For refugee students and their parents, schools offer tremendous educational opportunities and also provide a significant means of social integration into the larger society (Hamilton & Moore, 2004; Kanu, 2008; Stewart, 2011; 2014; Yau, 1996). Research suggests that while recently arrived refugee children face numerous challenges to adapt to their new country and schools, so do their parents, who are forced to deal with economic survival, acculturation and adaptation, limited English proficiency, and different cultural and social norms associated with parenting (Hamilton & Moore, 2004; Kanu, 2009; Stewart, 2011; 2014; Yau, 1996). Without parental involvement, refugee children are at risk of failing socially and academically (Hamilton & Moore, 2004). The positive relationships that are formed between school personnel and parents are critical to a refugee child’s in-school successes (Barowsky & McIntyre, 2010; Bhattacharya, 2000; Kanu, 2008; Stewart, 2011; 2014). Consequently, refugee parents play a significant role in assisting their children as they begin to trust teachers and principals (Barowsky & McIntyre, 2010). For many refugee parents, the lack of familiarity with the Canadian school system, the school’s or division’s policies (Kanu, 2008; Stewart, 2011; 2014), and the implicit “Canadian” expectations of “good parenting” (Thomas, Keogh & Hay, 2015) can be overwhelming to decode (Lightfoot, 2004) although PSRs may benefit from the personal assistance of sponsors (Treviranus & Casasola, 2003). Surprisingly, little research has focused on refugee parent involvement in their children’s schools from the parents’ perspectives (Ennab, 2017).
Funding from the CYRCC is requested to hire one law student (ideally in the graduate law program (LLM) but a strong 2nd or 3rd year law student would also be able to complete the research) from the University of Manitoba, Faculty of Law to prepare a manual for refugee parents and children on their rights and responsibilities related to education in the Canadian school system.
The manual will cover law relating to:
- Framework and structure of Canadian school system;
- Registration and attendance;
- Suspension, expulsion and discipline;
- Students with special needs;
- Privacy and discrimination;
- Custodial and non-custodial parents and family;
- Other identified issues.
While there are many resources for teachers to support refugees in the school system, as well as information for youth on education rights in general, the purpose of this document will be to create an easily accessible and understandable manual specifically for refugee parents and children. This manual will be shared with the CYRCC but also used in support of a larger on-going research project in collaboration with Professor Jerome 2 Cranston, Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba. It will be available electronically on Robson Hall’s Migration Law Research Cluster Webpage (http://law.robsonhall.com/research/migration-law-research-cluster/) as well as the CYRCC website.
What follows is an outline of the larger project and how the manual will both benefit in its development during the data-gathering phase and contribute to the knowledge exchange phase.