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Immigrant women and community development in the Canadian Maritimes: outsiders within? (1).

Abstract: Although immigrant women are often outsiders within Canadian communities and peripheral, at best, in the literature on community development, this paper argues that they make important contributions to community development thereby improving their own individual lives and those of others in Canadian society. Following a qualitative analysis of forty semi-structured interviews conducted in two major Maritime cities, we derive what community means for immigrant women from the organizations in which they participate and the issues that they embrace, as we analyze their contributions to community development in the Maritime region of Canada. Based upon abroad definition of community development to encompass not only community-development motivated actions but also other-motivated, non-paid organizational participation, our findings reveal that even if the immigrant women's motives for organizing may be individualistic, driven by narrow, practical needs, their involvement with others in groups and organi zations has broader social consequences. Furthermore, some Maritime immigrant women's narratives indicate that individualistic motives may evolve, overtime and with experience, into addressing gender, ethnic/race, class and immigrant status inequalities and collective organizing for social change.

Resume: Bien que les femmes immigrantes soient souvent des etrangeres dans des communautes canadiennes et, dans le meilleur des cas, marginalisees dans la litterature sur le developpement des communautes, cet article soutient qu'elles font des contributions importantes au developpement des communautes, en ameliorant leur vie individuelle et celle des autres dans la societe canadienne. Une analyse qualitative de quarante interviews a demi-structurees qui ont eu lieu dans deux villes principales des Maritimes nous pemiet de deriver Ce que la communaute signifie pour les femmes immigrantes a travers leur participation a des organisations et a travers les questions qui leur sont importantes. Nous analysons egalement leurs contributions au developpement des communautes dans la region des Maritimes du Canada. En se basant sur une definition generale du developpement des communautes -- definition qui englobe non seulement une participation benevole motivee par le developpement des communautes, mais egalement celle m otivee par des raisons individualistes--nos conclusions revelent que meme si les motifs des femmes immigrantes sont de nature individualiste, pour repondre a des necessites pratiques et immediates, leur implication avec d'autres groupes et organisations ont des repercussions sociales sur un plan plus large. De plus, quelques narrations des femmes immigrantes des Maritimes, indiquent que les motifs individualistes peuvent evoluer avec le temps et l'experience pour adresser des questions portant sur l'inegalite du genre, l'inegalite raciale et ethnique, le statut des immigrants et l'organisation collective pour le changement social.


Research indicates that immigrant women of various socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds have been instrumental, historically and currently, in community organizing -- including involvement and leadership in the social construction of ethnic community institutions -- in order to overcome barriers of participation and to improve their lives, and those of others in society (Burnet, 1986; Das Gupta, 1986; Gabaccia, 1994; Schwartz Seller, 1994). In this paper we conceptualize immigrant women's organizing in order to achieve change in their lives and/or in the lives of others as community (social) development and we argue that immigrant women have made important and largely overlooked contributions to community development in Canada. More specifically, we analyze immigrant women's contributions to community development by drawing upon data from the Maritime region of Canada (the Maritimes). (2)

Furthermore, we do not start from an a priori definition of community but rather derive what it means for the immigrant women participants themselves, from the organizations they participate in and the issues they embrace. (3) On this basis we conclude that immigrant women's "community" is the broader Canadian society they live in (on the local, national, and sometimes transnational levels involving activity in Canada that advances transnational causes), rather than merely a narrow circle of friends and compatriots. Even when they are first motivated by practical, personal interests in their new society, by virtue of associating and working with others in groups and organizations, their actions have a social impact far beyond their original intentions. In other cases, they seem to expand, over time and with experience, into broader social issues. Regardless of how they define "community" and of the practical or strategic interests that motivate them to organize, immigrant women are present, active, and often leaders in collective organizing for social change.

More specifically, this paper analyzes empirical research data that explore (i) how immigrant women are involved in various types of organizations in the urban structures of the Maritimes; and (ii) from their own perspective why immigrant women are involved in organizing. Although immigrant women sometimes shift back and forth between unpaid and paid work in community organizations or get involved as volunteers in order to expand their employment options by acquiring "Canadian experience," "organizing" in this paper refers to unpaid community work.

Canada's population is largely immigrant based. The majority of immigrants came after World War II (Kubat, 1993). Until 1962 Canadian immigration policies were racist, and favoured European groups by systematically creating barriers for non-European immigrants (Kubat, 1993; Agnew, 1996). In 1967 immigration policies were changed to remove racial biases in favour of more equitable criteria that would allow inclusion of all potential immigrants who met the requirements "regardless of nationality and country of origin" (Agnew, 1996: 113). As a result of these policies, many people from non-European countries have since immigrated to Canada. Although racial barriers have been removed, the current immigration policy creates a class bias by favouring middle and upper-middle class immigrants.

Traditionally, regardless of country of origin, immigration has occurred in "waves." (4) The first "waves" of mostly European immigration occurred between 1881 and 1892. The second waves of mostly European immigrants occurred between 1905 and 1915. During the 20th century, many more waves of immigration occurred, with 1957, 1966 and 1974 being peak years with more than 200,000 immigrants annually moving to Canada. Since the mid 1980s the immigration levels have steadily increased to a level of roughly a quarter of million people moving to Canada annually (CIC Statistics, 1996). In the 1990s sightly less than two million people moved to Canada. In the meantime, the countries of origin of the immigrants have changed. While in the first part of the 20th century most immigrants came from Europe, in the later part of this century, the majority of immigrants have come from Asia (Immigrants in Canada, 1990)

Based on the percentage of foreign-born as a total of the population, the Maritime provinces of Canada -- Nova Scotia (with a total population of 950,000 people), New Brunswick (with 755,000), and Prince Edward Island (with 138,000) -- are not a preferred destination. In 1991, 4.5% of the Nova Scotia and 3.5% of the New Brunswick population indicated that they were foreign born; the rate for Canada was 16% (Badets and Chui, 1996). The Maritime provinces have been among the poorest regions of Canada, with higher unemployment rates than the Canadian average. In 1998, for example, while the latter stood at 8.3%, Nova Scotia had an unemployment rate of 10.7% and New Brunswick a rate of 12.1%. As a result, historically, a lot of outmigration has been taking place toward Central and Western Canada.

Conceptual and Theoretical Considerations

Immigrant Women

The term "immigrant women" is a bifurcated one as it describes a legal as well as a social status in Canada. An immigrant woman is a person who has acquired permanent residency status in Canada. This status provides her with many of the same rights as Canadian citizens. However, her social status is another thing entirely. As Ng and Estable (1987) observe, the term "immigrant woman" is socially constructed and rooted in the economic and legal processes of our society, which in turn reflect sexist, racist and class biases. The common sense usage of "immigrant woman" generally refers to women of colour; it includes women from southern Europe and developing countries, women who do not speak English well, and women who retain lower positions in the occupational hierarchy (Ng and Estable, 1987: 29; Ng, 1990: 185; Szekely, 1990: 127). It is important to recognize, however, that in the Maritimes many immigrant women are white, and regardless of their ethnic background, may have a good mastery of the English language . In this study, however, we wish to focus on immigrant women who meet the following two criteria: (a) have permanent resident status and (b) belong to a "visible minority" group or do not speak English well (5) or speak it with an accent other than British, American or Australian.

