago. So it was really emotional. And it was really terrible. Everybody was crying . . . It’s be er for both of us [now] because they missed me for fi een years and I missed them for fi een years. Even when I saw my last boy I did not recognize the boy. In the airport I did not recognize my last boy. When they bring the documents that I should sign for my son, that small boy, I said, ‘No, this is not my son.’ So, when I looked, when they looked [at] the name, they said, ‘Is it not the name?’ So yeah, I saw the name, I said yes. Then I was signing it with doubt. ( Interview F29)

As Media noted, immigration regulations that make reunification with children so complex and time-consuming are ‘heartless,’ seeming to reflect a lack of appreciation for the importance of family to rese lement

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and worsening the trauma already suffered through the refugee process. Forced separation from children and spouses adds to what Wasik (2006) refers to as the ‘continuum of trauma’ that African refugees experience in Canada. Parenting and Conjugal Families One critical difference that African parents encountered in Vancouver was the insular focus on the conjugal family. In this new context, conjugal families can be sites of isolation, particularly for immigrant mothers who are not fluent in English or do not work outside the home (Agnew 1996; Dossa 2004). Isolation can make it extremely difficult to locate avenues of support, whether they be formal programs or informal networks of friends. For the majority of mothers in our study, paid employment resulted in there being limited time available to find support systems. Diverse types of parenting support are required as children grow. Mothers at home with very young children may need venues to meet other mothers in order to share knowledge, and access to childcare in order to get time for self-care or to enable entry into the labour market. Parents of school-age youngsters need support in negotiating the school system and finding a er-school care. And parents of older children and teenagers may require help to avoid the dangers encountered in adolescence and to mediate divergent cultural expectations and institutional norms. For all parents, learning how to navigate the basic institutional structures that shaped their family’s welfare was critical. Mothers are typically responsible for navigating the school system, health care, and social and family services on behalf of their families (Creese, Dyck, and McLaren 2009). At all levels, social supports for new immigrant parents are relatively limited (Lee 1999a), and adjusting to new parenting situations is o en stressful for both women and men. The shi from communal responsibility to individual parents’ responsibility for children had an impact on the way youngsters were socialized and parenting was defined. As Mokoli pointed out, his children were different than they would have been if they had been raised in Uganda because he, like his neighbours, had become a different kind of father. mokoli: My kids would not be who they are now if I was still in Africa. Their relationship with me seems a lot – much different because I have learned

Gender, Families, and Transitions 173 to give in a lot of things to the expectations of the community. Oh, to the way the community expects kids here to be treated. The parent’s role here is different from the parent’s role back at home, and you know, I am no longer concerned about neighbours’ kids, kids from the neighbourhood. Because I now have no – now I cannot do anything about it. mambo: No authority? mokoli: No authority to. And yet at home I would [be] responsible for misbehaviour of kids in the neighbourhood. ( Interview M33)

This sense of community responsibility for parenting all children does not exist in Vancouver, simultaneously weakening the bonds among neighbours, between unrelated adults and children, loosening disciplinary boundaries for youngsters, and eliminating traditional African networks of childhood socialization. This absence of community involvement was blamed for the contentious behaviour observed among offspring, including heightened individualism and greater resistance to discipline. African women routinely commented on how much harder they found parenting in Canada compared to Africa. The combination of paid work, sole responsibility for offspring and domestic work, and the absence of extended family to help made parenting very stressful. lwanzo: As a parent I wished to have help. There were people there [in Africa] to help eight hours a day . . . And when we came [here], my husband was busy at school so I was stuck at home. Everywhere I go I had to go with the children. It was a different experience because back home I could leave the children with someone. But when I came here, nowhere. I had nobody to leave them with so I had to be with them throughout. And they were li le. So that was a lot of stress for me, a lot of stress. ( Interview F10) ongila: Being able to – as a mother, being able to take care of three kids here with nobody you know. With my husband, you know, and try to be a working mother. And try to be like I am going to work, still taking care of my kid. Trying to make sure everything is OK with my husband, you know. Yes, with those few things I think my life has changed. ( Interview F28) kakoto: I have a spouse, I am a mother, I am a mentor, I am everything in my house . . . I didn’t realize I have been on the go, go all the time. Being a mother, a wife, and everything else you are always moving about. ( Interview F12)

Women’s inability to find time for themselves has been shown to compromise their health, particularly for immigrant women who may have

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more limited social networks from which to draw emotional and other support (Dossa 2004). The more isolated conjugal family posed a particular dilemma for single mothers. Childcare must be structured around work schedules and, in many cases, the upgrading of education. Arrangements that could be difficult for two-parent families were more fraught for single parents. Kizito explained how she juggled her own schooling, her job, and caring for her five children by enlisting the help of a neighbour and her oldest son. kizito: I have a neighbour who sleeps with them. And my elder son helps the young ones dress up and pack their lunch, and drop them to school, then prepare for his school. And I go at night [to work] in the evening and come back home at eight o’clock. And I just change my clothes and then I go to school up to two o’clock. I don’t get enough sleep. ( Interview F11)

Kizito was lucky to find a neighbour who was able to sleep with her children overnight. Most likely she paid her neighbour out of the meagre wages she earned as a housekeeper. This was not a discretionary expense, because young children cannot be le alone overnight, and to do so could endanger her offspring and lead to the intervention of social services. No ma er how difficult the negotiation of parenting in Vancouver might be, Kizito considered it all worthwhile: ‘For me I think this change will be for be er in future if my kids get good education.’ ( Interview F11) Most African women and men held low-wage and insecure jobs (see chapter 3), and this affected parenting. Low incomes did not make the obligations to extended kin disappear. Remi ances to relatives abroad were an added financial strain but also a source of pride and of garnering respect for fulfilling the ‘global breadwinner role’ (Stoll and Johnson 2007). Given the need for two incomes in most households, single mothers were not the only ones who found it hard to manage childcare. Indeed, many two-parent households in our study juggled multiple jobs to make ends meet. Hence the intensification of childcare demands in Canada o en coincided with families having less time to devote to their children. adela: In the Congolese community I think we face almost the same difficulties about, for instance, day care. We face the problem about work.

Gender, Families, and Transitions 175 The woman is working, the man is working. The man has two jobs, the woman has two jobs. So you can see the implication in the family. But we don’t even have the time to spend with our children. We don’t have the time to educate them. And now how do they get the education if they don’t get our a ention? So you can see. mambo: They get it from outside? adela: Of course, of course. It will be the Internet, the television, the peers, and then the consequences, you know them. So we should reorganize our policies again and see how, even though people are working, can we help them to have some time with their parents, with their children. And this is a problem about wages. If you don’t have good salary, you tend to take three or four jobs. ( Interview M37)

As Fadela noted, absent parents could not do a good job of raising their children, but Vancouver’s economic realities o en compromised family time. This was a particular dilemma for immigrant parents because they typically aspired to parent more intensively to instil their ‘traditional’ values and expectations that diverged from mainstream Canadian norms. The intensification of child-rearing tasks led many women to put pressure on their husbands to become more active fathers. Although women continued to take on the lion’s share of parenting, as is true in most Canadian households, many men in our study, including some who declined to perform other domestic labour, took on some new childcare duties simply because there was so much more to do within the conjugal family unit. For example, Portais explained how his activities as a father have changed in Canada. portais: Yes, as a parent I found out that here in Canada men take [more] responsibility when it comes to kids than in Africa. Because in Africa we don’t know that men can change a diaper. A man cannot look a er kids while the mother is going to work. And your change, here [it] makes a family unit more. Here it is kind of the most related person in your life is your wife and your kids. mambo: No uncles? portais: No uncles around. But back home you know, even if you want to go anywhere you leave your kids with your uncles or your next-door neighbour. They take care. But here, family unity. When comes to woman and your kids, and responsibility to kids as a father. ( Interview M34)

176 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

This shi to more daily hands-on forms of parenting for many men in our study – looking a er offspring while the wife was at work or when she was busy with other activities – occurred as a result of the intensification of labour in the conjugal family and the shi to a more protective strategy of parenting that developed in response to perceptions of greater dangers in Vancouver. Parenting and New Dangers Many African women and men observed that greater involvement in their children’s daily activities was necessary to protect them from the dangers that inadequately supervised sons and daughters could encounter. kazi: I make more a ention to them [children] now than before, yeah. Because there are many, many things here. There are many TV channels maybe not for children. There are sexual abuses, many sexual abuses. There are drugs. There [are] many things, so I have to pay more a ention to them than before. ( Interview M46)

Taking note of dangers, which were o en highlighted in the local mass media, parents were led to adopt more protective strategies that required them to be constantly aware of their offspring’s whereabouts and to make sure they were appropriately supervised at all times. kalumbi: A change in my life since I arrived here is the way the family relates to each other. And the way we are so protective of the family. We are protective of the children . . . Here you are so protective of your children, when they go to play you have to watch them. They can be kidnapped, they [can] be molested, you know, they can be assaulted. In Africa that is not heard of. It is unheard of. Children are brought up by the community. You know your child is the child of the community. He can go to any community and eat. He can go and play, you are not worried. He will show up at the door at the end of the day. But here a child disappears for five minutes, he is gone. The next minutes you hear on the radio a child was taken or was found dead. So life changes immediately when you get here; you begin to get into things that you are not used to. ( Interview M32)

Although abductions of children by strangers are in fact very rare in Canada, the research participants, like the general public, shared a

Gender, Families, and Transitions 177

heightened awareness of such incidents. These kinds of fears are also fuelled by the isolation of families, where neighbours do not know each other well. In addition to the fears that children might be abducted or assaulted, participants pointed to other more routine dangers that required intensive parental intervention, including the problems posed by unsupervised access to television or the Internet, undue influence from their Canadian peers, and drug and alcohol abuse. vatisi: It’s kind of hard, because being alone it’s more difficult. At home a child can be raised by the village, but here you are on your own. And also the children here, they get influenced by the culture here, by the other young people. It’s hard to get your children, to get them to understand who you are. And you have to focus, you have to know what you want to do. Otherwise you can get lost along the way because of the pressure of the other, of these age mates and what they are doing, what they are wearing, what they have . . . You’ll get lost or you will get into the wrong group. ( Interview F8)

It was commonly believed that without adequate parenting children could easily ‘get lost’ in Vancouver. This fear was expressed both in terms of the potential for adolescent rebellion (through drugs or alcohol, for example) and also in reference to academic accomplishments. Like other well-educated Canadians, the African immigrants put a very high value on educating their offspring and recognized its importance for upward class mobility. Most acknowledged the need for new parenting strategies to ensure that children did well in local schools. Canadian parents are expected to be actively involved in their youngsters’ education, including monitoring and helping them with homework, which is a foreign concept to African parents, and failing to do so runs a greater risk of offspring falling behind their classmates. kalumbi: If you are not careful you can lose your kids immediately if you’re not educated on how the culture here is. Especially if you come with young children and you think that you will treat them the way you were doing in Africa. You are not helping them on homework. You are not being protective of them. You will either lose them academically, socially you will lose them, or they can even be at risk. ( Interview M32)

Mothers, in particular, pointed to another new danger that they were sometimes at a loss to prevent: the racism that their children experienced

178 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

from other youngsters. In stories about their children being unable to find playmates ( Interview F3), being told negative comments about the colour of their skin ( Interview F10), or being viewed as ‘dirty’ ( Interview F12) or ‘too yucky’ to touch ( Interview F1), some mothers recounted the heartbreak of youngsters’ exposure to racism. They adopted strategies that ranged from instructing offspring to avoid situations, to instilling pride in heritage and appearance, to, when necessary, physically fighting back. Hence for reasons that ranged from physical safety to racism, and from peer pressure to academic success, most African immigrant parents adopted new protective parenting strategies that involved close supervision, further intensifying the demands of child rearing. When work schedules could not be juggled to provide the level of supervision desired, it also exacerbated stress and anxiety. Some participants considered the adoption of more active parenting as a positive outcome of migration. ulani: One, the good side here with children and parents. Like I see li le children – your child is just in, maybe five, they have soccer lessons. The father has to go there or the mother, they have to go there. They involve them everything here. You know, you go with them out. Whereas in Africa it’s different. Kids are le by themselves. Maybe you get someone to tend for them. They are le by themselves. If you are to school, it’s only maybe at the end of the year that the parents will come to see what the children are doing. But here it is daily. Every time you are going. The children are going to have soccer or anything – the parents go with them, which is a good thing. Like every time they are. It shows like you are interested in what they are doing. You encourage them, you know. ( Interview F21)

Pressures to become more actively involved in their children’s daily lives also led to new forms of mothering. As Silata explained, for example, she felt it was critical to develop an open style of communication with her son. Open communication ensured that he was not ge ing into any trouble, and it also brought them closer together. silata: I guess with my son, the school work, and there are a lot of activities that they have for children. It makes you also become more close to your child. And know your child even much be er, and be open. And I guess maybe because there are a lot of things that happen here like bullying. And

Gender, Families, and Transitions 179 so you have to really – you have to have a communication with your son. And know every single thing that took place at school so that you know that he is not on drugs, that he has not started drinking behind your back, and that he is not being bullied just because other children will love to bully. Or that [he] is not being discriminated as an African too. So it is a lot, you know ( Interview F22)

Silata was not alone in adopting a style of mothering based on open communication as part of more protective parenting. Changes in children’s behaviour also pushed parents to adopt new strategies of communication when simply telling youngsters what to do fell on deaf ears. Authority Most African immigrants in this study were critical of offspring’s behaviour that was considered inappropriate and disrespectful in their countries of origin. Criticisms were aimed largely at lack of respect for elders; too much independence, individual expression, and autonomy; and general resistance to parental authority. For many participants this could be summed up as children disregarding African traditions and adopting the least desirable elements of Canadian culture. Youngsters are much more influenced by the local culture than are those who migrate as adults. North American popular culture, including African American rap music and hip hop ( Ibrahim 1999; Arthur 2000), socialization through the Canadian school system, and the influence of peers and ‘pressures to be cool’ (Matsuoka and Sorenson 2001), were overwhelming influences that shaped a itudes and behaviours of African Canadian children and produced significant clashes with parents. Respecting elders was identified as a core feature of African cultures and as essential to proper child rearing. Respect should be shown through deference to those who are older or in positions of authority. Many participants complained that African youth in Canada ‘throw away the value of respect’ ( Interview F30). Like other Canadian children, African offspring address adults by their first name, assert their own opinions, talk back to adults, and generally expect to be treated as equal to adults. be anie: You know, the children don’t respect the elders . . . Their child can mention your name, like ‘Befanie,’ or you know. And you say, ‘Don’t do

180 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver that.’ He say, ‘No, that is what I want.’ And you can’t do anything because they will say, ‘I have my rights’ . . . You know, I still – if I go back home, I still polish my dad’s shoes, wash my dad’s dishes, you know. Keep all the respect to him, right. That is how I grew up, right, with the respect. And I would sit down and see my dad cu ing the grass, right; I have to take care of it. You know, and then do it. But over here I see many kids walking by; their parents are cu ing the grass, you know. They don’t give the respect. ( Interview M56)

Less emphasis on respect and deference to elders is tied to youngsters’ having much more personal freedom and encouragement to express individuality, independence, and critical thinking. As a result, parenting in Canada typically involves ongoing struggles over children talking back to adults rather than listening, and seeking to do as they please rather than conforming to adult expectations. These trends are reinforced through the popularity of African American rap music and hip hop, which revel in tropes that are hyper masculine and anti-establishment but are o en the only positive images that African Canadian youth encounter amid negative stereotypes about Black people in North America ( Ibrahim 1999). These trends run counter to African notions of proper discipline; a properly disciplined child should not talk back to his or her parents or act contrary to a parent’s wishes. bizima: It has been so hard for me to cope with these kids here. I find them too fast for me, unlike back home. Yeah, it’s like they have so much freedom of speech, yeah, so they can just, you know, tell you what their piece of mind is, as compared to back home, you know . . . Back home, kids are kids. Just have to tell them what to do. But here you find kids arguing about what you have told them. I don’t really like that. ( Interview F5)

Many men found it especially difficult to change their expectations about appropriate parenting because challenges to their authority were experienced as yet another blow to their masculinity. Downward class mobility precipitated loss of male authority and social esteem at work, the redrawing of the gendered division of labour challenged the husband’s power at home, and the undermining of the father’s control over his offspring further threatened the male authority. Hence many men stressed the need to retain African traditions, and in particular respect for authority, as the only effective strategy of child rearing. Comments by Fadela, Bangila, and Twagira emphasize problems with prevalent

Gender, Families, and Transitions 181

discourses of individual rights in Canada, and the importance of regaining the father’s authority to ensure the proper rearing of offspring. adela: In Africa we have the authority of the parents. The parents have the rights to educate the children, of course in a good way. But here the parents don’t have the total dominion, total rights on the children. The children have also their own rights. So there is a kind of conflict between the authority of the parents and the children. ( Interview M37) bangila: What I don’t like about families here is the fact that parents have been stripped of their rights, to right their kids. So taking those rights. And the shi is going from the parents to the kids. Now you have all these kids who have the freedom to do bad things and not the freedom to do good things for their parents. ( Interview M41) twagira: As Africans, when you are a father in the family, you are like a big boss. You are having your way to say – when you say something in your family, everyone from Mom, from kids, they understand Dad has said this. But here it is not the case. Here, the kids when they grow up around eighteen or sixteen, they do have their rights to say something, when you can say what you want to say, and the kid just want to say. If he agrees, yes, if you are lucky, ‘I agree.’ If, you know, if you are not like, he will say, ‘You know, Dad, you are not allowed to say that because the law here is allowing me to do this, to do that.’ You know, that is the big difference, because in Africa we are the chief of the family. Here mom and kids, they are the chief. ( Interview M55)

Examples of challenges to parental authority were central to men’s narratives, and only a few went on to identify different strategies to mediate cultural and generational clashes that required adopting new models of masculinity. Women were not so constrained and could adopt new parenting strategies without undermining cultural notions of femininity and proper mothering. Several women discussed the changing parenting styles that they had begun to adopt as part of their primary responsibility for child rearing. Many women identified new styles of parenting that worked be er in Canada’s more permissive culture. Some also focused on the need for support services to help educate African immigrants about the challenges they would face as parents, and identify strategies for coping. These were all reflections on the need to mother in ways appropriate for the Canadian context. For example, Bara identified learning new styles of parenting in Vancouver as a ‘productive challenge.’

182 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver bara: You said also about being a parent, that one has been a challenge. Yet a very productive, learning challenge. At first, my parenting skills were challenged. I remember when I came here, my kids were already teenagers, the older one, of course, almost past teenage years. So she was developing her unique life, and now this challenged the mentality of a woman like me who grew up in a culture that says, ‘We do as we are expected’ . . . It just helped me to reflect on myself and see what I needed to change. And as I said earlier, I really had to pray and cry out a lot until those areas were changed in me, because some of them are so embedded within us that we don’t want to change. But I had to consider the values. I had to consider what was right, not according to maybe this is what the culture dictates but what I knew was right and would help my children. And I had to change along that line. And I had to be realistic, first with myself, so that I don’t just impose and pretend. ( Interview F30)

As Bara made clear, this process of rethinking, however difficult, made her a be er parent in the local Canadian context. She also had to reconsider some of the gendered aspects of her parenting strategies, particularly notions of appropriate behaviour for daughters and sons. Bara’s a empts to place greater constraints on her daughter’s behaviour were sorely tested. As Okeke-Ihejirika and Spitzer (2005) argue in their study of young African women in Edmonton, there is an ongoing struggle to find ‘a definition of a good girl’ that satisfies both parents and daughters (216). Just as wives put pressure on husbands to renegotiate gender relations, so too did daughters put additional pressure on their parents for a freedom of movement that was closer to that accorded their brothers (Handa 2003).11 Tensions between rearing children in a way that maintained cultural traditions, and preparing youngsters to live in the society in which they were growing up, provoked conflict among husbands and wives and between parents and children. Parental focus on education, in particular, had contradictory implications for instilling African cultural values at home (Okeke-Ihejirika and Spitzer 2005). Children were routinely exposed to different sets of cultural expectations about the relations between children and adults in their interactions in schools and friendships with peers. Notions of deference to adults gave way to emphasis on autonomy, self-expression, and ‘rights’ for children. Women criticized these trends in Canada as much as men did. However, as Silata explained, it was not necessary to approve of the way Canadian children behaved to recognize that her offspring needed to be reared to fit

Gender, Families, and Transitions 183

into Canadian society. She acknowledged that she needed support to learn how to do that, and she pursued parenting classes to learn ‘how am I going to raise him in this Canadian life,’ classes that her husband refused to a end with her. silata: You know, that’s my most fear part when it comes to African families because life is different and then we don’t know what to do, and how to. So I just wish they could do something and educate us before we enter into this Canadian life. And even the cultures, because they are different. Because – you see now why I was telling you I am going for parenting classes. Because this is my first son and my first time to be a mother. It’s my first time to be a mother. But you see my husband doesn’t understand why he has to go for the parenting classes. He doesn’t care. So I initiated it and said, ‘OK, I am going to go myself, for my son. I want to know how am I going to raise him in this Canadian life.’ I don’t want to change my culture, but at the same time there are things here in Canada that I have to fit in along with raising my son. ( Interview F22)

Silata went on to argue that African parents who could not adjust their parenting styles to fit the local context risked the possibility of losing their children. Unlike many men, she did not identify learning to parent differently as a threat to her identity as a good African parent; instead, she argued that adopting more effective strategies to address Canadian realities also provided the basis to teach offspring to be proud of their African heritage. silata: I always tell my husband that the future of this child is this present time which is happening now. If we lose it this time, we’ve lost him. But if you teach the child the truth and the right way, at this right point at this age, even if they start losing it, they will always come back to the truth because they know their identity. They know where they are coming from, they’ll always come back. I just wish they could help us there, because we get lost and don’t know how to raise our own children here. Then it affects us, our family and future for our children. We end up just raising up drug addicts or drunkards instead of raising lawyers and doctors to help Africans, you know, and bring up the identity of Africans because we know Africans are hard workers. ( Interview F22)

Silata advocated for support services to help African families develop strategies that would assist their children in negotiating the pitfalls of

184 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

adolescence in Canada. In this view, adopting new styles of parenting is not an abrogation of African traditions; it is a recognition of the different conditions in which they now live. Hence, along with many other women, her goal was to simultaneously instil in her children a strong sense of African identity while raising productive Canadian citizens. Children’s Rights Different institutional norms and practices in Canada shaped changes in children’s behaviour and pressured parents to modify child-rearing practices. Youngsters learned the official and hidden curricula in public schools that provided the necessary cultural capital to successfully negotiate their environment and at the same time reinforced Eurocentrism and mainstream Canadian values about individualism, personal freedom, equality, and self expression (Henry, Tator, Ma is, and Rees 1995). From engagement with their peers, as well as from popular culture, they also learned different models of interaction between children and adults, models that stressed equality and individualism more than values of respect and deference. These sets of cultural norms permeate Canadian public schools and youth culture and are reinforced by other social institutions such as social services and family and criminal law, together producing a dominant discourse of rights and protections that police families. Parents and offspring encountered this rights discourse in different ways, and it became a focal point of tension in African immigrant families. A central part of the rights discourse taught in Vancouver public schools involves the rights of children vis-à-vis their parents. From a very early age schoolchildren are taught to dial the emergency code 911 if they are in any danger, including threat of physical assault by a parent. In interviews with participants it became clear that in some families the threat to dial 911 was a frequent bargaining ploy used by children to undercut parental authority in general, not only in contexts of physical violence. This threat combined with a fear of coercive state scrutiny of African immigrant families and produced a common assertion that it was almost impossible to discipline children in Canada. fulani: Because when they reach a certain stage, you can’t control them. The moment you try to discipline them, they will call 911. I have seen it.

