Settlement Experiences of Racialized Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Immigrants and Refugees in St. John’s, NL: How Do Settlement Agencies Measure Up?
This public engagement project was designed to better understand how well settlement and LGBT-serving organizations in NL were doing in meeting the settlement and integration needs of racialized LGBT newcomers. To gain insight into this topic, the project was divided into two phases. In Phase I, an invite-only Preliminary Stakeholders’ Consultation, the project team brought together two community stakeholders: the Association for New Canadians (ANC) and the Planned Parenthood of Newfoundland and Labrador (PPNL). The ANC is the primary immigrant and refugee-serving organization in NL, providing the most comprehensive settlement and integration services. The PPNL has an explicit commitment to supporting and addressing issues faced by LGBT people in the province. Both organizations showed interest in, and commitment to, meeting the needs of racialized LGBT newcomers in NL.
In Phase II, community stakeholders and organizations providing direct or indirect settlement and integration services were identified and included in the ensuing discussions, in effort to generate more ideas and ways forward to improve the settlement experiences of racialized LGBT newcomers in NL. Of the 19 organizations identified, a total of 10 attendees from nine different organizations took part in the event, with representation from the ANC, PPNL, Choices for Youth, St. John’s Pride, MUN-SAGA (Memorial University of Newfoundland Sexual and Gender Advocacy Resource Centre), SHOP (Safe Harbour Outreach Project), YMCA, YWCA, and CBRC (Community-Based Research Centre for Gay Men’s Health).
Both Phases I and II meetings lasted four hours and took place at either the ANC’s boardroom or First Light St. John’s Friendship Centre.
The specific objectives of the public engagement activities were to:
· identify the unique challenges that racialized LGBT newcomers face;
· facilitate discussions to determine the type of services that local settlement agencies provide to racialized LGBT newcomers;
· identify gaps/limitations and/or strengths in the services that are needed and those that are provided to racialized LGBT newcomers; and
· share information from one Canadian province about successful integration strategies for service provision to racialized LGBT newcomers.
A graphic recorder documented discussions related to these objectives.
Phase I discussions revealed several strengths of these organizations, but most significant was that neither organization (ANC and PPNL) offers services with a specific focus on LGBT newcomers, racialized or not. Identified barriers included language and financial difficulties, small community sizes, lack of diversity in NL, and a lack of communication between settlement and LGBT-serving organizations. Phase II discussions revealed further strengths that organizations have, in addition to identifying strengths and challenges settlement and LGBT-serving organizations felt that racialized LGBT newcomers would bring with them. Identified strengths included resilience and knowledge of their own needs; challenges included language barriers, mental health difficulties, pass trauma, and experiences of discrimination on the part of racialized LGBT newcomers. The discussion also focused on what critical information organizations need to improve service delivery to racialized LGBT newcomers and what positive spaces would look like in these settlement and LGBT-serving organizations.
The recommendations that emerged from this project reflect a key aspiration and desire among project stakeholders to create a welcoming and positive spaces within their organizations, to more effectively serve racialized and non-racialized LGBT newcomers in NL. Five specific recommendations are highlighted below.
• Settlement and LGBT-serving organizations should work towards creating a welcoming and positive space and engage in further positive space training for all members of the organization, especially frontline staff, to increase their awareness of the needs of racialized LGBT newcomers.
• Settlement and LGBT-serving organizations should continue to engage in self-assessment to identify gaps in their programs and services. Self-assessment should then result in an actionable plan to be implemented that can support service delivery to racialized LGBT newcomers, as well as ensure that the group is not left behind in the organization’s strategic planning process.
• Settlement and LGBT-serving organizations should proactively and on an ongoing basis seek opportunities for cross-organizational training and collaboration, to combat organizational silos and promote learning across service sectors; to ensure effective use of limited resources; and to support client-centered programming that is outcome-driven and responsive to the needs of racialized LGBT newcomers.
• Settlement and LGBT-serving organizations should consult with racialized LGBT newcomers to create services that address their specific needs and to utilize the strengths that these newcomers bring, to create sustainable and effective services that are based on knowledge from the service users.
• As participating stakeholders identified a need for primary research with racialized LGBT newcomers, this presents an opportunity for university-community research partnerships with academics doing research in this field of study, as a way for settlement and LGBT-serving organizations to add to their knowledge of service-users and to share this knowledge with other organizations to increase learning and awareness across the service sector.