Community, Development, Community Development

While both concepts of "community" and "development" are rather old in social science literature, the concept of community development is a relatively more recent one (Cary, 1986: 32), on which however there is an growing, analytically insightful literature, as attested by the research published in the Community Development Journal. In this section we draw the links between the concepts of "community," "development," and "community development" and theorize about immigrant women's diverse activities to overcome barriers of participation and to improve their lives in Canadian society as community development.

Although immigrant and ethnic minority women's lives and activities (Demos and Segal, 1994; Gabaccia, 1994; Lamphere, 1987; Schwartz Seller, 1994) and especially ethnic-specific activities (Draper and Karlinsky, 1986; Epp and Epp, 1986; Kaprielian, 1986; Petroff, 1986; Polyzoi, 1986; Swyripa, 1993; Tastsoglou, 1997) have often been the focus of research, immigrant women's activities in the construction of communities (ethnic and other) are rarely conceptualized as community development. Tania Das Gupta's study (1986) of community development by immigrant women in Ontario is rather exceptional in making that important link of conceptualizing immigrant women's collective activity as community development. In the same vein but less explicit is Mary Pardo's study of Mexican American women (1991).

As Lotz (1998) argues, "community" is one of the most elusive terms in sociology and largely by now without specific meaning. Although there are many definitions of community, we have identified five broad approaches in the social science literature. Community in the classical sociological tradition is taken in the pastoral conception of a small town or village where a traditional society is still to be found (Chekki, 1986). This conception is epitomized in Ferdinand Toennies' Gemeinsehaft (1963), the communal society, small in size and intricately connected by non-contractual social bonds, mutual obligations and common social identity among individual members. According to this tradition, community, is conceived as both a locality and a form of solidarity among individuals. According to a second sociological conception, community is primarily a symbolic and social construction (though it may have a spatial aspect too) that serves as a referent of people's identity (Cohen, 1985). In this second conception, co mmunity includes experiences, spaces, rituals and all that is meaningful to a group of people. The experience or community is where one learns and continues to practice how to be "social," that is, where one learns "how things are done around here and becomes part of the system that ensures that things are done that way. It is where one acquires culture" (Cohen, 1985).

A third approach to community comes from a network perspective. In their study of East York in the late 1960s, Wellman, Carrington and Hall conceptualized East Yorkers' networks as personal communities. According to them, the social essence of community lies in neither locality nor solidarity, but in the ways in which networks of informal relations fit persons and households into social structures. Their approach focuses attention on the characteristics of "community ties," i.e., informal links of companionship and mutual aid and patterns formed thereupon (1988: 131). Adjusting our lens on immigrant women, we might say that immigrant women's networks (of informal relations) constitute their communities. In the case of immigrant women, networks (i) provide "havens" (i.e., a sense of belonging); (ii) they provide "band-aids," that is, emotional aid and small services to help immigrant women cope with the stresses and strains of their current structural locations; and (iii) the outward linkages of networks provi de immigrant women with ladders to change their situations (i.e., jobs, houses) and levers (politics, lobbying instruments) to change their social locations (Wellman et al. 1988: 175). In terms of the social composition of networks then, they may start from immigrant core groups and extend all the way to the surrounding and mainstream society.

Yet a fourth conception of community derives from the development literature and treats community as an indispensable social condition of development. According to this approach, development cannot take place unless people mobilize themselves, inquire, decide and take initiatives on their own to meet their needs. For some, such mobilization is even an end in itself for development to be achieved (Rahman, 1993; Martinussen, 1997). This perspective on development comes mainly from alternative theories of Third World development, which place the issue of development squarely in people's hands as opposed to mainstream theories that put it in the hands of the bureaucratic and technocratic planners of the state or other development agencies. Development is thus conceptualized as that which the people feel as their need, which they mobilize around, and take action to address (McMichael, 2000; Sachs, 1993). In this fourth conception, community and development are obviously linked, and community constitutes a major ce ntre of reference in the search for alternative development. Nevertheless, the concept of community is not explicitly defined but taken unproblematically in the sense of "people" living in a certain locality and mobilizing themselves.

The last stream of literature that makes use of the concept of community lies in the literature on co-operatives and community-based economic development. The idea of cooperation can be traced to ancient societies (the Babylonian era, ancient China, and so forth), the European Middle Ages, the early Industrial Revolution, early North American co-operative societies, the Chartist and socialist movements, as well as various cooperative experiments throughout the contemporary world (Dreyfuss, 1973: 2-8). George Melnyk (1985) identifies four ideal types of co-operatives, historically and in the contemporary world: those following the "liberal democratic" (or social democratic) tradition, the "Marxist," the "Socialist," and finally the "communalist" tradition. Such experiences and experiments are based on a different combination of the principles of economic survival and social idealism (6) and have had historically varying degrees of economic success and social relevance, ranging from human service oriented utopi an communities, to large, financially successful, market-driven cooperatives. Depending on the specific combination of these two principles, co-operative experiments have had differing conceptions of community, ranging from a simple locality, where people organize themselves for economic success and are led by capitalist business sense, to a group of people living in a certain area, owning together, working together, and, in addition, tied together by all sorts of freely chosen and philosophically-based social bonds, mutuality and caring for one another, i.e. "community" in the sense of solidarity (Digby, 1965; Infield, 1971; Casselman, 1952; for applied recent studies see MacAulay, 2001; Popple and Redmond, 2000).

Drawing largely upon the last two perspectives, Chekki (1986) argues that community development evolved from economic, social and political development theorizing, with the objective of initiating, giving direction to and sustaining community action. Community development seems to entail "efforts to mobilize the people who are directly affected by a common condition ... into groups and organizations to enable them to take action on social problems and issues that affect them" (Cary, 1986: 39). The community development literature encompasses a whole range of "community organization practice" (community work) models, ranging from "locality development" to social planning approaches, to social action ones, including "class-based community action," "feminist community action," and "community action from a black perspective" (Dominelli, 1990; Rothman, 1984 [19701: 25-45). Such models differ in terms of goals of community work, strategies, philosophies, conception of practitioners and clients, orientation toward p ower structures and other important parameters. More recently, the role of community work has been increasingly conceived as "activating citizenship" by allowing previously excluded voices to be heard and respected in a renewed democratic polity (Shaw and Martin, 2000: 410).

Thus, in general terms, we can say that the central ethos of community development is to facilitate the process of a community's acquisition of expertise and resourcefulness to solve its own problems in the short and long term. Through acquisition of the necessary expertise, increasing numbers of members take part in community development activities, thereby bringing in a set of conditions for change and wider democratic participation (Cohen, 1985; Rabman, 1993; Chekki, 1986; Shaw and Martin 2000). Das Gupta's sociological definition of community development is in this very vein, but, in addition, applied to immigrant women specifically. It entails "specific efforts in community work, which are aimed at enabling immigrant women to bring about change in their lives, as women, as immigrants, ... not individually, but as community" (1986: 12).

