International Metropolis Conference - Final report

June 24 to 28, 2019

The Promise of Migration

Inclusion, Economic Growth and Global Cooperation

International Metropolis Conference 2019 - Final report

Table of contents

The conference in brief

The International Metropolis Conference 2019 set out to increase Canadian visibility and demonstrate leadership on migration issues as well as discuss effective global cooperation, strengthen relationships with international organizations and migration practitioners. Departmental priorities included shaping the agenda to reflect Canada’s migration-related policy priorities and create new ties with academics and government officials. The Conference successfully leveraged the Canadian and global expertise to capture best practices on a broad range of topics from demystifying the Global compact to irregular migration. Featured panelists skillfully addressed discourse regarding refugees and migration, with the aim of reducing the current global tendency toward xenophobia and anti-migrant populist sentiments.

Metropolis stage - plenary session

June 24th kick started with a series of pre-conference activities including 13 study tours held in various parts of the city, a networking lunch and special PhD workshop. The day opened with a special symposium hosted by the Canadian Government, The Promise of Migration: A Canadian Perspective, which was extremely popular and for which demand for seating exceeded the supply.

Ukranian dance group

Given the ambitious scope of the Conference’s theme The Promise of Migration: Inclusion, Economic Growth and Global Cooperation, content was structured around eight separate plenaries, each of which addressed a particular challenge of migration. Chairs and panelists were carefully selected based on their expertise, each of whom brought a diverse perspective and contributed to well-balanced content. Each day commenced with a keynote address; all of which were extremely well received and lauded for their candor and audience engagement. Both Gilbert Whiteduck (Kitiganzibi First Nation) and Ketty Nivyabandi (Human rights defender) were given standing ovations after they delivered sobering and powerful remarks.

Gilbert Whiteduck

Ketty Nivyabandi

174 individual workshops were held simultaneously throughout the week. Noteworthy subjects included; migration data innovation, global responses to the mass displacement of Venezuelans, addressing anti-immigrant rhetoric, youth violence, settlement, integration and language barriers for newcomers.

In order to compliment the information-dense agenda, a number of cultural and social events were held. Each morning before keynotes addresses were delivered, a different Canadian cultural performance was presented. These reflected the rich musical traditions of the Indigenous peoples, the Inuit, as well as the francophone community and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. On select evenings, the Conference held social and cultural events, from a networking reception to a formal gala. A Ukrainian dance group, opera singer Steve Michaud, the IRCC choir and the Capital Beatles band all captivated attendees. Mid-week, delegates were offered the option of either attending the Orchestre Symphonique de Gatineau (OSG) for a classical music performance with a repertoire including composers from around the world or Pier 21, the musical. Both events were energetically applauded.

Pre-conference Symposium overview

The pre-Conference symposium “The Promise of Migration: A Canadian Perspective” was organized by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) with the aim of focusing on some of the Conference’s main migration themes from a Canadian perspective. The Government of Canada symposium included three workshops:

The opening workshop “Challenges and Departmental Priorities” addressed some of the major international and national challenges that are transforming the Canadian migration landscape. High level management like Lori MacDonald, Acting Deputy Minister of IRCC and Marta Morgan, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Global Affairs Canada (GAC), talked about departmental priorities for addressing them and explained the current and future transformations in the field of migration policies.

The following workshop “Recent Evolutions and Perspective on Canadian Immigration Policies” addressed migration related matters such as the selection of economic migrants, humanitarian programming, the reception and integration of migrants, and the strengthening of underlying data and research. Several senior managers presented recent changes in migration policies and programs in response to these challenges.

The last morning workshop “Improving Our Process and Policies to Meet Tomorrow's Challenges” discussed how the challenges ahead and recent changes in our policies go hand in hand with an improvement in our processes. Several senior managers showcased new improvements to our processes, as well as our projects to meet future challenges from developing more customer-focused services, to better managing identities and data, to transforming our digital policy.

Presentations are available upon request.

Keynote Addresses overview

The keynote speakers were from various backgrounds and consisted of: Gilbert Whiteduck, Ketty Nivyadandi, Matt DeCourcey, the Honorable Ahmed D. Hussen MP, Valérie Plante, and the Honorable Juan José Gómez Camacho. All of them spoke about different aspects of migration, the history, the present and the future. Dr. Daniel Hiebert was the general rapporteur and provided an overview of the Conference.

Gilbert Whiteduck, leader of the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation, a community of the Algonquin First Nation, reminded participants that while "Canada prides itself on being a welcoming society, the Indigenous people were the first to welcome European settlers, and this hospitality is ever-present today." He held out hope that for "Canada to become its best self, it must face its colonial past,” and that "Canada is, and will always be, a work in progress."

Watch the video: Gilbert Whiteduck

Matt DeCourcey spoke about Canada and its policies surrounding migration with emphasis on the fact that people have to be understanding to why people migrate. He stated that “Canada is a country of newcomers.”

Watch the video: Matt DeCourcey

Distinguished Professor Paul Spoonley, Co-Chair of the International metropolis Steering Committee, welcomed the delegates, thanked the Government of Canada for being the host, and on behalf of the Māori indigenous people from New Zealand, paid homage to the Algonquin Nation representatives.

Watch the video: Paul Spoonley

The Honorable Minister Hussen discussed his pride in "the government’s example that you can be both strong and effective at providing security to citizens while being compassionate to refugees." He argued that "Canada is not immune to the anti-immigrant sentiment but the best weapons against fear are facts.”

Watch the video: Minister Hussen

A refugee herself, Ketty Nivyabandi pointed out that the globe today has a crisis of empathy and compassion that is leading us to become more inhumane. She stated that wars create refugees and so, if people are anti-refugee, they should at least be anti-war. Moving forward, she left the audience with three ideas she curated through her experiences: be creative, have a feminist approach to migration and displacement, and instill the sense of extreme urgency when implementing the work.

Watch the video: Ketty Nivyabandi

Mayor Valérie Plante passionately advocated for the role of her city, and of cities more generally, in bridging the divide between policy and migrants. Strategically difficult from a national or individual level, cities are uniquely placed to address underlying biases, lowering inequality between migrant and host populations, and addressing global challenges that cause displacement and international movement.

Watch the video: Mayor Valerie Plante (available in French only)

The Honorable Ambassador Camacho ended as the final keynote speaker and synthesized the various discussions that happened over the few days of the Conference. He addressed the fact that migration is always going to be a topic of concern and that despite the UN not being able to fully comprehend it in the beginning, the world has collectively worked and brought together the Global Compact. Furthermore, he reiterated that the Global Compact is necessary as it looks at migration in a 360 degrees because everything is so interconnected.

Watch the video: Ambassador Camacho

Plenary session overview

Transcripts of video presentations, in the language of delivery, are available upon request.

Plenary 1 - The Quest for Global Governance: Compacts and Sustainable Development Goals

The opening plenary featured representatives from various sectors, addressed a broad but rather important area in the discussion of global migration and refugee issues. Chaired by UNHCR’s Jean-Nicola Beuze, panelists emphasized the importance of international cooperation and various, even conflicting points of view. They raised concerns on the narrative that projects migration as non-regulated and unsafe instead of as a social norm that humans as a species have been practicing for thousands of years. The panel touched on the human, social, organizational, policy and other aspects of migration that can help make or break the perspective that we generate. Participants reminded us that while it is far from a perfect document, the Global Compact for Migration is the first attempt at a comprehensive framework for governing international migration.

Watch the videos:

Plenary 2 – South-South Migration

Chaired by the Regional Director for the IOM South America, Diego Beltrand, the second plenary expanded on the challenges, practices, and narrative surrounding migration in the Global South. This plenary and the respective speakers emphasized on the importance of understanding the south-south migration patterns that constitutes a huge chunk of the global migration trend. Since 66% of total migration takes place in a South-South context, situational awareness in policymaking and aid allocation is key for short-term efficiency and long-term success. Ambassador Santiago Chavez discussed the need for a unified philosophy among Southern states to address migration. Prof. Silvia Núñez Garcia drew attention on the US-Mexico border, and reiterated the important role of media discourse in creating polarizing immigration narratives. Prof. Andrew Gardner delivered some aspects of his research on migration to Gulf countries, particularly the less publicized fact that “Southern” states face the largest global flow of transnational migration.

