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An interpretive study of a voluntary organization serving Chinese immigrants in Vancouver, Canada Guo, Shibao


Community initiated voluntary associations play a valuable role in immigrant societies, such as multicultural Canada. They are, however, not always seen as benign, self-motivated, or altruistic institutions. Where immigrants are all too frequently viewed as a drain on societal resources, ethnic organizations are also viewed as threatening national unity, diluting Canadian identity, and promoting ghettoization and separatism. This study explores, in detail, the way in which one ethnic organization, SUCCESS, was founded in 1973 for exactly the opposite reasons. The failure of the government and mainstream organizations to provide accessible social services for Chinese immigrants led to its initiation. The central guiding question in this research is: how did a community initiated voluntary organization such as SUCCESS respond to changing needs of an ethnic community in a multicultural society? The study traces the evolution of SUCCESS in its first 25 years. This investigation utilizes a 'collage' of literature pertaining to multiculturalism, minority group rights and democratic citizenship, research on social services for immigrants, the role of immigrant serving organizations, and their relationship with the state. Data draws on multiple sources and triangulation: document analysis; interviews with the Executive, Board members, and Program Directors; site visits; as well as participant observation as a volunteer. Since interviews with clientele were not included, this study is unable to make claims about the nature of their views of this organization. This research has extended existing arguments regarding the roles of ethnic organizations and their relationship with the state. It demonstrates that SUCCESS plays a significant role in promoting immigrant integration. Moreover, the study challenges the view of liberal universalism and provides an alternative model to interpret citizenship, minority group rights, and democracy. The findings from this study have important implications for both researchers and policy makers. First, it contributes to the theoretical literature on the role of ethnic organizations, to the history of Chinese immigrants in British Columbia, and to a better relationship between ethnic organizations and the state. Second, it helps policy makers in Canada reassess their past policies on immigration and ethnic organizations and plan for the future. Third, it provides guidelines for community organization in Vancouver and Canada.

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