It is important to note at the outset that a great deal of the literature on community development is premised on a "gender-neutral" (7) and culturally homogeneous picture of community, (8) and this is problematic when dealing with immigrant women where diversity is a given. The major theoretical challenge in community development and immigrant women then becomes which "community" are we talking about? Who defines such a community? Does it include immigrant women only, all immigrants, ethnic-specific communities or local Canadian communities where immigrants live and participate in various degrees? While we agree with Wharfs (1997: 7) broad definition of community as including both communities of interest and geographic areas, our approach is rather empirical. Instead of starting with a priori definition, we understand what "community" is for immigrant women from the issues they embrace and the organizations they get involved in. In this paper we conceptualize immigrant women's organizing in order to achieve personal and community change as community (social) development. We also argue, based on data collected in the Maritimes, that immigrant women have made important but largely overlooked contributions to community development. Even when they are originally motivated by personal interests in their new society of residence, as is often the case, by virtue of associating and working with others into groups and organizations, they expand into broader and more general-impact issues, sometimes even working towards strategic changes in the Canadian society at large.

Therefore, while we are in support of the main thrust of Das Gupta's definition of community development for immigrant women as purposive development of the collectivity, i.e. the community, by immigrant women, we considered necessary, in the context of the unanticipated consequences of human action in general, and in view of our findings in that regard in particular, to extend the scope of the original definition of community development by including the whole range of motives leading to community participation. Thus, instead of focusing on women's actions explicitly intended for community change, we also include women's personal motives for community organizing and their impact on the community. (9) Even if immigrant women start out organizing motivated by practical, individual needs and interests, from the moment they are involved in groups, their actions often go far beyond their original needs. This transformation may affect the entire "community" that the group serves or represents. In addition, the wom en may become exposed to or construct with others wider frames of analysis and interpretation of actions, which target strategic group needs. Thus, even if the original (or only) mobilization may be for individual reasons, the change brought about may be felt by the entire community. Thus expanding the definition of community development by including both communally-motivated and individualistically-motivated actions, we bridge the gap between the collectivist conceptions of community and the individualistic ones. (10)

Immigrant women make important contributions to community development in the Maritimes through their multiple forms of organizing and the diversity of issues they embrace. While they often start getting involved in organizations and issues around "practical" gender and immigrant status needs, many move beyond them to address "strategic" needs. Maxine Molyneux (cited in Karl, 1995) coined the terms "practical" and "strategic" gender needs deriving from "gender interests." "Gender interests" are those interests that women (or men) may develop by virtue of their social positioning through gender attributes (Molyneux, 1985: 62-63). Practical gender needs refer to what women require in order to fulfil their roles and tasks; for example, training and access to childcare services. Strategic gender needs, on the other hand, refer to what women require in order to overcome their subordination. This distinction however is not always easy to make (Karl, 1995: 97).

Finally, in this paper we adopt an integrated feminist and anti-racist perspective (Dei, 1995; Calliste et al., 1995; Calliste and Dei, 2000). We do not separate gender from race, ethnicity, migrant status or class inequalities. Using gender as a point of entry in analyzing inequality, we look at their "needs" as originating from gender, ethnic/race, immigrant status, as well as class inequalities. Hence, we have expanded Molyneux's original term of "gender needs" to include the intersections of gender with migrant status needs and socially strategic needs.


The larger study on which this paper is based was carried out during the Winter and Spring of 1998 in two Maritime capitals. The research location is significant in the sense of assessing the effects of a rather homogeneous population (with small numbers of immigrants) and limited resources on immigrant women's organizational participation for community development. (11)

Semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted with forty immigrant women by two research assistants. Interviews were taped, transcribed verbatim and the qualitative analysis programme NUD*IST was used to assist in the later phase of the data analysis. Coding was carried out by one researcher and a research assistant in parallel. Although a list of definitions was utilized, as it often happens in qualitative research, cases do not fit neatly and discrepancies in categorizing often occur. Such discrepancies were discussed and adjudicated ad hoc. Although we as researchers tried to stay as close to the participants' voices as possible, the analysis is ours.

Participants were identified through a snowball sampling method. Two screening devices were used to generate our sample. First, in order to ensure that we were making appropriate comparisons, we set certain criteria that our participants had to meet. The participants should be immigrant women (as we defined the term above), having migrated to Canada after the age of 16 and lived in Canada for at least five years. Second, in order to capture all the variations of the same phenomenon (i.e. the immigrant experience), we aimed to select as heterogeneous a group as possible in terms of source country. In addition, we aimed at heterogeneity in terms of the extent of organizational participation though we had great difficulty in finding individuals who were "non-involved." Although we took steps to ensure geographical and ethno-cultural and racial heterogeneity of our informants, their small numbers in this study and their characteristics are not meant to be representative in a strict statistical sense. Thus, it wou ld be inappropriate to attempt to generalize from our observation to all immigrant women in the Maritimes, much less to all immigrant women in Canada.

Participants in the sample met our criteria. (12) Although the women were not selected based on their socio-demographic characteristics, overall they were highly educated, with highly educated spouses and with a higher than average family income. More specifically, their profile was as follows: the average age of the women who participated in this research was 46 years. 29 (73%) out of 40 women were married, seven (17%) were divorced, two (0.5%) were widowed, two (0.5%) were single. The average duration of the marriage of the married women was 19 years. Five (12%) women did not have children. For the women who did, the average number of children was three. The mean age of the children was 21 years.

Out of the 40 women, 17 (42%) worked full-time and 11 (28%) part-time. Twelve women (30%) did not work outside the home. Of the spouses, 19 (65%) worked full-time, three (10%) worked part-time and seven (24%) of the spouses did not work outside the home (the majority of these was retired). The average family income of the 37 participants who reported their annual income was $58,000. (13) Seven (19%) women had family incomes under $20,000 while 11 (30%) of the women reported family incomes between $20,000 and $40,000 annually. Five (14%) women had family incomes between $40,000 and $60,000 annually. Seven (19%) women reported a family income between $60,000 and $80,000 and seven others (19%) reported a family income over $100,000 per year. Comparing with the average family income in 19995 (14) in either New Brunswick ($ 45,000; for the city of Saint John specifically $49,138) orNova Scotia ($50,190; for the city of Halifax specifically $54,241), the average family income of these women is higher, though for ab out half of them (or 49%) the average family income is well below average (i.e. below $ 40,000).

The majority (68% = n 27) of the women indicated that they had a religious affiliation (no questions about religiosity were asked). The women and their spouses had a high overall educational attainment. Eleven (28%) of the women had a high school diploma or less, 15 (37%) had finished an undergraduate degree, ten (25%) had completed a post graduate degree and four (10%) women had completed a medical degree or a PhD. The spouses' educational attainment was even higher. Of the spouses only five (17%) had a high school or less education. Five (17%) spouses had completed an undergraduate degree, and six (21%) completed a Master's degree. 13 (or 45%) of the spouses had a PhD or medical degree.

