by Shan Qiao (@dmaomao) in Toronto
Toronto showed off its diverse colours by holding its inaugural Newcomer Day at Nathan Phillips Square on Friday. Of the 2.8 million people living in Toronto, half of them were born outside of Canada and hail from 188 countries all over the world. A photo essay by Shan Qiao ...
by Shan Qiao (@dmaomao) in Toronto
Your name appears as anonymous; future employers can only search your skills.
Canada’s latest job network innovation Magnet aims to connect job seekers to employers based upon skills, preferences and talent needs. Foreign names will no longer be a barrier for immigrants.
Ryerson University founded the not-for-profit social innovation, in partnership with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. The network was first launched in September last year. After several months’ operation and expansion, the online job search engine aims to supersede giants such as LinkedIn with its unique filtering and matching functions.
For individuals like executive director of the Global Diversity Exchange, and keynote speaker at the forum, Ratna Omidvar, who have “strange-sounding” foreign names, Magnet is a way to combat being stereotyped when job seeking. Future employers can only view a person’s skills online. Names will be listed as ‘anonymous’.
Omidvar shared some of her early job searching experience in the ’80s after she came to Canada from her home country Iran, as a refugee.
“‘Ratna you must change your name. It’s a very strange name. Strange-sounding name has less chance to get a job interview than Brian Smith,’ I was told,” recalled Omidvar, who admitted she considered adopting a “usual” English name, but eventually decided against it, and advised other immigrants against it as well.
“1981 was a very difficulty time in Canada. It was a period of recession, jobs were difficult to find,” cited Omidvar.
“We prefer to hire someone we know from an institution we respect as opposed to taking a risk on talents from overseas,” she explained.
“One of the reasons why Magnet is successful is because it is a large platform,” she added. “It’s not for one institution. It has many employers who signed to it. Because it focuses on competence and experience as opposed to names and where you came from. It has an added value in overcoming certain institutional barriers and individual barriers.”
To date, the Magnet network has 26 university and college partners representing over 700,000 students, 60,000 job seekers, 3,000 employers, over 100 community-based partners and 25 advisory council members composed of leaders from a cross-section of relevant sectors. Magnet boasts that with its specific filtering and matching search engine, chances for employers to find suitable employees or vice versa are much higher.
This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org
by Faron Ellis (@FaronEllis) of Lethbridge College
‘Newcomers’ to Alberta are frequently thought to be responsible for big political shifts in a province most Canadians incorrectly perceive to be conservative to its core. Hence, it wasn’t much of a surprise when I started receiving media inquiries about the possible impact ‘newcomers’ had on the startling 2015 Alberta provincial election results that saw the New Democratic Party (NDP) topple the 44-year Progressive Conservative dynasty.
Over the next week, I will try to cast the ‘newcomer’ thesis in light of what we know about population changes in Alberta, the provincial political culture and public opinion research that I, and my colleagues at the Citizen Society Research Lab, Lethbridge College, have conducted over the past couple of decades.
Many of the recent conversations I’ve had about newcomers have lacked a common reference about just what constitutes a newcomer, their proportion of the overall population and their ability to significantly impact the election results.
Many of the questions I have fielded seemed to assume that all newcomers are alike and somehow vote as a block, without regard for the complex mix of different types of newcomers, or the diverse range of origins, backgrounds and opinions they hold.
Now, singling out one specific cause for a seemingly monumental and unexpected change makes for tantalizing, neat and simple headlines. And I don’t begrudge journalists and editors their tasks. But singling out one cause for something as widespread as what happened in the 2015 Alberta election, rarely leads to greater understanding of what has actually happened.
In the three columns that compose this series I’ll attempt to illustrate the diversity of Alberta’s newcomer population, how most newcomers are integrated into the mainstream liberal-pluralist-democratic political culture, and, to most outsiders’ surprise, how increasingly libertarian-progressive mainstream Alberta political culture is.
But before we jump right to cause and effect, it will be helpful to first define just who is a ‘newcomer’, the diversity of that population, and what that means for changes to the Alberta political culture.
