More than Numbers: Labour Market Experiences and Immigrant Resilience in the interprovincial and bilingual context of Ottawa-Gatineau, Canada's National Capital Region

The research objective is to examine the story behind the numbers by considering how factors such as entry status, social and cultural capital, as well as local immigration support services intersect to promote and/or hinder the resilience of individual male and female migrants as they navigate labour markets in the unique metropolitan context of the Ottawa-Gatineau region.

  • Academic Outcomes: The project will contribute to the new literature on newcomers’ experience of a labour market that is increasingly more precarious. Its focus will permit a fine grain analysis of the links between individual experiences and individual choices within a broader institutional content. It will also document the nature and characteristics of the labour markets at the local level and how they intersect with individuals as workers. The interprovincial and bilingual context of Ottawa-Gatineau is unique in that regard (Gilbert et al. 2014; Veronis 2013). Moreover, in Ottawa the Federal government and high-tech firms play significant roles. The use of a qualitative interview strategy will permit an analysis of migrant resilience at the interface between households and labour markets through an intersectional lens (status, gender, language, etc.).
  • Knowledge Mobilization: Findings will be shared with the community partners involved following each interview stage. The 40 interview participants and our community partners will be invited to a townhall meeting at the end of the project.
  • Academic Conferences (2020-21): Presentations at local/national/international forums from Winter 2020 onwards, including: Canadian Ethnic Studies, Canadian Political Science Association Meetings, Canadian Association of Geographers, Metropolis, ACFAS, Association of American Geographers.
  • Peer Reviewed Publications (late Fall 2019): Preparation of two peer reviewed articles co-authored with post-doctoral researcher: one detailing the ways in which men and women’s navigation of the labour market differs according to entry status; second, a paper outlining the gap between what is available in terms of support and migrants actual experience of those supports. More are foreseeable (e.g., on O-G labour market and language, gender and entrepreneurship experiences).
  • IRCC: Presentation of findings to the gender-based analysis unit of IRCC.
  • Reports: Preparation of technical report, policy brief, research digest to be made available to the public on Partnership website

  • Stage One (Dec. 2018 – Early 2019): Establish an advisory group made up of community partners to identify (i) their priorities vis-à-vis labour market integration; (ii) current programs in place; (iii) recruitment strategy for40 participants in the study; (iv) development of semi-structured interview guide. Preparation of ethics application.
  • Stage Two (Spring-Summer 2019): The recruiting and interviewing of 40 participants. Selection criteria: recent migrants (less than 5 years in Canada at time of recruitment for first interview), both men and women over 18 years who arrived as economic migrants or under family category, with both French and English as first official language, seeking employment services at community partners. The interview will include a demographic survey for basic information relating to migrant status, gender, age, country of origin, language skills, profession, family circumstances, levels of education, etc. Research questions will include: experiences with labour market integration in Canada and role of migrant category and gender; challenges/opportunities, occupational context and professional requirements; services used/sought(employment counseling, mentoring programs, occupational programs, vocational training); role of social networks; individual and household plan and strategy for short/medium/long term, gender roles & family context; individual and household expectations and aspirations, what constitutes successful integration. Additional two focus groups (1 Ottawa, 1 Gatineau) on dedicated themes with participants, where refreshments will be provided. Themes will be developed in collaboration with community partners. Transcriptions immediately following interviews and focus groups.
  • Stage Three (Nov 2019-Winter 2021) Qualitative data analysis: thematic analysis based on constructivist and interpretive paradigms (Cloke et al. 2004). Feedback sessions with community partners after each round of data collection (interviews and then focus groups).
  • Stage Four (Winter-Spring 2021) Findings dissemination starting with community outreach: townhall meeting with interview participants and community partners; presentation to local community partners; presentation to IRCC.

Principal Investigators:

  • Christina Gabriel (
  • Luisa Veronis,
  • Virginie Mesana, post-doctoral researcher
Community Partners:
  • IRCC;
  • Ottawa Local Immigration Partnership (OLIP);
  • Hire Immigrants Ottawa;
  • World Skills;
  • City of Gatineau;
  • SITO

What is our approach?

We propose to conduct a qualitative study to document the experiences of recent migrants to the region. Working with our community partners, we will identify 40 individuals (men and women who have arrived within the last five years) who have entered under two specific immigration pathways –economic category and family class. This group will comprise 20 English-speaking and 10 French-speaking immigrants, and will also include 10 entrepreneurs (English-/French-speaking). We will combine semi-structured interviews with two focus groups to consider: occupational and professional work experiences; community services used/sought; the role of broader social networks and the family context. Our concern moves beyond the issue of obtaining a job or documenting barriers – though these are important. Rather we wish to show how the interplay of individual decisions and choices are constrained and/or promoted by structural factors.