Newcomers settling in smaller Sask. communities

BY NATASCIA LYPNY, LEADER-POST SEPTEMBER 25, 2014 7:34 AM

Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan, cultural diversity, intercultural, education, anti-racism, racism, multiculturalism, ethnic diversity, culture, ethnicity, awareness, acceptance

Although 74 per cent of immigrants have settled in Regina or Saskatoon, the remaining newcomers have dispersed among 176 other communities, presenting challenges for regional settlement services.
Photograph by: Don Healy , Regina Leader-Post

Drawn by job opportunities, immigrants are pouring into Saskatchewan’s smaller communities at an increasing rate.

Although 74 per cent of immigrants have settled in Regina or Saskatoon, the remaining newcomers have dispersed among 176 other communities, presenting challenges for regional settlement services.

“The rural issue in this province is critical,” said Corinne Prince-St-Amand, director general of the Foreign Credentials Referral Office at Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC ).

Prince-St-Amand was one of the presenters at the Saskatchewan Settlement and Immigration Summit on Wednesday, which brought together more than 100 settlement workers.

Her colleague, Diane Mikaelsson, who is the CIC director general of the western region, later emphasized that, “the needs of newcomers in Saskatchewan tend to be fairly similar to those of other provinces. One notable difference in Saskatchewan is the need for services in smaller and more remote communities.”

Those communities are served by 11 regional newcomer gateways, each with a 150-kilometre service radius.

“It takes a lot of people, not just settlement agencies, to contribute to the successful settlement of immigrant families,” said Stefanie Palmer, executive director of the Moose Jaw Multicultural Council.

Members of settlement agencies in smaller centres agree that inter-organization and community partnerships are key to covering all of newcomers’ needs.

But given location and resources, providing that help isn’t always easy, and partnering agencies aren’t always equipped to take on the challenge.

Prince Albert is one of four Saskatchewan centres accepting refugees, some of whom arrive traumatized by the experiences they’ve faced in their previous country.

YWCA Prince Albert settlement service manager Ashley McLean said local mental health agencies aren’t always equipped with the language interpretation services necessary to handle such clients. The YWCA is working with partner organizations to build that capacity.

Distance and lack of transportation options also make referrals difficult. Humboldt Regional Newcomer Centre executive director Janine Hart said immigrants requiring social services or employment help, for example, need to be in town, at the right time, to coincide with workers’ visits from larger centres. In Yorkton, clients are sometimes referred to services in Regina, a twohour drive away.

The physical separation of settlement services and their clients – exacerbated by many immigrants’ lack of drivers licences – introduces challenges as well, said Anja Kapeller with Northeast Newcomer Services in Tisdale.

Some agencies have become creative, offering Skype options or trekking out to meet their clients.

Counterbalancing the drawbacks, though, are benefits of small towns and rural areas – outside of employment – that are keeping their immigrant retention rates high.

Largely, it comes down to the idea of small-town, friendly Saskatchewan, said McLean. She mentioned how church groups in Prince Albert have been overwhelmingly welcoming of newcomers.

Employers have also gone out of their way to encourage retention by helping their employees settle in and integrate, said Kapeller. She spoke of employers driving car-less workers to appointments, helping out with grocery shopping, and lending a hand in registering children for school.

Palmer added that in smaller areas, immigrants tend to get more immersed in the community as a whole instead of getting swallowed by the alreadyestablished, nationalitybased newcomer communities in larger cities.

The results of the twoday summit, the first of a series of provincial events across the country, will inform regional and national priorities for the CIC going forward.

nlypny@leaderpost.com twitter.com/wordpuddle

Saskatchewan’s immigration surge

5: The number of times settlement services usage grew from 2005 to the 2012-13 fiscal year.

10,000: Clients accessed settlement services in the 2012-13 fiscal year.

130%: Increase in immigration to the province from 2008-12. Saskatchewan was second only to Yukon in immigration growth in this period. In 2013, though, it received only four per cent of Canada’s immigrants.

26: Average age of permanent residents. Most immigrants fall in the 25-40 or under-14 age categories.

30%: of immigrants came from the Philippines over the past seven years.

185: Countries of origin for immigrants since 2007. The main contributors other than the Philippines were India, China, the UK and Ukraine. In 2012, most refugees arrived from Iraq, Eritrea, Nepal, Bhutan and Ethiopia.

68%: of immigrants indicated they spoke English upon arrival.

178: Communities received immigrants in the past seven years.

71.6%: of immigrants are employed, with 3.4 per cent facing unemployment.

80%: Retention rate of immigrants to Saskatchewan.

© Copyright (c) The Regina Leader-Post

 

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