‘I’m the One Who Is Looking After My Family’: Refugee Youth Brokers, Pre-Departure Orientation and Settlement in Canada
Maine, Nicole Alexandra
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Refugee youth are a commonly ignored group in refugee literature and Canadian government programming. This paper canvasses the voices of refugee youths and provides a critical analysis of the value of pre-departure training programs. Through interviews with Bhutanese youths in Canada, this research finds that many participants took on very adult roles and responsibilities within their respective families, almost as a de facto heads of household. I categorize these roles as those of youth brokers and use this terminology to point to the important function that refugee youths play in authoring their family’s future in Canada. This study critically analyzes orientation programs, via the thoughts and opinions of participants, as well as considering ways to improve such programming. The research foregrounds the voices of refugee youths by using their thoughts, opinions, and voices to shape a critique of current orientation programming models. I argue that the variety in both the experiences of the youths and their orientation needs, as well as the positive orientation descriptions provided by participants of the pilot project, is a testament to the futility of a ‘one-size-fits-all’ model for orientation programming. Youth are producers of knowledge and leaders within their families, whose family responsibilities do not match their perceived social age.