Meet the civic tech group helping newcomers in montreal

Jennifer Kou

March 09, 2021

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Civic Tech Montreal is one of Canada's newest civic tech community groups, joining a network that stretches from Fredericton to Vancouver.

Inspired by other civic tech groups across Canada, Zoe McLennan and Romane Thiboutot-Martin started Civic Tech Montreal in the fall of 2020. Their goal? Create Canada’s first fully bilingual civic tech group!

As a way to kickstart civic tech in Montreal, they’re bringing the community together to focus on a single issue: supporting newcomers to their city. They’ve built relationships with local organizations serving newcomers and refugees, and they’re asking aspiring civic techies to lend a hand.

The “Empowering Refugees and Newcomers with Technology” event series began last month with a panel discussion. Community organizations shared some core challenges faced by refugees and newcomers and pitched how tech can help find solutions. Participants could raise their hands to explore the issues further, and voila!, the group’s first civic tech projects were born.

Learn more about the projects below and join in Civic Tech Montreal’s bi-weekly hacknights where they will continue to work on these challenges. If you missed the panel discussion, you can watch it here. Want to join a hacknight? Reach out to the organizers.

Meet the organizers: Zoe and Romane

CT Mtl organizers

By bringing together organizations that work directly with those experiencing displacement, we can learn about the challenges they face in detail and explore potential solutions. We had been following the work done by our collaborators for some time and thought we would take the plunge and see if any of them would be interested. Luckily, everyone was on board!

We believe it’s through bringing people of various backgrounds and expertise together that better tech can be created.

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We’re most excited about the new connections and potential project ideas that could emerge. We see ourselves as facilitators, not only for our hacknights but for this event as well. We’re taking care of the logistics so that those experiencing displacements and the organizations that are directly working with them can come together and share their experiences and expertise.

Meet the Partner Organizations

THE REFUGEE CENTRE

CTM Refugee Centre

The Refugee Centre is a community organization that aims to facilitate a sustainable and holistic integration of newcomers in Montreal. Civic tech offers a collaborative and inclusive opportunity to not only engage members of society in learning about social issues, but create a space to find innovative and prominent solutions to them.

We are excited to see people from different walks of life come together for a single cause. In the past, we have organized in-person hackathons tackling issues that refugees face and saw firsthand the amazing ideas that came out of collaborating with members of the Montreal community. We are excited to be part of any project that aims to find innovative and technological solutions to pressing issues.

The Challenge: Streamlining Bureaucracy

Asylum seekers and refugees are not spared the long grueling process of bureaucracy in Canada when they arrive, and more often than not, this process delays their abilities to start their lives and gain stability and independence. We suggest creating a multilingual tool to help newcomers complete all their bureaucratic responsibilities in one go.

The Challenge: Social Networks

Newcomers entering Canada are entering a foreign land with little to no connections socially. The lack of social networks often leads newcomers to make mistakes related to resettlement that many Canadian know to avoid. Social Networks are crucial for newcomers to quickly attain successful resettlement. Thus, a creative solution is required to help newcomers expand their social networks for support and resettlement success in the early stages of their time in Canada.

TECHFUGEES TORONTO

CTM Techfugees TO

Techfugees Toronto is a local, volunteer-led organization dedicated to building a world where transformative power of digital technologies are harnessed to enable displaced persons to better their situations and support inclusion in the digital world. We are one of seven local chapters around the world and join Techfugees in their global mandate of “Leaving no displaced persons behind in an increasingly digital and climate change stricken world.”

We’re excited to meet folks in Montreal who are interested in helping newcomers through civic tech! In 2021, Techfugees Toronto is focusing on building more access to housing for refugees through aiming to launch a digital service connecting displaced peoples and service and housing providers. Multidisciplinary community engagement is critical to our 2021 housing focus as accessible and affordable housing is notoriously a wicked problem and requires multiple different perspectives to consider and bring into the conversation.

The Challenge: Housing Relations

There are few existing services to assist refugees in their housing search. Many are reliant on guidance from settlement workers (SW) in the shelter system, which is chronically understaffed. Refugees often face discrimination by landlords who believe that they cannot afford rent and may hold cultural or social biases. How may we build better mutual understanding between newly refugees, service and housing providers?


WELCOME COLLECTIVE

CTM Welcome Collective

Welcome Collective is a non-profit organization that supports newly arrived refugee claimants in Montréal. We provide free furniture and household items as well as a peer-support program to the most vulnerable newcomers.

We’re new to the concept of civic tech! The idea of addressing social justice questions through the technology lens is engaging and we are excited to see it put to practice. To us, civic tech can be a new way to make our services more accessible and efficient to better serve our community. During the COVID first wave, we created, almost by accident, a data dump of information for services accessible to refugee claimants. It was then that we realized there was potential to make it more cohesive and easy to use for those with barriers in language, technology skills, and internet access. But a purely technological approach would not address the barriers that refugees and claimants face, and could easily be overlooked. Bringing together people from different sectors helps address those blind spots.

The Challenge: Resource Availability

In Montreal, there are a number of vital organizations that provide resources for newcomers and refugees. However, maintaining an organized and current database of resources accessible to refugees remains a challenge. We want to establish a comprehensive database of resources, with all of the information organized into clear and easily accessible categories.

Looking to give back to your community? Check out your local civic tech group to meet other civic techies, work on projects that matter, and hear from leaders in the industry. Find a civic tech group in your area.