The volunteer boards and committees that help guide the North Shore’s non-profits and local governments have almost tripled the number of immigrants in their ranks.
After a 2016 survey found only seven community groups out of 37 on the North Shore that included at least one immigrant voice, the North Shore Immigrant Inclusion Partnership launched a campaign this summer to recruit, train and match recent immigrants with organizations across a swath of sectors. According to the latest census, 36 per cent of North Shore residents were born outside of Canada.
Today, NSIIP is celebrating the addition of 19 immigrants prepared to volunteer, 15 of whom have been paired with local government, arts and culture, social services and health care boards or committees ready to welcome them on pending their own formal processes. Another four are still in search of a position.
“I’m absolutely delighted with the positive response we’ve had to this project,” says project co-ordinator Angela Sealy. “It’s wonderful to see how many immigrants are keen to support their communities and be involved at the leadership level.”
Those joining boards in the coming months hail from South Africa, the Philippines, the Netherlands, Iran, India, Ireland, South Korea, Australia and China.
“The demographics on the North Shore are changing and it’s important that our community services stay relevant as our communities change. And in order to stay relevant, we need to have the perspectives of everybody in the community,” said Alison Dudley, North Shore Immigrant Inclusion Partnership co-ordinator.
One of those eager now to start serving is C.S. Kim who came to Canada from South Korea two and a half years ago.
“I totally agreed with that idea because I see that Metro Vancouver has more than 50 per cent immigrants and I was wondering if our governance has adapted to those changes so far. Probably not yet,” he said. “It is very important, especially these days living with different people from different countries with different cultures.”
Kim spent much of his career managing the operations of U.S. companies in South Korea. He said he has some skills from the private sector that would lend themselves to governance and so he’s looking to join the District of North Vancouver’s community services advisory committee.
“New immigrants can add great value to the existing committees and communities by delivering fresh ideas and by delivering voices from minority society,” he said.
Beyond their unique view of Canada, many immigrants often bring advanced education and know-how that boards could benefit from, Kim added.
Also new to the board table will be Jatinder Doad, who has been confirmed as a board member with the Silver Harbour Seniors Activity Centre.
Doad moved to Canada when she was 10 but spent the last 20 years teaching adult education. Many of her former students were newcomers.
“I think I still have a lot of background in me of my own and I think I have a lot to give,” she said. “I got to know a lot of things about other people and their cultures and their needs. ... I think it’s great having input from other cultures as well and not just people from here. I think it’s a very good idea to have diversity,” she said.
Language is likely the most common barrier to attracting immigrants to volunteer positions Doad said, but she has some advice:
“Start with things where you can help,” she said.
Dudley said the project can be considered a success so far but her organization is hoping to replicate the project, with a few lessons learned, in future years as there is still a long way to go to make our governance bodies more reflective of our society.
Any groups interested in recruiting newcomers for their boards or committees are asked to contact the North Shore Immigrant Inclusion Partnership.