Social and Cultural Integration of Immigrants in Canada

While we have often focused on the socio-economic integration of immigrants in Canada, we have been less focused on their social and cultural integration. Yet, research and organizations concerned with immigrants tell us that one cannot be achieved without the other. Finding employment is necessary but does not suffice, by itself, to improve feelings about the quality of life, nor for retaining immigrants and their families in a community or region. Increasingly, research projects focusing on immigrant welcome and retention in various Canadian regions show that integration factors manifest themselves in a systemic fashion: employment, housing, education opportunities for youth and adults, services and resources, places of worship, and transport represent forms of local capital that allow immigrants to feel welcome and integrated in their communities. Local networks of acquaintances, friends, and services – sometimes ethnic, sometimes multi-ethnic or neighbourhood networks, and various community groups – are part of this capital that attracts, integrates and retains immigrants. Their transnational networks located in their countries of origin or in other diasporic or transit countries both symbolically and virtually contribute to this capital, benefiting from  information technologies and web-based social networks. Immigrant civic engagement,  citizenship participation and political engagement result from  these integration processes which are  also facilitated by existing local governance measures and by the openness of the local population towards linguistic, ethnic and cultural diversity, as well as immigration and immigrants. Regular surveys conducted  by CIC demonstrate that disparities exist in these processes across regions and that more targeted research and more precise actions are required in order to improve, support and diffuse this openness of the Canadian population. For this reason, the cultural, artistic, sport and leisure facilities in communities that welcome newcomers, as well as processes of intergenerational cultural transmission among immigrants, must be the focus of research projects aimed at understanding and developing models of newcomer integration and living together.  It will also be important to understand how specific populations – such as women, members of black communities, and people who experience discrimination – have access to local capital and are able to insert themselves into the cultural sphere.

We propose to organize research projects for this theme around concepts of engagement, participation, integration, networks, attitudes, racism and islamophobia.

We can conceptualize the theme in two dimensions:

  • Migrant participation and engagement, including family and network strategies, utilizing different integration methods and tools such as the arts, culture and sports
  • Attitudes towards immigration and immigrants: determinants, expressions, evolution, education, and actions to change attitudes, such as anti-racist pedagogy, conflict pedagogy, cultural and intercultural mediation, as well as public dialogue