Young newcomers flourish in rural New Brunswick over cities
Efforts made to integrate newcomers with other students, community responsibility made youth feel welcome
Recent research on the youth immigrant experience in New Brunswick has shown newcomers thrive more in rural settings than in big cities.
Stacey Wilson-Forsberg, assistant professor in Human Rights and Human Diversity at Wilfrid Laurier University, explored both Florenceville-Bristol and Fredericton between 2009 and 2010.
She said despite having fewer services available, the students in Florenceville-Bristol flourished.
"They were doing very, very well, but a lot of that has to do with the fact that it was a very homogeneous group," she said.
The youth in Florenceville-Bristol were almost all from Colombia. Wilson-Forsberg said that caused a critical mash between the students.
Research in book
Wilson-Forsberg's research is documented in her book Getting Used to the Quiet: Immigrant Adolescents' Journey to Belonging in New Brunswick, Canada. She said a big part of the rural success was an effort made to keep the immigrant students from forming their own solitary group.
"At the schools … the teachers and the staff made an incredible effort," she said.
"They were really purposeful to really split the youth apart so they couldn't form that group of Spanish-speaking students and make sure that they made friends, New Brunswick-born peers, that they recognized their talents, their strengths … they actually integrated in the community beautifully."
Wilson-Forsberg's interest in immigration and multiculturalism goes back to a trip to Mexico when she was 17-years-old.
"I went through the challenge of trying to learn a new language, of adjusting, some of those experiences that an immigrant youth would go through."
Wilson-Forsberg said she came back home wondering what we could do here to make youth feel welcome.
Fredericton - Florenceville
Her qualitative research was done through interviews and observation, speaking to 25 youth in Fredericton and 13 in Florenceville-Bristol. At the time, that was the entire community of immigrant youth in that area.
Wilson-Forsberg said the community kept it mind it was a one-industry town with McCain Foods and needed to keep immigrant families there, applying that mentality to the community level as well.
"For example, when they did their church services in English, they actually had PowerPoints going on in the background with everything translated into Spanish, so the community itself was taking that initiative [to integrate]."
Wilson-Forsberg said a problem with the Fredericton area had less to do with the size of the city or schools and more to do with lack of initiative by the community itself.
"I think there was almost the idea that other people have the responsibility, so it's not the responsibility of all of us to integrate these people into the community," she said.
"They think, 'Well, they have their English-as-a-second-language class and they have the multicultural association, so there's not really much that we have to do.' Perhaps more initiative needs to be taken but absolutely it can be replicated in a city."
With files from Shift