The family and transnational networks of three refugee women's generations in Quebec

Las redes familiares y transnacionales de tres generaciones de mujeres refugiadas en Canadá Michèle Vatz Laaroussi Université de Sherbrooke, Canadá

The purposes of the presentation     

To share the reflection and the analysis about the roles of transnational and family networks for refugee women. To talk about methodology to lead investigations with family and transnational networks To identify the knowledge transmitted and constructed by different refugee women generations about care and development. To understand the strategies of care for refugee women of different generations and from diverse countries of origin. To analyse the care in the two senses: the self care and the care of others.

The theoretical framework: family and transnational networks 

Immigrant networks have family and transnational aspects The actual migrations are structured around informal networks and family links in three different ways: with ethnic and religious networks, with familial immigration for migrant workers within the framework of the procedures of family entry and settlement for the refugees We will focus in that presentation on that third case: the refugees and their family in Quebec.  


The investigation   

A qualitative investigation about mutual aid, transmission and co-construction of knowledge for three generations refugee cowomen in Quebec, French part of Canada. Themes: the care (for the elderly and the children, for the family members, for oneself and for the others), school and work, language learning, relations between women and men, relations between generations, integration and adaptation to unknown situations. These three generations are living in the same housing or very closely.


Intercultural focus groups with each generation: grandmothers, mothers and daughters (8) Focus groups with professionals of health and welfare organisations (2) and of education (1) Interviews with family intergenerational trios: grandmother, mother and daughter of 18 and more years old (30 trios) One semi-structured interview with each woman of semithe trio and one interview with the three women of the trio together.

The trios 



They are living in different regions of Quebec: Sherbrooke, Québec, Joliette and Montreal. They are public refugees so they have obtained the refugee visa in their country of origin or in refugee camps. 8 trios are coming from Colombia 5 from other south American countries (Salvador, Peru) 8 are coming from the region of Grands Lacs in Africa (Rwanda, Burundi, République démocratique du Congo) 6 are coming from Ex-Yugoslavia (Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia). Ex3 others are from new waves of refugees who are arriving actually in Quebec: Iraq, Afghanistan and Bhoutan. They have arrived since less than 15 years.

Methodological issues for investigations with family and immigrant networks    

Characteristics of the team of research: multicultural, multilingual, multigenerational. Composed of senior researchers, of junior students and of practitioners in community groups. Here with women, specifically women. Proximity, engagement, intercultural listening, interest and creativity. Intercultural analysis of focus groups and interviews: debate, confrontation of interpretations, of cultural and theoretical frames, of languages contextualization etc« Egalitarian structure in the team of research as with the interviewed women: feminist and antiracist theories.

Methodology and creativity    

To use new and creative strategies during the interviews ( the map of networks, the trajectory of life, the critical incidents, the objects of transmission, to take and to give photos to the interviewed women) To use new strategies to recruit trios or networks (a networking recruitment) To use new and illustrative methods for the analysis (photos, movies, discussions, schemas, visual material«) To use and create new and original modalities to transfer the issues of the research (movies, videos, WEB: to use Skype, to build blogs, public events as forums, expositions etc.)

Intergenerational trajectory: a tool of analysis

Dates d¶arrivée

Ce qu¶on produit

Événements Grand mère Mère Fille


Ce qu¶on veut transmettre

The transmissions and constructions    


Different trajectories which have impact on the transmissions. Do the three generations arrive together or separately? Did they have forced mobility before coming to Canada? Who arrives first and for which reasons? Who learns first the French language? Which is the professional integration of every woman? Are these women alone or with husband when they arrive?

Three different cases
Grouped arrival    

The three generations arrive together after a common mobility before coming to Quebec. They have the refugee visa because their life and their safety (of the family) was threatened. The case of certain Colombian women: they were living forced mobility in Colombia and many of them are widows. The husbands, fathers and sons have been killed in Colombia. The other case of African who were living in refugee camps during many years. For most of them, they have been separated in camps and sometimes the family reunification is made on arrival in Quebec. The three generations are living the process of insertion together: going to school to learn the language, trying to understand the new society, discovering the resources of that society, discovering the courses for the employment«

Separate arrivals: one first   

One generation arrives first and is settling, the others women arrive after as family member with a special program and visa. There is a form of dependence. The woman who arrived first is responsible of insertion of the others and she also feels guilty and responsible of their migration. It may be the mother or the grandmother. Sometimes she is also widow. Case of certain Colombian women who are threatened for their activity in Colombia: activists for the rights of the persons; lawyers for the missing persons; union activists « Case of African women when the family reunification happens after the arrival of the mother for example.

