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Neo-liberalization, devolution, and refugee well-being: a case study in Winnipeg, Manitoba.


In Canada, trends in social and private housing demonstrate neoliberalism in action, whereby increasing numbers of people in marginalized communities must obtain housing through private, rather than public, mechanisms. Obtaining adequate housing is at the center of refugees' resettlement experiences; however, successfully doing so is becoming increasingly challenging due to a combination of tight private housing markets, particularly for low income home-seekers, and an inadequate supply of social housing. Refugee housing outcomes and strategies undertaken by refugee-serving organizations to improve such outcomes can and should be situated within the broader trend of neoliberal housing policies in Canada, which are a reflection of the federal government's retreat from social housing provision coupled with a propensity to offload social responsibility to lower levels of government, communities, and individuals (see for example Silver 2011).

Devolving authority and responsibility for the attainment of housing and the provision of settlement services to the level of community does provide opportunities for input and decision-making autonomy on the part of community-based organizations (CBOs). However, when such processes are accompanied by funding and service retrenchment, refugee-serving communities and resettled refugees themselves can land in tricky positions. On the one hand, they are best-positioned to respond to the needs of newly arrived refugees in complex social environments due to their deep situated knowledge, local competencies, and placement on the ground.' On the other hand, the well-being of newly arrived refugees is attained by voluntary and non-compensated means and often in the context of accessing necessities, such as housing, by way of market mechanisms. This latter point suggests that well-intentioned community-based experts and resilient refugee communities are charged with the task of ensuring refugee settlement without sufficient financial support from governments. Moreover, the devolution of roles and responsibilities for housing from the federal government to provincial and municipal levels, as well as private and 'community' actors, and the categorical distinction between refugees who receive government support for housing and those who do not, demonstrate that commitments to refugees are increasingly being met by ethnocultural communities, religious groups, refugee kinship networks, and community-based organizations.

'Community'--who for our purposes may be considered as the voluntary and paid non-governmental actors who have a binding commitment to refugee settlement --undoubtedly has a robust function in refugee service provision; however, such a function is realized amidst structures of differential market access and market power, varying degrees of familiarity and capability within the local environment. Using a case study situated in Winnipeg, Manitoba, this article considers the role of refugee status and the efforts of community actors in structuring refugee housing outcomes in a context in which refugee well-being is more and more becoming a 'private' affair, predicated on market processes and voluntary contributions. Community-based research can help academics guard against an abstract, and an ahistorical analysis of community and institutional change, analysis which tempts us to abstract from the particular and ascribe such change to the often ungrounded, but always powerful, meta-value and meta-narrative of neoliberalism. Community-based research can write agential actors back into the narratives and analysis of wide-scale political, economic and social change. In short, this article offers an approach that recognizes both the possibilities and limitations within community-based approaches to refugee service provision.

This work proceeds in the following manner. In section two I set out the theoretical terrain upon which an analysis of refugees as market agents in the context of housing provisions takes place. In section three I summarize the method, design, and purpose behind the study on refugees and housing outcomes in Winnipeg's innercity upon which the current work builds. Furthermore, in section three I highlight lessons derived from that research that interrogate the 'neoliberalization of refugee well-being.' I conclude in section four by considering how communities, government and scholars can engage to combat negative trends associated with the neoliberalization of refugee well-being.

Literature Review and Theoretical Context

In this paper, I argue that processes of neoliberalization differentiate not only on a geographical basis (for example, being subject to the structural constraints of specific, geographically-situated housing markets), but also on a categorical one, whereby refugees can expect considerably different, and differently-regulated, futures, depending on the refugee category to which they belong and corresponding support systems they are deemed eligible or ineligible to access. This argument is rooted in an emerging literature on the extent to which immigration policy has become 'marketized' or 'neoliberalized', insofar as the economic benefits of migration are extolled to a receiving community, and economic criteria serve as the main determinant for selection processes (Dobrowolsky 2009, 2011, 2013; see also Ferrer et al. 2014; Simmons 2010). In the 1990s, the Canadian state disproportionately prioritized highly-skilled, wealthy, and educated immigrants who would be 'up and running' upon arrival in Canada, capable of performing a 'positive' economic function with minimal state stewardship (see Arat-Koc 1999; see also Walsh 2011). One recent aspect of this general trend involves flexibilizing labour markets by promoting temporary foreign workers and seasonal agricultural workers, who precariously occupy poorly compensating positions in host labour markets. At worst, they are under the constant threat of job loss and deportation. At best, they experience state-imposed immigrant or migrant worker categories and related regulatory mechanisms to perpetuate their temporariness (Bucklaschuk 2013; Goldring and Landolt 2011; Lenard and Straehle 2012; Preibisch 2010; Rajkumar et al. 2012; Walsh 2014).