Alberta’s ‘Newcomers’: A Diverse Mix
Clearly, newcomers arrive in Alberta from a variety of places, including, but not limited to, exotic and diverse far-off locals such as India, South Sudan and Cape Breton Island. But they also arrive by way of the delivery rooms at our many public hospitals.
Since we last changed governments the total Alberta population has indeed grown dramatically, from only 1.6 million in 1971 to its current 4.1 million for a net increase of 2.5 million.
Given that nearly 700,000 Albertans have died along the way (and no, we don’t blame the recently expelled PC regime for all of those deaths), over 3.1 million newcomers have arrived in the province. In that context, over three-quarters of all Albertans are newcomers to the extent that they arrived on the scene sometime after we last changed provincial governments.
Yet more than half of those newcomers were born in Alberta (56.4 per cent). A further one-fifth (19.8 per cent net interprovincial migration) was born in another Canadian province, migrated here, typically during boom times, and took up permanent residency. Slightly less than one-quarter of the newcomers were immigrants (23.8 per cent).
The net result is that Alberta has an immigrant population slightly less than the national average. Approximately 18 per cent of Albertans are immigrants compared to just over 20 per cent of the total Canadian population. That said, over the years immigration has become an increasingly important source of new Albertans.
In 1971, only 20 per cent of new Albertans were immigrants. This has incrementally increased each year to account for 30 per cent in 2014. Nevertheless, even today more new Albertans are born in the province (41.5 per cent of all newcomers, down from over 70 per cent in 1971) than arrive from outside the country. And net interprovincial migration (28.4 per cent of all newcomers in 2014, compared to only 10 per cent in 1971) contributes almost as many new Albertans as does immigration.
Further, a tremendous amount of diversity exists within each group of newcomers.
Those born in Alberta are immediately socialized into a pluralist political culture that encourages further diversity of opinion. Newcomers recruited from other parts of the country have already been socialized into a pluralist political culture and bring with them similar levels of diversity.
And newcomers arriving here from outside the country come from such a wide variety of cultures – some democratic, some theocratic, some very progressive, while others very traditional – that grouping them all in one category and assuming homogeneity in their voting behaviour is folly.
Hence, the inevitable answer to the question I keep getting asked about how much impact newcomers had on the 2015 Alberta election results is: Not much . . . at least not on their own.
This is part one of a three-part commentary series examining what happened during the 2015 Alberta elections. Next up, we will take a comprehensive look at newcomers and Alberta’s political culture.
Faron Ellis teaches political science and history in the School of Liberal Arts at Lethbridge College and is principal investigator at the Citizen Society Research Lab. He has published various books, academic articles and op-eds about Canadian and Alberta politics and served as a Lethbridge city councillor.
by Jacky Habib (@JackyHabib) in Toronto
Like many immigrants, Sadia Sohail was looking forward to starting a new life in Canada when she moved here with her young family in 2000.
“Pakistan was a troubled country. I didn’t want to raise my children in that political environment,” Sohail says. “Safety was a huge thing for us, and we felt it was important to raise our children in an atmosphere where we could be ourselves, really.”
The family settled in Mississauga, and Sohail planned to continue working as a pediatrician. “I came with an open mind. I’m such a go-getter. I thought I’d get back into medicine as soon as possible,” she says.
Instead, Sohail received a rude awakening within months of arriving. She was told her medical qualifications were the equivalent of a Bachelor of Science degree here. Sohail knew the road to practising as a doctor in Canada would be a long one, but she didn’t expect it to have as many bumps as it did.
Since she needed to provide a secondary income for her household, Sohail enrolled in an ultrasound program at a technical institute and began work as an ultrasound technician. She spent her evenings and weekends preparing to write medical board exams. Three years and $12,000 later, Sohail was elated to have passed the exams.
Now, one final step was needed to complete her equivalency process: residency.
It has proven to be the most challenging aspect. Sohail has been seeking residency since 2013 through the Canadian Resident Matching Service, which opens residency to international doctors twice a year.
“I’ve applied four times and haven’t gotten a single response for an interview. It’s disheartening. You wonder: why is this?” Sohail questions.
