Refugee Integration in Canada: A Survey of Empirical Evidence and Existing Services

Article excerpt


While a fairly large body of empirical research and policy documents exists on immigrant integration in Canada, studies on refugee integration are scarce. This paper attempts to fill this gap. It summarizes what is known about refugees' economic and socio-cultural integration patterns in Canada and what integration services are available to them in order to identify empirical knowledge gaps and service gaps. Whenever salient and possible, the distinction among the Government-Assisted Refugees, Privately Sponsored Refugees, Landed-in-Canada Refugees and refugee claimants is made.


Alors qu'il existe une masse assez considerable de documents de recherches empiriques et de politiques officielles ayant trait a l'integration des immigrants au Canada, les etudes sur l'integration des refugies sont rares. Cet article essaye de combler cette lacune. Il resume ce qui est connu sur les tendances d'integration economique et socioculturel des refugies au Canada ainsi que sur les services d'integration qui leurs sont disponibles; cela dans le but d'identifier les lacunes en matiere de connaissance empirique et dans les services. La oh c'est notable et possible, la distinction est faite entre les refugies pris en charge par le gouvernement, les refugies beneficiant du parrainage privY, les refugies reconnus comme tels au Canada et les demandeurs du statut de refugie.


Refugees have consistently made up over 10 per cent of the annual inflow of newcomers to Canada in the last decade. However, while a fairly large body of empirical research and policy documents exists on immigrant integration in Canada, studies on refugee integration are scarce. Very few Canadian studies on refugees have a truly national scope or contain systematic empirical analyses, and many are limited to reporting on one specific refugee community. (2)

Despite the lack of a shared definition for "successful integration" in academic or policy discourse, (3) most scholars and policy makers in Canada and elsewhere agree with a description of "integration" as a "dynamic, multi-faceted two-way process which requires adaptation on the part of the newcomers, but also the society of destination." (4) Hence, most generally accept that "integration," as opposed to one-way assimilation, outright marginalization, or segregation, is desirable. (5) In fact, Canada's domestic policy and international obligation reflect these views. Section 3(e) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) states that one of its objectives is "to promote the successful integration of permanent residents [immigrants and refugees] into Canada while recognizing that integration involves mutual obligations for new immigrants and Canadian society." Likewise, Article 34 of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, to which Canada is a signatory, states that "[t] he Contracting States shall as far as possible facilitate the assimilation [integration] and naturalization of [domestic asylum] refugees." This paper considers both directions of integration by examining the patterns of refugee integration into the Canadian society on the one hand and the services that are offered to refugees on the other.

A vast array of indicators is used in the literature to quantify the many facets of integration. Examples include labour force participation, income, house ownership, wealth, residential segregation, language skills and use, educational attainment, social networks, cultural consumption patterns, physical and mental health, fertility, marital status, and various attitudes. However measured, refugees and immigrants are likely to face common barriers towards achieving integration in Canada: lack of official language skills, difficulty finding an adequate job, and having foreign credentials recognized, among others.

Nonetheless, there are at least two reasons why refugee integration issues may be distinct from those concerning other immigrants, warranting more studies focusing on refugees. …