Newcomers, new knowledge

- July 22, 2015

Whether it's investigating immigration trends and realities or providing services that help newcomers to Canada, Dal researchers are constantly exploring our changing nation. Here are some different examples from across the university.

Reality check

Perceptions about immigrants and immigration in our society often don’t square with reality, as the research of political sociologist Howard Ramos proves. Dr. Ramos has helped show how newcomers to Canada make a positive social and economic impact. His research also challenges Canada’s “econo-centric” immigration system. For example, recent news shows that refugees are more likely to pay taxes and contribute to the labour force in their communities than the “millionaire migrants” favoured by current policies.  

Local impact

In 2009, Kristin Good became the first female recipient of the Canadian Political Science Association’s Donald Smiley Award for the best English-language book about Canadian politics, for Municipalities and Multiculturalism: The Politics of Immigration in Toronto and Vancouver. Her research since then has continued to focus on the role of local governments in receiving immigrants and shaping immigration policy. The political science associate professor’s current project looks at nine Canadian cities with varying growth rates and ethno-linguistic makeups and how these factors affect local policies and politics.

Health status

Constance MacIntosh, associate professor of law and the director of the Health Law Institute, explores how health status, including disability, affects decisions about whether a person is permitted to immigrate and how the state responds to refugee health needs. “An objective of my research is to ensure the needs of migrant communities, who may not be able to petition on their own behalf, are not rendered invisible in law and policy debates.”

Confident speech

It’s one thing to read, write and understand a language, but something else to speak it. “We liken it to playing the piano. You have to train your muscles to work in certain ways,” says Michael Kiefte of the School of Human Communication Disorders and director of the Dalhousie Accent Modification Clinic. The clinic, the first of its kind in Atlantic Canada, opened in 2013. The goal isn’t to eliminate accents. Rather it is to help people who have learned English but have trouble being understood due to their accents. Speech language pathologist Cindy Dobblesteyn works with clients to build communication competence and confidence.

A healthy smile

A few years ago, Heather Doucette, a course director for second-year students in Dental Hygiene, partnered with the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS) to invite interested newcomers for free dental hygiene appointments with her students. The patients receive a cleaning and evaluation and the students learn how to navigate language barriers and dental issues they’re not used to seeing. Doucette is hoping to conduct research into the impact of the program in immigrant communities, but anecdotally, she knows “there are always members of the immigrant population asking to come because they’ve heard good things about the treatment from others who have been here.”


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