Immigrating: Welcoming Immigrants to Canada’s Atlantic Provinces

By Veronica Leonard

Nova Scotia
Halifax, Nova Scotia, has been a gateway for new immigrants to Canada for most of its history. From the 1920s through the 70s, Pier 21 processed over a million new immigrants arriving in Canada by boat. Most moved on to the larger cities, but gradually Halifax has become a multicultural city, and new immigrants are now moving into smaller Nova Scotian communities to work in the healthcare, education, agriculture and tourism industries.

Immigrant Settlement and Integration Services, ISIS, provides a wide range of services including refugee resettlement, professional programs, family counseling and English in the workplace. ISIS is the largest immigrant-serving agency in Atlantic Canada, with over 125 staff members from more than 30 countries.

Other agencies include the Metro Region Immigrant Language Services, providing English as a Second Language (ESL) and language assessment services to immigrant learners across Nova Scotia. They have 22 staff for the Language Instruction to New Canadians (LINC) program in Halifax and Sydney, and another 25 instructors in Teaching Immigrants English (TIE), its outreach program to 35 rural communities. They also offer Employment and Entrepreneurship support through their computer centres.

As in many provinces, the Nova Scotia YMCA has a Centre for Immigrant Programs, including School Support, Youth Outreach, and Saturday Morning Study Skills. They also run the Friend to Friend match program, matching new immigrant families with Canadian friends who will help them get to know their community.

The Nova Scotia Library service carries a wide range of ESL materials as well as foreign language books and videos on their inter-library loan system.

The province’s eight Universities, the provincial community college system as well as private language schools also have programs geared to the needs of new immigrants and foreign students, with ESL, tutoring, and bridging programs for professional accreditation.

The Multicultural Association of Nova Scotia takes a leadership role in advocacy, information sharing and multicultural education and celebration.

Newfoundland and Labrador
For many years, Newfoundland and Labrador was the poorest province in Canada, with outmigration, not immigration, being their greatest concern. Recently, the development of offshore oil drilling has brought prosperity and new industries to the province, and there has been a growth in immigration.

The Association for New Canadians, ANC, assisted over 500 new immigrants last year. The organization, based in the capital, St. John’s, Newfoundland, is responsible for the six week Resettlement Assistance Program, settlement programs, ESL language assessments, healthcare programs for new immigrants, and pre-employment readiness. It also offers daycare and transportation to students in ESL programs and translation services. In addition to paid staff, they also recruit volunteers to help new families adjust to life in Canada.

The Axis Career Services is a division of the ANC and focuses on employment assistance, entrepreneurship, accreditation, and work placements. Its mandate is to assist internationally trained workers by preparing them for the culture of the Canadian workforce and develop strategies to find employment. The program employs nine full time staff.

Memorial University, and the College of the North Atlantic with its 17 campuses across the province, have programs that can assist trained workers to obtain their Canadian accreditation. They also offer advanced ESL and other programs to bridge educational gaps.

The Refugee and Immigrant Advisory Council provides support, advocacy and one-on-one conversation classes to immigrants. It also promotes multicultural activities and programs to develop a welcoming community.

Marystown is the fastest growing community in the province and is attracting skilled workers from many countries. It has added an immigrant portal to its website, http://townofmarystown.com/ ,which provides information to newcomers about services, history, living, studying and working in Marystown.

Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island (PEI) has a population of 193,000 – smaller than most Canadian cities; however, its vibrant tourism industry attracts over a million visitors a year. New immigrants often work in PEI’s service and hospitality industries as well as healthcare and agriculture. PEI was the first Canadian province to elect a premier of non-European origin. Joe Ghiz ‘s Lebanese parents owned a convenience store when he became premier in 1986. His son Robert Ghiz is the current premier.

The PEI Association for New Canadians (PEIANC) is responsible for Settlement and Integration of new immigrants, and the Resettlement Assistance Program for Refugees, language assessment, ESL, translation services, Employment Assistance, Business Mentorship and assistance to internationally educated health professionals. As part of integrating newcomers into the community, they have organized The Women’s Happiness Group, the Holiday Host program, and the Immigrant Student Liaison program.

Several other groups provide ESL training including the Study Abroad Canada Language Institute. Although founded to teach ESL to foreign students it also provides its services to new Immigrants. The staff of 30-35 teach over 500 students a year. The University of PEI and Holland College, which provide professional, technical and vocational training programs, offer support programs to foreign students and new immigrants.

Most organizations are government funded but the Community Baptist Church in Charlottetown runs an ESL program through volunteers for about 120 learners and also help provide household goods for new settlers. The church has a separate Mandarin-speaking congregation under the direction of Minister Wendy Tsai.

New Brunswick
New Brunswick is Canada’s only officially bilingual province, and it is possible to live and work in either French or English in various regions of the province. Because of this there is a strong support for multiculturalism and diversity.

The New Brunswick Multicultural Council is the provincial umbrella group for all immigrant service agencies and multicultural associations within the province.. There are regional Multicultural Associations in Fredericton, Moncton, Carleton, Miramichi, Charlotte County and Chaleur Region and the Carrefour d’Immigration Rurale de Nord Ouest. They all provide settlement services, ESL or FSL, employment assistance, computer learning centres and other support programs.

In Saint John, the province’s leading industrial community, the services are divided between the YMCA, which offers ESL, settlement support, youth and family programs, childcare and conversation clubs; and the Multicultural and Newcomers Resource Centre, which offers employment, training and business support, career counseling and multicultural advocacy.

The province has five universities, one of which is French, and a bilingual community college system all of which have support programs for foreign and immigrant students.