Bridging the Gap
The answer that her mentors told her was that she was missing clinical research, and some experience in this would increase her chances of obtaining residency. To familiarize herself with research, Sohail enrolled in the International Trained Medical Doctors (ITMD) bridging program at The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education at Ryerson University, which launched last December and began earlier this year.
Through the program, Sohail learned the fundamentals of research methodology and familiarized herself with clinical research in Canada. She also participated in a clinical placement at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), which helped her begin volunteering on a research project with Toronto Public Health.
“I feel like I’m making a huge difference with the projects I’m working on,” Sohail says. “I’m doing a project now on homeless mothers and their babies, so it’s bringing me back to what I love most.”
She acknowledges this volunteer research experience isn’t a direct entry into medicine, but she says it’s bringing her closer to her goal. It’s also made her consider a possible career in clinical research. Sohail says participating in the ITMD program and volunteering in research has been empowering.
Participants from the first cohort of The Chang School’s ITMD bridging program graduated earlier this month. The 14 participants are from 10 countries and have varied backgrounds in the medical profession, as the program targeted internationally trained physicians, dental surgeons and clinical public health professionals.
A Starting Point
The success rate of international medical doctors who wish to pursue a career in medicine is six per cent, according to researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.
“This represents a lost opportunity for our province to benefit from the advanced academic and professional credentials of these highly skilled professionals,” explains Dr. Marie Bountrogianni, Dean of The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education.
The program was founded to help internationally trained professionals find non-licensed health-care jobs in Ontario. Shafi Bhuiyan, an internationally trained doctor who is a distinguished visiting professor with The Chang School and Faculty of Community Services, initiated the program. According to his research, Toronto has 6,000 internationally trained doctors who are working survival jobs.
“I’m also a newcomer to this country. I don’t have anybody,” says Bhuiyan, who knows the difficulties of navigating professional systems as a newcomer. “Many immigrants come here and don’t know where to go. Some people say: drive [a taxi], or become a security guard. They’re frustrated.”
Bhuiyan says licensing for international doctors is an expensive and lengthy process, with no guarantee of obtaining a residency. Because the medical system is not absorbing these professionals, the ITMD bridging program’s goal is to lead these professionals to non-licensed careers, which are in demand, such as project managers, research managers and analysts in the health-care industry.
“If we can involve [internationally trained doctors] in a non-licensed area of the medical field, they will be happy,” Bhuiyan says. “A bridging program is not the solution. It’s a starting point.”
At The Chang School, a recruitment committee scored applications out of 100 based on the applicant’s letter of intent, health and research experience, academic degrees and qualifications and English communication scores.
“Our plan was to start with 10 people and nearly 180 people applied for the program. We found 36 very strong people who scored well and were interviewed, and from that we offered 14 students to join the program and all of them accepted,” Bhuiyan says.
The 11-week program, which took place daily in the evenings, included a four-week volunteer clinical placement. Topics covered in the curriculum include: health research, project management, data management in health care, professional communication and workplace culture.
By the completion of the program, three graduates received job offers and six received an extension to their volunteer clinical placements.
Bountrogianni says the next cohort of the ITMD bridging program will begin in fall 2015 and that there has been a 50 per cent increase in applications for the program’s 15 spots.
Knocking Down Doors
The 15-year journey in pursuing a medical career in Canada has taken a toll on Sohail and her family – and it isn’t over yet.
When Sohail moved to Canada with her young family, she was pregnant and had a two-year-old toddler. Now, her children are teenagers.
“My children – all they’ve seen growing up is their mother studying,” she says. “My routine has been very hectic and because I work, my evenings are dedicated to studying. My family is extremely supportive, but it seems like there has to be an end to this.”
Despite being open to relocating and applying for residency positions across the country, Sohail is yet to hear a response, but she maintains her optimism.
“I still don’t know if I’ll be able to get residency in Canada, but I will keep trying. I will knock on 100 doors and I hope that finally one will open.”
NEWCOMER women of reproductive age are invited to participate in a new health study about their environmental exposures to developmental toxicants such as lead and mercury. The Study of Newcomer Women and Developmental Toxicants (SEED) is conducted by environmental health researchers at the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC). The SEED study will explore whether, […]
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When immigrants move to Canada, they have to cope with leaving behind friends and loved ones, but they also leave behind a network of professional contacts. It’s an age-old problem for newcomers to the Canadian job market: getting hired is difficult when everyone who can vouch for your experience is in another country or speaks […]...
