B.C. immigrants wait months for English classes

Dec 4, 2016 by

Tara Carman –

Thousands of Syrian refugees in Metro Vancouver have not had any English classes, making it nearly impossible for them to find jobs as their year of federal support comes to an end in early 2017.

There are about 5,000 people on the waiting list for federally funded classes in B.C. While this is down from a high of 9,000 earlier this year, it is still the most of any province in Canada, said Chris Friesen, settlement services director with the Immigrant Services Society of B.C.

“The majority of the wait list is located in Surrey, which happens to be where 52 per cent of Syrian (government-assisted refugees) reside,” Friesen said in an email. This is up from 44 per cent in June.

Those waiting for government-funded English classes are not only refugees. They are also skilled workers and family members sponsored by Canadian relatives or spouses. But the close to 2,000 government-assisted Syrian refugees who arrived in B.C. mostly in January and February will stop receiving their monthly stipend from Ottawa one year after their arrival. If by that time they have not found work, they will go on B.C. social assistance. Most government-assisted refugees spoke little to no English or French upon arrival, according to a federal report.

The immigrant services group SUCCESS has 1,169 people on its waiting list for English classes in Surrey, said CEO Queenie Choo. This is basically unchanged from the spring. DIVERSEcity, another immigrant outreach agency in Surrey, has 262 people on its waiting list, of which 11 per cent are Syrian, said chief operating officer Tahzeem Kassam, though that percentage rises to 31 per cent for the two most basic levels of English.

Source: B.C. immigrants wait months for English classes | Vancouver Sun

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