‘Celebration’ marks end of immigrant programs
There was a ‘celebration of life’ of sorts Tuesday.
It was a short life that did a lot of good, but it came to its end after just a few years, and there’s another one in the works to replace it, at least temporarily.
The Lower Mainland Purpose Society and Family Services of Greater Vancouver (FSGV) gathered at Centennial Lodge in Queen’s Park Tuesday to honour the end of the Community Gateway and Immigrant Mentorship programs.
They were designed to make it easier for immigrants to transition into life in New Westminster and were part of a provincially funded pilot project from 2009 to 2012.
Gateway was a welcome wagon for immigrants. It helped them adjust to their new land, providing them with the tools to navigate a new country and complex system they knew little about, even creating a “cheat sheet” to make it easier.
The focus of the replacement program will be on working with potential employers and other institutions on how to be more inclusive in their hiring practices and work environment.
“It’s more how do we look at the larger community and what can we do to make it more welcoming,” said Dawn Embree, Purpose Society’s executive director. “It’s an equally valuable approach. [But] I still think there would be value in those programs (Gateway and mentorship) carrying on.”
She said the society did not win the bid for the new program. It is expected to last little more than a year because the federal government will be taking back the funding for immigration services in April 2014 from the province, which funded the pilot projects through the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation.
“I’m very concerned about what’s going to happen when the funding goes back to the federal government,” said Embree. “My concern with the federal government is that’s not the services they tend to fund.”
Embree said in the jurisdictions where it controls the purse strings, Ottawa has historically concentrated its resources on anti-racism programs instead of settlement services like Gateway.
“It’s hard to know, but we’re seeing some more conservative shifts with federal decisions lately so that concerns me come next April,” said Embree.
Embree said so many of Canada’s newcomers are arriving from war-torn countries or have experienced high levels of trauma few Canadians have ever encountered, so there’s a high need for settlement services similar to those provided by Gateway.
FSGV ran the mentorship program, which was so successful the NewsLeader received three letters during 2011 praising it.
“We decided we can’t conclude the program without a celebration,” said Maylen Crespo, a FSGV coordinator for the program.
“If you let people know [what’s available] and give them all the tools to integrate into the community that makes people happier.”
According to the Purpose Society the Gateway program used 125 volunteers to service 349 newcomers in more than 30 languages and 40 countries.