Health care, jobs, discrimination, immigration delays among P.E.I. newcomers' top concerns

·3 min read
Many newcomers on P.E.I. are facing processing delays with their immigration applications such as work permits and permanent residency, says Melanie Bailey, co-ordinator of the P.E.I. Immigration Partnership Program. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Many newcomers on P.E.I. are facing processing delays with their immigration applications such as work permits and permanent residency, says Melanie Bailey, co-ordinator of the P.E.I. Immigration Partnership Program. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Huong Nguyen moved from Vietnam to P.E.I. last fall with her husband, who was starting his business on the Island.

"I was a doctor in Vietnam," she said.

But despite taking English classes, volunteering and trying to meet people at events, Nguyen said she's been struggling to find employment. Ideally she'd like to work in health care, but said at this point she just wants a full-time job.

She's not alone. Trouble finding stable employment was the second biggest concern highlighted in the results of a recent survey of newcomers on P.E.I.

Submitted by Huong Nguyen
Submitted by Huong Nguyen

The survey was conducted last year by the P.E.I. Immigration Partnership Program — part of Immigration and Refugee Services Association (IRSA) P.E.I.

Program co-ordinator Melanie Bailey said more than 250 newcomers completed the survey, revealing emerging trends.

Access to health care problems, immigration delays 

Although previous surveys in 2020 pointed to issues making social connections as a top challenge, difficulties accessing health-care services "surged to the number one spot this year," Bailey said.

She said ongoing immigration-processing delays are another top challenge, leaving many newcomers stuck in limbo, waiting years for responses to applications such as work permits and permanent residency.

"That's been a huge crisis point," she said.

Discrimination concerns

Discrimination was also highlighted in the survey responses.

"There was a rise in discrimination from six per cent to 12 per cent. And also concerning were 35 per cent of survey participants with school-aged children, they had reported their child had experienced discrimination at school," said Bailey.

Tony Davis/CBC
Tony Davis/CBC

Tamer Selim moved to the Island from Dubai three years ago said he is concerned about the rise in concern over discrimination.

Although he said he hasn't experienced any overt discrimination, he has been in situations where he felt like people avoided interacting with him and other newcomers.

"You feel like you are not in the room, actually. But we cannot say it's discrimination. I would say it's misunderstanding of cultural differences," he said.

"I wish to see one day, some sort of open dialogue ... where we try to help Islanders change their mindset about newcomers and embrace them and open their arms and heart for newcomers."

Worry about business viability

Selim also raised concerns about the fourth biggest worry reported in the survey results: viability of newcomers' businesses which have been hit hard by the pandemic.

He said has been hearing from some of his friends, who came to P.E.I. several years ago to open businesses that have not yet been profitable.

"Imagine if you have a shop for three years, which doesn't generate any money, what will be your financial situation at the moment?" Selim said. "They are only spending all their money."

Submitted by Tamer Selim
Submitted by Tamer Selim

Huong Nguyen said this is not a concern for her family's business.

Nguyen's husband imports products like coffee and tea from Vietnam to the Island. Together they have been joining workshops to connect with Island businesses, which helps them get more local clients, she said.

They have also participated in opportunities to introduce their products to the public, such as the Asian market last September in Summerside, she said.

"Now [our business] is doing OK. We have a lot of support from some organizations like IRSA and P.E.I. Connectors and we have a lot of new friends. They support our business a lot."

Bailey said the survey results will be sent to organizations on P.E.I. to help them offer better services for newcomers. The next newcomer survey will be conducted in August.

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