Gender, Families, and Transitions 185 So I have realized. I have learnt like too much of anything is bad. ( Interview F21) furaha: That is why, when you say, ‘Study, and you have to go to bed early because you have to go to school tomorrow,’ and they want to play Internet, and then they say, ‘If you say that, I will call you 911.’ Yeah, that is really different with us over there. ( Interview M44) kasunga: I don’t hit my kids, you know. I would rather talk to them and then see how you can find a different method of dealing with the problem other than yelling and hi ing them. mambo: It is a big change? kasunga: Yes, it is a very big one because right away they call it abuse here. But back home it is a way of discipline. ( Interview M38)

Corporal punishment was a topic much reflected upon by African immigrants in this study. Those who did not believe in spanking as a form of discipline were still afraid of false accusations of abuse. Others, like Kasunga, were troubled by the failure to recognize that corporal punishment was commonplace in many countries in Africa and elsewhere and did not necessarily constitute abuse. Puplampu and Te ey (2005) argue that African societies are as concerned with the protection of children as are other societies but have different mechanisms to do so; hence they ‘caution against universalizing what constitutes abuse based on subjective predispositions and values’ (39). Although many participants thought otherwise, spanking children is not illegal in Canada, as a recent Supreme Court ruling has made clear, and many Canadian parents of diverse backgrounds do at times discipline offspring in this way. Nevertheless, the line between acceptable and unacceptable corporal punishment may not be clear.12 Participants seemed to believe, or perhaps their children encouraged them to believe, that any form of spanking could result in intervention by police or social services. A few people knew a friend or relative who had lost custody of a child owing to allegations of physical abuse, and these stories served as general warnings within the community. kivete: You cannot discipline your child. You discipline your child here, you enter into big trouble. ( Interview 50) solola: Yes, it splits families, their policies. The fact that, OK, children are taught that, you know, a parent must never, OK – mambo: Spank?

186 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver solola: Spank, you know, spank. I believe you know some form of spanking is required because you can see the behaviour of school-going children. On behaviour I will say, no, the culture I grew up in is very different from what I have noticed here. In name of freedom I think we destroy, you know, a itudes. You know, we destroy a itudes in children so that – that is why you find a lot of – you know, a lot of young people dropping out of school, taking into drugs. ( Interview M39)

Many research participants expressed fear that the state could intervene in conflicts over what they deemed to be appropriate discipline. Parents with weak English-language skills were particularly at risk. Research in Toronto suggests that police and social services are less likely to listen to parents who have difficulty communicating (Matsuoka and Sorenson 2001, 137). This fear of state intervention shi ed the power balance between children and parents and lessened the la er’s control within the family. The dilemma, as Solola observed, was between too much discipline, which could lead to state intervention, and not enough discipline, which could put children at risk of dropping out of school or turning to drugs. At the same time, some parents argued that learning to use forms of discipline that did not involve corporal punishment was a positive outcome of migration. ntombi: Here, they say, ‘Go to your room.’ Back home, maybe they will do something else, yeah. So when they know that when they do something bad they have to go to their room, they look, they go straight there. They know they have done something bad. So it’s like be er because they know when they do something bad. ( Interview F3)

However, many participants, particularly men, identified the rights discourse as interfering with their ability to raise their children in an appropriate African way. Furaha, for example, argued that schools teaching a rights discourse compromised his ability to pass on his own culture. In his view, the implications of a rights discourse are that Western values of individualism and autonomy are superior to African values. furaha: The Canadians and the teachers, they are trying to teach our children the way they want. But it is not like that. It really affects our African culture because you can see when the children come home. They come with some paper, some notes, they say 911. A lot of things, and then when you ask them, ‘What is that, what does 911 mean?’ they will tell you, ‘If you are

Gender, Families, and Transitions 187 going to do this to me, you are telling me this, I will call that number.’ And you can see nobody is [ listening] to the parents . . . I don’t like it and can give me a final decision to leave the country for that way because I don’t like it. ( Interview M44)

Although Furaha’s response was unusual, he was so upset about what he saw as a clash of cultural values embedded in a rights discourse in the schools that he was considering returning to Sudan to raise his children. What was more common, however, was that parents lamented their lack of authority and their children’s lack of respect and did the best they could to cope with li le support. For many fathers, offspring’s challenges to their authority generated considerable anxiety about their very competence as fathers and as men. Parenting and Gendered Identities Stresses were placed on parenting practices for both women and men as their children faced new challenges in the local context and adopted behaviours more in line with those of their Canadian peers. Parents struggled to maintain lines of communication, parental guidance, and authority. Drawing on their knowledge of the parenting appropriate in their countries of origin, African immigrant families were under pressure to adjust to different expectations and institutional practices in the Canadian context. As with shi ing gender relations generally, in many cases women seemed more willing or able to adapt by embracing new parenting strategies. This may be because, although new situations pressured women to adjust, these changes did not fundamentally threaten their cultural ideas of good mothering. Women could combine new mothering styles as they provided emotional support and caregiving and transmi ed values and pride in African heritage. For many men, however, being a father was so closely linked to authority and respect that the changes demanded in the Canadian context were more likely to pose significant threats to their ideas about masculinity. Most men had already lost authority in other spheres, with downward class mobility in the workplace, unrecognized educational accomplishment, general marginalization in civil society, and new challenges to share power with their wives. The loss of authority over their children provided an additional blow to masculine identities. Gendered differences in parenting were also evident in participants’ reflections on the ways in which these differences were linked to their

188 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

children’s identity and belonging in Vancouver, a topic that several women and only one man raised in interviews. Women reflected on the connections between parenting and belonging in two different ways. On the one hand, it was through parenting their children that some women came to develop their own sense of belonging in Vancouver. As Bizima commented, she anticipated considerable difference between how she was treated and how her children would fare. If her offspring felt accepted, Bizima was more likely to feel that she too belonged. edith: Do you think you belong to Canada? bizima: Ah, partly yes because of my children . . . Hopefully, when the kids grow, they will be treated as Canadians. But as for me, it’s not the same. I don’t know if I will be fairly treated. ( Interview F5)

For many immigrants the true litmus test for whether or not moving to Canada had been beneficial was tied to how their offspring fared. This theme of accepting personal hardship for the sake of their children was expressed by other mothers as well. Nzanzu concluded that she did not regret her own substantial downward mobility in Canada because ‘I le for my children.’ Instead, she said, ‘I think it is a blessing for me . . . Because I can do anything for the children and they make me proud’ ( Interview F13). Some mothers also noted that the dislocation in their own lives was a small price to pay for a be er future for their offspring. kalumbo: It is good for the kids. But for me, it is not, it is not good because all my family stay in Africa . . . It’s be er for them because here they can go to school. They can play, they can go to movie, but they don’t thinking what they can eat today. It’s not a problem. ( Interview F24)

This theme of sacrifice is common in many immigrant women’s and men’s narratives, with children’s opportunities being the touchstone for the be er future they envision as a family, underlining the point that migration is a family, rather than an individual, strategy (Creese, Dyck, and McLaren 2008). The second dimension of parenting and identity was linked to helping their children negotiate multiple levels of identity as African, as Black, as Canadian, and as African Canadian. For some mothers this theme surfaced through the importance of instilling an African identity in the Canadian context.

Gender, Families, and Transitions 189 silata: Our own children. They don’t have to get lost in this culture. They need to know their identity. It is just like I have seen, there is White Canadians married to Black people. Oh, my goodness, they are looking for that, you know. To help their children identify themselves and have that love to be proud to be Black. ( Interview F22) kavuo: I find for me, the big change is that I am more willing to fight for my – the things I believe in, because I have kids who – I want them to grow up knowing who they are. And they are also knowing that they are Africans, and not forge ing that. You know, having been born here and raised here, and being, to be here, it doesn’t mean that they forget where they are from. And it seems bigger now, that encouraging anything that is African than I was [doing] before. ( Interview F23)

Reinforcing an African identity was connected to emphasizing particular values and traditions such as respect for authority, which was the object of so much tension. neila: I chose [migration] for be er with my family, but I think it’s changed for be er. And my kids didn’t give me too much problem here like drug problem, go out, like that. I am lucky this way. I give them education, African, they keep African. It’s not like when kids can tell me, ‘Mom, look, I don’t care about you. Shut up.’ Like that, no, no, no. To my family, they are still African. I am raising them to African way. ( Interview F17)

Helping their children negotiate identities was also connected to instilling self-esteem, including, as Silata noted above, having ‘that love to be proud to be Black.’ It was this element of identity, the pride in being Black in the context of racism and White privilege in Vancouver, that led some mothers to despair about the hopelessness exhibited by some African Canadian youngsters. bara: This really affects a lot of young people because of my heart as a teacher. I always look at African young people just about wherever I go. You can see from their faces that they needed upli ing. And you can tell when you get somebody on low, that they have been really put down in many ways, but they have no hope, they are hopeless. You try to look into their eyes, they don’t even look at you. Not in the sense of what we understand about looking into an adult’s eye. For them it’s just different: ‘Don’t look at me, I just don’t know who I am.’ ( Interview F30)

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Bara observed that a strong African identity and pride, which could only be transmi ed by parents and the African community as a whole, was essential for self-esteem. Without strong self-esteem the next generation could lose its way. Laziati encouraged African adults to reorient themselves to Canada for the sake of their offspring: to ‘leave behind the politics in Africa’ and concentrate on their children here and now, ‘remembering that our children will grow up here, and we need to pave the way for them, for opportunities for them for their future’ ( Interview F6). At the same time some participants observed that immigrant children, unlike their parents, already had a less ambiguous sense of being Canadian. As Nzanzu noted, children quickly came to assert that ‘I am Canadian’ and made different sorts of claims on the society ( Interview F13). Gaturu, who worked as an educational consultant, argued that the identity of African youth could best be captured as hyphenated ‘African Canadian.’ gaturu: We have to also take into consideration of values here as Canadians of African descent, right? Because we are raising children who are Canadians, your child is Canadian. mambo: Raise them as Canadians? gaturu: Yeah, your child is Canadian Congolese, he speaks French. He speak English. He speaks maybe Lingala / Swahili. But when he steps out of the house, he is Canadian. His mentality is, you know, and his friends . . . There is an African identity among the Africans. But I think it’s sort of a twoprong identity. There is an identity. I talk with a lot of African youth who insist that they are not Africans, they are African Canadian, right? Because they want to make sure that, you know, ‘I belong here. I speak like these people. I grew up here. I was born here. I am an African but I am an African-Canadian.’ ( Interview M40)

This was not an identity embraced by their parents, few of whom identified as Canadian, hyphenated or otherwise (see chapter 6). Children negotiate multiple identities differently than do adult migrants from Africa, and these differences infuse shi ing parenting strategies and tensions involved in child rearing. Raised in countries in sub-Saharan Africa where they learned about appropriate gender relations and family forms, research participants encountered different institutional practices, cultural expectations, and material realities that challenged expectations about what family life should look like in Vancouver. Most participants had a mixed response

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to these changes, appreciating some elements, accepting some, and regre ing or resisting many more. On the whole, however, women were more likely than men to experience greater autonomy along with the additional stresses of shi ing gendered and family relations, while many men found that both wives and children challenged male authority in Canada. Largely, transformations in models of femininity did not threaten most African women’s sense of competency as wives and mothers in the way that challenges to the authority of husbands and fathers undermined most African men’s sense of masculinity. While many African men in this study developed more active parenting strategies, only a handful forged new models of masculinity that were complementary to most women’s redefinitions of marriage as an equal partnership with equal parenting, in order to raise children who fit into Canadian life. Most African men struggled to hold onto the masculine privileges they had previously enjoyed as husbands and fathers, all the more so since their authority had already been undermined in other spheres. Charting the renegotiation of gender relations and the mediation between different expectations about parenting also highlights the multiple ways in which African family forms in Vancouver are indeed fluid, flexible, and heterogeneous, in spite of how the research participants characterized a static model of the African family. These fluid and flexible family dynamics demonstrate the resilience of African immigrants and constitute important resources through which ongoing challenges are negotiated as part of long-term processes of se lement and African community formation in Vancouver.

6 Identity and Spaces of Belonging

One foot is here, one foot is there, and question o en comes, where is home? – Gaturu ( Interview M40)

In a famous passage in Black Skin, White Masks, Franz Fanon explains how he ‘discovered’ his Blackness and all its associated meanings infused through centuries of colonialism in his Algerian homeland, through the exclamation of a small, frightened, White child, ‘Look, a Negro!’ ‘I was responsible at the same time for my body, for my race, for my ancestors. I discovered my blackness, my ethnic characteristics; and I was ba ered down by tom-toms, cannibalism, intellectual deficiency, fetishism, racial defects, slave-ships, and above all else, above all: “Sho’ good eatin.”’ (Fanon 2000, 259)

Until that moment, Fanon’s subjectivity was constituted in many different ways, but none of them was ‘Black’; a erward, redefined through the imaginary of the colonizer, he understood that Blackness overdetermined everything else about him in Algeria and in France where he was studying. Immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa experience similar dislocations and redefinitions of subjectivity as part of processes of migration to Canada. As Ibrahim points out, in his transition from Sudan to Canada he had to retranslate himself: ‘As a continental African, I was not considered Black in Africa; other terms served to patch together my identity,

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such as tall, Sudanese, and basketball player. However, as a refugee in North America, my perception of self was altered in direct response to the social processes of racism and the historical representation of Blackness whereby the antecedent signifiers became secondary to my Blackness, and I retranslated myself: I became Black’ (italics in original; Ibrahim 1999, 354). This process of ‘becoming Black’ has been a focus of research with African immigrant youth in Canada, particularly the ways in which ‘becoming Black’ and ‘acting Black’ are mediated through African American youth culture such as music videos, rap, hip hop, films, styles of dress, and discourses including ‘Black-stylized English’ ( Ibrahim 1999; Kelly 1998, 2004). African immigrant adults are far less susceptible to the influences of youth culture and, in general, deplore such trends among their offspring. What both adults and youngsters have in common, however, is that they enter a social imaginary where they ‘are already constructed, imagined, and positioned’ through hegemonic discourses of Blackness and practices of White privilege ( Ibrahim 1999, 353). Women and men in most parts of Africa ‘had li le need to explore the larger African identity and never knew they were Black’ before coming to Canada (Okeke-Ihejirika and Spitzer 2005, 221). As Stuart Hall (2000) observes in his discussion of ‘becoming Black’ in Britain (in contrast to growing up with the ‘many shades of brown’ in Jamaica), Blackness is a political category. In the context of migration to Canada, not only do new subjectivities of ‘Blackness’ and ‘Africanness’ form, but they form in relation to the contested diaspora space of ‘Canadianness.’ Shi ing subjectivities and community formation are shaped by the size and diversity of the new African diaspora in Vancouver. Research in Toronto, where the majority of the African diaspora in Canada lives, finds that ethnic and national identities and community building figure centrally in migration narratives (Chioneso 2008; Donkor 2005; Manuh 2003; Matsuoka and Sorenson 2001; Mianda 2004; Owusu 2000; Te ey and Puplampu 2005b). This is much less the case in Greater Vancouver, where the new African diaspora is ethnically and nationally diverse and very small, only constituting about 1% of the population. For the most part, the emerging community is self-defined as the ‘African community,’ consisting of diverse Black immigrants from various parts of sub-Saharan Africa and their Canadian-born children. Thus a broader African subjectivity has developed that is layered through pre-existing national and ethnic identities. On the one hand, this is an inclusive form of diasporic African identity and community formation that is taking

194 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

shape and gesturing to a longer history of pan-African movements. On the other hand, it is clearly exclusive. It does not include migrants from Africa with European or Asian lineage. Nor does it include Black immigrants who originate from other parts of the world, or the larger, Canadian-born diaspora, which does not figure centrally, if at all, in narratives or practices of community building. Racialization and Identity The emergence of a diasporic pan-African identity in Greater Vancouver is linked to small numbers and to local processes of racialization, marginalization, and community building. Owing to the presence of few members of any particular ethnic or national group, there is only limited efficacy of the township, ethnic, or national organizing that is found among larger communities, such as Ghanaians in Toronto (Owusu 2000). Some organizing around nations of origin occurs in Vancouver, but common experiences also encourage identification with other people from sub-Saharan Africa. Endless queries of ‘Where do you come from?’ initiate near-daily positioning around origins and remind African immigrants about who is and who is not perceived to belong in this space. As Puplampu and Te ey (2005) point out, it is the frequency and persistence of such queries that reinforce status as ‘perpetual outsiders and eternal immigrants’ (41). Research participants developed narratives and shi ing subjectivities to explain themselves and their presence in Vancouver. The most common response to ‘Where do you come from?’ was to identify through a continental-African discourse. Many women and men explained that this continental discourse was the primary way of placing themselves within Canada, and identifying with their home countries became somewhat secondary. angara: You see an African lady. You don’t see Nigerian. That’s when you see me, you see an African. ( Interview F9) lwanzo: I just tell them I am from Africa. If they get interested and ask me where in Africa . . . Otherwise, because when I tell people I am from Malawi, they have never heard of it . . . So it’s easier for me, I just tell them, I am from Africa. ( Interview F10) neila: I speak of African because I am African . . . I am from Africa. When they see me, I am from Africa. And they ask me, ‘What part of Africa are you from?’ I come from Congo, but first of all is Africa. ( Interview F17)

Identity and Spaces of Belonging 195 amara: Here, I cannot bring my nationality in the first place. No, I am African. It’s enough for me, yeah. ( Interview F19) fulani: As long as we are Africans we are one. We are – you know, we are recognized as African community, so not Ugandan community necessarily. So I feel like I belong to the African community. ( Interview F21)

The focus on continental origins provided a frame of reference that was more likely to make sense to other Canadians. Widespread ignorance about Africa and its diversity is routinely mixed with generally pejorative assumptions and images of crisis and despair. As Bizima observed, ‘it’s like they have this, you know, bad thing about Africans, you know. Africa being a dark continent, you know. It’s like there’s no life there’ ( Interview F5). Processes of racialization also involve homogenization of diverse ethnic and national origins into a single, undifferentiated category. Hence, as Sangara put it, her location in the space of Vancouver is as ‘an African lady,’ not someone from Nigeria. Other participants noted the ways in which Blackness specifically figured in new subjectivities as African. For example, Kalumbo stated simply, ‘I am Black. I am coming from Africa . . . I like to call me African, not Congolese’ ( Interview F24). Similarly, Silata explained that her Black skin was a central point of identity, and in the local context Blackness configured a continental discourse. silata: So just this Black skin, I am very proud of it, you know. Identifying myself with this Black skin, and also identifying myself with my own mother language . . . So it’s like it really makes me feel, oh yes, this is good to be an African. Not even identifying myself with, say, in Zimbabwe, [with] African. ( Interview F22)

The local regime of racialization and the specifics of place in Vancouver worked to transform subjectivities through Africanness and Blackness. Participants simultaneously learned to be Black and African, building community with those who shared such commonalities. African women and men entered into a social imaginary of White dominance, privilege, and racialized discourses of Blackness that were steeped in centuries of colonial history ( Ibrahim 1999). Marginalization in the labour market and civil society (see chapters 2, 3, and 4), and shared cultural values that provided links across the diverse African continent (see chapter 5), drew African immigrants together in forging a common identity in Vancouver.

