My name is Danny. I arrived in Winnipeg at the age of fifteen. I left my home country due to the outbreak of war and spent three years in a neighbouring country. In my home country, my parents were wealthy and we were doing well. However, things changed quickly when we left. With the help of a pastor and family friends and by working menial jobs we did manage until we got to Winnipeg.
NEW CHALLENGES IN THE HOST COUNTRY, CANADA
New challenges emerged when we got to Canada. We spoke French and English and this was a bonus, but we realised fast that things were different. When we first arrived, we were hosted temporarily by an organization. We were treated as if we did not understand anything and that was strange. Such as basic stuff like flushing toilet. They were surprised to realize we knew basically everything they assumed we didn’t know. So, it was a shock for us at first. I think it’s just how people stereotype refugees, I guess. This place we first stayed at was temporary. The place we were moved to was bad. Thinking back now, I don’t think that house would pass inspection… but because we were new and didn’t know our rights, we just accepted it. To make matters worse, the place was in a bad neighbourhood with drugs dealers right around the house we were moved into. I remember sitting on the steps and you could see pimps and girls at the corner going on with their business. A guy used to warn me that I needed to stay indoors. He told me it was very dangerous here, you should be inside your house. I was lucky that way because I could have been picked up right there and then to start doing stuff. I am glad that person did it the way he did, because that is what I do now, whenever I see young guys getting themselves into situations. I think the set up they put us in did not help us, putting us into this side of the city. We did not see the bigger picture.
If they provided us with the area where we are right now, I personally could have avoided a lot of trouble that I got into, especially with the law. Neighborhoods that are not family friendly do expose newcomer youth into risky behaviors. One can easily be targeted and recruited not because one is interested but because no one is there to guide you. Before you know it, one is indebted to recruiters and, before long, law catches up with you. I think a lot of good things could have happened, you know, from where my family is at this point. Putting us somewhere in downtown is setting people up for failure. In the mix of living challenges, I partied a lot and this is also risky because with partying you do meet a lot of girls and then dating and eventually sex.
what can be done
My message to youth is to be aware of how you can get trapped in these neighborhoods and get in trouble with the law. My message for service providers, especially settlement workers, please keep in mind the future welfare of the newcomer youth since, just like I was, they are vulnerable and could fall for anything.
To the youth please invest your time wisely to become productive members of society, and to those newcomers who make it to also mentor the new ones in positive way to avoid the traps I fell in.
I think people must know their surroundings. Especially when you are new to a country like Canada. People who are settling newcomers must consider risky factors that can negatively affect the youth.
Lawmakers – should also consider peoples background and consider challenges they have overcome and they should value people who are different from them for who they are, not for who they perceive they are.
Lawmakers should also collaborate with community and learn about challenges and different culture.