Reversal Of Fortune: A Self-Advocacy Primer


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Making your voice heard is a brave thing to do, especially when you are adjusting to a different culture. There are many ways to make yourself heard and skills that you can develop to help.

In a Reuters article from the year 2023, it was stated that the dream of living in Canada for 42,000 immigrants had ended during the first half 2023. They were unable to meet their financial obligations and chose to abandon the country they adopted.

This number was added to 93,818 departures in 2022, and 85,927 departures in 2021. These numbers are a drop in the bucket when compared to the 485,000 arrivals in 2018. However, they are significant enough that we should dig deeper to find out why this phenomenon is happening.

Among the most commonly cited reasons are the high cost of living, being unable to find work in one’s chosen field, not fitting in, an absence of support networks and the impact of any racial discrimination. All of these reasons are valid and unfortunate. However, a surprising number of immigrants, for various reason, do not know what their rights are. While this is unfortunate, language barriers and limitations caused by cultural roles or rank in society can compound the difficulties people face trying to make their voices known while adjusting to new norms and values.

Advocacy literally means to plead, and self advocacy is about being able not only to identify your needs, but also to make your voice heard in a way that does not fear reprisal. Being able to advocate for yourself involves more than just learning the answers to a problem, it’s about knowing the right questions to ask as well.

Self-advocacy also means being able to speak clearly and succinctly about matters that impact you and others; it’s about building supportive networks with allies and identifying resources that amplify your needs, even if you happen to be unsure about how things work in the new terrain. Good self advocacy also improves mental health allowing you to live your life to the fullest.

There’s a unique envelope of skills that make for good self-advocacy. Here are three to consider.

Realistic goal setting
The SMART model is often cited as a good example of realistic goal setting, and it’s not a bad place to start. SMART Goals are specific, measurable attainable, realistic, and timely. What do you hope to achieve or change? Once you’ve identified this, try the process of chunking, which is breaking a larger issue down into smaller, manageable steps. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or guidance along the way, and remember that even small steps forward are worth celebrating.

Cultivate resources
It is important to know where to go as well as what the problem is. Settlement services are available in almost every Canadian city. These agencies can help you find community legal aid centers, housing assistance, employment resources, language resources and other helpful services.

Resources can help you get started on your path to attainable achievements and build a network. You can start cultivating helping relationships by attending webinars, workshops or conferences. Most of these events are free. Start with a site such as to help you get started and nurture those relationships.

Amplify your voice
Active listening is as important as speaking out. In some cases, you can send messages from your smartphone. “the other” – be it landlords, employers or others – often contains veiled attempts to limit your progress. It’s important to feel (or fake it till you make it!) Confidence and the ability to own your voice are important, even when you’re in difficult circumstances. You are not alone if you’re struggling. It might make your voice more heard. Knowing how, when, why and to whom you’re communicating is critical to getting your message heard.

Self-advocacy requires practice, rehearsals, dedication, and to some extent, a tolerance of uncertainty. By nurturing this critical skill, you will find that doors will eventually open and you’ll find yourself in places you were meant or desired to be.

Carter Hammett has been a writer for over two decades. He has experience in social work and employment counselling as well as adult education.

The post Reversal Of Fortune: A Self-Advocacy PrimerThe first appearance of the phrase “first appeared on” was in Canadian Immigrant.

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