Research Report Summary-
Between January 2015 and June 2016, Richmond Multicultural Community Services (RMCS), the CCT Secretariat, and conducted and commissioned mixed-methods research. The underlying goal was to understand the individual and organizational experiences of the Richmond community with respect to immigrant integration issues and service delivery. This research aims to directly inform the development of Richmond’s Immigrant Integration Strategy and three-year work plan.
The CCT Secretariat conducted focus groups with newcomers, online/ offline surveying, stakeholder interviews with CCT members, and community asset mapping activities. The Social Planning and Research Council of BC (SPARC BC) was contracted to develop the service inventory and service gaps analysis for Richmond as well as to conduct a survey with service staff to further understand service delivery as they relate to newcomers.
This research was conducted with the understanding that settlement is a shared responsibility between newcomers and the welcoming community. The research report:
- Shares the main research findings to articulate newcomers’ experiences and needs.
- Describes how Richmond service organizations respond to and share concern for newcomer needs and what opportunities and challenges exist to collaborate on integration initiatives.
- Presents a service delivery snapshot of Richmond and existing service delivery gaps.
- Outlines how existing municipal plans fit well with the intentions of the forthcoming Strategy and opportunities for joint action
- Considers potential actions and points of reflection for next steps in strategy development.
Research from newcomers, stakeholders and service providers revealed three strongly resonating themes around the settlement experience: employment, community experience, and settlement services. Strong themes around these priority areas became evident as research was conducted and analyzed.
In employment, a desire for streamlined job search process was reiterated by participants. Finding employment that aligns with education, skills and experience remains central to the priorities of newcomers upon arrival and throughout their settlement process. Newcomers expressed a strong desire for services to help bridge the gap between employers and themselves. This includes increased access to labour market information, informal and formal networking opportunities, and job search skills to gain Canadian Experience.
The research also explored the need for a greater coordination of settlement service delivery both among settlement service providers, as well as between services and newcomers and immigrants. As clients of settlement services, newcomers and immigrants expressed frustration with encountering outdated information that was often not centralized and difficult to navigate both online and in print. Included in settlement experience were English Language Learning services. Our research found that newcomers often faced long wait-times to access a class, but also welcomed informal ways to practise and learn English in a community setting. For many newcomers, access to learning and improving their English is a top concern.
Overall, newcomers and immigrants felt safe and welcomed in Richmond. However, developing a social network outside family was difficult for immigrants who wanted to grow their friendships. While many connections were made during English classes or settlement programming, some expressed a desire to establish friendships with non-immigrants outside the classroom. Participating in cultural and community events were of great importance to newcomers, including the desire to share cultural experiences of their own and learn from others resonated strongly. Civic engagement with community centres, libraries, places of worship, and recreational activities were also positive experiences for those who accessed events and services or who became connected through their social network.
Resonating throughout the research was also a concern for daily living experiences. This includes issues such as housing affordability, access and information to health services and transportation access. The research also provided insight into how the community might respond to these priority areas as well as identify emerging issues that also affect the settlement and integration experience.
The research and recommendations that follow indicate a need for robust service delivery with information that is accurate, accessible and considers newcomers’ existing skills and experiences. Service delivery must also provide opportunities to connect newcomers to their community through meaningful employment, language, and cultural experiences. Richmond’s existing social and service infrastructure is well placed (and well intentioned) to continue to provide consistent and relevant programming to meet newcomer needs. However, certain barriers such as funding and staff capacity limit the potential of full collaboration.
Moving forward, the research and recommendations outlined in this report form the basis for developing a Strategy that is understanding of and responsive to newcomer needs, sensitive to the realities that organizations face in taking on collaborative settlement integration work, and mindful of resources and tools necessary to carry out such work.