November 23rd, 2017

Program can help curb violence

By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on August 10, 2017.

Communities, large or small, are always facing the threat of violence. From Old Testament times, we read stories of assault, killings and carnage – ranging from tribal warfare to treachery and murder within a family.

Today’s communities may seem no better, for those who follow the reports from police officers and court proceedings. What’s worse, so many TV shows and Hollywood films depict violence – from both criminals and cops – as the only way to resolve an issue, to “right a wrong.”

But in real life, at least here in Canada, there’s been improvement. Social action groups, community agencies and government initiatives have moved us all forward.

So we welcome news of the latest step, announced this week by Alberta’s community services ministry. The government is offering financial support to local agencies that employ “cultural navigators” to help newcomers learn and understand Canadians’ rejection of family violence of any kind.

Immigrants and refugees may bring an inbred “spare the rod and spoil the child” mentality, but they must respect Canada’s laws and social disapproval of physical violence as a means of “correcting” a child.

Their cultural traditions or religion may have insisted that women must remain subordinate to their husbands – or risk a beating – but they must realize that’s a criminal offence in Canada. In our society, women have gained equality in public life, in many fields including advanced education, political leadership, medical services, the justice system and the courts.

Indeed, it’s our justice system that has been one of the key initiators of change. It wasn’t that long ago that police were not allowed to charge a husband for beating his wife. For many women, refuges like the local YWCA’s Harbour House may have provided their only hope for safety.

But today, charges are laid and the perpetrators must appear in domestic violence court. And that brings mediators, anger management counsellors and other professionals into the picture, with the hope of eliminating the violence as well as salvaging the relationship.

As community workers and settlement agencies have seen, not every overseas country offers women the level of freedom and protection we take for granted here. As the same time, they acknowledge the confusion and bewilderment men and boys from some traditions must feel after moving to Canada.

And when newly arrived women land a job here, becoming the breadwinner, men in the family who can’t find work in their trade or profession may react with frustration, anger or worse. After years in a refugee camp, it’s obviously challenging to adjust to a new country and a far different way of life.

Education is a key to change and success for immigrants and refugees, and learning about Canadians’ values, community expectations and laws is no less important than learning a new language and finding a place in the job market.

The Alberta government’s grassroots initiative is a positive step in that process.

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