Without immigrants Canada’s largest working-aged sector of the population, people between 20 and 44 years old, would be declining. That is the age group that sustains our economy by establishing new families and households, buying houses, having children, filling gaps in the labour market … and paying the largest portion of income tax.
Canada receives refugees and lower skilled newcomers; however, over 50% of immigrants to our country are highly educated. Our system of credential recognition is continually improving so that newcomers can put their skills to work relatively quickly, contributing to our economy and lifestyle. In addition, half of the 100,000 international students in Canada plan to stay after completing their studies, with between 9,000 and 10,000 former foreign students becoming permanent residents each year between 2006 and 2010.
Whatever the background of new immigrants, all of them need varying degrees of help to settle in their new country and community. When newcomers to Canada arrive they find themselves strangers in a strange land. Finding a home, registering children for school and finding a job are often the first priorities. Close behind are the daily hurdles of learning where to grocery shop; finding furnishings, clothing and other daily needs; accessing health care; and finding ways to build a social network. Getting insurance, getting a driver’s license, winter driving, and understanding the legal and political systems can all be challenging and can affect a newcomer’s ability to build a life and feel at home in his or her new community. Layer on top the need to learn a new language and the challenges newcomers face can seem overwhelming.
The government of Canada and the province of British Columbia recognize the need to support newcomers. With funding from both levels of government, CBAL provides settlement services in 10 ‘hub’ communities throughout the Kootenays. Our talented and dedicated settlement workers welcome and support new immigrants by offering services that help them successfully integrate into the Canadian social, cultural and economic fabric - so they will stay in our communities. Settlement workers provide direct help and connect newcomers with essential services and programs to assist with their identified needs.
English as a second language instruction (ESL) is an important part of the service CBAL provides. We offer formal language classes, conversation groups and volunteer tutors and mentors. Our goal is that newcomers and their families will settle successfully and, if necessary, improve their language skills for use at home, in the community and in the workplace.
We hope that newcomers will choose to stay in our small communities to enrich our lives and contribute to the social and economic well-being of those communities. Ultimately, we hope that, like August Paw and Thaw Thi, newcomers will become Canadian citizens.
When you meet an immigrant, make a point of making them feel welcome. They are valuable members of our community and have so much to share and contribute to all of us!
To learn more about CBAL's settlement and language services visit our settlement page.
Regional Program Manager
Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy