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Monthly Archives: March 2013

Immigration: Changing Your Route

Toronto Skyline
Toronto Skyline (Photo credit: Bobolink)

By Pankaj Tripathi
Every adventurer to this land, down from Jacques Cartier in 1536 to you – has experienced doubt. “This isn’t turning out as I expected it to.” “Should I have come?” “Is it all worth it?”
Do those doubts and fears have a basis in fact? Are they real? Do others in the same boat feel the same way? Well, sure they do. Even people who move from one city to another lose their networks and may need to start at lower positions.
Those who land jobs before coming to Canada or who have networks of friends or family here may not feel as uncertain or vulnerable as you, but most people deal with some degree of worry and self-doubt.
Middle aged immigrants with families to care for may be facing mid-life crisis, change in career, low self esteem, lack of job and depleting financial resources all at the same time.
But rather than caving in and giving up to depression and resignation, think of the successes that brought you this far in life. Be positive, calm and confident. And, as Ted Rogers said, “Don’t be afraid to ask.”
Starting down a new road
The first few steps of immigration are relatively easy. From the Permanent Card application, renting an apartment, applying for the Health Card (OHIP), opening a bank account, getting a drivers license, everything is pretty well organized.
Credit Cards might be a bit difficult, but you could always go for a secured credit card.
Then comes the difficult part. With limited financial resources and endless responsibilities, you have to find a job. You send out your résumé and call up companies. You may often be told you don’t have Canadian experience, or the position is already filled. You may even encounter fraudulent recruitment agencies. If days turn to weeks, and weeks into months without success, panic can set in. No one intends to leave a stable job and a family that loves you in order to come to this strange land and flip burgers, distribute flyers; become a security guard or recruit other newcomers for a dodgy multi-level marketing scheme. If you were already an engineer, regional sales manager or other professional back home, how do you bring yourself to take a job stocking shelves at the local supermarket?
While volunteer opportunities may get you needed Canadian experience, they are by definition “unpaid” – and you have bills to pay. So what do you do when you are down to your last 1,000 dollars and your worst fears seem about to come true?
A few decide to throw in the towel and go back to their homeland. They may close this chapter forever, or re-plan and come back after a few years.
Some take survival jobs. While you attend school and drive a cab at the same time, keep in mind the individuals in Canadian society who were stocking shelves at the local grocery store twenty years ago and now own multi-million dollar retail chains. Our current Chief of the Defence Staff flipped burgers and was a newspaper boy as a young man in Winnipeg, and one of our prime ministers sold newspapers in Saskatoon. So respect the work you are doing, do it well and be proud of it. This pride and confidence will show in other aspects of your life. But never lose sight of your end goals and allow the survival job to become your new career.
Some of the more tenacious folks get their credentials evaluated, retool themselves, go to school upgrade their qualifications and try to re-enter the job market in their chosen profession. This is the most difficult but potentially rewarding option. It requires stamina, mental toughness, resilience and belief in oneself. You may even have to swallow your pride and accept some form of social assistance. But then who said success is easy? It takes a really special effort.
Be prudent in your spending habits. Look for deals and offers, and don’t buy stuff you could do without. Every dollar saved lets you wait one day longer for your success.
Be prepared to make adjustments in your career, level of entry or take any new courses that you might need to kick start your career. From banking to education to driving, systems are different in Canada, and at times simply confusing. Seek help in understanding them. From friendly colleagues to numerous free courses and seminars, there are ways to learn and avoid costly mistakes.
Network, all the time. Find the right person. There is someone, somewhere in this huge crowd, in whichever city, town or village you are in, from Vancouver to Halifax, Toronto to Iqaluit, who will help you or knows someone who will make it happen for you.
As you go about your settlement process, keep in mind that it takes time, and you have to be patient, especially if you are not so young and have no local educational credentials or references. The economic crisis and uncertainty have not made it any easier. You have to balance expectations and reality, as it might be quite a different equation than what you were used to back home.
The process in itself is full of stress and different individuals have varying abilities to cope, based on their financial, emotional and psychological strengths. But the question will you ever make it, and will it all be worth it? Well yes, for sure.