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by Corinne Cécilia in Toronto
If you are new to Canada, chances are investing isn’t your main priority as you focus on settling down and addressing basic needs for yourself and your family. Yet, it is safe to assume that you are eager to thrive in this country, and there are several ways in which newcomers can both benefit from and be involved with socially responsible investment.
Join the Responsible Economy
When looking for work, consider careers in the area of the financial industry that are concerned with making the world a better place.
The 2015 Canadian Responsible Investment Trends Report published by the Responsible Investment Association says, “Canada’s responsible investment (RI) market is experiencing rapid growth. RI refers to the integration of environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) criteria into the selection and management of investments.”
According to report data, as of December 31, 2013, assets in Canada being managed, using one or more RI strategies, increased from $600 billion to more than $1 trillion in just two years. The growth represents a 68 per cent increase in RI assets under management.
And don’t worry, you don’t necessarily need to be a financial expert to join this exciting field: there are opportunities in communications, administration, IT, HR and more.
Because the financial industry realizes the growth of its clientele is correlated with increasing immigration trends, it needs to address the diverse needs of new Canadians.
According to Statistics Canada, “[t]he number of foreign-born Canadians could total between 9.8 and 12.5 million, depending on immigration levels. By 2031, nearly half (46 per cent) of Canadians aged 15 and older could be foreign-born, or could have at least one foreign-born parent, up from 39 per cent in 2006.”
Your competitive advantage as a newcomer lies in your foreign language skills and your knowledge of the business/personal finance culture in your home country.
If these types of opportunities are not necessarily what you’re looking for, you may want to consider creating your own company – consider the path of becoming a social entrepreneur. These individuals go beyond the financial bottom line to pursue social, cultural and environmental goals.
According to Meaningful Business – An RBC Paper on Social Entrepreneurs, “Social enterprises are emerging in a broad range of sectors, especially retail, real estate and utilities; and 30 per cent of social enterprises surveyed showed high revenue growth.”
Most banks run special programs designed to help social entrepreneurs achieve their business and ethical goals. There are also initiatives such as the Immigrant Settlement and Integration through Social Enterprise project (ISISE) that are “designed to make the case for Social Enterprise development as an effective model for immigrant settlement and integration.” Learn more about these opportunities with the Canadian CED Network.
Maximize Your Savings
Once you’ve settled in a new job and learned more about the labour market, it’s time to save for a “rainy day” and to secure some retirement income; you work hard for your money, and you will probably come to the conclusion that you need your money to work hard for you.
Many Canadian companies offer their employees a Registered Retired Savings Program matching plan whereby you invest in mutual funds hoping for a good return. The problem is, not all mutual funds are socially responsible and, traditionally, fund managers are either unaware of, or not interested in, ethical investment options.
So you may want to research companies such as Ethical Funds and OceanRock Investments Inc., or seek out advice from an expert. The Responsible Investment Association has an interactive map to help you locate a responsible investment adviser.
If this seems too advanced, simply start by educating yourself about personal finance with websites that will help you make better decisions.
Or you could visit Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, a federal government agency, and www.getsmartaboutmoney.ca, a service provided by the Ontario Securities Commission. Most Canadian banks now have free documentation to help newcomers understand ethical investing and how they can benefit from it.
As explained in CSI Global Education Inc.’s course on Socially Responsible Investment, “SRI has been, and to some extent continues to be, seen as a negative approach to investing. That is, many see it as the process of eliminating ‘bad’ companies from a portfolio. The common belief is that by limiting the choice of available companies, a portfolio’s overall return will suffer.
“The evidence to date tends not to support this view. Consequently, some advisers and mutual fund companies are attempting to move the industry and its perception forward towards the view that SRI, if approached properly, can actually create positive change in society, as well as having a positive impact on the investors’ financial results.”
The SRI sector’s best-kept secrets are innovative social enterprises specialized in renewable energy that provide high-interest returns opportunities by offering community bonds backed by long-term contracts with the province.
