Recent Immigrants as an “Alternate Civic Core”: Providing Internet Services, Gaining “Canadian Experiences”

Diane Yvonne Dechief (diane.dechief@utoronto.ca)
Communication Studies, Concordia University
June, 2006
 
Diane's research interests include immigration and settlement in Canada, particularly pertaining to state-led programs and institutions. As well, digital inequalities, rural immigration, identity construction and information policy are areas of significant interest. With the support of a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Doctoral Fellowship (2007-2010), she is exploring immigration-influenced personal name changes in Canada.

Diane's MA thesis, Recent Immigrants as an 'Alternate Civic Core': Providing Internet Services, Gaining Canadian Experiences (Communications Department, Concordia University, 2006) examined volunteerism amongst recent immigrants as a means of integration.

Diane worked as both a researcher and an administrator for the SSHRC INE "Canadian Research Alliance for Community Innovation and Networking" (CRACIN) from 2004-2007. She is currently affiliated with the Performing Identities project led by Andrew Clement at the University of Toronto's Faculty of Information and The New Transparency: Surveillance and Social Sorting project led by David Lyon at Queen's University in Kingston Ontario. Both projects are funded by SSHRC.
 

Abstract

How are Canada’s most recent immigrants coping with our workforce’s need for “Canadian experience?” And how do community networks and federal initiatives impact newcomers during their periods of settlement? Through an examination of volunteer interactions at Vancouver Community Network (VCN), this thesis responds to both of these questions. It demonstrates how this charitable internet service provider offers opportunities for individual newcomers to broaden their technical and communication skills as well as their social networks, while contributing to the enhancement of social inclusion at VCN. Recent immigrants are established as a technically savvy “alternate civic core,” and indeed major contributors to VCN’s volunteer program.

Based on research conducted in Vancouver during the Spring and Summer of 2005, this thesis incorporates both ethnographic and quantitative methodologies. Findings are analyzed and contextualized by theories from the fields of community informatics (e.g. Gurstein, 2004; Warschauer, 2003), and immigration studies (e.g. Kunz, 2003; Mwarigha, 2002). Further support is drawn from recent scholarship examining relationships between social capital, social inclusion and the use of ICTs (Caidi & Allard, 2005; Scott-Dixon, 2004). Studying the volunteer contributions of recent immigrants to VCN is valuable because it amplifies volunteers’ reflections on gaining “Canadian experience” and broadens awareness of their contributions through civic participation.

This thesis concludes that in Canada, a country where immigration and the economy are functionally intertwined, placing the onus of becoming employable on individual immigrants is increasingly ineffective. Recommendations for further efforts to combine the needs of individuals and their communities with federal policies are proposed.
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We wish to acknowledge the financial support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council for their financial support through theAid to Scholarly Journals Program.

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