What is this research about?
Based on the Waterloo Region Immigration Partnership Community Action Plan, this study contributes towards understanding, maintaining, and developing responsive settlement programs and strategies that effectively serve all members of the KW community, including those with a precarious legal status and impacted by the intersection of different social identities. This project responds to the three core areas identified in the Community Action Plan: settle, work, and belong.
The project identified challenges that affect temporary migrants because of their gender and status, focusing on both individual- and system-level resilience. Resilience is understood to emerge at the intersection of individual/family capacity to respond to the challenges of migration, and institutional/community capacity to provide supports that foster newcomer resilience and respond to change. Lack of eligibility for settlement support, child care subsidy and other services for temporary migrants creates a disproportionate burden on women; nonetheless the same women assume important roles fostering family and community resilience, filling in the gaps.
What do you need to know?
Gender affects migrants’ entry to Canada, access to services, and how they cope with integration challenges. Gender-responsive services and programming do not concentrate exclusively on women. Rather, they take account of different experiences of men, women, and gender non-binary individuals and their impacts on migrant resilience. The Kitchener-Waterloo city network examines the experiences of temporary migrants and asylum claimants seeking to transition to permanent residence. Some gender-responsive programming exists, but it must be made more accessible and relevant.
What did the researchers do?
A workshop about “Fostering Gender Responsiveness in Migration Resilience, Research and Action” was held to engage community organizations that serve temporary migrants. Focus groups and semi-structured interviews with more than 70 participants yielded insights on their conditions of entry, coping strategies, access to a variety of services, challenges that they felt were unique to their gender, gender roles back home and in Canada, and gender-based violence in their communities. Over 20 interviews with service providers revealed gaps in the availability of gender-responsive programming for temporary migrants and creative strategies for addressing these.
What did the researchers find?
- Affordable housing is a challenge for temporary migrants, especially for single parent households that are disproportionately female-headed. The housing stipend from Ontario Works for a family of four is about $756/month, much less than average rents ranging from $1400 to $1600 for a 2-3 bedroom apartment.
- Access to social assistance for low-income families with children is limited for those with temporary status. Asylum claimants are ineligible for the Canada Child Benefit (CTB) until their claims are recognized. The Transition Child Benefit on which many rely was eliminated and then temporarily restored in 2019 at the insistence of the organizations supporting claimants. International students are eligible to receive CTB only after living 18 months in Canada. Temporary migrant parents cannot receive childcare subsidy for their children. Access to these forms of assistance allows both parents to work if they want to. In our sample, the parent who stayed home with their children was usually the mother if the family could not afford daycare.
- Gender-responsive programming on reproductive health at community centres reached many women as it was scheduled to coincide with children’s after-school activities. Outreach workers, many of whom are professional migrant women who have been deskilled, play a crucial role in making this programming accessible to more recent newcomer women. Employment programmes existed for women, but often reinforced stereotypical gender norms.
- Gender-based violence was a cause of migration, and experience during/after migration for several participants. Yet only 12.5% of women were aware of gender-based violence, and two men discussed the challenges of living in a society where expressing frustration or disciplining family members by hitting them was not acceptable.
How can you use this research?
- Provide gender-responsive programming: Outreach workers and community centres can create safe spaces for all, regardless of status, to discuss sexual and reproductive health, parenting, gender identity, and gender-based violence.
- Make programming accessible to women by providing children’s programming in parallel with community-based services.
- Encourage service providers to complete the federal government’s Gender-Based Analysis (GBA+) training so GBA+ becomes a routine part of program design.
- Increase the housing stipend for all households receiving social assistance; consider additional support for single-parent households.
- Expand access to social assistance for families with children by waiving the 18-month waiting period for the CTB and expanding childcare subsidy.