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Integration Barriers and Information as a Solution: Report Based on Literature Covering 2005-2011 Inclusive

Posted on:
February 22, 2020

This report is a synthesis of recent literature on how information can be used to address settlement and integration barriers experienced by newcomers to Canada.

Overview and findings

The provision of information is a fundamental component of assisting immigrants with their settlement and integration needs. Information may facilitate access to and use of services, assist immigrants in their navigation of the Canadian system, promote realistic expectations of what immigrants will face upon arrival in Canada and in the first few years of settlement, and promote knowledge of the Canadian way of life. Newcomers to Canada seek and use information in complex ways to integrate into Canadian society.

A review of the relevant academic literature from 2005-2011 was undertaken in order to provide insight into how information can be used to overcome barriers to integration in six domains of life in Canada:

  1. the education system and language learning,
  2. housing,
  3. health care,
  4. money and finances,
  5. the justice system, and
  6. cultural adaptation and community involvement.

The review pointed to a dearth of research in this area, with health care proving to be somewhat of an exception. The research available suggested the specific types of information that should be provided to newcomers, and overall indicated that newcomers would benefit from information provided in their native languages to ensure comprehension and from information provided in a variety of formats and venues to optimize access and utilization. The specific types of information most needed by newcomers may be classified as fitting into two main categories:

  1. information on the Canadian system and way of life, and
  2. information to increase awareness of services and resources available to newcomers.

A review of the literature from 2005-2011 on optimal strategies for providing information to newcomers was also undertaken. This review suggested that one of the primary sources of information for newcomers is the internet, and that in addition to ensuring that information is provided in a variety of languages, the use of video and audio should be considered. It is also the case that the provision of information should be attuned to cultural differences in communication style, with individuals from high-context cultures (e.g., China, Philippines, India) being particularly responsive to cues outside of the explicit message being presented. As a result, websites providing information to newcomers should consider the use of images and animation, in addition to text. The use of new social media should also be explored, including Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.

The review points to many gaps in our knowledge of how best to provide information to newcomers to Canada. In addition to describing specific topics in need of future research attention, a model of information provision and use by newcomers is presented. The model suggests that information providers must consider the intended targets of their messages, the content and format of messages, and the source and context of information provision. This model can be used to organize the previous literature in this area, guide future research, and ultimately facilitate the development of strategies for the provision of information to newcomers that are most likely to be well-utilized and effective.

A Model of Information Provision and Use by Newcomers

The provision of information to newcomers would do well to be situated within a model of information processing so that important aspects of access to and use of information are not overlooked. The authors recommend and outline the use of one particular model: the psychological model of persuasive communication. This model suggests that it is important to examine three aspects of a persuasive communication:

  1. the source of the message and the context in which it is being provided,
  2. the format and content of the message, and
  3. the target of the message.

By examining all three factors, and their interactions, we can develop information strategies that are most likely to be well-utilized and effective.

Figure 1: A Model of Factors that May Influence Information Access and Use by Newcomers

Summary

This report is a synthesis of recent literature on how information can be used to address settlement and integration barriers experienced by newcomers to Canada.
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