Drawing on an extensive review of recent literature about resilience and integration, this paper evaluates a social resilience approach to the integration of newcomers in Canadian cities. The authors advocate a social resilience approach that acknowledges how institutions of all types play critical roles in newcomers’ efforts to establish their lives in new places, especially when faced with unanticipated events such as a global pandemic.They outline the distinguishing characteristics of social resilience, explain its relevance to contemporary immigrant integration, and propose a research agenda from a social resilience perspective to enhance understanding of immigrant integration and the policies and programs that will facilitate it.
Centering research around the concept of social resilience goes beyond the neoliberal idea that integration is primarily an individual affair achieved with support from friends, family, and a nebulous community and draws attention to the social diversity of migrants and the complexity of their migration and settlement histories. In terms of public policy, the social resilience perspective speaks to the necessity of an inclusive approach to economic and social recovery and restructuring—the need to “build back better” post-pandemic.
Inherently relational, a social resilience approach encourages comparative studies of integration across cities that can reveal how different institutions and their programs affect migrants’ trajectories. Detailed examinations of local institutions and their responses to shifting selection and integration policies, especially during a pandemic, also hold the potential to provide crucial information for supporting newcomers effectively.
The authors proposed research agenda should seek to enhance understanding of integration and add to the growing literature about social resilience. The research agenda should advocate an in-depth examination of the social characteristics of migrants to recognize their diverse needs and intersectional challenges followed by an inventory of organizations and their roles to understand the local institutional contexts where international migrants live. Building on this background information, the research agenda calls for longitudinal and comparative research that captures the dynamic nature of integration and examines institutional responses to support integration in different national and urban contexts, especially during the current crisis.
Research informed by a critical social resilience approach will not only inform ongoing debates about services for international migrants in Canada and elsewhere, it will also contribute to efforts to challenge neoliberal views of resilience, especially for international migrants whose arrival and presence will pose challenges long after the COVID-19 pandemic resolves.
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