Newcomers to New Brunswick are asking governments at every level to pay more attention to challenges facing immigrants looking to start a business.
Salil Mehendale, founder of the Fredericton-based Rocket-AI & Indocan Digital Services, told New Canadian Media that new arrivals are having a difficult time getting the credit they need.
“I had a credit history back in India, but when I came here and applied for some credit, [something] as basic as getting a regular loan, [it was not easy],” Mehendale said in an interview.
In addition, newcomers are facing real issues with housing because of the cost involved, Mehendale added.
Houses sell fast and the price of renting has skyrocketed, he said.
“Line of credit and housing are the two big problems,” Mehendale said. “Government has a lot of good skills here but there is no one place where all of their resources are put.”
The concerns were expressed Thursday, Aug. 10, in Fredericton at a summit for newcomers.
The gathering, a first of its kind for the Capital Region, brought together both stakeholders and government representatives. It was designed to help new arrivals navigate throughout the region, while connecting them with essential programs and services. It also offered advice on how to develop networking opportunities and how to interact with immigrant service agencies.
Newcomer Sharon Robert Kennedy said immigrants looking to start a business need better knowledge about how to get the licenses they need to operate.
Kirudhike Krishnasaemy agreed that more orientation programs are required.
“As a newcomer, we are completely new to everything,” said Krishnasaemy, who is originally from India. “If we get proper guidance on all aspects of living, it would be much helpful.”
That also applies for arrivals looking to start businesses, Krishnasaemy said.
Shelly Shi, who arrived in Canada from China about a year ago, said obtaining visas in a timely manner is another issue.
That remains one of the biggest problems facing newcomers, including those who want to study, find a job or start a business, she said.
“They take a long time getting visas processed and approved. I just hope the government can [make it] a little bit easier on the applicants.”
Phillip Lunga, president of the University of New Brunswick Graduate Students Association, a native of Zimbabwe, offered no advice on starting businesses, but did express concerns about available childcare for both newcomers and established residents.
“There is a serious shortage of childcare,” Lunga said. “There is a waiting list of up to three years.”
For immigrants, if their needs are not properly met, they risk the danger of falling through the cracks and experiencing serious drug addiction and other social problems, he said.
“I have been an immigrant for the last 15 years and from my experience it’s easy for families to break apart because of a lack of social services that can accommodate them,” Lunga said.
The event, organized by Ignite Fredericton, an economic development agency serving the capital and western valley regions of New Brunswick, attracted more than 20 exhibitors and around 300 people.
Tetiana Deorditsa of GNB Mosaïk, a hiring program for those not born in New Brunswick, said such events are important because they offer newcomers freedom from worry.
Many immigrants are stressed when they arrive in a new land, Deorditsa said, and helping to remove that eliminates a huge concern for them moving forward.
“We try to remove this burden for newcomers,” Deorditsa said. “Newcomers always think they cannot get a job with government … but we help them with their first experience with government.”
Various immigrant speakers shared their experiences with participants during the gathering while offering advice on how to survive the transition from one country to another.
Nadia Ivanko, a business development executive at Opportunities NB, offered newcomers three avenues of advice – appreciate the power of connections, be grateful for help given, and be willing to learn something new.
“Get ready for a journey where you’ll always be a student,” Ivanko said.
This story and photos are part of a partnership between SaltWire and New Canadian Media.
Michael Staples is a retired daily newspaper reporter from New Brunswick with more than 30 years experience. He has travelled extensively with Canada’s military and has reported from Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo and Macedonia during the Balkans War and from Haiti in 2004 following a three-week bloody rebellion that saw then-president Jean-Bertrand Aristide flee the country. He has also written extensively about Canada's involvement in the Afghanistan War. Michael has considerable experience covering crime, justice and immigration issues. In 1999 he was the lead journalist reporting on the airlift of hundreds of refugees from Kosovo to Canadian Forces Base Gagetown. He has been nominated twice for Atlantic Journalism Awards.