Vis-à-vis with Gillian Creese Author of book The New African Diaspora In Vancouver (Migration, Exclusion, and Belonging)
TAN: What inspired you to start this research that has now become a book?
I was working on a research project where we interviewed the same immigrant families for five years, tracing how they settled in Vancouver. One of those families was from Uganda and we often talked about issues facing the broader African community. And we began to talk about the need to do research with the African community to document what they are facing. So after that project was finished I began to work with two members of the African community, Edith Ngene Kambere and Mambo Masinda, to find out what issues face immigrants from sub-Saharan African countries, and to look at how the community is developing in Vancouver.
TAN: Do you think the research that you completed will be a great tool for our local government leaders to take a look at and make some much needed changes?
Yes I do. It is clear that issues like getting post-secondary credentials recognized, employers’ demands for ‘Canadian experience’, and the common experiences with accent discrimination, even for those who were fluent in English before coming to Canada, need to be addressed. Most newcomers from Africa face significant discrimination and find it difficult to get jobs they are qualified for. Families also need support to negotiate changing gender roles and parenting issues in Canada, changes that place different pressures on women and on men. We need to understand these patterns if we are going to develop policies that facilitate integration.
TAN: What is your view on the Afric Diaspora in Vancouver after the research?
At the same time that it faces discrimination, the African diaspora is also very resilient, and is creating a new ‘African community’ in metro Vancouver with the creation of formal and informal support networks, organizations, businesses, social and cultural activities, and identities that underscores its growing strength and resilience. That doesn’t mean the community is as cohesive as many people would like to see, but the deepening of community roots over the last decade is quite impressive.
TAN: What is your next project after the result of this latest book that was so well received in the intellectual community?
My next project is to see how the children of African immigrants are faring in the Vancouver area. If their parents have experienced downward economic mobility and sacrificed for their children to have a better life – how are their adult children doing? Are their prospects better than their parents? Are their prospects similar or different from other Canadians? So I will be interviewing adults (anyone over 20 years of age) who has at least one parent who migrated from sub-Saharan Africa, and who went to high school locally, to understand the longer term effects of migration for this community. Anyone who is interested in being interviewed for this project can contact me by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
TAN: How do you want or suggest to people to know more about this book?
There is a lot of focus on the large immigrant communities in Canada – especially the Chinese and South Asian groups – but little attention to groups that are much smaller in numbers, and because they are small in numbers, have fewer community resources to draw on in settlement. I think it is extremely important for government and other policy makers to understand the issues faced by newer and smaller communities in order to develop policies that will aid integration in the long run.
Gillian Creese is the Director of the Centre for Women’s and Gender Studies, and a Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of British Columbia. She is also the President of the Board of Umoja Operation Compassion Society/ African Family Services, a settlement organization located in Surrey that was created to serve the needs of immigrants and refugees from sub-Saharan Africa.