The Environics Institute for Survey Research is now undertaking a major new research project with Syrian refugees in Canada. This is the latest in the Institute’s series of community-focused studies that provide deep insight into the lives and experiences of Canadians who typically are not heard from or well understood. The project is funded through a Contribution Agreement with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), and will be completed in Spring 2021.
Canada is a nation of immigrants, from its historic roots dating back more than 400 years to the present day. The country accepts roughly 300,000 immigrants each year, from a wide range of countries. The majority of newcomers arrive as part of the economic or family class, but some come to Canada as refugees fleeing conflict, persecution and threats to their lives. In the past few years, the most significant source of refugees has been Syrians seeking a safe home from the civil war that has ravaged their country for several years. In response, the federal government in 2015 significantly expanded the intake of Syrian refugees through both government and private sponsorship. Less than two years later, close to 45,000 Syrian refugees had arrived in Canada, which is the most substantial intake of refugees over a short period from one source since the Vietnamese sponsorship program in the late 1970s.
Absorbing such a large number of refugees in such a short time has presented major challenges for government agencies in terms security, logistics, and providing the necessary supports for newcomers arriving from a very different culture and with few resources. And the transition has been very challenging for the refugees themselves, faced with such a dramatic change in circumstances even if voluntarily chosen. These challenges notwithstanding, the process has largely worked in the short term, and past history suggests most of these refugees will successfully adapt to their new homeland over time.
The purpose of this research is to generate new, policy-relevant insights into the lived experience of Syrian refugees who arrived in Canada in 2015-16, which can provide direct benefits in terms of guiding policy and settlement programming, building capacity for further research, and improving the public narrative around Syrian refugees in Canada. The longer term goal of the study is to contribute to more positive outcomes for Syrian refugees in terms of successful settlement and integration into Canadian society, and for other Canadians in terms of broader understanding and acceptance of this population within the country.
The study will build upon previous research (e.g., internal government research, SSHRC-funded studies), to generate a more comprehensive picture of the Syrian refugee experience in Canada through an approach that is both empirically-based (representative of the target population) and in-depth (using qualitative methods), to delve deeper into important issues that have been identified but not yet fully understood, using a research model used successfully with other populations in Canada.
The research is also intended to serve as a catalyst for stakeholders currently involved with Syrian refugees (e.g., settlement agencies, academic researchers, sponsor groups, refugees), by serving as a focal point for stakeholders to gain new understanding, practical guidance, and the basis for creating new forums for engagement and activity.
The project is based on a unique research model developed by the Environics Institute, which has been used successfully in conducting lived experience studies with urban Indigenous Peoples (Urban Aboriginal Peoples Study, 2010) and the Black community (Black Experience Project in the GTA, 2017). Further details on these groundbreaking projects can be found at https://www.uaps.ca/ and https://www.theblackexperienceproject.ca/. This project is being guided by a Research Advisory Group composed of representatives from settlement organizations across the country and academic researchers who have conducted studies with refugees.
Dr. Keith Neuman, Senior Associate