Nanaimo to welcome immigrants with annual receptions

NANAIMO – Social Planning Advisory Committee will have a $2,000 budget to plan event.

New immigrants who choose Nanaimo as their home will receive a warm welcome from city council.

Federal cutbacks are reducing local services to help immigrants and international students with technical paperwork, and citizenship ceremonies have been delayed or cancelled, but council voted unanimously Monday to host a welcome reception for new immigrants living in the community.

Coun. Diane Brennan introduced the notice of motion.

“We do have a number of immigrants to this city every year and they are a real asset for a variety of resons,” said Brennan. “I’ve been to workshops with new immigrants and they told me that there are lots of times when they don’t feel included and they feel somewhat excluded in our community … we haven’t made positive steps to welcome them.”

The annual reception will cost about $2,000 and will be planned by the city’s Social Planning Advisory Committee.

Hilde Schlosar, executive director at Central Vancouver Island Multicultural Society, said the idea is welcome.

“It’s wonderful,” said Schlosar. “I think that people will feel so welcome and I think it will be exciting for them, especially to be welcomed by the city’s dignitaries. It also sends a really powerful message to the community.”

Nanaimo receives about 400 immigrants from all over the world each year.

Coun. Fred Pattje, who moved to Canada from the Netherlands in the 1960s, said he has tremendous respect for people who try to build a new life in a different country, and that newcomers should be given every opportunity to succeed.

Coun. George Anderson, whose parents arrived in Canada from Ghana in the mid-1980s, said he “probably wouldn’t be here” if his parents weren’t given the opportunity to immigrate.

Coun. Bill McKay said immigrants are becoming an increasingly important addition to the area’s workforce and economy.

“I will welcome them as a citizen, I will welcome them as a businessman and I will welcome them as a councillor,” said McKay.

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