Visible Voices

Visible Voices: Empowering undocumented immigrants in Canada with socially relevant digital English language education

In Canada, marginalized populations such as undocumented immigrants are integral to society, as they contribute to the economy and help diversify the social landscape. Their needs and challenges, however, are often invisible. One of their dire needs is access to English language instruction so they can find alternatives to obtain legal status in Canada and continue to be active members in society. While the federal government offers free language instruction to new immigrants (e.g., Language Instruction for Newcomers/LINC), those with no legal status in Canada are ineligible to attend these classes. As a result, undocumented immigrants are not developing English skills to access key services such as immigration pathways, health, and employment, leaving them at serious risks of further marginalization.
The project, Visible Voices, addresses undocumented immigrants’ linguistic and social challenges by working collaboratively with the FCJ Refugee Centre in Toronto. We chose a Toronto-based organization because in 2009 half of the undocumented immigrant population in Canada, approximately 10,000 to 25,000, lived in this city (Magalhães et al., 2010), and this number is likely much higher now given the rise in immigration trends in the past years. The FCJ offers English language instruction to this population, but it is experiencing two main challenges: 1) a shortage of volunteer English teachers and those who are active are ill-equipped with socially relevant pedagogy; and 2) undocumented immigrants are not developing their English skills fast enough to access key services. Informed by previous research on the socially just language education framework plurilingualism, which is inclusive and empowers language learners to be social agents, Visible Voices will focus on amplifying the voices of undocumented immigrants. By “voices” we mean English language development while enhancing their plurilingual competence, making their stories of lived experiences visible, and educating the general public.

PrincipaI Investigator: Dr. Angelica Galante, McGill University

Co-PI: Dr. Enrica Piccardo, OISE/University of Toronto

Collaborators: Loly Rico, FCJ Refugee Centre, Dr. Faith Marcel, Niagara College.

Research Assistants: John Wayne dela Cruz, Lana Zeaiter, & Aisha Barise


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