Accessing English Language Education in Urban Immigrant Gateways: The Case of Ottawa
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Immigration to Canadian cities is a growing phenomenon. While much previous international migration research has focused on states and borders, cities are receiving increasing attention as a scale at which the lived experiences of international migrants can be better understood. Three Canadian cities – Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver – serve as Canada’s top destinations and receive a disproportionate number of Canada’s newcomers. In recent decades, flows of newcomers have diverted to other cities such as Ottawa, which is now home to the fifth largest concentration of foreign-born individuals in Canadian cities. Cities like Ottawa wherein increasing immigration rates are a relatively recent phenomenon can lack settlement services such as language training in comparison to more established gateway cities. With an increasing number of newcomers from countries where English is not an official language, there is growing concern over newcomers’ abilities to integrate both economically and socially. This research uses a mixed methods approach to combine census data, fourteen semi-structured interviews, and GIS analyses to provide a quantitative needs assessment without neglecting the qualitative aspects of service accessibility. English programs in Ottawa range from federally funded language classes to community-run conversation groups. Changing settlement patterns and growing numbers of newcomers in Ottawa raise the question whether these programs are accessible to the very groups they are intended to reach. This research assesses how English language instruction is provided for and accessed by the foreign-born population in Ottawa. Moreover, it asserts the importance of the language classroom as a space in which international migrants negotiate their identities and find their place within mainstream Canadian society. This thesis concludes by making recommendations for future action, discussing the limitations of this study, and exploring areas of future research.