Immigrant Strong

The long journey home and transitioning to a whole new way of life.
Story Bryan Arseneau

For some people, moving to Canada is viewed as an opportunity to improve their way of life. Unfortunately, the transition to a new country is not always a smooth one, as there are barriers that can stand in the way of realizing this dream.

Immigrants were largely ignored in Canada during the first half of the twentieth century until 1976 when the Immigration Act began to focus on providing settlement services. Since then, improvements have been made in providing classes teaching English as a second language, and in finding jobs for recent immigrants. However, many immigrants still face the same problems Danilo Salas did 14 years ago when he moved to Canada.

Language Barriers

Originally from the Philippines, Danny, as he prefers to be called, was lucky enough to start learning English in elementary school during the 1960s. Before moving to Canada, Danny lived in Libya with his family for 15 years, working as a medical equipment installer.

During this period, the English that Danny had learned in the Philippines suffered, as he also had to learn Arabic and Italian. Danny found it difficult to keep up on all three languages, plus the various Filipino dialects he knew. “If you don’t use a language and you’re using another language more, you lose what you knew before. Now that I’m living in Vancouver I can hardly remember how to speak Arabic or Italian, but my English has improved.”

When Danny and his family decided to move to Canada, he faced several problems. The first problem was that Danny had to relearn English, and the English he was learning differed from what he had been previously taught. “The English we learned in the Philippines, we weren’t taught slang so much, just conventional English. The slang in Canada is different.”

Landing A Job

The second problem Danny had to overcome was finding a new job. Since Canadian specifications are different from those in Africa, Danny’s previous training in installing medical equipment was not recognized. Fortunately, Danny was able to find support groups composed of people in similar situations.

Danny made important connections at the Job Finding Club when he first came to Vancouver. “That’s actually how I found my current job, at one of these groups. They’d tell us the best way to find a job was through friends and connections. We all got together at these meetings to talk, and one night someone told me about a job opportunity installing and repairing elevators and I’ve been there ever since.”

Not having their previous credentials recognized is a common problem for many immigrants. Even a decade ago there weren’t a lot of groups like the Job Finding Club, and no real programs available for people that had just moved to Canada who were not comfortable speaking English.

These days there are more resources available for people like Danny, but there is still a long way to go until these programs are completely effective. Small but important steps are being taken in the right direction, and hopefully one day all immigrants will be as lucky as Danny Salas was.