Learning Centre for Settlement Professionals

I mmigration and settling in a new country is one of the most demanding transitions individuals and families have to go through. Even in the best of circumstances, it can be very challenging to adjust to a new and often unfamiliar physical environment, social and cultural contexts, a new position and a new identity. The process is associated with countless tasks such as looking for housing, finding a good school for the children, finding a new job, opening bank accounts, getting a new doctor or dentist, learning to use public transportation, getting used to the supermarket or grocery store, and so on so forth. For most immigrants, the process is usually associated with loss. Very often we are looking at significant losses such as finance, social status, professional identity, social network, friends, familiar places, activities, or even the ability to speak, communicate, and negotiate social systems. It is not unusual for immigrants to experience frustration, helplessness, compromised ability to achieve one's goals, and a general sense of losing mastery and control over oneself and one's life. Considering all these challenges, it can be argued that immigration brings out the best of human resilience, adaptive capacity, and creativity. Research has showed the association between immigration and innovation in the economy and in technology.

Most countries have crafted their immigration policies to protect their own interests, and to meet their domestic needs for population replacement, labour, capital, knowledge and skills, as well as addressing other political or economic agendas. Immigrants are, however, often treated unfairly. The dominant discourses in countries whose survival or well-being are dependent on a health supply of immigrants, or a supply of healthy immigrants, usually cast immigrants in a negative frame, representing them as liabilities. The native population, sometimes together with immigrants who have been around longer, are prone to adopt discriminatory attitudes and actions against the new immigrants. An ugly mix of insecurity and prejudice, sometimes fuelled by racism and other less noble human imperatives, can often create extremely difficult social realities for the newcomers.

Settlement service represents an admirable vision, characterized by understanding, compassion, and civility. The legacy of pioneers like Jane Addams has already become a central structure in the social work heritage. In a country like Canada, where the aboriginal communities represent only a minority of the population, our engagement with the reality of immigration, whether people came as explorers, traders, invaders, colonizers, workers, investors, students, teachers, refugees, retirees, or whatever, is essential in our imagination and configuration of nationhood and citizenship. Human service professionals who help to make the settlement process easier for the immigrants are making an invaluable contribution to this country, although such contribution is often undervalued and under-rewarded.

This web-based Learning Centre is created to support these professional colleagues. We wish to provide a spectrum of useful online resources to facilitate or enhance their work. This initiative is operated by the China Project of the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto. Funding support is provided by the Buddha's Light International Association (Toronto).

©2013 China Project