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Our project will focus on the population of government-assisted refugees* and immigrants** who arrived in Canada at any time over the past seven years

The Family Services of Peel, including the Peel Institute of Research and Training, in partnership with Institute for Management & Innovation at the University of Toronto is developing an evidence-based Family Needs Framework through their study that focuses on fully understanding the needs of government-assisted refugees and immigrants. By doing this, the framework hopes to establish better services for Peel government assisted refugees and immigrants. Upon completed research, the Family Needs Framework should inform settlement practices, impact immigrant and refugee services, and further develop the existing literature on newcomer integration.

The Peel Family Pathway Project was selected to be a recipient of the Building Equitable Economies for Immigrants and Refugees in the Peel Region. The funding opportunity is sponsored by the Tamarack Institute and WES Mariam Assesfa Fund; after a careful process carried out by the People’s Panel, Family Services of Peel was chosen to receive $149,695 in funding.

*Government-assisted refugee:

A person who is outside Canada and has been determined to be a Convention refugee and who receives financial and other support from the Government of Canada or Province of Quebec for up to one year after their arrival in Canada.
GARs are selected from applicants referred by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other referral organizations.



IMMIGRANT – a person who has settled permanently in another country (Source: Mise en page 1 (

Holding Hands
The End Goal

The objective of this project is to fully understand the needs of government-assisted refugees and immigrants developing an evidence-based Family Needs Framework.


The holistic approach we take here will form the foundation for developing responsive service pathways that account for the needs of the whole family. It also provokes meaningful collaboration across service providers to offer seamless support that fulfills the needs and preserves the dignity of government-assisted refugees and immigrants and their families.



The Peel Family Pathways Project is Guided by 3 Objectives

Objectives (About)
objective 1


Developing an Evidence-Based Family Needs Framework for Government-Assisted Refugees and Immigrants

The main goal of immigrant and resettlement services is to fulfill the various needs of its clients. However, current approaches are relatively top-down - offering services that are available rather than closely matching the needs of the clients.


Basic needs include physiological needs such as food and clothes, and safety needs such as shelters. Yet, even basic needs are culture-bound (Yang, 2003) and interact and interconnect with biological, physical, psychological, psychosocial, and spiritual needs.


While fulfilling clients’ basic needs appears straightforward —providing enough food, and clothes and arranging a safe living environment, adequately serving these needs and the more complex and culturally-bound psychological and social needs, require sensitivity and understanding of nuances of the resources that clients truly need to flourish.

It is crucial to recognize that those necessities are themselves associated with identity processes and experiences that can undermine a successful integration. Something as basic as the food refugees receive from support providers, that represents the mainstream culture of the host country, rather than that of their ethnic or home country culture, potentially signals a lack of concern and/or an implicit expectation that refugees should relinquish their cultural heritage and become a reformed newcomer. This inadvertently strengthens the fault lines between immigrant and host nationals and creates additional physiological and psychological strain (Guendelman, Cheryan, & Monin, 2011; Mintz & Bois, 2002).


Hence, to effectively provide basic needs that have implications for physiological and psychological outcomes for immigrants and refugees, the services provided should be based on evidence - attitudinal and behavioural evidence collected from refugees and various stakeholders.


We need to understand fundamentally who the clients are before we can develop a responsive pathway of services for them.

We propose that to better understand government-assisted refugees and immigrants, their demands should not be interpreted individually, but should be holistically examined in the context of the family unit.


The client’s living space is embedded in a family ecology, in connection with other family members and their living environments. This ecological perspective emphasizes the importance of examining attitudes and behaviours in the social context by which the target is situated, which, in our present case, is the household.


The characteristics of a household, specifically, its structure and functioning, as well as the interaction between house members, profoundly affect stress and coping during settlement (Pederson & Revenson, 2005).

A immigrants or refugee’s basic needs may reflect his or her family’s demands and reversely, family roles may alter a refugee’s individual experiences in a settlement. Cut off from networks in their home country, the family unit may be even more germane for refugees as they become their sources of familial support in the host country. As such, services and counselling should not only attend to an individual refugee’s feelings and experiences but seek to understand and attend as much as possible, to the constellation of needs present in the family unit. In sum, to meet the needs of a client, it is necessary to understand them in the context of the family unit.

Objective 2
Objective 3


The Family as a Unit for Analysis


Responsive Service Pathways that Prioritize Pathology Prevention 

Once we develop an understanding of the needs of potential clients, we have a basis for mapping out responsive services pathways for them. Priority should be given to preventing any primary or secondary traumatic experiences during the settlement period rather than waiting for problems to occur. Refugee populations, for example, are extremely vulnerable since they have potentially experienced violence, war, and persecution etc. in their home country and have suffered from hardship in the fleeing process. The instability and unpredictability of the new life in the host country make them more vulnerable to physical or emotional injury and many of them may not be able to overcome a second traumatic experience.

However, to provide services that are responsive and that prioritize prevention, we need to understand which needs must most urgently be met that would prevent severe and costly pathologies later on. Therefore, it is necessary to develop a conceptually and empirically grounded model that establishes linkages between the frustration of refugees’ basic needs with the potential for mental and physical health difficulties in the future. 

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