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Immigration advocate calls for welcome centre

Herb Mathisen
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, January 14, 2009

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - An immigration advocate says a welcome centre would provide new Canadians with a valuable one-stop access point to important services.

"What Yellowknife really needs is just one place where they can welcome everybody that comes," said Ana Perdomo, who has worked to help new Canadians at the Centre of Northern Families and Aurora College.

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Immigration advocate Ana Perdomo says Yellowknife needs an immigrant welcoming centre to improve new Canadians' access to language-training and employment services. - NNSL file photo

"It's easier because you find all the programs in the same place," she added. "Right now (services) are very divided."

New Canadians have access to English lessons and other training at the Aurora College, while the New Canadian and Multicultural Program at the Centre of Northern Families provides employment advice - offering interview skills, translation services and job searches.

"When you live in a place that is -40 and you come from a tropical country and you are not driving or you don't have a car, it's really a pain to go from the Aurora College to the New Canadian (Multicultural Centre)," she said.

"It's just four blocks but it can be kind of frustrating, especially if you are walking with children."

Dan Daniels, deputy minister of the NWT Department of Education, Culture and Employment, said anything the government could do to facilitate access to services for immigrants would be beneficial to the territory. "I think we would want to take a co-ordinated approach on immigration support services," he said. Immigration is a federal responsibility, he said.

On Dec. 22, federal immigration minister Jason Kenney announced funding increases to provinces and territories "to help newcomers settle and integrate into their new communities."

The Northwest Territories was given a two per cent increase in funding, amounting to just $12,000, which brings total funding for immigrant programs to $612,413 for 2009.

Recently the premier, finance and industry ministers have all spoken about retaining and recruiting workers in the North to increase revenues and some MLAs have pushed the government to move ahead with immigration initiatives - including a territorial nominee program.

Daniels said the territorial government wants to take on some responsibility with immigration, including the nominee program, which would fast-track the citizenship process for immigrants who possess specialized skill sets that the NWT targets for recruitment.

Daniels said discussions with the federal government will begin in January and said they hope to hammer out an agreement before the end of March. He said details about a welcome centre would be discussed with the federal government, and had no estimates on what it could cost.