196 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

For some, like Kivete, the most central element in reshaping his identity was the way in which dominant groups perceived and treated him and other migrants from countries in Africa. He argued that his African identity in Vancouver was ‘mainly through race.’ ivete: I think they take us as Africans. We are all – the White man sees us as Africans. We are all the same, we are just Africans. You are a Black man, you are a Black man. mambo: So the identity here is mainly through the race, the colour of our skin? kivete: Yes. ( Interview M50)

At the same time, processes of racialization that produce externally imposed assumptions of homogenization are not enough to remould subjectivities. Most participants also claimed similarities of values, traditions, and ways of life that span the African continent and provide a basis for collective bonding. These common values and traditions transcend notions of Blackness and do not provide the same basis for connecting with Black men and women whose roots are in the Caribbean, North America, or elsewhere. laziati: I identify myself as an African. edith: OK, tell me, why not your country of origin? laziati: Well, because when you come here, it doesn’t ma er where you come from, you know, they just lump you in one thing. And, of course, I am not going about what people dictate to me. But for me, as an African, I have always felt more of a bond than other Africans, fellow Africans. So for me, I am an African first before my own country. ( Interview F6)

Thus shi ing identities in Vancouver are a complex and multilayered negotiation of learning to be Black and African in new ways. Adopting a continental-African identity was also a political strategy, one aimed at forging a more unified African community in the space of Vancouver. And although it was a common strategy amongst participants in this research, it was not without criticism. Diasporic African identities hasten processes of homogenization in Canada and gloss over real differences connected to national and ethnic origins, diverse languages, and religious backgrounds, as well as histories of conflict that persist between different groups. Some critics pointed out the obvious: Africa is not a country, and to suggest that it is both reproduces the ignorance of other Canadians and strips migrants of meaningful connections to their communities of origin. Kavuo found these concerns

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important enough that she shi ed her self-identity from African back to Kenyan. kavuo: I used to identify myself as African, like when I was going to school, in university in Ontario. I was asked, ‘Where are you from?’ ‘I am from Africa.’ And I met a lady from Sierra Leone; it is a friend who was a fourth year when I was starting. She told me, ‘Don’t say you are from Africa, because Africa is not one country.’ When you say that, and that is the truth, when you say, ‘Africa,’ it’s all seen as one place. But Africa, it’s north is different from south, the east is different from west, you know, everywhere is different. So I stopped saying I am from Africa. So I started saying I am from Kenya. ( Interview F23)

For some others, the cleavages among different peoples from Africa loomed too large to conceive of themselves in broader diasporic terms. However, few participants in this research framed their identity primarily through their country of origin. Most who did had lived in other parts of Canada, particularly in Ontario (like Kavuo), where large communities from several African countries and the Caribbean exist alongside a much larger African Canadian population with distinct histories and local politics of Blackness. Continental-African subjectivities were embedded in diverse practices and projects of community building that forged interconnections across the new African diaspora, and participants identified many activities that could facilitate even closer relationships among Africans. As will be discussed more in chapter 7, these included calls for an African soccer league ( Interview M53), an African music society ( Interview M58), an African community organization and cultural centre ( Interviews M37 and M59), a federation of national organizations ( Interview M59), and more stores and restaurants selling African products and foods. Forging points of contact and interconnections in daily life are especially important, as in the case of Vancouver, when no geographic centre to residential pa erns has emerged among the local African diaspora. Participants in this research were particularly concerned with children and the need to forge community links to reinforce local African identity. As we saw in chapter 5, many participants worried that the younger generation was at risk of losing its identity through lack of knowledge about Africa, failure to adhere to African values, and mimicry of African American youth culture. For example, Fadela promoted the creation of an African cultural centre as a critical venue to teach youth the ‘four big African values’ of respect for the authority

198 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

of elders, respect for the authority of fathers and husbands, communal solidarity, and the sacredness of life ( Interview M37). Other fathers, such as Gaturu and Bangila, identified the development of a visible African community as an explicit counterpoint to the negative influences of African American popular culture, such as sports figures and hip hop. The values modelled by the la er, and emulated by many young African Canadians who saw few other Black role models, were in sharp contrast with the ideals that Fadela identified as African. Adopting a continental African identity was not only political; it was also situational. Some women and men talked about how their identities shi ed depending on who they were talking to and where the discussion took place. The ubiquitous ‘Where do you come from?’ could mean different things when queried by different people, and so too could the range of answers one might give. mbula: If I see a Black person and the person asks me, ‘Where do you come from?’ I will tell the person, ‘I am from Ghana.’ But if I see a White person and the person says, ‘Oh, where do you come from originally?’ I tell the person, ‘I am from Africa.’ ( Interview F16)

Participants expected a greater knowledge of the diversity within African countries when speaking with other people racialized as Black. In such contexts African immigrants were less likely to contend with the general ignorance about and the prejudices towards Africa that are commonly displayed in Canada. Of course, greater knowledge could not always be assumed on the basis of skin colour. As several people pointed out, many Canadian-born Black women and men could be just as ignorant about Africa as other Canadians were. Indeed, this was o en a complaint made about their own children. Situational identities were also linked to different times and places, different spaces where diverse facets of multiply constituted identities came to the fore. kakoto: I see myself as, of course, I am an African. That’s natural. I am a woman. I am a Christian. I am a Ugandan. My husband is Kenyan. I am Canadian. Sometimes I feel more African, sometimes. And other times, it depends on what is going on. If I am at work I feel I am a Canadian because I have Canadian education. I have Canadian citizenship, yeah. And I understand the topics that are being spoken. So I really don’t feel like, yikes, I am, you know, I am inferior to them. ( Interview F12)

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The range of identities expressed by Kakoto – African, woman, Christian, Ugandan, wife, Canadian – are all meaningful points of reference that take on different salience depending on the context. A er thirteen years in Canada, how African she felt in a given time and place was counterposed against how Canadian she felt. At the time of the interview she was searching unsuccessfully for work commensurate with her Canadian university degree, a process that was again shi ing her identity. As she explained, ‘this job thing doesn’t make me feel like I belong to Canada. That’s why I am thinking, OK, I didn’t realize, maybe I am still Ugandan.’ ( Interview F12) Canadian Identity The counterpoints of African and Canadian that were evoked in Kakoto’s comments were ever-present frames in discussions of subjectivity, and their juxtaposition was o en used to tease out complex multilayered identities. The working through of African or Canadian subjectivities ranged from the complete rejection of a Canadian identity to the adoption of fairly circumscribed positions of Canadianness. Whether or not participants embraced some form of Canadian identity depended on many factors, including immigration status (refugee, landed-immigrant, or citizen), length of residence in Canada, and personal experiences of inclusion and exclusion. It was also related to the diverse meanings implicated in claiming a Canadian identity and to the larger politics of such claims. Some women and men argued that their inability to claim Canadian identity emanated from pervasive social and economic marginalization; ‘African’ and ‘Canadian’ were, quite simply, incommensurate categories. Tungu, for example, argued that the invasive queries of ‘Where do you come from?’ marked her and her children as perpetual foreigners; hence she could not say she was Canadian. tungu: I cannot say I am Canadian when they don’t support I am Canadian . . . Here you are Black. If you are twenty, you born here, nothing. They say, ‘Where are you from?’ They will still ask you. edith: They will still ask you? tungu: Yeah. ‘I am Canadian.’ ‘No, where are you from? You born here?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Where are your parents from?’ ( Interview F1).

Tungu is a landed immigrant who has not applied for citizenship, but her comments are not a simple reflection of her legal status in Canada.

200 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

Many Canadian citizens made similar observations. Those excluded from the dominant imagined community of Canada found it hard to place themselves within the nation. kizito: I am now a Canadian, but you still can’t forget your motherland. edith: OK. So do you consider yourself as belonging in Canada? kizito: I consider, but still I remember about home . . . Even though I am in Canada, but I am still African. I can’t change. Even though I change that, I will be Canadian, but somebody I pass, by my colour, he’ll ask me, ‘Where are you from?’ edith: OK, you are asking me where am I from, that means that I am not? kizito: I am not a Canadian. ( Interview F11) wetu: Because you can be a citizen here for many years, you have been here for twenty, thirty years. But you still feel that there are some areas which the colour is playing a part . . . Just the colour is that they don’t see you as a Canadian. They will always ask so many questions, ‘Where did you come from?’ ‘No. No. I am already here.’ ‘No, where are you from?’ mambo: I was born here. wetu: That does not ma er any more where I came from. Is now I am a Canadian. So it should not apply, because if you are here, you qualify for everything like anybody else. Where I came from doesn’t count. ( Interview M49)

The alienating effects of such ubiquitous queries about origins should not be underestimated. These frequent interactions underscore that the person being questioned is out of place and cannot be from here. Banda was so estranged by the persistent querying of his origins that he actually felt more at home as a refugee in Kenya than as a Canadian citizen living in Vancouver. banda: I le Mozambique, I went to Kenya. In Kenya, although I was a refugee there, I didn’t see any difference. I feel that I am at home still because everywhere I go, nobody tends to ask me, ‘Where do you come from? Where are you originally from?’ You see? But here each time I go to a place, even when I go for an interview, I take out my Canadian citizenship card, I show them I am a Canadian – they will still want to know where originally I came from. ( Interview M60)

While citizenship may provide much needed personal security for those forced to flee their homelands, it does not, by itself, signal the kind of acceptance that forms an essential basis for belonging.

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Some research participants tried to break these scripts by claiming local origins, acts that only served to reinforce the incongruity of ‘local,’ ‘Blackness,’ and ‘Africanness’ in Vancouver. As Laziati explained, her a empts to claim local origins, the suburb of Surrey where she had lived for nearly a decade, were firmly rejected by other residents. laziati: ‘I am from Surrey.’ They say, ‘No, I mean where are you from?’ And I say, ‘Well, I am from Surrey.’ But they say, ‘No, you are not from Surrey. I mean originally where are you from?’ That’s what they usually ask you. Yet when people – other people they ask them, ‘Where are you from?’ and someone says, ‘I am from Surrey,’ when they are White, yeah, then you are from Surrey. ( Interview F6)

Questioning origins in Canada is a very selective process, and appropriate answers are clearly circumscribed. As Laziati pointed out, some people can claim local origins without detailing longer ancestral connections; others cannot. These distinctions are closely related to who can claim ‘non-hyphenated’ Canadian status. The ‘non-ethnic’ can only be White or Aboriginal, and although some White Canadians may choose a hyphenated identity, everyone else can only be a hyphenated Canadian (Puplampu and Te ey 2005). Many of those who rejected some form of Canadian identity did so in the context of their strong emotional ties to the countries, cultures, and communities of birth being pivotal for defining subjectivities. This was especially so for some refugees who never chose to migrate. Neila, who was in her forties when she was forced to flee her homeland, poignantly noted that creating a new life in Canada was difficult when ‘my soul is back home’ ( Interview F17). Mwenda identified himself as having been ‘an old man’ when he sought refuge in Canada and claimed he would never truly belong, because ‘I miss everything’ at home ( Interview M43). Almost all African immigrants we interviewed, regardless of the reasons they came to Canada, talked about how much they missed people, places, and practices from ‘back home.’ The sense of incompleteness in Canada was particularly acute for parents separated from their offspring. There was also a general lament about bureaucratic immigration policies and visa requirements that prolonged forced separation from conjugal and extended families. Migration is always a process that involves loss, even for those who choose to migrate, and reflections on what has been lost are etched in nostalgic memories. The o en difficult realities of forging a new life in Canada

202 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

can appear in even sharper contrast with this idyllic home preserved in memory, as we saw in images of the African family in chapter 5. The dislocation of migration and the struggles to redefine subjectivity and build local community were evident in the way many participants talked in terms of ‘in-betweenness,’ being not fully here or there, or indeed being simultaneously here and there, that produced hybrid identities and lives lived across transnational borders. mokoli: I would [not] say I totally belong or I totally do not belong. I think I am in between because ge ing a circle of friends due to the transient nature of our community, it is difficult. You build your circle of friends, they move . . . It is difficult to build that circle of friends that can, you know, make you belong the way in a sense of belonging to an area. Family interactions, those are not there, because you are an immigrant. You are here by yourself, and it’s very difficult to bring family here. ( Interview M33) gaturu: One foot is here, one foot is there, and question o en comes, ‘Where is home?’ Home is where your heart is. You know when you went to Congo, people were asking you where are you from? mambo: Yeah. gaturu: Because they look at you. The way you look, they say, ‘You are not from here.’ Yet when you are here, people say, ‘Where are you from’? mambo: Yeah. gaturu: Because the way you look, again, you can’t be a Canadian. ( Interview M40) omari: I belong some part here because I am working and pu ing down all my retirement, everything, here. You see I am involved a lot in the society here. I am belonging to part here. But my soul or my spirit . . . You don’t belong because you belong to back home. ( Interview M58)

Scholars of diaspora o en point to spaces in-between as productive sites for new forms of subjectivity and agency. African women and men in this research emphasized that occupying such sites is unse ling; they are difficult to navigate because families are stretched across continents, and they are anchored in losses of dislocation at least as much as in any new possibilities that may emerge. Many people who were not Canadian citizens identified citizenship as one reason they did not consider themselves Canadian. For some, the inability to claim dual citizenship in both Canada and their countries of origin, and hence the potential loss of their original citizenship, was central to decisions to forgo Canadian citizenship. For others, it was a status for which they intended to apply in the future. Half the participants

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in this research were Canadian citizens at the time of the interviews, but, nevertheless, voices unequivocally declaring Canadian or African Canadian identity were very rarely heard. Those who did evoke some form of Canadian identity did so in fairly circumscribed ways. Claims to Canadian identity took three main forms: situational claims, a sense of place that develops over very long periods of time, and political claims linked to the rights of citizenship. Situational claims to Canadian identity were noted in reference to travel abroad and, particularly, the possession of a Canadian passport. Ntombe argued that although her identity at home in Vancouver was ‘a Ghanaian from West Africa,’ when she crossed international borders she claimed a Canadian identity. ntombe: I am a Canadian because the moment they know you are from Africa, that’s all. But you have to pinpoint somewhere, ‘Oh, I am a Canadian.’ And so this, and then they say, ‘Oh go.’ Like at the border, going to U.S. When you show your passport or your citizen, oh, you just go. ( Interview F3)

Abasi also commented that the only way she identified as Canadian was through ‘external factors’ like a Canadian passport, but never ‘internal factors’ that spoke to home and belonging. abasi: The way I can identify myself as Canadian is by, you know, registering, have a Canadian passport. I can travel as a Canadian citizen without a visa. Most of them external factors; they are not internal factors. ( Interview F18)

These limited claims to Canadian identity were o en mixed with references to un-belonging while participants were at home within Canada. Citizenship and Canadian passports might be useful abroad, but they were irrelevant to everyday life in Canada. bangila: The only time that the Canadian citizenship has serviced me be er and I have appreciated that, the only time was when I was abroad. Like if – mambo: Travelling on Canadian passport? bangila: Yes, travelling with a Canadian passport. That is the only time you feel good about being a Canadian. But once you are in Canada, there is nothing good about being a Canadian. I am truly a Black person. ( Interview M41)

A Canadian passport eases international travel, especially for Canadians who are not White. Recent incidents of consular officials essentially

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abandoning Canadians of African origin abroad may temper even these limited claims to equal treatment.1 Bangila’s assertion that there was ‘nothing good’ about being Canadian at home in Vancouver because he was ‘truly a Black person’ illustrates how experiences of Blackness in Canada overdetermine subjectivity. Some participants who had been in Canada for a decade or more adopted a deeper Canadian subjectivity linked to the passage of time, Canadian family, and familiarity of place. Gaturu, who has lived in Canada for more than two decades, explained that he felt more Canadian when he was abroad. gaturu: I noticed this one when I leave Canada. I go to Rwanda, I go to Burkina Faso, I even go to Europe, I feel that I am a Canadian. This is a place I know. I mean I have been here again long time that, you know, especially, yeah, I belong to BC. ( Interview M40)

Gaturu’s comments evoked a sense of belonging that most of the women and men we interviewed were hard-pressed to envision since it was premised on more than two decades in Canada. Over that time he had developed deep roots in Vancouver, earned a Canadian university degree, worked as a professional, and raised Canadian children; in the process of all this, his emotional ties to Canada strengthened while those to his country of origin weakened. Kakoto also explained that having Canadian-born children enhanced her sense of Canadian identity. kakoto: I have a family now, I have children. I feel more integrated. Not integrated, but I feel more Canadian than when I first came. ( Interview F12)

Kakoto had been in Canada for thirteen years at the time of the interview, and raising Canadian children was central to her subjectivity. Her church community also helped her belong in Vancouver. Although she claimed a Canadian identity, as we saw earlier, even Kakoto’s sense of belonging remained challenged by her inability to find a job commensurate with her Canadian education and led her to question whether she was really ‘still Ugandan’ more than Canadian, a er all ( Interview F12). With only one exception, the participants who embraced some form of Canadian identity were all Canadian citizens, although many Canadian citizens did not do so. The exception was Bizima, a landed immigrant from Zambia who had been sponsored by her husband three

Identity and Spaces of Belonging 205

years before our interview and was completing a local university degree in the field of education. She was one of only two people who adopted a hybrid African Canadian identity.2 bizima: Like, I’ll never be definitely a Canadian, but there are a few things I am going to learn. But having grown in Africa, you know, the culture is really different. There are things I cannot do here, no ma er what, you know. I’ll always do them as an African. So I think I’ll identify myself as an African, you know, Canadian. ( Interview F5)

This identity was somewhat ambivalent, however, and appeared to be a compromise to her inability to think of herself as Canadian, not because she was not yet a citizen but because others did not perceive her as such. ‘How can I identify myself as being Canadian when every other person doesn’t think like that, you know?’ ( Bizima, Interview F5). As Gaturu also observed, African Canadian was a rare form of subjectivity among adult migrants, but it was commonly claimed by the African youth raised in Canada who wanted to assert that ‘I belong here’ ( Interview M40).3 The limited claims to Canadian identity cited above rest largely on the different treatment occasionally afforded those with Canadian citizenship (such as privileges associated with Canadian passports), social embeddedness connected to participants’ Canadian-raised children, and deeper associations with place that develop over time through the minutia of everyday life. Still others asserted their Canadian identities as a political claim on broader rights of citizenship: the right to engage in the same activities as other Canadians, including the simple right just to be in Canada. The value of these citizenship rights meant different things depending on status at the time of migration. For those who chose to come to Canada as independent immigrants (like Nzanzu), having equal access to government programs signified one’s status as a ‘full’ Canadian; for those who arrived as refugees (like Mokili), the importance of rights associated with freedom of speech, political activity, and personal security forged a strong sense of belonging. nzanzu: Because as a Canadian I have all the rights. And then if I get my pension, they give it to me because I am a Canadian. I go to see the doctor; they don’t say because you are an immigrant, you won’t see a doctor. Do you understand? So I feel very comfortable. ( Interview F13) mokili: Citizenship is key. I mean it is important that it gives you some rights. It really gives you major rights to advocate for yourself without fear to

206 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver affect policy decisions by politicians. It gives you a sense of belonging to some part of the world, regardless whether you have a circle of friends or not. So citizenship is important. You cannot remain stateless and you know you need that. You need to belong somewhere. Being a refugee is the worst you can be, to be in the stateless situation. ( Interview M33)

For Mokili, belonging was signalled by Canada citizenship, contrasted with the stark realities of his earlier situation of statelessness. For most African immigrants, however, belonging in Canada was far more tangential, ambivalent, and situational. Indeed, a pervasive sense of unbelonging permeated most interviews and figured centrally in the ambivalences around embracing some form of Canadian identity. ‘Do I Belong Here?’ Canada’s ongoing immigration program sees hundreds of thousands of newcomers arrive from across the globe each year, and large urban centres like Vancouver continue to be transformed through these processes. In 2006 nearly 40% of Greater Vancouver’s population were immigrants, and 42% of all residents identified themselves as people of colour (Statistics Canada 2007, 32; 2008, 32). We might think that in this context of the normalization of immigrant and visible minority experiences, people from diverse points of origins will quickly feel that they equally belong amidst this diversity. For some groups of immigrants this may well be true. Those linked to large diasporic communities locally can seek out former countrymen and -women to ease the transition of migration; those whose immigrant roots are less visible in terms of racialization, language, accents, or other factors may find it easier to navigate local spaces than do those who are more visibly different from other Vancouverites. What is clear is that the vast majority of participants in this study, who have neither a large and easily identified diasporic community with which to align nor the ease of ‘passing’ among the majority who are of European and Asian descent, found it difficult to feel they belonged in Vancouver. Even those who expressed circumscribed claims to Canadianness identified pervasive themes of un-belonging that had persisted a er decades in Canada. Comments by Kavuo and Bara illustrate the complex and contradictory feelings elicited by the question ‘Do you feel you belong in Canada?’ even for those who already had deep roots. Kavuo, a landed immigrant

Identity and Spaces of Belonging 207

originally from Kenya, had been in Canada for twelve years; Bara is a Canadian citizen who came from South Africa eleven years before our interview. Both women had been long se led in Vancouver, were invested in raising their children in Canada, and made claims about their right to belong. Yet both also identified the limits of belonging in a context in which acceptance by others remained questionable. Kavuo began her reflections on belonging by identifying things that prevented her from feeling she belonged in Canada. She suggested that belonging was more than adjusting to the loss of what was once familiar at home and creating new meanings of home in a new space; it was also critical that others signalled acceptance, and in her experience many had not. Kavuo stated firmly that she would not really belong until she felt accepted. At the same time, Kavuo quickly claimed her presence in Canada and, with that, her right to belong. kavuo: You belong the day you feel you don’t have to defend yourself . . . Or until the day they are not racist, I don’t know. Belonging is, for me – I already feel I belong because I am here. I have a right to be here. I am already here, you know. I feel I belong, and I am going to do everything I can just [ like] anybody else would. Raise the children just like anybody else would who has lived here all their life, born here, and raised here. But, of course, belonging is, you would feel also good if you don’t get some of the questions you get. Not, you know, you don’t get asked all the ‘Where did you do this? How did you do that? Did you live in a house like this?’ I guess maybe more just accepting of people, acceptance of the way you are, the way you talk. ( Interview F23)

On one level Kavuo asserted belonging through the minutia of everyday life in this place in which she created home for her family, but she returned again to the question of acceptance by others. In her final comments Kavuo provided examples that denote exclusion: pervasive queries about origins, demeaning assumptions about Africa, and denigration of African English accents. These are the markers of foreignness that stalk Kavuo long a er she has made her home in Canada. Bara reflected more on how time marked a shi in where home was located in her imagining. In a process that takes several years a er migration, the immediacy of everyday life shi s notions of home from a remembered past to a daily present. Although Bara acknowledged that this shi meant that Canada was indeed her home, at the same time she continued to feel, ‘I don’t belong because I am not accepted.’ Like

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Kavuo’s, Bara’s sense of belonging was fundamentally shaped by others who made it plain she was not really Canadian. bara: When I first came here, it took maybe minimum of three years for me to first just feel like I belong. Because every move, everything, I would compare with back in South Africa. So that was a very big sense of not belonging to where I was. I would compare it with South Africa. Compare it: at home we don’t do this, at home we don’t do this. Until of course, you have to confront yourself, and you say, ‘Where is home now?’ Then home is this Canada. But now the question is, ‘Am I taken as a Canadian? Am I considered Canadian?’ So, those are the poles that an immigrant will always experience. Yes to feel I belong here; yet I don’t belong here because I am not accepted. Because belonging also has to do with being accepted for who you are, and feeling at home and comfortable. ( Interview F30)

Experiences of not being accepted were juxtaposed against Canada’s self-promotion as a harbinger of multicultural equality. Canadian society may not be any less accepting of newcomers than elsewhere; it may arguably be somewhat less xenophobic than some other societies with significant immigrant populations. However, comparisons like these are irrelevant to the lived realities of participants in this research. Discourses of multicultural nation building in Canada make claims of acceptance and equality that are clearly not borne out in the daily lives of African immigrants. This led many participants to reject the possibility of belonging in Vancouver until these ideals had been more fully realized. Konote, for example, argued that discrimination made her Canadian citizenship ‘an illusion’ ( Interview F2); Bara distinguished herself from ‘first-grade Canadians’ who do not have to ‘take the back seat’ as she does ( Interview F30); Ndungo explained how inequality made her feel like ‘an outcast’ ( Interview F26); Lwanzo argued that she was seen as ‘somebody who is passing through’ rather than as a person who belongs ( Interview F10); and Abasi noted that she would not fully belong until she got ‘equal opportunities like everyone else’ ( Interview F18). The pervasive nature of the inequalities experienced in the labour market and civil society (as discussed in chapters 2, 3, and 4) contributed to feelings of un-belonging that persisted alongside the creation of home and community within Vancouver. For a small number of participants, however – almost always those who had experienced the trauma of being a refugee – belonging in Canada was less equivocal. For some who had lived through the ordeal

Identity and Spaces of Belonging 209

of persecution and statelessness, belonging was premised on a aining Canadian citizenship and the rights associated with it. Kalumbi stated simply, ‘As soon as you become a citizen you feel you belong’ ( Interview M32). Ndalula claimed belonging, because ‘as a citizen they can’t tell you to go [away]’ ( Interview F14). And Mohamadi asserted, ‘Now I am Canada citizen. I say this is my country’ ( Interview M52). These were unequivocal statements of belonging based on security in place, and the knowledge that the rights of Canadian citizenship could not be arbitrarily taken away. For refugees, a lingering sense of un-belonging was more o en associated with continued separation from family le in Africa, especially for those who were still unable to return to visit their countries of origin. As we saw in chapter 5, the Canadian immigration system that granted them refuge and, later, citizenship was o en a barrier to family reunification, and the pain of family separation was another source of continued trauma. For example, Kalumbi, a refugee from Uganda more than a decade before our interview, explained that even though Canadian citizenship made him feel he belonged, he could never ‘totally belong’ without his extended family. kalumbi: You can claim anything as a citizen. But still the sense of belonging doesn’t sink in as long as you don’t have an extended family with you . . .  Whereas if you were allowed to bring them whenever you can, and most of us are able, then you know that I can shi my total belonging from where I was before to Canada and totally belong here and may never thinking of going back. ( Interview M32)

Partial belonging, whether linked to family separation or unequal treatment in Canada, was a dominant theme in interviews regardless of how long African women and men had been se led in Canada. Yet no ma er how ambivalent the participants’ sense of belonging might be, they were actively engaged in creating a local African community in Vancouver. As we discuss in chapter 7, multiple practices of community building that produce the local African community simultaneously carve out spaces of belonging and enact claims as Canadians.

