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Religiously Affiliated Settlement Agencies: Critical Actors in the Settlement System Presented By: John Biles* (Integration Branch) Prairie Metropolis and Beyond November 4-5, 2011 (Edmonton).

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Religiously Affiliated Settlement Agencies: Critical Actors in the Settlement System

Presented By: John Biles*

(Integration Branch)

Prairie Metropolis and Beyond

November 4-5, 2011 (Edmonton)

* Opinions expressed are those of the presenter, and do not necessarily reflect those of Integration Branch, Citizenship and Immigration Canada or the Government of Canada.

  • Pulling Strands Together
  • Settlement System
  • Religiously Affiliated Settlement Agencies
    • History
    • Hypotheses
    • Early Findings
    • Questions
pulling strands together
Pulling Strands Together
  • Settlement / Integration
  • Social Work
  • Role of Religion in Public Life
  • Social Capital
  • “Voluntary” Sector
  • “Ethnic” Organizations
  • Transnationalism / Diaspora
settlement integration
Settlement / Integration

Service Provider Organizations – agencies that have CIC contribution agreements to deliver settlement services (Biles 2008)

Immigrant Serving Agencies “deliver services to newcomers that are not offered by other institutions, advocate change to discriminatory policies and practices, and assist mainstream organizations in adapting their models of education, service delivery and development within ethno-racial communities” (Beyene et al. 1996 in George et al. 2007).

Immigrant groups, organizations and service providers fulfill several important functions

(Cordero-Guzman 2005; Holder 1998):

  • fill key service gaps in their communities
  • Increase access to “mainstream services”
  • articulate needs and extend welfare provisions to newcomers
  • involved in all stages of the immigration and adaptation process
  • play a central role in all aspects of community formation and development (including building pride and identity)
  • provide representation in politics and policy discussion/formulation/implementation
  • manage relationships with elected officials and flow of resources to local communities.

“Studying immigrant organisations enables us to make better sense of the complex and dynamic developments that take place within immigrant communities” (Schrover and Vermeulen 2005).

Need to consider a partnership model with “mainstream” and “ethno-racial” family services delivering culturally sensitive services to diverse clientele (Bridgman 1993).

social work
Social Work
  • To the extent that diversity has been featured in social work volumes in Canada, it has been primarily through a multicultural lens, albeit with some contributions that did focus on newcomers. There is no Canadian equivalent to American and International examples of social work collections focused on newcomers (Valtonen 2008, Potocky-Tripodi 2002).
  • “Despite this long history [settlement houses], there is a notable scarcity of social work research focused explicitly on newcomers to Canada and the specific challenges they may face” (Biles et al. 2010).
  • “. . . we cannot help but reflect on how the very fact of being new in Canada, and the attendant stresses and strains of the migration process itself—not to mention the difficult waters of the various immigration statuses—means that social workers seeking to assist newcomers need to know more about their particular circumstances in order to help them effectively. It will entail learning about immigration and forging partnerships with those organizations that already provide a wide range of services to newcomers” (Biles et al. 2010).
role of religion in public life
Role of Religion in Public Life

“Religion is a blind spot for public policy in Canada” (Biles and Ibrahim 2005).

“. . . we must include religion in theories of contemporary international migration. The ways in which migrants actively make use of existing cultural institutions, such as the church and religious practices, throughout various stages of the migration process, from the decision to migrate to the development of transnational communities, are critical to understanding contemporary international migration (Hagan and Ebaugh 2003).

“It is now becoming increasingly commonly accepted in public and academic discourse that religious groups have been at the forefront of settlement initiatives for decades, even centuries” (Bramadat and Biles 2005).

“While religious communities and religion per se now play minor roles in the setting of immigration levels, agreement on the mix, and definition of selection criteria, they continue to have a significant involvement in settlement and integration” (Biles and Ibrahim 2005).

Religious institutions can and do challenge the Canadian state (Lippert 2005, Biles 2005b)

“Surprisingly little has been written on the role of ethnicity in shaping Canada’s Christian churches” (Bramadat and Seljak 2008)

social capital
Social Capital

“Ethnic” Organizations

Participation in ethnic organizations facilitates political participation in Amsterdam (Fennema and Tillie 1999)

Not replicable in Brussels, although cross-cultural membership did correlate with increased political participation (Jacobs et al. 2004).


Overall religious affiliation does encourage voluntary group involvement (Lam 2002)

Religiously active are more active in volunteer work and demonstrate a strong spillover effect, suggesting that religious citizens also volunteer for more secular organizations (Ruiter and De Graaf 2006).

Religion’s influence on civic engagement goes beyond personal religiosity (Lam 2006)

“Volunteering to help others solve community problems is more likely among members of churches that emphasize this-worldy social concerns”; social pressure works (Wilson and Janoski 1995; Bekkers and Schuyt 2008)

Protestants/ “Other” / No religion are more likely to be members of voluntary associations than Catholics and Jews (Lam 2006, 2002)

To some degree religious organizations compete with secular organizations for the time and energy of members; attendance at religious services has a small negative effect on voluntary sector membership, except for Catholics where the reverse is true (Lam 2002; Becker and Dhingra 2001; Wilson and Janoski 1995).

voluntary sector
“Voluntary” Sector

What is it called? Voluntary, Not-for-Profit, Third Sector

What is it?

