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The Many Faces of 'Integration'

 “Integration is…

…togetherness, unity.”

…belonging, appreciation, friendship and home!”

…happening when everyone starts to feel comfortable.”

…de-colonizing/healing.”

…taking an active role in the community and helping others to become active members!”

…belonging and success in a new culture.”

These are just a few of the many understandings of the term ‘integration’ expressed by over 60 participants who attended the Community Integration Network’s (CIN) Symposium hosted by the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 on May 12.

The symposium consisted of eight conversation tables which explored themes such as:

•       Strengthening a sense of community, belonging and identity

•       Transforming our communities to become more integrated

•       Looking further beyond multicultural optics and diversity

•       Building connections and relations between our communities

•       Going where people are: the role of a public space in community integration

•       Community integration in rural Nova Scotia

•       Community integration and francophone communities

Each conversation table was facilitated by Diversity Facilitators: volunteers who have undergone training with Immigrant Settlement and Integration Services (now known as Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia ISANS) to host cross-cultural conversations about issues of multiculturalism and diversity.

Conversations were lively, focusing on issues of respect for cultural diversity and creating a sense of belonging. Some viewed integration as a two-way process, one that requires the active participation of both newcomers and established residents. Others expressed that a two-way integration process is too narrow in scope. Integration, as an unfolding process, is multifaceted: something new is created through interactions by people from multiple, diverse cultural backgrounds participating in their community together.

At one table, participants examined the implications of the term ‘integration’ through a post-colonial lens. They discussed the precariousness of the term for people belonging to historically marginalized communities, such as the indigenous African Nova Scotian and Aboriginal populations.

Emerging from the symposium were some new questions: How do we facilitate broader community dialogue about integration? How do we develop a community integration strategy that works in Nova Scotia?

Merek Jagielski, a key Symposium organizer, commented, “This event has proven that we need to continue on with community conversations, and there is a great need for that. Definitely, we will be working on capturing those ideas and transforming them into some strategic directions in community integration… we are charting new waters.”