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Building migrant resilience across the cities of Ontario and Quebec

Building migrant resilience across the cities of Ontario and Quebec

Valerie Preston

How do migrants settle in different local contexts and develop capacities to overcome settlement challenges? Why do particular migrants do better than others even when compared to their peers from the same background? How can institutions facilitate and support migrant settlement and integration in urban areas across Quebec and Ontario? These are some of the questions addressed in the Building Migrant Resilience in Cities -Immigration et résilience en milieu urbain (BMRC-IRMU) multidisciplinary research partnership led by Professor Emeritus and Senior Scholar, Valerie Preston.

“One of the goals of the study is to look at how to improve settlement outcomes and to enhance well-being in the face of economic, political, social and cultural challenges. But also, to pilot strategies that facilitate the efforts of social institutions to promote resilience,” said Preston.

Established in 2016, the research partnership and multisectoral collaboration draws on over 20 years of experience in bringing together a range of key actors working on issues of immigration and settlement through CERIS,
a collaborative project previously governed by a Management Board that encompasses Ryerson University, the University of Toronto, York University, the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, the Social Planning Council of Metropolitan Toronto, and the United Way of Greater Toronto.

BMRC-IMRC aims to mobilize city networks to support new immigrant families and communities in Ontario and Quebec.

Now in its sixth year, the BMRC-IRMU partnership has grown and expanded into six city networks that include York Region, Windsor, Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, Montreal and Ottawa-Gatineau. Through these city networks, partner organizations including universities, municipal governments and non-profit organizations have analysed government institutional structures and migration policies, the challenges facing  international students and other temporary migrants, information access for new immigrants, supports available from migrant communities themselves, the sources of migrants’ economic resilience, and the impacts of the pandemic on integration and settlement services.

The two provinces, Quebec and Ontario, which have different immigration histories, institutional infrastructure and migration policies, allow researchers to compare and contrast migrant resilience in distinct environments. The six city networks, led by academic chairs and partner organizations work to build local partnerships, identify research agendas, and disseminate their work locally. Each network is comprised of multi-disciplinary teams made up of local university-based researchers and students, community leaders, and policymakers.  

The project has published numerous  reports, research digests, articles, and policy reviews as well as hosted conferences, presentations and webinars on a range of topics (i.e., COVID-19 effects, immigrants’ access to technologies, socio-spatial inequalities, housing, and skills training, among others) and groups (frontline workers and agencies, international students, agricultural workers, seniors, among others). It has investigated ongoing migrant concerns as well as responded to those that have arisen due to the COVID-19 pandemic and geopolitical tensions.

Most recently, initial findings from a survey that investigates the effects of COVID-19 on Ontario  agencies serving immigrants, their clients and employees was published. The survey, which focused on demographics, client services, the pandemic’s impact on workers, and the organizations’ actions and abilities to manage during the pandemic revealed a highly resilient sector that has adapted continuously and quite successfully to support the settlement and integration of migrants during an unprecedented global pandemic. Results from a parallel survey in Quebec will be available soon. These insights are critical to the sector itself and policymakers from all levels of government who are concerned with the integration of migrants.

Another recent research report on French Language Skills and Resilience among Quebec Asylum Seekers highlights the diversity and range of knowledge being produced by the project as well as its capacity to inform community stakeholders, academics, and government policy makers. The report looks at the potential impacts of Quebec Bill 96 which requires that public service providers communicate mainly in French with newcomers within six months of their arrival in Quebec on asylum seekers. The report documents the resilience of asylum seekers, evident in their enthusiasm for learning French despite significant barriers to participating in francisation courses.

BMRC-IRMU works through its networks to inform policy makers about new knowledge of immigrants and resilience in urban areas in Quebec and Ontario.

By employing a social resilience lens, the project has been able to examine how institutions influence and facilitate migrant settlement across urban areas.  Working in research teams across Quebec and Ontario, the project has enabled the creation and dissemination of current and policy-relevant knowledge and expertise on migration issues. Knowledge generated by the project has been made available to decision-makers who are responsible for facilitating migrant settlement and integration in cities and provinces across Canada.   

BMRC-IRMU has already left its mark on contemporary migration and resilience research. By mobilizing knowledge on issues relating to migration and resilience, it is contributing to the socio-economic development and well-being of migrants in Quebec and Ontario. The collaborative work has benefited academic scholarship, settlement outcomes, and institutional initiatives to promote and strengthen migrant resilience. At an upcoming celebration, tentatively scheduled for January 2023, BMRC will conduct a full review of its research accomplishments and reflect on the benefits and challenges of the partnership across sectors and disciplines.

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