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Newcomers to Canada are, by definition, outside “the system”. When we say “system”, we are referring to the socio-cultural structure of the country. The system sets the standards and makes the rules that govern our society. Canadian society was built upon an infrastructure made up of natural resources; largely mining, logging, and  agriculture like many other western countries. But what makes any “system” unique is the next layer of structure,  the domestic and political economy, which includes laws, religion, social organization and division of labor. The values of a culture can be seen and understood by that society’s intellectual and artistic endeavors, so when you are trying to integrate, you can gain great insight by simply consuming and trying to understand the products of that culture.

As a permanent resident, landed refugee, foreign worker or international student, you can’t vote in municipal, provincial or federal elections or run for elected office. Being outside the political system, you may feel that you cannot make your voice or opinions heard. But as a permanent resident, you can still join a political party and volunteer to help in an election campaign. Anyone living in Canada can work for a political cause, circulate and sign petitions, speak and ask questions at public forums, write letters to editors at local newspapers, and write letters to officials expressing your concerns. There are even movements to change municipal laws that would allow non-citizen residents to vote in municipal elections.

If you come to Canada as an Investor Class immigrant you can use the system to your advantage from the moment you arrive. With a minimum net worth of $1,600,000 cdn that was obtained legally, and a willingness to make an $800,000, five year loan to the Canadian Government, you can bypass most immigration barriers. So, here in Canada, as in most of the rest of the world, coming from privilege or money gives you a distinct advantage. No surprise there.

But if you come here as a skilled worker, you must meet stringent standards and fight harder to get ahead. We are all aware of that problem. Canadian governments at all levels have been working hard to make it easier for newcomers to find suitable employment. Regulated industries have been working with governments to get new immigrants to get into bridge programs; to shorten the time it takes to gain Canadian qualifications; and to make the entire process more transparent so it is easier to understand what you must do to find suitable employment.

This issue of Canadian Newcomer shines a light on some of our society’s basic structures – from dealing with culture shock when you first get here, to getting Employment Insurance payments when you lose a job, to the funeral industry and where to turn for help at the saddest, most stressful times in your life. They are all aspects of the “system”. The more quickly you understand the system, the better you know the rules, and the easier it becomes to navigate around the barriers and succeed.

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