Paper presented at the Canadian Population Society 1996 Annual Meeting, Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario. Session on Ethnic, Linguistic, and other Cultural Dimension of Demographic Behaviour. June 2, 1996. Bali Ram, Statistics Canada, Chair.
Joint Session with the Canadian Sociology and Anthropology Association.
This paper presents some of the results of a survey of fifty-five
individuals who originally arrived in Regina as refugees. The
experiences of English language acquisition, labour market activity,
and relationships involving community, friends and family are
examined. The paper contains a short summary of the development
of settlement services in Regina along with the reaction of refugees
to these and other services. Regina is a medium-sized city with
limited immigration and small ethnic communities. While this
presents problems for newcomers, it also creates opportunities
that lead to successful settlement in the city. The data for
this paper come from the Regina Refugee Research Project, a project
that was conducted in 1993 for the Saskatchewan Association of
Immigrant Settlement and Integration Agencies and funded by the
Department of the Secretary of State of Canada.
I. Regina - A Medium-Sized Prairie City
Regina is a medium-sized Prairie city, with a population of just
under 180,000, capital of the province of Saskatchewan, the latter
with a population of approximately one million people. By standards
of the largest urban centres in Canada, or even in comparison
with its larger urban counterparts on the Prairies, Calgary, Edmonton
and Winnipeg, immigration and refugee settlement in Regina have
not been large for over sixty years. At the same time, there
is a small but steady flow of immigrants and refugees to Regina
and these newcomers help shape the social structures of the city.
Emphasizing the size and location of Regina as a medium-sized
Prairie city is deliberate, in that the University of Regina is
part of the Prairie Consortium of universities that form the Centre
of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Immigrant Integration
that is centred in Edmonton. This Centre proposes to place its
"emphasis on medium-sized urban centres where the process
of immigrant settlement and integration may be decidedly different
from and perhaps more successful than that in the largest metropolitan
areas of Canada." (Abu-Laban, p. 1). In this paper, some
of these different aspects are examined.
Regina has received enough immigrants and refugees to have resulted
in the creation of small ethnic communities in the city. Some
of these newcomers to Canada and Regina have joined long standing
ethnic communities with the city (e.g. Chinese, Serbian and Polish
groups) while other groups have had to establish their ethnic
communities from the beginning (e.g. Chilean, Salvadorean and
Eritrean groups). Other newcomers have been extremely isolated,
with few or no others from their country of origin. Some of these
communities are divided or split by social background, religion
or politics, some are relatively united and some groups have not
been able to establish communities of their own. Many of the
newcomers to Regina stay in the city for a short period of time
and then leave for other, often larger, urban centres outside
This paper examines some of the aspects of the experiences of
these newcomers to Regina who arrive from outside Canada. In
particular, the focus will be on illustrating the special problems
that refugees coming to a city like Regina might have and outlining
some of the opportunities that might differ from the opportunities
for newcomers in larger urban centres. While ethnic communities
are not large, for those newcomers who are able to become established
in the city, life in Regina is comfortable, lower cost than in
larger cities, and not subject to some of the negative features
that many claim exist in larger centres. The conclusion of the
paper is that integration into the life of the city is reasonably
successful for those who refugees who stay in the city. As a
policy conclusion, governments might consider locating larger
numbers of newcomers to Canada in Regina and similar sized cities
across the country.
Outline of Paper. After some introductory comments
on the size of immigration and ethnic groups in Regina and in
Saskatchewan, this paper examines experiences related to English
language acquisition and labour force participation. Some aspects
of the experiences related to community, friends and family are
examined next, followed by a discussion of some of the services
available for immigrants in Regina. A conclusion summarizes some
of the difficulties that might exist in a medium-sized city and
some of the ways in which problems related to integration might
be more readily solved in Regina than in some of the larger centres.
An appendix outlines the methods used in the Regina Refugee Research
Project, the project which provided the data for this paper.