While the 'economic' content of labour market related immigration policy is readily identifiable, it is not immediately apparent how processes and policies affecting refugees, who cross borders due to forced and involuntary displacement, may be said to be subject to market conditions. Here I argue that refugee housing processes are increasingly 'neoliberalized' through the extent to which refugees are increasingly coming to rely on market mechanisms and voluntary sector mechanisms for the attainment of housing.

Rights to housing are increasingly subjected to neoliberal rationalities, whereby the rights of property owners as holders of homes as financial assets, including for 'unproductive' speculative purposes, eclipse social and human rights to housing as a dwelling and prerequisite for existence (Rolnik 2013, 2014). The proliferating literature on immigrant and refugee social exclusion,'integration' challenges, and poverty strongly suggests that such groups experience profound forms of precariousness that neoliberal citizenship and self-help alone cannot ameliorate. Social exclusion and multiple forms of disadvantage are prevalent amongst newly arrived refugees in Canadian cities (Danso 2001). Multiple systemic barriers impede the learning and acculturation process of newcomer residents in the Canadian inner city and contribute to financial hardship, low paid jobs, a lack of affordable housing (including public housing units), and a lack of social and community networks (Magro and Ghorayshi 2011). In the case of refugees, in particular, these barriers are highly problematical, because many of them experience trauma, torture and malnutrition, which contribute to physical and mental health problems that persist well into one's arrival and settlement in a receiving country (Carter and Osborne 2009).

There are sound reasons to reconsider whether a refugee's pursuit and attainment of housing should be thought of as being akin to similar processes undertaken by the 'average' citizen. Among other challenges, immigrants and refugees in Canada experience or at least perceive housing discrimination, which further impedes their ability to secure adequate housing (Dion 2001). A voluminous literature suggests that different groups of immigrants and refugees experience overcrowded or otherwise inadequate housing, precarious rental status, and unsustainable amounts of income dedicated to housing (Anucha 2006; Carter, Garcea and Enns 2010; Francis and Hiebert 2011; Murdie and Logan 2011; Preston et al. 2009; Preston et al. 2011; Sherrell et al. 2007; Teixeira 2009). Carter, Polevychok and Osborne (2009) conclude that accessing adequate and affordable housing is the first step to ensuring the successful re-settlement of immigrants and refugees, with refugees facing the greatest number of barriers to attaining such housing (see also Carter and Osborne 2009). Nonetheless, the period encompassing the mid-1990s to the present suggests an emerging housing market structure is negatively affecting immigrant, refugee, and other low income housing outcomes in multiple Canadian cities, namely, a crisis of affordability predicated on low incomes, high rents, low vacancies and diminishing social housing stock (see Brandon and Silver 2015; Hackworth and Moriah 2006; Murdie 2008; Silver 2011).

Some literature suggests that social capital can mitigate negative housing outcomes and facilitate immigrant or refugee resettlement (Lamba and Krahn 2003). D'Addario et al. (2007) assert that while different categories of newcomers have varying amounts of success in accessing social networks, social capital can assist in mitigating absolute homelessness and better facilitate integration. According to the authors, both immigrants and refugees are underrepresented in the shelter system because each group 'take[s] care of its own' (110; see also Hiebert et al. 2009). However, elsewhere, the same authors also conclude that some newcomers, particularly refugee claimants, are increasingly at risk of 'hidden homelessness' due to uncertain legal status, Social Insurance Number (SIN) tagging (whereby the assignment of a SIN number beginning with a nine denotes temporary status), poor English language capabilities, and insufficient social networks (Sherrell et al. 2007; see also Jackson and Bauder 2013).

