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It is estimated that one third of Toronto homeless are immigrants, and most of them are women from the Caribbean. Immigrants and refugee families are the most impacted with homelessness in Canada. In general, homelessness and shelter life imposes great stress to parents and their children. New immigrants for instance, are stress compounded given the fact that they have to adapt to the new environment, and new culture which may include learning a new language (English). This problem is acute in Toronto city as more than half immigrants settle on arrival in Canada (Emily, et al., 2008). In addition, Toronto is one of the highest-cost housing markets in Canada and new comers are confronted with affordability problem thus posing the greatest risk to homelessness. This paper seeks to discuss homelessness amongst immigrant women in Toronto, critically analyzing various immigrant communities/groups in relation to Canadian Charters of Human Rights and Freedom, Social Work Code of Ethics, and National and international Human Rights policies.
A research study conducted by the Social Science and Humanities Research council of Canada to find out the homeless status of women in Toronto found out the following: immigrant women came from 22 different countries across the globe. 50% of these women were from Caribbean, 9% from Africa, 6% from Asia, 3% from Europe, and 2% from Latin America (Emily, et al., 2008). Three quarters of the immigrant women had been in Canada for five years or less. The study also found out that amongst the immigrant women, most of them had good educational background as many had completed their secondary education. Regardless of their good academic and professional credentials, immigrant women face job discrimination in the Canadian job market.
With regard to the experiences of housing, homelessness, and life in a shelter; the respondents revealed that there was housing instability in the previous two years as they had lived in an average of four places. More than third of interviewees said that abuse and molestation was the reason to why left their last stable form of housing. Bad housing conditions and affordability problem was also found out to a critical factor that affected immigrant women. In addition, some of the women had been evicted, while others were told to leave by their roommates and other cohabitants. Nonetheless, overcrowding, crime and violence, and family conflicts are other factors that were cited to have caused homelessness amongst the immigrant women (Emily, et al., 2008).
The research also uncovered that some women immigrants could not afford their rent after losing their employment through pregnancy; others were asked to leave by their landlords or cohabitants because they were pregnant or their children were noisy. In addition, child protection authorities asked several women to move into shelters for them to regain or maintain custody of their children. It was also found out that some homeless immigrant women considered shelter conditions to be unfit for their children thereby leaving, and were unable to find alternative suitable housing.
During the interview it was found out that almost 19% of the women in the shelter were separated from one of more of their children, and a bout a quarter of the families were separated during the time of the study. In addition, it was evident that immigrant women were less likely to be separated from their children as compared to the Canadian homeless women. Consequently, homeless immigrant women separated from their older children because shelter regulations excluded older children or children themselves had chosen to leave. The study also showed that single homeless immigrant women are in fact mothers separated from their children. While in the shelter, 75% of homeless immigrant women were satisfied with their shelter conditions because, the staff was supportive, cleanliness, privacy, and independency were embraced. Those who were not satisfied cited crowded conditions, shared rooms, and noise as their main problems.
Status Immigrant women with permanent residents have a history of more stable housing. About 50% of them had lived with their friends and partners before joining shelter life. Most of these women had left their homes due to partner abuse, job loss or fire (Emily, et al., 2008). Most of these women moved directly into shelters without periods of hidden homelessness or other shelter stays. Ones in the shelter, these women were found to be less likely to be with partners, and in fact their shelter stay was found to be much longer as compared to Canadian born women, but they spent less than six months in the shelter before moving into new housing of their own. These women also depicted higher rates of satisfaction in the shelter.
Non-status immigrant women experienced unstable pre-shelter housing; for instance more than 75% had moved four times in two years. The findings also showed that, their last stable homes were short-lived as it comprised of informal arrangements with acquaintances or family members. Under such conditions they lacked security of tenure, prone to inversion of privacy, exploitation and were also vulnerable to eviction. Non-status women had the fewest and youngest children and they stayed in the shelter for much longer time, approximately more than one year (Emily, et al., 2008).
The Canadian Charter of Rights and freedoms outlines the rights and freedoms that are necessary in a free democratic society. These freedoms include: freedom of expression, the right to a democratic government, right to live and seek employment anywhere in Canada, the rights of persons accused of crimes, the rights of aboriginal peoples; the right to equality, including the equality of men and women; the rights to use either of Canada's official languages, the right to protect Canada's multicultural heritage; and the right of French and English linguistic minorities to an education in their language (Banks, 1995). With regard to this critical charter, there has been continued violation of this fundamental charter especially when it comes to immigrant women. They have been denied a chance to seek employment in Canada despite there qualified skills in education. More so, they have no space for expressing themselves as they are prone to violence, abuse and other privacy violation issues.
From the above described study, it is evident that immigrant women face homelessness in Toronto Canada; discrimination has rendered them to feel unwanted in the country. In fact, they are unable to access equal opportunities as their male counterparts.
A credible Government(s) code of Ethics is based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Basically, what governments(s) do or say must be able to be relied upon, to be truthful, fair, build good will and better relationships and strive for the benefit of the concerned. This code of ethics is expected of governments, corporations including organizations as expected by all individuals. It is inconsistent that the Canadian Government has allowed the housing industry in Toronto to hike housing costs (Banks, 1995). This has impacted negatively to the women immigrants given that most of them lack employment hence they don't have money to rent or buy an apartment. Is also no ethical for the Canadian government to allow discrimination whereby most immigrant women are not given equal opportunities to access employment like their Canadian counterparts regardless of their outstanding skills and capabilities.
In addition, the Canadian government is doing less to ensure that the deep rooted violence, exclusion, and conflict towards immigrant women in Toronto are reduced. This has made this women live in fear not withstanding that they left there countries to search for better living conditions, and employment (Jan, 2008).
The Canadian Human Rights Commission is empowered under the Canadian Human Rights Act to investigate and try to settle complaints in employment and in the services within the federal jurisdiction. Through the Employment Equity Act, the commission is empowered to ensure that employers provide equal opportunities to all including women. The commission also acts as an advocate for human rights, issuing reports on discrimination and informing employers and the public about human rights regulations (Jan, 2008).
The described duties of the Canadian Human Rights Commission seem to have been forgotten when it comes to women specifically immigrant women. They are despised and discriminated rendering them useless and unwanted persons in the country (Jan, 2008). In particular, employers do not take the commission's employment regulations seriously because they don't accord equal opportunities to immigrant women. In relation to this, immigrant women in Canada continue to suffer homelessness because they have nothing to rely on in order to earn money for their up-keep.
The Canadian government should come up with policies that increase the supply of subsidized housing especially in Toronto as this will allow many immigrant women get homes at affordable prices. In addition, these immigrant women need housing to meet their needs. The federal government should ensure that access to services for all people working in Canada and extent labor protections and benefits to all employees including temporary workers. The non-status immigrant women should have access to health, crisis, including other services without fear of being reported to the immigration authorities.
From studies Toronto is a city with the highest number of immigrants in Canada. Amongst these immigrants, women are the most affected with homelessness. Their access to basic humanitarian services like housing is mainly compromised due to their impoverished economic status. Regardless of them migrating into the country with good educational qualifications to search for employment, they are less considered. In addition, continued abuse, violence and privacy inversion that is directed towards them has made these women to live in shelters for longer periods of time. The government and other organizations have failed to alleviate this condition because of poor government policies.