The responsability of the other¶s insertion   

Oui, j¶ai appris à parler français d¶abord. Je suis retournée à l¶université. Ça c¶était dure avec mon âge suivre le rythme des travaux. Quand tu veux faire des travaux de groupe, les jeunes refusent de travailler avec toi parce que pour eux tu es moins intelligent à cause de ton âge. Je n¶ai pas baissé les bras. Au contraire, j¶ai travaillé fort. J¶approchais les immigrants pour travailler avec eux. Je me suis battue comme toujours. On communiquait beaucoup avec ma belle fille quand elle est arrivée avec les enfants, il faut faire les démarches, apprendre le français. J¶ai aidé un peu pour faire les travaux. Trouver l¶appartement ici. Avec les petites, je les ai appris à connaitre un peu le pays. On s¶est beaucoup promenées dans la ville. Sans ça, elles allaient beaucoup se perdre. C¶est grand ici. A grandmother from Colombia who arrived the first in Quebec city.

Separate arrivals: the grandmother lastly  

Two generations arrive together (mother and daughter) with the nuclear family. The grandmother is coming several years later as sponsored refugee with a commitment of the family to take care of her in the different areas: economic, social, health« It¶s a total dependence. Case of ex-Yugoslavian women: the nuclear family exarrived during the war and the grandmother is coming later because she is alone in the origin country or because she is now widow.

The arrival of a grandmother from ex-Yugoslavia ex 

Mon mari est mort et je suis restée toute seule dans notre pays. Mes enfants m'ont invitée à venir ici chez eux. Ils ont fait tous les documents nécessaires. Je ne connais pas quoi que ce soit au sujet du Québec. J'ai regardé sur la map où est le Québec. Je n'ai pas posé de questions à ma fille. Je ne connaissais personne et je n'ai pas contacté personne. C¶était difficile pour moi à quitter mon pays.

Issues about transmission   

There is a form of linear transmission: grandmothers towards the mothers and the daughters. But sometimes directly from grandmothers to granddaughters. Family story, anecdotes and mythical characters, music, songs, tales for children, recipes, religious practices, national and cultural feasts, precious objects by their story and in the family story.

The transmission of objects
Recuerdos tristes de un pasado alegre


The books to transmit the mother tongue to children

Transmissions for care    

Linear transmission: for special events or periods, the delivery and the period after the delivery, for the new mother and for the baby. During periods of disease and during the deaths: practices, funeral, religious and cultural rites. Importance of the grandmother as link with the origin country and the family network during these periods. The transmission is circulation of information, knowledge and practices, up to bottom but also from here to there.

A grandmother from Colombia: the support of the network during sad periods 

« Trois mois après de notre arrivée au Canada nous avons connu la terrible nouvelle qu¶un de mes fils avait était tué par la guérilla en Colombie; j¶ai voulu me frapper avec les murs du désespoir et comme je viens de dire, de la douleur« C¶est du soutien surtout, que nous avons eu de la part d¶un cercle d¶amis colombiens très proche, ces personnes nous ont accompagnées pour prier, pour nous donner du soutien. Nous avons beaucoup apprécié ses gestes d¶amitié et solidarité. » (Grand-mère colombienne) (Grand-

New strategies and construction 

Autonomy and intergenerational share ³Ici, c¶est plus facile à vieillir. Ici, nous pouvons profiter. Nous pouvons nous reposer, nous promener, pour faire à diverses activités. Ici, c¶est beaucoup mieux pour les personnes âgées que chez nous. » (grandmother of Ex-Yugoslavia). ExSome grandmothers are living alone in Quebec in one apartment for the first time: the apartments are too small for several persons and they must have their own housing to benefit from social welfare allowances. They allowances. apreciate that new autonomy and they explain that they feel free« But they continue to organize parties to gether the family: during these parties, they transmit and share recipes, dance, music« They associate a new form of autonomy and of transmission But for other grandmothers there is a great dependance because of the language and because of the misundestanding of the culture and of the resources of the society. Importance of the granddaughters.

