Master of Science
Migration and Ethnic Relations
Canada plays a key role in addressing the ‘global refugee crisis’ as it accepts more refugees per capita than any other country. Although Canadians increasingly view support for immigration and multiculturalism as integral components of their national identity, the number of immigrants and refugees Canada accepts yearly is an increasingly polarized issue. In line with the Intergroup Contact Hypothesis, the current study investigated how Canadian volunteers’ repeated virtual contact experiences with refugees affected their generalized attitudes towards refugees over time. Our findings did not suggest that the quality and quantity of participants’ virtual contact experiences affected their attitudes. The findings did suggest, however, that potentially related variables, such as feelings of intergroup anxiety, were associated with the volunteers’ generalized attitudes. The implications of the results, and suggestions for future research, are discussed.
Summary for Lay Audience
In 2021, the UNHCR reported that there are more than 84 million forcibly displaced people around the world, of whom more than 30 million are refugees and asylum seekers. Due to the global pandemic, climate disasters and recent armed conflicts, this number is expected to continue increasing for the foreseeable future (UNHCR, 2022). In Canada, successful refugee integration relies heavily on publicly funded resettlement programs, highlighting the importance of public support for refugee resettlement. Although Canadians increasingly view support for immigration and multiculturalism as integral components of their national identity (Environics, 2019), the number of immigrants and refugees Canada accepts yearly is an increasingly polarized issue (Environics, 2019). Given that the global refugee crisis is projected to worsen in the years to come (UNHCR, 2022), it is important to address negative misconceptions about refugees so that people continue to support programs and services aimed at helping refugees in Canada. As such, my thesis examines repeated virtual contact experiences over a 6-month time span between Canadian volunteers and refugees, and their potential associations with generalized attitudes towards refugees. To examine this association, volunteers involved in a matching program with refugees were surveyed at multiple time points throughout their time in the program. These results were then compared to a comparison group consisting of participants with no involvement in a matching program with refugees. We predicted that the volunteers’ either positive or negative experiences in the program would have a significant association with their generalized attitudes towards refugees as assessed when the program was complete. In addition, we predicted that the volunteers’ attitudes would differ when measured before and after their involvement in the matching program, while there would not be any notable changes for the participants in the comparison group. Although we did not find any changes in the volunteers’ attitudes towards refugees from before to after the program, the overall results suggest that established Canadians hold overall favorable attitudes towards refugees. As such, the positive preexisting attitudes towards refugees of the volunteers in the matching program remained consistent despite varying experiences in the program.
Besselink, Maria, "More than just virtual communication: Examining Canadian volunteers’ virtual contact experiences with refugees" (2022). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 8470.