Watch the videos:

Plenary 3 – The Economic Impact of Immigration

This plenary examined the benefits and pitfalls of economically integrating immigrants into local communities. The role that immigration plays in the service industry in developed countries as well as immigrants as consumers themselves who can impact the economy positively were some of the relevant balancing functions that were brought forth. Some of the major points discussed in the plenary touched on an important observation about the almost neutral effect of immigration on the economy of the host nation. Chaired by IRCC’s ADM for Strategic and Program Policy, Paul MacKinnon, there was an interesting contrast between speakers’ interpretation of existing data, paralleled with their specializations in both micro and macroeconomics. The plenary managed to touch on a wide array of micro and macroeconomic impact of immigration effectively.

Watch the videos:

Plenary 4 – Non-State Actors and the Migration Industry

In the next plenary of the second day, moderator Yasir Naqvi, Chief Executive Officer, Institute for Canadian Citizenship, prompted speakers to answer two key questions: first, on the challenges and solutions faced by the organization, and second on collaboration efforts with other industry partners to better protect migrants. The importance of collaboration between the public and private sector was a strong theme throughout the discussion, particularly with emphasis on increased use of technology. A lot of emphasis was placed on a change in the attitude towards migration to change the narrative and the need to be more sympathetic and empathetic for a real change.

Watch the videos:

Plenary 5 - Internally Displaced Persons

The panelists in the third day’s first plenary, also chaired by Jean-Nicolas Beuze, discussed the importance of giving more direct attention to IDPs, as compared to the far greater attention given to migrants and refugees. Currently, more than 40 million people are internally displaced, leading to higher vulnerability in conflict situations. The panelists emphasized that IDPs are impacted in the long-term as most of them are not able to return home. They pointed out that there is a lack of resources and few policies directed towards IDPs and that more research, monitoring, and creative approaches to displacement need to be established.

Watch the videos:

Plenary 6 - The Effects of Technology on Migration and Integration

This plenary, chaired by Ümit Kiziltan, Director General for IRCC’s Research and Evaluation, focused on the potential uses, misuses and missed-uses of technology within the migration industry and beyond. The speakers provided multi-sectoral perspectives on this issue, which is often seen as a threat and weapon of control. The propagation of fake news was a central theme among the panelists. It was found that in general, those who are more anti-immigrant were more active on social media than those who are pro-immigrant. Misinformation resonates in echo chambers and is polarizing the migration debates, and although digital misinformation is not behind the increase in anti-immigrant feelings, it is increasing the divide.

Watch the videos:

Plenary 7 - Cities and Migration

Chaired by Mayor of Gatineau, Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin, this plenary addressed social integration in the urban context. Panelists discussed how to influence international discourse and priorities for cities to create better outcomes for communities, migrants and refugees. Anna Visvizi, Head of research at the Institute of East-Central Europe explored both the challenges and opportunities in creating “Smart cities” – and how leveraging technology can increase sustainability, foster economic development, and enhance quality of life factors for newcomers. Other speakers contributed global perspectives from individual municipalities, as well as provided an overview of the challenges certain cities face and how municipal governments are at the forefront of integration efforts. Professor Gioconda Herrera of FLASCO in Ecuador provided an overview on the complexities faced by Quito and other densely populated municipalities in hosting Venezuelan refugees.

Watch the videos:

Plenary 8 - Public Confidence in Migration

The last and final plenary of the Conference was chaired by Parliamentary Bureau Chief of CBC, Robert Russo. Keith Neuman stated that Canada consisted of a “culture of accommodation” which made assimilation easier. Although there may be criticisms of people in Canada having a weak national identity, it can be framed instead as one of the strengths of Canada that enables people to be welcoming and others to feel like they belong. On the other hand, Dr. Abel Chikanda informed the audience about the myths about Africans in South Africa and how xenophobia has affected businesses in the country. Rob McNeil pointed that the discourse about “Us versus Them” has been on-going for twelve thousand years and to this the panelists agreed that we collectively need to go to community level and engage with people for them to understand the calamities of migrants.

