This is an opportunity for ordinary people to be heard.
We asked six people to be our citizen commentators during the campaign. Each chose an issue they believe in passionately. You'll hear from them between now and the week of the election, and we encourage you to react by adding your comments.
Serge Kaptegaine was proud to become a New Canadian in 2010 and wants to know what the province will do for immigrants like himself.
September 13, 2011
I came to Manitoba in 2005 as a refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo with the hope of starting a new and better life. I had a degree in education and dreamed of becoming a teacher, but I was not given the opportunity to teach in the war-torn and oppressive Congo.
I maintained this dream and after my arrival in Manitoba, I was certain that it would become a reality. However, quickly I found out that this would not be the case.
Two months after my arrival, I went to one of the school divisions seeking employment as a teacher and remembered being told "you can't" because I did not have Canadian experience.
I decided to go and become a teaching assistant and it was there that I learned that I could not teach because I did not have my papers with me in Canada (diploma, etc.). This is a reality that many refugees face after fleeing from a war-torn country.
I was advised to go and see an employment agency, which I did. The employment agency got me a job in a reputable financial institution in the province. I had to start from scratch, trying to learn everything.
One day I went to my boss's office and found the door closed. I heard my name being discussed. My supervisor said, "Since Serge is having problems with the computer and English, we had better give more shifts to John instead."
My supervisor was right in saying that I could not speak English well and that I was having problems with the computer. Of course it was not beneficial for them to have an employee like me, for whom it would take time to learn the firm's system. I was not a good fit for them and by virtue of their impatience, nor were they for me.
After this experience, I came to realize that many refugees struggle with the same type of experience, whereby they are given work completely incompatible with their skills and talents, and yet when they fall behind, the employer is surprised.
I also came to learn that one of the the most impoverished groups of people in Manitoba continue to be the refugee population. Many refugees are forced to rely on financial assistance from community members, government agencies, churches or NGOs for extended periods of time.
As a former refugee who believes in Manitoba, I believe that something needs to be done so that we can change the reality for the refugees who are coming here to start a new and better life.
I believe that investing in newcomers is indeed investing in the future of our province. I continue to believe that it is important to take into consideration to what has not been done so far: a program which will provide a direct link between the refugee who possesses specific skills and the employer looking for those skills.
Our election time is the moment to see and discuss with our policy makers those solutions and strategies. Please let me know what you think and talk to you soon.