CIC Social Engagement and Integration Workshops 2008 - Summary of Discussions

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Org: Integration Branch, Citizenship and Immigration Canada
Date: 2008

From March to July 2008, the Integration Branch of the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Canada held a series of workshops in regional centres across the country to explore the role of social engagement in the integration experiences of newcomers to Canada. This document provides a summary of those discussions.

The objectives of these discussions included:

  1. to clarify and clearly articulate foundational principles that should guide policy and programming approaches to social engagement;
  2. to identify successful models of intervention and avoid potential pitfalls in this area; and
  3. to strengthen collaboration with key partners

In Montreal, Winnipeg and Vancouver, CIC met with provincial representatives to discuss approaches to social engagement and integration and means for collaboration. Workshops in Calgary, Halifax, Vancouver, and Toronto brought together representatives from all levels of government, public institutions, academics, immigrant-serving organizations, community groups, and concerned private citizens.

CIC also held a meeting with academics in Montreal to discuss ongoing research in the province on these topics.

Discussion Themes and Key Findings in the Toronto Workshop

Discussions followed the themes of key concepts, collaboration, and measurement, and were guided by the following questions:

I. Key Concepts


  • If our key concepts have contested definitions, how do we work move forward to achieve desired outcomes?
  • Is social engagement a means to an end or an end in itself in the integration process? Is it a process in itself?
  • What are appropriate concepts to ground policies related to social engagement: empowerment? barrier removal? participation?

Summary of Toronto Discussion:

  • Many agreed that terms in this domain, such as ‘social capital’ or ‘social cohesion’, are often contested despite widespread use; a historical and comparative approach should guide our understanding of key concepts; some contributors argued that social engagement is about actively bringing people together.
  • Integration is not one-dimensional. The importance of all dimensions of integration, including a significant social component, was lauded by participants. Integration and its various components, such as social engagement, are best conceived as processes.
  • In identifying integration as the responsibility of society as a whole (involving ‘newcomers’ and ‘host communities’ alike), participants advocated for the establishment of a “welcoming environment” or an “environment of acceptance”.
  • Many participants recognized ‘multiplicities and pluralities to engagement’. Just as individuals have multifaceted identities, so too will they experience multiple trajectories or spheres of engagement and integration.

II. Collaboration


  • What are the roles and responsibilities of the various players in this area?
  • What are best practices to support collaboration and coordination between the various players and stakeholders?

Summary of Toronto Discussion:

  • If we truly want to promote engagement and integration, we must also consider how they can be applied to our own sector. Participants advocated for the conscious adoption of these aims into structures and processes at every level – community, organization, government, etc.
  • Participants strongly advocated for improved information provision to newcomers.
  • Proposed areas of involvement for federal departments included: setting a national vision; leading institutional change; providing resources; building capacity; and supporting partnerships. In demonstrating a federal role, participants challenged CIC to lead by example in bringing about institutional change.
  • While the provision of funding was recognized as a key role for the government, there was disagreement on the most appropriate structures for CIC to use to support partners and effect change.
  • Building capacity was another important area for federal involvement; participants noted that the federal government can also support partnerships.

III. Measurement


  • What can we measure and which indicators are best suited to comparison across diverse contexts?
  • What are the challenges in measuring behaviours and attitudes?
  • Is measurement of barriers to social engagement important?

Summary of Toronto Discussion:

  • When asked to consider the challenge of measuring social engagement, participants remarked that we need to first determine what integration and social engagement mean in order to be accountable for them. Many acknowledged that measurement in this area is challenging. In response to this challenge, participants stressed the value of qualitative research in this area. Others also advocated for involving the newcomer and community directly, such as through participatory research, as it conveys transparency and builds trust in the process.
  • Regardless of the challenges associated with measuring social engagement and integration, participants recognized that indicators and outcomes are important to demonstrate why something is done.

Download the summary documents in English and French: