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August 2018

A new voice for refugees in Canada

At a glance
The intern

Sarah Alkholb from Saudi Electronic University

Hosted by

Dr. Hassan Vatanparast in the School of Public Health at the University of Saskatchewan 

The research

Barriers to food security among Canada’s growing refugee population

Imagine you are adrift, without home or country. You arrive to a new land where you do not speak the language, understand the customs, or know where your next meal is coming from. Thousands of refugees in Canada find themselves in this situation every day.

Canada has always welcomed refugees, but with the recent increase in volume the infrastructure has struggled to keep up. Small cities often lack sufficient resources, while refugees lack the skillset to integrate on their own. Sarah Alkholb has travelled from Saudi Arabia to Saskatoon this summer to address one facet of this problem. Working with Professor Hassan Vatanparast, she is researching the food security crisis facing newly landed refugee populations in Canada. Professor Vatanparast’s project is a collaboration between Ryerson University, the University of Saskatchewan, and the University of Montreal, along with several partner service agencies.

As a linguistics major, Sarah brings a unique perspective to the project. “Sarah’s project is instrumental in understanding how language barriers contribute to food insecurity. Coming from outside Canada means she can be an objective observer of the challenge we face,” says Professor Vatanparast.

The goal of Sarah’s project is to identify obstacles that prevent refugees from receiving support, including the impact of language on food access and nutrition. The team plans to present the project findings to government and other stakeholders to inform policy decisions and provide guidance for operational processes.

Following her internship, Sarah intends to publish a paper on her project. It will be a collaboration between Sarah, her home professor, Dr. Rasha Alshaye, and Professor Vatanparast. Sarah would like to continue to build the relationships she has established with Professor Vatanparast and her fellow researchers.

“It’s been incredible to work with such a passionate and engaged research team. Their willingness to share their knowledge has made this a great experience and I am forever grateful for this opportunity.”


Mitacs thanks the Government of Canada and the Government of Saskatchewan for their support of the Globalink research internship in this story. Across Canada, the Globalink research internship program also receives support from the Government of Alberta, the Government of British Columbia, the Government of Quebec, and Research Manitoba. 

In addition, Mitacs is pleased to work with the following international partners to support the Globalink research internship program: Universities Australia; Brazil's Unidersidade de Sao Paulo; the China Scholarship Council; Campus France; the German Academic Exchange Service; Mexico’s Secretariat of Public Education and Tecnológico de Monterrey; Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Education; Tunisia’s Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, and Mission Universitaire de Tunisie en Amerique du Nord; and the Ukrainian-Canadian Foundation of Taras Shevchenko.