Undelivered Promises of Immigration? Examining the Integration Pathways of Toronto's University-Educated Immigrants from France through an Intersectional Approach

Principal Investigator: Shirin Shahrokni
Funder: SSHRC Insight Development Grant
Research Team: Gertrude Mianda

Research on the integration outcomes of Canada’s newcomers sheds light on an unsettling paradox: since the turn of the millennium, university-educated immigrants admitted to Canada are more numerous than ever; yet, their difficulties in integrating into the labour-market have been far greater than previous generations of immigrants. A growing mismatch further prevails between the qualifications that university-educated immigrants bring with them and the outcomes that they achieve in the Canadian labour market. The widespread belief that integration outcomes largely depend on individual immigrants’ competencies therefore does not seem to bear fruit in the lives of an ever-expanding number of Canada’s newcomers. If the gap between qualifications and employment outcomes is a reality across all immigrant groups in Canada, recent research finds that it is particularly salient in the lives of francophone

immigrants outside Quebec. Despite possessing higher educational qualifications, francophone immigrants outside Quebec indeed face higher unemployment rates and more precarious employment than their English-speaking counterparts. Furthermore, visible minorities, who make up 60 percent of French-speaking immigrants outside Quebec are at a particular disadvantage Research also finds that the impact of these barriers is particularly severe in the trajectories of female members of this population. Therefore, if official language proficiency is increasingly constructed by government officials as an indispensable skill for success in the Canadian labour market, it does not seem to translate into an asset in the lives of French-speaking immigrants outside Quebec.

Drawing on in-depth interviews with French-speaking immigrants (hereafter referred to as FSIs) based in Toronto, the city with the largest such population outside Quebec, the purpose of this research is to carry out an exploratory study through which we can gain a better intersectional understanding of the integration pathways of FSIs outside Quebec. One of the additional aims of the research is to assess the possible effects of racial and gender discrimination in FSIs trajectories and experiences. The specific objectives of this proposed research are therefore to: 1) closely document the socio-professional experiences and trajectories of university-educated francophone immigrants in Toronto; 2) identify the ways race and gender contribute to barriers to integration; 3) delve into the resources that FSIs mobilize. The interviews will be conducted with immigrants coming from France, the top source country of Toronto’s FSI community. French immigrants constitute a racially diverse population; along with individuals from the majority racial group, there is also a large sub-population of French immigrants of African descent. Our focus on the experiences of members of this population will therefore allow us to capture the possible impact of race in shaping the integration process of FSIs.

This research makes two important contributions to the scholarship on migration in Canada: it documents the largely overlooked integration pathways of FSIs, and in so doing, it enhances our knowledge about the diversity of migratory paths and experiences in Canada. Findings about barriers to integration among this population will also be shared with two community-based organizations that support Toronto-based FSIs, with the goal of enhancing the services that they provide through better awareness of the effects of gender and racial discrimination. This project is the first stage of a nationwide research on the integration pathways of FSIs across multiple locations, national backgrounds and racial groups, to be undertaken with Dr. Gertrude Mianda, my collaborator in this study.