Ask everyone who has stayed behind, done their slogging and made it. Empires don’t happen when you have a boat waiting in the harbour. Success is for those who believe beyond belief, not for those who are ready to cut and run.

When the first settlers and homesteaders built this nation, there was no way home for most of them. Canada was born and flourished and grew through their dedication and determination. They were not quitters, and you can hardly stand in that long line, if you even think of quitting.
Employment outcomes for internationally trained professionals have been improving, and with initiatives like the Ontario Regulators for Access Consortium (ORAC), you should be able to restart your career even more quickly. So leverage your strengths, use the available resources, work through the system and be successful. There is no substitute for success, and your kids deserve it.
10 rules that can help you:
1. Re-pledge yourself to your goal and ambition every single day.
2. Look at the positive side of everything.
3. Be open to new ideas, concepts and friends.
4. Don’t overspend in your first few weeks and months. Be prudent.
5. Don’t cling to what you were back home, instead see the new landscape and assess where you best fit in.
6. Compromise but don’t demean yourself.
7. Read about successful immigrants. They are enough success stories all around you, one just has to look for them.
8. Be especially careful of crooks who are out there to make a fast buck from the unwary, ignorant or confused individual.
9. Ask and take support – from friends, neighbours, agencies and government programs.
10. Network all the time. You never know who knows whom, or what leads to where. So network, and keep your eyes and ears open all the time.
Pankaj Tripathi
Pankaj Tripathi is a writer, journalist and management professional with more than
15 years of experience in advertising, marketing, academics, personal coaching and business restructuring. He is a motivational speaker working with young people. Pankaj is currently working on his PhD. He can be reached at (416) 508-5519 or by e-mail at p.tripathi@rogers.com.

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Housing: Room for Rent…Or Not?

United Nations Human Rights Council logo.
United Nations Human Rights Council logo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the most stressful aspects of arriving in a new country is trying to get a clean and safe place to live. A lot of newcomers come to Canada with children. The school they select is based upon where they live, so finding good, affordable accommodation quickly becomes one of the most important decisions any newcomer makes while trying to put down roots in Canada.
It is important that newcomers read a bit about the laws that govern housing in Canada. There is a Human Rights Code or Human Rights Act for every province that governs the way accommodations are leased and rented in that province. For instance, according to the Ontario Human Rights housing code,  anyone – be they newcomers or citizens – should be able to get good housing that they can afford. To this end, both tenants and landlords (or housing providers) have clearly defined rights and responsibilities.
To find out more about the rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords, I approached John Fraser, Program Manager at the housing advocacy group Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA). He guided me through the minefield of legal terms which are often confusing rather than enlightening.
Here are excerpts from the interview:
CNMag: How will newcomers learn about your organization CERA, as usually they are referred to you only if they have a problem?
JF: Right off the bat I would like to reinforce the fact that as a tenant, newcomers have the right to equal treatment in housing without discrimination and harassment.
The Ontario Human Rights code is very clear that you cannot be refused an apartment, harassed by a housing provider or other tenants, or otherwise be treated unfairly because of your race, colour or ethnic background, religious beliefs or practices, ancestry, place of origin, citizenship, including refugee status, sex (including pregnancy and gender identity), family status, marital status, including people with a same-sex partner, disability, sexual orientation, age, or because you are receiving welfare.
You are also protected if you feel you have been discriminated against because you are a friend or relative of someone identified above. That said, the facts on the ground are different. People do face discrimination in housing over some of the above issues. It is when they are turned down for accommodation that they approach us through a settlement agency.
CNMag: So you are their last resort?
JF: Yes you can say that. We are the people they turn to before they take any legal action. Although we try and avoid doing this as it is a costly and time consuming affair. The way it works is like this: the settlement worker usually talks to the housing provider on behalf of the potential tenant. It is when the landlord or property management firm tries to avoid solving the problem that we intervene at the request of the social worker.
CNMag: Can you help us understand your advocacy work better with an example?
JF: Sure. I know of this physician from Bangladesh who came here as an immigrant. He came alone and stayed with his brother for six months. He did odd jobs for a few months and got laid off. He is now on social assistance. It was all okay until his brother’s wife joined them in Toronto. It was then that the physician decided to look for another apartment. Although there was availability in the same building, the property manager declined him tenancy based on the fact the physician was receiving social assistance. The settlement worker contacted us and we got involved. We spoke to the property management company suggesting to them the different courses of action we could take, including filing a human rights complaint if they did not change their stance. The outcome was positive as the client was offered accommodation and is now quite well-settled.
CNMag: What are the rights of of the housing provider or landlord? After all, they must be sure of the tenants’ ability to pay.
JF: The Ontario Human Rights housing code is fair both ways, as after all, the housing provider must be sure of the tenant’s ability to pay rent as they are in the business of renting and not a charity. When renting accommodation there are certain rules and regulations which must be observed. Landlords are well within their rights to ask for rental history, credit references and/or credit checks. However, a lack of rental or credit history in the case of an immigrant should not count against you.
CNMag: In general what has been your experience working at CERA?
JF: We commissioned a discrimination audit across Ontario in 2009.  The findings show that 1 in 4 people or 25% were not offered housing because they were on social assistance. 1 in 3 or 35% were discriminated against because of mental health issues, single parents were denied housing 14% of the time, while people with Caribbean accents denied housing 28% of the time and south Asians were discriminated against 23% of the time. We have been doing advocacy work since 1987 and despite the human rights code the barriers that keep disadvantaged people from getting and keeping their home are in no way gone. Housing discrimination most often affects marginalized communities and our aim is to promote and enforce human rights in housing for people across Ontario.
For more information on the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA):
Visit: http://www.equalityrights.org
Call 1-800-263-1139
Email: cera@equalityrights.org.
Their CHER site provides housing workers and advocates across Canada with tools and information to overcome barriers.
For Human Rights Codes in your province, click these links:

