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Improving strategies and policies to support Canadian newcomers

May 31, 2011

Improving strategies and policies to support Canadian newcomers
PhD student Caroline Bennett-AbuAyyash (left) and Professor Victoria Esses are using funds from The Harold Crabtree Foundation to help improve Canadian immigration practices.

Western psychology professor Victoria Esses believes the way Canada handles immigration is vital to the future success of our country. The work she’s doing at Western could help improve Canadian immigration practices.

“Our Canadian population is not growing and we need skilled workers and entrepreneurs to contribute to our labour market. Immigrants energize our society with diverse skills and backgrounds and we need that to compete in the world market,” says Professor Esses, who has been Director of Western’s Centre for Research on Migration and Ethnic Relations since 2008.

With financial support from The Harold Crabtree Foundation Award in Public Policy, Professor Esses is contributing to the effectiveness of immigration and integration policy and practice in Canada.

“Immigration is fundamental to Canada – socially, economically and culturally,” says Professor Esses. “We are so grateful for the support from The Harold Crabtree Foundation. It has made a huge difference for our program, our students, and the work we are doing in this area.”

Established in 1951 with funds from Harold and Louisa Crabtree, The Harold Crabtree Foundation supports areas including education, health and social services in Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic Provinces.

The Foundation has donated $395,000 to Western since 1992, including $20,000 last year, to support a number of initiatives such as Professor Esses’ research on how media portrayals influence people’s attitudes towards refugees.

“Canadians are generally quite favourable toward our immigration policy but they are not so favourable toward our refugee policy,” notes Professor Esses. Her goal is to provide strategies for more positive portrayals of refugees and intends to have results by the fall.

Working with Professor Esses, PhD student Caroline Bennett-AbuAyyash also received a portion of the funding to examine how religious bias impacts the discounting of immigrants’ skills.

The Foundation’s donation also supports public presentations regarding immigration, integration, and multiculturalism in Canada during the fall and winter terms. Additionally the funding supported two keynote addresses at the first bi-annual Western Migration Conference Series in April. Hosted by the Centre for Research on Migration and Ethnic Relations, in partnership with Western’s Canada-U.S. Institute, the conference theme was Taking Stock of a Turbulent Decade and Looking Ahead: Immigration to North America 2000-2010.

Professor Esses says the conference will strengthen links among policy makers, researchers, and community members from non-governmental organizations.

“It will get Canadians and Americans talking to one another about the immigration policies in our two countries and tell us about what is going on in other places, which informs the research we are doing here.”

This article appeared in the Spring 2011 edition of Impact Western
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