Immigrants and Refugees in Canada: Post-resettlement mental health challenges

Thursday Jun 01 8:30 am to 10:00 am (Eastern Daylight Time)
McLaughlin College-MC-212

Session Code: SMH6
Session Format: Regular Session
Session Language: English
Research Cluster Affiliation: Sociology of Mental Health, Sociology of Migration
Session Categories: In-person

Immigrants’ and refugees’ resettlement in Canada is far from being an easy process. From language barriers and unemployment to health-related issues and discrimination, these post-migration challenges hinder newcomers’ integration process into the host society and affect their mental and emotional well-being in numerous ways. This joint session¬—between the Migration cluster and the Mental Health cluster—aims to discuss the complex mental health-related challenges that newcomers face after resettling in Canada. It welcomes papers relying on different methods such as survey data, interviews, focus groups, and ethnographic accounts. Among the topics that could be considered are: family-related stressors, gender and mental health, access to mental health services in the host country, and wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Tags: Gender, Health and Care, Mental Health, Migration and Immigration, Parenting and Families

Organizer: Laila Omar, University of Toronto; Chair: Laila Omar, University of Toronto


Zohreh Bayatrizi, University of Alberta

Grieving Immigrants: Toward a Critical Conception of Loss and Grief

We present the preliminary results of a larger research project which aims to understand synchronous collective grief among immigrants in Canada who are subjected to vicarious experiences of state violence. Throughout its history, Canada has also become home to a number of settler communities that have escaped violence and unstable homelands. For example, Canada has resettled Lebanese, Vietnamese, East African Ismaili, Syrian, Afghan, and Iraqi populations among others as part of its humanitarian mission to resettle refugees and also to fulfill its own demographic needs. Many in these populations witnessed war and political violence first-hand back home and sometimes continue to experience it vicariously by following the news and keeping in touch with family and friends in their ancestral homelands. Thus, Canada is currently home to large racialized communities that have experienced, and continue to experience, loss and grief as a collective, political fate. We aim to study how being an immigrant, being far from home, and being a member of a racialized group might influence the experience of collective grief, and how, conversely, collective grief might influence the meaning of home and change one’s ethno-national self-identity. Conducting this project entails challenging the mainstream sociological literature on loss and grief both theoretically and empirically. The sociology of death, dying, and grief is historically and intellectually anchored in the experiences of privileged populations and cannot adequately account for ‘the relations of force’(such as political violence, racialization, inequality) in the experience of grief. For this conference presentation, we will present the outline of our research and the results of our critical analysis of the sociology of grief.

Non-presenting authors: Samira Torabi, University of Alberta; Rezvaneh Erfani, Univeristy of Alberta; Ivan Shmatko, Univeristy of Alberta

Elias Chaccour, York University

Memories of Home: A Case Study of the Mental Health of Lebanese Older Immigrants in Montréal.

Lebanese Canadians constitute one of the oldest Arabic-speaking communities in North America. The community reflects the polyglot (francophone and anglophone) and multi-religious composition of the Middle Eastern country of Lebanon. However, Lebanon’s two decades of war, sporadic bouts of violence, and political and economic instability have instilled fear, anxiety, and insecurity in the Lebanese people, shaping their aging process at home and in the diaspora. Unlike Canadians of Lebanese descent, Lebanon-born immigrants go through the aging process while navigating an intersecting web of governmental, cultural, and familial circumstances that impose various stressors (e.g., prejudice and discrimination) on themselves and their families. Community-based organizations (CBO) play an important role in immigrant community life and provide numerous, often highly valued programs and services to the members of their community, such as mental health promotion and culturally safe paraprofessional services. This project is a single case study that examines Lebanese community-based organizations’ role in addressing the mental health needs of Lebanese older adult immigrants in Montréal (Québec). Additionally, this project seeks to ascertain the mental health knowledge of Lebanese older adult immigrants in Canada and their mental health-seeking behaviour. Also, this project aims to explore how factors such as culture, family, and religious beliefs influence this knowledge and behaviour. To do this, I will use an ethnographic approach, including observations, interviews, and document analysis. This case study asks the following research questions: What role do Lebanese community-based organizations play in promoting the mental health of Lebanese older adult immigrants? How do these organizations address the mental health needs of these individuals? How do these individuals understand “mental health”? How do cultural, religious, and social influences guide the mental health-seeking behaviours of these individuals?

Giovanni Hernandez-Carranza, York University

Exploring how the impacts of violence shape settlement trajectories: How do migrants find the time to heal?

The global intensification of migration management strategies has caused forced migrants to engage in innovative but dangerous migration strategies to reach their desired destination. Peoples migration trajectories are marred by violence and loss, and the aftereffects of this suffering can shape migrants life course if left unaddressed. In Canada, forced migrants settlement trajectory is shaped by their ability to learn and navigate unfamiliar and complex social networks undergirded by intersectional exclusion processes rooted in colonial bordering practices. This paper explores how the aftereffects of violence and loss impact peoples ability to develop strategies to navigate social networks and access needed services. I rely on a critical discourse analysis on qualitative interviews with sixteen racialized refugee claimants who entered Canada through the unofficial port of entry at Roxham Road and forty social, civic, legal, and health actors who support them. The findings demonstrate that refugee claimants, and former claimants, are haunted by their experiences of violence and loss during their migration trajectory. They cannot work through the effects of suffering on their health until they feel stable. However, Canadas intersectional exclusionary forces limit newcomers access to the supportive services needed to stabilize their lives. Instead, these forces justify migrants experiences of racial discrimination, legal precarity, and temporal uncertainty, destabilizing their lives and compounding their mental health struggles. The discussion theorizes how hegemonic mental health conceptualizations and therapeutic interventions used to treat forced migrants risk psychologizing and pathologizing newcomers. This disconnects their pain and suffering from the interlocking global systems of power that created the violent circumstances that triggered their migration, reaffirms their exclusion in Canada, and alienates them from their cultural heritage and non-western ways of healing.