New Canadian Media
Monday, 16 January 2017 16:04

Making “Friends” Key to Integration

by A Special Correspondent in Montreal

A new Concordia University study has found that making friends in Canada and being positive about the "new country" can go a long way in helping new immigrants integrate into communities. 

“[The study] shows that the early days after immigration are very important for newcomers. The dispositions and preferences expressed by people when they first arrive will set them off on different trajectories of social engagement in the new culture,” said a Concordia news release.

The study suggests it is important to invest in resources to support immigrants at the very beginning of their integration journey, especially those who may have misgivings about the environment they are entering into.
 
The study was conducted by recent Concordia graduate, Marina Doucerain. The researchers surveyed 158 international students who had just arrived in Montreal, whose native tongues were neither French nor English and who had not had much time to change and adapt to their new cultural environment.
 
New Canadian Media conducted this interview with Doucerain by email. 

1. Does Canada's policy of multiculturalism play a role in these predictors of integration?

We did not specifically test that idea, but we believe it does. In terms of social interactions and friendships, it takes two to tango. The fact that newcomers were able to form friendships in the mainstream society and interact regularly with Canadians likely reflects a welcoming Canadian climate that encourages contact between members of different cultural groups.

2. Does it matter if the "friends" are drawn from the same ethnic community?

For an immigrant, making friends with someone with the same cultural origin or with people in the mainstream society is quite different. For that reason, this study focused on predicting interactions and friendships in the mainstream society, so outside of people's own cultural group.

In addition, we selected only participants who had neither English nor French as their native language. We reasoned that making friends with well-established Canadians is very different for someone from China or Venezuela than for someone from the United States or from France.

 3. What percentage of those studied were successfully "integrated" over the course of the study?

This is really hard to say, as there are no clear cut-offs for what "successful integration" means. Does it mean having three, or five, or 10 Canadian friends? Does it mean regularly talking to 5 or 10 Canadians? We just don't know, and that's why more research is needed.

What "successful integration" really means is still a pretty open questions. We have elements of answers, but no clear categories.

4. Were there any factors that are specific to Quebec weighed as part of the study?

The study took place in Montreal, which is a very bilingual city. This allowed us to test our hypotheses in both Francophone and Anglophone contexts (the study was the product of a collaboration between researchers at Concordia university and Université du Québec à Montréal). We observed the same patterns in both contexts.

5. What policy implications do these findings have?

In this study, we focused on the very early days of migration, literally within a few weeks of newcomers' arrival. We believe that these early days are crucial and that it's would be important to invest energy and resources to make sure that newcomers have a lot of opportunities to have positive contact with people in the new society. This could take different forms.

For example, a mentoring or buddy program where immigrants are paired up with a well-established Canadian, just to talk, have some interactions, could be really helpful. Having this initial contact could give an entry point to the immigrant into their new society.

6. Lastly, do the researchers plan to test out their study on a national scale?

This is indeed an exciting future direction for our research!

More information on this study can be found here - The importance of making friends fast — when you’re an immigrant

Published in Top Stories

by Matt D’Amours in Montreal

It can be difficult for reporters to get information or comment from an organization for their reporting in general, but for immigrant journalists, language barriers and a lack of familiarity with public relations (PR) create unique challenges. 

Chantal Francoeur, a journalism professor from the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), gave a talk at Concordia University last week focusing on the PR-journalist dynamic, and the power held by PR professionals. 

“When a real reporter wants access to an organization, there is just one entry, one person with whom the reporter can talk to: the PR professional,” Francoeur explains to a group gathered at Concordia’s Centre for Broadcasting and Journalism. “It’s the PR professional who holds the key that opens the door to an organization, and he or she acts as a gatekeeper and journalist watchdog.” 

Navigating language barriers 

For Jonathan Caragay-Cook, news editor at Concordia’s The Link newspaper, the PR doors may not open as easily as they do for other reporters. Cook arrived in Canada less than two years ago, and as an American of Filipino descent, he says that his inability to speak French often presents barriers when he reaches out to organizations in Quebec. 

[Cook's] inability to speak French often presents barriers when he reaches out to organizations in Quebec.

Last Fall, Cook reached out to an official from the Cégep du Vieux Montréal, a French-language college with a politically active student body. The official answered the phone in French, and Cook tried his best to string together a question using the limited words he knew. After a few seconds, the official told him that he couldn’t speak English and hung up. 

“I then realized that I just wasn’t going to get that perspective in my story,” Cook recalls. 

In other instances, Cook says that francophone PR professionals who do speak English have their prepared statements crafted in French, and are therefore wary of straying from their native tongue. 

Gaining more access

Although Cook’s experiences in Quebec represent clear obstacles, other immigrant journalists like Rita Latif has had a different type of difficulty when dealing with the PR machine. 

Latif, a Concordia University journalism student who arrived in Canada from Egypt in 2014, says that her biggest challenge has been adapting to the relative openness of corporations and institutions in Canada. 

“In Egypt, trying to reach these people is not as easy as here … it’s not something we’re used to,” Latif explains. “For us, these [officials] are restricted.” 

Latif says that she is still getting used to the notion that a journalist can simply perform a Google search and call a PR person or government official; she says it is hard to break out of her “safe zone.” 

Mistaking press releases for advertising

This lack of familiarity with public relations among immigrant journalists was examined in a 2015 study by April Lindgren, founding director of the Ryerson Journalism Research Centre. Lindgren looked at the case of Brampton, Ontario, and how the municipality’s attempt to reach out to the city’s ethnic media was initially plagued with issues. 

In 2007, Brampton’s communications department began distributing press releases to ethnic media outlets such as the Canadian Punjabi Post in an attempt to better reach out to the city’s immigrant population. According to Lindgren’s findings, however, this led to some confusion. 

“Some new arrivals [to Canada] don’t understand the PR world.”

The study indicates that there was a lack of familiarity among ethnic outlets with this form of communication, and some newspapers simply published the releases in full. Others even sent the city a bill for advertising fees. 

“Some new arrivals [to Canada] don’t understand the PR world,” Lindgren says. “These newspapers were not able to distinguish between a press release and an advertisement.” 

In light of these difficulties, the city of Brampton made changes to their communications process, which included a plan to hire a “specialty media coordinator”, and to translate all media releases into French, Punjabi, Urdu and Portuguese. 

Understanding the intention

While this type of outreach can be useful in acclimating immigrant journalists and ethnic media to Western-style public relations, Tom Henheffer, Executive Director of the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, says sometimes there are other intentions at play. He points to former minister of national defence and multiculturalism, Jason Kenney, as an example. 

"[Kenney] really infantilized them because ... it was an opportunity to speak to these guys and get a positive headline.”

“Kenney, under Stephen Harper, made a point of being in the ethnic press at every chance he could … they thought a small paper would be excited to be able to get someone high-up in government,” Henheffer says. 

“But [Kenney] really infantilized them because ... it was an opportunity to speak to these guys and get a positive headline.” 

Issue not often discussed 

Speaking with New Canadian Media after her lecture on public relations, Francoeur says that different outlets will have unique perspectives on the challenges of dealing with PR professionals. 

When asked if the issue of limited access for immigrant journalists has ever come up in her classroom, Francoeur says it has not, but that this shouldn’t be taken as a sign that the problem doesn’t exist. 

“Our journalism programs are pretty homogenous ... and it doesn’t provide the whole, representative picture,” Francoeur explains. 

“Student journalists already have difficulties reaching PR people. Do they have more difficulty because their name sounds different? I don’t know … and maybe I don’t know because we don’t have that many [immigrant students].”

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

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