The role of Neighborhood Context in shaping Migrant Resilience: A Comparative study of four Neighborhoods in Ottawa-Gatineau

The aim of this project is to examine the role of neighbourhoods in shaping migrants' resilience. In particular, based on conversations with our community partners (OLIP, CESOC, City of Gatineau, SITO), there is interest in understanding how the social and spatial environment at the neighbourhood level (services/amenities, demographics, housing, transportation, employment opportunities, community organisations/associations, etc.) influences the settlement and integration experiences of migrant groups. In addition, our partners are concerned with issues of equity (access to and use of services &issues of discrimination) and safety (presence of violence, drugs & other problems).

The goals of this proposed neighbourhood study are to co-produce knowledge on the role of neighbourhoods in shaping migrant resilience through the adoption of a community-based participatory research framework. We propose a qualitative mixed-methods approach that will involve our community partners at each stage in order to collect a robust set of multiple data types that will be triangulated in order to enrich our analysis (triangulation of multiple data sets, multiple voices/perspectives, etc.). It will also provide empirical evidence on how and which characteristics of neighbourhoods contribute to enhancing or rather hindering immigrants' resilience, especially in the early years of their settlement. Research Questions:

  1. Why do migrants choose to settle in the neighborhood, for how long do they stay and why?
  2. What services/amenities do they use and why; how accessible/inclusive are they; what services are missing and what are the impacts; what strategies do migrants develop to meet their needs?
  3. What do migrants like/dislike, what makes them feel comfortable/uncomfortable, what opportunities/challenges do they perceive?
  4. How do they participate in the community or not; what networks do they develop; do they feel a sense of belonging, how and why?
  5. What characteristics support/hinder migrant settlement and integration; what needs to be improved>

We propose 5 research stages over 20 months (May 2018-Dec2019):

  1. Neighbourhood selection &literature review (May-June 2018): With our community partners, we will select 4 neighbourhoods (2 in Ottawa, 2 in Gatineau) with distinct characteristics (housing, demographics, services/amenities, transportation, employment, etc.) to account for factors that may shape migrant resilience. We will also undertake a broad literature review on immigrant experiences at the neighbourhood level &on resilience research at the neighbourhood scale. Preparation of ethics application.
  2. Census profile &critical ethnography (June-Sept 2018): Detailed profiles for each neighbourhood will be prepared using Census2011/2016 data(immigrant population, countries of origin, ethnic identity, languages, age, education, income, housing, etc.).We will also conduct a critical ethnography (Carspecken 1995) of each neighbourhood for qualitative understanding of their material & social forms through visits and participant observation in various spaces and public and community events (with permission). Detailed field notes will be taken. These will be complemented with a scan of local media (mainstream and n'hood/community media) to understand local representations of each n'hood. Findings from Stage 2 will help prepare for data collection at Stage 3.
  3. Photo-voice Interviews (August-Dec 2018): We will recruit 10-12 participants/n'hood(n=44) from diverse countries of origin, migrant status, times of arrival, gender, class, age, ethnicity/race, family, etc. The goal is not to be representative but to capture a diverse range of experiences to better understand the influence of neighbourhood characteristics on migrant resilience. We will conduct a 2-step interview:
    1. meeting to discuss their immigration &settlement experiences, fill a demographic survey,& introduce project (45-60 min);
    2. meeting to discuss migrants'experiences, level of comfort/discomfort in the n'hood & what they like/dislike about it using their photographs (60-90 min).
    They will be given one week between meetings and asked to take at least 5-10 photographs. Photo-voice is a bottom-up, creative approach that gives power and voice to participants (Wang&Burris 1997) while adding a visual element to support discussions of n'hood experiences.
  4. Analysis &Community Feedback (Jan-May2019): Interview data & photos will be analysed using constructivist &interpretive approach (Cloke et al. 204).In each neighbourhood, we will organize a focus group/community feedback workshop to which all participants will be invited, along with local reps/leaders and other local residents to share our preliminary findings and seek input& recommendations. Depending on interest/availability we may also organize an exhibit with participants' photos from Stage 3. Light refreshments will be offered; the event will be an opportunity for dialogue & engagement between researchers, community, and local leaders & reps.
  5. Dissemination (June-Dec 2019) Findings will be disseminated through various activities targeting diverse audiences.

Principal Investigators:

  • Brian Ray,
  • Luisa Veronis,
  • Anyck Dauphin, UQO
  • Jen Ridgley, Carleton U
Community Partners:
  • OLIP
  • Ville de Gatineau
  • SITO

What is our approach?

Neighbourhoods represent a useful and potentially insightful scale to examine migrant resilience at the interface of structure/agency: how immigrants perceive the built & social environment (amenities, services, safety) of the neighbourhoods where they live, work, educate children, & play (i.e., a safe & supporting environment for them & their children). Neighbourhoods are spaces of everyday life that afford opportunity to investigate the role of structural context on migrants' experiences, including not only neighbourhood characteristics but also government policies at various scales (education, health, housing, etc.) and how these translate into institutional practices and programs (services) offered on the ground. Concomitantly, we can study people's experiences (access to services, social networks), feelings (sense of comfort, belonging), and their level of agency by examining their practices, choices &decision making (why they move in a neighbourhood, how long they stay, access to and use of services, strategies to meet needs, local community engagement, perception of opportunities/challenges, and etc. ). Moreover, it is important to take into account individual characteristics &markers of identity such as class, gender, age, ethnicity/race, migrant category, language, religion, family composition, etc. and their role in shaping their embodied experiences of and practices in everyday spaces of the neighbourhood.

Conceptually, we propose to examine the role of neighbourhoods in shaping migrant resilience through the prism of Henri Lefebvre's (1991) tria-lectical conceptualization of space as lived, conceived and represented. Empirically, the focus will be on 4 neighbourhoods with distinct characteristics in Ottawa-Gatineau (2 in Ottawa, 2 in Gatineau) that will be selected with the help of our community partners. Building on previous work on the social geography of the interprovincial border in Ottawa-Gatineau (Gilbert et al., Veronis, Veronis & Ray), the comparative nature of our study will be key in providing new insights into the role of factors at multiple scales (provincial, municipal, local), thus improving understanding of how the institutional context shapes migrant resilience at more micro-scales (neighbourhood, community, family, individual).

We will adopt a community-based participatory research approach incorporating qualitative mixed-methods (critical ethnography, photo voice interviews, and community feedback sessions). In addition to advancing conceptualizations of migrant resilience and resilient neighbourhoods, the project aims to provide concrete recommendations for policy &practice that will be of interest to our community partners and practitioners in various sectors, and policy makers at three levels government beyond Ottawa-Gatineau.