You can receive five per cent annual interest for five years by investing in Solar Bonds offered by the provincial co-operative SolarShare...or earn seven per cent each year for seven years by investing in North America’s first zoo-biogas plant, Zooshare, a building located across from the Toronto Zoo.
Sounds too good to be true? Well, experts have told us since the late 1990s that renewable energy will be the biggest investment opportunity in the 21st century: the time to embark is now, and all it takes is a small sum to start your high-return, responsible savings.
Last, but not least, you can contribute to make the world a better place by becoming a discerning consumer.
There is a growing number of companies (such as American Apparel) and coalitions (such as Sweatshop Watch) that work to protect the rights of immigrants who work in North American factories and to eliminate sweatshop conditions in the global garment economy, including factories based in North America.
Companies are also manufacturing environmentally and socially sustainable products. And for all the products we need in everyday life, regardless of our budget, there is a more responsible option available on the market. Ask and you shall find!
Canada’s second annual Responsible Investment Week will take place from June 1 to 5, 2015. RI Week is a week dedicated to education and awareness about responsible investment (RI).
Corinne Cécilia is the Managing Editor of Maison & Demeure, the sister publication of House & Home. Corinne is passionate about publishing and has worked as a researcher, columnist, writer and editor with Canadian and international magazines and media outlets. An adept of foreign languages and lifelong learning, she was the French editor of Education Canada magazine from 2007 to 2011. Corinne holds a Master’s degree in Anthropology.
by Jacky Habib (@JackyHabib) in Toronto
New Canadians were not left out of Canada’s 2015 budget released by the Federal government in late April. The government’s focus on newcomers centres on three primary objectives: remove financial barriers to international education accreditation, reduce costs to send money abroad and provide funds to relocate to job markets with more prospects.
Lowering Costs of Sending Money Abroad
The 2015 budget proposes to provide $6 million over five years to help Canadians access lower-cost remittance services to send money back home. This includes creating a website that will compare service fees by various providers, to help Canadians make informed decisions when sending money.
Monica Boyd, Canada Research Chair in Immigration and Public Policy at the University of Toronto, says this initiative is a feel-good response by the government.
“They’re saying [high remittance fees] are a problem and they care, and will put information on the web,” she says. “It’s to let people know they have choices. It’s a nice promise, but we don’t know what more they’re going to be doing.”
Muhammad Razak, who sends money a few times every year to family overseas, has the same concern. When he heard that the government would work to lower the cost of remittance services, his first question was: “What’s the procedure?”
This is something the government has yet to indicate. Razak says, however, that this should be a priority. “It’s really important because most of us come here to support a big family so it’s necessary to send money home.”
The EAP report states the government will, “work with financial institutions to evaluate possible collaboration opportunities to expand access to lower-cost remittance services.”
Funds for Obtaining Credentials
The government also announced plans to make the Foreign Credential Recognition Loans program permanent.
Introduced in 2011, the pilot project provided loans to foreign-trained individuals to help cover the cost of obtaining their credentials in Canada. A total of $9 million was provided over two years to 1,500 recipients across the country, with an average loan amount of $6,000.
The Economic Action Plan 2015 proposes to put $35 million over five years towards making this a permanent initiative.
The loans will continue to be provided by community-based organizations like Immigrant Access Fund, a nonprofit in Alberta. Dianne Fehr, the organization’s Executive Director says she was thrilled to hear the government is making this program permanent.
“The impact of providing micro loans to internationally trained professionals is profound. We knew that [the government] was pretty pleased with this program,” Fehr says.
Immigrant Access Fund received $1.8 million from the government during its pilot program, which initially provided over 300 loans. Fehr explains that the $1.8 million of government funding has since been recycled back into the program 1.5 times as people pay off their loans.
Recipients begin to pay interest as soon as they receive the loan money for up to two years, and then pay 1.5 per cent above the prime rate, a rate set by Immigrant Access Fund. Fehr says the government has been completely hands-off by allowing community organizations to determine participants’ eligibility and interest rates.
Fahad Mughal, who immigrated to Canada in 2011, is one of the organization’s loan recipients.
“I was looking to upgrade my skills and learned about a business analyst certification program, but there wasn’t any government funding for this.”
