The Immigrant Welcome Centre (IWC) is celebrating its 25th year serving Campbell River, and executive director Jim Brennan says they look forward to continuing to be an important partner within the community for another 25 years and beyond.
Brennan presented the IWC’s annual report to council last week, thanking them for their support over the years and outlining the organization’s goals going forward.
“You guys do a fantastic job,” Brennan said. “The City of Campbell River has been absolutely amazing at welcoming people as has its community members, and we’re really proud of that. But there are some more things that we can do together.”
Brennan told council every year when the final numbers come in, he’s a bit caught off guard.
“I’m always surprised by the number of people we see here,” Brennan says. “This is a real place of destination. We saw 987 people last year. That might be news for a lot of you. You’re probably wondering ‘where are they all at?’ Well, they’re out there, working and busy being a part of our communities.”
Those 987 people came from 96 different countries around the world, Brennan said.
“A lot of people think we’re in the business of serving newcomers, but we’re actually in the business of serving community,” Brennan said. “That’s important for people to remember.”
Some of the services they offer for the community, Brennan told council, is distribute and help with forms and documentation, interpretation and translation services, housing information, help with healthcare and educational needs, counselling services and, possibly most importantly, language instruction services.
The IWC took over the Language Instruction for Newcomer Canadians (LINC) program from North Island College last April, Brennan said, and it’s been going very well.
“North Island College were nice enough to transition that over to us and it’s been a wonderful addition to what we do,” Brennan said. “It’s very important for newcomers to learn the language in order to be successful.”
They also – together with the North Island Employment Foundations Society (NIEFS) – offer employment services and support newcomers in their employment goals.
“We also had the Walk Away From Racism for 20 years,” Brennan said, “but we’re looking at moving on from that and celebrating what is wonderful about our community and the people within this community.”
During question period after Brennan’s presentation, Coun. Charlie Cornfield expressed his disappointment that the IWC wasn’t be putting on that particular annual event going forward, because it’s one of his favourites every year.
“I think I’ve only missed one in the last 20 years. Are you suggesting you’re not going to do it anymore?” Cornfield asked.
“Our feedback from all our surveys was that we needed to move on from that,” Brennan said. “One of the things you need to do is measure additudinal change. The next thing is behavioural change. And the people who responded to our surveys felt it was time to move on and start celebrating rather than looking at how we improve our work around racism, so we listened to the community.”
Mayor Andy Adams told Brennan that he is seeing and interacting with the increased diversity in town on a regular basis, and couldn’t be happier about it. He’s also eager to see what the city – along with the various organizations within it – can do in terms of coming up with a new celebration of that diversity.
“Just in the last 10 days I have been at events with the Campbell River Twinning Society with our sister city of Ishikari but also was at the Chinese New Year for all the new residents who have come here and are now investing in our community and businesses from mainland China,” Adams said, adding that both those groups “are enthusiastic to get on board with something more celebratory community wide, so we will definitely continue those conversations.”