Toronto Star
November 10, 2008

Nicholas Keung
Immigration/Diversity Reporter

Large suburban homes.Monster outlet malls. Sprawling new subdivisions.

All the signs of prosperity can be deceiving in Peel, home to the 1.2 million people of Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon.

A snapshot of the recent immigrants arriving in the region, released yesterday, paints a gloomy picture of the municipality’s 118,220 new arrivals between 2001 and 2006 – a demographic that represented 70 per cent of Peel’s net population growth. It followed an earlier report in York Region which found similar, worrisome trends.

According to the Peel Newcomer Strategy Group – a consortium of government officials, and representatives from the business, non-profit and education sectors aiming to help immigrants integrate – 33 per cent of the region’s recent arrivals lived in poverty. This is almost 2.5 times higher than that of the general population.

On the positive side, 39 per cent of new immigrants between 24 and 65 have a post-secondary education, compared to 23 per cent of Canadian-born Peel residents, yet they still face a 10 per cent unemployment rate, much higher than the total population. Newcomers’ median income is $15,000, compared to $28,000 for the total population.

“I’ve been in settlement services in Peel for 22 years. Things are getting worse,” said Effat Ghassemi, settlement program director of Peel Adult Learning Centre. “These numbers are good information to have, but we … need everyone to work together to address them.”

That’s why Peel regional government and the United Way of Peel Region spearheaded the two-year project in January to identify the problems and solutions. The group plans to have community consultations in the next three months.

Shelley White, of Peel’s United Way, said issues of employment, language training, housing, child care and poverty are intertwined, and can greatly affect the well-being of newcomers and that of the broader community.

The report rated each neighbourhood with a social risk index, identifying six out of 26 Peel wards as high-need areas.

Mississauga’s Ward 7, which covers the Hurontario and Dundas St. corridors, topped the list by having the highest number of total recent immigrants (11,535) and a newcomer poverty rate of 23 per cent.

Filipino immigrant Marjorie Dairo understands those barriers. Despite having an accounting degree, it took her more than 14 months to find a job as an administrative assistant in Mississauga.

“I faxed. I emailed. I called. I posted my resume on websites but didn’t get one single response (from employers),” said Dairo, 41, who came here with her husband and two kids in 2006.

“Employment is the key for all newcomers in their settlement.”

Reference: Toronto Star