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You don’t have to hide your origin in Canada -
Says Hungarian-born Judy Young-Drache

 

Népszabadság - December 8, 2008

 

While Judy Young Drache was in Budapest in November 2008 to participate in the unveiling of the monument in honour of Hungarian Canadians, she was interviewed by the daily Népszabadság. She spoke about Canada’s diversity, the multiculturalism policy and the work of the Foundation. This is an English translation of the interview.

 

You can read the original article in Hungarian.

 

Judy Young-DracheIn Canada nobody is surprised anymore at having a Governor General who is Black. Especially since Michaëlle Jean’s predecessor was Hong-Kong born Adrienne Clarkson. Canada has done a great deal in the last 40 years to help the integration of immigrants, says Hungarian-born Judy Young -Drache who spent 25 years directing multiculturalism and inter-ethnic relations programs in the Canadian government.

 

Paying attention to such issues is a necessity in Canada where one fifth of the population of 31 million was born outside the country. 60% of immigrants come from Asia and the Middle East and every year more than 200,000 people arrive in the country. In relation to the size of the population, this is the largest percentage in the world.

 

Among practical examples mentioned by Young-Drache were health care professionals who receive training in how to attend appropriately to, for instance, a Muslim woman patient, or teachers who have to know what to do when faced with half a classroom of Somali immigrant children who cannot speak English. Obviously you need a supportive institution (the health care or the school system). According to her, this is not special treatment; it just means that it is necessary to treat people differently in order to treat them equally so they have an equal chance of succeeding.

 

This would mean perhaps that Hungary may need to have Roma police officers and training of the kind that would allow police to understand the situation of the Roma better. It is also important to have a Roma leadership that can influence Roma community members – something that is well under way in Hungary now. In Canada we talk of a two-way street; both sides have to move for changes to occur.

Of course, one country’s experiences cannot be transplanted holus-bolus to another. In Canada there are initiatives to integrate Aboriginal traditional justice into the justice system. If, for instance, a young Aboriginal commits a minor crime, it may be better not to imprison that person but to send him or her back to the community where the elders will decide on the appropriate punishment and will continue to pay attention to the individual and follow his/her development – explained Young-Drache who visits Hungary frequently. But Multiculturalism also has limits: for instance, female genital mutilation, which has been traditional in some cultures, is illegal in Canada.

 

Of course integration is not easy in Canada either. There are many examples to illustrate that people have prejudices vis-à-vis immigrants; that the latter cannot find work that fits their qualifications. One can find many taxi drivers with PhD’s in Canada’s large cities. The situation of aboriginal Canadians is particularly fraught with difficulty.

 

Young-Drache left Hungary as a child in 1957 and moved to the UK. “I spent ten years there, integrating completely into the English way of life. I hardly used Hungarian, except at home with my parents.” In 1967 she went to Canada to do graduate work. “I didn’t mean to stay but grew to love the country. I was also influenced by the multicultural ethos which does not force one to hide one’s origins, culture, language or religion,” says Young-Drache in Hungarian with a barely detectable accent. Three years ago she was one of the founders of the Canada-Hungary Educational Foundation which is looking for partners as it plans fellowship and exchange programs.

 

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