Looking at immigration through the occupational lens

Immigrants have been an integral part of Canada’s mosaic cultural landscape for a very long time, and recently, innovative researchers have been asking some thoughtful new questions about the immigrant experience in the last few decades.

Anne-Cécile Delaisse.| Photo courtesy of Anne-Cécile Delaisse

How have changes and challenges in the new environment impacted their psychological wellbeing? How can policies help immigrants to settle better and develop a sense of belonging?

The Immigrant and Refugee Mental Health Project, funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, has been providing online resources and tools to help examine these issues since 2012.

It will offer a webinar on July 14th to look at the immigrant experience through the lens of occupational studies – how immigrants’ daily activities can help to contribute to a deeper understanding of migration, more useful policymaking and better community practices.

Hosting the webinar are University of British Columbia (UBC) PhD students Atieh Razavi Yekta and Anne-Cécile Delaisse from the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy. At the webinar, they will present their research and discuss with the audience about these issues.

Some interesting findings

“The most transferable finding I would say is how immigrants participate in their linguistic minority community and how that involvement can support their integration in Canada,” says Delaisse. Her Master’s degree research examined French-speaking immigrants’ participation in Metro Vancouver’s Francophone community.

“It is not that if they go into their own community that they won’t integrate into the mainstream society; they need support to learn English. But they also need spaces where they can participate in their own language. It is about finding the right balance,” she adds.

As an international student from France, she is also interested in comparing policies and practices among different countries.

Researchers aim to study how immigrants’ daily activities can help to contribute to a deeper understanding of migration to better policymaking and community practices.

“In Canada, we have multiculturalism, which encourages people to maintain their cultural practices including in the public sphere. In France, the system is more assimilationist; immigrants are expected to adopt certain French values and French ways. I am interested in knowing how those different policies impact the occupations immigrants do locally and also across borders,” she says.

Delaisse explains that her PhD research focuses more on examining transnational occupations and feelings of belonging by examining Vietnamese diaspora communities in Vancouver and Paris.

She points out that as Vietnam develops, it is now sending more students abroad, but the graduates can have multiple places of belonging as their skills and training are in high demand at home.

“They might navigate the system to get PR and citizenship, but not stay in the country after. I am studying the policy gaps where migration is considered a one-way trip whereas in reality, people have a type of migration that is more fluid,” she says.

Delaisse adds that she is also interested in the post-colonial power dynamics between the homeland and the new country, as demonstrated by the mobility of the immigrants and how they envision their migrations.

Immigrants and gig work

Her colleague Yekta’s research focuses on the intersection of technology, occupational science, and migration. She is particularly interested in the immigrants’ experience and employment conditions in gig work.

Atieh Razavi Yekta. | Photo courtesy of Atieh Razavi Yekta

Research from Statistics Canada, says Yekta, has shown that immigrants are more likely to engage in gig work compared to Canadian-born people.

“When it comes to understanding these digital platforms where people get gig work, they are managed by algorithms and surveillance. These are very sophisticated systems that sometimes have biases towards some races or some backgrounds,” she says. She adds that currently there is no study on immigrants’ experience doing gig work and what kind of protection they might need.

“There is a lot of risk of doing gig work, especially when it comes to low-skill work. Gig work is also very lonely; there is a sense of isolation not having an organizational attachment. The workers are constantly controlled by the platforms. For example, geofencing allows GPS to track their locations all the time. It is problematic and possible to impact their mental health,” says Yekta.

She believes technology companies need to be held more accountable for how they collect, own, and use data. She also suggests that the employment sector needs to make some changes to better match immigrants’ needs because immigrants usually have to change their job behaviors significantly in order to adapt to a new environment.

For more information about the webinar, please visit: www.eventbrite.ca/e/studying-migration-with-an-occupational-science-lens-registration-153584165373?aff=ebdssbonlinesearch