By Renee Black, Tareq Hadhad and Kate Morford
With the federal election campaign in full swing, immigration has once again risen to the surface for all the wrong reasons. And while Canadians and major Canadian political parties support immigration, anti-immigrant rhetoric is on the rise and impacts newcomers settling in Canada.
In 2018, Canada became the global leader in 2018 for refugee intake both in real numbers and per capita, due in large part to the drastic reduction of refugee intake in the United States. Take a moment to think about that. Immigration contributes significantly to Canada’s economic prosperity, diversity, and strong cultural fabric. It spurs innovation, fills vital labour gaps, especially in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, and helps to strengthen our economy. Newcomers are also active in Canadian society with 32% engaging in volunteerism.
In this context, what can we do to make sure Canada continues to be a positive example for the rest of the world? Here are 9 ways you can help:
- Get informed and vote. Research the policies of political parties and exercise your civic duty. All major parties support immigration broadly speaking, though there are priority differences. Help ensure that you are supporting policies and platforms that will strengthen successful newcomer integration. Understand how immigration helps Canada to live up to the spirit of multiculturalism and build our communities.
- Be aware of misinformation. Think critically about the stories you read and verify. Canada is being targeted by misinformation particularly on immigration and climate change during election. Understand that this is impacting on Canadian attitudes and consider what role you can play in countering misinformation.
- Consider how best to respond to intolerance. Sometimes the best response to intolerance is no response at all. Sometimes a situation calls for public accountability, such as companies that allow intolerant speech on their platforms or high profile public figures who influence others. Other times, calling someone in (calling out but with love) might be the best way to change the mind of someone who is willing to engage. Or get creative and use humour to undermine intolerance.
- Connect with newcomers in your community whether through Community Centres, Neighborhood Houses, religious communities, sponsorship groups or by hosting a community event yourself. Take time to meet newcomers in your community and hear about their journey. Help newcomers feel welcome in their new homes and help them to navigate their new communities and social norms.
- Volunteer to mentor newcomers starting careers in Canada. Help provide information about workplace culture, obvious and not-so-obvious career paths, mock interview preparation, look over CVs, and identify relevant companies, meet-up events and other mentors that might help in the job search. Contribute your time to help set newcomers up for success in Canada.
- Volunteer to help newcomers overcome language barriers through conversational English or French. Language barriers are a critical step on the way to economic independence or simply navigating the grocery store. This can be especially important for women at home caring for children who may not be able to attend formal language lessons.
- Hire newcomers and provide opportunities for Canadian experience. Without Canadian experience, getting your first good job can be very hard. When newcomers do get a job, they earn on average 10% less than their Canadian counterparts. Yet Canadian businesses need newcomers to fill labour gaps and skilled talent deserve to be paid fairly. If you manage or own a business, commit to hiring newcomers and creating opportunities to bridge these gaps.
- Be more than a bystander to intolerance. The reality is that intolerance online is leading to intolerance offline. We all have a role to play in stopping it. If you see a friend, colleague or stranger being verbally or physically harassed, let them know that you are there and ask them if they need help. Help report any intimidation if needed. Do what you can to stand up to intolerance and help keep Canada a safe and welcoming place for all.
- Share stories loudly and proudly on social media and in the news on how newcomers are making a difference in your communities or in how your new community is welcoming you. Whether you are an individual, business, NGO, government, school, entrepreneur or anyone else, and whether you are a new or old Canadian, share your stories, photos and videos with your networks. This might be stories like Global News series on newcomers pursuing their dreams in Canada or Syrian entrepreneurs like caterer Tayybeh bringing Syrian cuisine to Vancouver or blind photographer Hani al Moulia’s recent TEDx Talk.
As election day comes closer, let’s recognize that when newcomers succeed, we all succeed and that the best antidote to intolerance is building a country together where we all thrive.
Renee Black is the Executive Director of PeaceGeeks Society based in Vancouver, BC and Tareq Hadhad is the Founder of Peace by Chocolate based in Antigonish, NS.