Last Wednesday, I attended a film screening and discussion presented by Hart House and the Centre for Community Partnerships for a movie called “Migrant Dreams” by Min Sook Lee. It is about Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program and it covers the lived experiences of migrant workers in this country. It covers a few different people through a series of interviews and documentary-style filming. Not many people are aware of the struggles that migrant workers encounter when they come here, particularly with inequitable work environments, so I would recommend watching it! I found it very eye-opening.
The panel discussion before the screening covered a wide range of topics about immigration and Canadian identity. Each panelist shared their experiences with immigrating to Canada (or talked about how their family immigrated here) and discussed the struggles that immigrants face with adapting to Canadian culture, such as struggling with language barriers, and feeling the lack of equal opportunities. One important point that I want to highlight is this: you cannot make a blanket statement about immigrants or what really defines the “immigrant experience.” There are international students, migrant workers, asylum seekers…etc among the immigrants that enter Canada each year. All of them have unique stories and struggles. However, one commonality in the immigrant experience is that they are often perceived as “the other” in our society because most of them are visible minorities.
The panel and audience engagement also touched on the power of the media and how it influences our perception of various issues. Canada is seen as a very accepting and diverse place (which it can be), but many people are not aware of the issues with our immigration policies and the struggles that people encounter everyday. The media also dictates what information the public is privy to and what information does not get presented, which is why social media is also a very powerful tool when it comes to spreading information and empowering people to take action.
I spoke with one of the panelists, Dr. Rupaleem Bhuyan, about what she would say to students who care about social justice issues and she gave some very valuable advice. “Engage in dialogue with your family, friends, and community. Call your elected officials and let them know that you care about a particular issue. Find an organization that you trust and align with. These are the first steps”, Bhuyan said. “Also, screen your media very carefully and be wary of misinformation. Be an informed individual.”
Attending this event and hearing people talk so passionately about issues relating to immigration, migrant working conditions, and other social justice issues was very inspiring. What I really took away from all of this is that there is a distinct difference between talking about changing things vs. actively putting yourself in situations where you can engage in critical discussion and advocacy. UofT, through places like the CCP, provides students with opportunities to do just that and it’s such a valuable learning experience that will shape your perspectives in life.