As Syrian refugees start to arrive in Canada, joyous images of family reunions and relieved parents at our country’s largest airports greet us each morning in our media of choice. Seeing the warm welcome they are receiving from ordinary across the country is adding real depth to those warm feelings that the holiday season is known for.
And my New Year’s hope is that those warm feelings are not temporary: that the harsh realities of January will not wash them away. Because, while providing safety and refuge is of primary importance, our ultimate desire is for these refugees to truly settle well and succeed in their new home.
What does that mean? That means that Syrian refugees, like all other immigrants, need to find employment that is commensurate with their skills and experience. This is important for their well-being, for their families’ well-being, and also the well-being of our region and our country.
At a presentation I attended by Dr. Kwame McKenzie, Medical Director of CAMH and a leading expert on the mental health of immigrants, he declared meaningful employment as the number one determinant of an immigrant’s mental health. When an immigrant is not able to use their talents, is chronically un- or under-employed, it has a severe negative impact on their mental as well as physical health. This in turn can have major consequences for their families. Ensuring that Syrian refugees currently entering Canada are supported along the path to meaningful employment is thereby core to ensuring that the settle well into their new homes.
And the benefits of refugees finding meaningful employment extends far beyond the individuals and their families. TRIEC is founded on the belief that when immigrants prosper, we all do; and that premise remains valid when applied to refugees as to any other group of immigrants. Wasted talent hurts our economy. Whether looking at added tax dollars or the increase in innovation, when immigrants are able to contribute meaningfully through their work, we all stand to benefit.
It is early days yet – we do not know what skills and experience the refugees disembarking at Pearson Airport bring with them, nor how long it will take for them to be ‘job-ready’. But we do know that for them to be successful, they will need to be meaningfully employed. It is my, and TRIEC’s, resolution for 2016 that we will be there to help that happen.
Looking to get involved?
At TRIEC, we are working with the Global Diversity Exchange to create a jobs plan for Syrian refugees. We’ll have more information and ways for you to participate in 2016 and if you’d like to be kept informed, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the meantime, if you are sponsoring a refugee family or supporting a refugee in their employment search, I encourage you to connect them with an employment service provider such as those you will find here (www.casip.ca). You may also find the resources here useful.
This article was originally posted as a blog by TRIEC Executive Director Margaret Eaton on LinkedIN.