Modeling the strategies and practices of NGOs and associations fostering intake and retention in the OLMCs in Edmonton and Sherbrooke

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Executive summary

As part of the Roadmap for Canada’s Official Languages (2013–2018), this research project was designed to contribute to the integration of immigrants in official-language minority communities (OLMCs).

To do this, the research aims to model immigrant reception and integration strategies and practices implemented by NGOs and associations working in Anglophone and Francophone OLMCs in two cities: Edmonton, for Francophone communities, and Sherbrooke, for Anglophone communities. The objectives of the ethnographic, contextualized and comprehensive approach behind these organizations’ practices and strategies are as follows:

  1. To better understand their contribution to local communities.
  2. To understand how they promote partnerships and cooperation while taking into consideration the local fabric and both formal and informal organizations.
  3. To provide new insight for the implementation of locally relevant and effective policies, programs and measures.

However, the socio-political context of the two cities and OLMCs also makes it possible to identify specific issues. In Edmonton, the issue of youth, education and black minorities is a priority because of the large presence of these young people and problems that may be related to their immigration journey from violence and insecurity. It is within the Francophone community that work needs to be focused on being open-minded to differences and on welcoming newcomers. Organizations are an important gateway for this. In Sherbrooke, the Anglophone community is extremely isolated compared to the local Francophone community, and the issue of integrating immigrants in the Anglophone community highlights the need for bilingualism and partnerships between both the Anglophone and Francophone communities. In Alberta, Francophones are clearly identified as a minority language community, but this is not the case in Quebec. Having or not having this recognized status as a minority has an impact on the services put in place for immigrants. It is easier to develop and fund these organizations in Edmonton’s Francophone OLMCs than it is in Sherbrooke’s Anglophone OLMCs. Education in French for young people is both an issue and a resource for OLMCs in Edmonton, particularly with the revitalization of French schools, whereas Bill 101 in Quebec prevents English schools from being a gateway into the community for immigrants. There, it is the post-secondary educational institutions that serve this role. In Edmonton, organizations that provide reception and integration services to immigrants in the Francophone community are funded in part by the federal and provincial governments. In Sherbrooke, French organizations for welcoming immigrants exist and are funded in large part by the provincial government; however, there is no English organization dedicated to this. English organizations that work with immigrants do so by getting them involved in their traditional local Anglophone population, which can also be an opportunity for local integration. In Alberta, the political will to integrate Francophone immigrants in the community is seen as legitimate; however, this is not the case for Quebec’s Anglophone community, and this has a major impact on the visibility and development of organizations, as well as on the focus, both within and outside of the OLMC, on community vitality and the role of immigration.

In terms of comparison, the Sherbrooke’s Anglophone community is much more dependent than Edmonton’s OLMC on majority services and organizations with respect to immigrant reception and integration. This dependence makes partnerships between the communities essential, and their deficiencies stand out as a major issue. In the case of Sherbrooke, differences in the level of funding for Anglophone organizations compared to those for the Francophone majority are also a meaningful differentiator that, in some cases, prevents or limits partnerships. Representatives of organizations from both communities must be more proactive in establishing partnerships. In the case of Edmonton, funding is more similar between the Anglophone and Francophone communities: Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Canadian Heritage and the Official Languages Secretariat, the provincial government and municipal governments. Moreover, funding encourages intra- and intercommunity partnerships, essentially between Anglophone and Francophone communities, which is—without a doubt—a winning strategy.

The most effective partnerships are within and between the communities and are funded by various orders of government. They have different terms, including collaborations between individuals and thematic and economic partnerships at various levels. The reciprocity of the partnerships and the recognition of their interests and legitimacy by all the partners are conditions of their effectiveness, and the proactiveness of the various partners in the implementation promotes their density, effectiveness and sustainability.

An initial overview of the analysis of organizations’ practices and the interviews with immigrants reveals differences between the two OLMCs: these pertain to the types of partnership, the degree of institutionalization, the professionalization of staff, the specialization of the organizations, the method of intercommunity networking, the perception of the legitimacy of immigration in the community, the involvement of immigrants in the process, the visibility and accessibility of services, funding, and the potential for sustainability.