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Adapting: What’s Your Name Again?

University of British Columbia
University of British Columbia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Sandra Fletcher
One day last month a memo came from Human Resources: “Your employee, Chung Ming Min, needs to complete this form…” No problem… with one exception – who was Chung Ming Min? There were several employees in my division with the last name of Min and several more had Chung or Ming in their names. Who was I looking for?
Turned out it was Jenny Min. It took me a whole day to figure it out and it was only by looking through half a dozen old employee files that I managed to come up with the solution.
Changing or adopting new names in order to more easily assimilate to another culture has been going on for  generations. A century ago, when Irish orphans arrived in Quebec they were asked to adopt French Canadian names. It was thought, at the time, that having names that were similar to the other citizens would make it easier for the children to blend in. Most did change their names but some refused, and to this day you will often hear Irish names still used in Quebec.
To avoid discrimination following World War II, many of the people who immigrated to Canada from Germany and Russia changed their last names. Schwartz was changed to Black (the literal translation from German to English) and the Russian Romanovsky, was changed to Roman. Whether or not the prejudice would have existed based on their name alone is unknown but it gave the families security, believing they had done something to distance themselves from their past.
Sometimes people change their names just for the sake of making things easier to spell. Polish names often contain letters that can’t be translated into English characters. Other names have different meanings in their original language than they do in English. Even the current US President, Barack Hussein Obama was known as Barry Obama in College!
It is very common for newcomers to Canada to adopt a Canadian-ized name – but do you have to in order to get ahead? The simple answer is no. It is not a requirement to have an Anglicised name to get along in Canada. Although it may make your life easier if you make modifications.
According to a study from the University of British Columbia called Why Do Skilled Immigrants Struggle in the Labor Market? A Field Experiment with Six Thousand Résumés, “Canadian-born individuals with English-sounding names are much more likely to receive a callback for an job interview after sending their resumes compared to foreign-born individuals, even among those with foreign degrees from highly ranked schools, or among those with the same listed job experience but acquired outside of Canada.” Professor Philip Oreopoulos, the author of the study published in 2009, argued that the gap in the employment rates of immigrants not even making it to the interview stage in the job application process.”
By law, employers aren’t allowed to discriminate based on your cultural background. Does it happen though? Of course it does. Ask yourself this: When speaking to a recruiter, can I clearly pronounce and have the person I’m speaking to understand what my full name is? If you can’t – then perhaps it would be best to use a pseudonom (same as an alias or a nickname). It’s a name you can substitute for your own.
However, all of us have a legal name. That is the name registered on all of your paperwork and what you would use for banking, taxes and in any dealings with the government. In addition to your legal name you can adopt another.
Eustathios is often changed to Steve, Jaspal can be Jas and Chung Ming can be Jenny. It’s your choice. The trend nowadays on résumés is to provide both options. For example, the name portion of the resume itself would read:
“Kwun-Mei (Bonnie) Tao”
Both the Chinese and Anglicized names are listed. It’s extremely important though that you remain consistent on all of your paperwork, and if you use the name Bonnie – stick with it!
To legally change your name you would need to complete official paperwork with the government. Your papers will all be reissued in your new name. You can find out more information about the fees and requirements on the Government of Canada website.
Ultimately, it’s important to be true to yourself and how you identify yourself is part of that.
I have a friend named May Ling Lee. At work, she is May Ling. To her friends, she is May Ling. To her family, she is Susan – sister to Heather and Jessica. These are the names they helped each other choose when they arrived in Canada as children from Hong Kong. To me, May Ling will never be a ‘Susan’.
To answer the question – what is in a name? – William Shakespeare said “that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”.
Sandra Fletcher
Sandra has specialized in Employment Services for over a decade. Her areas of expertise are Newcomer Settlement and Privacy Practices. She can be reached at sandrawrotethat@gmail.com

