Does Saskatchewan put out the welcome mat for immigrants?

They come from countries around the world, leaving almost everything they've known to start a new life here.

Public tell pollsters it's a 'welcoming' province

Khadijeh Ahmed, who grew up in Iraq, says Saskatchewan has been a welcoming place for her, for the most part. (CBC)

About Taking the Pulse

Taking The Pulse reflects the views and opinions of 1,750 people in Saskatchewan. The University of Saskatchewan's Social Sciences Research Lab conducted the telephone interviews of randomly selected adults March 5-19.

With a sample size of 1,750, the poll is considered accurate to within plus or minus 2.34 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

They come from countries around the world, leaving almost everything they've known to start a new life here.

But is Saskatchewan a welcoming place to immigrants?

According to the University of Saskatchewan's Taking The Pulse survey, it is.

Fully 92 per cent of people in Saskatchewan either somewhat or strongly believe the province is a welcoming place to new immigrants.

Yet for immigrants themselves, it's a complicated question.

New Canadians don't steal jobs, advocate says

Many new immigrants to Saskatchewan make their first stop at places like the Newcomer Information Centre in Saskatoon.

There, staff help immigrants find everything they need to settle in, whether it's housing, language classes or jobs.

The centre's co-ordinator, Ayesha Baig, has heard many accounts from clients and believes for the most part Saskatchewan is a welcoming place.

But despite a growing need for immigrants to fill jobs in this province, she's heard of them facing some problems.

"They have been in a job situation and when it's come to who is kept and who is let go ... they have been let go," Baig said. "Their feeling is, there's been some kind of discrimination.

Baig thinks those cases are rare.

She says she hopes people understand that immigrants aren't coming here to take their jobs.

According to the Taking the Pulse surveys, that may be the case.

In 2010, Saskatchewan took in about 7,500 immigrants.

Just over half of the people surveyed by the U of S (54.2 per cent) think the annual level is about right.

A large number of people surveyed either somewhat agree (49.1 per cent) or strongly agree (38.9 per cent) that new immigrants make a valuable contribution to Saskatchewan.

Khadijeh Ahmed, who came to the province 13 years ago, is doing what many women in Iraq can only dream of — living in Canada and operating her own business.

"I'm very happy, I'm very thankful," she said. "Compared to back home it's so a million times better because of the opportunity I get here."

Ahmed grew up in Iraq during the 1990s and lived through a violent era.

"I've seen people killed when I was like, 9," she said. "You see people are shooting on the street and you're like, 'Oh my God, this is a real dead man.' It's like, 'Oh, we go home and have nightmares.'"

Ahmed knew that if she wanted a future she would have to leave Iraq, so when she was 18 she fled to Turkey.

Two years later, when the chance to move to Saskatchewan came up, she jumped at it.

She can recall a number of happy moments after she arrived, even in interactions with strangers.

"They were so nice and friendly," she said. "The nicest things used to happen when I went shopping and stuff. When somebody walks by ... they give you that little smile and it's like, 'Oh do you know me? Do they like me?'"

However, there have been some darker moments as well, including one nasty encounter with a strange man at a mall.

"I go in the mall and he said, 'Hey, you little bitch, go back home. What are you doing here?' she said.

"I was like, 'Who the heck are you?' And he's like, 'Just go back home' and I don't know him, out of nowhere. I was like, 'What the heck?'"

Ahmed says she thinks people treat her differently sometimes when they realize she's not from here.

"You can tell their reaction, like they have that mean look. You can tell they really don't like me."

For the most part, Ahmed said, she's shrugged off these kinds of responses.

They don't change the fact that most people in Saskatchewan welcomed her and her family with open arms, she said.

Ayesha Baig of Saskatoon's Newcomer Information Centre, says sometimes new Canadians have bad experiences in the workplace and wonder if discrimination is a factor. (CBC)