7 Practices of Belonging: Building the African Community in Vancouver

You know, we spend a lot of time together and try to make fun, and try to create an African atmosphere, you know, for ourselves, and an African environment for our children as well. – Laziati ( Interview F6)

The development of a New African diaspora in Vancouver is not just a demographic by-product of global pa erns of migration bringing women and men from countries in sub-Saharan Africa to the west coast of Canada. As we noted in chapter 1, diasporic communities come about through ‘struggles to define the local, as distinctive community, in historical contexts of displacement’ (Clifford 1994, 308). African immigrants in Greater Vancouver are indeed redefining the local through a multitude of practices linked to carving out niches of belonging, building webs of mutual support, and claiming psychic and material spaces. These practices of belonging range from friendship networks and informal supports to formal organizations and the growth of local African-owned businesses. This chapter examines the community-building activities in which those African women and men who were interviewed in 2004 were engaged, as well as more recent developments by the time of writing. There were marked gender differences in African women’s and men’s perspectives on what constitutes community, as reflected in the ways in which participants spoke about community-building practices. On the whole, men tended to adopt a more formal sense of community linked to specific organizations, institutions, and leadership positions. Many men also retained a primary concern with community connections in the African continent; therefore, much local community organizing

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retained a focus on Africa. In contrast, as we saw in chapter 5, women were more likely than men to reorient themselves and community building more firmly to life in Canada and to frame discussions of the African community in terms of informal mutual support among African women. In the discussion that follows, we adopt this broad definition of the practices of community building that were generated through the daily networks of interactions and support among those who migrated from sub-Saharan Africa, as well as the more formal level of community organizations. Both women and men developed friendships and support networks that were critical to carving out spaces of belonging in Vancouver. Women were more likely to identify their mutual support networks and to explicitly position these networks as pivotal to community building. Much of the support that African women provided to each other was informal, such as information sharing of various kinds, networks for finding jobs, and tips on how to navigate their youngsters’ engagement with the public school system. Some forms of support were material in nature, including giving clothes for new babies, preparing food or contributing money for funerals, and babysi ing. Less tangible forms of support were equally important for building bonds of community: someone to confide in, complain to, or celebrate with who shared a common understanding of what African immigrants go through in Canada. For example, Bizima explained that she routinely turned to other African women for these critical forms of support. izima: The support is so much, you know. You find people phoning you, yeah. And if we need help, you know. We don’t have money to babysit your kid; you just phone an African and she’s going to help you with no charge at all . . . Yeah, because we are really, you can really tell your problems to an African, and she is going to understand. ( Interview F5)

Most women explained that they provided support to other African immigrants so that they would not ‘suffer like we suffered’ (Ngalula, Interview F29). Providing information, emotional support, and material goods was a way to help alleviate the hardships faced by newer members, and at the same time actively created bonds of community among those from Africa. Women routinely identified the creation of networks of emotional support as central to their adaptation to life in Canada. In contrast, men rarely discussed these forms of support at all. When men did talk

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about friendship networks, they did so largely in terms of socializing with friends, o en as a substitute for the extended family with which they had socialized in their countries of origin. Such socializing was not conceived as part of community building, however, even though some men recognized how important local friendships were for developing belonging. On rare occasions when the subject of emotional support was raised, it was also dismissed as being of li le value. For example, Kivete suggested that emotional support was trivial or ‘nothing’ compared to the forms of material support in the labour market that he was unable to a ain from other Africans. ivete: When I sit with my Black brother, I discuss with my Black brother. Discuss my problem with him. He discusses his problems with me. You know, sometimes it reduces some stress. That is only the thing we are ge ing from the Black community. But you need help, I need help. You cannot help me, I cannot help you. So we are gaining in the end, we are gaining nothing. What we gain from our Black community from African community, just talking. mambo: So emotional support? kivete: Yeah, yeah, emotional support. But apart from that, we are gaining nothing out of it. ( Interview M59)

Perhaps men received less emotional support than women, valued it less, or were more reticent to acknowledge their needs. Other migration research suggests that men provide less emotional support. The gendered division of family responsibilities invariably relegates primary responsibility to women for helping other family members navigate the psychological strains of migration, while prioritizing men’s economic roles (Creese, Dyck, and McLaren 2008, 2009). This may explain Kivete’s dismissal of emotional support as ‘nothing.’ For a former politician with a master’s degree who worked in a warehouse, anything short of the support that helped regain professional employment might be less meaningful. The kind of material support he prioritized was precisely the kind of support that African immigrants are not well positioned to provide for each other (see chapter 3). At the same time, his dismissal of emotional support as ‘nothing’ helped make invisible much of the women’s daily community-building activities. Women from countries that were represented by sizeable local populations identified most mutual support among co-nationals. However, many African women also talked about reciprocity across national

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boundaries. For example, Silata discussed a way in which she helped to support new mothers from diverse African origins. ilata: Last week, one of the families here [in an apartment complex], they had a baby. We went to say congratulations and we bought clothes and food . . . And even a Sudan family, they had a baby too. We bought them clothes, you know, we congratulate and we are happy for them and share their joy for having children. So, I’ve been really given support by Africans and we’ve also returned that too. ( Interview F22)

Although most women talked about informal reciprocal support and friendships with other African women, a handful of women we interviewed were more isolated and had not managed to find such networks. Isolation made adjustment to life in Vancouver much more difficult for these women and their families. Much of women’s mutual support was very informal, but a wide variety of more formal women’s groups also emerged. Among the thirtyone women we interviewed, seven identified distinct women’s groups through which they helped to support other African women. All but one of these, a women’s organization that helps AIDS orphans in Africa ( Interview F28), were oriented towards supporting local women in the Vancouver area. Abasi explained that the Nigerian Women’s Association held a wide range of social gatherings to support new mothers, encourage children to do well in school, and grieve with bereaved families ( Interview F18). Ngalula identified another group of Nigerian women, the Nigerian Sisters’ Community, who raised ten dollars per member each month to distribute to needy newcomers in order to help ease the first few months of integration; the group also contributed financially to its own members who had a baby or were about to be married ( Interview F29). Kizito identified herself as a leader of a Sudanese women’s group that organized community meetings, helped women solve family problems, and provided information for newcomers ( Interview F11). Neila described the main activities of a Congolese women’s group to which she belonged as supporting children in school, organizing baby showers, providing support for funerals, and ‘spending time together’ ( Interview F17). Fulani discussed her involvement with an African women’s group at a local multicultural organization where, among other things, she volunteered to coordinate meetings to identify and solve problems in the community ( Interview F21). Laziati was involved with a women’s group that on ‘numerous occasions’ brought diverse African people

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together ‘to discuss issues that affect us as African people and to try to find solutions to our own issues’ ( Interview F6).1 This breadth of community organizing among African women is impressive and constitutes a critical part of community building in the local context. Although the women were heavily involved in these kinds of informal and more formal support activities, this form of community organizing was unacknowledged by any of the men who were interviewed. It appears that the men identified community organizing as something different: formal organizations more clearly geared to political engagements of various kinds, as will be discussed below. Without a spatial centre to a diasporic African community, the development of connections within the community was more difficult. Both women and men identified similar venues in which friendships developed, with places of worship figuring centrally in these discussions. It is estimated that more than 90% of the African community in Vancouver identifies as Christian, as do the vast majority of research participants who discussed their faith.2 Religious faith figured prominently in many participants’ migration narratives and helped to shore up the resilience required to navigate loss and dislocation (Stoll and Johnson 2007). Religious affiliations also provide important social networks (social capital) that create community (Chioneso 2008; Donkor 2005; Herbert et al. 2008; Te ey and Puplampu 2005b). Many participants identified their faith as an important part of subjectivity, which was illustrated in frequent references to God and faith as means of successfully coping with the displacement associated with migration. For these participants, seeking community in their church or mosque was a natural point of contact in a new location. onata: I don’t think without the church you can rely on anybody. Because at least the church – because most of the people you find here, does not ma er whether you are Christian from somewhere. Many times you have similar values. And in terms of friendship you find even that one. Though it is a different culture, but you find in terms of friendship and reliability it is a li le bit be er. So I personally, I think I find mostly in the Church. I [am] more comfortable in the church. ( Interview M47)

At the time of the interviews only a few religious services were noted that were linked specifically to an African congregation. Most networks connected to religious institutions in Vancouver were diverse

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and multiethnic. Indeed, churches were noted as primary sites of developing friendships and support networks outside of the African community that were important for carving out a stronger sense of belonging. Hence, for many women and men, faith was a central anchor that provided a community of acceptance and inclusion while they were facing exclusion and marginalization on so many other fronts. As such, churches became primary niches of belonging. The importance of religious faith for negotiating migration can be seen in the growth of churches serving African congregations.3 In 2010 we identified twelve separate churches located in five different municipalities in Greater Vancouver (Vancouver, New Westminster, Surrey, Coquitlam, and Langley) that could be defined as ‘African churches.’4 These churches all have African pastors; most have congregations from diverse countries, o en with concentrations linked to the pastor’s country of origin. Pastors who chose to identify their countries of origin came from Ghana (two), Cameroon (one), Uganda (one), and Democratic Republic of Congo (three); five pastors chose to identify only as panAfrican.5 All but two provide services only in English; two provide services in French, and one of these also in Kirundi, a local language in Burundi.6 The growth of African churches is one visible sign of the growing web of social networks and institutional structures within the new African diaspora as it carves out community in Vancouver. Indeed, African churches have become the front line of se lement support, providing informal support to new immigrants and referring new arrivals to the range of services available at immigrant se lement service agencies and local schools and community centres. One church, Calvary Worship Centre in New Westminster, is spearheading fund-raising to build a new African church that can house a variety of congregations. Currently, African denominations find spaces in other, more established churches. Constructing a separate African church building would both deepen links between various African denominations and establish a more visible physical presence in the community. As noted above, churches were primary sites of broader integration as African immigrants forged connections across differences of race, ethnicity, and national origin. Workplaces, including sites of volunteer work, constituted other venues where diverse social networks formed. Women and men identified a wide range of spaces in the larger community where they volunteered labour. These included food banks, seniors’ residences, children’s schools, and community centres. This kind of volunteer work constituted important dimensions of claiming membership

216 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

in the wider society and provided points of recognition and network building outside the African community. Many participants also identified multicultural friendship networks developed at work. In most cases the friendships at work were developed with members of other immigrant minorities, o en people they worked alongside, who experienced similar problems in the labour market. While these cross-ethnic or -racial networks were important for developing niches of belonging, they o en did not provide much more social capital than did the social networks developed within the African community. Most African women and men identified the importance of developing friendships within and beyond the African community in Vancouver. vi a: I have always made friends at church and multicultural organization, and at workplace [with] Filipinos. I have great people, I want to mention them, and those people are very good because they have a story also similar to us. So, we are swimming in the same boat. I have got East Indians, my friends. Oh, they are wonderful people, I tell you. And oh, not to mention people from Africa, because we are just the same here and there. We get together sometimes and we have good time. ( Interview F20) laziati: You know, we spend a lot of time together and try to make fun, and try to create an African atmosphere, you know, for ourselves, and an African environment for our children as well . . . For me and my family it was very important too. Make sure that we do have friends of African backgrounds. To keep our culture and to keep our culture and our dreams, you know, high, and to support each other. But also to have friends that come from this country. That have also been very supportive and very understanding of the hurdles and, you know, the barriers that we face as people of colour. ( Interview F6) gaturu: I have some friends in Rwandan community, in the African community. But I also have friends in the wider community, a network of like-minded people who are into social justice, into human rights, into community development, into parliament, into things like that. So we cut across the racial, the gender, the class divide, right, because we meet along ideas. So it is not so much that I find my friendship only among my Black African community. ( Interview M40)

As these participants pointed out, diverse networks of support and friendship create stronger bonds of community inclusion in Vancouver. However multicultural some participants’ friendship networks became over time, the desire to develop a more politically influential local

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African community figured as a central strategy for improving their collective situation in Canada. Organizing the African Community The new African diaspora in Vancouver has become increasingly organized over the last decade, creating a wide range of formal entities to address different facets of local and transnational connections. The first organizations to emerge in contexts of migration are o en nationally based organizations connected to migrants’ countries of origin. At the time of the interviews (2004) we identified thirteen separate African organizations that were nationally focused; all were non-profit, without paid staff, and most were too small to be incorporated. By 2008, six organizations, linked to Nigeria, Burundi, Uganda, Congo-Brazzaville, Ghana, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, were registered as non-profit in British Columbia (Masinda and Kambere 2008, 42–3). These nationally focused African organizations remain very small, receive no government funding, and rely on volunteers to pursue mandates of ‘upholding and preserving their culture’ (Masinda and Kambere 2008, 43). As such, ethno-specific organizations are oriented more towards maintaining links with the home country than towards developing support and community among those living in the Vancouver area, although the very existence of such organizations helps to create local linkages among those who participate. Te ey and Puplampu argue that the marginalization of African immigrants in Canada ‘leads to a stronger connection to the cultures of their homelands than to mainstream Canadian culture,’ including emphasis on building homes and planning retirement in countries of origin (2005b, 153; Chioneso 2008; Owusu 2000). What they overlook, however, is the gendered nature of these connections (Manuh 2003). Men were much more likely to be involved in nationally focused organizations and concentrating on building homes and planning retirements in Africa. Indeed, maintaining such connections ‘back home’ was o en central to maintaining the men’s status within extended family networks. This was particularly important since, as we saw in chapter 5, other markers of masculine identity were being profoundly challenged in Canada. Hence maintaining involvement in their home countries – through sending money and material goods, building houses, fund-raising for development projects such as building schools or water systems in their home villages, and maintaining political involvement – all raised the men’s status within the extended

218 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

family and community. African women were less likely to prioritize these initiatives, and those who were involved in activities abroad were unlikely to receive the same recognition.7 In 2010 we identified six locally based African non-profit organizations engaged in development work in different parts of Africa. The Sudanese Canadian Community Development Organization of BC was engaged in education and health projects; Umoja Operation Compassion society was involved in education and women’s microcredit programs in Uganda and Tanzania; Access Nigeria Consulting aided business development; Foundation Lazare worked with orphans and on education in the Democratic Republic of Congo; Eniconsulting was involved in development projects across Africa; and Building Bridges focused on development projects in Rwanda. Many of the men and women we interviewed a ended local celebrations for national independence, fund-raising events for projects abroad, and occasional social events. Few women identified national organizations as central sites of connection in Vancouver, and local branches of national organizations were almost always run by men. Some participants were unaware that such organizations existed locally, and some who were aware did not indicate involvement. Those from smaller communities did not have the critical mass to form such entities. With such small numbers of fellow or sister migrants from any given country, perhaps it is not surprising that organizations linking the local population to their countries of origin did not have a strong presence in the collective imagination. Equally important, however, most women and some of the men in this research focused on the need to organize in order to address issues within Canada rather than within their countries of origin (though, of course, many did both, and most maintained strong transnational family connections), and to do so in a way that built bridges across different national African origins. Both men and women suggested the need for pan-African organizations to represent them at various political levels and to help maintain cultural identities. At the time of the interviews there were only two pan-African organizations locally. One organization, Africa-Canada Development and Information Services Association (ACDISA), was oriented largely towards development in Africa.8 The other, the Centre of Integration for African Immigrants (CIAI), was oriented towards support for the local community, and over a decade it has been transformed from a volunteerbased referral service to a funded se lement service provider. The dearth of broadly based pan-African organizations, alongside the proliferation

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of small nationally focused groups, suggested to some research participants that a unified African community had yet to develop in Vancouver. For example, Culibali contrasted his experiences in Vancouver with his years in Moscow where, he argued, a unified African community did exist. ulibali: Here there is a community of individual countries, it is there. If you talk about community of individual countries, let us say Sudanese community, Ghana community, Congolese community, these are there. But African community, it is not there. ( Interview M36)

Mwenda made a useful distinction between an African community and communities from Africa, with the la er, in his view, characterizing the situation in Vancouver. m enda: There is no African as such African community, one umbrella. I think we need to build that one . . . If we do put much effort in that and we try to build an umbrella organization for African use, for African communities, for African women, and I think it will [be] really, really good. But as such we cannot say that there is an African community, but there are various communities from Africa. ( Interview M43)

Most African women and men believed that a local African community was demonstrated by the range of nationally based African organizations, networks of friendship and support, and a small number of African-owned businesses; however, this was tempered by comments that it was too ‘fragmented,’ ‘disunited,’ and generally seen as ‘weak’ compared to other, larger communities with earlier migrant roots. Many interview narratives drew unfavourable comparisons with the Chinese, South Asian, Italian, Greek, and Croatian communities, all of which have visible and vibrant infrastructures of businesses, religious institutions, and cultural organizations that provide considerable presence in the region. A key theme in our interviews, then, was the question of how to turn disparate communities from Africa into a more united, local African community. Some participants were less concerned about what a viable pan-African organization might actually do in Vancouver than they were about the need to be seen to be acting collectively. For example, Ntombi argued that collective action of some kind was important for belonging because it was a way to become visible to other Vancouverites.