II. The Immigrant and Refugee Population of Regina
The size of the immigrant population of Regina in 1991, by place
of birth and period of immigration, is shown in
Table 1. Before
1971, there were relatively few refugees or immigrants to Regina
from locations outside Europe or the United States. Soon after
1971 there were some refugees from Chile and later in that decade
from southeast Asia. While the 1971 dividing line is arbitrary,
as has been noted for many other parts of Canada, in recent years
the pattern of immigration by country of origin has shifted considerably,
away from Europe and towards other parts of the world (Logan,
p. 32). In particular, over the last twenty years there has been
a considerable increase in the number of immigrants to Regina
who come from eastern and southern Asia, Africa, and the Americas
south of the United States. Many of the immigrants who came to
Regina before 1971 came in a much earlier period, some arriving
in the first quarter of the century. The percentage distributions
of Table 2
clearly illustrate the shift of countries of origin
of immigrants away from Europe toward some of the other regions
of the world.
Like other Canadian cities, the population of Regina includes
many rural people who have moved to the city. This is especially
true of Regina, set in the midst of one of the most rural parts
of the country. Part of the rural population is people of First
Nations origin and in the last few years many of these people
have moved to the city, or maintain a foothold on the reserve
and in the city. The main visible minority in the city is people
of aboriginal origin, and this constitutes a definite difference
from many of the larger Canadian urban centres, where it is immigrants
or their children who form the bulk of the visible minority groups.
Also to be noted is that in Saskatchewan, Saskatoon is the only
other major city. In many ways it is similar to Regina, with
just a few more residents, about 190,000. Experiences of immigrants
and refugees in Saskatoon are likely to be quite similar to those
of Regina. Apart from these two major cities in the province,
the other cities are all under 35,000 population and they receive
even less immigrants and refugees than do the two major cities.
One other population characteristic of Regina and Saskatchewan
that should be noted is the heavy out migration of people from
the province. Since 1931, the province has exported a number of
people almost equal to the natural increase of the province, so
that the total population of the province has grown by less than
100 thousand people in over sixty years. Population movements
in Saskatchewan are part of a redistribution of population from
rural to urban parts of the country, the latter usually in another
province. The movements of refugees or immigrants who arrive
in Regina may be no different than people born in Saskatchewan.
Individuals and families consider the variety of options they
have open to them in the province as only one possibility in a
wider set of options. The latter set of options may include moving
to Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto or other centres.
This paper is concerned with refugee settlement and integration
rather than with immigration. The number of government sponsored
refugees that arrived in Regina since 1985 is given in
In addition to these, there is also a smaller number of refugees
who are sponsored by churches, individuals or other groups. I
have not been able to obtain estimates for the latter, but it
seems likely that the number of refugees who arrive in Regina
annually has been between 150 and 250 for the last ten years.
The source countries for these refugees has varied considerably,
in large part because of the changing patterns of world problem
spots that have produced refugees. For example, the number of
refugees of Cambodian and Laotian origin has been minimal in recent
years, although there were considerable numbers of such refugees
to Regina before 1985. In contrast, there have been more refugees
of Bosnian and African origin during the last five years. In
1995, two-thirds of the 220 refugees came from Bosnia-Herzegovina,
and there were small number of refugees from previously unrepresented
countries like Myanmar (Burma), Burundi, Liberia and Zaire. One
other point that may not be clear from
Table 3 is that the bulk
of Iraqi refugees have been of Kurdish origin, although some are
also of Assyrian (Christian) origin.
In order to see what the potential size of the ethnic community
in Regina might be for each of the countries of origin of refugees,
has been constructed. This table gives the ethnic distribution
for the residents of Regina as published in recent Census volumes
for the refugee source countries of Table 3.
are also shown for the province of Saskatchewan as a whole.
By comparing Tables 3 and
4 it can be seen that many of the refugees
who came to Regina must have left the city, or possibly they did
not respond to the Census of 1991.
III. Settlement Services in Regina
A couple years after I moved to Regina in the early 1970s, refugees
from Chile began to arrive in Regina. Manpower and Immigration
personnel, along with church groups and individuals, found places
for the newcomers to live and assisted them with establishing
a new life in Regina. There were few or no settlement services
for these refugees and they had to find their own way in a city
with a strange language and sometimes inhospitable weather, but
with a social and economic climate that was reasonably receptive
toward them. There was no previous Chilean community in the city
and also relatively few Spanish speaking people lived in Regina.
As a result, some of the newcomers left for other cities but
many stayed and since have made great contributions to the city
(see the theses by Milen and Cunningham).
