About This Project

Welcome to the website for the first research project in Canada to systematically investigate how environmental factors overseas influence international immigration to Canada. We are learning how deforestation, droughts, pollution, and urban ecological decline are affecting migration dynamics in less developed countries, and how those dynamics can in turn contribute to peoples’ decisions to migrate to Canada. In some cases, environmental stresses experienced in countries affect the settlement and incorporation prospects of migrants arriving in Canada. We will be using the empirical evidence from this project to generate recommendations for Canadian and international immigration policies, regulations, and settlement programming.

This multi-year, multi-disciplinary project brings together researchers from the University of Ottawa and Wilfrid Laurier University, who are working with community organizations in Montreal, Ottawa-Gatineau, and Toronto to document the immigration experiences of recently arrived immigrants from Bangladesh, Haiti, the Philippines, Somalia, and sub-Saharan Africa – places that are regularly identified by scientists as hotspots of environmental degradation, natural hazard risks, and climate change vulnerability.

In focus group discussions and interviews with recent migrants, settlement workers, and community groups, we have been asking:

  • Do environmental factors in the countries of origin have any influence on migrants’ decisions to migrate internationally?
  • How do these compare in importance relative to non-environmental motivations (e.g. job seeking, family reunification, and political, economic, or social factors)?
  • Do environmental factors experienced in the country of origin have significant effects on migrants’ settlement process/needs?

These are questions that have never previously been asked of immigrants coming to Canada. Why should we ask them now? There is growing evidence that pollution, ecological decline, natural hazard events, and climate extremes are beginning to affect migration patterns in many parts of the world, including regions that are important sources of immigration to Canada. Most previous research has focused on internal and short-distance environmental migration within those regions. Despite regular warnings in the media that we can expect hundreds of millions of “environmental refugees”  in coming decades, few studies have looked at how environmental factors affect long distance international migration. Our research will start filling in some of the answers.