Immigrant integration: From national policies to local practices

To be determined
To be determined

Session Code: SOM8A
Session Format: Regular
Session Language: English
Research Cluster Affiliation: Sociology of Migration
Session Categories: Regular Session

Immigrant integration includes a dual interaction between top-down policies and bottom-up practices. This session explores 1) how various national policies might affect immigrant and refugee integration and 2) how local practices might shape the integration experiences among immigrants and refugees. Tags: Migration / Immigration, Policy And Society

Organizer: Cary Wu, York University; Chair: Larry Lam, York University


Max Stick, McMaster University; Lisa Kaida, McMaster University; Feng Hou, Statistics Canada

From adaptability to vulnerability: Did changes in admission criteria affect resettled refugees' participation in Social Assistance in Canada?

With the introduction of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) in 2002, Canada shifted its admission criteria of resettled refugees from their ability to successfully adapt in the host country to their need for protection. As a result, those considered vulnerable are rarely refused entry, and the share of refugees with limited human capital has increased. However, few studies examine the IRPA’s long-term impact on the economic self-sufficiency of resettled refugees. Using data from the Longitudinal Immigration Database, this paper compares rates of social assistance for Government-Assisted Refugees (GARs) and Privately Sponsored Refugees (PSRs) from three arrival cohorts: those admitted pre-IRPA (2000-2001); those admitted during the transition period (2002-2003); and those admitted post-IRPA (2004-2010). The results from our linear probability models indicate post-IRPA GARs in particular evidence notably higher rates of social assistance than their pre-IRPA counterparts three to six years after arrival, explained mostly by their post-migration labour market characteristics. After 10 years, however, the gap diminishes. These findings suggest while post-IRPA GARs may require more assistance during the early to mid-stages of resettlement, prioritizing humanitarian goals in refugee admission does not negatively impact the long-term self-sufficiency and economic integration of resettled refugees.

Aryan Karimi, University of British Columbia; Rima Wilkes, University of British Columbia

Integration as a Two-Way Process between National Identities and Policies: The Case of Canada

In the face of increasing diversities, the initial scholarly debates around the tension between national identities and social integration underlined the enduring cultural legacies of nationalism in shaping diversity-management national policies. Accordingly, nationalisms would lead to a limited set of integration policies compatible with national identities. Such arguments, however, were more capable of explaining continuity rather than the emergence of policies that, at first look, might be contradictory to national identities.  A second, more recent line of scholarly work has turned the argument around by reading the national policies of integration is symptomatic of national identities. Rooted in political theory, this line of work has, understandably, turned prescriptive rather than analytical. To address the progressives’ dilemma of nationalism versus social justice, these scholars underline the success of liberal and multicultural policies, thus indications of liberal or multicultural national identities, in managing diversity and argue for further government-implemented policies in expanding liberal multicultural national identities. Considering that policies are interpretations of institutional and cultural repertoire by policy-makers and that policies can change quite rapidly over time, we propose two lines of criticism to this literature: 1-. In reading national identities through policies, which set of policies we must choose as symptomatic of nationalisms? For instance, in Canada, both the Multiculturalism Act and the Indian Act are in effect. Which one of these policies represents the Canadian nationalism? 2- Does the seeming convergence of national policies on minority integration towards liberal values indicate that nationalisms in various countries are also converging under liberal multicultural identities? Instead of the one-way relation between national identities and policies of integration, assumed by both groups of scholars, we argue that there is a two-way relation between nationalism and policies of diversity management. Similar to the first group, we emphasize the continuity and weight of national identities over policies, but also the impact of policies in transforming national identities, albeit limited. To do so, we draw on the sociological literature on nationalism as well as the recent literature on the limits of policy change vis-à-vis national legacies. We develop our argument by discussing the case of Canadian nationalism where the Anglo-Canadian nationalism and multicultural policies go hand in hand. We invite for case study and comparative approaches that account for social-contextual practices of nation-building as well as policies in understanding the emergence of policies and success or failure of each national model.

Zuhra Abawi, Niagara University Ontario; Alana Butler, Queen's University

Deconstructing Citizenship and Belonging: Refugee Student Integration in Ontario Schools

A global record of 71 million people were displaced by war, oppression and climate change in 2018, the vast majority originating from Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, South Sudan and Myanmar (UNHCR, 2018). Canada resettled more refugees than any other country in 2018, resettling some 28,1000 of 92,400 refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) granted asylum among 25 countries (CBC, 2018). While narratives that depict Ontario as a safe haven of social cohesion, diversity, equity and inclusion, significant barriers continue to bar access to resources such as housing, education and employment among racialized bodies (Colour of Poverty, 2019). Although the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) is a top destination for refugees and IDPs, there is a lack of extant literature pertaining toward refugee student integration into the Ontario education system. Current studies posit that the Ontario education system is ill-prepared to respond to and support refugee and IDPs student transitions (Ratkovic, et al., 2017). Moreover, education policies in the province do not address the unique challenges encountered by refugee and IDPs students arriving in Ontarios publicly-funded schools. This research is grounded in Critical Race Theory and RefugeeCrit theoretical frameworks in order to understand the specific barriers and microaggressions refugee students face when transitioning into Ontario schools by peers, teachers and administrators alike. Furthermore, the paper situates culturally responsive approaches to mental health and social work resources that dismantle Eurocentric pathologizing epistemologies of wellness. 

Norine Verberg, St. Francis Xavier University; Jordan MacDonald, University of Guelph

Lessons from the Local: Social Innovation in Rural Refugee Resettlement

In this paper, we explore  rural  refugee resettlement in North Eastern Nova Scotia and Cape Breton where several faith-based and community groups used Canada’s Private Sponsorship of Refugee (PRS) program to respond to the Syrian refugee crisis. Since 2015, Cape Breton’s welcome of 14 Syrian families involved the spontaneous formation of 11 separate groups, mostly   in very small communities. Likewise, in Antigonish county, 3 new PSR groups formed in church and town halls to offer new beginnings to 16 refugee families and, in Pictou county, 3 different ‘localities’ formed PSR groups that sponsored and resettled 15 families. PSR volunteers are tasked with fundraising and providing integration assistance in distant rural settings. We draw upon Fine’s (2010) sociology of the local and the social innovation model (Cukier and Jackson, 2018) to discuss the significance of the local context to understand how and why volunteers built capacity to find unique, workable solutions to assist with resettlement and deliberate over best practice. We contend that it is in innovating upon the local that these groups also influence and change the local context, via its various organizations, institutions, and demographics. We also explore why the local context also presents limitations to sustain rural refugee resettlement.