Social Connectedness Fellowship Program (Summer 2018)

Summer 2018 Fellowship Wrap-up in Montreal (not all Fellows displayed)

In the summer of 2018,  we were pleased to welcome a new cohort of Fellows who undertook new research projects and worked to support partners in the social connectedness movement. Issues that Fellows focussed on include:

  • Impacts of green space, public health access, and transportation in Montreal on social connectedness
  • Intergenerational trauma in the Montreal Sri Lankan community
  • Refugee policies and programs in Canada
  • Gendered ageism in the Canadian workforce
  • Regenerating intermittent spaces to promote community engagement in Montreal and the United Kingdom


Equity and Green Space in Montreal

By Geneviève Westgate

Green space and other nature-based solutions offer an innovative approach to enhance local resilience, promote sustainable lifestyles, increase the quality of urban settings, and improve both the health and the wellbeing of residents. This report analyzes the potential of green spaces in promoting physical and mental health, and creating feelings of belonging within the city of Montreal. The paper, in turn, questions whether green space may help to reduce health inequities in the city. Based on interviews with experts and field research, a set of challenges are identified that pose an obstacle to achieving the goal of health equity — that is, the unequal access to green spaces in Montreal. A set of policy recommendations are presented to promote more equitable use of green space, such as to ensure better overall health forMontrealers; and to enhance feelings of social inclusion within the community.

Keywords: parks and green space, public health, mental health, physical health, social inclusion, wellbeing, integration, equity, social justice, urbanization

Strengthening the Resilience of Vulnerable Groups to Climate Change in Cities through City Efforts

By Valériane Buslot

This paper addresses the issues regarding climate change in cities that increases the vulnerability and social exclusion of the most vulnerable populations. I argue that immigrants, the elderly and children are part of the most vulnerable populations and should be included in the process of data collection up to decision-making and implementation to ensure Montréal is building a resilient city. The research shows how some of today’s projects and programs are sustainable or not and if they include or not the voices of those who are the most affected. Major challenges that were found about those policies and programmes concerned: unequal sustainable development projects, data collection, mobilization of citizens, the collaboration between partners, long-term funding; and governance and administrative barriers. Key recommendations were suggested at the end of this research one of them being the development of a  feedback process. This means measuring the effectiveness of projects and programs and their process of inclusive participation of different stakeholders.

Keywords: resilience, climate change, public participation, urban development, inclusive, vulnerable populations, decision-making, data, UESI, Montreal

At The Crossroads of Sustainable Transportation and Social Inclusion

By Morgane Ollier

This report explores the impacts of public transportation on daily access to opportunities and services in Montreal, which affects levels of development and social cohesion of the most disadvantaged communities. This study identifies economically and socially disadvantaged groups’ wellbeing and capabilities in relationship to public and active transportation (sustainable mobility) while questioning the potential of increased sustainable mobility efforts to alter mobility choices and access to opportunities and services. This research identifies public transportation as a determinant of social development and inclusion, depending on the orientation and approach taken by transportation and social stakeholders. Indeed, public transit policies have been found to have both direct and indirect impacts on people’s lives, and especially the already disadvantaged ones. This research will illustrate these tensions, document best practices and initiatives fostering transport-related social cohesion and equity, and provide paths for reflexion for future works and projects.

Key words: social cohesion, social development, equity, spatial justice, public transit, sustainable transportation, accessibility, mobility,  disadvantaged people, Montreal

Community-based Approaches to the Integration of Refugees and Asylum seekers in Montreal

By Céline de Richoufftz

Montreal has a long tradition of welcoming refugees. But as local communities are transforming from being multicultural to intercultural, the challenges of integration and inclusion are becoming more visible. This research provides insights into the various ways refugees are being incorporated in the local networks by exploring existing and emerging community-based initiatives that address refugees’ individual challenges. Its central arguments are the following:

– By improving refugees’ lives we improve economic and social outcomes.
– Happier refugee populations foster local communities’ social connections and enhance their ability to integrate more newcomers.
– Local residents have a crucial role to play in creating the optimal conditions for integration.

Finally the report presents recommendations on how communities can adopt a more compassionate approach to forced migration locally and globally.

Céline created an additional report, Refugee Integration Facilitators, which documents local actors who are working to support and integrate forced migrants in Montreal.

Keywords: migration, refugee, asylum seeker, urban spaces, civil society, community, integration, inclusion, interculturalism, best practices,  Montreal

Gendered Ageism in the Canadian Workforce

By Sophie Beaton

This research was conducted to examine the impacts of gendered ageism in the workplace for women over 50. The aim of this research was to determine how older women are impacted on an economic, social and emotional level when they experience this type of discrimination at work. The findings show that women over 50 are both unfairly forced out of their positions and have unjustified difficulty reentering the workforce which then negatively impacts components of their lives such as economic stability, self-esteem, social connectedness and emotional well-being. To alleviate these impacts, it is recommended that programs and policies are put in place that make it easier for women to pursue legal action against their employer, and that social groups are created that provide networking opportunities and emotional support for older women.

Keywords: gender, age, discrimination, workforce, women, employment, isolation, stereotype, Canada

Permanent Impermanence

By Eric Lindsay

Over fifty percent of the world’s population now lives in cities. And, “by 2050, humanity is expected to have developed into an almost exclusively urban species with eighty to ninety percent of people living in cities.” Never in history have this many people lived in such close proximity to one another. Ironically, despite increased urban densities, there is an increasing proportion of socially isolated individuals, ultimately heightening the incidences of premature death, depression and dementia, and disrupting the social fabric of the world’s cities. Unfortunately, Montréal is no exception. Thus, to address these phenomena, this report focuses on the potential benefit of employing the temporary use of vacant city space in the development process, and in temporarily creating vibrant, connection-inducing spaces. The goal is to work with different city stakeholders to make better use of vacant spaces by engaging proactively with local communities and residents.

