The first Annual National Conference for Newcomers in Canada (NCNC) will be being held July 23 at Toronto's 519 Community Center, Church Street.
The conference theme is "harnessing Canadian immigration opportunities for social economic integration of immigrants in the COVID-19 Pandemic era"
Organized by The African Centre for Refugees in Ontario-Canada, the conference aims at bringing together new immigrants in Canada from various backgrounds to share their experiences and challenges in order to address pressing policy gaps affecting them.
"The conference is the first of its kind in Canada," says organizer Christopher Nkambwe.
The conference is expected to mobilize, engage, and empower new Canadians with information to facilitate a smooth integration in Canadian communities.
The conference will welcome newcomers, including refugees, international student representatives, skilled immigrant workers, immigration professionals, members of the academia, researchers, policymakers, representatives from government agencies, provincial ministries, and representatives from the federal government working in the field of immigration.
It will feature several activities including panel discussions, exhibition sessions, and other networking events.
Canada is one of the world's most sought after immigration destinations. In 2021, Canada welcomed more than 400,000 new permanent residents. Before the pandemic, Canada set a goal of welcoming 341,000 new immigrants in 2020.
Despite the Canadian government's efforts to surpass its targets on immigration, newcomers continue to face challenges when trying to settle in Canada. "Some feel isolated and lonely," Nkambwe said.
For many new Canadians, the immigration system is complex and difficult to understand without support. The COVID-19 pandemic and its related consequence — such as lockdowns, travel restrictions, racism and discrimination, job loss, and mental health issues — has made it even more challenging for newcomers to meet members of their community and feel at home.
New Canadians were at increased risk of infection and mortality due to a decreased official language proficiency and health literacy, making it more difficult for some newcomers to understand and follow public health guidelines and directives that are important in reducing the risk of COVID-19 infection.