Family: Newcomer Parent Information
As soon as your children have started living in Canada, you should make sure they obtain public health insurance coverage. Visit a government service centre near you and register them for a health card.
Then, you can start looking for a family doctor, also called a general practitioner. You might be used to having a pediatrician for your kids, and while they also practice here in Canada, it is sometimes difficult to find one who accepts new patients. If you can't find a pediatrician, a family doctor will do just fine for all check-ups, vaccinations and common health concerns you may have about your children. Should one of these practitioners encounter a situation where a more in-depth examination or certain tests are needed, they will refer you to the appropriate specialist. Research the general practitioners in your area to find one who accepts new patients. If you already have a general practitioner for yourself, he or she will probably accept your children as well. In urgent cases, walk-in clinics are a good place to go, as no previous registration or appointment is needed there.
Next on your list is, of course, child-care and schooling. If both parents are working and your children are not old enough yet to enter the public school system (under the age of 4), you will have to find a private solution for having your little ones looked after. Some day cares and preschool facilities have waiting lists, while others may have spots available. A babysitter or nanny coming to your house could be an alternative. Research is necessary. It requires good calculation and planning to determine whether one of the parents is better off staying at home for the first while, and avoiding the expense of private child-care. It will depend on your family's individual situation.
If your children are age four or older, they have the right to attend a public school that has either part-time or full-time kindergarten programs available. Over the age of 6, your child must attend school by law. Their permanent resident card, birth certificate and record of vaccination are needed to register your children for school.
Depending on where you live, Anglophone (English-speaking) and/ or Francophone (French-speaking) school systems will be available to you. Your child will have to attend classes in one or the other of these two official languages in Canada, depending on where you live. Should they not speak English yet (or French if you are in Quebec), your child may be put in a language-learning class called ESL (English as a Second Language) or FSL (French as a Second Language). Your child will be tested on their level of skills in all subjects and placed accordingly.
Don't forget to obtain a SIN (Social Insurance Number) for your children. Children 12 and older can apply for their own SINs, but if they are under 12 the application must be submitted by a parent or legal guardian.
Last but not least, and it is good news: When you bring your children to Canada, you may be eligible for government support and certain tax benefits. A "Universal Child Care Benefit" is granted to any primary caregi ver of children under the age of 6. Depending on your income, you may also be able to receive a "Canada Child Tax Benefit" and/or "Canada Child Care Subsidy". All parents should file an application online or at a Service Centre to find out whether they are eligible.
Sabine is a self-employed news writer, correspondent, translator and online editor, specializing in social media and search-engine optimization (SEO). She immigrated from Germany to Canada early in 2004, and is a single mother of twins.
Photo: Jack Beker Photography, www.photobyjack.photoreflect.com