It’s Citizenship Week in Canada (Oct. 12 – Oct. 18) and we wanted to let you know more about the services Kitchener Public Library and our community partners offer for newcomers to Canada.
Eltag Elkhalifa is one of several settlement workers from the
KW Multicultural Centre who offer services at Kitchener Public Library locations. The settlement workers help clients with immigration processes such as permanent resident applications, permanent resident card renewals, and citizenship applications. They also support clients in finding information on housing, education, and health.
“We don’t exclude anyone,” Eltag says. “Immigrants, refugees, refugee claimants, anyone.”
Eltag knows first-hand the challenges newcomers can face: he came to Canada from Sudan in 1993. “I settled in St. Catharines – that was my ‘birthplace’ in Canada.”
He came through the US and across the border, where he applied for refugee status upon arrival. He initially stayed with a Sudanese family that was already here, and got through the first years with support from friends and the strong social network of Sudanese people in St. Catharines.
For newcomers who don’t speak English, language can be one of the first barriers in their new home. But Sudan was a British colony – in fact, Lord Kitchener was the governor – and so Eltag grew up speaking English.
He came to Canada by himself, and his fiancee joined him three years later. He moved to Kitchener in 1998, originally planning to attend University of Waterloo, but then he ended up working and starting a family. His mother and other family members still live in Sudan. “I wish I could visit her every year,” he says.
For many newcomers, being homesick is difficult.
“Especially in the first days and weeks – all their memories and dreams are back home. They can feel an isolation,” Eltag says. “It is not easy to become part of the Canadian community or the Canadian culture, but Canada, I think, is probably more welcoming now than 20 or 40 years ago.”
Community-based organizations, libraries, schools, social and sports clubs are essential in creating “connecting places” for newcomers.
“It’s about more than bringing refugees and immigrants here – it’s about them having opportunities to fully engage in their community socially and economically,” Eltag says. “Canada can benefit from the human resources and skills of newcomers.”
Currently, settlement workers at the library offer services in Arabic, English, Farsi, Hindi, Kurdish, Punjabi, and Urdu.
Find out more about Library Settlement Partnerships, including how to book an appointment.
Join us on Wednesday, October 21, for an information session on refugee sponsorship.
Learn more about library supports for English as a Second Language.
The library offers books, movies, newspapers, and more in a multitude of languages.
Play kid-friendly games related to citizenship, immigration, and multiculturalism.