A Warm Welcome: New ideas to welcome newcomers
By Peter Kelly,
Mayor, Halifax Regional Municipality
Hello again. I hope everything is going well for you.
In previous columns, I’ve mentioned ongoing efforts by the Halifax Regional Municipality to help newcomers feel at home in our community – for example, we are translating our existing Newcomers Guide to HRM into French and Arabic.
Today, I’m going to share with you some new ideas and directions which our research indicates would be welcomed by newcomers. After you’ve read them, I would be most interested in your comments.
Here are some of the new ideas which we are investigating:
Distribute mini-versions of the Newcomers Guide at the airport, which is where most newcomers enter Nova Scotia from, and also make the Guide available in places of worship (with permission, of course).
Create a special section of the Newcomers Guide, just for senior citizens. (At the moment, the Guide doesn’t have one.) Encourage the creation of informal gathering places around the municipality where newcomers could come together for mutual support .
Find ways to involve long-time local residents in the welcoming process for newcomers. One way would be to invite them to attend the gathering places I just mentioned, to interact with newcomers on a regular basis. This could lay the groundwork for a strong support base, one which could foster a mentoring process by locals with skills and contacts to share.
Invite the federal government to reinvest some or all of the funds it receives from immigrant application fees in the form of a job-creation program for newcomers. Come up with better ways to help the older children of immigrants to find jobs.
Launch a public education campaign to explain the benefits of attracting, and keeping, immigrants to our community. This campaign could also help overcome biases, misconceptions and stereotypes.
Work with the media, especially radio and TV, to create dedicated programs just for immigrants as a way to help them communicate with the community at large.
Use more HRM facilities to promote newcomers and the important role they play in our community. For example, on the side of Metro Transit buses.
Ensure that our library system is doing all it can to be a source of information for immigrants, especially in practical terms of settling and adjusting to a new culture in areas such as finding accommodation, health care, schools and even what to expect from our winters!
As I mentioned earlier, these are just ideas at the moment. However, I think they illustrate just how committed we are to reaching out to newcomers. As a community, we want to make you more than welcome – we want you to feel like you’ve come home!
You can reach me on any topic that interests or concerns you at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phoning 490-4010. I also invite you to join me on my Facebook or Twitter pages, or on my blog at mayorpeterkelly.wordpress.com