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