World Refugee Day - Filling the gaps in Canadian research on refugeehood and youth

Posted on Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Magdalena Baczkowska, a PhD candidate at the School of Social Work, has been reviewing the life stories of refugees through a comprehensive and critical lens in order to fill an important knowledge gap in Canadian research on refugees and youth.

Magdalena Baczkowska

Area of research

Magdalena Baczkowska’s doctoral research project, supervised by Stéphanie Garneau, aims to reveal the relational dynamics between the institutional practices of services that help refugees settle and integrate into Canada, and the experiences of young Canadian refugees who eventually use such services. This research is two-fold: it seeks to shed light on how Canadian social structures and norms affect the services offered to refugee youth, and also to understand the meaning that these young refugees assign to their new circumstances.


Her motivation for this research is based on her professional encounters with refugees and their experiences, which she came into contact with through her organizational work in the field of mental health and community work. These encounters led her to become increasingly alarmed by some of the generic, reductionist ways in which their multifaceted realities were being assessed, framed and addressed. As a result, she began searching for a socially relevant and individually meaningful knowledge base that would honour the complexity of their lives – of all human lives. Her search for such a knowledge base became more pressing, and she was infused with a sense of responsibility, when she was tasked with creating a program for refugee youth. Eventually, she decided to pursue a doctoral degree in social work because of the field’s fundamental concern with social justice.


The aim of Magdalena’s academic and professional careers, including her current research project, is to improve how theory is translated into practice; namely, to improve the social interventions that affect the day-to-day lives of refugees. More specifically, she hopes that processes put in place to help refugees will eventually consider both the differences and the similarities of each refugee’s experience by placing them in the correct history and context, and in relation to the Canadian experience.

View additional student research on issues pertaining to refugees.

The University of Ottawa sponsors programs to help refugees

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