The haphazard treatment of and disorganized services for new refugees
arriving in Regina began to change in the mid 1970s. The Regina
Open Door Society (RODS) was established in 1976 as a settlement
service for government sponsored refugees. The federal government
did not have great experience in assisting refugee settlement
before this, but across Canada a system of settlement services
began to be regularized around this time. Beginning as an outreach
organization, RODS gradually developed more services during the
late 1970s and early 1980s. The arrival of considerable numbers
of refugees from southeast Asia prompted new government initiatives
and RODS was instrumental in piloting some of the new programs
that later became part of settlement services elsewhere. For
example, Regina was the first city where the settlement agency
purchased a settlement house -- a large house where new refugee
arrivals could live until more permanent accommodation could be
found. This has been more suitable for newcomers than placing
them in hotels or motels, and settlement agencies in many cities
across the country now have such houses. This year RODS is celebrating
its twentieth anniversary and it has established itself as not
only as a settlement agency in Regina but also as a centre where
refugees and other immigrants in the city can meet and receive
help when they encounter problems.
In addition to the government sponsored refugees who have arrived,
many of the Regina churches have helped sponsor refugees and have
assisted them after they arrive in the city. The Regina Refugee
Coalition and the University of Regina Group for Refugees have
done the same. After these refugees arrive in Regina, the regular
municipal, provincial and federal government services as well
as the services from churches, community groups and the business
sector become available to them. There are also some programs
in the city aimed specifically at newcomers to Canada. English
as a Second Language programs are available through the Saskatchewan
Institute of Applied Science and Technology (SIAST) and the University
of Regina, as well as through RODS. The Regina Public Library
has established a tutoring program that is used by many newcomers.
The public and separate school boards have also established programs
to assist students whose first language is not English.
The services in Regina that are available to newcomers to Canada
may seem limited in comparison with the largest cities across
the country. But over the past twenty years, Regina has developed
a range of services that have been of great assistance to refugees
and other immigrants who arrive in the city.
IV. Project Methodology
The survey data for this paper come from the Regina Refugee Research
Project. The aim of the project was to investigate the meaning
of successful settlement and examine some of the barriers to settlement
and integration of newcomers. In the project we obtained information
about the experiences that refugees had with settlement services
in Regina, identified gaps and shortcomings in these services
and provided suggestions concerning how these services might be
After some background research, several graduate students and
I developed an interview schedule and interviewed fifty-five individuals
in Regina who had originally arrived in the city as refugees --
these individuals are referred to as "project participants"
in the rest of this paper. The interview schedule covered the
areas of English language acquisition, employment and unemployment,
health and health services, community, friends and family, and
a variety of related issues. A short description of the methodology
is contained in the Appendix and a fuller analysis of the results
is contained in the final report from the project (Gingrich, 1995).
Behind the data stand the more general issues of what the barriers
to successful settlement are, and what is the range of meanings
of successful settlement and integration into Canadian society.
We did not really define these latter concepts, but based on
the interview and the self-evaluation of the refugee participants,
we were able to develop a reasonable indication of the areas in
which the respondents were satisfied and the areas where they
felt were problems. It is not clear that an overall or single
judgment can be made concerning what successful settlement and
integration mean. But looking at factors such as language acquisition,
jobs and incomes, community and friends, and a range of satisfaction
variables allow a reasonable assessment of how the project participants
felt about settlement services and life in Regina. For example,
for those who indicated that they should have stayed in their
country of origin and generally expressed dissatisfaction with
many aspects of life in Regina, settlement cannot be considered
to have been successful. Those with jobs and reasonable income
levels, and using a variety of city services, can be considered
to have had some success. But certainly the latter do not have
everything they desire or might have anticipated obtaining --
they might lack a temple at which to worship or their family might
not be complete. Hopefully these data and this paper will assist
in helping develop a better understanding of the meaning of successful
settlement and integration.
With only a small French-speaking presence remaining in Saskatchewan,
one of the first steps that any non-English speaking refugee who
arrives in Regina must take is to attempt to learn some English.
There are no ethnic enclaves in which the newcomer can retreat
and hope to survive. If the newcomer is to obtain services and
find a job in the city, learning some English is an absolute necessity.
During the 1970s and much of the 1980s, many of the refugees
who arrived in Regina were not able to obtain much formal training
in the English language. Some did not take any English classes
at all and learned English on the job, by reading and by watching
television. Since this time, the situation has improved considerably
and all newcomers now are able to enroll in English as a Second
Language (ESL) classes.
