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VIDEO: B.C. announces quadrupling of newcomer funding at sit down with Langley families

B.C. minister responsible for immigration meets with service providers and immigrant families

Government ministries and agencies need to talk to each other more. That was the main message for B.C. Immigration Minister Anne Kang when she visited Langley to announce that the provincial government had quadrupled funding for newcomers.

As part of the visit, she sat down with local agencies, service providers, and some families who had immigrated from abroad and settled in Langley.

Ayoub and Narjas Abuzaytoun attended with their five children, speaking to the minister through translator Nabeel Obid of the Langley Immigration Partnership Immigrants Advisory Council.

The family from Palestine described the difficulty finding housing because BC Housing rules require that the baby have its own room, the sons and daughters cannot share a room, and the parents must have their own room. When they finally found a place, it was problematic.

“There were a lot of bugs and things that they’re not supposed to be in the house because of that situation the unsafe house,” Obid translated.

One of their children had to spend 16 days in the hospital because of the bugs.

In addition to listening to the families and agencies, Kang announced provincial funding. The money will be used by 30 organizations in B.C., such as Langley Community Services Society, to provide more services.

“As an immigrant myself, I can relate to the unique challenges that newcomers face when they are starting out in a new community,” Kang said. “My ministry is listening, and we understand the need for more supportive services.”

Starting Monday, April 1, a new and expanded newcomer-services program will increase support for people to settle into their new communities, practise their English and find work.

The programs will offer refugee claimants and others in vulnerable situations specialized services, such as trauma counselling, help finding housing and English-language instruction.

Mary Tanielien, with Langley Community Services Society, welcomed the provincial announcement.

LCSS was chosen to provide the program to this community.

Tanielien encouraged the politicians to see if there is more flexibility in policy among the ministries and provincial agencies that deal with newcomers to recognize that people from other cultures may be accustomed to different living situations, including intergenerational families in the same home. Combined with the housing crisis, it often means newcomers can’t find housing that meets BC Housing requirements.

“And hearing your challenges, it’s so important for us in the public policy process, because we can take those voice back. We can take those voices back to the cabinet table, and that’s how change happens… Anne has been a champion of that,” Langley MLA Andrew Mercier noted.

Shayla Ramos and her daughter, Jade, fled Mexico where their lives were in danger. They went to BC Housing but were not able to find a place to live. They’ve been able to find a home with a senior through Langley Community Services Society, only possible because LCSS is able to work with many community groups, churches, and volunteers, Tanielien noted.

“It’s community coming together,” she said.

She added that the refugee settlement assistance LCSS is now offering was something that people used to have to access in neighbouring municipalities.

“Who foots the bill to really take the clients all the way to Surrey or maybe even as far as Vancouver, when they have nowhere to stay, they’re fleeing, they’re afraid and they have children?” she said.

Tanielien said the services won’t be solely for newcomers but also naturalized Canadians, international students, farm workers and others who live in Langley. She noted that naturalized citizens don’t stop needing help to integrate just because they attain citizenship.

“So that’s people that were not born in Canada but became [naturalized] Canadian. We find that even through federal government, we always say it takes about five to six years for people to really integrate, get used to here,” she said. “Unfortunately, people transition into becoming a Canadian citizen and now they no longer are able to get the services. So that’s why this is so important to have it in Langley.”

Other topics included having affordable housing constructed with more amenities for people with disabilities, and having newcomer services for people with disabilities, and workplace safety issues for people from other cultures where there is a language barrier.

The province increased funding for newcomer services, from $6 million to $25.6 million per year, partnering with 30 organizations throughout B.C. This annual support includes $13.4 million through the new BC Newcomer Services program and $12.2 million through the Safe Haven program.

That will allow up to 40,000 people to receive assistance, compared to 26,000 clients in 2021/22.

• READ MORE: Immigrants are assets, not liabilities, says B.C. advocacy group

• READ MORE: International student visa cap requires rethink: B.C. businesses

Sandra Pimeda, with her one-month-old Samantha, attended the meeting with Minister Anne Kang on Thursday, March 28, 2024. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance Times)
Provincial politicians, local service agencies, charities, and community members were invited to the announcement on Thursday, March 28, 2024. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance Times)
At a March 28 announcement about funding to help newcomers, Minister Anne Kang heard from several local people, including Sanjeev Nand, executive director of Langley Community Services Society. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance Times)
With translation by Nabeel Obid (left), Langley resident Ayoub Abuzaytoun described some of the challenges he faces since emigrating to Canada. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance Times)
Minister of Municipal Affairs and Immigration Anne Kang met several local residents, including Shayla Ramos, who moved to Canada after her life was in danger in Mexico. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance Times)
Little Mansa Abuzaytoun looked after the business card of B.C. Minister of Municipal Affairs and Immigration Annes Kang when she visited Langley on Thursday, March 28, 2024. Mansa attended the minister’s announcement with her family. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance Times)
Ayoub Abuzaytoun (left) and his family took part in the provincial government announcement. Through Nabeel Obid, a member of the local Immigrants Advisory Council, he shared information about his life and struggles finding housing. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance Times)
Shayla Ramos, and her daughter, Jade, were at the provincial announcement. Ramos shared a bit about her life during a roundtable with Minister Anne Kang. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance Times)

Heather Colpitts

About the Author: Heather Colpitts

Since starting in the news industry in 1992, my passion for sharing stories has taken me around Western Canada.
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