Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

Sharing the Wealth, Spreading the "Burden"? the Settlement of Kosovar Refugees in Smaller British Columbia Cities

Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

Sharing the Wealth, Spreading the "Burden"? the Settlement of Kosovar Refugees in Smaller British Columbia Cities

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT/RESUME

Since World War II, immigration to Canada has predominantly been an urban phenomenon. In the 1990s, 73 percent of all newcomers to Canada settled within three Census Metropolitan Areas: Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. The federal government is interested in spreading this immigrant population around to include smaller cities, potentially through policies of dispersed settlement, or regionalization. The research presented here examines an experiment in which one group of government-assisted refugees were settled in small- and medium-sized cities in British Columbia. In May 1999, 905 Kosovar refugees arrived in British Columbia as part of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) humanitarian evacuation from camps in Macedonia. The settlement of the Kosovars is an exceptional case in the context of British Columbia, as it was the first time a large number of government-assisted refugees had been "dispersed" to cities outside the Lower Mainland. Drawing on forty-two individual interviews and seven focus groups conducted between May 2002 and March 2003, this research analyzes the significance and characteristics of location in the settlement of refugees in large and smaller cities in British Columbia. The findings highlight the importance of employment prospects and the presence of family as major factors influencing the success of settlement.

Depuis la Deuxieme Guerre mondiale, l'immigration au Canada est surtout un phenomene urbain. Dans les annees 1990, 73 pourcent de tous les nouveaux arrivants au Canada se sont etablis dans une des trois regions metropolitaines de recensement (RMR) :Toronto, Montreal, et Vancouver. Le gouvernement federal cherche a encourager la redistribution geographique de cette population d'immigrants aux centres urbains de petite et moyenne envergure en elaborant des politiques de dispersion ou de regionalisation. Cette etude presente une experience ou un groupe de refugies parraines par le gouvernement se sont etablis dans des petites et moyennes villes en Colombie Britannique. En mai 1999, 905 refugies kosovars sont arrives en Colombie Britannique en provenance des camps de Macedoine, dans le cadre du programme d'evacuation des refugies du Haut Commissariat des Nations Unies pour les refugies (HCR). L'etablissement de ces kosovars est un cas exceptionnel en Colombie Britannique, puisqu'il s'agit de la premiere fois qu'un grand nombre de refugies parraines par le gouvernement fut "disperse" dans des villes en dehors du Lower Mainland. Fondee sur quarante-deux entrevues individuelles et sept groupes de discussion tenus entre mai 2002 et mars 2003, cette recherche analyse les caracteristiques de repartition spatiale des refugies dans les petites et moyennes villes en Colombie Britannique ainsi que leur signification. Ces observations soulignent l'importance du role joue par les perspectives d'emploi et la presence de parents en tant que facteurs decisifs quant au succes de l'etablissement.

INTRODUCTION

As Canada's largest cities grow, many small- and medium-sized cities witness declining populations (Bollman 2000). Swift Current, Saskatchewan--a place that calls itself the "Open Door City"--has had fifteen years of zero population growth and wants to attract newcomers, including immigrants, to rejuvenate the economy (Globe and Mail 2003). An organization of local business owners in Swift Current was not happy, then, to hear that the city's population was anything but open to outsiders and tolerant of difference, a finding that emerged from a consultant's report commissioned by the City of Swift Current. The idea of immigrant settlement in such cities is alluring, yet certain conditions must be met if newcomers are to stay.

The federal policy of "regionalization," or immigrant dispersion, to small- and medium-sized cities outside the three major Census Metropolitan Areas (CMAs: Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver) has been discussed for some time (CIC 2001a, 2001b). …

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