Janet Song Cornett-Ching and Emmiline Millar show off some of the English learning resources and board games available at their Wednesday conversation circle, on Dec. 15.

Janet Song Cornett-Ching and Emmiline Millar show off some of the English learning resources and board games available at their Wednesday conversation circle, on Dec. 15.

Settlement and language services up by 650% at HSEDS

Settlement centre sees large increase in clients in 2021

Prince Rupert clients accessing settlement services and English language instruction at Hecate Strait Employment Development Society (HSEDS) have increased by 650 per cent since the beginning of 2021, the organization said, on Dec. 15.

The settlement department at HSEDS provides an array of resources and services to help newcomers in Canada integrate into the community and the country.

“There is definitely a need for newcomers to network and gain knowledge of the supports available to them in their new community,” Emmiline Millar, settlement worker at HSEDS said. “The astronomical increase in clients reaching out for services is fantastic. It shows that our services are needed and valued by new immigrants who pass the word along to their friends and family that we can help them with struggles newcomers face.”

Staff assist newcomers, international students, permanent residents and refugees learn English and connect to professional supports in the community.

Staff at HSEDS refer their clients for help to find job resources and training, such as First Aid and Food Safe. They assist with filling out documents, such as permanent residency, passport forms, and prepare individuals for the citizenship test.

The centre currently serves more than 30 clients, up from less than five earlier this year, Millar said, adding she has recently had two clients take and pass the citizenship examination.

“I walk them through that process and I am there from the very beginning to the very end,” she said. “It is an absolutely wonderful experience.”

She said the citizenship ceremony was held at HSEDS streamed online with a citizenship judge. Clients have to recite the citizenship oath, sing the national anthem. “A big step they have to do, is physically cut up their permanent resident card on camera so the judge can see. It’s always a nerve-wracking experience for them,” she said.

“We’re here to help answer any questions they have,” Millar said.

The settlement department is gearing up to improve its language services in the new year, centre staff told The Northern View.

The Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) program is being reintroduced in January after being dropped by the government during the pandemic.

“Because we saw this need, we’re bringing it back again,” Janet Song Cornett-Ching, settlement coordinator, said.

Throughout the pandemic, there has been no formal English as a second language course available in the city, Shirin Shohrati, HSEDS client, said adding she welcomes the addition of the new program.

The LINC program will have professional teachers sit down with students in a formal classroom setting to teach English reading, writing and conversation skills.

Classes may consist of a choice of morning or afternoon sessions, Millar said.

The new formal LINC classes won’t replace any of the already existing weekly informal language sessions held on Tuesdays and Thursdays, private lessons or affect Wednesday conversations circles.

Games are often incorporated into their weekly events to help facilitate language learning. Millar said she likes to include games like UNO and have participants share new facts they learned about Canada, which adds an element of fun to building English conversational skills.

“It’s fun while keeping the stress of learning down,” Millar said.

Shohrati has lived in Prince Rupert for more than a year and uses the settlement services often. The staff have helped her make her resume, apply for courses and for student loans. She said the staff have been very kind to her and their services have been great.

She also takes part in the weekly conversation circles to improve her English skills and social events such as the board games event held on Dec. 15.

Other social activities have included a tour of the Lester Centre, making a video on what living in Canada means, a walking tour of the city, holiday card making for seniors in retirement centers, learning about celebrated Canadian holidays and a library tour.

Song Cornett-Ching said newcomers to Canada are important to help maintain and build the city into the future.

“They’re filling jobs that we really need here to support with the labour shortage in Prince Rupert. Immigrants make such a big impact in our community … and they provide so much culture and joy.”

The sooner they know the resources available to them, the better — so they don’t have to figure it out on their own, she said.

“We’re here to help.”