Abstract: Uncovering Chinese Immigrants' Community Involvement in Toronto, Canada: Lessons for Immigrants' Integration in a Multicultural Society (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

604P Uncovering Chinese Immigrants' Community Involvement in Toronto, Canada: Lessons for Immigrants' Integration in a Multicultural Society

Sunday, January 16, 2022
Marquis BR Salon 6, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Kedi Zhao, MA, PhD Candidate, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
Vivian W. Y. Leung, MA, PhD Candidate, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
Weijia Tan, MSW, PhD Candidate, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
Deng-min Chuang, PhD, Assistant Professor, National Taiwan Normal University, Taiwan
A. Ka Tat Tsang, PhD, Professor, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
Background and Purpose

Immigrants’ community involvement is essential to their integration in the multicultural Canadian society. The population of Chinese immigrants in Canada is large, and their community involvement gradually obtains more attention in settlement research. Community is a comprehensive concept that includes various surroundings (e.g., neighborhoods), impacting individuals’ daily life and shaping their identity building (Walsh & High, 1999). Hence, it is necessary to delve into Chinese immigrants’ lived experiences and ascertain power dynamics in their interactions with various communities. Since empirical studies that investigate their community involvement in a multicultural society are still rare, this qualitative study thus focuses on Chinese immigrants in Toronto, Canada, and aims to understand their experiences of community involvement and how they situate themselves in different communities over time.


Through purposing sampling, Chinese immigrants were recruited for semi-structured interviews (N = 25; 48% were man, 52% were women; from 21 to 53 years old). Most of the participants were from Mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. Their length of stay in Canada ranged from one to 35 years. All interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed. The interviews covered topics such as their experiences interacting with others in different community contexts and how they perceived themselves in these communities. Constructivist grounded theory was used to guide the study; it emphasizes investigating participants’ experiences within their social context through an interactive and explorative manner, and eventually constructs new theoretical insights to understand phenomena (Charmaz, 2006).


Three themes emerged. The first one is enclosed Chinese connections. Participants’ community involvement is primarily within Chinese communities. Inseparable Chinese ties, language barriers, unfamiliarity with Canada are factors that contribute to this theme. The second one is limited cultural interactions with outgroups. This theme is seen in their involvement within both heterogeneous Chinese communities and larger multicultural communities. Lack of cultural understanding of other groups generates biases and stereotypes and can thus undermine positive community interactions. The third one is ambiguous in-between status. All participants interpreted how they situate themselves in both Chinese communities and other communities. Ambiguity and ambivalence detected from their situations further affect how they deal with community relations and can generate potential harm to their identity and integration. Concentric circles can be formed as a theoretical framework with their Chinese ingroups at the core and other communities at outer levels, and immigrants were in-between unstably.

Conclusions and Implications

This study focused on Chinese immigrants’ daily community involvement and uncovered their vulnerable positions in community interactions. Specifically, lack of cultural interactions with other groups may increase biases and stereotypes in communities, and ambiguity of their positions across different communities may harm their identity building and integration. Findings from this study can further enlighten social work researchers and practitioners to continue exploring immigrants’ community engagement and develop different interventions to promote positive community interactions, especially amid the current escalating anti-Asian racism that isolates Chinese communities and jeopardizes their community integration in Canada.