The neighborhood study: Update September 2019

Project summary and updates
September 2019
Prepared by Luisa Veronis, Ottawa-Gatineau

The role of neighbourhood context in shaping migrant resilience: a comparative study of three neighbourhoods in Ottawa-Gatineau

What is the objective of this project?
The aim of this qualitative study is to examine the role of neighbourhoods in shaping migrants' resilience. In particular, the focus is on how the social and spatial environment at the neighbourhood level (services/amenities, demographics, housing, transportation, employment opportunities, community organisations/associations, equity and inclusion, discrimination, safety, etc.) influences the settlement and integration experiences of migrant groups. We adopt a community-based collaborative research approach incorporating qualitative mixed-methods (critical ethnography, photovoice interviews, community feedback sessions). The comparative nature of our study will be key in providing new insights into the role of factors at multiple scales (local, municipal, provincial), thus improving understanding of how the institutional context shapes migrant resilience at more micro-scales (neighbourhood, community, family, individual). In addition to advancing conceptualizations of migrant resilience and resilient neighbourhoods, the study aims to provide concrete recommendations for policy and practice that will be of interest to community partners and practitioners in various sectors, as well as policy makers at the three levels of Canadian government.

What research methods were used?
We adopted a community-based/collaborative qualitative methodology based on a critical ethnography approach combining a number of different methods, including: census data analysis (2016 Census data), media analysis (how each neighbourhood is portrayed in the local media), participant observation (visits to the neighbourhoods and observation at local events, activities, etc.), photovoice interviews with newcomers living in the neighbourhoods, and community meetings (for feedback and validation of our findings; one in each neighbourhood). The neighbourhoods were selected in collaboration with our community partners; the three neighbourhoods are: Mont Bleu in Gatineau, and Ledbury-Heron Gate and Overbrook-Cummings in Ottawa. The participating community partners are as follows:
-Gatineau: City of Gatineau, APO, and SITO
-Ottawa: OLIP, City of Ottawa, and CESOC

What challenges did we encounter?
While in Gatineau, we managed to identify the neighbourhood to be studied fairly quickly (at one meeting), it took multiple meetings with the Ottawa stakeholders to reach consensus on the neighbourhoods to be selected. Then, a tornado hit Mont Bleu in September 2018, just about when we were going to start recruitment for the photovoice interviews. We decided to wait for a while as the area was recovering from the disaster. Next, our main challenge was the recruitment of participants for the photovoice interviews in each neighbourhood. Over a period of almost 10 months (October 2018-July 2019), we managed to interview a total of 37 participants: 12 in Mont Bleu, 13 in Ledbury-Heron Gate, and 12 Overbrook-Cummings. The socio-demographic profile of the participants is very diverse in various respects (countries of origin, immigration category, household make up, time of arrival, gender, age, and language skills in English and French), thus allowing us to capture a diversity of experiences and voices.

What are the preliminary research results?
Our preliminary analysis is focusing on the factors that facilitate and/or hinder newcomers’ and immigrants’ resilience relating to (1) the spatial dimensions/built environment of the neighbourhoods and (2) the social dynamics/community relations.
Among the most significant issues emerging from the findings, we note more specifically: the relatively central location of the neighbourhoods, easy access to transportation, the amenities available (parks, services, ethnic stores, etc.), and especially the diversity of the local population as supportive factors; among the hindering factors, most commonly mentioned were issues of neglect and disrepair of infrastructure and buildings, limited access to amenities and programs/social spaces, negative representations of the area, and issues with crime and/or policing. Please, see this presentation for more details.