New lab to capture immigrant experience

posted on April 17, 2014

By Adela Talbot, Western News | Link to Article

By Adela Talbot, Western News | Link to Article

A new laboratory exploring immigrant settlement and integration issues will help create a smoother pathway into Canadian society for these vital members of the country’s future economy and labour market, two Western professors say.

The lab, a 1,000-square-foot space in the Social Sciences Centre, will provide state-of-the-art technology and equipment to facilitate on- and off-site interviews with immigrants, allowing researchers to capture and record video. The content collected will be studied to help improve settlement and integration services currently available to immigrants.

Psychology professor Victoria Esses and Women’s Studies and Feminist Research professor Bipasha Baruah are partners in the lab. Their findings will inform the Pathways to Prosperity Partnership project, an alliance of university, community and government partners dedicated to fostering welcoming communities and promoting the integration of immigrants and minorities across Canada.

“The lab will have various rooms, for secure storage and data analysis, a room for remote interviewing and for video capture, so you could do interviews of settlement service leads in different locations in the country,” said Esses, director of Western’s Centre for Research on Migration and Ethnic Relations, who has been studying immigration issues for more than two decades.

The lab will also feature a production suite on site, as well as access to field data collection technology such as laptops, cameras and recorders, to help researchers conduct professional interviews. All of the data collected will be stored inside the lab for analysis and future research.

“Having this equipment will be extremely useful. We do a lot of analysis of large-scale data sets, and having a location to store everything is important because it’s confidential information,” Esses added.

Researchers will also produce videos that resemble print and other traditional materials government agencies and settlement services offer immigrants to help them adjust to life in Canada. The content of the videos will provide the same information to immigrants, changing only the means by which they access the information.

Offering this essential information by way of videos to immigrants from diverse cultural backgrounds will help assess what means of information dissemination are most effective and preferred, Esses explained.

“One of the best things we can do to improve settlement and integration is making sure immigrants get useful information. It’s easier to get information watching a video instead of reading a text,” she said.

Attracting and retaining immigrants is important for Canada’s economy and labour market, Esses said, especially when in competition with other countries like Australia and New Zealand, who have detailed websites aimed at newcomers to help them integrate in their new communities.

Researchers will also be analyzing government websites in the lab, looking to see how and what kind of information they offer to newcomers.

“Pathways has been doing work on settlement and integration for a couple years now, and we’re interested in sharing promising practices in settlement services,” Esses continued.

At the request of Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s Integration Branch, the Pathways project has produced a series of short, informative videos showcasing promising practices by Local Immigration Partnerships in Canada.

Another survey project for Citizenship and Immigration Canada is in the works.

“Instead of having to travel to these individuals, we will be able to capture and videotape them (as we interview them) in the lab,” she added.

“People are really excited about it.”

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