People thinking of immigrating to Canada should think about coming to Prince George, the federal multiculturalism minister said Tuesday.
"This is a welcoming country, a country that's always been built on the energy and talents of newcomers who have been willing to leave behind what's familiar in order to take a big risk on something completely new, on this big, often cold and sometimes inhospitable climate," said Jason Kenney, who also holds the portfolio for employment and social development.
Kenney, the government's longest-serving immigration minister from 2008 to 2013, was speaking in Prince George Tuesday afternoon at the Immigrant and Multicultural Services Society. "And I want to give a special acknowledgment to those newcomers that established their Canadian homes here in Prince George, here in northern British Columbia."
The Prince George visit was part of what Kenney called a "fact-finding mission" of northern B.C. and northern Canada, mainly focused on skills development and job training for Aboriginal communities.
"I'm responsible for multiculturalism, so I always try to visit with our cultural communities when I'm in town going around the country," Kenney said, calling IMSS executive director Baljit Sethi a "superstar in the world of integration and multiculturalism."
In 2011, Kenney presented Sethi with a lifetime achievement Paul Yuzyk Award for Multiculturalism.
While at the IMSS office, Kenney met with locals preparing for their citizenship tests as well as heard about immigrant community needs and program shortfalls.
Many highly skilled immigrants coming to town with foreign degrees and training don't have the money to pay for the evaluation of their credentials, said Sethi, and the resources IMSS used to have to help these people find the path to employment in their field in Canada no longer exist.
"We need to have at least some support from the fed government to give us some funding that we could help those immigrants who are newcomers to our country, so that we could give them support to assess their degrees and guide them properly," Sethi said.
There's also a need for mentorship programs, she said.
Kenney said he took Sethi's points to heart and pointed the organization in the direction of tax deductions available for the cost of certification exams as well as a program where an someone can apply for a micro loan of up to $10,000 to cover expenses while they complete their studies.
"There are a lot of things we're doing complementary to your vision," Kenney said.
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