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Migration. Dislocation. Method. Policy.

10:30, Tuesday 9 May 2023 EDT (1 hour 30 minutes)

Authors: Ebenezer Narh and Dr. Michael Buzzelli, Geography and Environment, The University of Western Ontario

Session leader: Ebenezer Narh

Human migration helps to focus the question of human-environment relations through the rich interactions of time, space and scale. The human-environment connection of population movements offers a palette of methodologies, theories, and applications from the individual to the socio-spatial network; each spanning local to global. Under the themes of Living on Earth in the era of the Anthropocene and Geography, Development and Environmental Ethics, this proposed special session focuses on the topology and impacts of migration’s origins and destinations: the motivations, experiences, patterns and dislocations of settlement and adjustment. Theoretical, applied, and methodological contributions are welcome.


Sample topics:

  • Population/demography, domestic and international
  • Scales, from the individual through community to global scale, such as the place of migrants in chains/social networks of transnational communities
  • Connectedness and interaction in the Web 2.0+ world and the implications for the (ir)relevance of place
  • Regional, national, and international human capital markets that impel and draw movers
  • Policy inquiry such as the economic development practices of talent attraction and retention
  • Methodological and technical innovation, including visualisation, spatio-temporal approaches, and other implements-of-pride in the geographer’s toolkit

(Uneven) access to and usage of social services in Ontario: Examining Francophones’ everyday experiences and language practices in place 

Shannon Leitch and Luisa Veronis, University of Ottawa

Ontario’s Francophone population experiences barriers to accessing and using French language services. As the Francophone population of the province continues to diversify as a result of immigration initiatives with the aim of bolstering the vitality of Francophone minority communities, this creates an increasingly uneven distribution of the Francophone population across Ontario: with immigrants tending to settle in metropolitan areas, while Canadian-born Francophones tend to be more concentrated in the northern and eastern regions of the province. Francophones may find it difficult to access services in French in their place of settlement due to issues of visibility, availability, (lack of) information, quality, or other issues specific to their demographic or geographic location. This paper examines how the role of place impacts Francophones’ everyday access to and usage of French-language services in a minority context, as well as their language practices in relation to services, while comparing the service experiences of Canadian-born and immigrant Francophones. Using a combined social resilience and language instrumentalism framework, the study aims to fulfill the objectives of: 1) mapping patterns of Francophones’ access to and usage of French-language services across Ontario, and 2) examining the influence of geographic differences, particularly metropolitan versus non-metropolitan areas, on service access, usage, and related language practices in order to compare Canadian-born and immigrant service access and usage experiences. To do so, we discuss preliminary findings from a large-scale, Ontario-wide online survey and use descriptive analysis to meet these research objectives. The findings provide an updated map of Francophones’ access to and usage of French-language services across Ontario and help to identify potential barriers, while also advancing the understanding of how place, scale, and regional differences impact immigrant and Canadian-born Francophones’ service access and usage. This study serves to develop recommendations to improve service access and usage in Francophones’ preferred language(s).

The Persistence of Place:  The Rationale for Local Immigration Bodies During Canada’s Syrian Refugee Resettlement Initiative

By:  Dr. Luisa Veronis, Blair Cullen, and Dr. Margaret Walton-Roberts

As human migration undergoes transformation, place remains a fundamental part of the human migration experience. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in migration receiving countries like Canada where international migration dislocation has spawned considerable resettlement policy activity at the community scale, specifically, in the form of Local Immigration Bodies (LIBs). LIBs are place-based multi-sectoral councils whose mandate is to address local migration issues. While refugee resettlement is increasingly conceptualized as a place-based process (Walton-Roberts et al. 2019), LIBs literature lacks a place-based perspective. 

Using the case of Ottawa, we investigate the LIB community selection process in response to the Syrian Refugee Resettlement Initiative (SRRI) in 2015-16. Ottawa’s stakeholders opted to develop a new entity to deal with the SRRI – creating Refugee 613 – rather than choosing the national government funded Local Immigration Partnership (LIP) as their primary response vehicle. Given the success of Refugee 613, this was a wise choice (Veronis 2019); interestingly, stakeholders decided to keep Refugee 613, not discontinue it after the SRRI as originally intended. This situation has left lingering questions about where the LIP’s and Refugee 613’s mandates begin and end, as well as how to navigate often overlapping terrain in refugee resettlement. 

The continued existence of Refugee 613 illustrates emerging shifts in Canada’s refugee resettlement settlement landscape. The SRRI was thought to be a once in a generation event, however, subsequent international migration events have altered Canada’s plans, with Canada resettling Afghan and Ukrainian refugees in special resettlement initiatives like the SRRI. Ottawa’s retention of Refugee 613 is unique, as other communities dissolved their SRRI vehicles. However, with special resettlement initiatives becoming frequent and the number of LIBs growing, it is worth asking whether more communities will follow Ottawa’s path. Based on our findings, we discuss local communities’ agency in refugee resettlement, the role of place in exercising that agency and the maturity of refugee resettlement settlement initiatives.

An interurban analysis of higher education student migration in Canada

Ebenezer Narh and Dr. Michael Buzzelli, Geography and Environment, The University of Western Ontario

In Canada, approximately 10% of higher education students (about 200,000) migrate interprovincially every year to attend university or college. Higher education students, including migrants from other places, play an important role in local community composition, social processes, and economic development. Yet, unlike research elsewhere, Canadian studies at finer spatial scales, such as migration within provinces or amongst urban regions, are scarce. The purpose of this research is to analyze the student migration exchanges between the largest urban regions in Canada for the 2019/20 academic year. The analysis is based on the Postsecondary Student Information System (PSIS, Statistics Canada) dataset. Out of the 41 Census Metropolitan Areas (CMAs) in 2021, 17 were used for the analysis. Interaction matrixes of students’ origins and study destinations were generated to estimate the volume of the inter-urban migration flows. The study finds a high volume of student migration amongst Canada’s largest urban regions. At least one in three (33%) higher education students migrate from one urban region to another. The migration rate increases significantly (i.e., 1 in 2 students migrate) when small and medium-sized regions are incorporated into the analysis. These migration flows shed new light on the ‘metropolitanisation’ of both migrations and wider processes of Canadian population growth. Urban success and growth attract and may in turn be reinforced by the in-movement of human capital in pursuit of higher education and post-college/-university labour force entry. Policy implications of this research for higher education institutions, local economic development and labour force trends are discussed.

Disruptive effects and coping strategies of Ghanaian internal and international women left behind.

Senanu Kwasi Kutora and Godwin Arkua (PhD), Department of Geography and Environment, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada, N6A 5C2

Scholars argue that there is significant potential for combining the study of international and internal migration at both the empirical and theoretical levels. Responding to the call for more place-based research in Africa, this study examines the disruptive effects of migration and coping strategies among Ghanaian internal (n=23) and international (n=21) women left behind using interview data. Overall, the findings revealed significant differences in the social and economic challenges faced by women’s groups, but not in the emotional and child-care challenges. Due to appropriate financial remittances received, women, in particular, whose husbands emigrated outside the African continent and did not describe the social and economic challenges as a problem, perceived themselves as self-sufficient and autonomous. To deal with the aforementioned challenges, participants also adopted a variety of coping mechanisms, such as becoming busy with income-generating activities, reliance on social ties, using social media, watching television, having children, and more. Participants whose spouses migrated within Ghana and to other African countries mainly employed comparable coping strategies compared to participants whose husbands emigrated outside the African continent. The policy implications of this study are highlighted.

Master of ceremonies
The University Of Western Ontario
University of Ottawa
Western University
Wilfrid Laurier University
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