Conversely, Tanasescu and Smart (2010) suggest that immigrants' ability to draw on social capital to mitigate absolute homelessness in the context of a declining economic situation for immigrants to Canada overall is low and that ethnocultural or religious communities are less helpful in offering housing assistance for immigrants than is commonly believed. Moreover, their anthropological approach demonstrates that relying on social networks to attain housing can sometimes lead to exploitation and abuse. Tanasescu and Smart are rarities in the literature on immigration and integration in Canada for demonstrating the extent to which social capital functions in the context of neoliberalization processes, including the devolution of responsibility for integration to individuals and communities (see also Ley 2008).

Similarly, DeVerteuil (2011) suggests that we view the fact that immigrants rarely experience absolute homelessness with a critical eye. Spatially and racially bound immigrant networks can afford a degree of community self-protection; however, such networks form both 'voluntarily,' as defensive mechanisms (enclaves') meant to facilitate survival, and involuntarily, as the result of processes of ghettoization initiated by dominant communities (ghettos'). In both cases, such networks do not result in absolute powerlessness; however, they are more likely than not to result in less than a full range of social and market choices being available to community members.

A critical perspective on social capital as it pertains to refugees for the purposes at hand might suggest that in spite of social capital's positive virtues, voluntary or quasi-voluntary community, ethno-cultural, and religious networks are increasingly responsible for positive housing and social outcomes. The idea of a self-help community in the era of neoliberalization can be analyzed and politicized in myriad ways. For example, often conceived of as a repository of civic virtue and empowerment, 'community' has served as a prop for government funding cutbacks. However, citizens who are ideally 'empowered' by such processes may reject the new-found responsibilities placed upon them if such responsibilities are accompanied by an abdication of government support (Herbert 2005).

The marketized refugee represents a profound departure from a paradigm in which the social care of/for refugees is a collective, and, presumably, national social responsibility. Such care is partly predicated on the explicit or implicit recognition that, as non-voluntarily displaced people, refugees are engaged in various ways precisely because they were not expected to perform socially as would an 'average' Canadian citizen working in her/his native habitus. Particular forms of refugee social entitlement are being effaced in favour of the reconstitution of the refugee as one whose successes and failures in attaining and securing adequate housing are predicated on his/her ability to successfully compete on housing markets.

Method and Case Study

The initial research project upon which this current piece and on-going 'mini-longitudinal' research build (Silvius et al. 2015) was an attempt to document the housing-related knowledge derived from a Winnipeg based inner-city refugee-serving organization, the Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council (MIIC), devoted to assisting refugees with diverse settlement and housing needs. From its inception in 1968 as the Manitoba Regional Council of the National Interfaith Immigration Council, MIIC has been assisting and settling thousands of refugees in Winnipeg. Finding secure and affordable housing for its refugee clients is a core component of this work.

Refugees are differentiated according to status. For this work, Government Assisted Refugees (GARs) and Privately Sponsored Refugees (PSRs) will be the focus. (1) GARs are referred to Canada by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. Typically, such individuals have lived in refugee situations, including refugee camps, for prolonged periods. Via Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada's (IRCC) Resettlement Assistance Program (RAP), GARs are provided with income support for up to a year at the social assistance level that corresponds to that of local (i.e., provincial) rates (Alboim and Cohl 2012,36-37). Moreover, RAP clients are eligible for a number of allowances, including those that are central to determining their living situation, such as shelter, and basic household needs allowances. A monthly shelter allowance corresponds with provincial shelter allowances and policies and is to be used for rent and utilities. The basic allowance is determined by family size and age, corresponds to provincial Employment and Income Assistance (EIA) rates, and includes a monthly amount for food and incidentals. In Manitoba, the EIA housing allowance was static for two decades until February, 2014. During this time, refugees were affected by the widening gap between static shelter housing allowances, and rising rental rates in Winnipeg (Putko 2013). Given to GARS after arrival, basic household needs allowance is a onetime payment intended for household start-up costs. The long-term stagnant EIA housing allowance combined with disproportionately rising rental rates in Winnipeg represents one considerable example of the neo-liberalization of refugee well-being, whereby shortfalls in government provided housing budgets relative to costs are to be met by private means or drawn from government provided resources intended for other purposes (see Silvius et al. 2015).

