New Immigrants Endeavour to Find Full Employment

02-28-12

Imagine yourself moving to another country.  Packing up and travelling a far distance to an unfamiliar country in hopes of a better life while accustoming to a new culture, language and neighbourhood.  It is a life altering experience.

For those immigrating to Ottawa, an organization by the name of Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization (OCISO) is a source of assistance during this time.  Since 1978, OCISO has been connecting new immigrants with the resources needed to settle in Canada with the belief that every new immigrant offers a unique contribution to our country.  Servicing 25 000 immigrants a year, OCISO provides English language training, housing support, counselling, summer camp and more.  A truly diverse organization committed to inclusion.

OCISO serves the most vulnerable immigrants, those who are classified as refugees who have experienced trauma due to civil unrest in their native country, as well as new immigrants who settle in Canada for the purpose of providing a more prosperous life to their children and themselves.

OCISO challenges the misconceptions people have about skill set and attitudes of new immigrants. Many new immigrants are educated.  They have the capability to succeed in this country, yet they face barriers because Canadian employers do not recognize new immigrants as an opportunity to better our country.

According to the Program Director at OCISO, immigrants are well-educated individuals who are motivated to work.  Yet, the problem of attaining full employment lies not only in our government but our employers.  There is little connection between these two power holders that work to assist immigrants to find employment.  In addition, employers are not given the confidence to hire a new immigrant mostly because they feel they lack Canadian experience.  This is one of the most difficult barriers new immigrants struggle with.  How can one build a resume if no employer will hire you?

Not only do employers prevent new immigrants from prospering in this country, so does the welfare system.  In order to apply for Employment Insurance or Ontario Works, a new immigrant must have lived for three full years in the country.

New immigrants are caught in a trap that holds them accountable to making an income but leaves little room to re-educate themselves while caring for their children, spouses or family members back home.  New immigrants often need English courses, which are offered for free by the Canadian government, but they are forced to take low-sector jobs to pay the bills in the meantime.

An effective but devalued service OCISO offers is an English training program taught on the worksite.  An allotted time is taken out of the work day to better the employee’s English skills thus creating a more efficient work environment and relationship between the employer and employees.  It is a highly effective service, however many employer’s do not want to jeopardize the time.

Canada presents some serious hurdles for new immigrants.  Employer’s and government services have yet to view immigrants as a source of growth and instead have burdened immigrant’s abilities and potential by not taking a “risk”.

OCISO and Canada Without Poverty both identify new immigrants as a vulnerable population to poverty.  In a recent project, CWP participated in research with other Ethno-Cultural groups, including the Colour of Poverty to engage communities and its members on their lived experience to better understand the systemic barriers.

Visiting OCISO painted the reality of what many new immigrants endure in our so-called peaceful multicultural country.  Canada needs to encourage the growth and development of new immigrants instead of pushing them into a cycle of low-sector wages, welfare, isolation and poverty.