The building blocks of a good life

As a B.C. and Lower Mainland-based organization that has been providing Canadian newcomer-immigrants with settlement services for 45+ years, MOSAIC has had a long and storied history. Yet, the organization is still venturing to shuffle government priorities for improved support regarding immigrant welfare.

On Nov. 17 2023, MOSAIC CEO Olga Stachova spoke to the House of Commons Finance Committee in Vancouver, giving three key recommendations on ways to enhance immigrant well-being. These recommendations pave the way for the organization’s future, including suggestions to invest in affordable housing for newcomers, Canadian work experience training programs and longer-term core funding for nonprofits.

Stachova says prioritizing immigrant well-being is important because newcomers who face culture shock and lack a strong support system in Canada will eventually leave, posing labor issues for the economy and stemming population growth.

“We are a country that is dependent on immigration, our population growth almost entirely depends on immigration. If we want immigrants to come, they should feel welcome and should feel that they can find meaningful employment and build good lives in Canada,” Stachova says.

Housing, employer partnerships and non-profit funding

2022 saw a surge of immigrants arriving in Canada, with over approximately 430,000 permanent residents landing on its shores along with a 20% increase in foreign workers. In response, MOSAIC’s first recommendation was for the federal government to provide affordable Rent-Geared-to-Income housing units for newcomers.

MOSAIC CEO Olga Stachova. | Photo Courtesy of MOSAIC

“The federal government is working with municipalities to create incentives to build faster but we see a lot of developments going up that are just market housing. That’s not affordable,” says Stachova. “It is not affordable for newcomers when they arrive but for many Canadians too.”

MOSAIC’s second proposal is for long-term funding for programs that provide Canadian work experience. At present, MOSAIC is nearing the tail-end of their three-year pilot program in April 2024 that pairs immigrants with companies to pursue on-the-job training, but this also belies a need to carry on these partnerships beyond the program’s duration.

Stachova, who herself worked at the bookstore chain Chapters when she first arrived in Canada 25 years ago, is aware of how much more they have to do to see results.

“You finally get traction, you have momentum, you’ve built those relationships with employers, they start talking to each other, [but now] we’re done. We are just getting to the partnership we built. You don’t accomplish change in a year or two,” she explains.

Lastly, this propels MOSAIC to call for a permanent long-term funding envelope for further work placement programs, building on ongoing accomplishments in a sustainable manner. This is in addition to other forms of funding for core costs that nonprofit organizations like MOSAIC require.

“We have the same expenses as any corporation, there are many obligations [such as] data security, infrastructure and risk management. Let’s give longer-term funding so that we don’t have to chase every year and write grants. Let’s allocate a standard core cost [for] stability to build infrastructure,” Stachova says.

MOSAIC’s future plans

In regards to why immigrant wellbeing is an important priority for Canada at large, the answers range from boosting the economy to good old-fashioned human decency. Thousands of highly-skilled professionals arrive in Canada yearly but are unable to find jobs that match their skill level, leaving them bereft of a solid income and good career prospects.

“We shouldn’t think that we don’t have to invest a lot into immigrant wellbeing and it’s okay that they struggle and are hardly able to make ends meet because they will go elsewhere. It’s not okay, especially if we’re attracting highly skilled talent. Even in a personal way, it’s not the right way to treat people,” Stachova says.

Recent Parliamentary announcements have impacted MOSAIC greatly as well, with Immigration Minister Mark Miller announcing a 35% decrease of Ontario’s student visas for the year 2024 to focus on strengthening existing services for current students. As it is, international students approach MOSAIC often for aid pertaining to issues such as job hunting after graduation and mental health support.

Stachova is hopeful that this move will result in less strain on MOSAIC’s services.

“We are hoping that with fewer international students and more encouragement for the post-secondary institutions to build housing and services for students, there will be less needs that students come to us with,” she says.

For more information on MOSAIC and their resources for newcomers, visit https://mosaicbc.org/.

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