Immigrants to Kelowna have a hard time fitting in, says UBC Okanagan study

UBC Okanagan researcher Shirley Chau says immigrants in Kelowna struggled both to find work in their areas of expertise and to achieve a sense of belonging.

Participants said it was hard to have credentials recognized and find a sense of belonging

This photo of a woman in a mask is one of the photos on display at the Alternator Centre for Contemporary Art in Kelowna until Mar. 5. The photo was taken by an immigrant to Kelowna. (UBC Okanagan)

A new study says Kelowna is a difficult city to settle down in for new Canadians.

UBC Okanagan associate professor of social work Shirley Chau says immigrants in Kelowna struggled both to find work in their areas of expertise and to achieve a sense of belonging.

"It puts into question for them whether they made the right move to move across the globe to be here," Chau told Radio West guest host Josh Pagé. "They have a sense of confidence their credentials counted."

"It's very confusing, and if you're a person who's bringing your family with you, you're the mother, you're the father, if you have children, those costs add up in terms of setting up a home and being able to financially support your family."

Chau says she doesn't have a solution to the problems faced by immigrants, but says transition programs and services would be helpful, as would stronger efforts from people established in Kelowna to help newcomers integrate.

Along with her study, Chau asked the participants to take photos of themselves, and those pictures are part of an art display that opened Feb. 26.

Chau says she wanted to use the photos as part of her research as a way to help study participants tell their stories with less of a filter.

"It's a very intentional act, to take pictures that they want to share with the public," she said. "We use those pictures as a way to talk about what those pictures are about, what's behind those pictures, what led them to take those pictures, and in doing so we've had some very emotional stories."

The photos are on display at the Alternator Centre for Contemporary Art in Kelowna until Mar. 5.


To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: UBC-O study says Kelowna immigrants have a hard time fitting in

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