Aggregated Report

The Sense Maker

Explore the emotional palettes of newcomers to Canada

Eunica, Katrina, Eros, and Mary are four of about 87,000 family members who reunited in Canada in 2017. Wilson, Garo, Yasmin, Waad, Mande, Nasir & Rose, Eman & Abeer, Mohamed & Fadia are 11 of about 21,000 government assisted refugees accepted to Canada in 2017. Mohammed, Sefee, Haytham, Ola and Tamer are five of about 18,000 privately sponsored refugees who made their way to Canada in 2018.


pdf ⋅ 9 MB


But, the journey to Canada isn’t a simple saviour story.

Eunica felt happy to reunite with her mom and sad for the friends left behind. Mo & Fadia’s initial relief turned to humiliation, and later, anger. Mohammed and his family describe feeling both profoundly hopeful and deeply worried, at the same time. As newcomers trade in the familiar for the unfamiliar, they recount gains coupled with losses. They are physically safe. And yet life is no longer as full of the people and places, tastes and sounds, rituals and celebrations that breed vibrancy and intimacy. Too often, the transition between there and here can render life a little greyer, a little duller, a little more muted, and a lot less full.

Together, we’re re-imagining the newcomer experience.

We’re a partnership between two established non-profits (North York Community House in Toronto, O.N. and Options Community Services in Surrey, B.C.), a social design organization (InWithForward) and a big government agency (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada).


How might we use what we learned to prompt change? Our goal isn’t to publish a research report. Our aim is to use the research to brainstorm ideas for what could be. We invite you to read the pages that follow with a generative lens so that by the end you’ll be ready to co-create with us, using our board game Elevate. We are not seeking one magic bullet solution. Emotional ambivalence isn’t a singular problem to be solved, but a constellation of experiences to be acknowledged and integrated into everyday life.


pdf ⋅ 9 MB


dr. Daniela Kraemer

Daniela is an ethnographer focused on understanding the lived experiences of marginalized …

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