  • Five features: Organized; Private; Non-profit-distributing; self-governing; voluntary (Banting 2000)

What Does it Do?

Twelve groupings: culture and recreation; education and research; health; social services; environment; development and housing; law, advocacy and politics; philanthropic intermediaries and voluntarism; international; religion; business and profession associations; groups not elsewhere classified (Banting 2000)

How Does it Function?

“the election of the Conservative government under Stephen Harper has prompted civil society actors to strengthen their ties to their own members and to make alliances across sectors” (Holly 2009).


“The harsh reality – the real elephant in the room – is that while all agree on the value of a vibrant voluntary sector, the practice of several federal governments of cutting back capacity further over the past decade and a half has begun the process of systematically killing the sector by eliminating funding sources, adding administrative burdens to reduce project risk to zero, and transferring transaction costs to a sector ill-equipped to take them up” (Graham 2009, Banting 2000).

ethnic organizations still here still relevant
“Ethnic Organizations”: Still Here, Still Relevant
  • “It was predicted that, with the rise of the welfare state in the 1960s, ethnic associations dealing with the individual adjustment and advancement of immigrants would become less important (Moodley 1983). The function of these associations, Moodley insists would be largely assumed by a host of state-directed social agencies” (Guo 2007).
  • “On the whole, ethnic organizations act as social service providers, maintain ethnic identities, and promote integration. In addition, they function as the ‘link’ or ‘broker’ between newcomers and formal service providers” (Jenkins 1988 in Guo 2007, Fennema 2004).
  • “immigrants’ associations are poorly organised and play a marginal role in the local decision-making process . . . Local governments seem in general to prefer Italian pro-immigrant associations, especially as far as access to funding and running for public contracts is concerned” (Caponio 2005)
ethnic organizations connections to settlement
“Ethnic” Organizations: Connections to Settlement?
  • In 1996 the CEC surveyed members on priorities: multiculturalism, labour issues, racism, youth issues, national unity, immigration, health care, social services, education and language issues (Kobayashi 2000).
  • Burstein (2010) sees ethno-specific organizations as allies of settlement sector
  • Biles et al. (2011) ethno-specific organizations providing assistance to newcomers to navigate CIC systems
  • Sadiq’s “two-tier immigrant settlement sector” (2004)
  • Canada’s Action Plan Against Racism / Multi’s move to CIC / Integrated Society Work
transnationalism diaspora
Transnationalism / Diaspora

“Access to new transnational opportunities for migrants’ organised action is therefore not independent from the opportunities they have at the national level. . . For all the under-exploitation, it can therefore be claimed that a progressive movement towards a multi-levelled and multi-spacial [sic] participation and representation of migrants does appear to be already under way” (Danese 1998).

“In today’s post-modern era, religious communities have become vigorous creators of an emergent transnational society” (Rudolph 1997). Bramadat’s concern that this terminology is exclusionary (2005).

Today immigrant associations are considered as likely to be a continuation of pre-migration experience as a desire to assimilate (Moya 2005).

“Recent research shows that the claims of the transnationalists are exaggerated” (Fennema 2004).

settlement system
Settlement System

Source: Agnes Meinhard and her team currently undertaking a research project funded under the National Metropolis Research Competition.

organizing the ingredients
Organizing the Ingredients

INSERT Calgary Model

Source: City of Calgary 2011

religiously affiliated settlement agencies in alberta
Religiously Affiliated Settlement Agencies in Alberta
  • Catholics
    • Calgary Catholic Immigration Society
      • Brooks and County Immigration Services
      • Foothills Community Immigrant Services
    • Catholic Social Services (Edmonton, Lethbridge, Lloydminster, Red Deer)
  • Mennonites
    • Centre for Newcomers
    • Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers
    • Mennonite Central Committee of Alberta
  • Jews
    • Jewish Family Services (Calgary and Edmonton)
  • Anglicans
    • Anglican Dioceses (Calgary and Edmonton)
  • Baptists
    • Canadian Baptists of Western Canada
  • Sikhs
    • Sikh Women’s Association of Edmonton
  • Other
    • YMCA Wood Buffalo
    • C.A.R.E? / SAAMIS?
  • Religious communities have been (are) particularly active on refugee issues:
    • Chileans (Simalchik)
    • Ugandans (Lalani 1997)
    • Indo-chinese “boat people” (Beiser 1999)
    • Jews (Troper and Abella 1983)
    • Sanctuary (Lippert 2005, Biles 2005b)
  • Involvement pre-dates contemporary government funded settlement services.
  • Most focused on refugees and non-permanent residents
  • More stable
    • governance, finances, H.R., volunteer-base
  • Less controlled by/beholden to “the state”
  • Impact probability of uptake (+/-)
  • Impact on ability to leverage “mainstream” programming
  • Enhanced access to decision-makers
preliminary findings
Preliminary Findings
  • Modest support for 5/6 hypotheses
      • Support for those ineligible for govt. funded programs
      • Religious connections have contributed to stability
      • Advocacy position is supported
      • Some felt affiliation contributed to uptake of services
      • Affiliation assisted in connection to other services
  • Inconclusive on enhanced access to decision-makers
  • Current Project
    • Other Agencies?
    • Other Hypotheses?
    • Contrary Findings?
    • Other Relevant Studies?
  • Future Project
    • Comfort of prospective clients?
    • Comfort of (potential) funders?

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bibliography cont
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