Rethinking Refugee Integration in Canada

In my last semester at McGill I took a directed reading course in Social Work focusing on Canada’s Refugee policy. The paper linked below (which is also in my Portfolio) argues that Canada’s approach to refugee integration needs to be re-examined. Given continuing changes the paper is potentially dated; well, then again, considering how slow government changes, maybe not.

The main argument comes from a rights perspective that seeks to achieve the inclusion of refugees in the community of citizens, able to claim the civil, political and social rights that lead to true integration, and not simply the more automated, yet easily quantified markers that are currently used to measure effective settlement, (employment and language capability).

While many refugees exercise agency in choosing Canada as a destination for asylum, the conditions under which they come are less than ideal, and therefore they cannot be treated in the same manner that we treat the settlement of family class and economic immigrants. This may seem like an obvious point given the trauma, discrimination and rights violations that many of them have faced, but it’s reflection in policy is not clear.

What I argue, is that a potentially more productive route to achieving integration (measured as the subjective feeling of belonging by the refugee) might be more effectively achieved through policy that takes as its foundation the achievement of rights, through the creation of an environment that facilitates this. Then, and only then can the measures of settlement, employment, language capability etc. be considered homologous measures of integration. Without such a secure foundation, or the focus of this foundation in policy, refugee newcomers will remain prone to assimilation, marginalization, depression, and increasingly a failure to successfully integrate in Canada, despite meeting all the targeted measures of integration.

“Achieving
 integration
 through
 policy
 requires
 an
 understanding
 that
 the
 building 
blocks 
of
 integration
 for
 refugees 
do 
not 
rest 
on 
the 
goals
 of
 traditional
 settlement 
policies
 of
 establishing
 self-sufficiency
 and
 overcoming
 language
 barriers
 before
 moving
 on
 to
 claim
 full
 citizenship
 rights.
 On
 the
 contrary,
 the
 foundation
 for 
effectively
 integrating
 refugees
 needs
 to
 focus
 on
 conferring
 civil
 and
 social
 rights
 that
will
 lead
 to
 fuller 
participation 
in 
the 
social, 
institutional, 
and
 cultural 
fabric 
of 
Canada.” p.4

 

Essay on Refugee Integration in Canada

 

 

The essay is by no means perfect (and could still use some editing) but hopefully it provides for an interesting thought exercise.

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Pragmatist, Student, Humanitarian, Rights Advocate, Runner, Reader, Brother, Sleeper

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Posted in Politics, State of Exclusion

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