220 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver ntombi: We have to get together, do something for people to recognize us and say and then, ‘Oh yes, they belong here.’ Like for people, when they recognize you, they know that you are there. But when they don’t recognize you they just say – they can’t say you belong. You have to get together. Get together Africans. Get together and then do something, do something. Bring some ideas, do something for people to know us. ( Interview F3)

Before turning to examine the practices of creating a more united pan-African community in Vancouver, we should consider the challenges that the participants faced in this endeavour. Problems noted by African women and men included the sheer diversity of the population from sub-Saharan Africa, particularly the diversity of languages, the small size of the population, and the limited resources to which most had access. Uniting people from fi y-four countries, who speak two thousand different languages, is an almost overwhelming task (Jacquet et al. 2008). As we have seen, processes of homogenization and social and economic marginalization in Vancouver do facilitate a pan-African identity for many, but it does not easily override the nationally and ethnically based conflicts and tensions that continue to divide the African continent. As several participants pointed out, language diversity exacerbates these difficulties since they lack the unifying thread of language that links most ethnocultural groups in Canada. One participant suggested that a solution to this problem was to adopt Swahili as a common African language and teach it in local schools ( Interview 32). Since most African immigrants do not speak Swahili (it is most common in East Africa), however, this is unlikely to help much in the short term or to be realistic when mainstream local institutions function almost entirely in English. The reality is that pan-African organizing will, of necessity, occur largely in English, and secondarily in French to encompass those from the Francophonie. Language diversity will continue to be a factor to be overcome in organizing the new African diaspora. Another impediment to stronger collective organization in Vancouver is the small size of the population from sub-Saharan Africa and the lack of residential concentration. In a diverse multicultural city, size ma ers for the ability to get concerns recognized and voices heard. Members of larger ethnocultural communities are visibly involved in local, provincial, and national politics. For example, the major political parties at all levels (municipal, provincial, and federal) routinely run candidates from the large Chinese and Punjabi communities in ridings with

Practices of Belonging 221

significant residential concentrations. Several participants encouraged Africans to get involved in Canadian politics as one way to strengthen the community; however, lack of critical mass to support such candidates was also acknowledged. l anzo: Can you imagine a Black candidate standing for political [office]? Who would vote for them? If an Asian, because they are so many of them, you know, at least he has a chance of saying, ‘I will be elected’ . . . Because the only people you are counting on to vote for you are your fellow Africans. These others won’t. ( Interview F10)

Although it may be an exaggeration to say that only Africans will vote for an African candidate, especially since many people vote along party lines, there is no doubt that racialization and ethnicity ma er as well, and minority candidates without a significant community base of support are less likely to get nominated, let alone be elected to office. In constituencybased political systems that do not have proportional representation, as in Canada, lack of residential concentration in one area of Vancouver further limits the ability of the African community to influence local politics. In addition to the small size of the community, a number of other factors combine to limit the financial resources that African immigrants can bring to organizing efforts; the fairly recent arrival of most sub-Saharan Africans compared to that of other well-established immigrant communities, the marginal economic situation of most, and the ongoing obligations to send remi ances to extended families can all make it more difficult to raise money for community projects. Communities with the greatest ability to raise money for projects are also the best positioned to make claims on the public purse to support their initiatives, leaving smaller and poorer groups even more fiscally disadvantaged when it comes to accessing government support for community ventures. Although these challenges were recognized, common strategies of community building also emerged as central to most participants’ narratives. Four main visions emerged about the kinds of pan-African practices that would strengthen the local African community: (1) creation of a pan-African political organization, (2) construction of an African cultural centre, (3) development of African-focused se lement services, and (4) creation and support of African-owned businesses. With the exception of a handful of African-owned businesses, none of these initiatives

222 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

had come to fruition at the time of the interviews; by 2010, considerable movement had occurred on all but one of these fronts, a testament to the depth and breadth of community building among African immigrants over the last decade. The idea of creating a pan-African political organization capable of linking diverse groups from sub-Saharan Africa had widespread support among the women and men we interviewed. A political organization was envisioned as an entity through which to build connections across African origins and to provide a voice to represent community needs and goals to various levels of government. African immigrants sought to emulate forms of organizing that had occurred in other local ethnic communities that had successfully tapped into public funding to address community needs. ndungo: I have to say, Africans as a community, we are not really united. But I would blame that on one thing, not having a body that unites us. Other communities are united because they have these bodies that unite them. Bodies that are ge ing funded from the government, you know. ( Interview F26) alala: If you ask me [if] there is any African community here in Vancouver, I will say we have African community per se, because the whole African community, they are not very much together. So that is why I am saying, I used that phrase per se. If we are to be a community where we are all together, we are having a yearly conversational meetings, discussing our problems, passing resolutions, telling government this is what we want, and then the same time the government coming to responding favourably to that. ( Interview M45) fadela: So I am advocating every day, every day, that please, every ethnic group from Senegal, from every place in Africa, they should come together and make the African community because it has to start from the ethnic communities and then have a big one, like African community. But if it is not on the local level, how are we going to make the African community? So I always say with the president of the ethnic groups to come together and make the African community so that we can address our issues to the ministry which is responsible, I think the Ministry of Multiculturalism. ( Interview M37) befanie: Well, I believe the first thing, I don’t know, maybe we should get some organization, right, and then voice it out or like [to the] press or whatever. You know, let the good government know what we are going

Practices of Belonging 223 through. And also we have some organizations or society, you know, to get together and encourage one another, right. ( Interview M56)

For the small and fragmented African community to get the ear of local, provincial, or federal government funders,9 a stronger unified presence was essential. Yet the desire to create a pan-African organization was not just a politically astute vision tied to lobbying for funds; it was also endorsed as a way to build bridges across diverse ethnic and national origins and, for some, to shiĞ existing organizational focus in the community from the past and Africa to the present and future in Canada. As Laziati put it, reorienting energies towards Canada was an essential part of building a future community for their children. laziati: So I think there is still a lot of work that we need to do as Africans that come here in trying to leave behind all the politics and all the other things, the baggage that we carry around with us. In coming here, and trying to tell ourselves that we are now here, so now what? So now let’s work towards the good of everyone here. And forget about the African continent. But not forget about it in such a way that we don’t remember that we have got a responsibility to our own people, but remembering that our children will grow up here. And we need to pave the way for them, for opportunities for them, for their future. ( Interview F6)

Creating a pan-African political organization was identified as part of constituting a local African community, though not everyone agreed on the appropriate relationship between nationally focused organizations and a broader entity. Some participants argued that existing national organizations and leaders should link together and be represented on a supranational body. solola: Maybe it will be to look at those small communities and try to bring together the leaders within those groups, and further bring those leaders together and make out some strategies, you know. And also it is not an easy task, but it is possible. ( Interview M39) mimi: I think this is the first thing Africans should do is to organize small groups, because we have here in Vancouver people from Nigeria, people from Congo, from many countries, many places in Africa. But if those groups, small groups, they are organized and we can make something like federation. ( Interview M59)

224 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

Other participants believed that organizing through national associations fragmented the African community, and a pan-African body was envisioned more as a substitute for existing national ones. mbula: Each country has their own association, right? I think it would be be er to have, like, African Association. Like where all Africans can join together instead of Ghanaians having their association, Nigerians have theirs, Congolese have theirs. No. Instead of doing that, I think if we all come together. ( Interview F16) kavuo: One [suggestion] I think is maybe more unity among the Africans as a whole. Not just West Africans, East Africans, North Africans, South Africans. It’s just as Africans as a whole, there doesn’t seem to be that sense of oneness . . . Maybe if the Africans united together as just Africans, then you feel as a big group of just Africans you would be more powerful. ( Interview F23) ongila: So like if we really have Africa community, meeting once in a month, so with that seeing ourselves. That will help us to know what we can do for we change our life here in Canada. Because whereby everybody is staying on their own, how can we make a move? How can we make a change? Everybody is staying on their own like we don’t have community. ( Interview F28)

In 2009, United African Communities of BC was created and incorporated as a non-profit association to fill this gap. Its mandate is to unite the various nationally focused African organizations and to represent the diverse African community to various levels of government. The intent of its founders, leaders of several local national African organizations, is for membership (and hence funding through membership dues) to flow from the national organizations, although the precarious financial situation of national organizations poses a challenge for funding.10 With the creation of the United African Communities of BC, the local African community is poised to strengthen its presence within the wider society. It is also significant that this initiative has come about through the auspices of leaders of several national organizations, suggesting some reorientation from their focus on Africa to the local African community in Canada. A second line of community development advocated by many African men was the creation of an African cultural centre. Drawing on examples of other groups that have cultural centres in the Vancouver area, including Italians, Croatians, Ukrainians, and Chinese, some men

Practices of Belonging 225

focused on this as a way to enhance a common cultural heritage and foster African identity among offspring. An African cultural centre would carve out specific geographic space that would be as important as the cultural and social content of what might occur there. The act of naming a space the ‘African Cultural Centre’ would visibly claim space in Vancouver and thereby claim a rightful place alongside other ethnic communities in a multicultural city. alala: Let us start a program for the African community because the only way we will begin to realize our existence here is when we have an umbrella that will be placed over our heads. We just need a place where we will have a house like the African house. We put it as a project who will build and hold the African people who will be coming there. ( Interview M45) wetu: First of all they need [a place] where they can meet as African immigrants. A centre, if founded, for a centre to cater for their need, to cater as a contact point to share their ideas. Where if they want to ask something specific in an area, you feel, ‘I am going there and I have [a] right to be there.’ I don’t feel, you know, like shying off. Because if you look at like the Croatian Centre or any other centre, a Chinese [Centre] or anybody, they feel that this is where you can even put what ma ers to you most. What values you are losing because you care, because of the culture, there are some heritage that we are losing. Our children are losing. ( Interview M49) fadela: We need African cultural centre, and that centre will be like a mainstream where the African values will be taught. Because most of our youth, as I told you, they don’t know anything about values, about Africa, about our history, about our past, our present, and about our challenges. We need an African cultural centre here in Vancouver where those values will be taught. ( Interview M37) omuri: A place where we can say, ‘This is African place. Oh, this is our cultural area.’ We are going to be known in this place. We have a chance. You see Croatian cultural centre. You see Italian cultural centre. Everybody have cultural centre. French cultural centre. We need to request, we need to fight to have African cultural centre. ( Interview M58)

Many men prioritized the need to build an African cultural centre to serve the dual purpose of a place for African immigrants to meet and a venue to showcase African culture and values for their children. Interestingly, not a single woman we interviewed mentioned an African cultural centre at all. At first glance this seems odd. If an African cultural

226 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

centre could help instil appreciation of African values and culture among the next generation, why didn’t women, who were equally concerned about youth losing their African identities (see chapter 5), support this venture? The most likely explanation is to consider the gender differences in the ways the space of a cultural centre is commonly used. Specific programs and community events that a ract diverse participants, including youngsters, may be organized periodically, but on an everyday level, cultural centres are typically spaces in which men congregate and socialize. An African cultural centre was probably appealing to men precisely because it was envisioned as a space for African men to socialize, something that many lamented as having been lost in the move to Canada. Women had much less reason to welcome a site for male socialization. Indeed, creating such a space could undermine the trends that the women appreciated, such as husbands’ greater fiscal responsibility and involvement in family life in Canada (see chapter 5). Although an African cultural centre has not come to fruition, other cultural organizations and high-profile and well-a ended communitybased cultural events have emerged, most of which did not exist at the time of the interviews in 2004. Two African dance companies (Ammara Dance Company and Doundounba Drum and Dance Ensemble), a dance and theatre group (Masabo Dance Theatre), a storytelling theatre company (African Stages), and an African radio program (La Palabre) form part of the Greater Vancouver cultural landscape. In addition, the annual African Peace Festival began in 2006 and features local African artists, musicians, and non-profit organizations working for peace and social justice in Canada and Africa. In July 2010 the festival included an African market, a variety of African performance artists, and a dance.11 The annual Vancouver Pan-African Film and Arts Festival began in 2007 to showcase films and performing artists from the Black or African diaspora and create community dialogue.12 And the Vancouver branch of the African Canadian Soccer and Cultural Association organized an African soccer tournament in 2008.13 These events are all communitywide initiatives that provide spaces in which to enhance community networks across the diaspora and raise visibility within the larger society. A third form of community development recommended by many of the women and men we interviewed was the creation of African-centred social services, particularly se lement services for new migrants from sub-Saharan Africa. In addition to the ad hoc and informal support in

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the community and through African churches discussed above, African immigrants also turned to services provided by multicultural se lement organizations, particularly those that included an African-origin se lement worker, such as MOSAIC, the Immigrant Services Society of BC, Multicultural Family Centre, and Greater Vancouver Family Services. For many participants, the dearth of African-provided se lement services was an impediment to integration. For example, Silata argued for ‘some people from Africa representing us when you go and say an issue or a problem’ because an African is more likely to understand her experience and be able to communicate that understanding more effectively ( Interview F22). Similarly, Media called for ‘a real serious office’ that could put together proposals for funding to develop programs specifically for African immigrants ( Interview F4). And Wetu encouraged ‘policymakers to have the Africans in the social services’ to serve their own community members ( Interview M49). Indeed, much of the support for creating a pan-African political organization revolved around providing a stronger community voice to press for specific governmentfunded services and programs for African immigrants. At the time of the interviews (2004) there were no African-oriented se lement organizations in the Vancouver area, and only a few multicultural agencies had any programs designed specifically for African immigrants or employed any se lement workers of African origin.14 In 2004 there were only seven front-line se lement workers of African origin in Greater Vancouver; by 2010 there were more than thirty African se lement workers in a much broader range of agencies,15 and two African se lement agencies are now well established. The Centre of Integration for African Immigrants (CIAI), which provided information and referrals at the time of our interviews, was transformed into a separate se lement agency. The centre has an office in New Westminster, an annual budget of $500,000, and four employees working in a number of languages to provide employment, education, counselling, and general integration services for newcomers, with a focus on Africa (Masinda and Kambere 2008, 41; CIAI website). Another organization, Umoja Operation Compassion Society, was created in 2005. Umoja has an office in Surrey, an annual budget of $250,000, and four employees providing se lement and integration programs with a focus on children, youth, and mothers from sub-Saharan Africa, as well as overseas programs in Uganda and Tanzania (Masinda and Kambere 2008, 41; Umoja website).16 CIAI and Umoja collaborate with each other and with other se lement agencies in the Vancouver area.

228 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

The emergence of two African-centred se lement organizations illustrates the maturing of the diasporic community.17 In addition, a third fledgling organization, Association des africains francophones de la Colombie-Britannique, has just formed to serve the francophone African population. As of June 2010, the association was running two programs for francophone African youngsters, with a focus on Frenchlanguage entertainment and summer activities. The leadership provided by those closely involved with these organizations work across national differences to raise the profile of the African community, identify community needs, and define solutions, while learning how to tap into government-funding opportunities. In the process, organizations like CIAI and Umoja are now key parts of the infrastructure of a more visible and united African community in the Vancouver area. The final strand of community development identified by African women and men in our research was the support of African entrepreneurship. The development of more African-owned businesses was seen as a pillar of community development, improving opportunities for investment and enhancing employment options within the African community. Participants looked to examples of large immigrant or ethnic groups in the Vancouver area, particularly the Chinese and South Asian diasporas, for models of successful economic growth and prosperity. The businesses owned and operated by members of those communities are primary sources of employment for other community members, especially new immigrants. Many participants argued that fostering African entrepreneurship would be good for the whole community even though businesses might be individually owned; African employers should commit to hiring other Africans, and African consumers should support businesses within the broad pan-African community. Hence supporting African entrepreneurship could also help strengthen the local community. ndalula: What advice I would give the Africans? If we can love each other and if we can establish a business like other people do, we will not find it so difficult. Because, like for example, what I see like the Chinese people, they have stores all over, they have restaurants all over, and they employ their own people, only their own people . . . So Africans we should help each other, and whenever we have something, we have to get our brothers’ share from what we have. ( Interview F14) fulani: If you can start like a restaurant or a business and then you support each other. It can help, it can help. Like they come up with some projects,

Practices of Belonging 229 and then they get some sponsorship, and then I think that would – they can help one another. ( Interview F21) kavuo: Maybe you would open your own businesses, employ your people. Because you find that the Asians, they have big companies run by Asians and they hire just their people. That way, you tend to be more out there, people know about you. ( Interview F23) mwenda: If the African people, if they are able to enter into the business rather than looking for day to day of paid jobs. If people are able to open up their own business, some small sectors where we can run our own business and be the masters of our own jobs. And if we are able to invest in a few of our projects, or if you have a firm that you can run, if we use the creativity that we have back home and try to build on that and bring in some businesses here. ( Interview M43)

Creating more African-owned, -run, and -staffed businesses simultaneously claims spaces in various local neighbourhoods, raises the profile of the African community, and creates more sites of routine contact within the community. At the time of our interviews we were able to identify only three storefront businesses (two restaurants and a store) run by migrants from sub-Saharan Africa, and only three of our participants were self-employed and running home-based businesses.18 Since then, the landscape of African entrepreneurialism has changed significantly, demonstrating that entrepreneurialism is a promising community-development strategy, all the more so in light of the prior business experience of many Africans and the difficulties of moving beyond insecure low-wage employment in Canada (see chapter 3). In 2010 we identified eleven African restaurants: nine in the city of Vancouver and one each in New Westminster and Surrey. There are now six African hair salons: two in Vancouver, two in Burnaby, and one each in New Westminster and Surrey. In addition, Touch of Africa specializes in hair braiding and African beauty products; African Superstore sells African clothing and hair braiding; and Burundi Food markets African food and clothing. All three are located in Surrey, where cheaper real estate and rental housing are linked to a growing concentration of African immigrants. Although still modest compared to that of much larger immigrant or ethnic communities in Greater Vancouver, and not accounting for potential growth in home-based businesses, this marked growth of entrepreneurialism in just a few years signals a maturing diaspora that is se ing deeper local roots while creating a stronger and more visible community that can be expected to continue to grow in the future.

230 The New African Diaspora in Vancouver

Claiming Spaces of Belonging Migration transforms the webs of relations that create community, reshape identity, and influence belonging. Old connections become disrupted and stretched across space and time, and new connections, identities, and practices develop as part of everyday living in a new space. These processes of building community, reshaping identities, and reorienting selves to Canada are never seamless or uniform. Among other things, gender, age, class of immigration, family status, social class, and employment situation all affect outcomes. This study points to some of the ongoing practices of building an African community in Vancouver, as well as the transformation in subjectivities that have occurred. A strong pan-African community identity was shared by most research participants, as were the everyday practices that build this interconnected community on the ground, from involvement in women’s support groups to the creation of African-owned businesses and African-centred se lement organizations and cultural events. For most migrants from sub-Saharan Africa there are clear limits to belonging that are embedded in the myriad ways in which other Vancouver residents let them know they are not accepted as Canadians. Some forms of marginalization have direct material consequences, such as the poverty and underemployment associated with insecure low-wage jobs. Some forms contribute to profound dislocations of social status and loss of self-esteem, especially for men, linked to the discounting of educational credentials and prior professional experience and the demeaning of ‘African English’ accents and bodies. And some forms of marginalization are psychic, such as the persistent and invasive querying ‘Where do you come from?’ Underlying all these forms of marginalization are processes of racialization and racism that locate migrants from sub-Saharan Africa in a social imaginary that positions them as Black in a world of White privilege. In this context, migrants from diverse countries learned to be both Black and African in Vancouver and expressed, at best, constrained and o en situationally specific forms of Canadian identity. Yet in spite of all this, African immigrants are actively creating home and a new panAfrican diasporic community in Greater Vancouver. The creation of formal and informal support networks, organizations, businesses, social and cultural activities, and identities underscores the growing strength and resilience of the African community. These activities are all part of

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claiming spaces, claiming physical spaces in specific neighbourhoods and sites and claiming psychic spaces in subjectivities and in the imagined community that is Canada. In the long run, claiming such spaces transforms the new African diaspora into a vital local community and is central to enacting demands to be recognized, to be accepted, and to belong as Canadians.

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Introduction: Migration, Diaspora Spaces, and ‘Canadianness’ 1




5 6

Demographic trends, with fertility rates well below replacement levels, and recent immigration pa erns combine to produce each year through immigration the majority of future workers (Statistics Canada 2003b, 12). Visible minority is the Canadian government’s terminology, first defined in the Employment Equity Act, for people ‘other than Aboriginal peoples, who are non-Caucasian or non-white in colour’ (Statistics Canada 2008, 11). The term people of colour is also commonly used by those racialized as non-White. The Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism was charged with examining the state of the ‘two founding nations’ in Canada, those of English and French origin, ignoring the situation of Aboriginal peoples and those who had migrated from other countries. The ‘third force,’ lead by community leaders from other European migrant groups, lobbied for a shi from biculturalism to multiculturalism, which the commissioners endorsed in their report and the Trudeau government enshrined in an official policy of multiculturalism in 1971 (Fleras and Ellio , 2007). I use Benedict Anderson’s (1991) notion of imagined communities as the common-sense constructions that members hold of who belongs (and who does not belong) within nation states. See Roberta Hamilton (1996) for a gendered reading of the vertical mosaic. As many North American scholars have pointed out, Whiteness is an unstable, historically contingent and contested category (see for example Frankenberg 1993, Jacobson 1998, and Rasmussen et al. 2001). In the Canadian context, over time more and more European ethnic communities were redefined as White, a term that originally connotes those of English, Sco ish, and (arguably) French descent.

234 Notes to pages 7–15  7 For example see Henry, Tator, Ma is, and Rees (1995) and Henry and Tator (2002) for recent overviews of institutional racism in Canada.  8 As Wenona Giles has demonstrated in her study of Portuguese women in Toronto (2002), some non-English-speaking migrants from some parts of Europe are still racialized in ways not dissimilar to migrants of colour. See also Franca Iacove a, Such Hardworking People, for similar historical arguments about Italian immigrants.  9 Three out of every ten people of colour are born in Canada, and many can trace their Canadian heritage back several generations (Statistics Canada 2008, 13). 10 A er three years in Canada, immigrants may apply for Canadian citizenship. In 2001, 84% of those who had been eligible to apply had become Canadian citizens (Tran, Krustec, and Chui 2005). 11 This pilot project was funded by the Vancouver Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Integration in the Metropolis (now renamed Metropolis BC). 12 This research was funded by a SSHRC research grant, ‘African Immigrant Women in Vancouver.’ 13 A profile of African immigrants in Greater Vancouver is provided in chapter 1. 14 We are currently engaged in a new project examining the experiences of youth from sub-Saharan Africa who arrived in Canada in their teen years, including their perceptions of gender differences and generational tensions. This project was identified by the community as a research priority. 15 In one case a female participant chose to be interviewed by the male interviewer. 16 The size of the sample was limited by funding resources rather than by interest of potential participants. Many participants told us that they were happy to talk about their experiences for the first time and they hoped that telling their stories could lead to change. 17 Many thanks to Brandy Wiebe for her conscientious work in coding the interviews. 18 The author is the president of the board of directors, and Edith and Mambo are co-executive directors, of Umoja. 19 To maintain confidentiality, participants were assigned pseudonyms. We chose to assign African names as pseudonyms and have therefore included F or M beside the descriptive interview number to alert the reader to the gender of the speaker. Interviews 1–31 are with women, and interviews 32–61 are with men.