Our findings were that those who spent about ten months in English
classes generally reported that they had sufficient training.
Many of those with less than this said that their job or other
opportunities were somewhat reduced because of insufficient English
language training. While the absence of sufficient English classes
is likely a problem that cuts across all cities, there were a
number of problems that are more likely to emerge in a city like
Regina. Apart from insufficient numbers and length of English
classes, mixing people from different social, national and educational
backgrounds seemed to be the most common problem respondents reported
with respect to English language training. As an illustration
of this, consider how difficult it would be for a single class
to simultaneously meet the needs of an illiterate Cambodian and
a Salvadorean who has had training in a professional program in
her country. In addition, where there are tensions between members
of ethnic communities, both sides may be thrown into the same
class -- perhaps people who were on opposite sides of a civil
war. For these newcomers the class may be a good exercise in
practising tolerance, but it could instead increase tensions to
the point where learning does not occur.
In recent years the three agencies that offer ESL classes have
been able to coordinate their efforts to solve most of these problems.
Those with some university background can take ESL classes at
the University of Regina, those with special needs such as child
care needs can take classes at RODS, and most others go to SIAST.
At the same time, individuals can choose to attend the classes
at the institution that is closest to their place of residence.
One finding of our study was that having some abilities in English
is an important feature that goes much beyond finding a job or
communicating on a daily basis. A major complaint of those we
interviewed was that they had difficulty communicating with medical
and health personnel. In Regina, not all of the languages spoken
by newcomers are spoken by health professionals, and newcomers
from countries like Laos or Iran are forced to deal with these
professionals in English. While the people we interviewed were
generally quite satisfied with health services, they did find
it stressful to deal with health issues in a foreign language.
Those who knew Spanish generally went to one of the few Spanish
speaking physicians in the city. An Eritrean who knew some Italian
found an Italian speaking physician. But the Vietnamese had real
problems because there is no physician in the city who speaks
Vietnamese and only one nurse of Vietnamese background. While
many of the refugees themselves had learned sufficient English
to communicate, some expressed concern about the ability of the
parents of the refugees to communicate with health service personnel.
Several immigrant families have sponsored their parents for immigration
to Canada and these parents are now arriving and will continue
to arrive in Regina. It is unlikely that these older immigrants
will learn much English, so there could be problems of this sort
for a number of years.
VI. Labour Market Experiences
One of the main problems associated with the Regina labour market
is that it is a thin market in many ways, at least compared with
Canada's largest cities. Because of this, many long time residents
of Regina, and many young people, move to cities with a more extensive
set of jobs and a wider range of types of jobs. Those refugees
who come to Regina and find a job that they consider acceptable
however, seem to find that a strong enough reason to stay in the
We were not able to survey those who left the city -- that would
be an interesting project that the four Centres of Excellence
might consider working on together -- to trace the pattern of
movements of refugees and immigrants after they have spent some
time in Canada, and to investigate why and how they make the decision
to move. Settlement workers in Regina provide anecdotes about
people who left Regina that make it seem that a limited number
of jobs has been a major factor in decisions to leave the city.
It may not be that jobs are assured elsewhere, but if there is
a very small ethnic community in Regina, the attractions of being
in a centre with a larger ethnic community may be sufficient to
encourage movement elsewhere. That is, faced with similar probabilities
of a job in different centres, many of the refugees would be expected
to choose a location with greater other attractions. The high
unemployment rates in many Canadian cities in the last few years
may be discouraging such out migration though. We were not able
to test this contention, but RODS personnel are of the view that
more recent refugee arrivals have a greater chance of staying
in Regina than were those who arrived a number of years ago.
Among the refugees we surveyed, all who were in the city for more
than three years were employed or had been employed. It was only
those who had arrived quite recently who seemed to be having difficulty
get a foothold in the labour market. Many of the earlier arrivals,
from before 1985, were from southeast Asia, with quite varied
experiences and backgrounds. Some from Cambodia and Laos had
little or no education, while some were professionals who were
fluent in English or French before leaving southeast Asia. Since
these people received limited assistance when they first arrived
in Regina, they had little choice but to take whatever jobs were
available, and use these as a base from which to improve their
standing in the labour market. Given their background, many of
these refugees realized that they would never be able to work
their way up to higher paying jobs, and generally seemed to accept
their position in the "less skilled" portion of the
Those who had arrived in the three years before the study was
conducted were less integrated into the labour market. Some were
still taking language classes or other forms of education or training
and some were supporting themselves with the help of social assistance.
