WATERLOO REGION – A local group of service providers, health care representatives, business people and politicians have come together to create the Immigration Partnership Council to help immigrants and refugees integrate into Canadian society.
For two years, the group met to talk about how to better assist new immigrants become part of the community.
And on Friday, the group launched its beginning at the Tannery in Kitchener. The organization hopes to help immigrants settle, work and belong to the community.
It’s one of 45 immigration councils across the province. The region’s council has a budget of $680,000 funded for the next two years by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the Region of Waterloo and the United Way of Kitchener Waterloo and Area.
Arran Rowles is the council’s full-time manager. Rowles said the local immigration partnership is unique because it integrates the work component with the Waterloo Region Immigrant Employment Network by offering seminars and networking events and offering internship and mentoring programs.
A discussion will be held on Feb. 6 in which the discussion centres on how to welcome immigrants and on March 26 on forum about immigrants taking part in civic leadership such as sitting on boards.
Lucia Harrison, chair of the group and executive director of the Kitchener Waterloo Multicultural Centre, said the council is looking at the big picture “to work with our partners for systematic change.’’
Needs will be identified and the programming done by current agencies already in the community, she said.
Currently, 22 per cent of the region’s population is immigrants or refugees and that number is expected to jump to 30 per cent by 2031, Harrison said.
The region is in the top seven areas of choice for New Canadians, she said.
Since 2009, the group has been talking about how to deal with challenges and barriers faced by new immigrants such as accessing health care, education, social services, learning a new language, getting work and learning to integrate into Canadian culture.