Privately Sponsored Refugees receive basic needs from private sponsors during their first year in Canada and may be sponsored in one of two ways. The first is called Sponsor-Referred, whereby the sponsoring group forwards the name of the refugee/ refugee family they want to sponsor. The second is called Visa Office-Referred, whereby IRCC matches a sponsor with visa office-referred cases already selected to come to Canada but in need of a private sponsor in order to receive a permanent resident visa (Citizenship and Immigration 2011). Sponsorship agreement holders (SAHs) and Groups of Five (5+ Canadian citizens or permanent residents) or community sponsors (including community organizations) can privately sponsor refugees (Alboim and Cohl 2012, 38).

Many refugees arrive in Winnipeg to find inadequate housing situations that have detrimental effects on their lives. In the current context of inadequate low-income housing and a significant gap between refugee shelter allowances/housing budgets and available housing, MIIC's housing counsellors are challenged to find housing solutions of any kind. They provide invaluable day-to-day work, such as seeking out social housing options, scouring the city's increasingly tight rental market, communicating with private landlords, advising clients on budgeting strategies, and helping clients navigate complex funding and service mechanisms. In their work, they deal with their clients' day-to-day concerns, such as the too common occurrence of living in places infested with mice, bed bugs and cockroaches, differences in housing norms, practices and expectations between refugees and neighbours/landlords, and overcoming language barriers. In myriad ways, they assist clients to move continuously from one place to another until a satisfactory and sustainable housing solution is found, suggesting that MIIC's housing counsellors' work is continuous across various stages of settlement and necessitates going beyond simply finding initial housing for newly arrived refugees.

Our initial project was designed on the premise that the organization's deep experiential knowledge of the challenges experienced by refugee home seekers must inform government policy. Accordingly, we developed a participatory research model in which community experts contribute to planning and developing research from the beginning of the research process and through all stages (Bennett and Roberts 2004). We situated the lived experiences and 'insider' knowledge of MIIC personnel within broader social, political and historical structures (Burawoy 1998)--in this case, the structural housing crisis in Winnipeg. A research advisory group comprised of MIIC staff was established in fall 2013 to inform research design, contribute to on-going research development, and facilitate data flow. Personnel within the organization steered our project team through the complex database of refugee arrivals and housing outcomes and assisted us in compiling data for our initial report, data which demonstrated the gap between refugee housing budgets and available housing in Winnipeg. In February and March 2014, eight interviews were conducted: six with MIIC staff, one with a family link for a PSR, and one with a GAR. A focus group involving the research team and interview subjects was held in April 2014. Our project was characterized by the full and equal cooperation in the research process of both academic researchers and community-based experts, a practice often underperformed in social science research (Kirby et al. 2006). Together with the interviews and focus group conducted, our continuous consultation with MIIC staff and their locating of organizational and settlement sector information constitute the empirical basis upon which our initial study was based.

The intention behind our initial study was to document and understand the organization's experience in navigating complex funding and policy environments, housing markets, and landlords' expectations while they served their refugee clientele. Elsewhere, our research team has documented some of the elements contributing to housing stress for the organization's clients as well as the creative adaptations undertaken by MIIC employees to produce positive housing outcomes in difficult contexts (Silvius et al. 2015). A brief synopsis here will emphasize the gap between government provided shelter allowances, and market housing rates for GARs: a general low-income housing crisis in Winnipeg, whereby available units are insufficient to meet needs; a desire on the part of the organization to become housing providers themselves in order to establish more autonomy over the home-seeking process; and seeking and utilizing diverse mechanisms both at numerous governmental levels and in the voluntary, private, community and non-profit sectors. It is worth emphasizing, as well, that given that GARs' shelter allowances are based on provincial social assistance rates, by this measure they do not receive better treatment than do other low or no income Winnipeggers. Moreover, refugee housing challenges may be exacerbated by particular forms of discrimination and a lack of 'social capital' in new and unfamiliar surroundings.

