A day with members of the Thorncliffe neighbourhood office
Author: Krittika Ghosh
Date: 2012-05-30 17:07:15
Category: all categories
Metatags: African Diaspora, Bangladeshi, Indian, Ismaili, Muslim, Pakistani, Seniors, South Asian, Women


The following is a photo essay of a series of workshops facilitated by Brown Canada Staff members Krittika Ghosh and Shameela Zaman with the members of the Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office.   The Thorncliffe Neighbourhood holds a huge South Asian community ranging from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Guyana and Sri Lanka.  For more information on the community check out:

Brown Canada staff members Krittika Ghosh & Shameela Zaman co-facilitated an interactive workshop with a group of over 30 seniors from the Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office (TNO) about their experiences as immigrants to Canada.  A majority of the group identified as Ismaili Muslims and immigrated from Uganda, Tanzania, the Congo and India.   

We started the workshops by showing the Brown Canada P.S.A and discussing the Komagata Maru incident which brought about an intense discussion on policies of exclusion and discrimination towards South Asians immigrants in Canada.



The workshop participants spoke about their immigration journey and experience as well as their expectations of Canada before moving.  Many of the women had to move from Uganda because of being forced out of the country caused by dictator Idi Amin’s rule and one woman commented that she “had never heard of Canada” and “had to leave everything they owned back home” before fleeing to Canada for political reasons. Most of the participants had been sponsored by their children, siblings and other family members and they had immigrated from as early as the early 70’s to as recently as just 4 years ago! 


 It was universally agreed that the cold weather was unexpected and that the one thing that they missed about ‘back home’ was the tropical weather, fresh fruits and vegetables and the beaches!  At the same time, they acknowledged that Canada provided them and their families with education, opportunities and jobs. The women also spoke about experiencing racism and discrimination in the work-place, schools and in their daily lives.


Shameela  Zaman facilitation the TNO Seniors Workshop. Some of the other topics discussed were about building a ‘community’ in Toronto after arriving here.  The women spoke about their deep connection to the larger Ismaili Muslim community and the various social activities organized by their local Jamat Khannas including trips, social events and educational activities for children.  We also discussed the positive and negative images and stereotypes of South Asians in Canada both within the community as well as externally.



Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office Staff were invaluable in organizing the workshops and helping us interpret and with logistical support.  Pictured here are Nasim Damani (in the blue), School Settlement Worker and Madhu Choudhary, Program Coordinator, Multicultural Women's Group at TNO.  We are also grateful to the invaluable support of Jennifer Rajasekar, Settlement Program Coordinator at TNO for organizing all the Brown Canada Project workshops at TNO



Following the morning’s senior’s workshop at the Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office,  Krittika and Shameela facilitated a workshop with the LINC group which consisted of over 60 very engaged participants. 


The participants were from various countries both in South Asia as well as Egypt and the Middle East. We started out with introductions including what each participant likes to do in their free time, and the responses ranged from reading, painting, spending time with family, and travelling.



Our first activity was to write a post-card to someone back in our country of origin to tell them about our lives in Canada. The participants drew images on one side of the postcard and wrote on the other.  The CN Tower and Niagara Falls were popular images drawn by many of the participants and others drew the seasons, their community, and one ambitious participant drew a picture of a mall that he hoped to own one day. 


The participants spoke about their extremely busy lives here in Canada and their hopes and dreams to find good jobs, provide a better education for their children and to eventually buy their own place.  Many of them responded to a prompt on challenges they face in Canada with language barriers, lack of a social support system in Canada, and the lack of recognition of their previous work and experience.  One participant commented on her challenge in Canada by reflecting, “I am wearing nikab and sometimes I feel I will not be able to get good job for this.”  Many spoke about the loneliness they experience in Canada and missing their extended family.



For the 2nd activity, we broke people up into small groups to discuss resources in the South Asian community in Toronto, including community organizations, newspapers, places of worship, schools and libraries, etc.



Participants sharing their responses to schools and libraries that are resources for community members in the East York/Thorncliffe Park neighbourhoods.

After the workshop, one participant remarked, “Thanks for making our LINC class a fun and educational experience today!”

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