I share my house with newcomers to Canada. The Japanese
wanted a career where there wasn't an expectation to work 60-80 hours a week.
The Brazilians wanted to live in a country where corruption wasn't
considered the normal way to get through a day. One housemate wanted to build
his life on his own terms, away from the privilege and lifestyle of his
I am in constant awe of my housemates. It takes a certain
type of bravery to walk away from home and family, from natural networks and
familiar customs, and in many cases, from your first language and career
qualifications. I've housed doctors, lawyers and orthodontists.
My MA focused on migrant integration in Europe. The ghettos,
the riots, the Islamophobia and the rejection of multiculturalism; I sensed a
tremendous amount of frustration and despair from all sides. I've often
wondered, what works? What makes Canada's experience a different story?
I was amazed to learn what the Immigrant Centre is and does.
From the moment a work permit is approved until permanent residence is
established, the Centre ensures its clients have the knowledge, resources and
tools to enable their success.
One of the first steps in the process, which I find
particularly profound, is that they sit down and listen to an immigrant's
dreams and goals for their life in Canada, and build a plan for success around
that. They can be that doctor or lawyer again and they can have a meaningful
career, if they give themselves time and know which steps they need to take.
Help with complicated and important documents, basic skills
classes for adjusting to life in Canada, referrals to other agencies and
services, and even a listening ear and compassionate support are intended to
ease the transition process.
To my housemates, who have benefited from these services,
they have not seen or heard of anything like this in any other country. Many
countries leave immigrants to muddle through the paperwork, navigate foreign
systems and adjust to local social expectations on their own. Deportation
due to a misfiled paper, or a lifetime of menial labour, is just a
cost associated with trying to start over in a new country. It reinforces
the privilege of those with citizenship over those who do not.
The Immigrant Centre in Winnipeg has been recognized
nationally as a leader for best practices in settlement services. The
Centre also collaborates with over 50 organizations across Manitoba, and shares
ideas with similar agencies across Canada. Not only is the Immigrant Centre impacting
the lives of tens of thousands of immigrants who seek their services
each year, but they are also impacting Canada, and in some ways, the world.