Critical Examination of Settlement Sector Discourses and Practices of Resilience: A Comparative Study of Three Ontario Cities

The proposed project builds on and will complement our transversal project entitled "Analysis of governance structures and policy discourses shaping migration and resilience: an examination of Canada's federal, provincial and municipal governments" by examining the resilience of the settlement sector in 3 Ontario cities: one gateway city (Toronto)& two second-tier cities (Ottawa & Kitchener-Waterloo). The project also builds on a previous SSHRC-IRCC funded study on the role of LIPs during the Syrian refugee resettlement initiative (PI: Walton-Roberts; co-PI: Veronis; 2016-17). The 3 main objectives of the proposed project are to:

  1. Undertake a discourse analysis of how the notion of resilience is used, mobilized, framed by settlement sector organizations/actors-Immigrant Settlement Agencies (ISAs) &umbrella organizations (LIPs, OCASI, potentially RIFs),
  2. Study the resilience of the settlement sector through examination of its practices in the face of changing immigration policies& emergency initiatives and ongoing restructuring related to neoliberal and austerity agendas(Shields; Lowe et al 2017; Trudeau& Veronis2009), and
  3. Examine and compare the role of local/urban context in shaping settlement sector approaches, practices & strategies to meet immigrant needs/integration and advance community interests.

To advance the conceptual, policy and practice contributions of the Partnership, we need to consider how the concept of resilience has been mobilised in a productive manner (or not) by various actors. Our critical examination of settlement sector resilience will illuminate the complex three-way dynamics & interrelationships between government, settlement sector, and communities in building migrant resilience.

Research activities are planned for 18 months(Sep2018-Feb2020):

  • Stage 1: Laying the foundation (Sep-Dec2018)
    1. Team: All+ RAs
    2. Aim1: Broad scan of literature on Canadian ISAs, LIPs, RIFs and impacts of state restructuring & immigration policy changes since 2000(eg Andrew, Fourot, Good, Paquet, Shields, Veronis, etc.)
    3. Aim 2: With community partners select ISA case studies: 2 in K-W; 3 in Ottawa; 4 in Toronto(total=9ISAs)
    4. Aim 3: Develop methodology for discourse analysis (tools for data collection and analysis)for Stage 2 & Ethics application for Stage 3
  • Stage 2: Discourse analysis (Jan-June2019)
    1. Team: All+ RAs
    2. Aim 1: Identify, retrieve & select ISA documents (website, annual reports, proposals, procurement, contracts, etc.)
    3. Aim 2: Critically analyze how 'resilience ‘is used in ISA documents
    4. Methods:
      • Discourse analysis (Bhuyan & S-Carrier 2012) & as per transversal project approach Research questions Stage 2
      • How is resilience used/framed in ISA documents? What ideas, meanings, and practices lie behind the term as employed in the sector? How do these relate to state policies/discourses& governance structures? How do these relate to migrant groups &their needs? What are the implications for communities & specific migrant groups (skilled workers, refugees, families, students, non-status, class, gender, ethnicity/race, youth, LGBTQ, etc.)?
  • Stage 3:Interviews (April-Aug2019)
    1. Team: All+ RAs
    2. Aim 1: With community partners select ISA case study reps, sector reps, & private sector reps (churches, group sponsors) for interviews: 15in each city (total = 45interviews)
    3. Aim 2:Discuss and verify findings of ISA discourse analysis in Stage 2
    4. Aim 3: Discuss practices of ISAs & settlement sector resilience at interface between state restructuring &community needs
    5. Methods:-Semi-structured in depth personal interviews
    6. Research questions
      • What are local approaches to immigration & settlement and which actors are involved? How are ISAs adapting to changing governance structures/state policies? What strategies do they develop to meet immigrant needs?
      • How is local context shaping settlement sector responses?
      • What are the main funding mechanisms?
      • How are ISAs & sector negotiating between dependency on state funding and accountability to community?
      • What main processes of restructuring, de/re-centralization have shaped local settlement structures and practices?
      • What are strengths/weaknesses of ISAs & sector in each city?
  • Stage 4. Analysis dissemination (Jun/19-Feb/20)
    1. Team: All+ RAs+ UG work-study students
    2. Aim 1: Analysis &triangulation of data Stages 2 & 3
    3. Aim 2: Community feedback sessions in each city network to discuss findings &draft recommendations.
    4. Networking activities:
      • Regular meetings will be held within city networks as needed.
      • Regular conference calls will be held across city networks as needed.
      • We plan 3 larger networking activities:
        1. Methodology workshop (0.5 day) during Oct 2018SC meeting to develop the methodological approach and tools for secondary data collection and analysis.
        2. Writing retreats (2x1 day) during spring & fall 2019Steering Com meetings for data analysis, draft summary reports & policy briefs, plan & prepare dissemination activities

Principal Investigators:

  • Virginie Mesana,
  • Luisa Veronis,
  • Rupaleem Bhuyan (University of Toronto)
  • John Shields (Ryerson University)
  • Margaret Walton-Roberts (Wilfrid Laurier University)
Community Partners:
  • Enrico del Castello, IRCC;
  • Hindia Mohamoud, Ottawa Local Immigration Partnership (OLIP);
  • Tara Beddard, Waterloo Region Local Immigration Partnership (WRLIP).

What is our approach?

This project emerges from conversations among team members incl. at Strategy meeting in June 2017 and from findings of the transversal project. The findings will be relevant to the Partnership's examination and understanding of resilience in terms of institutional practices and experiences at various levels and as embedded within specific contexts. The focus here will be on the settlement sector in Ontario through a comparative study of 3 distinct urban contexts, with an interest on the sector as a whole & various types of ISAs.