Friendly Manitoba? A Brandon case study on welcoming newcomers outside the big city

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Lam, Michelle Anne
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Rural immigration in Canada is increasing, but still underrepresented. While regionalization strategies designed to entice newcomers to settle in rural areas expand, it is necessary to have a deeper understanding of the implications in welcoming them to places that may not be able to offer necessary settlement services, language classes, or other supports. Using a case study approach, I ran focus groups and interviews with newcomers, leaders, educators, and community members in Brandon, Manitoba to explore the role of education and the community more broadly in providing an environment of welcome. Because of a large-scale meatpacking plant, Brandon hires large numbers of immigrant workers and has seen a dramatic demographic change in the last two decades. What does it mean to welcome well? What are the perceptions surrounding newcomer integration, and what experiences do newcomers have outside urban centres? How do the host society and educational institutions need to change to accommodate growing diversity? And finally, what are ways forward for equity, inclusion, and cohesive society? This study found that newcomers in Brandon experience both systemic and individualized racism.Through a Critical Race Theory analysis, I examined the ways racial inequity is upheld through conversational maneuvers that serve to assuage white guilt, hedge, shift blame, recentre white agency, or provide covering justification for racist practices. These maneuvers included upholding inaccurate stereotypes, expressing conflicting perceptions, and using coded language such as ‘clear communication’ or ‘our culture,’ to justify exclusionary stances. Using Intersectionality as a theoretical lens allowed me to explore the ways that multiple identities of newcomers can overlap and compound barriers and inequities, and the ways that multiple positions of privilege can overlap to solidify power. Participants in this study expressed ways to move forward to create positive social change, including implications for education. These included building on the strengths of rural communities, addressing racism and other barriers, acknowledging complexity, educating community members, nurturing belonging, planning for the long term, and fostering education that moves people forward.
Immigration, Critical race theory, Rural, Integration, Newcomers