When one uses the phrase immigrant women, one must be careful. This is not one homogeneous group. Personal history, language, race, class are factors that intersect to create diversities in the ways immigration is experienced and how immigration impacts on the quality of women’s lives.
A woman’s class of immigration has serious effects, life long effects that impact her long after she arrives in Canada. Many women do not fully know or understand the implications of their conditions of entry until they arrive – they know little to nothing about the potential for abuse in the relationship with their immigration sponsors (husband, plus conjugal family), they know nothing about the demands and rigours of the Canadian labour market, and many are acutely unprepared for the impact of social and linguistic isolation.
Thus, when we use the phrase “immigrant woman” or “newcomer” we should know whom and what we are talking about. Are we talking about women who are “landed immigrants” sponsored permanent residents, permanent residents with or without ‘conditional’ status, refugees, temporary foreign workers, undocumented migrants?
Understanding such differences and knowing what to do with that understanding requires us to be attentive to nuance and detail. The kind of service we extend to survivors of violence and of the rigors of immigration will be shaped by the degree of our understanding of women’s location and experience of oppression.