Keywords: temporary use, waiting space, ephemerality, vacant, public spaces, participatory, social connectedness, inclusive development, London, Montréal

Rethinking DisABILITY

By Anica Lanzi

In this report, I seek to draw attention to the issues of disability and immigration, and shed light on health discrimination in Canada’s immigration laws. I hope to pressure the Federal Government to consider the situation of poverty and distress suffered by displaced persons with disabilities and help them realize that it is in their interest to integrate these persons in the best way possible. This way, these persons can contribute their fair share to society. I hope to provide concerned groups with a complete and updated report to aid them in creating awareness. This awareness will stimulate host countries to consider needs about integration and the adaptation of essential services for this group of persons. I focus on immigration legislation. Canada’s long-standing medical inadmissibility rules prevent sick and disabled individuals from settling in Canada by claiming they would cause excessive demand on health and social services. A designated medical doctor estimates the cost of treatment and if it surpasses the average of a regular Canadian’s per capita health services and social services over a period of five consecutive years’ costs, the individual is denied entry.

Keywords: disability, rights, law, immigration, health, refugee, discrimination, Canada

Time Banking To Foster Connectedness

By Dean Velentzas

This report is primarily concerned with the systemic effects of capitalistic systems in North America, particularly on people with intellectual disabilities. It deals extensively with how Time Banking, an alternative form of receiving/providing services, can be used to promote empowerment of persons’ skills that have traditionally been devalued by the monetary economy. It also focuses on how Time Banking establishes a recognized sense of humanity amongst and between communities. The first section of my paper is concerned with explaining the historic effects of the economic marginalization of people with ID, and the latter section is concerned with how Time Banking can be used to remedy this issue.

Keywords: intellectual disability, special olympics, time banking, community currency, Edgar Cahn, peer-to-peer, sharing economy, alternative currency, Canada, U.S.A

Asylum Seekers and Refugees with Intellectual Disabilities in Europe

By Amy Luce

Asylum seekers and refugees with intellectual disabilities (ID) have been largely ignored by the mainstream conversation during the recent migrant crisis in Europe. While all migrants in the region undoubtedly face difficulties accessing resources and becoming included in society, those with ID – especially children – are likely subject to additional obstacles that deepen their isolation. Two main difficulties that migrants with ID will face in Europe include stigma and not be identified with ID during the asylum procedure. While there are examples of initiatives that specifically focus on asylum seekers and refugees with ID, these initiatives are scarce and this population will continue to be isolated without effective awareness-raising campaigns and inclusive practices. Several recommendations are presented to improve the situation for migrants with ID in Europe, which include better training, new identification methods and further research.

Click to read the Easy-to-read final report.

Keywords: refugee, asylum seeker, disability, stigma, awareness, Europe, EU

Inclusive Post-Secondary Education in Canada and the United States

By Eden Beschen

This report examines inclusive post-secondary opportunities for young adults with intellectual disabilities in North America. The opportunity to attend an institute of higher learning is equally, if not more, significant for students with disabilities as it is for those without. College not only lends itself to higher wages and more fulfilling employment, but also provides invaluable social connections, life skills and self-determination. Students often leave college with a higher degree of self-confidence and are more prepared to be their own advocates. Recommendations highlighted in this paper include: continuing to establish new post-secondary programs, using data from pre-established initiatives to produce evidence-based standards and best practices, and supporting research in the field of inclusive higher education.

Keywords: education, post-secondary, university, college, intellectual disability, accessibility, Canada, United States

The Inheritance of Trauma

By Vino Wijeyasuriyar

My research found that the roots of intergenerational trauma in the Tamil Canadian community can be traced back to the conflict of the Sri Lankan civil war, but that this trauma was further compounded by the refugee process. Refugees were forced to endure the loss of the home they had always known, followed immediately by strict requirements to prove both their identity and their desperation for asylum. Refugees pass these self-monitoring anxieties onto their children in by limiting the sort of activities their child participates in, or restricting how outspoken they become about issues in their motherland. These confusing limitations and inherited fears are further complicated by the absence of open discourse about emotions that appears to persist within refugee families. My recommendations include working actively to welcome and integrate refugees into local communities, empowering youth groups to create peer-matching programs, and encouraging governments to make adjustments to their immigration and asylum-seeking process.

Keywords: intergenerational, trauma, youth, older, refugee, migration, mental health, Sri Lanka

Enabling Social and Economic Mobility for Youth through Community-Based Programs

By Carmella Munyuzangabo

This research explores community-based programs that foster a sense of belonging among isolated youth in Montreal. These programs are a potential source of social capital, which is acquired by exposure to new environments. They also foster the development of new skills and strong relationships that provide youth with resources they may not have access to. This research also examines the implications of social capital for youth as a mechanism for inclusion and resilience-building within the current market economy. For the purposes of this project, the youth addressed were between 15-34 years old. Finally, programming and policy recommendations are made for various stakeholders, including but not limited to: government institutions, local youth organizations, private businesses, employers, and teachers.

Keywords: youth, empowerment, marginalized, social capital, resilience, community, labour, Montreal