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Canada’s new Start-Up Visa aims at entrepreneurs seeking status

Canada’s Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney, announced this week that entrepreneurs from around the world can apply for the new Start-Up Visa Program as of April 1, a “first of its kind”.

The program’s objective is to attract the “world’s best and brightest entrepreneurs from around the world” to bring innovative business ventures to Canada. The catch is that they must find financial backing from Canadian investors.

“Canada is open for business to the world’s start-up entrepreneurs. Innovation and entrepreneurship are essential drivers of the Canadian economy. That is why we are actively recruiting foreign entrepreneurs – those who can build companies here in Canada that will create new jobs, spur economic growth and compete on a global scale – with our new start-up visa.”–Minister Jason Kenney, Citizenship and Immigration Canada

The Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) state in their official press release that they are working with Canada’s Venture Capital and Private Equity Association (CVCA) and the National Angel Capital Organization (NACO), two umbrella organizations, to find and designate the venture capital funds and angel investor groups who are interested in participating in the program.

To receive designation to participate in the Start-Up Visa Program, a venture capital (VC) fund had to be a full member in good standing of the CVCA. VC funds that met this criterion and manage over $40 million in capital were automatically eligible to participate. VC funds that manage less than $40 million had to apply to the CVCA to participate in the Start-Up Visa Program. A number of factors were considered, including referrals from current CVCA members and interviews that the CVCA conducted with the limited partners of the fund. —CIC

Interested immigrant entrepreneurs who want permanent resident status via the new start-up visa program need to find the financial support from these Canadian investors to launch their new start-up business in Canada. Other requirements for applicants are that they have a minimum one year of post-secondary education and that they meet language proficiency skills at a Canadian Language Benchmark 5 in listening, speaking, reading and writing.

CIC has posted the list of venture capital funds and angel investor groups on their website.

The Start-Up Visa program is a five year pilot program focusing on the “quality of the applicants and on establishing a track record of success.”

Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/346849#ixzz2P7l4snv5

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TRU researching immigration to communities across Canada

Thompson Rivers University
Thompson Rivers University (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Researchers at Thompson Rivers University are playing an important role in a federally-funded research network aimed at fostering welcoming communities and supporting the integration of immigrants into communities across Canada, including small and medium-sized centres.
Julie Drolet, associate professor at TRU’s Faculty of Human, Social and Educational Development, is leading the BC node of the project with co-investigator Paul Bramadat of UVic. The Pathways to Prosperity Partnership involves 50 universities and over 100 partner organizations across five regional nodes. The Partnership will research and support policy development on immigration to communities across Canada.
Drolet helping research immigration Canadian communities

Julie Drolet
“Historically most of the research on immigration has considered the role of newcomers in metropolitan cities of Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver,” says Drolet. “With secondary migration we need to know more about the experiences of immigrants and newcomers in smaller communities. This project addresses the urgent need to understand the social and economic issues faced in these communities and we are pleased that we are able to play an important role in this kind of research initiative.”
Drolet says that work during the first year of the Partnership includes developing the infrastructure of the nodes and consultation with immigrant-serving organizations, community groups, and all levels of government. The BC node is planning to take the lead in developing one or two proposals for pan-Canadian projects, and will also have opportunities to engage in local research of specific interest to communities in BC. Drolet notes that this kind of research will be of benefit to both immigrants and the communities they enter. “Newcomer integration is a two-way process,” she explains. “Newcomers are adapting and Canadian residents are also adapting.”
While issues such as the economic impact of immigration are often considered, Drolet says that it is also important to consider the social dimensions of immigration. “Many small communities in BC have declining populations, so it’s important to ask how immigrants can be attracted to small communities, and how well they are able to integrate into these communities.”
Drolet notes that TRU researchers will be working collaboratively with researchers from other universities and also with local stakeholders such as Kamloops Immigrant Services. “This is a great opportunity for TRU,” she explains. “Research we conduct here will develop new knowledge about immigration, and we can share practices with other parts of the province and nationally.”
Julie Drolet
School of Social Work and Human Service, TRU
Office: 250-828-5258 | Cell 250-574-5258 | Email: jdrolet@tru.ca

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    Intake of applications in Quebec-update

    Following a decision by the governmentdecision published in the Gazette officielle du Québec on March 27, 2013, the Ministère de l’Immigration et des Communautés culturelles is renewing its rules relating to the intake of applications according to immigration class.

    Rules according to immigration class

    Immigration subclass
    • Investors
    No new applications will be accepted
    until July 31, 2013
    • Entrepreneurs and
      self-employed workers
    No new applications will be accepted
    until July 31, 2013
    Skilled workers
    See below to determine if you can submit
    an application in the Skilled worker class
    until July 31, 2013

    Skilled workers

    You can submit an immigration application as a skilled worker only if one of the following situations applies to you:
    • You have obtained a diploma awarded by a Québec teaching institution for studies done in Québec or you are about to obtain that diploma and you meet the eligibility conditions of the Programme de l’expérience québécoise (Québec Graduate) (PEQ – Québec experience program for Québec graduates).
    • You reside temporarily in Québec as a foreign student, you are eligible to apply for a selection certificate under the regular program for skilled workers and you are submitting your application in Québec.
    • You reside temporarily in Québec within the framework of a youth exchange program subject to an international agreement, such as a work holiday program. You are working full time in Québec, you areeligible to apply for a selection certificate under the regular program for skilled workers and you are submitting your application in Québec.
    • You or your accompanying spouse hold a diploma awarded by a teaching institution in an area of training allowing you to get 6 (see list, inFrench, 38 kb), 12 or 16 points under the area of training criterion of the selection grid for skilled workers (see list, in French, 35 kb). The number of years of study required to obtain your diploma must be at least equal to the number of years required to obtain that diploma in Québec. This diploma was obtained less than five years before the date of your application. Failing that, you must have practised, on a full-time basis and for at least one year out of the five years preceding the date of your application, a profession or trade in an area related to that diploma.
    • You or your accompanying spouse hold a Québec diploma or a diploma treated as a Québec diploma that sanctions at least one year of full-time studies. This diploma was obtained less than five years before the date of your application. Failing that, you must have practised, on a full-time basis and for at least one year out of the five years preceding the date of your application, a profession or trade in an area related to that diploma.
    • You or your accompanying spouse hold an employment offer made by a Québec employer and validated by the Ministère de l’Immigration et des Communautés culturelles.
    • Citizenship and Immigration Canada informed you that your application for permanent residence in Canada was admissible for processing.
    • You reside temporarily in Québec, you were a Canadian citizen at one time and you are submitting you application in Québec.
    If none of these situations applies to you, you cannot submit an application until July 31, 2013