On average, the women came to Canada 16 years ago. Of the 40 women, 29 (73%) indicated that they spoke English adequately or fluently, and only two (5%) indicated that their English language skills were non existent upon arrival. Only two (5%) women were fluent in French upon arrival and six (15%) women were able to speak some French upon arrival. Of the 40 women, 14 (35%) were Caucasian women and 26 (65%) were visible minorities. (15)

Organizational Forms and Issues

Immigrant women have been involved in a number of different types of organizing, ranging from formal organizations to taking on specific political, civic, cultural and other issues on behalf of others not necessarily originating in the same ethnic group. This section of our paper analyzes the various organizational forms and categories of issues that the immigrant women of our study embraced as well as the extent of their involvement in order to argue that "community" for them is, besides their own personal (16) and ethnic communities, by and large, the broader Canadian society. (17)

First, more than one-fourth (n 14) of the immigrant women of this study are involved in ethnic-specific organizations in various degrees of activity, ranging from leadership roles to mere membership and occasional participation. Such organizations may be of three general types: (i) mixed-gender, cultural-social organizations; (ii) women's auxiliaries of ethnic-specific organizations; and (iii) ethnic-specific organizations with explicit political aims in the country of origin, i.e. doing what Stasiulis (1997) has termed "homeland politics." A couple of women are even involved in ethnic-specific organizations without being members of that particular ethnic group themselves. The majority of the women involved in ethnic organizing have been in Canada for over ten years, with only four of them having lived in Canada a little less than ten years. The majority have at least one university degree with only three of the participants having high school or less. More than half (n 8) of these women did not work or worke d part-time at the time of the interview.

A second type of organizations that immigrant women are involved in are mainstream (18) religious organizations. About one-fourth of women (n 12) in our study are involved in such organizations or communities of faith. All of these take active roles of various kinds in the congregations, ranging from organizing singing performances to branching off into working for various social issues. One woman is a volunteer in both an Anglican and a Catholic church. If we include in the religious organizations the ethno-religious ones, then a higher proportion of women (n 15) in our study are involved in this category of organizations. Women's educational level as well as years of stay in Canada vary widely within this category of organizing, with two women only having the equivalent or less of a high school education. The majority of this group's women (n 8) did not work or worked part-time at the time of the interview.

Another type of organizations that about three quarters (n 28) of this study's participants have been active in are multi-ethnic and multicultural organizations. Here belong three different types of organizations: mixed-gender, multicultural or multi-ethnic organizations; visible minority or immigrant women's organizations; and mixed-gender organizations explicitly fighting racism. In this broad category of organizations we find a mix of older and more recent immigrants. Only six out of twenty-eight members of this category have a high school education or less. The remainder vary from a B.A. to a Ph.D. Less than half (n 12) of this group's women did not work or worked part-time at the time of the interview.

A relatively limited number of this study's participants (n 6) belong to panethnic (19) organizations (e.g. Asian Women's Support Group, the United African Canadian Women's Association, the African Students' Association). Reasons possibly explaining the low numbers might be the existence of several ethnic-specific groups in Nova Scotia attracting immigrants of specific origins, and the great popularity of multicultural, multi-ethnic ones, especially in New Brunswick. With one exception, all of the women in this category are older immigrants, having stayed in Canada for a number of years. They all have at least one university degree. Half of these women (n 3) did not work or worked part-time at the time of the interview.

Furthermore, immigrant women are involved in certain other types of organizing that are non- immigrant and non-ethnic (multi-ethnic or panethnic) but deal with broader social issues in Canada. Such organizations are political, cultural, women's and civic organizations. Political organizations (four participants) include in this project the following: (1) organizations connected with the formal (electoral) political process in Canada (e.g. political parties); (2) organizations consisting of Canadian-born citizens working in coalition with others for political change elsewhere (e.g. an anti-apartheid coalition, or a Latin American solidarity group); and (3) peace activism. The category of cultural organizations (four participants), includes all organizations that deal with broad cultural issues (e.g. an art gallery) with the exception of multicultural ones. Eight participants were active in women's organizations. (20) In order to avoid overlap, such organizations here exclude immigrant, ethnic, panethnic, and r eligious women's groups. Civic organizations (twenty-five participants) include, for example, professional associations, parent-teacher associations, neighbourhood groups, the home-schooling association, and the YMCA. With three exceptions the women who participate actively in political, cultural, women's or other civic organizations have stayed in Canada for over ten years or have come to Canada from or via other English-speaking countries (white South African women or via the U.S.). Their education varies widely, from high school to Ph.D. The majority (n 25) of this broad category's women did not work or worked part-time at the time of the interview.

Lastly, immigrant women have been involved in organizing for specific issues without necessarily being members of organizations. Such issues may be volunteering English lessons to other immigrant women, fighting for justice in discrimination cases, fund-raising for libraries and for the preservation of an old church, helping with professional accreditation of refugees, giving workshops to the police about racism, and so forth. Some women mentioned that they are afraid of the time commitment involved in membership in organizations, but, depending on the cause, they often volunteer for specific issues or events (e.g. cooking to fund-raise for the church). Three out of the twelve participants in this group have a high school education (or less). Half of this group's members (n 6) did not work or worked part-time at the time of the interview.

In conclusion, the two largest categories of organizations where the immigrant women are mostly active are the multi-ethnic and multicultural and the civic organizations. It is also within these two categories that participants have the highest number of activities and where the higher number of participants with multiple activities can be found. "Activity" here means organizational participation either in a leadership role or highly committed role, or as a simple member occasionally participating in events (or simply receiving services). "Activity" may also signify multiple and diverse tasks that members of a single organization may perform (especially in the case of religious organizations that run social programs and so forth). If we combine the category of civic organizations together with women's, political and cultural ones, we can safely say that the immigrant women of this study are heavily involved in wider social and political issues (at the local, national and possibly transnational levels (21)) an d in multicultural organizations rather than in ethnic organizations' activities and issues alone. Such broader involvement stretches the boundaries of relevant "community" beyond a specific ethnocultural community or (as in das Gupta's work) an "immigrant women's community." All of these issues define the range of the meaning of "community" (or the multiple and overlapping communities) for the immigrant women participants as the broader social milieu of the country they live in, in some cases even with transnational links.

While this last finding may suggest that the immigrant women of this study are well integrated into the larger/mainstream community, a framework based on Raymond Breton's work on institutional completeness (1964) also might help account for why only a limited number of activities are enclosed within a "narrow" ethnic community, as the number of members per community in the Maritimes remains small. Ultimately however, the concept of institutional completeness cannot account for why the numbers of immigrant women participants in non-multicultural organizations are also very high. While one might expect that women who cannot be involved in their own ethnic organization (for lack of one) would resort to the closest type, i.e., a multicultural organization only (a phenomenon that is indeed occurring), the same explanation cannot be utilized to account for high participation in non-multicultural, mainstream organizations.

The nature and extent of immigrant women's organizational "participation" ranges from leadership or highly committed roles to being mere members and occasionally participating in events and activities that suit both their schedule and interests. Out of the forty participants in this study, there is not a single immigrant woman who does not participate in an organization, even on an occasional basis. Although we made efforts to contact "non-involved" women, we were not successful in either city. This simply reflects the fact that totally isolated individual immigrant women cannot be accessed through any of the "normal" recruitment routes in a snowball technique. Thus, from very early on, we had to modify our groups for comparison and look for immigrant women involved in leadership or highly committed roles and immigrant women who were only members and occasional participants in selected events or recipients of services. (22) Only four women fell into that second group. We felt that there were exceptional circu mstances explaining their current limited participation in organizing. One woman was currently a student doing an intensive practicum in the community as part of her study. She had been a teacher in her previous career, spending time advising her students much beyond the call of duty. Another woman was a member of an ethnic organization, occasionally actively involved and helping out selectively with particular events. Another had been a relatively recent refugee, while the last of the four had been busy working as an independent immigrant to sponsor her fiancd, and later had small children to raise. These last two of the four women mentioned were participating in multi-cultural organizations as recipients of services only.

