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Working Together? Settlement Services and Immigrant Employment in Mid-Sized Canadian Cities Open Access


Other title
Immigrant-serving organizations
Critical race theory
Labour market integration
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Thomas, Jasmine T.
Supervisor and department
Krahn, Harvey (Sociology)
Examining committee member and department
Creese, Gillian (Sociology, University of British Columbia)
Hughes, Karen (Sociology)
Dorow, Sara (Sociology)
Derwing, Tracey (Educational Psychology)
Department of Sociology
Date accepted
Graduation date
2017-11:Fall 2017
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
This dissertation challenges the narrative of Canada as a welcoming and inclusive nation. Critical race theory and intersectional feminism provide a framework that assesses newcomer labour market experiences from the perspectives of two different stakeholder groups, immigrant professionals and service providers within the immigration settlement sector. The experiences of immigrant professionals, particularly people of colour, demonstrate a disproportionate risk of labour market exclusion. Sixty semi-structured interviews held in two mid-sized Canadian cities (Winnipeg and Edmonton) with immigrant professionals and settlement workers provided two different positions for understanding the barriers, challenges, opportunities and advantages that encompass the immigration journey. Upon settlement, while many immigrants do well and secure career-related employment, over half of immigrant participants in this study experienced significant labour market barriers, disappointed expectations and un- or under-employment. Additionally, settlement services provided valuable assistance, but not necessarily the type of anti-oppression advocacy or specialized supports that immigrant professionals required. This dissertation also acknowledges the inherent conflicts that result from colonial capitalism itself. I argue that while this colonial project must be disrupted, newcomers should be able to live fulfilling and socio-economically stable lives and enjoy meaningful career-related employment opportunities. Four papers outline the experiences of immigrant professionals as they navigate the labour market. Paper one, Teaching Somebody to Fish, reviews the philosophies and strategies that settlement workers adhere to in their work with newcomer professionals. While I expected overwhelming dominance of neoliberal expectations for clients, there were complicated results that both reified neoliberal influences while simultaneously creating space for meaningful anti-racist advocacy that questioned both immigration and settlement policies as well as the broader narrative of Canadian society as welcoming and inclusive. Paper two, Should I Stay or Should I Go Home, switches the focus to immigrant participants’ disappointed pre- and post-arrival expectations and the plans or wish for return-migration. Paper three, Perceptions of Settlement and Employment Challenges, brings together the diverse perspectives of the two groups of participants to determine if both groups have similar understandings of labour market challenges. Paper four, Working Together or Not, synthesizes many of the previous themes that link these chapters together to determine if services are helpful, how they can be improved and interrogating narratives around a distinction between the “right” and “wrong” kinds of immigrants. In an Appendix, I critically reflect on the role of white anti-racist scholarship and activism within the colonial white supremacist context of Canada.
This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for the purpose of private, scholarly or scientific research. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
Citation for previous publication
Thomas, J. (2015). “Teaching Somebody to Fish”: Implications for Immigrant-Serving Organizations and Employment in Edmonton and Winnipeg. Canadian Ethnic Studies, 47(1), 157-177.

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