Thousands of immigrants move to British Columbia every year. Whether they are coming to Canada for school or work or are seeking refuge from conflicts in their home countries, they need support to settle.
British Columbia has a range of services for newcomers, including employment, English language, settlement, early childhood development, as well as senior, youth and refugee services.
Most services for newcomers to B.C. are offered by settlement agencies in various languages and at no cost. Immigrants who require translators can also seek help from the Society of Translators and Interpreters of B.C. (STIB), a non-profit, professional association that has a searchable, easy-to-use directory of certified translators.
When immigrants arrive in B.C. they first need to find somewhere to live. Many choose to stay with friends and family. Those who do not have relatives in their new cities can temporarily stay in hotels and motels.
Services for newcomers to B.C., like immigrant settlement agencies, can help individuals and families find homes. There are also services and programs for newcomers to B.C. who are struggling with the cost of living. Subsidized and low cost housing, the Rental Assistance Program, Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters and co-ops are available for those who qualify.
Starting a job search is the next important step for immigrants who have not found work before arriving in British Columbia. Most employment services for newcomers to B.C. have resource centres. These centres usually include computers, Internet access and telephones. They also offer one-on-one career counselling, as well as cover letter, resume, and interview advice.
Many newcomers need translators when they first arrive in B.C. However, once they settle, immigrants from non-English speaking countries often enrol in classes to increase their English proficiency so they can better participate in Canadian life. English language services for newcomers to B.C. include classes taught by certified and experienced teachers and volunteers. Most programs involve listening, speaking, reading and writing training through conversation, creative writing and intensive grammar classes. Public libraries across the province are great resources for finding English language services for newcomers to B.C.
Immigrants sometimes struggle to feel like they belong when they first arrive in Canada. For this reason, organizations that provide services for newcomers to B.C., as well as libraries and local businesses, play a huge role in creating inclusive communities. Settlement programs can help with legal issues, community and health services, social and income assistance and English language training. They can also be great ways for individuals to meet new people.
Programs are available for newcomers of all ages. S.U.C.C.E.S.S., one of British Columbia’s largest social service providers, for example, offers culturally appropriate Early Childhood Development resources for parents. Youth services for newcomers to B.C. allow young immigrants to meet new people while doing activities. These multicultural programs include homework support, sports activities, arts and crafts, day camps, daycare and more. Services for seniors are also offered and include recreational, social activities and workshops that foster a sense of community and belonging.
Newcomer service providers also recognize that some individuals move to Canada because they are escaping dire situations in their own countries that leave them traumatized and without the financial means to settle. For this reason, there are also services for refugee newcomers to B.C. One specific program, called Moving Ahead Program (MAP), helps immigrants and refugees who face a number of barriers to settlement in Canada. MAP offers one-on-one support, settlement counselling, assistance, and accompaniment to appointments (including medical, school, legal).
According to the 2011 Census, 1,191,900 immigrants live in British Columbia, making it one of the most culturally diverse provinces in Canada. For this reason, there are a huge number of services for newcomers to B.C.
For a comprehensive directory of services for newcomers to B.C., please visit the NewtoBC’s directory.