Those who arrived in the city more recently undoubtedly received
more settlement assistance than did those who arrived earlier.
But those who arrived more recently had no established ethnic
community which could provide connections to employment, while
those who arrived earlier had established a considerable network
of friends, acquaintances and connections by the time the project
One factor that several project participants complained about
was the considerable mismatch between their occupation in their
country of origin and the occupation of their current job. From
it can be seen that 16, about one-third, of the project
participants with jobs in Regina were professionals in their country
of origin, but only 6 of these had found jobs in Regina that could
be considered professional. Those of professional background
in their own country have often had to accept jobs in the service
sector in Regina. Many of these project participants felt that
these were inappropriate to their social status or provided too
low an income. As Table 6 shows,
it is those in the "more
skilled" service sector jobs that expressed the greatest
dissatisfaction with their job, not those in the "less skilled"
jobs. While the numbers are small, this conclusion was supported
by looking at the comments that some of the project participants
gave, in the course of the interview, about their employment situation
in Regina. A general conclusion of project participants was that
their credentials and earlier job experiences were not adequately
recognized or accepted in Canada.
The project participants' initial jobs often began through friends
and contacts made during the period of language or other training.
Being in a city the size of Regina can prove helpful to newcomers,
in that the network of connections of RODS staff and others to
jobs can be maintained and is considerable. This is especially
important in Regina because there are relatively few large employers
and newcomers do not have a ready community network of friends
from their country of origin to connect them to potential jobs.
While many of the respondents we interviewed moved on from a first
job to another job, 15 of the 39 respondents with jobs were still
at their first job and another 16 were at their second job.
Only 3 of the 39 had passed through four or more jobs. Of those
who had left a first job, about one-half left for a better job
or other reasons, and for about one-third there was no choice
because the job ended. While I was not able to compare this with
other longitudinal data on jobs, it seems that these respondents
generally stuck with their jobs for extended periods of time.
Milen found a similar result for earlier Chilean refugees to
the city, with most having had between one and three jobs. She
notes "To find that Chileans have relatively stable jobs
is an indication of their level of adjustment. The study also
shows Chileans do not move or change jobs often." (Milen,
Many of the respondents were in families with two or more household
members having jobs. It appeared that many of the jobs provided
a very low income for project participants, and household survival
required other income earners in the household. For the small
sample of those who arrived earliest, almost all the husband-wife
headed households had both spouses employed.
In summary, there are certainly very mixed labour market experiences.
In terms of future research, I would hope that some longitudinal
studies could be conducted to track refugee experience with respect
to labour market and other activities over time. The respondents
in our study certainly showed a strong commitment to employment
and there was little evidence of use of social assistance after
the first few years. It would seem worthwhile for researchers
in the future to trace how those who arrive in Canada as refugees
make decisions concerning labour market and other activities as
well as city of residence.
VII. Community, Friends and Family
Regina has a considerable number of ethnic communities in the
sense of people interacting and having organizations, meeting
places and places of worship. Some of the communities of European
origin (e.g. Ukrainian, German, Romanian, Hungarian) are of long
standing, have a well developed community and have well established
organizations. Each year in Regina there is an ethnic festival
"Mosaic" with about twenty different ethnic groups setting
up pavilions to present Reginans with the food, music, dance and
art of their countries of origin. In contrast to these well established
groups, most of those newcomers who have arrived as refugees in
the city in recent years do not have such a community ready to
welcome or assist them. In addition, while there are areas of
the city in which new arrivals congregate and interact, there
are no ethnic enclaves in the city.
In spite of limited numbers, many of the people from the countries
listed in Tables 3 and 4
have established their own organizations.
There are Vietnamese, Laotian, Cambodian, Salvadorean and Eritrean
organizations or associations in the city. Refugees from Nicaragua,
Guatemala and Iran have not established such organizations in
the city. Given that the numbers in each group are limited, establishing
such organizations in a city like Regina can be very difficult.
The dispersed residential location and limited transportation
did not appear to be problems, perhaps because of the size of
the city. But one of the major problems cited by project participants
was the lack of a meeting place. This was mentioned many times
by those interviewed and was compounded by the fact that many
of these groups also were unable to establish a place or worship.