Of the remaining 36 women, three more played leadership roles in a single organization. Finally, the majority of the immigrant women in this study (n 31) were all involved in at least one activist or highly committed role (and very frequently multiple roles) and various simple memberships in multiple organizations. In sum, immigrant women in this study define their community as the broader Canadian social milieu by virtue of the wide range of social issues they embrace through the organizations they choose to participate. Furthermore, their participation consists primarily in leadership roles or involves high degrees of commitment in order to bring about social change.

Comparing our data on community participation I organizing with the data of the National Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating (Hall et al., 2001) used as a benchmark, we find unusually high levels of participation for our Maritime immigrant women. (23( Overall, the 2000 NSGVP showed that 27% of the population aged 15 and older volunteered during the 1-year period preceding the survey and that this represents a decline from the 31% of the population who volunteered in 1997. Women were slightly more likely to volunteer than men (28% versus 25% respectively) while volunteer rates and hours increased with level of education. Most volunteers were employed and more likely to volunteer were those with part-time jobs. Higher levels of household income increased the likelihood of volunteering. Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have respectively about 34% and 28% volunteer rates in 2000 (a decline from 1997). Participation data reveal that men rather than women had higher membership and participation rates (53% versus 48%). Employment increased the probability of participating. Nova Scotia had one of the highest rates (57%) for 2000, representing a slight increase comparing with 1997 data, while New Brunswick had a 49% participation rate in 2000, representing a slight increase from 1997. Ethnicity does not figure as a variable in this survey. Our 75% (approximately) participation rate of immigrant women in both provinces combined, comparing with 57% and 49% for N.S. and N.B. respectively in the survey (no gender-differentiation is included here), might be explained by the non-representativeness of our sample, by the fact that our Maritime immigrant women, more than their Canadian-born counterparts nationally, are both highly educated and underemployed, i.e. have the profile of those more likely to volunteer and participate or by a number of other reasons that we are identifying in the following section of this paper.

Why Do Immigrant Women Organize?

The purpose of this section is to analyze the various reasons / motives (24) for immigrant women's organizing in order to demonstrate that even if the original goals of organizing are individualistically motivated and driven by practical interests, by virtue of the environment where they are implemented (i.e. groups and organizations), they have a broader social impact and / or, in some cases, they become over time more collective and driven by strategic interests for social change. Community development for immigrant women may not always be an original end; on the contrary, it may start as development of personal communities for individualistic goals and due to practical needs and unfold into community development for social change in the process. Our exploration of the various categories of reasons / motives and accounts of their evolution illustrates this claim.

The goals for immigrant women's organizing are almost as diverse as the women who participated in the research. Nevertheless some general patterns can be discerned from the interview material which can help us establish the main reasons of immigrant women's organizing. Immigrant women organize around religious, political, cultural, ethnic, civic, personal and work-related or professional issues. Motives for organizing are neither unique nor do they exist in isolation from one another. (25) On the contrary, they are multiple and often intertwined. One of the most frequently mentioned motives for participation, be it in an ethnic-specific, a multicultural or a mainstream setting, was to socialize and to meet others. This, of course, is understandable considering the fact that many immigrant women do not have an extended family or a preexisting circle of non-family support. One of the most important reasons why immigrant women move to the Maritimes is to accompany their husbands or other family members who have secured ajob (28 out of 40). (26) A small group of immigrant women came to the Maritimes as refugees. The choice of location, the Maritimes, is often not a preferred one but dictated by the sponsor or the settlement program.

Social Reasons for Organizing

For many research participants, involvement in groups and community activities had the simple goal of "getting out of the house" and breaking the isolation. As one woman put it: "I like to see people and talk to them. It is good to get out of the house too anyway, otherwise, the cooking and cleaning all the time and, especially when the kids were small ..." (A33). Another immigrant woman stated that volunteering has played a very positive role in her life. "I mean, it's ninety percent of our social life" (A15). In the words of another woman involvement has "given me a lot of support. Since I am away from my family, I have been isolated. It relieves that isolation" (A1). Involvement has provided her with friends and a "family." Making friends seems to be a very important step towards social integration (Miedema and Tastsoglou, 2000: 86).

Again another woman, who has been very involved with immigrant women organizing, first as a volunteer and later as a paid employee, got involved with a multicultural organization because she felt lonely and out of place after she had moved. When she moved from a large metropolitan, multicultural area to a Maritime city, she noticed few visible minority people on the streets. "I did not see another visible minority person for three days. I thought: 'my God, why did I do this?"' (A35). On a public bulletin board, she noticed an invitation for a meeting from a multicultural group, and she contacted it. The contact person happened to be from the same cultural background as the participant. She was warmly welcomed and this personal contact and the multicultural group made her feel "connected" and she has been involved in multicultural organizing ever since (A35). Although such motives seem highly "personal" in the sense that women like A15 and A35 appear to be taking care of a very personal need, from the moment t hey become involved in a multicultural organization, they become part of an advocacy group lobbying for services that cater to the entire multicultural community, i.e. they work for social change.

Religious Reasons for Organizing

Another very important issue for organizing among immigrant women was religion. For a number of immigrant women their most significant volunteer work was done through their faith communities. They would bake for their faith community, be lay ministers or be involved in any regular faith community activity such as attending services and celebrating major religious events. However, many women would not only engage in activities beneficial to their religious community, but would also organize events to help mainstream volunteer organizations such as the Breast Cancer Society or the Alzheimer Association, motivated by their religious beliefs. The women would also mobilize their faith communities to be involved not only in secular activities by helping community based organization, but, in some cases, to be pro-active in helping certain groups. For example, one woman stated that her church sponsored "boat people," an initiative "I spearheaded" (A18). Thus, faith provided a link between religious and mainstream civ ic organizing in this two-fold manner.

Several Christian faith communities are not ethnic-specific and are established religious institutions; such Christian churches were usually established by the early colonizers. These denominations' members' countries of origin could be in Africa, Europe or Asia. Others however, including some other faith communities have much closer links to a specific ethnic group. Sikhism, for example, is almost exclusively practised by members of the Sikh community. The Greek Orthodox church in Canada includes primarily (but not exclusively) ethnic Greeks. Religious reasons for organizing are often intertwined with the "social" and the "ethnic." Although the primary reason for immigrant women to get involved with their faith communities was religious, some other important goals were to socialize and make friends or to maintain a particular culture; these -reasons and goals have been observed before in sociological literature (Etzioni, 1959). Organizing, in any event, went much further than narrow personal motives behind i t. Driven by faith, or the need to make friends, or maintain their culture, the immigrant women in this group catered for the poor, the downtrodden, the refugees, and the needy, contributing to social change towards a more caring and compassionate society.