Watch the videos:

Closing statement

Watch the video:

Workshops overview

The Conference program offered a total of 174 workshops that were delivered during three consecutive days: Tuesday June 25th; Wednesday, June 26th; and Thursday, June 27th. This is the highest number of workshops ever offered in an International Metropolis Conference, which has been organized every year since 1996.

The requirements for workshop submissions included three main criteria: A) Cross-sectoral participation (i.e. research/academia, practitioner/NGO, and policy); B) Representation from more than one country; C) Focus on migration, integration, and/or population diversity. It is estimated that more than 50% of the workshops in the program met all three conditions.

While the focus on migration, integration and/or population diversity was rich and revealed areas of inquiry, practice, and policy that were largely appreciated as very high-quality by delegates, cross-sectoral representation and international participation were more difficult to achieve, given the structural limitations that International Metropolis Conferences have worked to alleviate along the years: cross-sectoral disconnection in the respective areas of activity and the lack of platforms where international exchanges are accessible to policy-makers, researchers, and practitioners at all levels of professional engagement. However, the program structure in this Conference allowed for ample opportunities for networking in view of potential collaborations and partnerships going forward, which was welcome by all delegates.

Presentations are available upon request.

Number of workshops per topic (174 in total)

Graphic of number of workshops per topic described below
Alternative text: Number of workshops per topic
Topic Number of workshops
Best Practices ― Inclusion, Economic Growth, and Global Cooperation 29
Children and Families 4
Gender, LGBTQ, and Intersectionality 6
Identity 6
The Migration – Security Nexus 4
Social Inclusion 6
Education 7
Multiculturalism and Other Integration Approaches 23
Migration Health 15
Public Confidence in Migration 6
Cities and Migration 15
The Effects of Technology on Immigration and Integration 10
Non-State Actors and the Migration Industry 7
The Economic Impact of Immigration 25
South-South Migration 3
Quest for Global Governance 8

A series of workshops were the result of special initiatives and partnerships, involving diverse stakeholders and attracting a high number of audiences, like workshops on Examining the International Response to the Mass Displacement of Venezuelans throughout Latin America; Skilled Migration and Labour Market Integration: What Do Canada and Germany Have in Common?; Canada's Operation on Syrian Refugees (OSR); Political Participation of Refugees ― Loopholes and Opportunities.

In general, attendance at all workshops in the program ranged from 5 people to 30 people. Overall, the high number and quality of workshops reflected the high interest in migration, integration, and population diversity in Canada by traditional stakeholders (academia, civil society, government). The private sector lagged behind strikingly, with very few representatives from this field of activity participating in the Conference. While the Conference promotion to established networks nationally and internationally, otherwise commonly outside of the private sector, may have played a role, it is also a reflection of the need that traditional stakeholders would engage with this sector in more sustained manner, whether in Canada or abroad.

Feedback from delegates (Anonymous)

“I have participated on several international conferences but the International Metropolis Conference 2019, Ottawa, completely exceeded my expectation on so many aspects.”

“Very well organized! Terrific quality throughout! Ice mix of subjects!”

“I thought it was one of the best Metropolis Conferences that I have attended. The presentations, both in workshops and plenaries, were excellent and well worth the expense and travel.”

“A truly inclusive and diverse conference. An outstanding effort from organizers.”

“Excellent conference very well organized, wonderful Canadian welcome. There was an excellent mix of research, policy and practice in the Conference sessions and workshops whereas usually research dominates to the detriment of policy and practice.”

“My expectations were high, but they were exceeded! The plenary themes, genuine/inspirational keynotes, first nations' involvement, the open discussion, thoughtful Conference organization, the tech used (Slido, Conf app) were all excellent. Without any hesitation, the best migration conference I have attended.”

“Thank you for a very well organized and welcoming Conference. It was a privilege to attend among so many experts and to learn from Canada's experience in developing policy and practice in the area of migration. It was an unforgettable experience both professionally and personally.”

“Really enjoyed hearing from mayors of Montreal and Gatineau. Conference preparation was excellent. The venue was very convenient and well suited to the Conference. Overall, a very worthwhile Conference.”

“The Conference was really well organized, and I felt well taken care of at all stages. IT was very enriching and incredibly friendly and organized.”

