Many older Canadian immigrants live on less than $11,000 per year

posted on March 2, 2015

By Tara Carman, Vancouver Sun | Link to Article

Newcomers face significant financial and communication challenges

By Tara Carman, Vancouver Sun | Link to Article

Newcomers face significant financial and communication challenges

METRO VANCOUVER — Zahra Khaleghi was 52 years old when she came to Canada as a refugee just over a decade ago. She had no ability to communicate in English and five children to look after.

The family squeezed into an apartment in Coquitlam, where Khaleghi deteriorated in a spiral of isolation and depression. She tried to take some English classes, but was unable to retain anything due to stress and anxiety. Her condition was so severe that she was unable to work, hospitalized several times and ultimately medicated.

Not long before coming to Canada, the war in her native Afghanistan claimed her three brothers. Three of the children now in her care are nieces and nephews. The deaths came while she was still mourning her husband, also killed in the Afghan war, when she was two months pregnant.

Immigrants and refugees who come to Canada later in life face unique challenges in terms of income, livelihood and social integration, said Chris Friesen, director of settlement services for the Immigrant Services Society of B.C. The problems are especially acute for seniors who are not from one of the region’s larger ethnocultural communities, such as Chinese, Indian or Filipino, where larger social networks are in place. They represent a small but growing share of immigrants to B.C. and Canada, Friesen said.

“The new and few, we call them.”

On Tuesday, Khaleghi and other immigrant seniors will have the chance to share their stories with key decision-makers and recommend changes to help others like them. The forum, called Moving Forward: Unheard Voices, will include representatives of city governments, health authorities, Citizenship and Immigration Canada and the B.C. Seniors Advocate, among others.

Recent policy changes have made things more difficult for immigrant seniors, who typically come to Canada either as sponsored family members or refugees, Friesen said. Citizenship and Immigration Canada recently increased the amount of time families must commit to financially supporting relatives to 20 years from 10 years, which means that only the wealthiest families are able to be reunited on a permanent basis. On the refugee side, Canada now selects people based on need of protection versus ability to settle.

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