A Unique Approach to Quebec Immigration

A Unique Approach to Quebec Immigration

This article first appeared in the July 2013 issue of Life in Québec Magazine.
Life in Quebec Magazine is a lifestyle publication covering the Quebec region and is published at least 3 times per year.
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Article by Richard Walling

Quebec City Immigration – A Unique Approach

A Unique Approach to Research by the Research Team Partnering for a Better Understanding of Cultural Diversity and Immigration in Quebec City.

Richard Walling, Executive Director of the Jeffery Hale Community Partners

Richard Walling, Executive Director of the Jeffery Hale Community Partners

In the Greater Quebec City region there exists a group whose interest resides in studying and understanding the diverse cultural and linguistic realities of Quebec City, most especially, the experience of migrants and immigrants coming into the region.

Historically the population of the Greater Quebec City region consisted of three main founding peoples: the first nation’s people, those of French origin, and the people of the British Isles (British, Irish and Scottish origin). The region today is experiencing increasing migration and immigration, an influx of people from all around the globe. As one would expect, these individuals come with different traditions, languages, and religions.  How do they adapt to and find their place in Quebec? What impact does this have on the region and what does it mean for the historical long-standing communities?

L’équipe de recherche en partenariat sur la diversité culturelle et l’immigration dans la région de Québec (or l’ÉDIQ) is a unique group which brings together individuals working in the post-secondary education sector, the public governance sector, and organizations both public and community-oriented which provide front line services. Members of l’ÉDIQ work to better understand the interactions of individuals and groups in the greater Quebec City region in relation to its historical context and local dynamics.  The co-chairs of l’ÉDIQ are Lucille Guilbert, a professor in the department of History at Laval University, and me, Richard Walling, Executive Director of the Jeffery Hale Community Partners.

The purpose of l’ÉDIQ is to strengthen the network of researchers and practitioners to facilitate the sharing of best practices based on experience and results as well as encouraging collaboration for collective projects where research serves to best guide local organizational strategies and actions.  As such, the work done by l’ÉDIQ and its members is by nature very dynamic and reflects the ongoing sociological changes in the Greater Quebec City region.

On May 8, 9 and 10th (2013) l’ÉDIQ held a symposium at Laval University as part of the 81st Conference of l’ACFAS (l’Association francophone pour le savoir). During which key questions pertaining to the multiple transitions faced by individuals migrating or immigrating to the Greater Quebec City region were discussed. A telling example of the transitions faced was the focus of a video presentation introducing young women arriving in Quebec City to study, who also became mothers. The presentation entitled “Monologue à voix multiples : Migrer, Étudier, Travailler, Devenir maman” (L. Guilbert, C. Prévost, M.L. Thiaw, F. Fernandes, A. Trépanier, A. Sassi, S. Blouin, J. Tessier, R. Walling, J-M. Tanguay), is a good example of l’ÉDIQ’s participatory action research approach. Lucille Guilbert of Laval University, the lead researcher of the study, garnered the participation of many individuals willing to share their experiences of moving to Quebec, among them, some of the fellow researchers and co-authors listed above. The concept being that those at the heart of the approach are the research team itself, all of which have experienced transitions and challenges such as learning a new language, studying, working and becoming a mother for the first time.

Lucille Guilbert used a method she had developed  and has been putting into practice for numerous years called “L’Atelier Interculturel de l’Imaginaire”. Using this method, participants over a number of months engaged in a process of sharing one-on-one personal accounts of the multiple transitions they faced upon arrival in Quebec City and that they continue to face. Again, these included the transition of moving to another country, for some, learning a new language, studying at university and on another level, working, and becoming a mother. Two other key participants in the study were the lead researcher (community worker) and the community organization “Les Accompagnantes”, which provides support to expecting mothers. Over the course of the study, participants sharing their experiences with each other, started to create strong bonds between them that helped them along in their own transitions, within a safe and supportive group environment. The lead researcher herself developed a deeper understanding, at a very personal level, of the participant’s experiences that will continue to motivate her research going forward.

As for the community worker from Les Accompagnantes, being part of the process provided her and her organization with invaluable information that will now impact the way they provide services. No one came out of the process without seeing themselves and their outlook changed. It was through sharing their own personal story that their personal transitions continued to change and evolve, supported and understood by peers who could now as a group also assess the transitions experienced by immigrants and migrants learning a new language, studying at university, working, and becoming a mother, as a whole.

For those not part of the process, but who attended the video presentation, it brought to light an important lesson on how to deal with and assist individuals who may be going through multiple transitions. The take-home message to interveners and organizations alike was that it is imperative that they take the time to get to know those they serve and/or hope to serve. Only by getting to know them and what they are experiencing (understand the transitions they are trying to deal with) can interveners truly reach out with helpful support services. Although this may seem rudimentary and self-evident, it isn’t. In order to truly open the door on a personal level, to provide quality and adapted services, interveners and organizations must be willing to change themselves, which can be unsettling. Therein lies the challenge as well as the opportunity to improve services, which presents itself as the Greater Quebec City region increasingly welcomes a diversity of people.

This brings us full circle to the heart of l’ÉDIQ’s approach: not to simply study the experience of migrants and immigrants and their diverse cultural and linguistic communities, but to be a positive force in the ongoing transitions that our region is facing and will continue to face moving forward.

Richard Walling, Executive Director of the Jeffery Hale Community Partners

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