New from Surrey LIP: OCOV Update
Tuesday, November 10, 2015

By: Melissa Roberts, Project Coordinator

The Our Community, Our Voice Refugee (OCOV) Integration and Settlement Research Project began in March 2015, with completion in early Spring 2016. The project is being funded by the City of Surrey (via the City’s Local Immigration Partnership, which is funded by Citizenship and Immigration Canada [CIC]) and is primarily being run out of SFU Surrey.

The principal researchers include Stephen Dooley, Executive Director of SFU Surrey; Sharalyn Jordan, Faculty Member of Counselling Psychology/Faculty of Education at SFU; Nathalie Gagnon, Faculty Member of Criminology at KPU; and Tara Holt, Principal of Invergarry Adult Education Centre, Surrey School District. 

Additionally, the project employs a project coordinator, Melissa Roberts (an MA Graduate from SFU, 2010) and 12 research assistants (3 from SFU; 2 from KPU; and 7 community research assistants). What makes this project unique is all the community research assistants have lived refugee experience and come from Burma/Myanmar, Somalia, Iraq, and El Salvador. In addition, all of the research assistants are fluent in at least one more language than English, including Karen, Swahili, Arabic, Spanish, and Somali. This allows the participants to share their experiences and opinions in their own language which provides a level of comfort and authenticity.

Further to this, the OCOV project is based on the Active Community Engagement Model, developed by Stephen Dooley, which seeks to build capacity in the community throughout the course of the research project. The project is designed to directly engage community stakeholders, Surrey’s civic and community leadership, and refugees themselves through its inclusive research process. The OCOV project has a 22-person Advisory Committee with representatives from numerous community organizations including:

  • Simon Fraser University
  • Kwantlen Polytechnic University
  • Surrey School District (#36)
  • City of Surrey
  • DIVERSEcity Community Resources Society
  • ISS of BC
  • Fraser Health Authority
  • Options Community Services
  • Pacific Community Resources Society
  • Progressive Intercultural Community Services Society (PICS)
  • Semihamoo House Society
  • S.U.C.C.E.S.S. Immigrant Settlement & Integration Program
  • Surrey Libraries
  • Surrey RCMP

From what we have heard so far in our community consultation and focus groups, refugee settlement and integration is a highly complex issue. This complex issue is far too much for one organization to tackle on their own. The project brings together 14 organizations and institutions (in Surrey), which allows for the identification of challenges, opportunities, and barriers that are common and/or different to each organization, particularly focusing on the refugee-serving organizations.

The collaborative approach is highly beneficial for the City of Surrey as we hope to identify the most important issues relating to refugee settlement and integration in Surrey by bringing together the organizations that serve refugees in our community on a daily basis. This provides a holistic and more complete picture of what is happening in Surrey and how we can work collaboratively to respond to those challenges and barriers.

Further to this, the OCOV project is an opportunity for knowledge sharing and potentially could lead to revision of strategic goals/priorities and/or allocation of resources; could improve advocacy to various levels of government; provide an opportunity communicate with the community about needs/interest levels; and lastly, it is a call for action to the community for innovation, involvement, and support.

The goal of the project is to establish the challenges, barriers, and opportunities for refugees settling in Surrey. Additionally, we hope to identify solutions, actions, and practices that will improve the integration and inclusion of refugees with the Surrey Community. As a result, the findings of this project will help inform the City of Surrey to aid in the development of a strategic plan regarding refugees and immigrants living in the Surrey community.

The key research questions are:

  1. What are settlement barriers faced by refugees and how are they being addressed in Surrey? Are there Surrey-specific settlement barriers that can be addressed?
  2. How do existing settlement practices support refugee integration into Surrey and are there gaps in services that need to be addressed?
  3. As the largest recipient of refugees in the province, what level of understanding and awareness do civic stakeholders have of refugees?
  4. What constitutes community settlement planning for refugees and how does it impact or support refugees? How does it impact or support the community?
  5. Are refugee settlement supports coordinated in Surrey to the maximum benefit of the community and the refugees themselves? What needs to be done?

    The OCOV Project is a collaborative effort of many committed people. What makes the project so special is the research assistants and their dedication to fostering the development of community within their own cultural groups and Surrey as a whole. Here are reflections from three OCOV research assistants outlining what it means for them to be able to participate in the project.

Read about the reflections made by Refugee/Student Research Assistants and posted on our Surrey Blog page.