Edmonton Chamber of Voluntary Organization
Research conducted by Cheryl Mahaffy, Words that Sing Design by Fox Design
June 2019 | Juin 2019
This narrative study, sponsored by the Edmonton Chamber of Voluntary Organizations, captures key milestones, representative stories and observations about a unique time in our history as a multicultural community, both to salute those involved and to glean insights that may inform our collective future. In addition to hearing from agencies with major responsibility, such as Catholic Social Services (CSS) and the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers (EMCN), snapshots scattered throughout highlight just a few of the many others engaged in the all-consuming work of welcoming new neighbours.
Summary | Résumé
“In a typical year, refugees arrive in Edmonton by the hundreds. During the height of the influx of refugees fleeing war in Syria, more than two thousand came—hundreds in just a few months. Because the influx outstripped the capacity of anyone organization, new and stronger collaborations took shape. Volunteers also helped ease the difficult journey of resettlement. Even so, everyone involved is keenly aware that not all newly arrived Syrians are receiving the support they need to take root, flourish and contribute to this community.
Due to its sheer size and speed, this influx provides an opportunity to explore systemic changes that could make life better for our new neighbours from Syria—and for other waves of newcomers sure to come. This participant informed study set out to do exactly that, while also chronicling promising practices. Based on multiple interviews and reports, the unabridged study contains a chronology of the welcoming, a review of key coordinating bodies, a summary of settlement successes and gaps and suggested priorities for systemic change. This summary focuses on systemic change and gaps in services, providing some of the most-often-heard suggestions for change.
Areas Ripe for Systematic Change
The energy and attention attracted by the influx from Syria offers an opportunity for Edmontonians to co-create a better way. A more holistic, coordinated, client-centred way. The expertise is here, and in fact has expanded as a result of the scramble to serve our new Syrian neighbours. We have tested innovative ways to collaborate. We have gained greater capacity. We have experienced the value of meeting clients where they’re at. We have seen leaders emerge within and beyond the newcomer community. Our challenge now is to build on that momentum. In the words of a Canadian Council for Refugees report following a 2017 consultation in Edmonton, “In seeking the best possible outcomes for newcomers, the choice facing settlement agencies is not whether to change but how.” That same choice faces us all. As a community, we need to ensure that all refugees receive a level of support that equips them to put down healthy roots so that they can flourish and contribute, as so many are eager to do.”
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Research at a Glance is designed to inform the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) community and other interested parties about recently published, policy-relevant research from government, academic and NGO sources. The views expressed in the documents described do not necessarily reflect those of IRCC.