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Immigrant Parents

posted by DNA Identifiers @ 8:23 PM
Monday, June 22, 2009

By Alvaro Castillo

“Parents are trying to hold on to their value system and traditions and raise their children that way, but when the children get out of the home, they’re taught to be assertive and parents misinterpret this as disobedience,” said Bella Cenezero of the Parent Support Services Society of B.C. “At the center, they can express their concerns without being blamed or judged.”

But in the GTA, there aren’t enough services to help immigrant families adjust to raising children in a society with different values. “There are very few services dealing with parenting issues here,” said lawyer and activist Avvy Go. “There is always a generational gap between parents and kids. Now add to that culture tensions.”

While the adjustment may be difficult for parents, it’s also tough for teenagers who feel torn between preserving their parents’ culture and embracing their new one. Friends say this is the argument that may have led to the death of 16-year-old Aqsa Parvez. The Mississauga teen was slain in the family home Monday morning. Her father is in police custody and will appear in court today.

The two reportedly clashed over culture, with the teen shunning the hijab and questioning her father’s traditional Muslim views. “While this is obviously an extreme case, I think many families struggle with culture tension,” said Go, director of the Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic. “You see parents come here, they may not speak English as a first language and kids, if they’re born here, may end up forgetting their first language and there becomes a language barrier between the parents and kids.”

The result, she said, is they struggle to have meaningful conversations. This comes at a time when teens may already be struggling to discover their own identity, said Amita Handa, who has written about the conflict between first and second generation South Asians. “Often you get that leading a double life phenomenon,” said Handa, who wrote Of Silk Saris and Mini-Skirts. “You may wear one thing at your parents’ place and then switch clothes on the way to school.

“(Teens) are constantly switching masks to fit in, please and belong to whatever context they may be in.” Some experts say Parvez’s death speaks more to issues of domestic abuse and violence toward women.

“It would be a mistake to put it all on culture clashes, when in fact this is what you see from patriarchy,” said Joan Simalchik, co-ordinator of the Study of Women and Gender Program at the University of Toronto. “It would be a mistake to isolate (her death) to just one particular culture or one particular religion because this is something, unfortunately, we see globally.”

Margarita Mendez of Nellie’s, a safe house for abused women and children, said this sounds like a case of power of men over women. “It appears to be control over traditions and culture,” said the executive director, adding there are more young women contacting the shelter for these reasons.

Sumayyah Hussein, a 25-year-old university student, agrees. Hussein, who wears a hijab and is active in the  Muslim community, does not believe reported tensions between Parvez and her father are rooted in religion.

“To think that someone would take the life of another person because they won’t follow that external manifestation of the belief (the hijab) – it undercuts the bigger values of Islam

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