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Newcomer Youth

Quick Facts Concepts, Skills and Terminology How to Learn More Find Services
Clients.jpgNewcomer youth are a growing presence in Canada but more so in Ontario. As this young population leads the way for a “new” Canada, it is important for service providers, researchers, teachers, and social policymakers to investigate the multiple challenges and barriers that newcomer youth face as they navigate through their adjustment and settlement processes.

Quick Facts

  • Almost one of every five Canadians is an immigrant, with 36% (390,800) representing immigrant and refugee children and youth 24 years of age or under (Statistics Canada, 2006).
  • A recent study by the University of Guelph (2010) surveyed 125 newcomer youth from five provinces in Canada. From the 125 youth, only 11% or 14 youth relied on community organizations for their settlement needs.
  • Newcomer youth and their families rely more on informal systems of support rather than on formal services for emotional/mental support as well as for help in overcoming the determinants/stressors.
  • Many newcomer youth stress that their adjustment challenges are underpinned by discrimination and racism.
  • Newcomers and newcomer youth are not evenly distributed across Canada. Ontario can lay claim to the largest number of newcomer youth Canada.

Concepts, Skills & Terminology

Discover important concepts, definitions and terms relating to serving newcomer youth in the settlement sector.


At-Risk: Issues associated with “at-risk youth” include youth crime, violence, sex, substance abuse, poor academic performance, poverty, social-disengagement, etc. Research shows that at-risk youth struggle with complex issues and scenarios that are brought on by peers, mentors, family members, and difficult social environments.

Resilience: Indicates youth resilience, optimism and leadership. Resilience is more common among second generation immigrant youth in the form of a rediscovery of their ethnicity. 

Social Capital of Families: Newcomer youth help their families navigate and access services and assist with interpretation and translation in English for family members facing linguistic barriers.


Some of the needs identified by researchers include academic support, parental involvement in the education of children, the recognition of the unique circumstances and experiences of newcomer youth, as well as training for teachers, school staff and settlement workers

Early intervention in the education of children is critical for the successful integration of newcomer youth. The experiences of early childhood tend to define one's social and behavioural patterns.

Some newcomer youth stressed the importance of and need to openly discuss different forms of negative behaviours.

At the school level, when newcomer students, in particular those that don’t speak English or French, face a negative experience (e.g. racist or bullying incidents) they are not always clear about where they can turn to report and be supported. More support needs to be put in place to deal with this issue - newcomer youth should be able to approach some sort of governing body that would allow them to disclose their negative experiences and to seek solutions in a safe environment.

The support of family, friends and the community can provide a healthy intervention into negative behaviour by allowing children and adolescents to develop ethnic resilience and foster strong social networks.


The type of skills required depend on the type of settlement service which is provided to newcomer youth. Many youth view their ethnic community as an important source of support. Several youth (including those that are not necessarily religious) identified religious institutions as comfortable spaces for seeking settlement advice and other support.

In terms of formal supports, newcomer youth rely on the role of teachers, ESL classes, and youth-focused programs offered in their schools and their neighbourhoods. The implimentation of each service is unique in its scope and objective.


Schools are the most important site for the successful integration of immigrant youth, both those already enrolled, and those who are not in school, but are either in poor employment or out of work, largely because they are inadequately educated. The needs of newcomer youth are as diverse as their circumstances and experiences. To meet these needs successfully youth require:

  1. strong academic support at individual and group levels;
  2. broad support for family and community involvement in their education; and  
  3. cross-cultural understanding and respect for their ethno-racial identity in all the institutions and agencies with which they deal in their daily lives

Access to Employment 

Finding employment is a major concern for newcomer youth. It is important for organizations to adequately prepare adolescents for the job market. By working, they hope to acquire the same opportunities afforded to Canadian born adolescents, including the purchase of material goods, going out, and saving funds for university or college. In acquiring employment, they also hope to gain Canadian experience, build on their resume references, and achieve a measure of independence. To ensure the economic mobility of newcomer youth, consider:

  1. Updating prospective youth on the labour market and which jobs are most viable
  2. Organizing workshops, hosting guest speakers and facilitators with knowledge about labour market trends
  3. Ensuring staff is adequately training in assisting youth find meaningful employment
  4. In additionto resume and cover-letter workshops, preparing youth with interview and follow-up skills

