Housing New Canadians
Research Working Group - Toronto
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The Housing New Canadians research project aims to:

  • better understand the experiences of recent immigrants and refugees in securing housing in greater Toronto;
  • learn about the underlying processes contributing to the marginalization of new Canadians in the housing system;
  • examine how 'race' (as a social construction, not a biological category), gender, and class (socio-economic status) affect the process of finding housing;
  • involve immigrant communities in the research process and contribute to greater community self-awareness;.
  • contribute to theory and social policy in this area; and
  • identify further research that needs to be done.

This research focuses on access to housing - that is, the process by which housing is obtained. Most previous studies have examined outcomes, such as the nature and extent of residential segregation of immigrants.

The "housing experience" of New Canadians has three aspects:

  • access to housing (the physical housing unit);
  • the house as home and as the environment for life and work (social, psychological, and cultural aspects of the housing); and
  • neighbourhood and community (house and home in the neighbourhood and community setting).

These factors guide our information collection and analysis and will lead, we hope, to a better understanding of the extent of and reasons for the marginalization of new Canadians in greater Toronto's housing system.

We use the greater Toronto area as the geographic focus of this study, because a large proportion of new Canadians - about half of all immigrants and refugees - tend to settle in the Toronto region (which is home to 13% of Canada's population). We hope our research will be repeated in other regions and with other ethnic communities. Many of the findings are likely to be relevant to other parts of the country where there are large numbers of recent immigrants.

Our research involves community-based case studies, using several methods of data collection and the participatory research approach. Participatory research has been successful in developing valid and meaningful research instruments, ensuring ethical conduct of the research and the good use of findings, and ensuring co-operation by new immigrant groups.

The data collection includes qualitative and quantitative survey research. Research methods that have been used include focus groups, housing histories, extended open-ended interviews and structured questionnaires.

To date, we have conducted research with four new immigrant groups: Jamaican, Polish, Salvadoran and Somali.

The Jamaicans are part of a continual movement of migrants from Jamaica to Canada that began in the 1970s. The most recent wave of Polish immigrants began arriving in the late 1980s as part of the ‘Solidarity Wave’ who left Poland when the economy deteriorated and political tensions increased. They joined an earlier group of Poles who first arrived in Toronto in the 1950s and 1960s. The Somalis also started arriving in Toronto in the late 1980s, primarily in response to political repression, war and famine in their home country. The vast majority arrived as refugees. The Salvadorans first arrived in Toronto in the 1980s. Initially, they came as refugees in response to the civil war in El Salvador.

Next:   Conceptual Framework

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