"Ethnic" Reasons for Organizing

Another important and complex motive for immigrant women's organizing was what we term "ethnic" reasons. More specifically, this motive for organizing encompasses three distinct sub-categories: acceptance, ethnic identity retention and advocacy. Many immigrant women felt that ethnic-specific group members were aware of the issues newcomers face, and that therefore they could expect appropriate assistance. Furthermore, they hoped that these organizations would more easily accept them and see them less as "other."

Second, many immigrant women used the ethnic-specific organizations to affirm their ethnic identity and these groups played a large role in the (perhaps limited) ethnic retention process for their children. One African woman stated that her volunteer involvement with a cultural group is intended to help retain cultural characteristic and identities. She states:

We're supposed to be teaching the little, the real young ones, who were born here, to learn our alphabet and our own numbers and our own culture so we're supposed to introduce them to our language, perhaps speak our language, and things like that (Al1).

Another immigrant woman was instrumental in setting up various groups with different focuses in her ethnic-specific organization. For example, more than two decades ago she started language classes for children in their ancestral language, because "everyone should know their mother tongue" (A36). She also became involved in programs to break immigrant women's isolation and later on she was involved in setting up programs for seniors in her community. In fact, her volunteer work has followed somewhat the life cycle of her community. Women like her may start their activities by trying to cater to immediate personal needs, yet the impact of the programs they assist in may be felt by the entire ethnic community and the larger Canadian society (e.g. language programs, seniors programs, daycares).

Finally, many immigrant women used the ethnic-specific groups for advocacy and political activities in a broad sense. Sometimes the "educational" goals of the women focused on their own community, in other cases the focus was on educating the mainstream community. One woman stated that she and her female friends (from the same community) have as their goal to educate other members of their community about equality. She stated that some women in her community fight against "male dominated society" (Al).

So in our own way, ...very subtle way, not in a combative way, in a very subtle way, non-assertive, we do not just go there and demand .... you know. We work and show them that we are capable, we can do it (Al).

"Ethnic reasons" for organizing are in reality not clear-cut but are intertwined and can lead to other "multicultural" organizing (especially in the latter's dimension of fighting racism, as defined above). Thus, other immigrant women got politically involved in fighting racism because they perceived a need to educate mainstream Canadians. One woman was involved in organizing cultural events within her community that were attended by hundreds of people. The people came to "know who we are and we had something to share with them and they appreciated it" (A27). When her children were later subjected to racism however, she felt something needed to be done and that cultural events do little to break down stereotypes and racism. Reflecting on her past she stated:

I realized that my children were having a problem because of other children, they could see they were treated differently, because they were darker skinned. Some kids called them chocolate chip cookie (A27).

This, she contends, was a "wake-up call" and she decided to "get involved." Over the last thirty years, much of her volunteering has sought to bridge the gap between her community and mainstream society. There is again this apparent dissonance between original motive (personal) and the end-result of organizing with others to address a strategic issue, for example racism.

In other cases, immigrant women merely started volunteering with ethnic-specific organizations and, and with time and experience, their interests unfolded and focused specifically outside the ethnic community. (27) As a result, they expanded their involvement in professional and other issues arising from the multiple roles and circumstances of their lives as women, immigrants, mothers, and paid workers. An immigrant woman (A2) volunteering with an ethnic-specific organization expanded in leading roles in several other organizations. A2 also enjoyed her organizing because it gave her a sense she provided services that were much needed. She stated: "So I became a Canadian citizen by doing community work. A real Canadian citizen by doing community work."

Political Reasons

"Ethnic reasons" for organizing are also intertwined or lead into political organizing, including traditional party politics. As Schwartz Seller (1994) demonstrated about immigrant women in the US, not many immigrant women in the Canadian Maritimes were involved in formal political organizations either. Of the few however, some had a long history of political involvement in the Maritimes. Sometimes this involvement was motivated by the political situation in the country of origin. The women bring their beliefs and value systems to Canada and continue to fight for social justice issues in their country of origin, either through an ethnic organization, involved in "homeland politics" (Stasiulis 1997), or through a formal political one. This was particularly true for some research participants who had been involved in human rights groups in the country of origin. For example, a woman who was active in her country of origin became active in a number of organizations such as anti-apartheid groups, Amnesty Internat ional and Greenpeace, in Canada. Lately, because of her young family, she was not able to contribute as much as she wanted to these causes. As a result, she decided to take a young South African girl into her home "as a sort of major contribution" (A16) to continue her social justice activities.

Expanding Opportunities for Paid Employment

A number of women got involved in organizations in order to increase their chances for paid employment. It should be noted that that the statistical profile of this study's participants reveals that only in the multicultural / multi-ethnic organizations a majority of women work full-time and, thus, appear to be relatively financially independent. In every other type of organization, the majority of women involved do not work or work part-time. The strategy of being involved in order to increase chances for paid employment turned out to be a useful one for several immigrant women. (28) One woman stated that "I was unemployed for one year, and I tried to do volunteer work with [multicultural organizations], 'cause I just wanted to get out of the house" (A3). Her volunteer job was an attempt to secure employment. However, it was also a good place to meet people: "that was where I met most of the friends" (A3). Interestingly, much of this volunteer activity took place in multicultural organizations. As an attempt to secure employment, volunteer work in multicultural organizations was an individualistic response to an individual woman's employment problem; however, the social nature of the activity had consequences for an entire community of people that the multicultural organization served and for the larger Canadian multicultural society.

In one case the above process was even reversed and an immigrant woman's employment facilitated the process of her getting involved in a multicultural group. This woman was hired by a multicultural group to do some book-keeping. Normally she does not like to do volunteer work, but after she took on the job she stated, "I met so many nice and interesting people and I feel so good about being part of this group. I feel so comfortable among them" (A26). Thus besides her paid work activities, she also has become a volunteer.

Choosing to Represent the Interests of Immigrant Women in Mainstream Groups

This motive for organizing, like the previous ones, does not appear in isolation from other specific interests and involvements. One woman (A 12) was actively involved in a group that helps mentally handicapped children. Although she was also involved with ethnic community groups, her involvement with the mainstream organizations was precipitated by the fact that her own son had a mental handicap. Because of her involvement she has made many acquaintances in the larger community, where she brings an immigrant woman's perspective. Another immigrant woman, who had been sexually abused when she was small, got involved with a sexual abuse survivors' group. Based on her volunteer activity, she was awarded a grant that allowed her to work in her country of origin with survivors of sexual abuse for a two year period. Both women started from personal interest, yet organizing brought them into contact with wider community issues and quests which they subsequently worked for.

No Volunteer Work

A small group of participants did not want to be involved in volunteer work at all. This was not based on ideological reasons but the fact they did not have enough time, which is the first and foremost reason cited why Canadians aged 15 and older do not volunteer or do not volunteer more, according to the NSGVP (Hall et al., 2001: 44). One woman stated that volunteer work would take too much time away from her and her children. She did not want to be put in the position of having to choose between her children and volunteer work. Another woman, who was married to a man who had long working hours, did not want to get involved because "it would mean baby-sitters all the time" (A6). Other women withdrew from volunteering after they had their children. It was just too much to combine volunteering and motherhood. But for some, as soon as their children were to begin school, they intended to volunteer again. One woman volunteered before she had her children, then when her children were born withdrew from volunteeri ng, but when her children were old enough she got involved in these activities again (A30). The group of women who participated in this study and who did not engage in volunteer work at the moment was small. Their lack of involvement was the result of a particular stage in their lives, instead of a principled objection to volunteering.