While MIIC's employees are cognizant of challenges they and their clients face, reflecting upon the 'neo-liberalization of refugee well-being' is perhaps not at the top of their priority list. An additional rationale for our larger project, and for this piece, therefore was to marry the reflections and accumulated expertise of front-line service workers with academic understandings of structural economic trends and the resulting structural policy trends. In this sense, an organizational ethnography approach can contribute to scholarly production by demonstrating the 'day-to-day' ways in which situated social actors negotiate economic and policy structures. Moreover, it can demonstrate the manner in which categorical ideas are reproduced or not at the level of an organization in its collective serving of refugees who are categorically differentiated and rely on 'messy' local and transnational supports for their well-being.

In addition to the 'regular' impediments to integration refugees experience in the form of racial/cultural prejudice, trauma, and lack of dominant local language proficiency, we may add interrelated social processes that have a particularly neoliberal hue: 1) a reliance on tight and expensive private rental markets as opposed to social housing (or, the neoliberalization of social housing); 2) insufficient (financial) housing support for those refugees who receive government assistance; 3) a change in the ratio of PSRs to GARs in favour of the former in recent years in Manitoba (see Appendix One). The latter, as described earlier and below, are eligible to receive a greater number of government financial supports for various needs, including housing. The final two points suggest that refugees are becoming increasingly responsible for demonstrating'competitiveness' and attributes of neoliberal citizenship when it comes to the attainment of housing and social well-being by relying on community-based, and ultimately voluntarily provided self-help (as opposed to state mandated supports) and private initiative. Extended kinship and ethnocultural community ties do retain the potential to serve as sources of 'social capital' that contribute to refugee well-being. However, they are increasingly being relied upon to provide 'private' services, supports and care that may be conceived as being broadly public in nature and should therefore be supported through government finances. Nonetheless, the basic picture is complicated by the realization that private refugee sponsorship in Canada is the result of community-situated agents seeking to carve out greater autonomy for themselves in refugee selection and settlement.

Francis and Hiebert (2011) categorize GARs, who receive modest supports through the Resettlement Assistance Program (RAP) as the equivalent to PSRs, whose sponsors are required to provide financial support. Both are differentiated from asylum seekers (Refugee Claimants), for whom no equivalent supports exist (64, footnote 1; see also Murdie 2008). Such categorizations have demonstrable effects. Indeed, both PSRs and Refugee Claimants were subject to changes to the Interim Federal Health program from 2012-2015, whereby they were stripped of insurance for prescription medications and coverage for services such as prosthetics, physiotherapy, counselling, and emergency dental and vision care (Gulli 2015). Renaud et al. (2003) conclude that refugee claimants are more likely to have greater difficulty in the labour market than sponsored refugees both initially and over time. Murdie (2008) concludes that while the housing outcomes of sponsored refugees and refugee claimants differed, particularly initially, whereby refugee claimants experienced more difficult pathways to attaining housing that was more suitable by a number of measures, both groups experienced problems with housing affordability, spending more than 50% of their income on rent and 'having to trade-off choices between shelter, food, clothing and other essentials' (99). Nonetheless, the comparability of GARs and PSRs is a highly qualified one predicated on our willingness to overlook the qualitative differences between government support and private ('community') support. The surge in PSRs relative to GARs in Manitoba (see Appendix 1) demonstrates the individuation of refugee support, whereby important facets of integration--shelter, food, basic necessities--are provided by private individuals or groups. Quantitatively, this is a specific, Manitoba example of the neo-liberalization of refugee well-being.

