Support and programs for newcomers to Sea to Sky corridor will be expanded this year after $8.5 million in funding for the Welcoming Communities Program were across the province.
Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training Pat Bell made the funding announcement on Monday (Feb. 18) for 51 community projects, including $107,000 for Pemberton, $107,000 for Whistler and $133,000 for Squamish.
"Government is committed to ensuring that new immigrants to British Columbia receive the best settlement services to help them adjust to their new life,” Bell said in a press release. “These services will allow newcomers to prosper, in turn creating stronger, more vibrant communities."
Capilano University is to receive the funding to undertake the programming. Community development and outreach program manager and developer Carole Stretch said the funding will go towards expanding settlement services for immigrants in the communities and developing Welcoming Communities programs and initiatives locally.
“In Whistler it is difficult to tell but at least 12 per cent of the community is not originally English speaking and are permanent residents,” she said. “Pemberton is obviously a smaller community and just over seven per cent (are immigrants) and that is growing.”
The Welcoming Communities initiatives, Stretch said, will be developed through partnerships with groups in the community and those connections have already been made and a plan submitted to the province.
“Welcoming Communities brings together a number of initiatives we have been working with in the immigrant community over a number of years,” she added.
Support of the immigrant community in Whistler has led to the formation of the Whistler Multi-Cultural Network, which Stretch noted dovetails nicely with that will be developed as a result of the funding.
“It is exciting becasue there are huge synergies in all these programs now and it is an opportunity to bring momentum to all of those and it is involving a lot of new organizations so that is exciting too,” she said.
The funding is for 2013 only, and the federal government will be taking back control of settlement service in the province next March. In the meantime the program hopes to evaluate the needs of the local immigrant communities and collect information on the level of support needed.
Stretch said Capilano is involved because of the emphasis on community development that is involved with the process, something it has already been working on locally.
“This allows us to build on those bases we have managed to put in place,” she said.