Toronto Metropolitan University
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Contested and (un)realized capabilities of wellbeing in rural places in Canada: Contemplating immigrants’ realities

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-08-09, 17:38 authored by Andrea Rishworth, Jennifer Dean, Kathi Wilson, Sara EdgeSara Edge, Effat Ghassemi

Rural relocation of immigrants in Canada has recently been touted as a way to support community wellbeing by mitigating the socioeconomic impacts of population decline common in many rural areas, while also fostering the wellbeing of immigrants through the provision of services, resources and support systems for ‘successful’ integration. Yet, discussions of rural resettlement often assume resource provision will effectively enable the successful flourishing of immigrants, eliding more complicated questions of social hierarchies, systemic obstacles, and the qualities of places that may enable or constrain flourishing wellbeing generative lives. Drawing on geographies of health, migration and development literatures, this paper examines the links between lived realities, capabilities, and rural places as immigrants contemplate resettlement outside of urban areas in Ontario. Based on data from focus groups with immigrants (n = 50) we reveal how rural places can (in)directly affect the conversion of individual skills and resources, some with potentially wellbeing generative realities, while others with degenerative dynamics of illbeing. We contend that immigrants’ contemplations and resettlement decisions eschew simple notions of choice, but are more complex and contradictory, shaped by competing wellbeing desires, uncertain place-based realities and temporal dynamics that operate at a variety of scales. Revealing immigrants’ contested capabilities underscores how place-based realities can create landscapes of uneven opportunities, rights and freedoms to attain wellbeing. The article concludes that future geographic research on health-migration-human development intersections should engage with contested capabilities by illuminating how places and their policies mediate settlement choices and the inequalities that surround them.




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