Notes to pages 15–23 235 20 Although Edith Kambere, who has a master’s degree in social work, and Mambo Masinda, who has a doctorate in political science, both hold fulltime non-academic jobs that inhibit the ability of either to commit the time required to co-author this study, their insights are evident throughout the text. I have benefited greatly from ongoing conversations and, when possible, their comments on dra s of papers and chapters. 1. A New African Diaspora  1 As Takyi and Konadu-Agyemang (2006) and El-Khawas (2004) point out, many Africans also found reasons to want to leave their countries of origin a er the introduction of the Structural Adjustment Plans, imposed largely by the International Monetary Fund in the 1980s, which resulted in increasing poverty; this in turn was exacerbated in some regions by political instability, drought, and famine. Europe had been the destination of choice for Africans because of colonial ties and proximity, but as European countries increasingly tightened their borders, migration to North America became more desirable.  2 The number of African immigrants is kept low partly through the uneven global distribution of Canadian immigration offices. In 1980 only 8 of 118 Canadian immigration officers abroad were located in Africa. In 2004 only six African countries (Morocco, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Egypt, Kenya, and South Africa), and only four of these in sub-Saharan Africa, had Canadian missions that provided immigration services (Puplampu and Te ey 2005, 34).  3 As Koser (2003) argues, the bulk of scholarship on the African diaspora continues to focus on the slave trade and its descendents. There is li le research on recent African migrants, hence the notion of a new African diaspora that merits a ention in Canada and elsewhere.  4 Toronto ranked second in the world to Miami and was followed by Los Angeles and Vancouver (Conway-Smith 2004).  5 Here, the term immigrant refers to all those who are not Canadian-born. As noted in the introduction, more than 80% of landed immigrants (the legal term for those granted permanent resident status in Canada) are also Canadian citizens.  6 To put trends in Vancouver in a national context, 19.8% of the total population of Canada have immigrant background, and 16.2% of the total population are people of colour (Statistics Canada 2007, 7; 2008, 12).  7 Identifying as Black were 20,670 people, out of a population of 2,097,965, in the census metropolitan area of Vancouver (Statistics Canada, 2006

236 Notes to pages 23–29


 9 10 11


13 14



Census, h p:// 92-591/index.cfm?Lang=E, accessed on 13 January 2009). Identifying as African-born were 27,260 people, though this included many Africans who were White or Asian in ethnic origin. For example, the largest group of African origin came from South Africa (15% of all those with African descent), and the majority of these people were White. It is also likely that some Africans only identified themselves by their country of descent (Statistics Canada, 2006 Census, h p:// olc-cel/olc-cel?catno=97-564-XCB&lang=eng, accessed on 13 January 2009). Statistics Canada, 2006 Census, h p:// olc-cel?catno=97-564-XCB&lang=eng (accessed on 13 January 2009). Literature in French is more likely to concentrate on African immigrants in Montreal. Owusu’s study (2006, 276) reports that in 2000 there were more than 30,000 Ghanaian immigrants in Canada, and more than half resided in Toronto. Manuh’s study (2003, 140) estimates 20,000 Ghanaians in Toronto. In contrast, there were less than 20,000 African immigrants from all sources living in Vancouver in 2001. Joseph Mensah, one of the authors of the 1998 study in BC, has also written a broad overview, Black Canadians: History, Experiences, Social Conditions (2002). Parts of his book focus on immigrants from Africa, though not specifically in Vancouver. French colonial history might provide similar advantages in Quebec. Independent immigrants are assessed through a points system that focuses on education, occupation, and knowledge of the two official languages, English and French (there is also a subset, business immigrants, that is assessed largely in terms of investment capital); family class immigrants are immediate dependants of Canadians or landed immigrants and are not assessed through the points system; refugees either are selected abroad from among those designated as refugees by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) or travel to Canada to make an inland refugee claim (which may or may not ultimately be successful). Refugees are over-represented among clients of se lement organizations and hence are more likely to be referred by se lement workers. Alternatively, refugees may have self-selected to participate in the study. It should be noted that refugees selected abroad are designated as such by UNHCR and then assessed by Canada using a modified points system. It is not clear how many of those who came as refugees were selected abroad (versus how many were in-land refugee claimants), but for those who

Notes to pages 33–62 237 were, their educational and occupational backgrounds would have been considered in Canada’s selection process. 2. Erasing Linguistic Capital 1







One woman who was originally from Uganda reported knowing ‘some English,’ while the other thirty-eight migrants from Commonwealth countries all reported having fluent English on arrival. For an excellent discussion of disparaging a itudes towards African American speech, and the o en racist reactions to the Ebonics movement in the United States, see Baugh (2000). One woman from Uganda reported ‘some English’ and no French; one woman and one man from Sudan and one man from Cape Verde reported knowing neither English nor French at the time of arrival. ESL classes are free to immigrants in the period before they acquire Canadian citizenship. However, the language training offered in British Columbia is at a fairly basic level and does not prepare people for professional employment or post-secondary education within Canada. As a result, many immigrants pay for additional ESL courses. New Brunswick is the only officially bilingual province. Quebec’s official language is French, and the rest of the provinces have English as their only language, either proclaimed officially through legislation or de facto through the range of services made available. All provinces do offer some educational programs in the other official language. The federal government also offers services in both languages ‘where numbers warrant.’ Francis reports that 73% of the refugee claimants and 14% of the government-assisted refugees in her study had experienced at least one episode of homelessness (2009, 11–12). Conclusions about gender differences in accent policing are drawn from the greater frequency and wider-ranging examples provided in women’s narratives when compared to those in interviews with men.

3. Downward Mobility, Class Dislocation, and Labour Market Barriers 1

For example, in 2004 over half (53.5%) of all women were employed in clerical, sales, and service jobs; women who were employed full-time all year earned on average 70.5% of the earnings of their male counterparts, a gap that ranged from 71% for those with a high-school diploma to 68.9% for those with a university degree (Statistics Canada 2006a).

238 Notes to pages 63–84  2 As Reitz (2004) points out, the overall educational advantage of immigrants disappears when compared only with native-born Canadians in the larger urban centres such as Toronto and Vancouver, where most immigrants are competing for jobs. Even when education is held constant, however, immigrants are at a disadvantage in large urban labour markets.  3 Only those with a post-secondary diploma or degree are included in these totals for post-secondary education. The percentages do not include those who have taken some courses but have not completed a degree program.  4 The pool of women from outside the Commonwealth was very small, including only seven participants (see table 3).  5 See Creese 2007b for a discussion of the ways in which the racialized division of labour in Canada has shi ed over the course of the last century.  6 The inability to separate semi-professional from professional occupations in table 12 hides the gendered division of labour between these two types of occupations, with a much larger number of women than men being in semi-professions.  7 This includes nearly four in ten women and seven in ten men with a university degree when we combine pre- and post-migration educational credentials (see table 8).  8 In 2001 there were 3.2 million immigrants in the labour market. Demographic trends and immigration pa erns suggest that the majority of future workers each year will also arrive through immigration (see Statistics Canada 2003b, 12).  9 In fact we only identified ‘survival employment’ as a core concept a er coding the interviews. 10 Jobs were classified into three tiers using broad distinctions based on skill, educational requirements, and control and authority at work, drawing on Clement and Myles (1994) and Rinehart (1996). Jobs in the bo om tier consisted of low-skilled blue-collar and white-collar occupations; the middle tier was composed of semi-professional jobs, and the top tier of professionals and managers. Those who were self-employed or ran small businesses (three participants) were placed in a separate category and were considered on par with professionals and managers for purposes of determining occupational and class mobility. 11 Those who were unemployed, full-time students, or full-time homemakers at the time of the interviews are excluded from the table on mobility. 12 There is less blue-collar employment for women in Vancouver than in cities like Toronto and Montreal that have much larger light manufacturing sectors (such as textiles) that employ immigrant women. The main blue-collar industries in British Columbia – forestry, construction, and fishing – offer few job opportunities for women.

Notes to pages 88–99 239 13 Exceptions include post-secondary degrees a ained in Britain, the United States, or Australia. 14 In 2005 there were only six residency spots in BC hospitals for foreigntrained doctors. The provincial government announced that this would be increased to eighteen in 2006 / 7, which is still a paltry number considering the thousands of foreign-trained doctors who are unable to work as physicians ( BC Public Affairs Bureau News Release 2005). 15 British Columbia Institute of Technology. 16 Unfamiliarity with post-secondary institutions in other countries is a legitimate concern of employers seeking reassurance about the qualifications of potential employees. If this were the main problem for highly educated immigrants, however, we would expect ICES evaluations to be an effective solution. 17 It can be argued that government policies respond more to the interests of business rather than to those of workers, and underemployed, deskilled labour means lower wages, which is good for business. However, the extent of the mismatch between immigration policies recruiting skilled professionals and the persistent failure to recognize those skills may also become politically untenable when immigrants congregate in large urban areas and hence have increasing political clout at the ballot box. One indication that this issue now has some political saliency is the recent announcement of a new fast-track credential-recognition system, part of the Pan-Canadian Framework for the Assessment and Recognition of Foreign Credentials launched in December 2009, as a partial response to underemployment among immigrants in professional occupations. By the end of 2012 it is anticipated that immigrants trained in fi een occupations (including nurses, architects, engineers, pharmacists, physicians, and teachers) will be advised within one year of application about whether or not their credentials will be recognized (Fayerman 2009). Whether or not this will enhance broader recognition of credentials is unclear, but it may at least speed up the process in cases where credentials are recognized. 18 We were unable to locate research on foreign-credential recognition in the United States or the United Kingdom to provide comparisons. Anecdotal evidence of relatives and friends who had be er luck in the United Kingdom or the United States was provided by several participants. However, research on African immigrants in those countries also documents marginalization in the labour market (for example, Herbert et al. 2008; Arthur 2000). 19 Chapter 2 deals in depth with the issue of African English accents, including discrimination in employment.

240 Notes to pages 100–111 20 Only two men suggested that African accents were not a problem in the labour market so long as a high level of English-language competency was expressed. Three others suggested that African accents were a problem for many immigrants but not for themselves. 21 See chapter 2 for a discussion of the pride many participants expressed about their African English accents, and of the resistance they felt to expectations that they should try to change their speech. 4. Reproducing Difference at Work  1 See chapter 3 for a review of the extensive literature on employment and income differences in Canada.  2 Four résumés were sent to each employer in random order: an applicant with an English name and Canadian education and experience; an applicant with a foreign-sounding (Chinese, Indian, or Pakistani) name and Canadian education and experience; a foreign-sounding name, foreign education, and Canadian experience; and a foreign-sounding name, foreign education, and some or all foreign experience (Oreopoulos 2009, 12–13).  3 Oreopoulos (2009) hypothesized that some types of occupations that require more communication skills might be less likely to consider hiring someone with a foreign-sounding name in the belief that the English skills might be weaker. Although some differences emerged across different occupational groups, these differences were not great (28, 37).  4 Ethnicity of evaluators was inferred from the accent and name of the person who le the callback message (Oreopoulos 2009, 33).  5 The informal labour market does not require identity documents, like social insurance cards, but is also typically more precarious than the formal labour market.  6 Double consciousness is the term coined by W.E.B. Du Bois (1969) to refer to African Americans’ knowledge of both the White discourses of reality and the racist realities that African Americans experience.  7 As Oreopoulos’s (2009) research suggests, the adage that managers hire people like themselves is most true for dominant groups (in this case, White native-born Canadians). In his study, while managers with Asian and South Asian names or accents were more likely than were other managers to hire those with Asian- or Indian-sounding names, they were still most likely to hire applicants with English-sounding names than any other applicants. This suggests that the embodied evaluation of cultural capital that privileges White-Anglo heritage in Canada is widespread among minorities as well.

Notes to pages 135–150 241  8 Boyd and Yiu (2009) point out that Canadian human rights law addresses direct discrimination towards specific complainants rather than systemic discrimination. Employment equity is intended to address systemic discrimination, but the four categories (women, visible minorities, Aborigines, and people with disabilities) are treated separately and do not include those who are foreign born.  9 Labour law in Canada is primarily a provincial responsibility, so most employees in British Columbia are covered by labour laws passed by the Province. The federal government legislates labour law that covers workers who work directly for the federal government (federal civil service and Crown corporations) and in industries regulated by the federal government (such as transportation, telecommunications, and fisheries), so a small number of workers in British Columbia are covered by federal labour law. 10 Only a small minority of employees in British Columbia are covered by federal labour law and hence subject to employment equity legislation (see note 9 for the scope of federal labour law). At the federal level, recent governments have shown no interest in strengthening employment equity, and in fact the current Conservative government is well known as an opponent of the program. 11 Multiculturalism has always had an ambivalent role in facilitating immigrant integration in Canada. As Abu-Laban (1998b) argues, multicultural discourses include mixed messages that both welcome immigrants and tell them to keep out. 12 The examples he gave were of Chinese and South Asian managers tending to promote others from their own ethnic communities. 13 Ngalula is referring to seeing Edith years before in the la er’s role as a se lement worker at Multicultural Family Centre. 14 As quoted in earlier passages of this chapter, Neila was unable to find work in a beauty salon a er completing Canadian qualifications in cosmetology and hairdressing, and she quit her cleaning job a er five clients cancelled their contracts rather than allow her to clean their homes. 5. Gender, Families, and Transitions  1 We did not ask about sexual orientation so it is unlikely that anyone who identified as lesbian, gay, bi, or transgendered would have felt safe enough to ‘come out’ to the interviewers. Examining the ways that sexuality shapes the se lement process among migrants from sub-Saharan Africa merits additional research.

242 Notes to pages 156–169 2







Participants were recruited as individuals and not as couples, so it is difficult to know the ways in which views might be shaped by a partner’s embrace of, or resistance to, changing gender relations, though some participants’ comments about their partners certainly suggest a strong link. The time difference of 1.6 hours per day equals women performing 584 unpaid hours, or 73 additional eight-hour shi s, every year in comparison to their male partners. This time imbalance is on top of both partners working full-time in the paid labour market. In Manuh’s (2003) study of the Ghanaian community in Toronto she found that the practice of men acquiring mistresses or additional wives on their return to Ghana was one reason that women preferred to remain in Canada, even though most men wished to return to Ghana (155). For example, MOSAIC ran a group for Somali women; a Sudanese women’s group was run by Greater Vancouver Family Services; there was the Ethiopian Women’s Association for Greater Vancouver; and Multicultural Family Services ran a mother’s group and drop-in programs for African women. We are only aware of one family-related program by a local se lement organization that targets men, in this case South Asian men who have a history of domestic violence. People in the program participate as a result of a court order. At the time of the interviews in 2004 there were very few se lement programs specifically aimed at African women or men. Multicultural Family Services, MOSAIC, and Greater Vancouver Family Services each had at least one African-origin staff member who did some targeted programming. This was usually aimed at women from only one country: Somalia in the case of MOSAIC, and Sudan in the case of Greater Vancouver Family Services. Multicultural Family Services was the only organization offering services to women from all over the African continent. In addition, some se lement workers of African origin worked in se lement agencies serving the general population of immigrants and refugees. According to a recent study by Statistics Canada, children of African immigrants, aged 25 to 34 years old, have higher rates of university a ainment than do children of Canadian-born parents (55.9% versus 27.5%), though not quite as high as some immigrant groups (for example, Chinese at 69.5% and Indian at 65.2%). However, this sample of African immigrant children is predominantly White (49% identify European origins), other visible minority (37%) – most likely of Asian origin – and only 14% identified as Black. It was the perception of research participants that Black

Notes to pages 170–205 243





African youth locally have high school dropout rates and low levels of university a ainment (Abada, Hou and Ram 2008, 10–13). In addition, one woman had just reunited with her children a er being apart from them for fi een years; seven of those years were spent in Canada waiting for family reunification. One woman who was still trying to arrange for her children’s immigration was sponsored by her husband; it is possible that he may originally have come as a refugee claimant. Exploring the experiences of immigrant youth and second-generation children is beyond the scope of this study and merits additional research, some of which we are in the process of conducting. Corporal punishment such as spanking is not illegal, but parents can be charged with assault, and children can be removed from the family home, if physical punishment is deemed to constitute a threat to the welfare of the child.

6. Identity and Spaces of Belonging  1 The media has followed a series of high-profile cases in which Canadian passports have done li le good for Canadians of African origin. Most recently, Suaad Hagi Mohamud, originally from Somalia, was stranded in Kenya for three months a er Kenyan authorities decided she did not look like her Canadian passport photo. Canadian consular officials agreed that she was an imposter and urged Kenyan authorities to prosecute her. It took three months and a DNA test for her to prove her identity. Her return sparked Canadian authorities to promise to issue a new passport for a man who had been stranded in Kenya for the past three years. Abdihakim Mohamed, identified as a twenty-five-year-old autistic man of Somali origin, was unable to return home a er his mother failed to convince Canadian officials in Kenya that he was indeed her son (Alsop and Clark 2009; Ha 2009).  2 Mbula, who had been a Canadian citizen for two and a half decades, was the only other participant who identified as African Canadian.  3 This research did not explore identity among youth. However, other research suggests that African immigrant youth negotiate a more complicated set of identities than our research participants suggested, one in which hyphenated African Canadian identities figure alongside complex Black identities and American popular culture ( Ibrahim 1999; Kelly 1998, 2004).

244 Notes to pages 214–218 7. Practices of Belonging 1




5 6



In addition to the women’s groups to which research participants belonged, there was also the Ethiopian Women’s Association for Greater Vancouver. This estimate of more than 90% of African immigrants identifying as Christian is made by Mambo Masinda. In addition to collaborating on this research, Mambo has expertise gained from providing front-line service to the African community for more than a decade, first with MOSAIC and now with the Burnaby School Board; Mambo is a community leader in organizing the Congolese community and the francophone African community, and a founding member and executive director of Umoja Operation Compassion Society. According to Mambo, many migrants from Sudan and Somalia living in the Greater Vancouver area come from minority Christian communities in their countries of origin. Other Canadian cities, like Edmonton and Toronto, have much larger Muslim African populations. We were unable to identify any mosques with a significant concentration of Africans, a result of the very small Muslim African population in Greater Vancouver. The twelve churches include the Restored House Chapel (Langley), CIMFC ( part of the Christian Family Movement, Coquitlam), Open Bible Chapel (Surrey), New Life Seventh Day Adventist (New Westminster), Bethel United Apostolic Church (Surrey), Calvary Worship Centre (New Westminster), Pentecostal Tabernacle (New Westminster), Souffle de Vie (New Westminster), Jesus Christ International Grace Ministries (Vancouver), Blessed Church of God (Surrey), Liberty House (Surrey), and Family Community Church (Surrey). Mambo Masinda, in conversation with twelve pastors in June 2010. Souffle de Vie in New Westminster provides services in French. Liberty House in Surrey operates in French and Kirundi and is currently discussing the possibility of providing second-language instruction in Kirundi for children. This is a personal observation following a trip to Uganda to assess development work being conducted by Umoja Operation Compassion Society. It is also born out in conversations with other members of the local African community. This organization was largely the vision of one person. It was no longer functioning in 2010, though it was still present on the Web (h p://www., accessed 17 June 2010).

Notes to pages 223–229 245  9 Funding for immigrant se lement services and ethnocommunity events comes from all three levels of government (municipal, provincial, and federal), so an effective pan-African organization would also need to lobby at all three levels. 10 Conversation with Mambo Masinda, one of the founders of the United African Communities of BC, June 2010. 11 Announcement by the BC Council for International Cooperation of the Fi h Annual African Peace Festival, 10 July 2010, h p:// 5th-annual-african-peace-festival (accessed 1 January 2011). 12 Announcement of the second Vancouver Pan-African Film and Arts Festival, October 2008, h p://Africancanadiancinema.wordpress. com/2008/11/01/Vancouver-pan-african-film (accessed 28 August 2009). 13 ‘Vancouver African Soccer Tournament: A Message from Uganda’s Team Manager,’ The Patriotic Vanguard: Sierra Leone News Portal, 28 July 2008, h p:// and article 2543 (accessed 28 August 2009). 14 At the time of the interviews (2004), MOSAIC, Greater Vancouver Family Services, Multicultural Family Centre, and the Immigrant Services Society of BC employed at least one African-origin se lement worker and ran at least one program specifically for immigrants and refugees from subSaharan Africa. For example, MOSAIC ran a Somali women’s group, Greater Vancouver Family Services ran a Sudanese women’s group, and Multicultural Family Centre ran an African women’s group. 15 African se lement workers are now working in both the French and the English school systems in Greater Vancouver and in a much wider range of se lement agencies and other social services. 16 The research team is closely connected to Umoja. Edith Kambere, along with her husband, Amos, is a co-founder of the organization, and both she and Mambo Masinda share the position of executive director. The author is a member, and currently chair, of the board of directors. Umoja was created about a year a er the completion of our interviews for this project. 17 As a point of comparison, the first African-focused se lement organization in Toronto, the Canadian Newcomer Aid Centre of Toronto, was created two decades earlier, in 1983 (Donkor 2005, 35). 18 By storefront we mean businesses that have a separate business premise in a commercial area, as distinct from businesses run out of people’s homes.