It may be argued that private refugee sponsorship affords community members greater autonomy in refugee selection processes. However, private refugee sponsorship is becoming subject to emerging forms of regulation that circumscribe the agency of local decision makers. Since 1979, Canada's Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program (PSRP) has been guided by two principles (2): additionality, which stipulates that the program is to serve in addition to the government's commitments to GARs; and naming, by which private sponsors may choose whom they want to sponsor. Recent changes to the PSRP have circumscribed the extent to which such principles are realized in practice. These changes include: a global cap on private sponsorship applications starting in 2012 (with specific caps on Pretoria, Islamabad and Cairo, with Nairobi being further reduced since a 2011 cap); changes to regulations in October 2012 that prevent non-Sponsorship Agreement Holders from sponsoring refugees who are not recognized as such by UNHCR or a state; the elimination of the Source Country Class in October 2011, whereby sponsors could no longer resettle somebody directly out of their country of origin; the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration identifying certain refugee populations as priorities (e.g., Tibetans in India and Christians from Egypt); and the much publicized attempted cuts to the Interim Federal Health program (which have since been reversed). Moreover, the blended Visa-office-referred (VOR) category was created in 2013. In this process, a refugee is selected by the government but supports are shared by government and private sponsors. While this method may be deemed attractive to sponsors who are simply looking for 'any refugee' to sponsor and because of supposed faster visa processing, there is a legitimate fear that it does not fully respect the additionally principle, insofar as government retains the power to influence which refugee is eligible for selection.

Arguably, Canada's PSRP has existed and functioned only by virtue of the strong commitment of refugee-serving CBOs and a plethora of refugee sponsors. From the inception of the program and its predecessors, private sponsorship has been used extensively in Winnipeg, due to the commitment of active community members dedicated to refugee resettlement and service provision. A brief history of Canada's PSRP and its predecessors and its relationship to Winnipeg reads as follows. (3) There are currently 97 Sponsorship Agreement Holders (SAHs) in Canada, excluding Quebec, five of which are in Manitoba (Corporation archiepiscopale catholique romaine de Saint-Boniface; MIIC; Mennonite Central Committee Canada; Roman Catholic Archiepiscopal Corporation of Winnipeg [Archdiocese of Winnipeg]; and Synod of the Diocese of Rupert's Land [Anglican Diocese of Rupert's Land]). (4) Typically the SAHs are religious, humanitarian or ethnocultural organizations, which sign agreements with the Federal Government allowing them to privately sponsor refugees to become permanent residents in Canada. SAHs can also authorize Constituent Groups (CGs) to privately sponsor refugees. Moreover, Groups of Five (G5), which are comprised of five qualifying individuals, may privately sponsor refugees. In 2006-2007, Winnipeg received approximately 17 percent of all PSRP landings to Canada in spite of having approximately 2 percent of the population. For the same time period, excluding the G5 category, which is seldom used in the city, Winnipeg accounted for 56 percent of new cases submitted by SAHs. Hence, private organizations have been active in utilizing the PSRP mechanism.

Tom Denton (2009), a long-time advocate for refugee family reunification and private sponsorship in Winnipeg, suggests that Winnipeg's disproportionately heavy use of private refugee sponsorship mechanisms is attributable to the following factors: 'a [civic] culture of [community] self-reliance and community cohesiveness'; the activist positions undertaken by Winnipeg's refugee-serving community and this community's cohesiveness; the commitment to private sponsorship by key figures; (5) and a desire to facilitate family reunification in a manner that is otherwise impossible in Canada's refugee system. The Manitoba Refugee Sponsors (MRS), which currently exists under the auspices of the MIIC, was created in 1993 to bring together individuals and groups interested in private refugee sponsorship. According to Denton, the organization was instrumental in convincing the City of Winnipeg to create the Winnipeg Private Refugee Sponsorship Assurance Program in 2002, the first ever tri-level immigration agreement in Canada." The program protects sponsors who undertake sponsorships with local families and provided an initial $250,000 fund plus annual grants for administering the fund. A result of a tripartite Memorandum of Understanding between the municipal (Winnipeg), provincial (Manitoba) and federal government, the program constitutes what is arguably an 'innovative' and progressive manner by which to publicly insure private individuals against the 'risks' of refugee resettlement while facilitating family reunification.