New intergenerational practices for grandmothers  

Take care of oneself for the grandmothers: pay attention on the good food, make of the physical activity, stop smoking, participate in community activities, insure her own social participation Take care of the granddaughter when the grandmother has not educated her own daughter (because of the help of the domestics or of the widened family: mother, sisters«)  


New intergenerational learnings from granddaughters to grandmothers Take care of the grandmother for the granddaughter: accompany her at the doctor's, go shopping. Help her learning French Help her learning Skype Accompany her for transnational contacts (with Skype, for travels in origin country,«) Help her to find friends, even one boyfriend on Web«

The roles of the mothers 

Not usual role of transmission and care between grandmother and granddaughter. Role of social and economic integration of the family Supplier for the family and the three generations For several, they have skills for the care and they invest it in their jobs with persons out of the family: they do training courses of adaptation and they are nurses aides in hospitals or at home with elderly. For many others they are educators of young children in day nurseries. Finally others are reinvesting their skills in community groups with women, elderly or victims of violence for example.

Strategies of care by intergenerational alliances   

GrandmothersGrandmothers-granddaughters: the daily care and the mutual learnings. The acceleration of the transmission and of the co-production of new practices. The care coas value and solidarity. GrandmothersGrandmothers-mothers: the mutual help and the economic support. The care as financial investment (support and constraint). MothersMothers-daughters: the learnings of the social and economic integration. The co-production of strategies coof integration. The care as skill.

Conclusion: from trio to transnational network 


New definitions of the care in these family refugee situations. These new definitions and meanings are transmitted through the family transnational networks and may have impact in the origin country. New meanings of intergenerational transmission and relationships. New possibilities of alliances New choices New visions of the migration and the roles of the women.


Les réseaux transnationaux des familles immigrantes et réfugiées jouent des rôles de soutien, d¶entraide et d¶information tant auprès de leurs membres dans les pays d¶immigration qu¶auprès de ceux qui sont restés dans les pays de départ. À partir de recherches menées sur plusieurs générations de femmes réfugiées au Québec et provenant de Colombie, Salvador, de l¶Afrique des Grands Lacs et d¶ex Yougoslavie, nous nous intéresserons plus spécifiquement à trois points : 1) la méthodologie interculturelle à mettre en uvre pour accéder à ces réseaux, les analyser et leur transmettre le fruit des recherches; 2) l¶analyse des savoirs transmis et co-construits au sein de ces réseaux entre les différentes cogénérations de femmes réfugiées et ce de manière locale et transnationale. Nous identifierons plus spécifiquement ces savoirs sur le plan de la santé et du développement des femmes. 3) le portrait des stratégies de soin des femmes réfugiées selon leur pays d¶origine et les réseaux transnationaux qui s¶y déploient mais aussi selon les types de changement social et culturel qu¶elles construisent tant dans le pays d¶accueil que dans le pays de départ. Nous réfèrerons autant au soin d¶elles mêmes qu¶au soin des membres de leur famille ici et là bas. Nous conclurons sur l¶importance d¶une réflexion transnationale pour mieux saisir les changements intergénérationnels et pour soutenir réellement les femmes dans les actions de soins qu¶elles mettent en uvre au quotidien.


Las redes transnacionales de familias immigrantes y refugiadas juegan roles de apoyo, de ayuda y de información tanto para los miembros de la familia que están en el país de acogida que para los miembros de la familia que se quedaron en el país de origen. A partir de investigaciones llevadas a cabo sobre varias generaciones de mujeres refugiadas provenientes de Colombia, Salvador, de Grandes Lagos en Africa y de la ExYougoslavia, y residentes actualmente en Quebec, nosotros nos interesamos principalmente a tres aspectos: 1) La metodología intercultural a utilizar por acceder a estas redes, analizarlas y transmitirles el fruto de la investigación. 2) EL análisis de saberes transmitidos y co-construidos en el seno de estas redes entre las diferentes cogeneraciones de mujeres refugiadas tanto de manera local que transnacional. Identificaremos específicamente los saberes sobre el área de la salud y del desarrollo de las mujeres. 3) La estrategias de cuidado de las mujeres refugiadas según su país de origen y las redes transnacionales que se utilizan teniendo en cuenta también los tipos de cambios sociales y culturales que ellas construyen tanto en el país de de acogida como en el país de origen. Haremos referencia tanto al cuidado de ellas mismas que de los miembros de su familia aquí en Quebec y en sus países. Concluiremos remarcando la importancia de una reflexión transnacional para comprender y discernir mejor los cambios intergeneracionales y para apoyar realmente a las mujeres en las acciones de cuidados que ellas realizan en su vida cotidiana.

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