Youth Photography

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This research project explored how integration is experienced and navigated in relation to family, peers/friendships, school, work and community.

“I link this picture not to the time when I arrive in Canada, but to the Canada Labour Code. You are not allowed to work if you are under 16 years old. This is one thing that I have encounter when I came to Canada, I was not able to work even though I was trying to find a job. So, I waited until I am 16 years old then I was able to legally find a job. I took this picture today during my work time. I like working. The Minimum legal age of employment in Canada should be lower than 16 years old because there are a lot of youth who are under 16 who need to work. They need to earn income anyway. This is one challenge that I have faced because I wanted to work but I could not. I was ready to work at age 12 years old. I needed to make my own money, this is my personality, I like to be independent, I like to move around, to go outside my home, to work, to be able to afford my needs without problem, without asking anyone for money. Also, working at a younger age will help me in the future. Gaining work experience, building my social network, getting to know more people, making connections, and experiencing new things every time will build me for the future. I do not think one should start working after graduation, no. working at a younger age will prepare you for the future. When you work more, you learn about life and about people. From my work, I am learning new skills related to the work itself (construction). I am not yet knowledgeable about how to open my own business in this field, but I am learning the in and out in this business. I am talking to new people every time because we are moving from one site to another, and this is how I am learning new things.”

“This reminds me of the time when I go to school with my siblings alone, no friend accompanies us.”

“When we arrived in Canada, we were one of the very first Syrian families who got to Canada. My family was very sad, we did not know anyone. We spent a lot of time alone. Even when we were in the hotel, they used to bring the food for us in the hotel room, so we did not need to leave the room. We were depressed as a family. My parents were so sad, but they tried not to show us their sad emotions, but we felt it in their faces and their speech although they were trying to make our experience of coming to Canada the best.”

“This picture depicts how I feel. When I took this picture, I didn’t know that it is a church, it is the one downtown. But then when I knew that this is a church, I loved it more because I like to be surrounded by different cultures.”

“This shows how my dad was doing when he was looking for a job. When we arrived in Canada, my dad had no job. My dad used to watch Satellite television, but in Canada, it is Apple TV and other advanced technology. Even his friends who arrive in Canada did not have jobs, so all of them had no jobs and could not provide care to their families. it was difficult for them. We used to live on social assistance, but my dad did not like it. so, he tried hard to learn the language and earn money. It took him one year to one year and a half to learn the language.”

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“This picture reflects Canada weather. We know it is cold in Canada before we arrive, but we have never thought it would be this cold. When we arrive in Canada, it was so much snow. The snow reaches your knees. Then in summer, it is so warm. The sun is burning. The weather in Canada does not get to the middle, like in our country if it is warm during the day, it gets cooler at night, but here it is warm during the day and humid at night. The same in winter, when it is extremely cold in the morning, it is freezing at night. We used to feel very cold or very warm all the time. We were not ready for this weather, and still, I am not fully coped with it after being here for 6 years. Even Canadians I think are not happy with this weather. It is hard to expect even if you keep checking the weather forecast. I accept it in the end because this is what we get.”

“When we were in school, the teacher was trying to explain things to us and we would nod to show her that we understand what she is saying, but in reality, we did not. It was because of the language. It took us between 6 months to a year to be able to express our thoughts. After that, lots of Arabs have come to school, and we have some teachers who speaks Arabic helped us with things.”

“The full moon caught my attention. It is beautiful. The light of the moon and the clouds around it. I felt this view of the moon, the clouds, and the tree around it is like a mother who has her kids gathered around her. Just like our home country that brings us together. It is a big thing; the moon is like a nuclei that attracts the clouds around it. The sky in Canada is very beautiful. It makes you want to be an artist to draw this beauty and keep it with you all life. In this country a multicultural country, people have different skin colours and different looks. It is much easier to feel part of the community where people have shades of skin colour and different faces. The moon is like Canada that hugs people who come from different backgrounds with different cultures around it. The president does not discriminate between people based on their religious path or anything else. This is why Canada is better than a lot of countries. The trees are like people who create conflicts in society to break our unity, but they also complete the beauty in this picture. We come to Canada with different thoughts and perspectives, and it should be okay because we are human beings. The only thing we need is something or someone who keeps us united. We look like the clouds and the moon is Canada that unifies us together.”

“I was thinking about the time when I recently arrived in Canada. You are starting a new life, learning English, and acquiring more information about life here. So, this picture resembles what was going on in my brain. After some time of being in Canada, all the details and information that I have been receiving start to make sense in my head the same way these clouds are gathering closer and forming a shape. I have been getting information from different places and about different things, then this information starts to lead to some sort of understanding of my life here, and this is how the information was going in my mind: one information was slowly connecting with another information until I develop enough knowledge about the life here.”  