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Abasi: on accent discrimination and racism, 53, 54; on Nigerian Women’s Association, 213; on not feeling as belonging, 208; on situational identity as Canadian, 203 Abella, Rosalie, 136 Aboriginal peoples, Canada: continued racialized hierarchy under multiculturalism, 7; continued vitality of, a er colonialism, 7; employment equity programs, 136; linguistic domination of, 37; racialization, and labour market, 62; subjugation of, in nation building, 6 accent discrimination: accent, as ‘index of authority,’ 35, 50; accent, as marker for inclusion and exclusion, 36; accent, difficulty of changing, 57– 9, 99; accentreduction courses vs. training listeners to become ‘more willing to hear,’ 36; as actual communication problems, 57–8; avoiding, by choosing specific workplaces where accent is not

a barrier, 100 –1; Commonwealth African immigrants, 43–56; as contradicting multicultural equality in Canada, 60; devaluation of African English accents, 11, 12, 17, 46 –7; in educational institutions, 43– 6; gendered discrimination, 17, 41; in labour market, 41, 49 –50, 69, 98–101, 113–14; language ‘policing,’ 51–3; linguicism, definition, 37; measures for addressing systemic inequalities, 56; and myth of ‘unaccented English,’ 35, 37; need for Canadians to be more accepting of different accents, 59 – 60; as negative perception, not impaired communication, 99; as ongoing problem for immigrants, 33, 48, 99; as proxy for racialized body, 48, 53– 6; in rental accommodation market, 37, 41–2, 48– 9; resistance of, by African immigrants, 56 – 60; studies, 36 –7; in teaching profession, 49 –50, 99 –100; as undermining perceived personal

266 Index competence, 17, 39, 40, 47, 50, 99. See also English-language proficiency; linguistic capital Access Nigeria Consulting, 218 accommodation (housing): as problem for immigrants in Vancouver, 48; rental, denial based on accent stereotyping, 37, 41–2, 48– 9 ACDISA (Africa-Canada Development and Information Services Association), 218 African Americans: families, portrayed as dysfunctional, 151, 165; popular culture, African community as counterpoint to influence of, 198; rap/hip hop music, and Black African youth, 180, 193 African Canadian Soccer and Cultural Association, 226 African immigrants: history of presence in Canada, 7, 20 –1; as ‘model immigrants,’ according to immigration system’s points system, 69, 89; Vancouver, not concentrated in one neighbourhood, 23, 197, 220, 221. See also African immigrants, from Commonwealth countries; African immigrants, sub-Saharan; study, of sub-Saharan African immigrants in Vancouver African immigrants, from Commonwealth countries: and accent discrimination, 43–56; anticipated advantages of, 26, 69, 74, 89; devaluation of educational credentials, 89; education levels, 70 –1;

employment status, postimmigration, 74; occupational status in Canada, 75 African immigrants, sub-Saharan: lack of basis for connection with Black people whose roots are not Africa, 194, 196; married status, 150; parental status, 150; population, in Greater Vancouver, 23, 24; study participants, class of immigration, 28; study participants, country of origin, 27; study participants, English proficiency, 29; study participants, immigration status, 29; study participants, level of education, 30, 31–2, 70 –1; study participants, occupational status, 31; transnational extended families, 149 –50. See also accent discrimination; belonging; credentials, education; families; identity; labour market; se lement agencies African Peace Festival, 226 Ammara Dance Company, 226 Asians, presence in Canada since early century, 7 Association des africains francophones de la ColombieBritannique, 228 Banda: on coping with discrimination, 129; on doing survival jobs, 83; on necessity for social networks to find employment, 111–12; on response to ‘Where are you from?’, 200 Bangila: on African community as counterpoint to influence of African American popular culture,

Index 267 198; on discrimination in the labour market, 117; on having to work harder than colleagues, 139; on loss of extended family support for childcare, 152–3; on negotiating a space of belonging at work, 139 – 40; on parental authority, 181; on situational identity as Canadian, 203, 204 Bara: on accent discrimination, 47; accent discrimination in teaching profession, 99 –100; on African identity and self-esteem, 190; on ambivalence around feeling of belonging, 207–8; on exclusion in the workplace, 128; on feeling liberated a er immigration, 158; on having to be really good to succeed, 139; on lack of worry about husband’s infidelity, 162; on new parenting style, 182 Befanie: on children’s lack of respect for elders, 179 –80; on pan-African community organization, 222–3 belonging: and acceptance, 206 –8; ambivalence about, 18, 24, 199, 200, 206 – 9, 230; Canadian citizenship, a itudes towards, 9, 200, 202– 6; church, as community and connection, 140 –1, 204; claiming spaces of, 230 –1; critique of racism and multiculturalism in Canada, by African immigrants, 141–3, 145; deskilling, and ‘disempowering inclusion’ of African immigrants, 102; independent immigrants, importance of Canadian rights and sense of belonging, 205; and multiculturalism, 6 – 9; negotiated in boundaries of diaspora spaces, 9;

question ‘Where do you come from?’ as reinforcing perpetual outsider status, 194, 199, 200; refugees, importance of Canadian rights and sense of belonging, 205– 6; tied to future of children in Canada, 188, 204; workplace, exclusion in, 124 – 9, 131–3; workplace, negotiating niches of, 139 – 46. See also community, African; identity; se lement, of immigrants bilingualism. See English-language proficiency Bizima: on being harassed by other employees, 129; on being identified as African, 195; on belonging in Canada, 188; on difficulty of being identified as Canadian, 3, 4, 8; on doing survival jobs, 83; on hybrid African Canadian identity, 204 –5; on lack of Canadian job experience, 80; on need for retraining to find work, 89; on need to continually prove her English competency, 44; on the stress of domestic work, 157; on support of other African women, 211 Black Skin, White Masks (Fanon), 192 Blackness: African American rap/ hip hop music, as affirming images for Black youth, 180; African immigrants, lack of connection with non-African Black people, 194, 196; centrality of, in Vancouver, 116; children’s need for pride in, 189 – 90; discrimination against Canadianborn Black people, 116; as

268 Index erasing anticipated advantages for African immigrants from Commonwealth, 12–13; in Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks, 192; as identity, 192–3, 204; learning to be Black, 18, 21, 192–3, 195; men, on anti-Black racism in Vancouver labour market, 116 –17; as negative factor in labour market, 114 –15; as political category, 193; reshaping of African Canadian identities as, 21. See also racialization; racism; Whiteness Bourdieu, Pierre: on accents, effects of, 46; on accents as ‘index of authority,’ 35, 50; on cultural capital as transmission of power, privilege, and inequality, 68; on linguistic capital, 17, 33– 4, 41; on multiple interrelated capitals, 34; on social capital, and reproduction of class divisions, 112 Brah, Avtar, 6 Britain: colonial occupation of Canada, 6 –8; immigrant se lement experience in Canada, 4; immigrants, as percentage of population of Vancouver, 22. See also African immigrants, from Commonwealth countries; colonialism, Africa; colonialism, Canada; nation building, Canada British Columbia: employment equity policies, 136, 137; labour standards, on benefits a er threemonths on job, 120, 124. See also names of specific suburbs; Vancouver Building Bridges, 218 Burnaby, population of sub-Saharan African immigrants (2006), 24

Burundi: nationally based organization in BC, 217; study participants from, 27 Calvary Worship Centre, 215 Camara, on African identity, 195 Cape Verde Island, study participants from, 27 Centre of Integration for African Immigrants (CIAI), 26, 218, 227, 228 child rearing: adaptation to Canadian society, 182–3; African American popular culture, influence of, 179, 180, 193, 198; and Canadian values, 182– 4; children’s rights, 182, 184 –7; concerns, regarding individualist, rights-oriented Canadian culture, 18; conjugal family, and parenting, 172– 6; corporal punishment, views of, 165, 185–7; dissonance between parenting in Africa and Canada, 169 –70, 179 –80; fear of state intervention, 184, 186; girls, pressure on parents for freedom of movement, 182; identity, negotiating multiple levels of, 188– 91; loss of extended family support for, 152– 4, 170; male involvement in, 160, 175– 6; parental authority, 179 –84, 187; physical separation from children, due to immigration regulations, 149 –50, 170 –2; protective strategies, 176 – 9. See also women Chinese people: assistance in adjusting to immigration within ethnic / linguistic enclave, 40; businesses, as model for successful

Index 269 economic growth and source of employment, 228; exclusion and marginalization of African immigrants, 125, 129; as percentage of population of Vancouver, 22; presence in Canada since early 19th century, 7; social networks, 113; visible business, religious and cultural structures, 219 churches: African congregations and pastors, 215; as community and support, 140 –1; as social networks, 214 –15 CIAI, 26, 218, 227, 228 citizenship, Canadian: as not equated with belonging by African immigrants, 9; study participants’ status, 28, 29. See also immigration system, Canada Clarke, George Ellio , 21 colonialism, Africa: British, and English linguistic capital, 33, 34 –5; and definition of Blackness, 192; French language legacy, 33 colonialism, Canada: history of, and anticipated advantages for African immigrants from Commonwealth, 7; and ideologies of British and western European racial superiority, 7; and nation building, 6 –7; and practice of White British English-language dominance, 37, 47; and preference for European immigrants, 20; and production of White imagined community, 21, 195; recognition of degrees from Britain and White se ler colonies, 45; ‘vertical mosaic,’ 7 colour, skin. See Blackness; people of colour; Whiteness

community, African: African cultural centre, as cultural and social space, 224 – 6; African cultural centre, as space for men to socialize, 226; African entrepreneurship, 228– 9; African values, 197–8; African-centred social services, 226 –8; churches, as social networks, 214 –15; dance companies, 226; festivals, 226; gendered communitybuilding concerns, 18–19, 210 –11; nationally based organizations, 217–18; pan-African, claiming spaces for, 230 –1; pan-African organization, challenges of creating, 219 –24; pan-African organization, need for, 193– 4, 195, 218–19; pan-African organization, reorienting of focus from Africa to Canada, 223; and practices of belonging, 210; radio program, 226; as reinforcing African identity, 197–8; sports association, 226; theatre companies, 226; volunteer work, and social networks, 215–16. See also cultural capital; social capital Congo. See Congo-Brazzaville; Democratic Republic of Congo Congo-Brazzaville: nationally based organization in BC, 217; study participants from, 27 Congolese women’s group, 213 Coquitlam, population of subSaharan African immigrants (2006), 24 Courouma: on barriers to employment, 80; on being qualified to teach as a volunteer

270 Index but not as paid staff, 86; on doing survival work, 90; on exclusion in the workplace, 126 –7; on feeling excluded, 42; on learning English and accent discrimination, 40, 41 credentials, education: Canadian, as not a guarantee of work in that field, 87; Canadian, as strategy for more satisfying working life, 141; Canadian, labour market demand for, 69, 81–2, 88; deskilling, of highly educated immigrants, 66 –8, 88– 90; and economic capital, 68; evaluation by International Credential Evaluation Service (ICES), 93; foreign, devaluation in Canada, 17, 45, 64, 76, 88– 95; foreign, recognition in UK and United States, 98; immigration policies, and supposed educational advantage, 63, 88, 96; of independent immigrants, 29; as institutionalized and embodied cultural capital, 68; professional associations, and system of accreditation, 91–2; pursuit of further education in Canada, 17, 31, 46, 70, 78, 87–8; recognition of degrees from Britain and White se ler colonies, 45; retraining, as providing new qualifications for local context, 95; of study participants, 29, 30, 31; ‘value,’ depending on person to whom they are a ached, 65. See also deskilling, of immigrants; educational institutions; labour market Croatian people, visible business, religious, and cultural structures, 219, 224, 225

Culibali: on accent discrimination and racism, 55; on being laid off a er probation period, 124; on lack of social networks to find employment, 112; on not finding employment in his field, 89 – 90; on obtaining volunteer work, 85– 6; on overqualification, 91; on task discrimination in workplace, 118–19; on united African community in Moscow, 219; on working at low-end jobs, 84 cultural capital: and Bourdieu’s theory of multiple interrelated capitals, 34; of Commonwealth immigrants, 26; cultural dislocation, of African immigrants, 150 –5; embodied, in accents and cultural competences, 68; erasure of, for African immigrants in Vancouver, 62; institutionalized, in academic credentials, 68; and labour market, 66; linguistic capital as form of, 34; skills and educational qualifications, 65 Democratic Republic of Congo: and Foundation Lazare not-for-profit organization, 218; immigrant population, in Vancouver, 23; nationally based organization in BC, 217; study participants from, 27 demographics, Canada: changing, since immigration policies of 1970s, 5; population born abroad, percentage of, 3, 5; visible minorities, percentage of, 5. See also immigrants, Canada deskilling, of immigrants: channelling into ‘survival employment’

Index 271 by se lement agencies, 66 –7; frustration of, 105– 6; labour market practices contributing to, 69, 102; as racism, 102; role of employers and professional associations, 67–8. See also credentials, education; labour market diaspora, as signifier of transnationality and political struggles, 22 diaspora spaces: definition, 9; as in-between cultures, 202; labour market, where foreignness equals deficient, 61; language, as space of exclusion and ongoing struggle, 33, 37, 59, 101; nation states as multiply bordered spaces between nationals and ‘others,’ 6; and negotiation of belonging, 9; as privileging Canadians over immigrants, 32 discrimination: in labour market, 108–10; names, as barrier to employment, 109; reframing of experience, by African immigrants, 141–2. See also accent discrimination; accommodation (housing); credentials, education; labour market; racialization; racism Doundounba Drum and Dance Ensemble, 226 economic capital: and Bourdieu’s theory of multiple interrelated capitals, 34; relationship to institutionalized and embodied cultural capital, 68 Edmonton, labour market studies of African women in, 69

education. See credentials, education; educational institutions educational institutions: accent discrimination, 36, 43– 6; discounting of foreign credentials, 45; measures for addressing systemic linguistic inequalities, 56. See also credentials, education employment: British immigrants, experience of, 4; downward occupational mobility, of African immigrants in Vancouver, 31–2, 77– 9; employment equity, pursuing, 134 – 9; as essential part of integration into Canadian society, 64 –5, 102; government sector, 143– 4; as most difficult part of se ling in Canada, 74, 76; in multicultural sector, as escape from accent discrimination and racialization, 100 –1; non-profit sector, 143, 144; study participants, prior to immigration, 30; ‘survival jobs,’ 17, 66 –7, 77, 78, 82– 4, 90. See also credentials, education; labour market; workplace English-language proficiency: Commonwealth African immigrants, and accent discrimination, 43–56; ESL classes, 40, 44, 46, 56; measures for addressing systemic linguistic inequalities, 56; necessary, in British Columbia, 38– 9, 40, 42; ‘professional English’ courses, 44, 45, 46, 56; of study participants, 28, 29. 33; TOEFL tests, 44. See also accent discrimination; linguistic capital Eniconsulting, 218

272 Index Essed, Philomena, 110 –11 Ethiopia: immigrant population, in Vancouver, 23; study participants from, 27 Fadela: on discrimination against all immigrants, 115; on lack of family unity, 164; on need for African cultural centre, 225; on panAfrican community organization, 222; on parental authority, 181; promotion of African cultural centre, 197–8; on working and not having enough time with her children, 174 –5 families: African American, viewed as dysfunctional, 151, 165; class privilege, loss of, 150, 155; domestic violence, a itudes towards, 163–5; financial strain of remi ances to relatives abroad, 174; isolation, in conjugal family households, 155, 172– 6; loss of extended family network, 150, 153, 154, 172–3; male authority, challenged by immigrant experience, 154 –5; polarized views of African families, 151; separation, due to immigration regulations, 28, 149 –50, 170 –2, 201, 209; separation and divorce, a er immigration, 155, 163, 164; shi in relations between spouses, 18, 147– 69; uneven pace of adjustment between women and men, 166 – 9. See also child rearing; family class immigrants; gender; men; women family class immigrants: definition, 27, 28; women favoured as, under

gendered Canadian immigration system, 28, 147, 148 Fanon, Franz, 192 feminist research: and embedded objectivity, 10; and epistemic privilege, 10; White northern feminists’ research methods of marginalized groups, 14 Filipino people, assistance in adjusting to immigration within ethnic / linguistic enclave, 40 Foundation Lazare, 218 French people, colonial history in Canada, 6 –7 Fulani: on active parenting, 178; on African businesses, 228– 9; on African identity, 195; on African women’s group, 213; on difficulty of disciplining children, 184 –5; on holding multiple jobs, 104; on hostile supervisory practices, 122–3; on unpaid training that resulted in a job, 85 Furaha: on difficulty of disciplining children, 185, 186 –7; on going from one low-end job to another, 84 Galabuzi, Grace-Edward, 63 Gaturu: on accent discrimination, 41; on African community as counterpoint to influence of African American popular culture, 198; on being in-between cultures, 202; on children’s identity as African Canadian, 190; on confusion of identity, 192; on disadvantage of Africans regarding social networks in Vancouver, 113; on exclusion in the workplace, 126; on having

Index 273 to work harder than colleagues, 139; on multicultural friendships, 216; on situational identity as Canadian, 204 gender: Canadian occupational hierarchy, gendered notions of, 71– 4; community-building concerns, gendered, 18–19, 210 –11; differences in parenting, 160, 170, 187; domestic labour, and gender relations, 155– 69; job strategies, as gendered, 82–8; labour market, gendered segregation, 31, 62, 63, 71– 4, 148– 9; linguistic capital, gendered dimensions of, 17, 37–8, 41; shi in relations between spouses, 18, 147– 69; skill, as gendered concept valued more highly in men than women, 65. See also families; men; women Ghana: immigrant population, in Vancouver, 23; nationally based organization in BC, 217; study participants from, 27 government, Canada: blamed by African immigrants for failure to recognize foreign credentials, 96; employment equity programs, 134 – 9, 143; viewed as responsible for assisting immigrants find work in their field, 96, 97. See also immigration system, Canada Greater Vancouver Family Services, 227 Greek people, visible business, religious and cultural structures, 219 Guinea-Conakry, study participants from, 27

Haraway, Donna, 10 Henry, Frances, 113 Ibrahim, on being defined as Black, 192–3 identity: African Canadian, 205; African children, in Canada, 188– 91, 205; Canadian, adopted by White immigrants, 4; Canadian, ambivalence of African immigrants, 199 –206; learning to be Black, 18, 192–3; pan-African, 24 –5, 192– 9, 230; and racialization, 194 – 9; and responses to question ‘Where do you come from?’, 194, 197, 198, 199, 200; situational, 198– 9, 203. See also belonging; Blackness Immigrant Services Society of BC, 227 immigrants, Canada: arrivals, per year, 3; British, se lement experience in Canada, 4; changing trends, since 1970s, 5; ‘ideal,’ as economically productive, 65; people of colour, constructed as immigrants, 8; percentage of population, 3; and racialization of poverty, 64; visible minorities, percentage of, 5. See also African immigrants; African immigrants, sub-Saharan; immigration system, Canada; se lement, of immigrants immigration system, Canada: classes of immigrants, 27–8; curtailment of immigrants directly from Africa, in 19th century, 20; and difficulty of family separation, 149 –50, 170 –2, 209; points system, 5, 7, 20, 27, 64, 65, 69, 97, 147; policies, and multiculturalism, 6; policies, premised on

274 Index transnational portability of human capital, 79, 96; policies, supposed educational advantage of immigrants, 63, 88; privileging of European immigrant groups, 8; social geography of migration, 5; viewed as misleading immigrants on Canadian job prospects, 96, 97. See also government, Canada; immigrants, Canada; multiculturalism independent immigrants: and Canadian identity, 205; definition, 27, 28; education level, 29; men favoured as, under gendered Canadian immigration system, 28, 65, 148 International Credential Evaluation Service (ICES), 93 Italian people, visible business, religious, and cultural structures, 219, 224, 225 Kakoto: on church, as community and connection, 140 –1; on employment equity in government jobs, 143; on exclusion in the workplace, 127; on feeling Canadian because of her children, 204; on situational identities, 198– 9; on the stress of family life, 173 Kalumbi: on accent discrimination, 48, 55; on being protective of children, 176, 177; on belonging in Canada, 209; on children’s need for protection, 177; on employment equity in government jobs, 143; on family unity, 165– 6; on keeping African accent, 58; on loss of extended family support for

childcare, 152; on needing family to really belong in Canada, 209; on not being promoted, 120; on staggering shi s for childcare, 159 Kalumbo, on being African, 195 Kambere, Edith Ngene: as co-founder of Umoja Operation Compassion Society, 15; as interviewer, 13, 14; and study on African diaspora in Vancouver, 10 –12, 26 Kasunga: on accent discrimination, 46; on disciplining children, 185; on loss of public spaces for male leisure, 160 –1; on obtaining Canadian educational qualifications, 95; on overt racism in the workplace, 130 Kavuo: on accent discrimination and racism, 55, 95; on African businesses, 229; on ambivalence around belonging in Canada, 206 –7; on children’s African identity, 189; on exclusion in the workplace, 126; on hostile supervisory practices, 121; on how she might be viewed back home, 159; on identifying as Kenyan, not African, 197; on the inability to change accent, 57; on linking existing African national organizations, 224 Kaykimwa, on difficulty of being French-speaking in Vancouver, 39 Kazi: on closer relationship with his children, 160; on dangers to children, 176; on expectation of bilingualism in Canada, 38; on need for Canadian job experience, 81 Kelly, Jennifer, 21

Index 275 Kenya: immigrant population, in Vancouver, 23; study participants from, 27 Kimbido: on clients’ refusal of her care, 132–3; on necessity of social networks to find employment, 111 Kivete: on corporal punishment, 185; on discrimination in the labour market, 117; on the inability to change accent, 57; on need for Canadian job experience, 80 –1; on need of community for material support in labour market, 212; on non-standard work, 102–3; on race, and African identity, 196; on retraining in Canada and not finding work, 95– 6; on women abandoning their traditional roles, 163 Kizito: on exclusion in the workplace, 125, 126; on necessity for social networks to find employment, 111; on need for Canadian job experience, 81; on response to ‘Where are you from?’, 200; on the stress of being a single mother, 174; on Sudanese women’s group, 213; on support of women’s group for family difficulties, 167–8; on work assignment discrimination, 118 Konate: on addressing heavy accents as communication problems, 57; on ambivalence around belonging, 208; on being Black in Canada, 116; on belonging at work, 140; on the facade of multiculturalism, 142; on hostile supervisory practices, 122; on not belonging, 131

Korean people, assistance in adjusting to immigration within ethnic / linguistic enclave, 40 Kwame, on accent discrimination, 51 La Palabre (radio program), 226 labour market: accent discrimination, 36 –7, 41, 43, 49 –50, 76, 98–101, 113–14; blue-collar jobs, 72, 73, 74, 75; Canadian, studies of African immigrants, 68– 9; Canadian accent, preference for, 69, 76; Canadian educational credentials, preference for, 69, 76; Canadian occupational hierarchy, gendered notions of, 31, 62, 63, 71– 4, 148– 9; Canadian work experience, preference for, 68, 69, 76, 79 –88, 108; cultural capital, importance of, 66; devaluation of immigrants’ foreign qualifications, 45, 61, 64; devaluation of immigrants’ foreign work experience, 17, 64; as diaspora space, producing distinction of foreignness and Canadianness, 74; differential treatment in workplace, 117–39; doctors, accreditation difficulties of foreign credentials, 92; downward occupational mobility, of African immigrants in Vancouver, 77– 9; ‘economic apartheid,’ neoliberal restructuring and polarization of, 63; employment programs, and deskilling of immigrant workers, 66 –8; engineers, accreditation difficulties of foreign credentials, 92; experienced as parochial, closed and intolerant by African immigrants, 106; hiring, and

