Magomadova Case Highlights Culture Clash For Immigrant Teens

Magomadova case highlights culture clash for immigrant teens
Children in immigrant families face cocktail of problems

By Jen Gerson
Calgary Herald
July 16, 2010

The case of a Calgary mother convicted of killing her wayward daughter has highlighted the challenges faced by immigrant teens and families struggling to integrate into Canadian society.

Aset Magomadova, who settled in the city from war-torn Chechnya in 2004, received a suspended sentence and three years' probation on Thursday for strangling her 14-year-old daughter with a scarf in 2007.

For people who work to help immigrants in Calgary, the case raises concerns about ongoing problems facing new Canadians and their families.

Often, the better-integrated children of immigrants can feel isolated from the Old World ways of their parents and apart from their mainstream peers. The alienation can leave them vulnerable to gangs and negative influences such as drugs and peer pressure, experts say.

People who are coming to Canada from refugee camps and war-torn countries can also face struggles seeking help for issues such as posttraumatic stress disorder.

“We know that coming from war-torn countries, people face a lot of trauma and their whole settlement process can be quite challenging,” said Fariborz Birjandian, executive director of the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society. “Especially with this family, they had extra issues. . . . A lot of people tried to help them, but this unfortunate incident happened and it broke everybody's heart.”

According to court documents released at the 2009 trial, victim Aminat Magomadova didn't fit in at school because of her poor English, weight and clothing.

She fell in with a bad crowd and in 2007 claimed to be using drugs, stealing and behaving promiscuously. She had run away several times and was known to stay at youth shelters.

Aminat also pleaded guilty to assaulting a teacher.

Cheryl Doherty, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club in Calgary, said while Aminat's case was extreme, her problems were not uncommon.

Adolescence is a difficult time for everyone, but children in immigrant families can face an especially potent cocktail of problems that differ from troubled teens in more established families.

School-aged children tend to assimilate into the mainstream culture more quickly than their parents, which widens the generation gap, said Doherty. And families can be distrustful of a Canadian society perceived to be too permissive.

Families that hail from war-torn regions can face additional problems, said Wendy Auger, the director of the Mosaic Family Resource Centre in Immigrant Services Calgary.

All of these issues likely combined to make Aminat “very vulnerable to negative influences.”