By Delainey Neddow, Communications Coordinator, Catholic Social Services
There are a number of decisions newcomers must make after relocating to Canada. From choosing where to live, accessing education, and even finding resources to help learn or enhance English language skills, these decisions can be daunting to navigate without support.
Catholic Social Services supports thousands of newcomers each year through our Immigration and Settlement Service, helping them answer these questions, and more, as they journey through the resettlement process. Staff are available to direct newcomers to education about Canadian culture, community resources, and free in-house programs that help newcomers adjust to life in Canada. Our Immigration and Settlement Service can provide these services in more than 60 languages, ensuring help is available in the most accessible ways for clients. Best of all, our services are always free.
Below are some of the most common challenges faced by our newcomer clients, and some of the ways Catholic Social Services’ Immigration and Settlement Service can help along the journey.
Careers and education
One of the largest, and most important, challenges newcomers struggle with is finding a job in their field of expertise. Our educational counsellors can help newcomers identify the best route for re-entry into a chosen field. This could include pursuing further education in Canada, gaining related experience through volunteer opportunities, finding a mentor in their field, and more.
We also provide advice for those who are wanting to pursue education in Canada, ranging from short-term career training programs to post-secondary degrees. Staff are well equipped to connect newcomers to partner organizations, including the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers (EMCN) and the Bredin Centre for Career Advancement, to access additional career and employment services
English language skills
Catholic Social Services is the designated Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) assessment centre for Edmonton and surrounding community. Free English tests are available at our Immigration and Settlement Service office (8212 118 Avenue). Language assessors determine a newcomer’s level of English and can make referrals to free or government-funded English classes.
We also run LACE English conversation circles where newcomers can come together in conversation, facilitated by a volunteer, and practice their English.
It can be difficult to decide where to live in an unfamiliar city. Our settlement counsellors walk alongside newcomers from their very first steps on Canadian soil, and can help clients find a fantastic home to settle into.
Staff can help newcomers find affordable housing in an area where they will feel comfortable, and always strive to find the best possible accommodation for individuals or families. Newcomers are empowered to direct the process and are given the option of either connecting with housing managers directly, or having a settlement counsellor present to support with translation services and questions.
Creating a social network can be equally as important for newcomer families as employment or developing their English language skills. For those who are seeking community and connectedness, our Cultural Links Matching program is available free of charge to anyone interested in participating.
Cultural Links is a volunteer-run program that addresses the social isolation many newcomers face when far from home. Volunteers are matched with clients and can help connect them with different community members and cultural or religious groups to create belonging and facilitate integration into their new communities.
Finding a doctor to care for the health needs of newcomers and their families is often top of mind after relocating. This process can be unfamiliar to clients, who often have questions regarding how to find out if a clinic is accepting new patients and where they can find a doctor who speaks their language.
Moreover, long wait times for appointments can often be barriers to newcomers having their medical needs met. There can be significant stress and anxiety experienced navigating a new health system, and even more so for those who have pre-existing conditions.
After conducting a needs assessment, CSS Settlement Counsellors can support clients to find family doctors and, in some instances, support clients with interpretation services to ensure the clients’ health needs are addressed.
Many newcomer clients have challenges using public transportation, which has become even more complicated to navigate due to COVID-19. Beyond unfamiliarity, clients now face additional fears about being exposed to more people and longer wait times as a result of reduced route frequencies.
Despite fears and challenges, public transportation is often the most accessible and affordable means for newcomers to navigate a new city.
Our dedicated staff can teach clients about Edmonton’s transit system, help them find their nearest bus stop and search for routes to destinations, and even accompany clients with high needs to appointments.
While there are many challenges newcomers face when resettling in Canada, Catholic Social Services Immigration and Settlement Service is well-equipped to walk alongside new Canadians on their journey. With dozens of programs, these are just some of the supports available to our clients.