Brazilians in Ontario

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Who they are?

By Paula Mazulquim

When the Brazilian singer Cazuza (1958-1990) wrote the lyrics for “Brasil”, which later would become a very famous expression in people’s lives as the lyrics say something like “Brazil, show me who you are”, he had no idea that – at the same time – an emigrational movement was about to become stronger among Brazilians. Since the eighties, Brazilian emigration to Canada has been rising considerably. According to Statistics Canada (2007 data), the number of Brazilians living in Canada jumped from 5,295 in the nineties to 15,120 in 2006.

What about Ontario? Who are they and how do they live? Among the 15,120 Brazilians in Canada, 8,860 have chosen Ontario as their home. How are they doing? Seeking for answers and inspired by the poet Cazuza, Brazilian professors and researchers, coordinated by the Brazil Angola Community Information Centre (now CAIS), started the project “Brazil, show me who you are – the many faces of Brazilian immigrants in Ontario. The results were collected from May to June 2007 among 622 people who had been in Canada for at least six months, 16 years of age or older and native Portuguese speakers.

One of the positive contributions of this project was to make sure that the participants could speak without being identified so they could be honest about the delicate equation between their professional experience and skills and the jobs they had gotten in Canada. The quotes significantly support more than 55% of newcomers who stated the uncomfortable mismatch between their professional experience and skills obtained in Brazil and their current jobs in Canada. “I had to go back to University for 2 years in order to try the same profession I used to have in Brazil. I also had menial jobs even though I was fluent in English and had a Bachelor Degree”, stated one of the participants. “It is very hard for you to get a job while the employers keep asking for Canadian experience in Ontario. How would a newcomer possibly be able to have this experience if he has just arrived?” said another one.

Another highlight is the qualitative aspect of the research which has allowed the newcomers to openly talk about another delicate and, most of the time, contradictory topic such as discrimination. Although almost 70% of the participants’ answers state that they have not suffered discrimination, some of the quotes show that the problem does exist. “One recruiter told me that none of his clients would even consider interviewing someone without Canadian experience”, says one participant. “Although not clearly demonstrated, there is a lack of trust towards my background and, consequently, my intellectual capacity. This lack of trust comes when I tell the employer that my PhD was obtained in Brazil”. Another one added: “I have a PhD and a social assistant offered me a job as a school bus driver”.

The quotes only show how important it is to add a qualitative aspect to the statistics, which isolated can be interpreted according to several different points of view. Thumbs up for the Brazilian researchers and for those who coordinated the study, which also analyzed topics such as: health, work, income and reasons for immigrating to Canada, among others. To get the whole study and to talk to the researchers and organizers go to CAIS, Centre for Support & Social Integration Brazil-Canada.

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