Research, Reviews, & Updates

The ESPC provides research, reviews, and updates on a range of social issues

2013 Social Justice Internship Report

Exploring Early Cultural and Economic Adaptation Process of the Newcomers in Michener Park, Edmonton, Alberta


During the summer of 2013, our ESPC Social Justice Intern HM Ashraf Ali conducted a qualitative research project on social, economic and cultural barriers that are preventing newcomers in our city from realizing their full potential and living an enjoyable life in Canada. In this report, Mr. Ali discusses the findings of his research project, providing readers with detailed information about the challenges that these individuals face after arriving in Canada.

Abstract: Using ethnographic data, this study reports on the early sociocultural and economic experiences of the Bangladesh immigrant and non-immigrant families living in the Michener Park area in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Research findings show that newcomers experienced a wide range of social and economic constraints during their initial stage of sociocultural and economic adaptation to life in Edmonton. Lack of English language proficiency, Canadian job experience, or lack of Canadian education and training facilities, and nature of residency status in Canada led these newcomers to experience economic hardship in the earliest months of their new life in Canada. The aim of this research, therefore, was to examine: (a) why do these people come to Canada and what social and economic experiences have they had while living in Edmonton? (b) What barriers do they encounter that prevent them from obtaining their preferred job, how does this affect their household income and how do they manage to survive? This paper summarizes the responses of the newcomers who agreed to participate in this research project. The paper concludes with policy recommendations made by participants that could help newcomers overcome existing job barriers for the immigrant and non-immigrant families living in Edmonton. 

Underemployment and Unemployment within ethno-cultural communities in Edmonton

Underemployment and Unemployment within ethno-cultural communities in Edmonton: an Environmental Scan and Database. Report by the Multicultural Health Brokers Coop, December 2009.

(not available online – contact the ESPC library or the MHBC to read this report)

This report takes a look at barriers to employment faced by immigrants to Edmonton. It does this through the eyes of these immigrants by providing their perspectives as gathered in focus groups and surveys.
This report is based on quantitative and qualitative data from Edmonton’s ethnic communities. The data identifies several key issues in this group:

  • Unemployment for immigrants is more than seven times the provincial rate.
  • Trained professionals have difficulty gaining employment.
  • Non-native English speakers have more difficulty finding work than native English speakers.
  • Information about employment prior to immigration is inadequate.

Despite all these barriers, attitudes towards employment in Canada, once it is attained, are mostly favourable.

Read more: Underemployment and Unemployment within ethno-cultural communities in Edmonton

Mending Canada's Frayed Social Safety Net: The Role of Municipal Government

Municipalities Step in to Fill the Gaps: a review of Mending Canada's Frayed Social Safety Net: The Role of Municipal Governments. Report from Federation of Canadian Municipalities, 2010.

More and more people are falling through the cracks in Canada’s traditional social safety net. According to Basil Stewart, President of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), there are “more people on long waiting lists for affordable housing; making do with welfare payments that don’t cover all of their basic needs; and struggling to get work, find childcare or afford recreation programs.” This has lead to an increased homelessness and more working poor families.

The recent recession is to blame for this,combined with the federal and provincial retreat from social supports, which shift the social services burden to municipal governments. This is thoroughly discussed in a report released by the FCM further highlighting the limited municipal finances and resources to support the growing burden.

Read more: Mending Canada's Frayed Social Safety Net: The Role of Municipal Government

Imagine Canada’s Sector Monitor

David Larsby and Cathy Barr, Imagine Canada

In late April 2010, Imagine Canada released Volume 1, Number 1 of a new publication: the Sector Monitor. They state in the introduction that the goal of this report is to “provide relevant and timely information on the issues facing the charitable and nonprofit sector.

The report is based on feedback received in surveys from charities and nonprofits across Canada. Based on this information, Imagine Canada has created a baseline measurement for tracking trends identified across the sector. Some of the trends highlighted in this report include:

  • Almost half of Canada’s charities are having difficulty fulfilling their mission because of the economic downturn.
  • 22 percent of Canada’s charities admit that they are at risk of shutting down.
  • More than a quarter of leaders expect to have difficulty covering expenses within the next year.
  • Leaders of charities and nonprofits are optimistic that things will get better.

Read more: Imagine Canada’s Sector Monitor

Room for change: The Champion's Centre's Progressive Approach to Alberta's Homelessness Crisis

Room for change: The Champion’s Centre’s Progressive Approach to Alberta’s Homelessness Crisis.

Book by Rush, Halbauer & Hopchin, The Champion’s Centre, 2006.

I’ve always admired people who aren’t afraid of dreaming big, and Klaas Klooster fits that profile well. Recognizing the need for long-term housing solutions for those who are chronically without a home, especially those suffering from mental illnesses, Klooster dreamt of The Champion’s Centre. Room for change recounts the journey of bringing that dream to reality, and it is an inspiring and eye-opening tale.

The Champion’s Centre was founded in Ponoka in 2002. It “combines ecologically and financially valid concepts of compressed housing for the disabled, those that are homeless and those at risk of becoming homeless.” The Centre houses over a dozen men in individual units, and provides them with services such as a hot meal, cleaning, and personal encouragement. The Centre also incorporates small businesses into its premises; this model provides funding for the organization and gives part-time work opportunities to residents who are capable of taking on the responsibility.

A second Champion’s Centre was founded in Medicine Hat in 2006. Since this book was published a location was opened in Brooks and plans for an Edmonton Centre have been set in motion.

The Champion’s Centre model is unique with respect to other group homes. The Centre receives some of its funding from the government and other community organizations, but it also generates its own support through its on-site businesses. As a result, tenants are able to live for substantially less than if they maintained an independent residence.

This book is an engaging read, providing narrative accounts from staff, volunteers and residents at The Champion’s Centre, as well as from staff at other temporary shelters. They discuss some of the obstacles and rewards they meet in their day-to-day work, and they reflect on the necessity of having many types of people involved in this kind of project. While visionaries like Klaas Klooster provide a dream for new initiatives, others bring forward practical know-how related to maintenance and support raising. Klooster reflects on the value of having community support for a project like this and relays some advice on how to garner it.

The book also provides a discussion of the ties between homelessness and mental illness, giving a brief summary of several of the mental illnesses that contribute to homelessness. The point is made that “while humanity may still lack the power to eradicate mental illness, it certainly has the power to eradicate homelessness.” The Champion’s Centre has focused on providing housing for those with mental illnesses because of the high prevalence of mental illness among people who are without a home.

Read this book if you work with the homeless or recently housed; if you are interested in the link between mental health and housing; if you need inspiration for bringing your dreams to fruition.

Visit The Champion's Centre website
Review by Jennifer Hoyer