He found out about the Foreign Credential Recognition Loans program and took a $5,000 loan to enroll in the certification program. That program led to his current job as a business analyst with the City of Edmonton.
Mughal, who was educated in Pakistan and has a bachelor’s degree in computer science and a master’s degree in business administration, initially immigrated to Brampton. He worked odd jobs for several months before moving to Edmonton.
Since finding professional and steady work, he has convinced five families who planned to live in Ontario, to move to Edmonton instead.
“I think that’s the main reason why immigrants come to Canada,” Mughal says. “They want to have a better life. I know immigrants who want to go to Toronto or Vancouver. I’ve seen immigrants live in these saturated markets and they’re just doing survival jobs. I didn’t move to Canada to do these survival jobs and that’s why I moved.”
Funds to Relocate
The government also proposes to allocate $7 million over two years towards programming, which will support youth and immigrants to relocate to areas in Canada where job opportunities exist.
Studies done by Statistics Canada show that immigrants integrate better and faster in cities like Edmonton and Calgary, rather than larger metropolitan cities like Toronto and Montreal.
Boyd says the proposed budget of $7 million to encourage this move is quite low.
“It’s not a lot of money,” Boyd says. “It’s simply [the government] saying we are going to focus on things that we think are going to facilitate the life of immigrants in Canada. But they’re not saying much about what exactly they’re doing or how they’re going to do it.”
The Minister of Employment and Social Development, Pierre Poilievre, was unavailable for an interview with New Canadian Media before deadline.
by Aurora Tejeida (@Aurobots) in Vancouver [Part 3 of 3 of an in-depth investigative series]
The settlement service sector across the country is undergoing major changes and facing several challenges as a result. Unlike Ontario and the Atlantic region, both B.C. and Manitoba used to have provincial control of their settlement services. For these provinces, the largest issue has been getting used to federal control.
Settlement in the west coast metropolitan city of Vancouver – one of Canada’s top destinations for migrants with 45 per cent of its population being foreign-born – is no exception.
When the federal government decided to strip control of settlement services from B.C. effective April 1, 2014, the biggest casualty was the freedom agencies had to serve a large array of newcomers.
“Under federal funding, service can only be provided to permanent residents and government sponsored refugees,” explains Karen Larcombe, the executive director of South Vancouver Neighbourhood House (SVNH). “That leaves out naturalized immigrants (those with citizenship), temporary foreign workers, who we used to be able to serve, foreign students, etc.”
It’s been a year since agencies in Vancouver have been working under federal government guidelines and the effects are already being felt. This is why the province of B.C. stepped in to help.
“In our province, these changes have been less impactful because the provincial government has provided some agencies, mine included, surplus funding so we can continue to serve the clients that are ineligible under federal funding,” says Larcombe.
But those resources are limited. Provincial funding represents about 10 per cent of SVNH’s funding. The rest, 90 per cent, is provided by the federal government and can only be used for what the government calls ‘eligible clients’.
“In theory, ineligible clients are supposed to be 10 per cent of our cases,” Larcombe says. “In reality we’re seeing more than the 10 per cent, for us it’s closer to 15 per cent.”
Between 2013 and 2014, British Columbia received 37,451 foreign immigrants; 85 per cent of them settled in Metro Vancouver.
It’s likely these numbers only represent new permanent residents, since they don’t add up when the largest ‘ineligible’ group that Larcombe’s agency sees, which is temporary foreign workers, is taken into account.
“Their numbers are growing. I think temporary foreign workers is where we’re most feeling the pressure,” she explains.
The number of temporary foreign workers in the province increased from 19,283 in 2002 to 69,955 in 2011. Similarly, over 290,000 international students were enrolled in Canadian schools during 2013; 24 per cent of them live and study in B.C., that’s almost 73,000 people. Both groups have no access to settlement services.
Another casualty has been the time workers can devote to clients. Under the federal government there’s more extensive recording required, so workers spend more time inputting data into the system.
“The federal government wanted everybody across Canada to deliver services under the same way. So part of that was having the same information and the same data to get a better picture across the whole country,” says Larcombe.
