Nova Scotia

Immigrant support groups gear up for influx of newcomers to Nova Scotia

As COVID-19 travel restrictions ease, newcomer support groups in Halifax are busy preparing to welcome people to their new lives in Nova Scotia.

Reopening of international borders expected to lead to an increase in arrivals

Newcomers are expected to arrive in bigger numbers at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport between now and the end of the year as travel restrictions ease. (Halifax International Airport Authority)

As COVID-19 travel restrictions ease, newcomer support groups in Halifax are busy preparing to welcome people to their new lives in Nova Scotia. 

After immigration numbers slowed down during the pandemic, they're expected to bounce back between now and the end of the year with Canada's border set to reopen Sept. 7.

Ottawa has set a goal of settling 401,000 new permanent residents in Canada by the end of 2021. 

"We have been doing a lot of work to prepare people in pre-arrival, so before they arrive, as well as being ready for them when they land here in Nova Scotia," said Jennifer Watts, CEO of the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia or ISANS.

The Halifax-based organization offers a range of programming, including guidance to help people find jobs.

"We've certainly seen through COVID how important immigrants have been both in terms of the work they were engaged in as front-line workers and essential workers," Watt said.

"Certainly we see the need to continue to build in those areas and provide opportunities for people that have those skills to come and work."

ISANS also offers English language training and housing support for newcomers, as well as assistance setting up things like bank accounts and how to access health care.

YMCA helps youth, parents adapt to new schools

Connecting newcomers to the community is another important area for ISANS and the YMCA Centre for Immigrant Programs, which also provides a variety of services.

It has staff working in schools throughout the Halifax region and in other parts of the province to work directly with youth and parents who are new to the school system.

"We help them understand and navigate the different routines of school, what the expectations are, and help them get connected to things that are happening at the school," said Jennifer Thornhill, senior manager of YMCA immigrant services. "Schools are real communities, and so how do you get involved in the school community? How do you join the soccer team?"

With restrictions easing and community and recreational events returning, both support groups say it will be a lot more straightforward for newcomers to make connections when they arrive.

Federal Immigration Minister Marco Medicino has said immigration is central to driving economic growth in Canada, which set an initial target last year of bringing in more than one million newcomers over the next three years.

The department recently announced plans to resettle up to 20,000 people from Afghanistan after the takeover of the Taliban, though it's unclear where in Canada those refugees will ultimately land.