For those from southeast Asia, this was a particular problem.
While many of these people are Buddhists, the languages and traditions
of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam differ enough that each group would
like to have its own place of worship. Since the project was
completed, some of the groups have been able to establish a place
of worship -- helping to meet the spiritual needs of these people
and providing a community centre and meeting place.
While many refugees from Vietnam, Eritrea and Central America
are Christian, they do not always appear happy with the manner
in which churches in Regina function. Given the limited numbers
of people from each of these areas, they have not been able to
establish their own churches, yet do not feel entirely comfortable
with the churches here. One man from Central America commented
that the style of religion is different here, the church lacks
a welcoming atmosphere, and that he would like to have a Spanish
While a small ethnic group might be expected to pull together
and be united, this is not always the case. In Regina, many of
the ethnic groups are quite small in numbers
(see Table 4). Yet
the individuals in these small ethnic groups may not get along
with each other, the group may be divided, or different factions
may form in opposition to each other. As Peter Li notes about
cultural diversities, "in many instances the intra-ethnic
cultural variation is as great as the inter-ethnic one."
(Li, p. 29) In the project we certainly found evidence of this
and also of political differences. In a larger centre, each cultural
or political group from a particular country could create or gravitate
toward an ethnic organization of their preference. This has been
the case for the Ukrainian and Chinese communities in Regina,
two groups that have sufficient numbers to support different organizations.
Most project participants said they got along well personally
with all the other people from their country of origin. But many
indicate that the community is divided or in opposition. This
division appeared most serious in the Salvadorean community, but
perhaps this is to be expected. As one Salvadorean said, after
all "we have had a civil war." Project participants
indicated that the Laotian and Vietnamese groups tended to be
divided by religion and culture. One Vietnamese project participant
indicated that "Vietnamese join forces when needed. They
get together for New Years or when someone dies."
At the more personal level of friends, almost all project participants
indicated that they had several friends and sometimes quite an
extensive network of friends. Several project participants reported
extreme isolation however, with some resigned to this and others
considering relocation to another centre where there would be
a larger ethnic community. Most project participants had some
Canadian friends and many participants said that they would consult
a Canadian friend if they needed help finding a job, a doctor
or a lawyer. While I have no comparable data from larger centres,
it seems likely that newcomers to Regina interact with Canadians
more than in these larger centres. For most newcomers to Regina
there is little choice but to interact in some manner with Canadians.
One other difference from larger centres may be that people from
quite different countries of origin interact more in Regina.
For example, an Eritrean and a Salvadorean thrown together in
an ESL class might establish a friendship.
Family relationships in a city like Regina are probably little
different than family relationships elsewhere. When asked about
bringing other family members to the city, approximately one-fifth
of the project participants considered their family in Regina
to be complete. Many of the other project participants indicated
that they would like to bring their parents or brothers and sisters.
For a city like Regina, this may present some problems for the
sponsors. Jobs are limited and siblings who arrive in the city
may find it difficult to find employment. For parents, the problems
would mostly be related to the small size of the ethnic community
and limited or nonexistent services in their own language. It
seems unlikely that many of the parents would learn English, and
as a result the parents may become quite isolated in Regina.
One response to this has been for RODS to establish a seniors
The project did not investigate issues related to children and
youth to any great degree, and we did not interview any children
or youth. Given the size of the various ethnic groups in Regina,
it is to be expected that the children and youth would generally
not find a large group of friends from a similar background.
Whether this is of assistance or a block to their integration
into Canadian society is not clear from this study. There were
certainly a number of problems that project participants reported
concerning their children and the schools, but the project did
not investigate these sufficiently to make any real conclusions.
One set of services that we explored in the project was city services.
Given the very limited income of most of the project participants,
it is no surprise that the services that are available without
cost appeared to receive the greatest use. The city parks and
the public libraries were the most commonly reported city services
used. The children of the project participants use the sporting
facilities in the city quite extensively, although the cost of
using some of these can be considerable. Certainly the soccer
organizations in the city have received a great boost in recent
years with the arrival of more refugees and immigrants.
