Two cultures, one identity

Two cultures, one identity
You were born elsewhere, but your child was born here in Quebec. How can you help your child find her identity when she’s immersed in two different cultures at the same time?
You were born elsewhere, but your child was born here in Quebec. How can you help your child find her identity when she’s immersed in two different cultures at the same time? Isn’t it confusing for her? Deirdre Meintel, anthropology professor at Université de Montreal and director of the Groupe de recherche diversité urbaine (a multidisciplinary research group studying diversity in urban areas), is interested in what she succinctly calls “plural identities.” She believes that, when they become adults, children of immigrant parents consider themselves Quebeckers, but with a little added extra. “They truly have a bicultural identity and most are very comfortable with it.”

In her studies, she has observed that parents want their children to integrate well into Quebec society at the same time as wanting them to keep their cultural heritage. And this heritage is mostly passed on at home. “Family meals around their ethnic foods, celebrations, traditions and their spoken language are all ways to connect the child to her roots,” says Meintel. Now, with free video conferencing software such as Skype, your child can get to know family still living in the home country and bond with them. That way, if she regularly talks to grandma and shows her the lovely drawings she made at daycare, this lady won’t be an intimidating stranger that she only sees once every 2 years.

“Children live in the ‘here and now,’” says Michelle Marquis, pedagogical and intercultural relations consultant. “They build an identity based on their experiences both in and out of the home.” This is why it’s important for immigrant parents to understand and accept that the 2 cultures co-exist in their children’s hearts. And the first step to achieving this is by showing them that you’re open to the values and ways of doing of your host country. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

Quebec immigration in numbers

  • Between 2007 and 2011, Quebec welcomed 245,606 immigrants, which represents an average of 49,121 people per year.
  • Nearly 21% of newcomers are children under the age of 15.
  • The five main birth countries of immigrants are Morocco, Algeria, France, China and Haiti.