Literature Review of the Outcomes of Government-Assisted Refugees (GARs) in Smaller Canadian Centres

Most migration stories have what researchers call push and pull factors. With government-assisted refugees (GARs), the push factors are often extreme, horrific, and exactly what qualifies them for government assistance. These factors, which include the effects of trauma, violence, and protracted periods of dislocation, animate some of the unique challenges this type of refugee faces.  Yet comparatively little attention is given to pull factors with GARs. These factors— particularly permanent housing, employment, and social integration— often determine the outcomes for GARs. This is especially true the smaller the community GARs settle in because there will often be quantitatively fewer relatives, other potential co-ethnic social supports, and job opportunities. Therefore, the pull quality of all of these factors plus community investment goes a long way to determining the outcomes for GARs in smaller Canadian centers. There are, in other words, affective and symbolic “pull” qualities that should be more considered.  Smaller cities and towns are also often competing directly or indirectly with larger cities to attract and keep people whether those people are fourth generation Canadians or new GARs.

There are no doubt problems to comparing GARs with other migrants, never mind the Canadian population at large.  However, if the stated policy goal is integration, which is a recurring word in governmental and non-governmental reports, then how researchers approach GARs needs to be more integrated.  Also, precisely because of some of the unique challenges GARs face such as traumas related to war, lower literacy and educational attainment, violence, and protracted dislocation, they need more “pull” from any community that they settle in regardless of the city’s size (ISS of BC 2017; Rose and Charette 2017; Sherrell et al. 2005; Simrich 2003). For example, Sherrell et al (2005) argue that GARs often require the kind of trauma counselling that is much more available and cost-efficient in larger cities than in smaller onesIn addition, smaller centres are seen to be more “sink or swim” situations with less co-ethnic community support (Sherrell et al. 2005).  Refugee assistance, whether formally or informally, must be more dispersed or regionalized to meet the sharp increases of GARs coupled with the federal regionalization policy (Garcea 2016; ISS of BC 2017; Sherrell et al 2005).  Support, investment, or “pull” from the community must take many forms and be “flexible” (ISS of BC 2017) to meet the challenges GARs face in order to facilitate better outcomes, however outcomes are defined.