Similarities include proactive practices, personalization, consideration of needs, emphasis on multiculturalism, implementation of intercultural activities, promotion and use of multilingualism as a resource, the importance of welcomeness and user friendliness, processes for connecting one-to-one, information consolidated in a one stop/gateway organization, the role of educational organizations (colleges, universities, training centres, schools) as gateways as well as service organizations.

Common issues have to do with funding, sustainability, recognition of immigration as a community development issue, and community identity, including the diversity added by immigrants.

Using this model, when analyzing an OLMC we can first validate the presence of a number of indicators in the various dimensions, but these indicators must also be contextualized based on the OLMC: what is relevant and effective for one community is not necessarily true for another, for example, institutionalization in Edmonton versus informal in Sherbrooke; professionalization in Edmonton versus volunteering in Sherbrooke; institutional completeness in Edmonton versus intercommunity partnership in Sherbrooke; “forming a community together” in Sherbrooke versus developing an inclusive identity in Edmonton. The conditions for developing good practices are therefore contingent on the context of the OLMCs and their recognition and legitimacy to receive and integrate immigrants.

We can see here that the good practices identified appear to have a positive impact on the integration of immigrants in the two OLMCs. However, if we also look at the impact on the vitality of Edmonton’s Francophone community at the human, relational, economic and linguistic, institutional and partnership levels, there appears to be less of an impact on the vitality of Sherbrooke’s Anglophone community. Separation between the Anglophone and Francophone communities, having only the majority community be responsible for immigration, as well as separate and different funding for organizations in the two communities are restrictive conditions that limit the effects of the organizations’ good practices on the community.

The municipal, regional, provincial and federal systems, and the interactions between them, establish different conditions for Anglophone and Francophone OLMCs and also from one OLMC to another, for example, between Sherbrooke’s OLMC and the one in Quebec, the one in Edmonton and the one in Toronto. Organizations, their funding, their sustainability, their legitimacy, their flexibility, their partnerships, their missions, and their practices and projects are first and foremost a part of these political, administrative and economic systems.

This is why the key recommendations are aimed at these various orders of government, while recognizing their specific jurisdictions as well as the primacy of the Canada Quebec Accord and its priorities, namely (1) preservation of the French language and the distinct identity of Quebec society; (2) federal withdrawal from reception and linguistic and cultural integration services for Quebec-destined immigrants; (3) an annual grant from Canada (CIC) to Quebec to provide reception and integration services to permanent residents in the province. A number of recommendations are also aimed at the organizations that organize these services.

1 - For the various orders of government:

  1. It is essential to develop partnerships between the majority and minority communities, with respect for each government’s jurisdiction. These partnerships can be strengthened between the municipal and provincial levels, for example.
  2. It is necessary for the various orders of government to recognize the interests of OLMCs in immigrant reception and integration and the benefit for local and regional society, with respect for each order of government’s jurisdiction and area of responsibility.
  3. It is necessary to consider calls for joint proposals between various orders of government, for example, research and intervention projects between the municipal and provincial governments and schools.
  4. It is necessary to consider co-funding for research and intervention projects.
  5. It is necessary to ensure the sustainability of organizations through recurring and one time funding that is not related only to the number of immigrants received but also to the activities, services and projects put in place.

2 - For the municipal and provincial governments, partner networks and organizations:

  1. Funding should encourage collaboration and reciprocal exchanges between organizations within and between communities.
  2. Funding should encourage formal and informal strategies for the development of multilingualism that have been implemented by organizations and have had very positive effects.
  3. Funding and reporting should accept and encourage the personalization of formal and informal support services and practices.
  4. Municipal governments in particular, because they are closest to the local reality, must recognize and value the importance of the volunteer involvement of immigrants and members of minority communities.
  5. Communication strategies implemented by organizations and governments should promote the sharing of information across networks and reciprocal exchanges. Setting up websites is not enough.
  6. Strategies that promote linkages between the organizations and the private sector should be supported and encouraged within minority communities and between communities.
  7. Tutoring, mentorship, shadowing and pairing practices should be financially supported through grants that cover the costs of coordination, monitoring and support.
  8. Key/one-stop organizations should be supported in minority communities and should also receive funding for visibility and accessibility strategies.
  9. We need to provide funding for and strengthen research on the effects of these strategies and practices used by OLMC organizations with regard to the social and professional integration of immigrants and their retention in the OLMC and in the region. We should also continue research on transferability between OLMCs.
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