The Canada Excellence Research Chair in Migration and Integration (CERC Migration) program is based at Ryerson University, located in downtown Toronto at the heart of Canada’s most diverse city. CERC Migration is an international research hub contributing innovative and actionable knowledge concerning migration and post-migration processes, forced and voluntary mobility, and the role of countries of origin and transit.
The CERC in Migration and Integration program is led by Chair Anna Triandafyllidou, an internationally recognized sociologist and migration policy expert. Anna’s research focuses on the governance of migration and asylum; the management of cultural diversity, nationalism and identity issues; and the contemporary challenges of migration and integration across different world regions.
An interview with Professor Anna Triandafyllidou
- Maybe some of our newest followers might be surprised when thinking Ryerson University in connection with IMISCOE. Although the network dates a while back, it still contains “Europe”. The network has been undergoing an expansion process, which seems like a natural consequences of the topic at heart of this organization. Why do you think it is important for IMISCOE to have members from North America, and how did the Ryerson University-IMISCOE connection come about?
We are excited to be the first institution from the Americas to join IMISCOE. Migration is an international matter and all countries of the world are connected in some way, either as the place of origin, transit or as the receiving country. Canada’s unique experience offers the international scholar new insights and understanding. Because of the high level of immigration here, we can assess certain programmatic approaches or public responses that can help inform opportunities elsewhere. At the same time, Canada needs more exposure to the migration challenges that are experienced around the world, and needs to lend a voice in how we best manage migration as an international community. Our program at CERC Migration intends to help support Canada expand its international knowledge base and understanding, as well as its connections to the international community.
- IMISCOE’s biggest yearly event is the Annual Conference. What has been your experience with those and what is your fondest memory?
I have participated in IMISCOE’s annual event for many years. While not my fondest, this year’s annual conference will remain strong in my memory. The world over, academics are adapting to the online forum for sharing knowledge across networks. This conference, as with all online experiences I have had this year, has underscored the great potential of technology but also its limits. Face-to-face connections are invaluable for building shared understanding. However, perhaps we are now in the process of evolving.
- Talking about the annual conference, brings to mind the last one held digitally. This year has been characterized by the pandemic and its effects worldwide on all levels. How has your university adapted to this challenge and how does this set the new-normal for the academic world?
CERC Migration at Ryerson University has seized the challenge of the pandemic and turned it into an opportunity. Because we are able to connect with academics far and wide, we have been able to gather participants for important discussions and build an online community at a breadth and speed that would have been difficult to achieve if we were relying on physical gatherings. Our Pandemic Border blog, for example, has over 40 contributions, written by experts in over 12 countries; and our accompanying webinars have attracted well over 1,000 participants.
- This very same challenge surfaced many questions also from a migration standpoint, for instance regarding the “essentiality” of migrant workers. What should be the top concerns for countries in light of Covid-19 and migration. [We are well aware this question (like the one next) would take on its own an interview!]
Yes, this question is front and centre with the academic community. The pandemic has clearly revealed cracks in the system of our dependency on temporary labour migration and the conditions under which temporary migrants are employed. I, and many others, are seizing the moment to show governments that now is the time to improve policies to better support our domestic operations but lead to more equitable conditions for migrants with pathways to citizenship in the long term.
- The last months have also showcased the rise of anti-discrimination movements, re-ignited by the latest events taking place in the US. What started there developed into a wider global protest against social inequality, injustice and institutional racism. How is CERC Migration responding to the challenges on the ground in Canada?
The anti-racism movement is active here in Canada, and has helped remind Canadians that we are not immune from racism, despite being one of the most multicultural societies in the world. CERC Migration has launched a creative project to explore the changing face of Canadian identity. We will select a few dozen graduate students to work with an established Canadian film maker, Cyrus Sundar Singh, to produce short vignettes expressing the complexity of their identity. We believe this digital storytelling research project, entitled I am, will help open the dialogue and lead to a stronger appreciation of our differences and recognition of the problems of racism here in Canada.
The I am project is certainly an exciting initiative. However, we have many projects on the go. Next week, CERC Migration brings together an international group to explore the effectiveness of indicators in measuring the governance of religious and cultural diversity partnering with the Horizon2020 project GREASE and with the Global Centre for Pluralism based in Ottawa.
We have been conducting comparative analysis on what makes immigration successful in small to mid-size cities (i.e. not the typical gate-way cities that are the destination for the majority of migrants) within the framework of an international network led by Monash University in Melbourne (the other non-European partner of IMISCOE) and a few European Universities including Rotterdam (that obviously chairs IMISCOE). We expect this comparison to provide important insights for countries around the world that are looking for ways to better improve regional distribution of integration.
Another issue that is close to my (academic) heart at this moment is how the pandemic impacts migrants around the world – I am preparing an edited volume in the IMISCOE Springer series that I hope can be ready by summer 2021 – and in a more medium-term perspective, how the pandemic may shape the future(s) of migration in Canada, in Europe and globally. While this is a more long-term research project that I want to pursue, a conversation will be started through our Pandemic Borders blogging space in cooperation with Open Democracy in mid October followed up by a series of webinars.
- Finally, a question we often ask here at IMISCOE to our members. The network revolves centrally around migration. How do you see the state of the art as far as migration research goes right now?
Without question, having more granular data, within a short time frame, is increasingly vital to understanding what is going on, and how are migration patterns affected by policy change. Advances in big data, artificial intelligence, geospatial data, social media data will significantly improve our capacity to analyze what is occurring on the ground.
At the same time, I think we are in need of a more comprehensive analytical framework that can bring the difference pieces of the migration puzzle together in a meaningful combination. I hope that with our work at the CERC at Ryerson we can contribute towards both these research directions.
Thank you Anna and Reyerson University for taking the time with us to answer all of our questions. Looking forward for the next opportunities to collaborate!