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Procedural precarity: An examination of Canadian immigration policy and practice in relation to immigrant youth (2020)

Posted on:
August 17, 2020

What is this research about?

All newcomers, regardless of age, face a compounded variety of barriers, risks and challenges that are exacerbated by their immigrant status. However, newcomer youths face some of these same issues with heightened vulnerability, often with a lower level of visibility or opportunity to reap the benefits bestowed by immigration policies or federally-funded programming.

The Centre for Newcomers (CFN), an immigrant-serving organization that has for more than 30 years been providing services to Calgarian newcomers, has identified several substantial gaps within these parameters. This article explores some of the most pressing gaps in Canadian immigration policy in relation to the following inter-connected and fundamental issues facing newcomer youth in Canada:

  • protracted and ongoing status issues;
  • educational barriers; and
  • poverty.

The article then contextualises these policy gaps with reference to CFN’s Real Me programme... to provide evidence- and practice-based policy recommendations.

What do you need to know?

According to Statistics Canada, in 2016, close to 2,2 million children under the age of 15, or 37.5% of the total population of children had at least one foreign-born parent. StatsCan projects that children with an immigrant background could represent between 39% and 49% of the total population of children in 2036.

The researchers suggest that "it is imperative for the immigrant youths of today, as well as those of the future, that Canadian politicians and policy makers, as well as other stakeholders, re-centre the needs of both refugee and immigrant youth within their policies and practices."

They also write: "While the scope of data will rely upon Canadian data, and utilise best-practice examples from the Calgary-specific programming of the Centre for Newcomers (CFN), these learnings may be applicable to immigration policies beyond the confines of the Canadian context. That said, the three most fundamental and interconnected gaps that will be developed are the following: protracted and ongoing status issues; educational barriers; and poverty. Each of these barriers falls within the social determinants of health framework, by which marginalised groups, including newcomers, are more likely to be affected by than their Canadian-born counterparts..."

What did the researchers do?

The report is not entirely clear about methodology, but it appears that the researcher reviewed Real Me documentation, reports, and research along with "other youth-related data."

What did the researchers find?

The researcher suggests that this is program that can and should be replicated in other cities: "...while the Real Me programme was created for the specific needs of at-risk immigrant youths in Calgary, its techniques can be tailored to bridge the gaps that immigrant youths in other locales may face, in Canada and abroad. While adopting an IBWI methodology that honours an individual’s cultural background and fosters an interpersonal vision of accountability is no easy task, it can provide a foundation for collaborative programming, practices as well as transformative policies."

When it comes to policy, the author made four broad policy "recommendations towards procedural policy and actionability improvements":

  1. rethink eligibility criteria for, and access to, services in Canadian immigration policies - allow access child care, settlement or employment services, regardless of immigration status/documentation
  2. representation in policy matters - increase and coordinate the number of cultural, ethnic, linguistic and age-appropriate staff in the writing of federal immigration policy and programming
  3. reassess federal immigration policy in relation to the needs of newcomer youth, particularly through realignment with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
  4. a concrete shift towards acknowledging the politicized nature of migration is needed through the promotion of historically-aware research could lead to the production of more transformative immigration policies and practical operationalisation.

How can you use this research?

It may be of interest and useful for others working with newcomer youth to connect with CFN to learn more about the program and what could be replicated in their city and community.

Policy-makers will find the broad recommendations of interest.

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This article explores some of the most pressing gaps in Canadian immigration policy in inter-connected and fundamental issues facing newcomer youth in Canada.