Newcomers to Canada find more ‘kindness and generosity’ in smaller towns, research finds

A smaller town might be the better option for newcomer families to Canada, researchers at the University of Guelph have found.

Rana Telfah, a PhD student in the School of Environmental Design and Rural Development, has interviewed more than 40 families in different sized communities and she’s noticing a trend.

She told CBC Kitchener-Waterloo’s The Morning Edition host Craig Norris that she has learned from interviewing Syrian families that they’ve found smaller communities “are quite welcoming.” 

Rana Telfah, a PhD student in the School of Environmental Design and Rural Development at the University of Guelph, says her research has found that smaller communities ‘are quite welcoming’ to newcomers.  (University of Guelph)

“For example, I have interviewed a Syrian woman who moved to a small community with her five children. This woman and her children were amazed at the kindness and generosity of local people and the support they received in their early settlement,” Telfah explained.

“She mentioned that she was able to practise her English language, so she was able to find employment and now she has her own house … she’s settled and established very well in the small community. 

“Initially she landed in Mississauga, but she couldn’t do any of the things that she has done in the small community,” Telfah added.

Telfah said many of the families who first live in urban centres reported to her that they found the cost of living to be very high, so they decided to move to smaller places. 

“They couldn’t cover their expenses,” Telfah said. 

Positive experience ‘over and over again’

Professor Wayne Caldwell said settlement by newcomers to Canada is affected by the kind of sponsorship they received in moving to the country.

The two key ways by which people are sponsored when they come to Canada, particularly as refugees, are private sponsorship and government sponsorship. 

Caldwell said both have their advantages. 

“What we’re learning through Rana’s research is that where [people] are privately sponsored, the community embraces [them],” Caldwell said.

“There are people in the community that are there to assist in whatever way they can — whether it be a church group or community group of some other sort. 

“The experience tends to be positive over and over again in terms of the opportunity for those folks to be integrated within the community, finding employment assistance, finding housing. Just the whole notion of a welcoming community is truly embraced through that process,” Caldwell added.

According to Caldwell, it makes a lot of sense that people moving to small communities would be fully embraced. 

“It truly represents … where these communities need to be as they look to the future,” he said. “We have situations across the country where many communities are losing population and this is an opportunity to build a population base.”

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