Governmental and community leadership, therefore, retains the capacity for such policy irrespective of 'structural' economic trends. Hence, it is possible and perhaps necessary to view refugee-serving CBOs as indispensable for 'empowering' refugees, providing a venue for communal voice and representation, and offering an immediate response to refugee needs (see Lacroix, Baffoe and Liguori 2015). Nonetheless, the volitional aspect of community organization and activism around private sponsorship meets structural impediments of insufficient material resources to adequately house and settle refugees. In an earlier study, Carter (2009) concludes that the settlement experience of PSRs in Winnipeg has been mixed in terms of employment, housing, material and social outcomes. However, he also captures the conundrum facing many involved in the private sponsorship process, stating that "often the sponsors are almost as poor as the people they are sponsoring" (106). Moreover,
   it was also obvious that the level of support provided by sponsors
   was not always adequate. Generally, sponsors are expected to
   provide financial support that is, at the very least, equal to that
   of the prevailing rates for social assistance in the community.
   However, social assistance rates have not kept up with the cost of
   living in recent years and do not provide anyone, including
   refugees, with an adequate standard of living (107).

While private sponsorship provides communities and sponsors with a greater degree of autonomy to determine where particular refugees will live, its success is predicated on the willingness of voluntary associations to absorb a considerable amount of the social and financial cost of settlement.


This article has demonstrated that in myriad ways, refugee well-being has been subject to the effects of neo-liberalization, whether in long-term trends of coming to rely disproportionately on tight and expensive private rental markets as opposed to social housing, the existence of insufficient financial support for those who receive government shelter allowances, or, in the case of Manitoba, a change in the ratio of PSRs to GARs in favour of the former. Such trends disproportionately place the responsibility for refugee housing and resettlement on the shoulders of private actors. Restoring the federal government's centrality in social housing provision for all low income Canadians and creating the means by which refugee housing outcomes can be more rigorously assessed, and positive refugee housing outcomes assured, can combat such trends and/or their negative effects.

When approaching trends in refugee service provision, it remains important not to throw out the 'community' baby with the 'neoliberal' bathwater for numerous analytical, if not ethical, reasons. Extended families, often former refugees themselves, offer financial, emotional and social support to PSRs. The individuals, families, organizations and communities that facilitate the settlement process for PSRs exhibit much kindness and virtue in their support of incoming PSRs. Nonetheless, if one aspect of community is to be found in the knowledge and competencies of refugee-serving organizations and various local constituencies, another is the delegation of responsibility for the attainment of refugee housing, settlement and integration needs to various individuals and groups within expanding market structures. As argued throughout this work, 'community' undoubtedly has a robust function in refugee welcoming, settlement, and service provision. However, an assessment of such a function must also consider differential market access and market power of incoming refugees amidst the long-term retrenchment in social- and supported-housing provision. As large proportions of settlement responsibilities are being borne by community constituency groups and family links, processes which privatize and individuate refugee well-being must be held to critical scrutiny.

Community-based approaches to refugee service provision can find their scholarly correlate in community-based research. Such research demonstrates a potential for writing agential actors back into the narratives and analysis of wide-scale political, economic and social change. Moreover, as scholars of immigrant and refugee policy in Canada, we would do well to interrogate our own categorical assumptions by considering the extent to which local governmental and community actors demonstrate agency and volition in carving out spaces for their own action while serving refugee communities. Nonetheless, such processes cannot come at the expense of a broad national government and public commitment to the material well-being of all refugees, irrespective of their country of origin, place of resettlement, and category in which they are placed.


(1.) This section is derived from Silvius et al. (2015).

(2.) The following is derived from The Canadian Council for Refugees (2013). Important changes in Canada's Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program, (

(3.) The following section is derived from Denton (2009).


(5.) Denton (2009, 181) cites the case of Sister Aileen Gleason, who, first, via her Roman Catholic Order, l'Institute de Notre-Dame des Missions, and second, via the Anglican Diocese of Rupert's Land, sponsored thousands of refugees from the late 1980s until her retirement in 2001.

(6.) I thank Robert Vineberg for pointing out the unprecedented nature of this agreement. Information on the agreement can be found at:

(7.) Derived from Government of Manitoba (no dates), Manitoba Immigration Facts: 2013 Statistical Report; Manitoba Immigration Facts: 2010 Statistical Report; Manitoba Immigration Facts: 2007 Statistical Report; Manitoba Immigration Facts: 2005 Statistical Report; Manitoba Immigration Facts: 2002 Statistics Report; Manitoba Immigration Statistics Summary: 2000 Report.