276 Index accent discrimination, 114; hiring, employment equity, 134 – 9; hiring, negative effect of foreign signifiers in résumés, 108– 9; hiring, negative effect of lack of social capital, 111–13; hiring, negative treatment during, 117; integration, as central measure of immigrants’ successful se lement, 61; measures for addressing systemic linguistic inequalities, 56; need for specialized services to help professionals find employment in their field, 97; non-standard work, 63, 102–3, 123– 4; overqualification for less skilled work, 90 –1; practices, as restriction of entry of newcomers, 69; professional and managerial jobs, 72, 73, 75; racialization of, 62, 63, 113–17; self-employment, 75, 78, 105, 115, 132, 142, 144 –5, 228– 9; semiprofessional jobs, 72, 73, 75; skilled workers, definition, 66; social capital, usefulness of, 66, 111–13; studies on racialized advantage, 108; training opportunities, 85, 94; unemployment, 74, 75; volunteer work, 85–7; wage gap between immigrant and non-immigrant Canadians, 62; white-collar jobs, 72, 73, 74, 75. See also employment; workplace landed immigrants, study participants, 28, 29 language. See accent discrimination; English-language proficiency; linguistic capital Laziati: on African identity, 196; on African women’s group, 213–14;

on being misled about Canadian job prospects, 96; on difficulty of raising children, 156 –7; on employment in multicultural sector, 100 –1; on focusing panAfrican organization on Canada, 223; on language ‘policing,’ 51–2; on losing one’s skills, 105; on multicultural friendships, 216; on necessity for social networks to find employment, 112; need for Canadians to be more accepting of different accents, 59; on raising children in Canada, 190; on response to ‘Where are you from?’, 201; on the unfamiliarity of her African name, 109 linguicism, definition, 37 linguistic capital: acceptable accents, 37, 40, 42, 49 –50; acquiring, by learning English a er migration, 38– 43; definition, 34; denial, as denial of status, 56; erasure of, 17, 41, 43– 4, 50; French speakers, on limits of bilingualism in Vancouver, 38, 42–3; resistance of erasure of, by African immigrants, 56 – 60; speech, and value of person u ering it, 34; White speakers, and colonial linguistic domination, 35. See also accent discrimination; English-language proficiency Lippi-Green, Rosina, 35– 6 Lwanzo: on African degrees treated as partial qualifications, 92–3; on African identity, 194; on being misled about Canadian job prospects, 97, 98; on her and her husband’s differing job strategies,

Index 277 82–3; on inadequacy of immigrant employment services, 97; on need for Canadian job experience in spite of Canadian education credentials, 82; on non-acceptance of immigrants’ education credentials, 61; on not feeling as belonging, 208; on the stress of childcare, 173 Malawi, study participants from, 27 Manuh, Takyiwaa, 164 Masabo Dance Theatre, 226 Masika: on exclusion in the workplace, 127; on frustration of dealing with immigration officials, 171; on lack of educational documentation, 92 Masinda, Mambo: as co-founder of Umoja Operation Compassion Society, 15; as interviewer, 14; study of sub-Saharan African immigrant population in Vancouver, 26 Mauritius, immigrant population, in Vancouver, 23 MAXQDA so ware, 14 Mbula: on clients’ refusal of her care, 132; on inability to change accent, 57; on linking existing African national organizations, 224; on responses to ‘Where do you come from?’, 198; on retraining as a cook, 94 –5 Media: on being overqualified, 90 –1; on difficulty of being separated from her children, 170 –1; on frustration of being a telemarketer, 105– 6; on hostile supervisory practices, 121; on lack of jobs, 79;

on need for social programs for African immigrants, 227 men: on anti-Black racism in Vancouver labour market, 116 –17; authority, challenges to, 154 –5, 164 –5, 170, 180 –1, 191; blaming of women for abandoning African traditions, 155, 156, 162– 4; bluecollar work, as survival jobs, 17, 82– 4; blue-collar work, less likely to encounter language ‘policing,’ 52–3; blue-collar work, manual labour as job ghe o, 83– 4; change in relations between spouses a er immigration, 155– 69; childcare, involvement in, 160, 175– 6; community building, view of, 210 –11, 212; connection with Africa, importance of, 210 –11, 217–18; domestic violence, a itudes towards, 163–5; education levels, 29, 30, 70 –1; educational advantage of new immigrants, 63; employment, post-immigration, 31, 73– 4, 75, 77– 9; employment, prior to immigration, 30, 73; job strategies, 82; lack of acknowledgment of women’s community organizing, 214; lack of support groups for, 168; loss of middle-class privileges, 116; loss of public spaces for collective male leisure, 160 –2; male interviewer, 13–14; on need for African cultural centre, 224 – 6; negative comparisons of immigrant life with idealized African culture, 152; occupational status in Canada, 75; privileges, challenged a er immigration, 116,

278 Index 148, 156, 160 –2, 191; pursuit of further education in Canada, 46, 70, 83, 87, 94; skill, as gendered concept valued more highly in men than women, 65; socializing not viewed as community building, 212; unemployment, post-immigration, 74, 79; uneven pace of adjustment between women and men, 166 – 9, 211; unwilling to retrain in Canada, 82. See also community, African; families Metropolis BC, 26 migration, definition, 22 Mimi: on accent discrimination, 42; on linking existing African national organizations, 223; on working at survival jobs, 84 Mohamadi: on belonging in Canada, 209; on need to know English for employment, 40 Mokoli: on accent discrimination and racism, 53, 54; on acceptable accents, 49 –50; on being a refugee, 205– 6; on changes in spousal roles, 159; on employment equity enforcement, 135– 6; on lack of community involvement in parenting, 172–3; on loneliness of being an immigrant, 202 Montreal, immigrant se lement in, 5 MOSAIC, 227 Mozambique, study participants from, 27 Multicultural Family Centre, 227 multiculturalism: accent discrimination, as contradicting multicultural equality in Canada, 60; and colonial history, 6;

as contested concept, 6; and continuation of racialized hierarchy, 7; critique of, by African immigrants, 141–2; disjuncture between discourses of pluralism and realities of marginalization, 8– 9, 106; employment in multicultural sector, as escape from accent discrimination and racialization, 100 –1; and immigration policies, 6; multicultural friendship networks, 216; privileging of European immigrant groups, while emphasizing cultural pluralism, 8; as replacement of immigration policy of Anglo-conformity, 7; unfulfilled promise of, 5, 6, 106; valorization of ethnic community linkages, while undercu ing other forms of association and politics, 8; in Vancouver, 22; women, absent or cast in conservative cultural roles, 8 Mwenda: on African businesses, 229; on African umbrella organization, 219; on being homesick, 201; on need for Canadian job experience, 80 nation building, Canada: and colonialism, 6; contemporary multicultural discourses superimposed on White imagined community, 8; and idealized versions of multiculturalism, 7. See also colonialism, Canada; multiculturalism Ndalula: on African businesses, 228; on belonging in Canada, 209;

Index 279 on exclusion in the workplace, 129; on the inability to change accent, 57; on not being called for overtime, 119 Ndungo: on accent discrimination, 49, 53, 55; on difficulty of having her qualifications evaluated, 93; on feeling like an outcast, 208; on indirect racism, 131; on panAfrican community organization, 222; on pride in African accent, 58; on the quality of her English, 56 –7 Neila: on accent discrimination in looking for rental accommodation, 41–2; on African identity, 194; on assistance in adjusting to immigration within ethnic or linguistic enclave, 39 – 40; on being homesick, 201; on being laid off to avoid being paid benefits, 124; on children’s African identity, 189; on clients’ refusal of her services, 133; on Congolese women’s group, 213; on difficulty of a racting White customers, 132; on difficulty of being Frenchspeaking in Vancouver, 39; on discrimination against Blackness in labour market, 114 –15; on hostile supervisory practices, 121; on self-employment, 144 –5 neoliberalism: and focus of immigrant employment programs on low-wage employment, 66 –7; restructuring and polarization of labour market, 63, 76 nepotism. See social capital New Westminster, population of sub-Saharan African immigrants (2006), 24

Ngalula: on difficulty of being separated from her children, 171; on Nigerian Sisters’ Community, 213; on saving to open her own business, 144; on support of other African women, 211 Nigeria: and Access Nigeria Consulting not-for-profit organization, 218; immigrant population, in Vancouver, 23; nationally based organization in BC, 217; study participants from, 27 Nigerian Sisters’ Community, 213 Nigerian Women’s Association, 213 Ntombi: on accent discrimination, 33; on collective action to become visible as African community, 219 –20; on disciplining children, 186; on ESL classes, 44; on situational identity as Canadian, 203 Nzanzu: on the beauty of African accents, 57; on children’s Canadian identity, 190; on domestic work, 156; on having rights as a Canadian, 205; on lack of male opportunity for infidelity, 161–2; on new male roles, 147; on women abandoning their traditional roles, 163 Omari: on being in-between cultures, 202; on need for African cultural centre, 225 Ongila: on linking existing African national organizations, 224; on loss of community, 153; on the stress of childcare, 173 Oreopoulos, Philip, 108

280 Index Pan-African Film and Arts Festival, 226 people of colour: employment equity programs, 136; as percentage of immigrants in Vancouver, 206; routinely constructed as immigrants, 8. See also immigrants, Canada points system (immigration): adoption of (1967), 5, 7, 20; educated men, favoured by, 147; recruitment of skilled labour, followed by difficulties of integration into labour market, 64, 97–8. See also immigration system, Canada Portais: on hostile supervisory practices, 122; on need for Canadian job experience, 80; on need for Canadians to be more accepting of different accents, 60; on pride in African accent, 58; on taking responsibility for childcare, 175; on women abandoning their traditional roles, 162–3; on women’s difficulty in finding employment, 84 Porter, John, 7 poverty, racialization of, 64 racialization: African accent, as proxy for racialized body, 48, 53– 6; escape from, through employment in multicultural sector, 100 –1; homogenization of diverse African ethnic and national origins into single category ‘African,’ 195; and identity, 194 – 9; in labour market, 63, 115; linguicism, 37; and marginalization, 230; of poverty,

64; of skills and value of education, 65– 6; in the workplace, 107 racism: children’s exposure to, 177–8; colour line, reproduction through information social networks and cultural exclusivity, 111; critique of, by African immigrants, 141–2, 145; definition, 110; democratic, 138– 9; ‘everyday racism,’ 110; ‘micro inequities,’ 124 –5, 128, 131, 134, 135, 140, 145; naming, as political strategy to expose gaps between ideologies and practices of multiculturalism, 142; prevalent among people of colour as well as White people, 118–19; refusal of care or service from Black women, 131–3; and view of African American families as dysfunctional, 151, 165 refugees: African, education level, 29; African, study participants, 28; belonging, premised on citizenship and rights, 205– 6, 208; definition, 27; and family separation, 28, 170 –2; lack of documentation of educational qualifications, 92; men favoured as, under gendered Canadian immigration system, 28, 148; social insurance numbers, as identification of, 135 rental accommodation. See accommodation (housing) Richmond, population of subSaharan African immigrants (2006), 24 Royal Commission on Equality and Employment, 136

Index 281 Rwanda: and Building Bridges not-for-profit organization, 218; immigrant population, in Vancouver, 23; study participants from, 27 Saley, on accent discrimination, 51 Salula, as self-employed, 144 Sangara: on accent discrimination in labour market, 47, 49; on African identity, 194, 195; on beauty of African English, 58; on hiding his qualifications, 91 Senegal, study participants from, 27 se lement, of immigrants: factors affecting, 3. See also belonging; se lement agencies se lement agencies: African-centred, 226 –8; Centre of Integration for African Immigrants (CIAI), 26, 218, 227, 228; channelling of women into feminized caregiving occupations, 77; and cultivation of social and cultural capital for newcomers, 66; employment programs, and deskilling of immigrant workers, 66 –8, 77; limited support for families with marital issues, 167, 168– 9; unequipped to help newcomers re-enter professional occupations, 77; women immigrants, as unpaid volunteers, 86 –7; women’s support groups, 167–8; as workplaces without racism, 143 Sierra Leone, study participants from, 27 Silata: on accent discrimination, 52; on being Black, 195; on children’s identity, 189; on closer spousal

relations, 160; on counselling for marital adjustments, 166 –7; on the inability to change accent, 57; on need for African-centred social services, 227; on need for Canadians to be more accepting of different accents, 59; on open communication with children, 178– 9; on raising children in Canada, 183; on the stress of domestic work, 157; on support for new mothers, 213 Sivuka: on clients’ refusal of her care, 133; on holding multiple jobs, 104 –5; on self-employment, 105 Skeggs, Beverley, 10 social capital: and Bourdieu’s theory of multiple interrelated capitals, 34; definition, 66; friendship networks, 214 –17; as help in finding employment, 111–13; and reproduction of class divisions, 112. See also community, African Solola: on accent discrimination, 52–3; on corporal punishment, 185– 6; on co-worker interference with his job performance, 128; on discrimination in the labour market, 116; on linking existing African national organizations, 223; on the opportunity to move up and show his skills, 94 Somalia, immigrant population, in Vancouver, 23 Sonata: on accent discrimination, 50 –1; on church as social network, 214; on overt racism in the workplace, 130; on the quality of his English, 57

282 Index South Africa: immigrant population, in Vancouver, 23; non-Black immigrants, and different experience of Black immigrants, 24; study participants from, 27 South Asian people: ability to work within ethnic / linguistic business sectors, 40; businesses, as model for successful economic growth and source of employment, 228; exclusion and marginalization of African immigrants, 125, 129; as percentage of population of Vancouver, 22; social networks, 113; visible business, religious, and cultural structures, 219 study, of sub-Saharan African immigrants in Vancouver: Commonwealth and nonCommonwealth distinctions in se lement process, 12–13, 26; genesis and design, 11–14; interviewers, 11–12, 13–14; as knowledge gap in scholarship of migration in Canada, 25; participants, characteristics, 14, 16, 26 –32; previous studies, 25– 6; Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council grant, 12; terminology, use of ‘African immigrant’ instead of ‘African Canadian,’ 16; terminology, use of ‘sub-Saharan African,’ 15. See also study participants, interview statements study participants, interview statements: Abasi, 53, 54, 203, 208, 213; Banda, 83, 111–12, 129, 200; Bangila, 117, 139 – 40, 152–3, 181, 198, 203, 204; Bara, 47, 99 –100,

128, 139, 158, 162, 182, 190, 207–8; Befanie, 179 –80, 222–3; Bizima, 3, 4, 8, 44, 80, 83, 89, 129, 157, 188, 195, 204 –5, 211; Camara, 195; Courouma, 40, 41, 42, 80, 86, 90, 126 –7; Culibali, 55, 84, 85– 6, 89 – 90, 91, 112, 118–19, 124, 219; Fadela, 115, 164, 174 –5, 181, 197–8, 222, 225; Fulani, 85, 104, 122–3, 178, 184 –5, 195, 213, 228– 9; Furaha, 84, 185, 186 –7; Gaturu, 41, 113, 126, 139, 190, 192, 198, 202, 204, 216; Ibrahim, 192–3; Kakoto, 127, 140 –1, 143, 173, 204; Kalumbi, 48, 55, 58, 120, 143, 152, 159, 165– 6, 176, 177, 195, 209; Kasunga, 46, 95, 130, 160 –1, 185; Kavuo, 55, 57, 95, 121, 126, 159, 189, 197, 206 –7, 224, 229; Kaykimwa, 39; Kazi, 38, 81, 160, 176; Kimbido, 111, 132–3; Kivete, 57, 80 –1, 95– 6, 102–3, 117, 163, 185, 196, 212; Kizito, 81, 111, 118, 125, 126, 167–8, 174, 200, 213; Konate, 57, 116, 122, 131, 140, 142, 208; Kwame, 51; Laziati, 51–2, 59, 96, 100 –1, 105, 109, 112, 156 –7, 190, 196, 201, 213–14, 216, 223; Lwanzo, 61, 82–3, 92–3, 97, 98, 173, 194, 208; Masika, 92, 127, 171; Mbula, 57, 94 –5, 132, 198, 224; Media, 79, 90 –1, 105– 6, 121, 170 –1, 227; Mimi, 42, 84, 223; Mohamadi, 40, 209; Mokoli, 49 –50, 53, 54, 135– 6, 159, 172–3, 202, 205– 6; Mwenda, 80, 201, 219, 229; Ndalula, 57, 119, 129, 209, 228; Ndungo, 49, 53, 55, 56 –7, 58, 93, 131, 208, 222; Neila, 39 – 40, 41–2, 114 –15, 121, 124, 132, 133, 144, 189, 194, 201, 213; Ngalula, 144,

Index 283 171, 211, 213; Ntombi, 33, 44, 186, 203, 219 –20; Nzanzu, 57, 147, 156, 161–2, 163, 190, 205; Omari, 202, 225; Ongila, 153, 173, 224; Portais, 58, 60, 80, 84, 122, 162–3, 175– 6; Saley, 51; Salula, 144; Sangara, 47, 49, 58, 91, 194, 195; Silata, 52, 57, 59, 157, 160, 166 –7, 178– 9, 183, 189, 195, 213, 227; Sivuka, 104 –5, 133; Solola, 52–3, 94, 116, 128, 185– 6, 223; Sonata, 50 –1, 57, 130, 214; Tungu, 83, 84, 111, 153– 4, 199; Twagira, 115, 120, 181; Vatisi, 45, 54, 56, 94, 127, 140, 177; Vira, 54, 55, 59, 80, 119, 142–3, 171, 216; Wetu, 49, 107, 109, 125, 126, 154, 200, 225, 227; Yalala, 55, 78, 81, 103– 4, 116 –17, 129, 164, 222, 225; Zaley, 50 Sudan: immigrant population, in Vancouver, 23; study participants from, 27 Sudanese Canadian Community Development Organization of BC, 218 Sudanese women’s group, 213 Surrey, population of sub-Saharan African immigrants (2006), 24 Swaziland, study participants from, 27 Tanzania, programs by Umoja Operation Compassion Society, 218, 227 Togo, study participants from, 27 Toronto: African community built around ethnic and national identities, 193; as destination of most African immigrants, 22; immigrants, percentage of

population, 5; studies of Black African immigrants, 25 Trudeau, Pierre, 6 Tungu: on her husband’s need for relevant Canadian job experience, 83, 84; on increased parenting duties, 153– 4; on necessity of social networks to find employment, 111; response to ‘Where are you from?’, 199 Twagira: on being fired to avoid paying his benefits, 120; on parental authority, 181; on racialization, 115 Uganda: nationally based organization in BC, 217; programs by Umoja Operation Compassion Society, 218, 227; study participants from, 27 Umoja Operation Compassion Society: creation of, 15; as part of infrastructure of visible and united African community in Vancouver, 228; programs in Uganda and Tanzania, 218, 227; study of sub-Saharan African immigrant population in Vancouver, 26 Vallas, Steven, 118, 119 Vancouver: Black population, as percentage, 23; foreignborn population, percentage and origins, 22; immigrants, percentage of population, 5; labour market practices, as restriction of entry of newcomers, 69; pan-African community, 193– 4; sub-Saharan African immigrant population, 23

284 Index Vatisi: on accent discrimination and racism, 54; on exclusion in the workplace, 127; on ge ing along at work, 140; on negative influences on children, 177; on the quality of her English, 45, 56; on retraining as long-term care aide, 94 ‘vertical mosaic,’ 7 Vira: on accent discrimination and racism, 54, 55, 119; difficulty of being separated from her children, 171; on keeping African accent, 59; on multicultural friendships, 216; on working for a company with anti-racist policies, 142–3 Wetu: on accent discrimination in labour market, 49; on African children respecting parents, 154; on employers’ a itudes to foreign elements in resumés, 109; on exclusion in the workplace, 107, 125, 126; on need for African cultural centre, 225; on need for African social workers, 227; on response to ‘Where are you from?’, 200 Whiteness: Canada, as imagined community of, 7, 8, 21, 195; privilege, embedded in Canadian nation building, 108; privilege, in labour market, 62; ‘whitening’ of formerly non-White European immigrant groups, 7. See also Blackness women: African immigrants, labour market studies in Canada, 68– 9; autonomy, increase a er immigration, 148, 158– 9, 191;

blamed by men for abandoning African traditions of male privilege, 155, 156, 162– 4; change in relations between spouses a er immigration, 155– 69; channelled by se lement agencies into feminized caregiving occupations, 77; clients’ refusal of care or service from Black African women, 131– 4, 149; community, for informal mutual support, 211, 212–13; community, organizing to address issues in Canada, 218; dependent status, due to immigration regulations, 147–8; deskilling, of highly educated workers, 66, 69; difficulty of ge ing white-collar jobs, 84; domestic labour, as source of stress, 147, 148, 153, 155– 60; domestic violence, a itudes towards, 163–5; education levels, 29, 30, 70 –1; employment, postimmigration, 31, 73– 4, 75, 77– 9; employment, prior to immigration, 30, 73; employment equity programs, 136; as family class immigrants under immigration points system, 28, 65, 147; foreign credentials, non-recognition of, 64, 68, 69, 70; and gendered dimensions of Africans’ linguistic capital, 37–8, 41; isolation, and adjustment difficulties, 213; and language ‘policing,’ 51–3, 148; and new parenting styles, 181– 4; as non-standard workers, 63; occupational status in Canada, 75; overqualification for less skilled work, 90 –1; pursuit of further education in Canada,

Index 285 17, 31, 46, 70, 78, 87–8, 94, 149; sacrifice, on behalf of children, 188; separation from children, due to immigration regulations, 149 –50, 170 –2; se lement agencies, and construction of immigrant women as cheap labour, 67; single mothers, and childcare, 174; skill, as gendered concept valued more highly in men than women, 65; unemployment, post-immigration, 74, 79; uneven pace of adjustment between women and men, 155, 166 – 9, 211; unpaid volunteer work by, 85–7; women’s groups, 213–14. See also child rearing; families work experience. See labour market; workplace workplace: discriminating management practices, 117–18; employment equity, pursuing, 134 – 9; exclusion practices, 17–18, 124 – 9, 131–3; harassment, 128–30; hostile supervisory practices, 120 –3; language ‘policing,’ 51–3; ‘micro inequities,’ 124 –5, 128, 131, 134, 135, 140, 145; multicultural and se lement sectors, freedom from racism in, 143; racialized status hierarchies, 118; racism, jobs with anti-racist policies,

142–3; racism, management handling of, 130, 133, 134; routine layoffs to avoid BC labour standards benefit payments, 120, 124; as site where difference reproduced, 139, 141, 145; as source of social networks, 215; strategies for more satisfying relations, 139 – 46; unequal task allocation, 118–19; volunteer work, as source of social networks, 215. See also labour market Yalala: on accent discrimination and racism, 55; on discrimination in the labour market, 116 –17; on need for African cultural centre, 225; on need for Canadian job experience, 81; on non-standard work, 103– 4; on pan-African community organization, 222; on survival jobs, 78; on women calling for protection from domestic violence, 164; on workplace harassment, 129 Zaley, on accent discrimination, 50 Zambia, study participants from, 27 Zimbabwe: immigrant population, in Vancouver, 23; study participants from, 27