“From a funder’s perspective, that makes sense. But from a service delivery perspective, that means that we lose control over what our services look like. So something that works in Ontario, might not necessarily work in Vancouver.”
Aside from B.C., Manitoba was the only other province that lost control of its funding in the last couple of years; now settlement services in Manitoba fall under federal regulations.
Jorge Fernandez is the executive director of the Manitoba Immigrant Centre. Like his counterpart in Vancouver, he says the biggest change has been the type of clients that settlement services can help.
“We can no longer help temporary foreign workers or foreign students,” explains Fernandez. “And the province of Manitoba is not offering any extra funding.”
Fernandez says 20 per cent of the approximately 18,000 clients his agency saw last year are what the government considers ‘ineligible’.
“It was difficult for us to close the door on clients, so we secured some private funding. We managed to raise $50,000 to hire one worker to see this group of people,” he adds.
The funds came from private donations and Winnipeg foundations. But even with the extra funding, the agency was only able to help 2,000 out of 5,000 clients that have asked for help, but are deemed ‘ineligible’.
Out of those ‘ineligible’ clients, Fernandez says 50 per cent are temporary foreign workers, 25 per cent are international students and the remainder is a mix of visitors and Canadian citizens — a group agencies in both Manitoba and B.C. consider important due to the fact that they may have only been in the country for a couple of years.
“We wish we could see everybody,” says Fernandez. “If we had more funding we could hire another worker and see more people.”
He hopes things will improve if there is a change in government, especially since some current migration policies don’t make sense to him.
“We are bringing temporary foreign workers into the country, and we have the Express Entry program, so we need the workers, we need labour force. So if we’re bringing them here, why aren’t we providing services for them?”
Is Sanctuary the Only Solution?
Byron Cruz is a community worker and an advocate for all types of migrants in Vancouver. He works with an outreach group called Sanctuary Health. For the last year or so, his organization, along with many more, has been participating in the mayor’s immigration task force. The main item of the agenda is to obtain sanctuary city status in Vancouver.
“Every settlement agency depends on the CIC (Citizenship and Immigration Canada) because all or most of their funding comes from the federal government, so instead of helping local communities, they’re doing CBSA (Canada Border Services Agency)’s job,” says Cruz.
Cruz explains that a group of undocumented mothers had recently approached him because they wanted to take a workshop that was offered by a local settlement agency, but that the agency denied them the service.
“Many agency workers want to help, but they have to do it outside office hours, because otherwise they risk losing their jobs or their funding,” he adds. “It’s a system that discriminates.”
Still, several agencies have helped pen the sanctuary city policies Cruz hopes will be completely adopted by Vancouver sometime this year. Agency workers like Larcombe agree that these policies would help those that are most in need.
“At this point there are more vulnerable migrants that we would be able to help if the city was granted a sanctuary city status,” she explains. “It’s difficult for these migrants to break through the poverty barrier.”
By ‘vulnerable migrants’ Larcombe means undocumented migrants, another group agencies are barred from helping. A 2009 House of Commons immigration committee report estimates that the number of undocumented immigrants in Canada ranges anywhere from 80,000 to 500,000.
But even without taking undocumented immigrants into account, the reality is that many of B.C.’s newcomers are not being granted access to settlement services under federal regulations.
“We need changes to ensure that those people are protected,” says Larcombe. “Even if technically it wouldn’t fall into the federal government’s mandate.”
In previous 360º instalments, NCM looked at the state of settlement services in Ontario, Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island. Be sure to read all three parts of this investigative series to get a sense of how several provinces across the country are dealing with a changing settlement system.
by Heather Chetwynd (@voicetoword) in Toronto
Recent research shows that employers and newcomers value language and communication skills quite differently. Where 95 per cent of employers consider these skills to be very important, only 27 per cent of newcomers do. Thus, expectations regarding appropriate communication skills and their importance vary wildly between newcomers and their potential and actual employers.
Internationally educated professionals often work in English-speaking environments for years with few language or communication issues. They come to Canada with the understanding that their professional experience is in demand and, consequently, they expect to get a job in their field quickly.
Only after endless applications and rejections, or years in a position with no promotion, do these professionals start to reflect on what may be holding them back.
