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U of C professor receives government funding for anti-racism and equity programs research

By Sophia Lopez, June 13 2022

University of Calgary associate sociology professor Dr. Pallavi Banerjee recently received over $1 million in funding for anti-racism and equity programs research.

In an interview with the Gauntlet, Banerjee elaborated on how the funding from the Government of Canada – Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will help her and her team develop a community-engaged framework. This framework is in partnership with the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society (CCIS), the Centre for Newcomers (CFN), the Calgary Bridge Foundation for Youth (CBYF) and th Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association (CIWA).

“This was really a community-lead project, particularly the CCIS was the one who wanted to engage with me in developing this project,” said Banerjee. “So that was the inspiration.”

Banerjee credits Bindu Narula, the CCIS’s director of resettlement and integration services, for helping her identify the lack youth-focused initiatives led on by organizations. 

“Bindu Narula from the CCIS was the main contact person, and she has been in the resettlement sector for a very long time,” she said. “One of the things that she really brought home to me was how young people and these organizations are often engaged, but it’s not often from a youth-centric perspective. ‘How could we think about engaging the youth in a more active way in these initiatives?’ — this is a conversation she and I had that really inspired me to move forward with this project.”

Part of the research will include interviews and sitting down with refugee and immigrant youth in order to better understand their experiences. Banerjee explained how the youth age group will range from 14 to 25 year-olds.

“The reason we have that age range is that many immigrants and refugee youth come here when they are in their teens and they have to translate a lot of their education into the Canadian system — which often sets them back a little,” she said. “So I think that’s why we have this age range. Our criteria is any young person across genders who is part of [any of] the four organizations that we are working with — whether they’re in the university or not.”

Banerjee hopes that with this framework people will be able to meet the needs of immigrant and refugee youth in a way that is anti-racist to protect newcomers, noting that most of these youth are a part of the BIPOC community.

“We’ve tried to develop capacity [within] the [service providing organizations] SPOs that are engaged to work with the youth as partners,” she said. “So working with the youth to understand their perceptions of race and racism, and then working through those to engage them with the racial landscape of Canada is really important because these are the youth who are the future of Canada.”

Specifically relating to U of C, Banerjee believes that more Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) work needs to be done to support immigrant and refugee youth, especially in terms of the application and admission process.

“I think one of the things that the University of Calgary really needs to do very quickly and put effort in to is to think about young refugee students and students that are applying to the university as non normative students, and then once they’re admitted, supporting them through their programs.”

Banerjee and her team are beyond excited to get started on the framework and research, which will be in the works for about the next two years.

“It would be great to have interactions with the university community, the student community at the university — particularly the BIPOC community — but everyone really to engage and think about this together,” Banerjee concluded.

For more information about Banerjee and her team’s work regarding anti-racism and equity research, along with their efforts to support the immigrant and refugee youth community, visit the U of C website.

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