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About Border(ing) Practices

Border(ing) Practices: Systemic Racism, Immigration & Child Welfare is a collaborative research project led by researchers at the University of Toronto and the University of Victoria working in partnership with child welfare, immigration, and gender-based violence service providers and advocates within Ontario and British Columbia. 


This research aims to understand how immigration policies, in concert with systemic racism, shape child welfare policies and practices with children, youth and families. 

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Immigrants represent a sizable proportion of Canada’s population, with 1 in 5 people (21%) identifying as foreign-born in the 2018 Census, the majority of whom are also racialized as “visible minorities” who originate in countries in Asia and Africa.  A growing proportion of immigrants have a precarious legal status as temporary workers, students, refugee claimants or undocumented residents. Immigrants with precarious status face numerous barriers to accessing services, experience economic hardship, have higher rates of transnational family separation, and often fear being deported from Canada if they seek help from health or social services.  


While child welfare services are paying closer attention to racial disparities among Indigenous and Black children that interact with their services, the role that immigration status plays in child welfare practices remains poorly understood. 

This project builds on work done by Dr. Rupaleem Bhuyan and Dr. Mandeep Mucina, including the Migrant Mothers Project. 


The four objectives of this research for the 2020-2024 period are: 

1. Understand social workers' decision-making strategies when assessing risk for immigrant families.  


  • To value different ways of knowing and gathering information 

  • To promote co-learning that attends to social inequalities among and around us 

  • To gather information towards integrating knowledge and action for mutual benefit of all partners 

  • To build on the strengths and resources within the communities that are most impacted by the research focus 

  • Awareness that inequality is systematic and reflects overlapping and intersecting forms of discrimination, including but not limited to that based on sex, gender identity, race, class, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, color, political belief, cultural affiliation, immigration status, ability, ethnicity and family status/structure, age  


The following community ethics were developed by the Border(ing) Practices Community Advisory Committee, as a guide for our shared work. 

Collaborative Decision-making

Community members and researchers equitably and meaningfully share direction and role in the research agenda and reciprocal involvement in the research design, implementation and dissemination.

Harms and Benefits

We are committed to recognizing that people and community members are differently situated and the institutional, systemic, and intergenerational harms as well as benefits are varied for individuals and communities. We will follow practices and approaches that recognize, accept and honour different social locations while seeking to collaboratively work with community members as well as balancing the harms and benefits. 

Decolonize Stories

We seek to practice decolonial thinking to un-learn, learn, and relearn (Ruth Kolazar) different ways of gathering, understanding, and respecting the distinct histories and ways of knowing among racialized and minoritized through generating counternarratives.  

Capacity Building

The research team will work in ensuring that community members capacities for research work is built (e.g., training, constructive feedback) alongside the meaningful share and involvement in the research design, implementation and dissemination to ensure collaborative, supportive and prosperous process. 

Collaborative Dissemination 

We will work collaboratively to exchange and share knowledge among RAC members and our community partners/members.

Equity and Inclusion

Connected to principles that guide our work, commitment to anti-oppression and anti-racist practice to be culturally safe, inclusive and equitable towards all members

Equitable Sharing of Resources

When sharing resources (time or in-kind), we will honour the contributions of all committee members, seeking mutual benefit for all.

Indigenous Sovereignty and Territory

We recognize that research into child welfare, one of the six areas of calls to action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, cannot be separated from broader issues of systemic colonial violence and forced displacement of Indigenous Peoples. Specifically, the project’s work is within the territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh nations (Vancouver, British Columbia) and the Huron-Wendat, Haudenosaunee, Petun Firsst Nations, the Seneca, Anishinaabe nations and the Mississauga of the Credit River (Toronto, Ontario, Canada). In recognition and respect of Indigenous peoples’ inherent kinship to colonial called Canada, we recognize Indigenous peoples sovereignty and relation as well as rights to territory. 

Community Centred and Situated

We will recognize and respect individual families' intersectional identities and community’s needs. Thus, we will be adaptable with our approaches to best meet the needs of community members as the project is of practical relevance to communities, seeks to redress community concerns and is carried out in community settings alongside community members. 


The research process and findings are useful to community members and agencies in making progressive social change and to promote equality for racialized members/communities with overlapping and intersecting identities. 

Radical Politics of Care

We will follow Audre Lorde’s (1988) definition of care as self(communal)-preservation rooted in political acts to counter dominant understanding of individual indulgences. The practice of radical political acts of care will centre personal and collective healing and transformative justice that redresses systematic inequalities. 


We will maintain the privacy of information shared during RAC meetings (including working group meeting and meeting minutes and internal reports). 



Refers to political and social processes that construct collective identities to differentiate “us” and “them” in everyday life. Bordering practices affirm the legitimacy of the nation to decide who belongs within (and can be excluded from) its territory in relation to race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, ability, religion, language, and national origin.  


Refers to forms of legal status within a state that are characterized by any of the following: lack of permanent residence or permanent work authorization, limited or no social benefits, inability to sponsor relatives, and the potential to be deported.


Refers to the ingrained bias and racist lens in the policies and practices of systems and institutions such as child welfare, housing, and education. As a result, Black, Indigenous and People of Colour experience exclusion and harmful treatment based on race.

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