Structural Discrimination against Immigrants in Canada

Home and house are similar? Can the host country is as good as the home country? It is a ridiculous question for immigrants because most of them are in confusion or hope beyond the horizon. Immigration is the global phenomenon that people flee their home country either economic or security reasons. Immigrants come to the host countries that they face not only short-term challenges but also discrimination and racism against them. According to Yee (2005), discriminatory practices persist in several social service organizations and are reluctant to change their ideology. Even though Canada is the welcoming country to integrate immigrants, there are structural domination and racist practices that deter immigrants from succeeding in their lives. Immigrants face challenges in employment, discriminatory customer service, survival jobs and low wages because of structural discrimination and racist practices in Canada.

At the beginning, immigrants are ambitious getting jobs when they came to Canada and claiming for jobs in their field of study and professional experience but the reality is completely different from their expectation. Employers seek Canadian education and experience to offer jobs for immigrants. The employers do not consider the immigrant’s knowledge and skill that brought from their home country. In most cases, immigrants assessed and approved their educational credentials by Canadian assessment organizations.

However, employers hesitate to accept the immigrant’s education equivalency based on the assessment result. Furthermore, immigrants apply for the vacant positions relevant for their educational and work experience, but employers do not invite immigrants for the interview even if they fulfill the requirements. Most employers even do not replay the reason for their rejection or some reply with a short message that does not describe the reason, it says “we are not accepted your application, thank you for your interest”. Immigrants do not have right appealing to the recruitment process. In addition, employers hesitate to call immigrants for the interview because the names of the immigrants are “strange” for them so the employers look for the “Canadian names” from their list.

Next, while the immigrants’ hope is diminishing for professional employment through time, they are looking for survival jobs for immediate needs. Even though, some immigrants have had professional jobs in the home country, they engaged in survival jobs in most cases as a laborer. Anyone can see that all survival jobs in the companies are filled with immigrants and refugees. It is very demanding and intensive work so a few White people engage in these laborious jobs. Immigrants exhaust and stop looking for professional employment once they engaged in routine jobs and trapped permanently in survival jobs. Promotion in the company is restricted for immigrants because the positions are occupied with the White people. In addition, Immigrants get meager income compare with the White people because survival jobs often a minimum wage. According to Yee (2005), there is a contradiction between social justice at face value and the reality of discriminatory practices underneath in everyday life. Therefore, the lives of the immigrants and their families are a vicious circle and they trap in poverty.

In addition, if you want to get quality customer service, you would be the White people. Immigrants are not getting quality customer service compare with the White people because it is the White people dominated social services (Razack & Badwall, 2006). Most White peoples have prejudice and perceive that Black immigrants are criminals, against the laws, involve in illegal activities and substance abusers. According to Fook (1993), social labeling is one element of domination and racist practices (as cited in Olivier, 2010). These kinds of stereotyped beliefs deter Black immigrants to succeed in their lives. Furthermore, because of the immigrant’s language fluency and accent, the service providers hesitate to provide quality service for them. According to Yee (2005), language is one area that the White people perpetuate their supremacy in the community.

On the other hand, some people may argue that Canada is “the land of opportunity” because the people are welcoming for integration. Immigrant and refugees receive different benefit from the government such as money, shelter, medical treatment and legal aid. In addition, there are occupational trainings supported by the government and high employment opportunities even though it is for survival jobs. Overall, it is undeniable that Canada is one of the best places in which people live in a better situation compare with other host countries.

However, structural domination and racism are systematic and undercover. It is difficult to verify structural discrimination and racist practices because everybody including immigrants entitle for services in the paper. Laws and regulations claim for justice and equality for all at their face value but there are hidden structures that exclude immigrants from the socio-economic benefits of the country. Because of the nature of the oppression, Yee (2005) argues that social work practitioners failed to show how the privilege of whiteness works in the social service organizations. For example, it is easy to see immigrants who are a well-known surgeon or an engineer in the home countries that they are working in the factories as a daily laborer. This is the waste of knowledge and skill of the international educated immigrants for the benefit of the individuals and the country too.

In addition, some immigrants exposed to a mental health problem because of structural domination and racist practices. They do not want to accept the current lifestyle compare with what they had in the home country that leads to a psychological problem and hide themselves in drugs. However, according to White (1963), human beings have the motivation and capacity to resist environmental challenges (as cited in Maluccio, Washitz & Libassi, 1992). Likewise, the lives of the immigrants would change if structural barriers are removed and compete in the same platform with others. A short-term relief support leads immigrants a vicious circle rather than curbs the root cause of the problem. Immigrants can contribute more to the country if they engage in their profession. Therefore, attitudinal change among the White people and structural change are vital for the radical change to eliminate the structural domination and racist practices from the country.

In general, immigration is the global agenda and immigrants face different obstacles in the host country. Even though Canada is one of the welcoming countries for immigrants, power-based supremacy and racist practices limit immigrants from their dreams. There are prejudices against Black immigrants that hinder from accomplishing their goals. According to Henry (2000), social work practitioners need to capture racisms and discrimination due to the client’s skin color, hair type and physical uniqueness (as cited in Yee, 2005). Even though, the government has a short-term social assistance program to help destitute immigrants, it is not a long-term solution and cannot eliminate the central part of the problem. Therefore, attitudinal change and structural correction are needed for addressing the root-cause of the problem and for the benefit of the individuals and country.


  1. Dumbrill, G., & Yee, J. (2019).Thinking critically about what we know and how we know it. In Anti-oppressive social work: Ways of knowing, talking and doing (pp. 29-57). Toronto, ON: Oxford University Press.
  2. Maluccio, A., Washitz, S., & Libassi, M. (1992). Ecologically-oriented, competence-centered social work practice. In C. Lecroy (Ed.), Case studies in social work practice (pp. 31-38). Belmnt, CA: Wadsworth.
  3. Olivier, C. (2010). Operationalizing structural theory: Guidelines for practice. In S. Hick, H. Peters, T. Corner & T. London (Eds.), Structural social work in action: Examples from practices (2nd ed., pp. 26-38). Toronto, ON: Canadian Scholars’ Press.
  4. Razack, N., & Badwall, H. (2006). Regional perspectives… from North America. International Social Work, 49(5), 661-666. doi:10.1177/0020872806066959
  5. Yee, J. Y. (2005). Critical anti-racism praxis: The concept of whiteness implicated. In S. Hick, R. Pozzuto & J. Fook (Eds.), Social work: A critical turn (pp.87-103). Toronto, ON: Thompson Educational Publishing.