    37 Million Indians Desire To Move To Canada Permanently: Report

    Canadian visa for single entry
    Canadian visa for single entry (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    By Tendar Tsering | March 27, 2013 2:21 AM PDT
    A recent poll conducted by the Gallup opinion poll agency said that about 37 million Indians dream to move out of their country and settle down in Canada permanently
    Canada remains among the top destination for potential migrants from IndiaChina, Philippines, Africa and others.
    The poll comes at a time when the Canadian immigration department in recent weeks said that more people than ever before from Asian countries are moving to study, work and settle in the country.
    Canadian federal government last year issued a high number of visas to migrants from China, Philippine and India.
    Canada in 2012 granted 32,990 permanent residents and 235,000 visiting visas to the Chinese applicants.
    32,704 Philippines were given residential permits and 44,000  others given visitor visas making Philippine the second largest source country for immigration to Canada.
    With 28,889 residents admitted and 130,000 visiting visas granted, India was the third largest source country for immigration to Canada.
    In view of creating more jobs amid global economic crisis, the Immigration Minister Jason Kenney in a statement said that the federal government targets to accelerate the visa issuing process to attract more and genuine foreign visitors.
    “The government is committed to attracting an increasing number of visitors to Canada as part of our plan to grow the Canadian economy and create jobs,” said Jason Kenney. “We strive to issue visas as quickly as possible to facilitate travel for genuine visitors – to welcome tourists, to reunite families – and benefit from the economic spinoff they bring to Canada.”
    The immigration department noted that last year’s immigration record shows an increase of almost 40% since 2004.
    Citing economic opportunities, the opinion poll agency said that the U.S. remains the favorite destination for the potential immigrants.
    According to the agency, around 630 million people roughly from 138 countries said that they would like to leave their country and settle down somewhere else.
    To contact the editor, e-mail: editor@ibtimes.com

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    Immigration backlog reduced by forty percent

    Canada (Photo credit: palindrome6996)

    Faster processing times for workers and families

    Mississauga, ON, March 26, 2013 — As a result of actions taken by the government since 2008, the backlog of permanent resident applications has been reduced by about forty percent, paving the way for a faster and more effective immigration system in 2013 and beyond, Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney announced today.
    “Backlogs and delays prevent Canada from attracting the best and brightest from around the world and ensuring that our immigration system is contributing to economic growth and long-term prosperity,” said Minister Kenney. “For too long, we accepted far more applications than we could process each year. That led to backlogs increasing every year and processing times of eight to ten years in some cases, which discouraged talented, dynamic people from coming to Canada.”
    This has been accomplished, in part, by continuing to process a high number of applications from parents and grandparents in the Family Class while a temporary pause on new applications remains in effect until the end of the year. In addition, a pause was put in place on new Immigrant Investor applications and the oldest Federal Skilled Worker applications were eliminated while we continued to process record high levels of existing applications.
    The government will continue to transform Canada’s immigration system to make it fast, flexible and more responsive to the labour market. The massive reduction in the backlog allows us to move toward a just-in-time system that recruits people with the right skills to meet Canada’s labour market needs, fast tracks their applications and gets them working in Canada in a period of months, instead of years. It also means that families will no longer have to wait close to a decade to be reunited with their loved ones.
    “We still have work to do, but by taking clear and decisive action to deal with backlogs, we will attain our goal of having a fast and flexible immigration system,” said Minister Kenney. “Newcomers will arrive with skills and talents that are in short supply in Canada and contribute to our economy. The immigration system must work for Canada, which is why we will continue to reduce backlogs and speed up the system, so that people spend less time waiting and more time participating fully in the Canadian economy.”
    Follow us on Twitter (new window to unfollow or login):
    For further information (media only), please contact:
    Alexis Pavlich
    Minister’s Office
    Citizenship and Immigration Canada
    Media Relations
    Communications Branch
    Citizenship and Immigration Canada
    Building a stronger Canada: Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) strengthens Canada’s economic, social and cultural prosperity, helping ensure Canadian safety and security while managing one of the largest and most generous immigration programs in the world.