Another group of women who volunteered in both mainstream and multicultural groups decided to draw back and limit their involvement. One immigrant woman had volunteered in many organizations ranging from cultural associations to guiding families in custody battles. She had to draw back from all this because I did that for close to a year. But it was very, very hard. Mentally it was too ... I'm a very sensitive, so I found it was just very draining because I also had to write reports even though I was volunteering but I just found it was too, too hard to be involved with! (A23)

Another woman had scaled down her volunteer work and was focusing on her business career:

I come to an age, and I have started this business and I have some ambitions for my business. And I found maybe it's about time that I should concentrate because I keep saying, I'd devoted my best fifteen years to immigrant women. I looked after other people's welfare. Eventually, I found I do not even have a pension for myself. I said in the 1990s, I said, I have to stop saying yes to anybody, I'm going to look after my own welfare (A25).

Volunteer groups, especially multicultural ones encounter strife among their members. The problems can be traced to the enormous diversity among members of some multicultural groups. For example, some immigrant women are white and possibly privileged, others are not privileged and may belong to a visible minority group. Some come from countries where women are rather independent and others come from countries were women have to be obedient. All this diversity, which is often deeply rooted in historical and cultural issues, can create difficulties in organizations. Difficulties in communication can lead to conflict. (29) This type of strife discouraged one immigrant woman (A35) from participating in a multicultural group because it contributed to her feeling of burn-out. Such a feeling is for a number of reasons, generally shared by many, including paid, workers in immigrant settlement and multicultural programs and organizations (Lee, 1999: 76).

Other immigrant women who were involved in mainstream groups expressed some disappointment with these groups for the racist ghettoization they experienced inside. Such ghettoization has been documented even among the paid workers of immigrant settlement and multicultural organizations (Lee, 1999:74). One immigrant woman, who represented immigrant women at a national level, stated:

There were few Black and even less Indigenous women and so, it was hard. I thought it was it was mostly lip service ... here we are women, trying to get together for a cause, but they still ... it almost is a hierarchy that exists between women across ... you know the races (A14).


Starting from a conceptualization of immigrant women's organizing in order to achieve change in their lives and in the lives of others as community (social) development, we argue that immigrant women make important and largely overlooked contributions to community development in Canada. More specifically, this paper analyzes the contributions to community development of forty immigrant women in two major urban centres of the Maritime region of Canada through their multiple forms of organizing and diversity of issues they embrace.

While there appears to be an "immigrant women's community" (Das Gupta, 1986), acting as a "unit of action" (Chekki, 1986) though neither in consensus nor assuming everybody's participation (Cary, 1986) nor without class, ethnic and racial divisions (Schwartz Seller,1994; Agnew 1996), we have aimed in this project at acquiring a sense of "community" from the perspective of immigrant women. Thus, we chose to arrive at an empirical understanding of community" for immigrant women from the issues that they embrace and the organizations they join or help found. Such a definition encompasses not only personal communities, ethnic and immigrant communities, but rather the broader Canadian society, including women's communities, immigrant communities, and other communities of interest or specific localities.

Broadening Das Gupta's definition we conceptualize community development to encompass not only communally-motivated actions and end-results but also individualistically-motivated actions of organizational involvement. Community development may well start as development of personal communities by immigrant women, achieved through organizing. Our findings reveal that even if the immigrant women's motives for organizing may be individualistic, driven by narrow, practical" needs, their involvement with others in groups and organizations has broader social consequences and an impact on other individuals and groups in the larger society. In addition, their own individualistic motives may evolve, over time and with experience, from addressing "practical" gender and immigrant status needs to "strategic" gender, social and immigrant status needs. Thus, it appears that immigrant women's communities are multiple and even shifting during the life-course, based on their accounts.

Practical gender and immigrant status interests and needs include obtaining concrete assistance and information in the adjustment process, and making contacts and friends first among their compatriots and in their ethnic groups and later in broader multicultural groups deemed likely to appreciate the difficulties of immigrant life. Furthermore, immigrant women may start from the desire/need of finding employment through "apprenticing" in Canadian immigrant and multicultural organizations which provide a safe opportunity for Canadian work experience. Other such practical needs which motivate immigrant women to organize are the need to help their families preserve a heritage language, the need to fight racism from immediately affecting their children and families or the need to lobby for special services for their children. Some immigrant women make connections among issues and move toward other forms of organizing in order to address strategic gender, social and immigrant status needs. For instance women's equ ality, the anti-violence movement, systemic racism, refugee resettlement, labour issues, aboriginal issues, and, though less frequently, political parties and formal electoral politics. Education, income, work experience, stage in the life-course and the length of stay in Canada appear to have an effect in that transition. (30) In so doing, these immigrant women become empowered persons who "are self-consciously aware of their identity, [and] have control over their lives and resources and are self-reliant participants in processes of development and change" (Ralston, 1995: 122).

(1.) This paper is based on a larger study about immigrant women, organizing and integration in the Maritimes, funded by the Prairie Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Integration (PCERII) (Tastsoglou and Miedema, 2000). An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Atlantic Association of Sociologists and Anthropologists International Conference on "Globalization: Its Dynamics, The Challenge, Strategic Responses" (October 1998, Saint Mary's University, Halifax, N.S.). Special thanks to research assistants Ruramisai Charumbira, Shannon Lemire, and Nadia Stuewer and transcriber Vanessa Croswell-Klettke. While we would like to acknowledge the three anonymous reviewers of the CJS for their helpful comments, we retain full responsibility for the final version of this paper.

(2.) The Maritime region of Canada consists of the provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

(3.) Instead of asking for each woman's personal definition of community which might leave some real communities out for lack of adequate time to reflect on the issue, we eventually preferred a more grounded approach that allowed us to actually infer from the women's actions (involvement) what their communities really were.

(4.) In some years more people immigrate than other years to Canada. This phenomenon creates the image of waves on charts.

(5.) Lack of a translation budget as well as the exploratory nature of this study did not allow us to specifically seek and interview immigrant women who did not speak any English at all. Their overall numbers axe low however. In Nova Scotia 2.2% of immigrant women know neither of Canada's official languages and 2.2% do not speak any English, while for New Brunswick the respective figures are 1.3% and 2.5% (Statistics Canada, 1996 Census, table 94 F0009XDB 96191). For similar reasons, we had no access to immigrant women who are exclusively French speakers. Their overall representation in the two provinces' population is also low: .0007% for Nova Scotia and 1.2% for New Brunswick (Statistics Canada: Selected Demographic and Cultural Characteristics or the Total Population, 1996 Census, table 94 F0009XDB96191).

(6.) Social idealism refers to mutuality. cooperation, and a vision or a humane society.

