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The role of culture and the arts as a framework and tool for settlement

January 15, 202015 January 2020

Social benefits: The arts and post-crisis recovery and resettlement

Canadian Commission for UNESCO


Daniel Hiebert and Bronwyn Bragg

Article Link[Arts%20and%20Refugee%20Welcoming]

Arguing that we should not draw “hard boundaries between ‘settlement’ and the ‘arts’ – as settlement itself is a creative process”, this report examines how the arts and culture contribute to refugee resettlement in Canada. Based on findings from a literature review, interviews with key stakeholders, and case studies, the authors conclude that, “despite the lack of formal impact evaluations, there is little doubt that arts and culture play a critical role in supporting the settlement, integration and social inclusion of refugees and immigrants in Canadian society”.

The research team explore “the various functions that arts and culture based programming plays in immigrant and refugee settlement creating dialogue, cultural exchange, rapprochement and a sense of belonging”. In particular, there is evidence that arts engagement “leads to a variety of positive forms of social inclusion including greater social connection, opportunities to share culture, language, values and art”. Arts engagement can also provide “opportunities to engage with unfamiliar communities which participants report allows them to feel included and connected to the receiving society”.

Five case studies of promising programs “that operate at the intersection of immigrant inclusion and arts-based programming” are featured, including a community-art centre in Toronto that provide therapeutic arts programming for refugee families and a participatory theatre program for newcomer youth in Vancouver.

The authors identify challenges in arts-based settlement work:

  • “Funding for arts-based programs for immigrants falls somewhere in-between settlement funding and arts funding”, which may limit eligibility with either type of funder.
  • “Few pathways to transition for professional artists”: interviewees noted that, “while there appear to be programs that support other professionals as they transition to the Canadian labour market – for engineers, or accountants, for example – there are no clear pathways for artists to find work in their profession in Canada”.
  • Language and accent barriers, including “the lack of opportunities for artists from linguistic and culturally diverse backgrounds”.
  • “Challenges of measuring and evaluating the impacts of both art therapy and therapeutic interventions in cross-cultural contexts”.

The report also delves into the social, cultural, and political context of newcomer and refugee settlement in Canada and “other immigrant receiving countries”. In addition, the report includes recommendations for additional research, such as an impact evaluation of arts-based settlement programs and further research on initiatives taking place outside of major urban centres.

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