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    Immigrating: Making New Friends

    English: happy friendship day
    English: happy friendship day (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    Source: http://cnmag.ca/issue-6/675-immigrating-making-new-friends-n00
    by Helen Grant
    Helen Grant is a freelance writer and journalist, based in Scotland but a frequent visitor to Canada.
    It’s never easy, shifting to a new place. You’re leaving behind everything you know, sometimes friends and family. Cities offer lots of challenges and rural locations offer pretty surroundings but the excitement of a new challenge can wear off if friendships don’t appear as quickly as you’d hoped. Friends help make our lives enjoyable and meaningful – something many of us take for granted. Leaving behind the comfort and support of close friendships can be scary. For some, especially those who are single, the loss may mean lack of good company and social activities. Others, even those who are married or in relationships, may feel sad at the loss of close communication and emotional support. These are normal reactions.
    For newcomers who have employment, the workplace is one of the best ways of meeting people. Joining in work activities and clubs is a great way to bond with co-workers, many of whom will be potential friends. A lot depends on your own attitude and willingness to invest time and energy in building friendships. Being new to town has its advantages. For starters, it’s a great opening line when introducing yourself to people. If the person turns out to be a potential friend, they’ll no doubt have their own established social circle that you will, hopefully, be introduced to. As money attracts money and opportunity attracts opportunity, friendship attracts friendship.
    For families, one of the easiest ways to meet new people is through your children – striking up conversations with other parents at the school gates, getting involved with after-school activities and introducing yourself to other parents in the neighbourhood. Volunteering for school fundraising events, getting involved with soccer schedules and school trips are all good ways to meet people. You could host a backyard barbecue or a party for your kids’ school friends and their parents – another great way to introduce yourself. But don’t get upset if your guests don’t return the offer – most people lead busy lives. Unfortunately, there are people who – faced with an unfamiliar situation like settling into a new location – display signs of unfriendliness by clinging too much to the past. This can send out the wrong signal – that they’re not interested in socializing or participating in activities. Keep in touch with old friends by all means, but remember to save time and energy for making new ones. Establishing friendships takes a lot of effort and if you cling too much to the past, you’ll be less likely to have the energy needed to get out there and socialize.
    “I’m an outgoing person and find it easy to talk to people I don’t know,” says Jo, who moved to Toronto from Britain when her husband changed jobs. “In London, I had a close-knit group of friends, people I’d known since school. I had no reason to find new ones. Suddenly, I was in a strange place with only my husband and children for company. For the first few months, I rang my old friends every day. Then it dawned on me that I was clinging to them so much, I was stopping myself making new friends.”
    Kerry, a mum of two who left Vancouver for a university course, was full of excitement upon arrival in Toronto. She payed the deposit on an apartment, registered her kids at a local school and was looking forward to making friends at university.
    “I thought it’d be that easy,” she says. “Educational establishments are full of like-minded souls, aren’t they? Well, I was in for a rude awakening. Most of the people on my course were twenty years younger. There were two other mature students – one wasn’t my type and the other commuted from over 60 miles away.
    To say I was disappointed is an understatement.”
    A strong support network of friends can make all the difference to how quickly you settle in a new city. But how do you go about hooking up with a new crew? Most people, unless they’re super-confident, find the idea of approaching strangers scary.
    “When I was dating, I waited for people to approach me, so why should making friends be any different?” asks Jo. “When we’re growing up we’re told not to talk to strangers and yet, as adults, it’s the only way to avoid a lonely existence.”
    If you are new to a city and on your own, it makes sense to go to social events alone – otherwise you’ll never get any further than the TV screen or moping on the phone to friends left behind. Introducing yourself as a newcomer is a great way to start conversations and you are likely to be made to feel welcome – Canadians are friendly folk! The Yellow Pages is a ready source of organizations that host dinners and parties for single people. Friendship agencies, many of which now have websites, are also worth a call.
    The Internet has made it possible for busy folk to search for friendship online without leaving the comfort of their home. There are numerous web sites catering for people seeking friendship. Search engines like Google and cdnbusiness.com are good places to start.
    If the thought of walking into a bar or club on your own makes you feel uncomfortable, then don’t. It might help if you approach the organizers of an event beforehand. Tell them you are nervous about arriving alone and, more often than not, you’ll receive a warm welcome and an introduction to a few people to help you along.
    It’s all too easy for couples without dependent children to fall into the trap of relying on each other for company and miss out on opportunities to meet people. Joining clubs and activity groups is a good way to meet like-minded couples that could become friends.
    Finally, CIC (Citizenship and Immigration Canada) has a host program designed to help newcomers adjust to their new life – providing support and friendship in the form of a Canadian volunteer. Your host will help you practise English or French, register your children at a local school, shop for groceries or use public transit. Whether you need help understanding the telephone or utilities systems, finding out about social or recreational activities or just want someone to talk to, having a friendly person on hand can make your first months in Canada easier – and who knows? Perhaps they’ll turn out to be a really good friend!

