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PLACE MATTERS: The impact of Local Immigration Partnerships on immigrant integration in small and medium-sized Canadian cities

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Zhixi Zhuang, School of Urban & Regional Planning, Toronto Metropolitan University

This exploratory research aims to systematically examine the impact of Local Immigration Partnerships (LIPs) on the retention and integration of immigrants in small and medium-sized municipalities across Canada. The local context, such as the historical, geographical, and physical attributes of a place is key to understanding the complexity of inclusive integration and community building. The findings will offer important insights into COVID-19 recovery and the future work of LIPs across Canada.

  1. How have small (<50,000), medium (50,000-500,000) and large (>500,000) municipalities across Canada developed their LIPs?
  2. Considering various local contexts (e.g., historical, geographical, and physical attributes), are there similarities or differences between large and smaller communities in terms of the LIPs’ retention and integration strategies?
  3. How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected LIPs’ work on immigrant retention and integration?

To create welcoming communities and improve integration outcomes, the federal government initiated the Local Immigration Partnerships (LIPs) in 2008. The program aims to leverage local resources and enhance collaborations between governments, the settlement sector, community organizations, the private sector, immigrant groups, and other local community stakeholders. Currently there are 77 LIPs established across the country representing a large variety of municipalities and regions. The creation of LIPs aligns with the federal government’s plans to distribute immigrants into small and medium-sized cities to relieve the stress placed on large urban centres, and to mitigate population loss in these smaller communities due to aging populations, youth migration and low birth rates. However, there lacks a systematic explanation of the extent and circumstances in which the LIPs are effective in supporting retention and integration considering a myriad of differences between these places. Each city is uniquely shaped by historical events, geographical features, and physical attributes, and exerts a distinctive pull on immigrants who in turn reshape cities. Place matters when it comes to understanding the complexity of immigrant retention and integration.

A nation-wide online survey was first distributed to 77 existing LIPs and their partner organizations; 61 survey responses representing communities of various sizes were received. To further understand the local context and LIP initiatives, 18 semi-structured interviews were conducted with key LIP informants from municipalities across the Atlantic region, Ontario, the Prairies, and British Columbia. Secondary research on these communities’ socio-economic profiles and municipal policies and initiatives was also conducted. Comparisons between large and smaller municipalities will be drawn in terms of LIP governance, place-based initiatives and COVID-19 recovery.

Place Matters when it comes to the understanding of the complexity of newcomer retention and integration. The research team interviewed 17 immigrants, refugees, and temporary foreign workers who are residing in 9 small and medium-sized cities across Canada. 13 participants contributed their Photovoice to an online exhibition that can be found here (external link, opens in new window) 

Zhuang, Z. C. (2023). A Place-based Approach to Understanding Immigrant Retention and Integration in Canadian and American Non-traditional Gateway Cities: A Scoping Literature Review. Journal of International Migration & Integration. 24 (Suppl 6), 1029–1053. (external link) 

Zhuang, Z. C., & Lok, R. T. (2023). Exploring the Wellbeing of Migrants in Third Places: An Empirical Study of Smaller Canadian Cities, Wellbeing, Space & Society. Volume 4. (external link) 

CERC Migration

Local Immigration Partnerships; immigrants; retention and integration; regionalization; small, medium and large Canadian cities