Mental Health 

  1. When provided services to newcomer youth with mental health issues, keep in mind to:
  2. proactively address the determinants of newcomer youth mental health, particularly those linked to settlement and discrimination/exclusion
  3. make mental health services more sensitive and accessible to the needs of diverse newcomer communities
  4. implement innovative mental health promotion (MHP) programs that help to overcome stigma, and build positive knowledge about mental health issues
  5. promote collaboration between the settlement and health sectors
  6. implement youth empowerment and community development programs that build youth leadership and involve newcomer youth meaningfully as agents of change in critical pathways (research, planning, decision making, community building etc)

Language Skils

  1. Create additional literacy and communication support for newcomer youth that extend from school classes by bridging more formalized partnerships between schools and local libraries (and similar community organizations that have literacy support). Such partnerships will create a more resilient and supportive community for newcomer youth as they become more aware of their local communities. After school and summer programming operated by immigrant serving agencies as part of a family based case management approach would also greatly enhance the language acquisition process for newcomer youth, in particular, programs that combine academic, social and recreational components in a multicultural environment.
  2. Enhance place based programming in immigrant serving agencies as part of family based case management approach. Youth would benefit from more safe and supportive environments to build peer relationships and social support while having opportunities to enhance their language skills.

Social Inclusion of Newcomer Youth

In order to create a positive environment within your organization or school where newcomer youth can integrate effectively, consider;

  1. Implementing training sessions and/or workshops on topics such as racism and discrimination, bullying, for students, teachers, and school administrators.
  2. Ensuring that the teachers in the schools working with newcomer youth are provided appropriate, culture-specific traning (e.g., dispelling myths and stereotypes, training teachers on how to ask questions that are culturally responsive and supportive).
  3. More formalized mentorship/buddy/peer support programs in schools and the community that help to create “instant” social networks. Providing newcomer youth led peer support groups in schools, for instance creates opportunities for newcomer youth to build their social capital (social knowledge about their surroundings, social norms and customs) which will ease their adjustment experiences.
  4. Programs that allow immigrant youth to interact with all of their peers i.e. not exclusive to just new immigrant and refugee youth but Canadian born youth as well. This will accelerate their learning and integration. 

It is important to engage these youth in the developing and implementation of programs and services as they are “the experts” and have the insider perspective of their adjustment and settlement process.

How to Learn More

Best Practices/Practical Guides

  1.  Part One Introduction
  2. Part Two Summary of Good Practice Criteria and of Attributes of an Effective Newcomer Youth Program
  3. Part Three Settlement Challenges Faced by Immigrant and Refugee Youth in Ontario Part
  4. Four Proposed Steps to Address Challenges Identified and to Make Youth Settlement Services More Effective Part
  5. Five Newcomer Youth Bill of Rights Proposed by OCASI SYNC Project Research
  6. Part Six Programs with Some Attributes Recognized by OCASI SYNC Project Research Participants as Important to Effective Youth Programming
  7. Part Seven Interpretation of Program Selection and Conclusion


Online Learning

In this recorded webinar, the Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture (CCVT) discusses how service providers can think about trauma in a more holistic way; one that engages youth in contextualizing trauma through their own social and political realities.

  1. Settlement Challenges Faced by New Immigrant and Refugee youth in Ontario
  2. Steps to Address Challenges Identified and to Make Youth Settlement Services More Effective
  3. The Inclusion Model for Sports and Recreational Programming
  4. Good Practice Criteria and Attributes of an Effective Newcomer Youth program

Successful participants commit approximately 2-3 hours of learning each week.

This self-directed online course is designed to provide you with the knowledge, skills and tools to assist you in increasing the capacity among immigrant and refugee youth as a means of building an inclusive Canadian society and contribute to the prevention of crime.


  • Leading Youth to Lead, A Guide for Facilitating Youth Facilitation This is a practical resource for “adult allies” to support youth facilitators. There are simple tips for the facilitators, a sample agenda, meeting rules and roles, and an action items template. The example is planning a dance party, but the tools are widely applicable.

Related Projects/Initiatives

The CCR Youth Network brings together newcomer youth from across Canada.

Professional Associations/Networks

Further Reading

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