Calgary professor gets $1M federal grant for immigrant youth research

Project aims to build programming collaboratively alongside the youths who it serves

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A University of Calgary researcher has been given a federal grant of more than $1 million to delve into the experiences and challenges faced by immigrant and refugee youths in the city, looking at the issue through an anti-racist lens.

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Over the next two years, Dr. Pallavi Banerjee, a U of C associate professor of sociology, and her research team will work with four Calgary immigrant services providers — the Calgary Catholic Immigration SocietyCentre for NewcomersThe Calgary Bridge Foundation for Youth, and Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association — and their young clients to help develop programming to better support them as they integrate into their new country. The project is funded by the federal Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

“One of the key principles of this project is to understand how new immigrants and refugees who come into Canada understand both the landscape of racism and moving toward anti-racism in Canada, but also their thoughts and practices that they bring,” said Banerjee.

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She said the goal is to create a collaborative framework to build racial consciousness in youths and service providers, and help disrupt systemic racism.

The team will begin its work by analyzing the programming of its four partner organizations and hosting focus groups of immigrant and refugee youths to better understand their racialized experiences. Researchers will then conduct collaborative workshops to form a framework for programming that is anti-racist and anti-oppressive.

“At the heart of the project, for us and for (service providers), is to learn how effectively to work with young BIPOC people to incorporate their voices,” she said.

Banerjee said that framework will be shared with the community once it’s established, likely through public installations that could take the form of art collections, performance projects or other events.

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“By taking a community-based approach with an anti-racist and social-justice-oriented framework, we hope to correct the idea that immigration integration is one-sided,” said Banerjee.

“As it stands, our society does very little to understand the thoughts and practices that immigrants and refugees bring with them. Proper integration takes understanding from both sides, and what better place to start than with our youth. They are, after all, Canada’s future.”

Meanwhile, another U of C researcher is helping lead a countrywide research program that aims to show Black youths that they belong and can thrive in the post-secondary world.

Jennifer Adams, a U of C associate professor and the Canada Research Chair of Creativity and STEM.
Jennifer Adams, a U of C associate professor and the Canada Research Chair of Creativity and STEM. Photo by Contributed

Securing Black Futures is a Black-led program between five Canadian universities that launched in October 2021, funded by a $1.2-million grant from the RBC Foundation’s Future Launch program. Jennifer Adams, an associate professor and the Canada Research Chair of Creativity and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), is heading the Calgary side of that initiative through #Blackstemcomm, a program she developed with the goal of training students in the basic tenets of inclusive science communication. Her research focuses on diversity, equity, inclusion and creativity in STEM education.

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While her project has had a slow start due to COVID-19 health restrictions pulling students in and out of the classroom, Adams said she’s currently working with around five students and hopes to host larger workshops, community activities and camps next year.

Some of the research being compiled by Securing Black Futures is being presented at Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences 2022, Canada’s largest gathering of academics, taking place online from Thursday until May 20.

“Now that there is a lens being shined on a lot of different issues of racial inequity in education, this is a perfect place to be able to present and to discuss the racial inequities, and include and highlight the projects that are actively working to try to attenuate those inequities,” said Adams.

Twitter: @michaelrdrguez

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