UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Colombian refugees' stories of navigating settlement Wiebe, Shalom Rebekah


This study examines Colombian refugees’ stories of navigating settlement and integration over time in the Greater Vancouver Regional District. The research question addressed in this study was: What are stories that Colombian refugees tell about their experiences navigating the settlement and integration process? Seven individuals participated in the study, three women and four men, all of whom had arrived in Canada as Government Assisted Refugees between the years of 2000 and 2007 and had settled immediately in the Greater Vancouver region. Information was collected through semi-structured narrative interviews which aimed to identify significant events in settlement over time. Using a narrative approach to analysis, the thesis first introduces each participant and the key aspects of their settlement journey. Next a number of major themes that appeared across the interviews describing the participants’ settlement journey in Canada are introduced, including the refugee experience, navigating around obstacles, and building community and helping others. Personal qualities and practices that served as key techniques for navigating the unfamiliar terrain of the new social environment in Canada are identified and explored in depth. Stories, language, and metaphors used by the participants challenged the concept of integration as a ‘two-way street’ and demonstrate that participants are active agents in their settlement and integration process, relying primarily on their own efforts to incorporate into the new society. Participants narratives revealed their collective identity as people that move forward, overcoming crisis and moving on to build community in their new context, help others, and plan for the future. The findings of this study are relevant to social workers across fields, social work educators, settlement service providers, and others who work in the refugee service provision sector.

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