    Start Making Friends Now

    • Force yourself to say hello to people at work, in shops and at the school gates. Smile. Remember – your oldest friends were strangers once. You won’t meet anyone sitting at home moping. Get out there, even if it’s just a walk in the park or a trip to the cinema.
    • If you’re sports mad, join a team. If you like helping others, try volunteering. Night school is also a good way to meet people (and learn new skills).
    • Keep up your interests. That way, when you meet people, you’ll have lots to talk about.
    • When meeting someone for the first time, relax and smile, introduce yourself early in the conversation, listen to their answers and build on them with more questions. Ask open-ended questions that allow the conversation to flow.
    • If you hit it off with someone, offer your phone number or email address. If they give you theirs, use it! Invite them for a coffee. But don’t rush into giving anyone your home address.

    Useful Contacts

    For info on the CIC host program,
    call 1-888-242-2100 or visit

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    Immigration Reforms in Canada’s Economic Action Plan 2013

    Immigration (Photo credit: lcars)

    Economic Action Plan 2013 confirms the Government’s intention to:
    • Improve the foreign credential recognition process for additional target occupations under the Pan-Canadian Framework for the Assessment and Recognition of Foreign Qualifications.
    • Create a new “Expression of Interest” immigration management system which will allow for Canadian employers, provinces and territories to select skilled immigrants from a pool of applicants who best meet Canada’s economic needs.
    • Reopen the Federal Skilled Worker Program with an updated points system that gives more weight to factors that are directly related to economic success, such as language proficiency and youth.
    • Reform the Temporary Foreign Worker Program to ensure Canadians are given the first chance at available jobs:
    1. Work with employers to ensure that temporary foreign workers are relied upon only when Canadians genuinely cannot fill those jobs.
    2. Increase the recruitment efforts that employers must make to hire Canadians before they will be eligible to apply for temporary foreign workers, including increasing the length and reach of advertising.
    3. Assist employers who legitimately rely on temporary foreign workers, due to a lack of qualified Canadian applicants, find ways to ensure that they have a plan to transition to a Canadian workforce over time.
    4. Amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations to restrict the identification of non-official languages as job requirements when hiring through the Temporary Foreign Worker process.
    5. Propose to introduce user fees for employers applying for temporary foreign workers through the labour market opinion process so that these costs are no longer absorbed by taxpayers.
    • Test new approaches to attracting immigrant investors through the new Start-Up Visa for immigrant entrepreneurs.
    • $42 million over two years to meet growing demand under the Temporary Resident Program.
    • $44 million over two years to support improved capacity and client service in the Citizenship Program.
    • $ 23 million over two years for Canada’s International Education Strategy to strengthen Canada’s position as a country of choice to study and conduct research.
    Source: Government of Canada

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