Better communication with newcomers needed

Pembina Valley Local Immigration Partnership Coordinator Elaine Burton Saindon. (GREG VANDERMEULEN/Winkler Times)

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A communication study released by the Pembina Valley Local Immigration Partnership (PVLIP) at their Sept. 26 quarterly meeting in Winkler made some key recommendations for those involved in immigration.

The study recommended information sessions and video lessons for newcomers who indicated that was their preferred method of learning, easy access to community resources, methods to reduce stress for immigrants, and ways stakeholders and integration service providers can better communicate.

“Essentially what we found is there’s a lack of communication on two levels,” PVLIP Coordinator Elaine Burton Saindon said. “…newcomers are striving to understand their communities but how to access the information is sometimes quite a complicated road map up to accessing websites or just how you find things here and so that’s just been something we’ve been trying to find a solution for.”

“At the same time it’s also educating our stakeholders and service providers on how to make them evaluate how they demonstrate their information,” she added.

Some of those methods may not be having the required affect in the 13 municipalities in the Pembina Valley Region covered by PVLIP, including Winkler, Morden, Altona and Carman.

“Is it in a lot of word text? Is it ‘call us for information’? because those are two barriers that newcomers would find a challenge to access,” she said.

Burton Saindon said the report gave them affirmation that newcomers want better ways of finding information and stakeholders want to work together to achieve that.

“That was a very positive result of the study,” she said.

Three working groups are addressing communication, welcoming and inclusive communities and mental health/mental wellbeing for newcomers.

“The communication working group is going to pursue how to set up a set of processes in a network for a communication plan in the Pembina Valley,” she said.

The welcoming and inclusive communities group also has a big role.

“They will also continue to pursue avenues that demonstrate what that looks like so that it benefits not only the community members in general, but the newcomers with language barriers and different cultural backgrounds to make them feel that they have a sense of belonging,” she said.

Mental health and mental wellbeing is also very important.

“Essentially all the components of adjusting, of moving, of learning the language, of finding a new job, maybe changing your career… all of that… elements of stress really build up and can build up in some cases,” she said.  “(It’s) a real need to see that we have a program and a set of processes in place that meet the specific and unique challenges for newcomers wellbeing.”

The issues themselves aren’t new and Burton Saindon said communities have wanted to solve those issues.

“There’s never been a vehicle before to address them,” she said. “So the unique role of a local immigration partnership is to be an advocate for newcomers and to try and pull the stakeholders and decision makers together to finally say, what can we do to improve this for our communities?”

The working groups will seek to address their goals as part of a five year action plan.