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Campbell River's Immigrant Welcome Centre may have to abandon former clients

The Immigrant Welcome Centre is concerned about the number of new Canadians and immigrants it will no longer be able to help due to impending funding changes.

Rachel Blaney, executive director of the Immigrant Welcome Centre, said, because the centre’s funding will no longer be coming from the province, but from the federal government instead, the rules are changing as of April 1.

“We won’t be able to serve naturalized citizens any longer,” Blaney told the regional district board at its Wednesday meeting.

That means those who were born outside of Canada but who are living in Campbell River and are now Canadian citizens will not be eligible to receive services from the Immigrant Welcome Centre.

“It’s too bad because I see people in our community who have done well, worked hard, have families and we can’t assist them anymore,” Blaney said.

Blaney said that’s unfortunate because while they are past the obstacles of obtaining their Canadian citizenship many may still have trouble with the language barrier or even adjusting to Canadian culture.

Blaney said as an example, a man from England recently visited the centre asking for help in finding a baby-sitter.

In England, people simply posted ads in the local bars.

She said often new citizens also need help with paperwork, health care forms, and retirement papers.

But under the new regulations, that help may be harder to find.

And it’s not just naturalized citizens who are no longer eligible for assistance from the Immigrant Welcome Centre.

Refugee claimants and provincial nominees – those whom the province has nominated for citizenship but Citizenship and Immigration Canada has not confirmed – will also be affected.

To put the impact of the changes into perspective, Blaney said in the six months between April and September of last year, the Immigrant Welcome Centre served 149 clients who will no longer be eligible for services.

Blaney said a group of naturalized citizens has come together to support one another through the transition.

“This includes fundraising, talking to local government (and) finding alternate supports for services,” Blaney said.

“I am amazed by the work.”

Blaney also encouraged the regional district to help immigrants where it can when it comes to language and cultural barriers.

The Immigrant Welcome Centre last year served close to 1,000 people living on the North Island, from 60 different countries.

The organization was founded in 1992 to help immigrants integrate and settle into Canada.

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