Building Resilience via Family Reunification for Newly Arrived Refugees in Ottawa

This action-research project has two objectives:

  1. To assess the ways in which refugees to Canada attempt to bring their families to Canada, and to record where they have encountered success and obstacles, and using this context
  2. To produce training materials that will guide refugees, and their support communities, in identifying effective ways to bring family members to Canada.

Two related research questions:

  1. How have refugees attempted to bring their families to Canada, and what obstacles/successes have they encountered in these attempts?
  2. What legal pathways exist for refugees to bring their families to Canada, and which are more successful/efficient and for whom?
To answer the first question, my research team will interview refugees (approximately 20) and private sponsors of refugees in Ottawa (approximately 30) (Canadian Council of Refugees 2016; Denton 2003; Carter et al. 2008). The goal of these interviews is to learn which specific legal instruments refugees and their support communities have deployed to support the migration of families, and what obstacles they have faced in accessing these. The research will be conducted in collaboration with Refugee613 (listed below as a community partner), which whom I have worked previously. As in the earlier project, semi-structured interviews will be used to gather specific information as well as to give interviewers an opportunity to follow the natural veers of a conversation (Denzin and Lincoln 2003). The products here are two academic articles, one that details the successes and failures of refugees to support the migration of their families to Canada, and another that contributes to the political theoretic literature on family reunification for refugees. To answer the second question, my research team will work in collaboration with the Refugee Sponsorship Support Program (RSSP) and its Director, Emilie Doyle. Preliminary discussions with Ms. Doyle, in preparation of this research grant application, highlighted the absence of clear and competent information available for newly arrived refugees, and their support communities, if they wish to support their family’s migration to Canada. In collaboration with RSSP, my team will produce a full report outlining the so-called “complementary pathways” for admission to Canada, for families of refugees. Based on this report, we will additionally produce a set of training materials intended to support refugee lawyers and sponsors, who do the work of supporting refugees as they attempt to reunite with their families in Canada. The methodology here is part legal analysis of existing entry options for family members of individuals already present in Canada and part assessment of the legal strategies taken by lawyers to support refugees who aim to bring their families with them. The product here is in two parts:
  1. A background report for legal personnel and sponsors who support refugees in their attempts to find legal pathways for entry to Canada for family members;
  2. An accessible training kit for refugees and their support communities, which provides a clear and accurate picture of the options that are realistically available to them to support their family’s migration to Canada.

September 2018:

  1. Legal Report Draft: On complementary pathways for refugee family admission. This working report will be made publicly available by the Refugee Hub and OLIP. It will detail the opportunities for family members of refugee refugees to migrate to Canada as well as how frequently/effectively they are used to resolve family separation. The first draft of this report will be available as early as September 2018, in conjunction with the training materials. We will circulate it at this time to legal experts and immigration settlement stakeholders for their comments and amendments. The goal is to produce a full report by December 2018.
  2. Training materials: The legal research that we conduct will be collated in usable and accessible form to produce training materials available for rapid use by refugees, their sponsors and their legal teams. Our objective is to have a working draft of these training materials available for public use by September 2018. Over the year of the grant, we will revise and edit the training materials to make them better able to meet the needs of their users.
  3. Academic articles: I will produce two academic articles. One article will draw on interview data and will examine how newcomers to Ottawa cope with the challenges associated with family separation. This article will contribute to the small but growing academic literature on the experience of refugee newcomers to Canada, especially as it pertains to their long-term resilience in the face of the struggles of integration. A second article will examine the extent to which the challenges faced by refugees in achieving family reunification violate their basic human right to be with their family. This article will contribute to the political theoretic debate on the duties possessed by host states to the refugees they welcome. These will be written and submitted for publication by June 2019. In advance of that, I anticipate having opportunities to present both these articles at appropriate conference and workshop venues.

Principal Investigators:

  • Luisa Veronis,
  • Patti Tamara Lenard,
Community Partners:
  • Refugee613
  • Refugee Sponsorship Support Program at the Refufgee Hub
  • Refugee Sponsorship Training Program
  • OLIP

What is our approach?

This research project aims to construct a "how-to" guide that will provide refugees, and their support communities, with instructions and guidelines for bringing their families to Canada as efficiently as possible. In so doing, it will directly contribute to the building of resilience among refugees.

It is essential that we develop an understanding of what legal instruments refugees have available to them to support the migration of their families and what kinds of obstacles they face in accessing them.  In this research project, this material will be collected and collated to produce clear and effective background and training materials, to enable newcomers and their support communities (including both sponsors and lawyers), to identify the best pathways forward in their attempts to reunite refugee families in Canada.  This project brings together community partners across Ottawa, which has received thousands of refugees in the last several years (Miller 2016; Mussa 2016), to collaboratively support the building of resilience among refugees to Canada. This research is being done with a specific focus on refugees -who face unique challenges in re-uniting with their families -but the resources generated will be valuable to a wider set of newcomers to Canada.