(7.) Community work is also conceived as gender-neutral despite being deeply gendered (Callahan, 1997). Most of the theorizing and research on community development has been done by men using gendered and racialized lenses. For a critique of such androcentric tendencies, see Patricia Maguire (1987). For exceptions to the rule of androcentric scholarship on the community development literature in Canada, see Tania Das Gupta's above mentioned study; Rusty Neal's Brotherhood Economics (1998), exploring the fascinating history of women's substantial contributions to the co-operative movement in Nova Scotia; Jeri Dawn Wine's and Janice L. Ristock's (1991) edited collection on Women and Social Change. Feminist Activism in Canada; Lena Dominelli's and Eileen McLeod's (1989) Feminist Social Work; and Lena Dominelli's (1990) Women and Community Action. Feminist community organizing has remained on the periphery of community development theory as well, either because, according to Callahan (1997), those who do it, do n ot have the time to write about it, or the feminist academics who write about it find a better reception in the feminist and social movement literature. We argue that the case is even worse when it comes to immigrant women's organizing and the community development theory.

(8.) The Antigonish Movement of the 1930s and 1940s in Nova Scotia was perhaps an exception, in that it recognized the power of ethnic identities and encouraged the formation of cooperatives around long standing ethnic (but also occupational) loyalties (MacInnes, 1997). In addition, there is literature on community development in black communities (Dominelli, 1990), and a beginning literature on this subject in First Nations Communities (Absolon and Herbert, 1997).

(9.) In so doing we are broadening the definition of action (community development) according to Max Weber's various types of human action (Gerth and Mills, 1980). S. M. Miller, Martin Rein and Peggy Levitt (1990) include in their recent typology of community organizing in the U.S. organizing that is based on self-help and mutual aid, i.e. they consider individualistically and practical-interest motivated human action as part of community development.

(10.) By collectivist conceptions we refer to (1) the conception of community deriving from the development literature and (2) that deriving from the literature on co-operatives and community-based economic development. By individualistic conceptions we refer to community as personal network and as referrent for identity.

(11.) Research has shown that immigrant women in the Maritimes are faced with significant problems of adjustment (Miedema and Nason-Clark, 1989; Miedema and Wachholz, 1998; Ralston, 1988, 1991, 1996).

(12.) With the exception of one participant who had been in Canada for a slightly shorter period of time. We decided in favour of including her because of the significance of her testimony in terms of adding important dimensions to our understanding of immigrant women's organizational participation.

(13.) All figures are given in Canadian dollars.

(14.) Census, 1996 (

(15.) More specifically the countries of origin were: Czechoslovakia, Chile, Columbia, Cyprus, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Germany, Guatemala, Haiti, Hungary, Ghana, Greece, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Iran, Lesotho, Nigeria, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Rwanda, Singapore, Slovenia, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, sweden, Taiwan, Trinidad, Turkey, and the farmer Yugoslavia (33 different countries in total).

(16.) Personal communities consist of immediate family and friends (who may come of diverse ethnic backgrounds).

(17.) We do not make a distinction here between various levels of the latter. i.e. local, national, or Canadian-based but with a transnational focus. Our key contrast in this study is between the broader Canadian society and narrow personal or ethnic networks. As other research has indicated (Wilson and Whitmore. 2000). and this study merely points in the same direction, it is the local and transnational levels where people are most centrally involved in community participation.

(18.) Such are, for example, the organizations that have been formed by some Christian denominations and Judaism in the Maritimes. Many of these faith communities started as immigrant places of worship but with increasing numbers of immigrants they have become part of the mainstream. Some of these faith communities have strong ethnic affiliations (e.g. Sikhism. Greek Orthodox Church) in which case they are included in "ethnic-specific" organizations (though participants may. admittedly, have multiple motives for membership).

(19.) We have adopted the concept of' "panethnicity" from Yen Le Espiritu's work on Asian American panethnicity as referring to the development of bridging organizations and solidarities among several ethnic and immigrant groups of Asian ancestry (1992). The term is also being adapted to refer here to other groupings along similar lines (i.e. panethnic).

(20.) Some of the reasons for the "reluctant participation" (i.e. relatively low level) of immigrant women in feminist organizations may be similar with those that Almquist (1986) mentions for racial-ethnic women's participation in the U.S.: for example, subordination of the interests of women to those of the ethnic group. The whole issue, however, merits a separate study.

(21.) As in the case of transnational solidarity work (e.g. # A16).

(22.) While being a member of an ethnic group was one of the activities included here, mere religious attendance did not quality at all as a form of organizing (see more on this further below).

(23.) In our study we do not uphold the distinction between participation and volunteering that the Survey makes. According to the Survey. "volunteering" refers to "contributions of volunteer time to charitable and non-profit organizations" (2001:31). while "civic participation" refers to "membership and participation in various kinds of community organizations and groups, [respondents]' voting behaviour during elections, and the extent to which they followed news and public affairs" (200 1:49). In our study we use the broad terms participation or organizing to refer to membership, activism, participation within organizations, leadership or even setting up new organizations by immigrant women (but not to voting behaviour or following news and public affairs).

(24.) Although the terms "reason" and "motive" are conceptually different, we use them rather interchangeably in this paper, since it is the existence / perception of structural sociological categories of "reasons" that motivate certain individuals to act in certain ways. For example, lack of opportunities for paid employment drives some immigrant women to get involved in organizations in order to increase their chances, through experience and networking, of finding paid work.

(25.) Neither is there a simple correspondence between types of organizations, motives for organizing and communities with which the women identify. Many women are involved in several organizations, for multiple reasons and identify with multiple communities. For example "ethnic motives" for organizing may lead to multicultural organizations (not just ethnic) while the important community(-ies) may be both the ethnic community and the broader Canadian society, as in the case of A27 (see details in text below).

(26.) Helen Ralston's research among South Asian women in Metro Halifax supports a similar conclusion (1988).

(27.) This processual and temporal claim is, of course, based on the immigrant women's a posteriori re-construction of their lives in their narratives. It would have been more reliable methodologically, had there been a longitudinal dimension in the study. In the absence of such a methodological dimension, we are formulating this claim as a tentative conclusion that merits further investigation.

(28.) According to the National Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating (Hall et al., 2001), volunteering is viewed by survey respondents as a way to improve employment prospects. Close to two thirds of unemployed volunteers (62%) held this belief in 2000 compared with 54% in 1997. More than one in every five volunteers (23%) agreed that improving job opportunities was a reason for volunteering, with younger volunteers aged 15 to 24 being even more likely (55%) to indicate this as a reason (Hall et al., 2001: 35).

(29.) There is generally little work on internal conflict within immigrant women's organizations. Jo-Anne Lee documents conflict around issues of wage inequality and how to address this problem on the board level of a woman-centred immigrant settlement agency in her work in B.C (1999:72).

(30.) A longitudinal methodological dimension is needed in order to be able to fully confirm this tentative conclusion.


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Evangelia Tastsoglou is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the Department of Sociology and Criminology, Saint Mary's University. Her areas of research are ethnicity, gender and transnational migration, and migrant women's paid and unpaid work, community organizing and identities, focusing on Canada and Southern Europe.

In 1998, Baukje Miedema, held a SSHRCC post doctoral fellowship with the Muriel McQueen Ferguson Centre for Family Violence Research focusing on woman abuse in immigrant communities. From late 1998 she has been working in the Dalhousie Family Medicine Teaching Unit in Fredericton as a Research Associate and Lecturer.
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Author:Tastsoglou, Evangelia; Miedema, Baukje
Publication:Canadian Journal of Sociology
Date:Mar 22, 2003
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