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Jan6FriHow can we better support newcomers to Canada? What role does the Church have in ensuring that immigrants are valued and respected? January 6, 2012 by Estee Lau
When I first moved to Canada in 1992, I was warmly welcomed by the members of Agincourt Community Church in Toronto. The support of the congregation not only helped me cope with the difficulties and challenges of this transition, but also provided me with the spiritual encouragement to draw closer to God.
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- Opinion & Critical Thought
I don't believe that anyone likes to leave their home country unless there are very significant reasons, such as being reunited with family or escaping a volatile economic or political situation. But whether we were born in Canada or another country, we are all children of our heavenly Father. As Christians, we know that our eternal home is not on earth but in Heaven. We are all foreigners on earth, which is our temporary home.
According to Statistics Canada, as of April 1, 2011, Canada's population was estimated at 34,349,200, an increase of 70,800 from January 1, 2011. Of this increase, 49,500 are immigrants. While this is a decrease of 15 percent from the same quarter in 2010, this still represents a significant number of people migrating to Canada to reside permanently in this country.
There are four categories of immigrants in Canada: family class for closely related persons of Canadian residents living in Canada; economic class for skilled workers and business people; a class for people who are accepted for humanitarian or compassionate reasons; and refugee class for those escaping persecution or suffering from cruel punishment.
It is fascinating to note that Canada's population has more than 200 different ethnic origins. Of these, there are 34 ethnic groups with at least 100,000 members each. Ten ethnic groups have over 1 million people. It is worth noting that 16.2 percent of the population belongs to visible minorities (i.e. South Asian, Chinese, African descent, Filipino) in addition to the invisible minorities, the largest of which are German (10.18 percent), Italian (4.63 percent) and Ukrainian (3.87 percent).
The immigrant population growth is concentrated in or near large cities such as Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto, where newcomers to Canada can find jobs and supports. These cities obviously require reasonable social and physical infrastructures in order to handle the influx. As the largest non-governmental direct provider of social services in Canada, The Salvation Army plays a significant role in helping immigrants adapt to their new environments, especially in these large cities.
Statistics Canada published an analytical research paper entitled “New Immigrants—Assessments of Their Life in Canada” in February 2010. This research asked immigrants whether they are personally satisfied with their lives in Canada and whether they would make the same decision to come to Canada again. The responses were examined across a wide range of demographic, social and economic characteristics. It was noted that immigrants who say they sometimes, or often, experience discrimination or unfair treatment, were least likely to express positive assessments of their lives in Canada. In this respect, The Salvation Army states clearly in its Position Statement on Human Diversity, “We oppose oppression or unjust discrimination based on such difference as race, gender, age, beliefs, lifestyle, economic status, or physical or mental ability.”
The Statistics Canada research shows that positive assessments arise from meaningful connections with friends and neighbours, such as through the participation in religious services. This is reinforced in our position statement: “The Salvation Army believes that diversity strengthens and shapes community and ministry. Therefore, in our community services, employment practices and church life, we will seek to actively promote sensitivity, understanding and communication in both intent and practice.”
How can we, as individuals and the larger Salvation Army, better support those people who have recently moved to Canada?
The social issues committee welcomes your comments on this important topic. E-mail us at Social_Issues@can.salvationarmy.org.
Estee Lau is executive assistant to the secretary for business administration at territorial headquarters in Toronto. She was appointed as a member of the Social Issues Committee in February 2009.