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A New Beginning in Kitchener: From Immigration to Integration

The third Canadian city we visited was Kitchener, my first visit since after 2016. I observed significant changes between this visit and my previous one. Our people are at the forefront. The number of our human resources, previously very few, has significantly increased thanks to the obligatory and voluntary migration. Years ago, our people could barely fill the living room of a large house, but this time they filled a conference room at least 20 times larger; this is one…

Secondly, our youth… I spent time separately with high school and university level youths and their parents in the same room, which was equally full at intervals of two hours. I joyfully observed their excitement to give something back to the welcoming Canada, the Canadian society, and its people. They have turned this excitement into tangible projects.

They have launched an online monthly magazine. It’s the publication of the youth organization of the Grand River Friendship Society, with its first issue published in November 2022. It’s a culture, art, and literature magazine. It appears before its readers with 23 volunteer youths, 21 writers, and 2 editors. Since November 2022, the magazine has reached 10.000 people.

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I am leaving its link here.

They have kindly printed out a paper copy for me. It possesses enough richness to deserve a separate review article. I hope to do that in the near future if possible.

Then, they started a project called “Saves” aimed at combating domestic violence. Five volunteer girls took the stage in t-shirts with SAVES printed on them and presented to their peers in the room. They talked about their goals of contributing to society and creating a safe environment for every Canadian. They provided statistical numbers about the victims of domestic violence, both men and women, young and old. They explained what they have done and what they will do. It’s an initiative worthy of standing ovation.

Yes, these youths are creating value. On one hand, they are proficient enough in the language and culture to produce and write for a Turkish culture, art, and literature magazine while living in Canada, and on the other hand, they are producing and contributing to social responsibility projects within Canadian society. Truly, a behavior worthy of applause. Let those who retreat to their corners like coffee corners and produce nothing but gossip all day long take note.

Lastly, I had a conversation and a question-and-answer session with adults for nearly two hours. The topic of my talk was “Dialogue and Integration”. I started my speech by saying that it’s necessary to clearly define the framework of these two concepts and then discussed the 8 main categories and tangible measures for integration put forth by various institutions such as immigration ministries of different countries, the Council of Europe’s Ministry of Social and Economic Affairs, the European Union, the Migration Policy Institute, and universities like Stanford.

Hoping it would be useful, let me give you these categories: Psychological Integration, Language Integration, Economic Integration, Active Citizenship (Integration into the Democratic System), Social Integration, Cultural Integration, Access to Basic Services, Settlement Integration.

There’s an additional item we added, making it a total of 9. Hence, we refer to these areas as 8+1. It’s based on the principle of “Integrating without Assimilating,” as Hocaefendi says, maintaining core beliefs, values, and practices. Providing measures and examples would exceed the capacity of this article, but let me say this: after explaining these, I asked everyone to rate themselves out of 9. A few people said they had incorporated all items in their lives, some said 8.5, and it went down to 8, 7, 6…1. It was a moment of reflection for everyone in terms of integration. They saw themselves and confronted their own realities. Hopefully, this will contribute to those who carry these thoughts and emotions in their minds and hearts not to ghettoize, isolate, or succumb to assimilation, but to embody these in their lives.

I remember, several friends I’ve known for years were sitting together, and when I asked, “What’s your score?” the response was enough to make the room laugh: “As a group, we’ve failed!”

No, you haven’t failed. Just realizing it is in itself an effective step, even if not sufficient, towards doing something about integration.

To conclude; life goes on. The time allotted to us, what we call life, is swiftly passing, and life is not lived looking back. I am ending my Canadian impressions, limited to Windsor, Toronto, and Kitchener, here. My warmest regards, love, and prayers to all my friends, old and new, who have shown us hospitality far beyond our due.

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AHMET KURUCAN
AHMET KURUCAN
Dr. Ahmet Kurucan is a an author and scholar focusing on Islamic Studies and Law.
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