The -30 C degree temperatures and snow-covered landscape of Labrador West might be a vastly different image of home for many of the newcomers in Labrador West, but, for the growing population of temporary foreign workers in the booming mining region, that is the new reality. At a Harris Centre Regional Workshop last March, however, local participants expressed concerns that newcomers are not being integrated as well as they could be into the local community.
“I feel by them not being integrated into our community that we are missing out on some of their great skill sets,” said Noreen Careen, executive director of the Labrador West Status of Women Council. “Also, I feel that if they were better integrated into the community they would feel a sense of belonging and will stay for the long term. Many express concerns of lack of extended family. ”
The booming resource economy in the region has presented significant challenges in the recruitment of workers for the service industry. The temporary foreign worker program has helped address some of the recruitment challenges and has provided valuable opportunities to people looking for work in Canada. In many ways the situation could be mutually beneficial, but some residents are concerned that workers are at a higher risk of mistreatment.
Participants of the regional workshop suggested that the needs of these new Canadians have not been well documented or addressed. The Harris Centre then took the project back to Memorial faculty and Dr. Delores Mullings, assistant professor with Memorial’s School of Social Work, along with Dr. Willow Anderson, a per course instructor in communication studies at Memorial, quickly saw the value of the project and began assembling a research and advisory team. The team consists of Ms. Careen (at the Labrador West Status of Women Council), Insp. Paula M. Walsh (the Officer in Charge of the Labrador West Region for the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary), Hazel Ouano Alpuerto (Consulate of the Philippines in the province), and Patsy Ralph (Labrador West Chamber of Commerce).
“The first thing we would like to do is travel to the community to really get a sense of the people and the place,” said Dr. Mullings. “We’d like to meet with community representatives and gain a better understanding of the issues they are facing. As part of this effort we are also trying to get advisory group members from the populations affected.” The group is actively looking for funding sources.
“It is really important for us to reach out to the community and to the people directly affected – we plan to work collaboratively with the community rather than presume to be the experts on the issue. An initial survey conducted with new immigrants, temporary foreign workers and refugees in the area will give individuals an opportunity to frame the research questions,” said Dr. Mullings. “By ensuring the community and individuals affected are the ones shaping the research questions, we will ensure the project is relevant to the community and helps programs and services better meet the needs of the population.”
One of the challenges the research team faces is maintaining the anonymity of the individuals who choose to participate in the study. As immigrants are often sponsored to the province by their employers in the service industry, they may be afraid that speaking out could cause them to lose their current employment or living arrangements.
“It’s hard for people to feel comfortable speaking out in a small community. We will be keeping the data of participants in the strictest of confidence following the university’s research ethics protocol,” said Dr. Mullings.
“As a province we recognize the need for immigration, it is my hope that this research project will help shape policies and programs in the province, so we can make sure when people come here they feel welcome, not exploited, and know where to go for help,” said Dr. Mullings. “It’s about developing programs and services that make people want to stay and make their home here.”