When designing the interview schedule for the project, it was
anticipated that there would be considerable dissatisfaction with
health services. In fact, project participants reported relatively
few problems in this area. The main problems indicated were language
and communication problems, although a few did indicate long waiting
times to meet doctors and the relationships between individuals
and health professionals were not always the same as in the countries
of origin. Since high quality health services are available without
direct cost in Saskatchewan, there appeared to be no major problems
related to treatment of the physical health of newcomers other
than language and communication difficulties. While the project
did ask questions related to mental health and counselling, interviewers
generally found project participants reluctant to discuss these
issues. This may imply difficulties for newcomers in this general
area, but the project investigation of this area of health was
not sufficient to make any conclusions.
The Regina Public Library deserves special note. The Library
is a free and open facility and is heavily used by the project
participants. It provides resource materials, a place to go and
a place to meet people. In addition, the Library has a tutoring
program that many newcomers have used. These tutors begin by
assisting people with learning the English language, but often
the tutor ends up helping the newcomer deal with a great variety
of daily activities. Although we did not specifically ask about
this, several of the people we interviewed gave information about
this program and said that these tutors were of great assistance
The activities of the staff of RODS are also a great help to newcomers
as they encounter problems with city services and learn how to
function in the city. One of the great advantages of having a
relatively small number of newcomers each year is that the staff
of RODS know the newcomers and maintain contact with many of these
newcomers for several years. The people who have come to Regina
as refugees find that the settlement agency is ready to help them
with new problems as they arise and can deal with these problems
as friends at a personal level. The Executive Director noted
that RODS makes contact with a wide variety of organizations in
the city, and is generally aware of how the problems of newcomers
can be met. In addition, with a large number of relatively small
employers in the city, RODS staff acts as a liaison between these
employers and newcomers, and can provide considerable assistance
in matching prospective employees with employers. In doing this,
the fact that RODS staff is full time and is relatively stable
over time has allowed for continued personal contacts to be developed.
The Executive Director of RODS also noted that when residents
of Regina are asked to assist newcomers, these residents are generally
receptive to helping newcomers with their problems. He commented
that there exists a certain "Prairie naivete" or friendliness
and openness that acts to help both the long term residents of
the city and the newcomers. There is little suspicion of newcomers
but rather a genuine interest in people from a different background.
While RODS finds it difficult to raise funds from people and
organizations in the city, they have a very extensive group of
volunteers -- from host families to employers -- people who can
be relied on to provide newcomers with the help they need.
In summary, individuals and families who arrived in Regina as
refugees and have stayed in the city appear to have worked hard
to establish organizations and networks that allow them to survive
and to improve their lives in the city. This process has been
made both easier and more challenging because of the size of the
city and the limited numbers of people from their own background.
The period after first arriving in Canada is difficult for any
newcomer. Perhaps it is more difficult in a city like Regina,
without large ethnic communities, although the people of the city
and the services of RODS and other organizations help newcomers
deal with this initial set of problems. Some newcomers to Regina
find their ethnic community too small, some find the city too
small and some find the city too cold in the winter. On the other
hand, those who do stay generally appear to settle reasonably
successfully into the city. Newcomers to Regina usually have
to learn English in order to function. They cannot retreat into
an ethnic enclave or rely on a pre-existing network of ethnic
contacts. While this presents real challenges for some, those
who get through this period generally appear to be happy with
In terms of implications for policy, it might be worthwhile for
governments to consider sending more of the government sponsored
refugees to medium-sized cities like Regina. While massive increases
in numbers would begin to alter the processes described in this
paper, certainly the success of agencies like RODS and the experiences
of many of those newcomers who have stayed in Regina are encouraging.
Increased refugee settlement in medium-sized cities would require
cooperation from all levels of governments, and continued help
from individual volunteers and groups like RODS. The results
of such a policy could lead to considerable benefits for these
cities and could be a means by which Canada could continue to
meet the humanitarian goal of assisting a few of the world's refugees.
Appendix. Project Methodology.
The Regina Refugee Research Project was funded by the Saskatchewan
Association of Immigrant Settlement and Integration Agencies (SAISIA).
This is an umbrella group of four settlement agencies in Regina,
Saskatoon, Moose Jaw and Prince Albert. The funds to carry out
the project initially came from the Department of the Secretary
of State of Canada. These funds were divided equally between
Regina and Saskatoon and there was a parallel project in Saskatoon.
The Regina project was carried out at the University of Regina
with a preliminary report given to SAISIA in September, 1993 and
a final report published in December, 1995 (Gingrich, 1995).
