What is this research about?
Settlement service organizations play an essential role in supporting newcomers to Canada; however, the processes that practitioners engage in when working with people navigating the refugee system remain understudied. This study explores the institutional ruling relations that regulate refugees’ settlement process in Toronto from the standpoint view of practitioners.
What did the researchers find?
"The findings indicate that practitioners strategize to meet refugees’ needs and engage in work outside of the system due to funding constraints... and indicate that settlement organizations need to respond to the funders’ demands and expectations, which has created an unstable, constantly fluctuating environment for service provision. Against this backdrop, significant emphasis is placed on practitioners’ capacity to identify and respond to refugees and newcomers’ diverse needs and establish connections internal and external to the settlement sector. Practitioners are working within funding constraints that have led to acts of resistance. Both practitioners and organizations choose between their internal mission and mandate, a personal sense of what it means to offer support, and funders’ agendas.
Major themes included:
- Identifying and responding to needs - The prioritization of specific needs over others is at the discretion of practitioners and informed by their knowledge of the settlement process. Informants stated that the decision of which needs to prioritize depends on various factors such as location, community, country of origin, and language proficiency.
- Comprehensive knowledge of the settlement sector - Practitioners must have extensive and up-to-date knowledge of the settlement sector to ensure that service users are referred to services that meet their needs
- Funding governs service eligibility - A frequent theme was the impact that funding has on refugees’ eligibility for services. IRCC, on behalf of the federal government, is responsible for funding a large portion of settlement services. However, IRCC specifically funds services for permanent residents and convention refugees, which excludes a large portion of Canada’s newcomer population, leaving them without adequate support.
- Acts of resistance - Informants acknowledged that, at times, they operate outside of the structured institutional design. Some informants discussed how acts of resistance to the established system and expected practices are necessary because of the settlement institution’s flaws.