As Canada looks to meet ambitious immigration targets, researchers from across the country are undertaking a multi-million dollar study of how migrants are integrating into Canadian society.
Toronto Metropolitan University is leading the seven-year, $98.6-million research project, which also involves researchers from the University of British Columbia, Concordia University, and the University of Alberta. The project is being funded by the Canadian government.
Anna Triandafyllidou, the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Migration and Integration at TMU, says the study will offer insights on immigration and migration during a time of rapid social, economic and digital transformation.
“We see this as very important for the past, present and future of Canada in many ways — not just in terms of economic outcomes, but also in terms of making our society richer, more creative, more innovative, more resilient,” she told CTVNews.ca.
“The focus of this program is to look at how advanced digital technologies are changing everything: the way we live, the way we work, the way we travel, the way we communicate, the way we also participate in society and look at migrant integration within that.”
The project will examine the experiences of permanent residents, temporary foreign workers, refugees, asylum seekers, international students and economic migrants, Triandafyllidou noted. It will use a mixed-method research approach that incorporates annual surveys, interviews, focus groups and data pulled from social media.
There are four key research themes: employment and lifelong learning, immigrant health and well-being, place and infrastructure, as well as citizenship and civic participation.
Under the employment and lifelong learning umbrella, for example, Triandafyllidou said the researchers will be analyzing how the shift to remote and hybrid work during the pandemic both benefitted and put newcomers at a disadvantage, and how immigrants can begin their accreditation process in their country of origin for in-demand jobs, such as those in the health-care sector, so that they can “hit the ground running” when they arrive in Canada.
They will also be exploring the overrepresentation of migrant and immigrant workers in the digital gig economy.
“Our research so far has shown that this provides an opportunity for migrants that need to retrain or to do their qualification assessment or accreditation, so instead of working some rigid nine-to-five job that doesn’t give them any time, they prefer — with an inverted comma — to say, work for Uber or DoorDash,” Triandafyllidou explained.
“At the same time, we know that this sometimes is a trap. And we know that newcomers have less knowledge, for instance, of their rights or the labour laws.”
Under the scope of health and well-being, the researchers will be looking into how the physical and mental health of immigrants and migrants changes as they integrate into Canadian society as they experience stress, isolation and culture shock.
Among other things, Triandafyllidou said the interdisciplinary research program will also examine the social and technical infrastructure of Canadian cities, factors that have led to the decline in Canadian citizenship uptake in recent years, the challenges and opportunities that arise from digital settlement services, and how Canada can engage Indigenous communities more in decisions about the future of immigration in the country.
In total, the “Migrant Integration in the Mid-21st Century: Bridging Divides” program will involve 25 research leaders and more than 100 scholars.
There are also more than 200 organizations involved, including the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, Public Policy Forum and Google.
According to Statistics Canada, in 2022, Canada welcomed 437,000 new permanent residents and 1.2 million temporary migrants, including international students. The Canadian government hopes to welcome 465,000 permanent residents in 2023, rising to 500,000 by 2025.
The research program’s findings will be made available through reports, policy briefs, infographics and multimedia explainers, Triandafyllidou said. The overall goal of the project is to help Canada better prepare for the future as it looks to welcome more migrants and immigrants, she added.
“Migration is both part of Canada’s national identity, but also part of its economic and demographic future.”