The staff of the University of Regina that were involved in the
project were Paul Gingrich and Doug Scott, with student assistants
Eugenia Valenzuela, Stephen Hidasi, Heather Lissel, Jiaming Liu,
Mike Sosteric, Gail Bryanton and Christopher Fries.
The project was initially titled "Refugee Settlement and
Integration: Removing the Barriers," and it was designed
to explore two areas of concern. The first goal of the study
was to examine settlement programs and integration into Regina,
and the second was to determine what successful settlement meant,
and to provide some indication of how well newcomers had integrated
into the city.
The project began with the aim of finding many of the eight hundred
to nine hundred refugees who had been welcomed by the Regina Open
Door Society between 1988 and 1991. This represented about two
hundred families, many of whom had moved out of Regina. The number
of potential respondents was further reduced by some families
choosing not to participate in the study. With help from community
members and the Regina Open Door Society we also contacted several
Regina residents who had been refugees from Southeast Asia, and
arrived in Regina prior to 1988. In total, fifty-five households
agreed to participate and interviews were conducted with one adult
member of each household.
The procedure we followed was to initiate contact with the potential
respondent by sending a letter to the family or individual, followed
by a telephone call requesting an interview. In most cases either
the husband or the wife was reasonably proficient in English,
and in some instances a teenager or an older child was present
to help translate difficult questions or ideas. Due to the length
of the interview schedule and some language problems, the interviews
took anywhere from one to four hours. The shorter interviews
served to develop a portrait of the respondent, but did not capture
the feelings of the individual as well as the longer interviews.
Once the interviews were completed, the project director coded
the information obtained in the interview, and wrote a brief profile
of the respondent based on the interviewer's supplemental notes.
The final report represented the last stage of the project.
Each of the project participants was sent a copy of the report
and was invited to an open forum where they were asked to comment
on the report and make suggestions for improving settlement services
in Regina. This forum took place in December, 1995.
A few statistics describing the project participants are given
Sex: 39 males and 16 females were interviewed.
Age in 1993: 6 aged 20-29, 23 aged 30-39, 17 aged 40-49
and 9 aged 50 plus.
Age at Time of Arrival: 2 under 20, 15 aged 20-29, 27
aged 30-39, 6 aged 40-49 and 5 aged 50 or more.
Year of Arrival: 11 in 1979-1982, 12 in 1985-1988. 32
Country of Origin: 5 from Cambodia, 21 from El Salvador,
5 from Eritrea, 4 from Iran, 7 from Laos, 5 from Vietnam, 2 from
each of Guatemala, Poland and Romania, and 1 from each of Ethiopia
Household Structure: 35 husband-wife with children, 4
husband-wife without children, 9 husband-wife with children and
others, 4 single males and 3 single females.
Household Size: 3 with one person, 6 with two persons,
3 with three persons, 15 with four persons, 13 with 5 persons,
8 with six persons and 7 with seven or more persons.
Main Activity: 33 employed, 12 unemployed, 3 in the home
and 7 at school.
Family Types: 7 single individuals; 4 husband-wife (H-W),
no children; 8 H-W children under age 6, no children aged 6-17;
18 H-W, children under 6 and children 6-17; 8 H-W, no children
under 6, children aged 6-17; 10 H-W, no children under 6, children
6-17 and others.
Abu-Laban, Baha, Application to SSHRC for the Establishment
of a Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Immigrant
Integration (Edmonton, University of Alberta, 1995).
Cunningham, Nancy Jane, Chilean Refugee Settlement in Canada:
the Case of Regina (Ottawa, National Library of Canada, 1988).
Unpublished Masters thesis.
Gingrich, Paul, Refugee Settlement and Integration: Removing
the Barriers (Regina, University of Regina, 1995).
Li, Peter S., Ethnic Inequality in a Class Society (Toronto,
Thompson Educational Publishing, 1988).
Logan, Ronald, "Immigration During the 1980s," in Canadian
Social Trends: A Canadian Studies Reader, Volume 2 (Toronto,
Thompson Educational Publishing, 1994), pp. 31-34.
Milen, Carmen Alicia (Robles), The Personal Adjustment and
Acculturation of the Chilean Émigré in the City
of Regina (Regina, University of Regina, 1981). Unpublished
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