The name ‘Canada’ comes from the St. Lawrence Iroquoian word, “kanata”, meaning a village, or settlement. What better name for this land whose defining objective is to build a community of people from ‘sea to sea’. With Canada being one of the largest immigrant destinations in the world, the people who choose Canada for their new home do so to improve the quality of their life.  And it is certainly a privilege, not a right, to become a Canadian and all that this national identity represents. Vincent Massey, Canada’s 18th Governor-General once said (1955), “Canada is not a melting pot. Canada is an association of peoples who have, and cherish, great differences but who work together because they can respect themselves and each other.”

This federation of Provinces is also known as a mosaic. A mosaic is a design made from small pieces of various coloured inlaid tile or glass, all interconnected to make a decorative piece of art. Their beauty is that they share or integrate their colour with the next piece. That is the perfect description of how Canada can be best described. Therefore Canada is a cultural and social mosaic, or a mixture of different ethnic groups from around the world. The mosaic base started with indigenous people, and grew from there to include the French, British, and now people from every corner of the earth. Many countries have tried but in many cases failed to integrate people into their nation. Canada on the other hand has managed to integrate its immigrant population fairly well, especially as this country is young, modern, culturally diverse, and wealthy.

People from around the world have new and different ways of looking at problems. Canada needs an immigrant’s unique expertise, innovative ideas and hardworking attitudes. We need people who can integrate into Canadian society. There is great value in the immigrant story and perhaps we have a duty to help share those stories. So, how many could tell their story? Well, one third of immigrants coming to Canada are from China, followed by India, the Philippines, South Korea, United States, Britain, Taiwan and Iran. The Thompson Okanagan region received 6,210 immigrants between 2006 and 2011.

One of the settlement agencies in Penticton, the South Okanagan Immigrant and Community Services (SOICS), is mandated to assist with newcomer integration and serves more than 1,000 clients every year. Kelowna Community Resources is another good agency providing employment services for newcomers, and WorkBC in Kelowna offers a myriad of workshops to help new Canadians navigate the path to new employment, including access to the evaluation of foreign credentials.  The mission of the YMCA of Okanagan is “strengthening the foundations of community”, which goes a long way help integrate new citizens into the wider Canadian family.  This is our national identity. It is therefore our responsibility to assist a new immigrant to settle in and find work, so that they become a part of the rich tapestry of Canada. Piers’ role is also to serve immigrant clients throughout all of their employment service contracts. In fact, all of the social service agencies in the Thompson Okanagan work together to help their clients achieve success. When that occurs, then all of us can be proud to call ourselves Canadian.


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