This research project was a collaboration between the CYRRC, Mount Saint Vincent University (MSVU), the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD), the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS), and Youth Art Connection (YAC). Ten youth between the ages of 17 and 24 with refugee experience participated in a series of workshops to explore concepts and issues of social justice and social activism and learn about participatory photography methods—the use of photography to represent specific issues or questions of concern. Youth used the skills developed at workshops to take photos that communicate their lived experiences and the social justice concepts they wished to share within the group and beyond. At the end of the project, a public forum was organized to showcase the work of participants, which provided a further opportunity for participants to develop their public speaking and advocacy skills. The youth themselves contributed to the design and helped to implement the event in collaboration with the researchers and facilitators. The event was held at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (AGNS) and was well attended by policy-makers, community members and other youth groups from New Brunswick and Quebec.
The research findings point to the value of arts-informed research – specifically the participatory photography method as a means for refugee youth to convey their settlement experiences, and to express their perspectives, circumstances and their reflections on social justice. The study further highlights the need for spaces that are youth-centred that allow youth to: come together regularly to share and discuss their challenges in settlement; network and share information about jobs, volunteer work, and other social and personal enrichment opportunities; and collectively find ways to continue to create opportunities to share their stories and perspectives with a larger audience (such as conferences). Participants discussed several themes related to social justice that are emerging issues which service providers should take into consideration when planning programs for youth: peace/war, gender equity, food security, family, the environment, and home/belonging.