Immigration integration focus of new program
The City of Ottawa unveiled a new plan on Monday to attract immigrants and better integrate those who are already here.
The plan brings together a dozen immigration and settlement agencies, as well as employers, social service providers and others.
Those who work with immigrants say the new approach reflects a widespread consensus that the present system is no longer working as well as it once did, either for immigrants or their children.
Naythar Seer is a Karen refugee from Burma. Relentlessly upbeat and optimistic, he's soon due to start a degree in civil engineering that he hopes will launch him on the career he wants.
But he admits landing a job in his new country has not been easy.
"I have tried to apply for a job at Wal-Mart, and I never got a job there," he told CBC News. "I have a friend who works for a cleaner and through him, I got a job."
Seer says he might have remained unemployed if it weren't for that friend's help.
Mohammed Dalmar helps immigrants find jobs and he said the ability to network is crucial for all job-seekers, including immigrants.
"That lack of networking affects also the children of immigrants," he said. "Someone who went to school here, who did their university, and they're not getting jobs — we have many examples of this — because they're not well-connected."
'A need to connect'
Hindia Mohamoud of Catholic Immigration Services said the new plan will recognize that networking is essential to getting ahead in Canada, which poses a challenge for new arrivals.
"To bridge that gap of not knowing there is a need to connect, not only in economic areas but also in the social areas, so that people are not isolated from the opportunities that our city offers."
Mohamoud said the new plan will try various new approaches, including trying to create more opportunities for immigrants to form social connections that can help them. It also aims to recruit the support of small- and medium-sized business owners to employ more new arrivals.
Mohamoud said that means organizing events that bring together people of different backgrounds.
Dropout rates for the children of immigrants are reaching alarming levels in some parts of the city, she said, and there's a strong consensus among people who work in the field that something has to change.
With files from CBC's Evan Dyer