Abbotsford Community Services (ACS) is opening a new office in Chandigarh, India, with the aim of assisting people immigrating to Canada before they make the big move.
So when money from Citizenship and Immigration Canada became available to operate a welcome centre abroad, ACS staff formed a plan to help people coming to Canada.
“It’s a very exciting adventure for us. We’re going global,” said Manpreet Grewal, ACS’ director of multi-cultural and immigrant services.
The Take-Off India 2 Canada Pre-Arrival Services centre, in Chandigarh, the capital of the state of Punjab, will be an office in a popular mall and will have three full-time staff members. They hope to open by the second week of November. From now until March of 2017, the budget for the project is about $800,000.
“It’ll give them a head start on all the information that they need,” said Grewal. Clients will need to have already started the visa process. Centre staff will give them information about Canada and help them craft a settlement plan.
The community centre chose to base the operation in Punjab because Abbotsford’s growing Punjabi community makes this city a popular destination for Canada-bound residents of the northern Indian state. Plus, most Canadian welcome centres in India are in more populous cities like Delhi – Grewal says their centre will be the first in Chandigarh.
Many newcomers find international academic qualifications or professional credentials aren’t recognized in Canada, said Grewal, and converting or upgrading them can be a long and frustrating process.
“Sometimes there’s a huge loss of status once they arrive. Sometimes it results in depression,” she said. “[If we] equip them with more information and more connections, they can actually hit the ground running.”
The centre will be run by Nimrita Bains, who worked for Abbotsford Community Services in 2009 and has been based in Chandigarh since 2011.
“I’ve worked with new immigrants and helped them here in Canada,” Bains said. “I understand what their apprehensions and insecurities are when they arrive here.”
She won’t just run the office as an introduction to Abbotsford — they’ll provide help to anyone who’s Canada-bound.
“In the long run, we are hoping to establish connections with other community centers across Canada,” said Bains. “We’re hoping to be able to help them as much anywhere else as we can here.”