“I found the welcome and the care amazing (BRAVO to the team). I found it very relevant to have this conference in Canada as it has developed interesting approaches to migrations that we could learn from in Europe. Thank You for the experience.”

“This was one of the most productive conferences I have attended (inspiration, networking, presenting, possible future collaborations and work opportunities). Expensive, but worth it.”

“Great plenary sessions. Very happy with the recognition of indigenous people's part in migration debates. Great keynotes. Great workshops. Fascinating city. Great networking.”

“So very refreshing to discuss the challenges of international migration in such a productive and constructive context. And the gala evening blew me away... well done and thank you.”

“Great variety of speakers/topics and great international flavor to the Conference. Kudos!”

“The best Metropolis Conference ever!”

“Very impressed. Logistics and organization were seamless. Speakers were world class. Highlighting of Indigenous culture and territory felt genuine and respectful. Was reinspired. Thank you!”

“Plenary speakers were inspiring and so were all the Chairs for the plenaries. Plenary 8 was quite a treat.”

“I was impressed by the energy and dedication of the International Metropolis' organizing team. They were engaging and dedicated from start to finish, and incredibly professional. Thank you.”

“The plenaries and overall Conference organization were superb. I was impressed by the amount of thought that went into the week's activities and helping delegates to visit Ottawa and Gatineau.”

“What an exceptional international conference. Amazing work everyone. I look forward to attending next year's conference. Thank you.”

Media coverage

Social Media Content

June 21 – 27
Twitter (n=2) Facebook (n=2) LinkedIn (n=2) Total
Impressions (views) 8,853 106,348 5,584 120,785
Link clicks 23 115 71 209
Shares 4 9 5 18
Likes 17 351 32 400
Feb 12 to June 27
Twitter (n=56) Facebook (n=40) LinkedIn (n=36) Total
Impressions (views) 846,360 2,655,736 154,339 3,656,435
Link clicks 940 5,379 2,807 9,126
Shares 194 448 77 719
Likes 267 7,839 888 8,994

Social media analysis

Twitter was the main contributor for coverage generating 98% of mentions. Coverage around Metropolis mostly included shares and retweets.

The most frequently used hashtags included #IntlMetropolis2019 (2K mentions), #Migration (264 mentions) and #WithRefugees (260 mentions). The #WithRefugees was used in conjunction with UNHCR Canada, who was hosting a session at the conference. The comments that stemmed from the post focused on bringing awareness to refugees in Turkey with #StandWithIraqiRefugees.

UNHCR Canada provided a significant amount of coverage throughout the conference as well as leading up to the conference. They shared a post at the end of May promoting the conference. The message pulled in 96 comments, which included #StandWithIraqiRefugees.

Additional conversation around the event included posts from Ottawa Tourism, Canadian Immigration and Carleton University News regarding their contribution at the conference.

Among the Metropolis coverage were tweets about Minister Hussen’s appearance at the conference. The tweets were mostly positive in sentiment with some using #ImmigrationMatters as part of their posts.

The top 3 influencers who shared the most mentions of the conference included:

Facebook and Instagram pulled in 1% of the remaining mentions, respectively.

Press Publication

The Metropolis 2019 conference received media coverage from:




Conference numbers

Graphic of conference numbers described below
Alternative text: conference numbers
  • Registered to attend: 1434
  • Different countries represented: 56
  • Lived outside Canada: 23%
  • Lived outside Ottawa / Gatineau: 52%
  • Plenary sessions: 8
  • Plenary speakers: 42
  • Workshop topics: 16
  • Concurrent workshops: 174
  • Workshop presenters: 683
  • Kiosks: 14
  • Hours of content: 273
  • Posters: 12

Countries represented

Attendees to the International Metropolis Conference 2019 were from the following 56 countries we present:

Keynote and Plenary Speakers (total 46)





Registrations by Category

Graphic of registrations by category described below

*Includes private companies; international organizations; consulting companies; and other entities.

Alternative text: Registrations by Category
  • Government 446
  • NGOs: 386
  • Academia: 189
  • Students: 143
  • Other*: 108
  • Workshops only: 66
  • Speakers: 44
  • Immigrant consultants: 26
  • Exhibitor: 18
  • Companion: 8
*Includes private companies; international organizations; consulting companies; and other entities.