The plight of refugees is a major global crisis, and Canada has been one of the leading countries endeavouring to resettle them. In 2019, Canada resettled over 30,000 refugees, a total greater than that of the United States and Australia combined. The SLEEC project in particular has been tackling issues facing multiple stakeholders in Canada’s refugee resettlement efforts. Specifically, we seek to achieve the following objectives:
PHASE 1 (Needs assessment from the perspectives of learners and instructors): To identify the unique language-learning needs of Syrian refugees by synthesizing the most up-to-date literature with data gathered from refugee learners and instructors who support them across Canada;
PHASE 2 (Development of instructional approach and materials): To develop a theoretically grounded, empirically supported, and tailor-made instructional approach and accompanying resources across the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) Stages I (Initial Basic Ability) and II (Fluent Intermediate Ability);
PHASE 3 (Field-testing): To empirically field-test the instructional approach and materials as substantiated by research and practice in order to more readily mobilize knowledge across Canada and beyond. In this way, our project will contribute directly to the efforts to resettle Syrian refugees by helping them more readily acquire the communication skills they need for employment purposes.
As Martani (2020) stated: “All refugees resettled in Canada … face early integration challenges, starting with language: the wait for language instruction is long, it is not job-specific and is not suitable for people who have low levels of education” (para 6). In response, our work marks an important shift from the prevailing “one-size-fits-all” approach to language training for refugees and newcomers in Canada.
Pedagogically, the developed instructional approach and associated materials directly address the needs of learners and instructors. Socially, the work assists the crucial work of language training critical to facilitating refugees’ integration into Canadian society and the workforce. Ethically, by working on breaking down barriers through developing a theoretically grounded and empirically supported approach to language training, our work helps refugee learners acquire the communication skills they need for employment, and thereby contributes to strengthening equity, diversity, and inclusion in Canadian society.