‘New Canadian’ Minority, Immigrant, and Refugee student leadership in New Brunswick and Alberta: “It’s more than just a tour”

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Purpose: The federal Canadian government and its provincial counterparts have welcomed thousands of refugee and new immigrant families seeking safety from war and economic opportunities to help them get their lives back together. Most newcomers have settled in larger cities across Canada; however, rural regions and smaller “rurally-influenced” cities are also seeing large numbers of newcomers increasing the cultural, linguistic, religious and socio- economic diversity of their communities. This article examines ways that educators are including newcomer ‘new Canadian’ refugee and immigrant students and helping them adjust to their new social environments through leadership opportunities in their schools. Research Design and Methods: This comparative case study draws data from two projects that involved two large high schools – one school is in western Canada, and one was in New Brunswick. Both communities experienced sharp increases in immigration the past 10 years, which impacted the schools. Data were collected through surveys, semi-structured interviews and focus groups. The author used an iterative approach when constantly comparing the data and several key themes emerged in the process. Findings: Significant findings include: the importance of teacher leaders for newcomer students, parental connections with schools, intentionally constructing leadership opportunities, and honoring the dreams of students. Implications for Research and Practice: As schools continue to increase in diversity across Canada, particularly in provinces like New Brunswick where rapid demographic change through increasing immigration is still a recent phenomenon, the author argues that it is important for educators and school based leaders to acknowledge the leadership abilities of minoritized and newcomer students so they can be equally and equitably included in their schools and communities.