Working in IDRC’s Governance and Justice Program, 2017 Research Award Recipient Stacey Haugen determined that sponsors and Syrian refugees in rural Canada face the same challenges and reap the same benefits in all provinces.
“I hypothesized that this resettlement and integration could be mutually beneficial for both refugees and rural Canada,” she says. Immersing herself in communities in Nova Scotia, Ontario, Saskatchewan, and Alberta, Haugen asked rural community sponsors, resettled refugees, immigration experts, and service providers about their experiences.
“This is the first study that has collected the experiences of refugees and sponsors across multiple provinces,” she says.
Of those experiences, she found that refugees enjoyed the warm welcome and social connections available in rural communities, the safety of small communities, and affordable living costs. Their hosts enjoyed the greater cultural diversity and the opportunity to contribute in a concrete way to solving an international crisis.
Limited services in these communities and lack of transportation to access the services were challenging. But, notes Haugen, some of the women were learning to drive as a result, “something they would never have been allowed to do in Syria.”
“Collecting the experiences of those involved is very important,” she says, “because it gives refugees and community members a voice and provides valuable feedback to the government and service providers.”
Haugen concludes that rural communities are underused for resettlement and “present an opportunity we can’t afford to ignore.”