(8.) Denotes the dependant of a refugee landed in Canada who lived abroad at the time of application.


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APPENDIX 1. Refugee Arrivals in Manitoba: 1998-20137

              2008             2009              2010

Refugee               % of              % of              % of
Category             Total             Total             Total
               #       MB       #        MB       #        MB
                      Ref.              Ref.              Ref.
                    Arrivals          Arrivals          Arrivals
Government    439      45      490       45      460       45
Privately     493      51      576       52      514       50
Refugee       29       3        17       2        38       4
asylum in
Dependants    11       1        15       1        20       2
Abroad *
Total         972    (100)     1098    (100)     1032    (100)

              2011              2012              2013

Refugee                % of              % of              % of
Category              Total             Total             Total
               #        MB       #        MB       #        MB
                       Ref.              Ref.              Ref.
                     Arrivals          Arrivals          Arrivals
Government    444       34      327       29      384       26
Privately     795       61      755       66      979       67
Refugee        44       3        38       3        59       4
asylum in
Dependants     20       2        20       2        35       2
Abroad *
Total         1303    (100)     1140    (100)     1457    (100)

              2002             2003              2004

                      % of              % of              % of
Refugee              Total             Total             Total
Category       #       MB       #        MB       #        MB
                      Ref.              Ref.              Ref.
                    Arrivals          Arrivals          Arrivals

Government    439      45      539       44      548       44
Privately     493      51      597       48      608       49
Refugee       29       3        91       7        63       5
asylum in
Dependants    11       1        8        1        33       2
Total         972    (100)     1235    (100)     1252    (100)

              2005              2006              2007

                       % of              % of              % of
Refugee               Total             Total             Total
Category       #        MB       #        MB       #        MB
                       Ref.              Ref.              Ref.
                     Arrivals          Arrivals          Arrivals

Government    492       45      522       42      517       44
Privately     493       45      633       51      577       49
Refugee        90       8        61       5        46       4
asylum in
Dependants     19       2        25       2        30       3
Total         1094    (100)     1241    (100)     1170    (100)

              1998               1999

Refugee             % of Total         % of Total
Category       #     MB Ref.      #     MB Ref.
                     Arrivals           Arrivals

Government    517       80       554       72
Privately     80        12       176       23
Refugee       39        6        29        4
asylum in
Dependants    13        2        12        2
Total         649     (100)      771     (100)

              2000                2001

Refugee              % of Total          % of Total
Category       #      MB Ref.      #      MB Ref.
                      Arrivals            Arrivals

Government    603        59       518        45
Privately     361        35       547        47
Refugee        48        5         82        7
asylum in
Dependants     5         0         9         1
Total         1017     (100)      1156     (100)


The author would like to acknowledge Hani Al-Ubeady, whose wisdom and tireless efforts have enabled our collective work over the past several years. The author would like to thank Emily Halldorson, Terra Poole and Jessica Praznik for research assistance at various stages of this project. Also, the author would like to express his appreciation to Rita Chahal, Marta Kalita, Hai Tonthat, Alazar Negasi and many others at the Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council for their ongoing support, without which this research would be impossible. The author would also like to thank the Manitoba Research Alliance for providing funding for his ongoing research on refugee housing experiences in Winnipeg. Finally, the author would like to thank Joseph Garcea and Robert Vineberg for their astute and helpful comments on an earlier draft of this piece.

RAY SILVIUS is Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Winnipeg. His research interests include Global Political Economy, community-based research, and the Political Economy of refugees and migration. He is conducting Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council funded research through the Manitoba Research Alliance into the housing situations of refugees that have resettled in Winnipeg. Dr. Silvius is the author of Culture, Political Economy and Civilisation in a Multipolar World Order: The Case of Russia (Routledge, 2016).
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Publication:Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal
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Geographic Code:1CMAN
Date:Sep 22, 2016
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