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April 27, 2021

In Brief: Trans and Non-binary Immigrant and Newcomer Well-being

Gaby Novoa shares Trans PULSE Canada data on the experiences of trans and non-binary immigrants.

Gaby Novoa

April 27, 2021

Vanier Institute’s In Brief Series: Mobilizing Research on Families in Canada

STUDY: Navarro, J., T. Ferguson, C. Chih, A. Jibril, M. Khatoon, S. Inkingi, D. Beaulieu-Prévost and P. Thaker. “Health and Well-being Among Trans and Non-binary Immigrants & Newcomers.” Trans PULSE Canada (March 23, 2021). Link: .

Immigrants and refugees comprised a little over one-fifth (22%) of the total population in Canada, as of the 2016 Census. Research on health and well-being within the country must therefore consider the unique experiences of immigrants, refugees and newcomers. Many transgender (trans) and non-binary immigrants report leaving their countries of origin for reasons such as transphobia and lack of access to health services and economic opportunities, as well as obstacles to connecting with trans communities. However, research shows that both trans and cisgender immigrants face employment discrimination, racism, limited social support and health care barriers in Canada as well.

A recent report by Trans PULSE Canada provides the first nationwide data on the health and well-being among trans and non-binary immigrants and newcomers in Canada.1 Their study uses survey results from a 10-week period in 2019.

Newcomers were more likely than established immigrants to report coming to Canada due to experiencing persecution as a trans or non-binary person and for access to gender-affirming health care

  • 1 in 3 newcomers migrated to Canada due to fear of persecution related to their gender identity.
  • 1 in 5 newcomers accessed a settlement service within their first year in Canada.
  • Newcomers (38%) were twice as likely to not have a primary health care provider as established immigrants (16%) or those born in Canada (19%).
  • Newcomers (34%) were twice as likely as established immigrants (17%) and those born in Canada (17%) to have moved be closer to trans or non-binary services.

Factors such as discrimination and unrecognized foreign credentials may contribute to employment barriers

A majority of both newcomers and established immigrants came to Canada for reasons relating to education or employment. Yet, research shows that skilled immigrants have lower employment rates than those born in Canada, regardless of higher education achievements.

  • Newcomers (37%) and established immigrants (32%) over the age of 25 were more likely to have graduate/professional degrees than Canadian-born respondents (17%). However, no statistically significant differences were found in the employment situation and low-income household status across all three groups.
  • A greater proportion of newcomers (28%) reported needing to change their own language, dialect or accent “always” or “most of the time” compared with established immigrants (16%) and respondents born in Canada (10%).

Established immigrants report better mental health and higher scores when asked if they were thriving

  • Both newcomers (43%) and established immigrants (45%) were more likely than those born in Canada (35%) to report excellent or very good physical health.
  • Over half of newcomer (56%) and respondents born in Canada (57%) reported fair or poor mental health, which was the least reported by established immigrants (46%).
  • Established immigrants (27%) were the most likely to self-rate their mental health as excellent or very good, compared with newcomers (20%) and those born in Canada (15%).
  • Established immigrants and newcomers scored slightly higher on measures for thriving compared with respondents born in Canada (median scores of 2.60, 2.50 and 2.40, respectively, on a scale from 1.0 to 5.0).

The authors recommend that future research further examine how the health and well-being of trans and non-binary immigrants is impacted during and after resettlement. They also underline that future research should consider intersecting social identities such as race, disability and age.

Gaby Novoa, Families in Canada Knowledge Hub, Vanier Institute of the Family


  1. Newcomers were defined as those who immigrated to Canada within the last five years of survey completion. Established immigrants were those who immigrated more than five years ago.