Last Updated on January 24, 2019
British psychiatrist and renowned researcher Dr. Kwame McKenzie says that more needs to be done to address the challenges faced by immigrants to help them succeed both economically and psychologically in Canada.
Speaking publicly this month at a talk hosted by the Literary Review of Canada, Dr. McKenzie said that when he arrived in the country six years ago to work at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), he was disappointed to see how poorly Canada’s multiculturalism policies were serving immigrants. He had expected to find a pluralistic society but instead found it disjointed, with ethnic enclaves leading to isolation, discrimination and depression among certain immigrant groups – a problem that similarly plagues London, as well as other areas of Europe and the United States.
One solution, for which Dr. McKenzie praised recent efforts on the part of the Canadian government, is to help bridge the skills gap that so many newcomers face – the “doctors driving cab” trend that policy-makers have been lamenting for years, which Dr. McKenzie says, leads to psychological pain.
However, he also warned of focusing policies too much on the labour market as it is today and not placing enough emphasis on immigrant adaptation skills. What might be in high demand in Canada’s economy today may not be so desirable in the long term.
Adaptability, says Dr. McKenzie, can be measured in two ways: firstly, by examining an individual’s resilience – their ability to bounce back from hardship and, secondly, by their emotional intelligence.
Choosing immigrants, however, is only half the battle. At the same time, policy makers and advocates must be willing to put in the time and effort to help newcomers succeed once they have arrived in the country.
Workers can build an industry, but people build a country,” said Dr. McKenzie, who is now medical director at CAMH. “My question is whether we’re committed to supporting them so they can help us move forward.”
Source: Toronto Star