Welcoming Newcomers to Canada: Strategies for Increasing the Warmth of the Welcome and Promoting a Sense of Belonging among Newcomers

Research Team: Danielle Gaucher, University of Winnipeg; Justin Friesen, York University; Jorge Fernandez, Immigrant Centre, Winnipeg; Vicki Sinclair, Immigrant Centre, Winnipeg

Institutional Partner: Immigrant Centre, Winnipeg

Belongingness — the psychological sense that one fits and is accepted in an environment – is a fundamental human need and is associated with many positive outcomes, such as greater social cohesion, more positive health outcomes, and better academic performance. Our research will include a comprehensive review of the literature on the social-psychological factors that promote belongingness and well-being among newcomers. This will lead to the development of a fact sheet for the P2P online tool kit that will outline the various factors that increase newcomers’ sense of belonging.

Unfortunately, in the media and other public discourse, immigrants are often portrayed as threats to personal employment, health, or national security–contributing to newcomers’ marginalization, and eroding their sense of belongingness. Hostility and animosity sometimes fuel negative depictions of newcomers–but not always. Social psychological research suggests that negative depictions and stereotypes may also arise as a by-product of other psychological motives, such as the need to justify the status quo. In the current research we will directly examine how the motivation to justify the status quo is associated with attitudes toward newcomers in Canada, and empirically test the types of framing that increase the warmth of their welcome. First, in a survey, we will test whether stereotypes of immigrants are held most strongly among people who are highly motivated to defend the status quo. Second, in an experimental study, we will test whether reframing immigration as supportive of the status quo will increase the warmth of welcome for newcomers.

A final component of this project will focus on the Immigrant Centre, Winnipeg, and specifically how it is viewed by community members. An online survey will be developed to examine this issue, focusing on overall views of the Centre, aspects of the Centre that are valued, and what can be done to increase the public’s support for the Centre.