And what might that be? “There’s a requirement in the job which they are not able to fulfill due to a communication limitation,” says HR professional Nicole Stuart of Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP).
Step One: Identify the Communication Limitation
Your ability to participate comfortably in a conversation depends upon language and context. Understanding the culture, being familiar with the topic and concepts being discussed, knowing the idioms and vocabulary being used – all these factors make communication easier. But, if others find it difficult to understand your pronunciation, they may lose interest, get frustrated, misunderstand and, unfortunately, misjudge you.
The first step is to identify where the communication limitation is. If it’s related to accent, don’t expect to be told — managers are often reluctant to point this out. “At the end of the day, if your employee has a performance gap, it needs to be addressed,” says Stuart. “You can open the door and try to give the employee the chance to self-identify... A manager would never be coached to say, ‘You’re not clear in your communication because of your accent.’”
Many managers are nervous about pointing out accent issues since this can often be interpreted as discriminatory — and in many cases, it might be. But often, concerns about how accents may inhibit easy communication are very real. According to Stuart, a better approach for a manager would be to say: “‘The delivery of that communication was unsuccessful. What do you think are the reasons?’ Get the employee to self-identify.”
It’s important to be open to accepting that your accent, if it’s very different from the dominant accent in the region, may be causing a communication gap or raising concerns about clarity. If you believe accent may be an issue for you, the next step is to explore the issues in more detail.
Step Two: Look More Closely at the Problem
Let’s look at a few scenarios I have experienced with my accent clients:
Dev worked on his presentation all weekend. He was careful to fit in everything he wanted to cover, but time was tight and he would have to speak quickly. While he presented, his clients seemed distracted. At the end, they asked a few questions that he had already covered quite extensively. They said they would get back to him, but never did.
ISSUE: Speaking too fast with few pauses makes it difficult for listeners to accommodate for accent differences, since it’s hard to know where an idea starts and finishes, and there is no time to figure out any words that are pronounced differently.
Canada had just signed a free trade agreement with Colombia. When I asked my client what Canada exported to his country, he said, “Weed.”
ISSUE: “Weed” is slang for marijuana, but my client meant “wheat.” The difference between those two sounds is primarily in the vowel length. In “wheat,” the vowel length should be very short before the voiceless T. In “weed,” it is longer before the voiced D.
Ricardo had just received a document with some serious mistakes in the data calculations. It had to be fixed before they could move on. He approached his manager with the page in hand and said, “This shit is all wrong.”
ISSUE: Ricardo meant “sheet.” The issue is the difference in the long and short “I” vowel. To pronounce the long vowel in “sheet,” we hold the tongue high at the back, sounding more like “iy” than “I.”
Most people will never be able to completely eliminate a foreign accent, and this should never be a goal. But with some time and commitment, it is possible to moderate your pronunciation enough so that you can be easily understood. The speed with which you improve and the degree of improvement depends on several factors:
Step Three: Get Self-Aware, and Then Get Going
So what is the next step? Be open to the possibility that clarity may be an issue — but explore other aspects as well. I had one client come to me, concerned about accent, when the issue was really that she talked too much, so people would cut her off. In another case, the client acted insecure by waving her hands around too much, when she simply needed to remain more still so others would see her as more authoritative. There are many reasons why people will disregard, question or interrupt you. Self-awareness is very important in all aspects of communication.
If you have determined that your speech is unclear, decide to work on it. Classes can be a good starting point, and there is a lot of material available on the Internet. But because many people have difficulties with identifying the issues, refining your accent may require private instruction. Either way, you must be open to change and willing to put what you learn into practice. Moderating your accent may involve adjusting your public image, your self-perception and your personality. Be open, use the tools and be patient — your pronunciation can and will improve.
Heather Chetwynd has worked for over 30 years in the field of adult education and ESL. Holding a Master degree specializing in voice and adult education, she specializes in accent modification and culturally appropriate communication. She is Founder-Director of Voice to Word Consulting, which focuses on assisting non-Native speakers refine their English communication, and is professor at Sheridan College where she teaches Canadian Workplace Culture.
-- Canada's economic development minister Navdeep Bains at a Public Policy Forum economic summit