As issues around migration, nationalism and multiculturalism play out around the world, Canada, largely a nation of immigrants, continues to advance its leadership role in developing innovative research that will impact policy and practices in these critical areas.
At the forefront of this work is Ryerson University and professor Anna Triandafyllidou, who was recently named the Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) in Migration and Integration. The federal government announced the prestigious appointment in April – the first CERC for Ryerson will come with $10-million in research funding for over seven years.
Dr. Triandafyllidou, a world-class researcher and international expert in migration and settlement, arrived in Toronto in August to accept the new position. She relocated from Italy, where she was Robert Schuman Chair of the Global Governance Programme at the European University Institute. She was attracted to Canada and Ryerson, which hosts the Ryerson Centre for Immigration and Settlement and is committed to building on established research strengths in immigrant, migration, integration, refugee and diaspora studies, “because at Ryerson, you have the world in one place.
“I knew that Ryerson has built strong relationships with its stakeholders,” she says. “I think the CERC is the perfect platform for making the work we do here known at a global level.”
The ambitious program will centre around a number of streams of research, including studying migration trends and migrant agency. It will conduct comparative analysis of public policy, focusing on Canadian realities while also embracing a global perspective. It will examine cities and diversity, considering impacts on infrastructure and services, and the program will gaze into the future, contemplating societal challenges in a rapidly changing world.
Engaging Canada’s academic community in this work is an essential component of the program. “The CERC has been given to Ryerson but we feel that it should be an added value for universities across Canada,” notes Dr. Triandafyllidou.
Her strategy is two-fold. The approach examines existing research to identify gaps, as well as using that research as a springboard leading to innovative inquiry. For example, Ryerson has a track record in Indigenous studies. Dr. Triandafyllidou would like to build on that and identify the implications of the Truth and Reconciliation process on migrants.
Analyzing new types of data, gauging the impact of disruptive technologies and considering ethics in the use of IT in migration management are also on her radar.
“If you look at a Facebook account, you can trace a migration trajectory,” she says. “But what we want to do is explore the potential of new technologies together with colleagues in engineering or social media data analysts for assessing and fine-tuning integration policies, seeking supplementary inter-disciplinary research to inform our work.”
In considering shifts in migration patterns, there’s an emerging need to research environmentally induced migration, Dr. Triandafyllidou adds. “Some
might say, ‘We’re not going to be really affected any time soon.’ But there is a lot of secondary movement that is caused by environmental degradation or climate change.”
The trend of developed or more affluent countries towards attracting temporary migration also presents a new scope of inquiry, she says. “We need to look at how both skilled and less-skilled migrants transition to more long-term stays, and consider what hurdles they are facing.”
Researchers will attempt to gain a better understanding about the “suburbanization of migration,” now that many satellite and medium-sized cities have become hubs of migration, says Dr. Triandafyllidou. “These are places where significant social innovation and migrant entrepreneurship are thriving.”
The timeliness of the inquiries is evident, as questions around citizenship abound, along with the local and worldwide rise of nationalism, xenophobia and populism, she says. “We need to look at how multiculturalism is being reconsidered in Canada. In the election we heard a lot about ‘conservative multiculturalism.’ What does this mean?”
Dr. Triandafyllidou suggests, “We need to link up these processes with the general processes of transformation of our societies. Often- times, anti-immigration attitudes actually have more to do with how our work and welfare are changing. But migration somehow becomes a catalyst for popular resentment.”
Dr. Triandafyllidou sees the CERC as a commitment from the Government of Canada and Ryerson to more clearly understand these phenomena. She says, “We want to provide evidence of why certain things are happening, and that migration is not the problem but rather the opportunity.”
Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s Editorial Department was not involved in its creation.