“This picture is close to my heart because it reminds me of the sky in my home country. In my country, the sky is clear. It does not snow or rain too much. So, in the evening, the sky shows lots of colours, very beautiful and fantastic colours. As if it was a panoramic scenery. When I took this picture, it was in a place where I did not want to go, but when I looked at the sky, it looked beautiful and positive. It gave me a sense of harmony.”

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“It was very difficult for us to use the city bus when we want to go to school. Especially in winter, we needed to walk for a long distance to catch the bus. It was one of the things that gives us so much trouble until my dad bought a car.” 

“This picture makes me see the beauty in anything.”

“In the first picture, you can see the sun is far away, and the road is in front of the photo. From my experience, I want to arrive at some destinations, but it was far away from me. I kept going until I arrived, and I was still away from the sun. we were going to the beach when I took this picture… So, this photo represents my way and the difficulties that I have experienced till I arrive at where I want which is clear here in the second photo.”

“Then, when you arrive, you are happy with things and start feeling comfortable in the community. If you see here in the first photo, it is empty, right?  but in this photo, there are clouds, trees, and birds. There is life. In the first picture [figure 3], it is just a road, empty and boring, but at the end of it is a great thing, the sun.”

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“For newcomers, once you speak the language, you know everything in this country. You can ask questions, you can ask for help, you forget things, you can ask about it. So, learning the language make a huge part of your integration into the new country. Once you master the language, everything opens up for you. Even the food, we used to have very limited options for food, like Pizza, eggs, and homemade food, but now since I understand the language, I can read the menu and know what food I want to eat and what food I do not want to order. I know what food has pork and where I can find halal food options. Even the places, you start to know it better when you know how to speak the language. When I go outside now, I feel comfortable that whatever I am going to encounter, I know how to deal with it. This level of being comfortable in public has been established after I learn the language.”

“This picture depicts the hope I have. I took this one when I first came here [Canada] in downtown. The road and the traffic lights mean a lot to me. There is an end to this road … but when I go home and look at this picture, I see the road and see the hope too. the traffic lights are obstacles, and it is going to turn red, but that does not mean you are going to stop all your life. Yes, it is an obstacle, but you are going to continue your life. There is no straight road without bumps. It is a long way, but I will arrive.”

My dad did not have a car at first. We used to walk to school in the snow for ten minutes. It is not too far but we should carry things with us. My older siblings take the bus to go to school and sometimes during snowstorms, the bus does not come, so they do not go to school, but we should go to school because we walk. We freeze while walking to school. Even though we wear winter jackets, but we are not used to this kind of weather. After my dad got a car, we can put our stuff in the car, and when we arrive at school, we carry them and walk inside the school, and go to our classes. But before we had a car, we used to carry the winter shoes, the shoes for inside the class, the Gym equipment. We used to carry lots of things while walking, and it was heavy for us. With the car, things are much easier for us.”

“This is what we use in school always, but it was hard for us to use it because we did not know how to use them. when the teacher gives us homework on google slides or google classrooms, we did not know. This is before the pandemic of COVID-19. We had lots of teachers who speak Arabic who helped us how to use technology to do our homework. Even our English teachers have helped us a lot to figure out how to use the technology in school. Also, my classmates helped me to use the laptop. It took me three years to learn the language and to use technology for my schoolwork. Also, when I realized that I could do everything thing I need for my school online during the pandemic of COVID-19, I felt 100% confident that I can do it alone on my own. I felt that I am a champion that I can do things that lots of people cannot.”

“They are all participating, but because we did not know the language, we are the only one who are not participating. Even when you understand the question and know the answer, you do not know how to say it in English. But now, since we learn the language, we can participate. In the past, even if I know the answer and I feel I know how to say it in English, I will be hesitant to participate because my classmates may make fun of me.” 

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“Playing soccer was a key factor for my integration in Canada. I start playing in soccer teams two years ago. I was isolated before joining any teams. Being in soccer teams has helped me to socialize with people. It also helped me to plan for my future, to recognize the things that I want to do in future. After a while of playing in the team, I realized that I change my mind about things constantly. So, I first played in a soccer team for two years then I felt like this is not going to help me in building a profession. It is going to take so long time to make me able to establish a profession in soccer. So, I decided to stop playing soccer and focus on work and making money. Although I hoped for playing soccer while studying and working, but I could not have time for all of these commitments. Also, I had no means of transportation to go to the training, my dad used to work all the time, so I could not attend the training sessions because I had no one to drive me for the training.”