The Livelihood Project
NOIVMWC Mission Welcome
Are immigrant women poorer than other
National Organization of Canadians? Why do so many immigrant women
Immigrant and Visible Minority have trouble getting work when we come to
Women of Canada Canada? Are we better off when we come to
(NOIVMWC) is a non-profit, Canada? These are some of the questions that
non-partisan and non- NOIVMWC has been asking immigrant and
sectarian organization The visible minority women over the last six months.
mission of NOIVMWC is to This newsletter is a summary of some of the
ensure equality for immigrant answers NOIVMWC has received.
and visible minority women,
within a bilingual Canada.
The Livelihood Project
When we started to examine immigrant women
Phone and poverty, we started with looking at income
levels. How much did women make? How did
Business Line that amount relate to Canadian born women?
1-613-232-0689 Where was the money coming from (e.g. work,
social security, business)?
1-613-232-0988 We quickly moved beyond income to looking at
a combination of issues that impacted on what
Toll-free line income immigrant women had. We asked other
1-866-296-8366 questions including, were women able to use
their skills, knowledge and experience in
We then expanded our thinking and created a
model to reflect the experience of immigrant and
visible minority women. The term “livelihood
model” was developed to reflect the interplay
between four essential and interconnected states
or conditions that are necessary to live
Web Site/Email reasonably well. It goes beyond how much
money a particular woman has and instead looks
Official website: at four distinct areas of a woman’s life.
Income Dignity Services
National Organization of
Immigrant and Visible Minority Income means all sources of money a woman
Women of Canada might have. First is employment, which
219 Argyle St. suite 225 remains the most important source of
Ottawa Ont. income for the majority of working age
K2P 2H4 Canadians. Other sources of income
include: social assistance, Employment
Insurance, Old Age Security, investment
income, pensions, and savings either
made from incomes here or brought over
from the country of origin.
Opportunity means the avenues open to each
woman to advance in her life, and to
contribute fully to the community.
Opportunity means access to full
citizenship, with all the rights and the
responsibilities that implies. Exercising
one’s full citizenship includes participation
in the community, in government, in
business and in the institutions of society
(like the media, or the education system).
National Organization of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women of Canada 2
Services mean full, fair and equal access to
supports and services that enable a
person to function fully. It includes
services such as public transit, education,
What you can find on health care, recreation, libraries, childcare,
affordable housing, police and victim
the website support services, and many others.
Community is the people around you who help
reinforce your strengths and resilience,
and your sense of identity. Community is
a person’s sense of belonging – that
there is a place for you in society, that
there is support for you and that you offer
support to others.
Research Report “Releasing
the wellspring: Addressing
the economic reality of
immigrant women” What have we been doing?
What the research said
In the Summer of 2004, NOIVMWC did a
research report on immigrant women and
poverty showed that:
Immigrant women are more likely to be poor
than Canadian-born, although they are more
Most immigrants are not working in the field
for which they have education, training or
Discussion Guide credentials.
“Releasing the wellspring: The situation is getting worse. Poverty rates
Livelihoods of immigrant have been rising among immigrants over the
and visible minority last 20 years, while they have been falling for
women” October 2004 most Canadians.
The historical trend was that immigrants
gradually increased their income over time
until they passed the average Canadian
income. This is no longer happening,
For immigrant women of colour, they face
triple discrimination on the basis of gender,
immigrant status, and race.
Refugees face some of the worst levels of
National Organization of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women of Canada 3
What model can explain poverty in the
context of immigrant women’s lives?
NOIVMWC developed the Livelihood Model
that connects income, opportunity, services and
community as the key factors that determine
whether immigrant women live in poverty.
“Livelihoods of immigrant
and visible minority
women” April 2005 What do immigrant women in the community
say about these issues?
In January and February, 2005 NOIVMWC
held 12 community consultations across
Canada to hear directly from immigrant women
their experiences and ideas about these issues.
Over 180 women participated and their
comments ranged over a number of issues,
covering income, services, opportunity and
community. About 12-15 issues kept arising in
different consultations. These included lack of
recognition of foreign credentials, discrimination
and racism in employment and services, the
need for more immigrant women in leadership
roles in Canadian society, the role of settlement
services, changes in health care services, and
the need for more language training, including
terminology specific to one’s profession or field.
Overall, immigrant women want the opportunity
to help create better communities for everyone.
From these consultations, NOIVMWC identified
13 key issues that were taken to the national
Conference Report “Report conference where strategies were discussed.
of the Livelihood
Conference” June 2005 What strategies do we need to pursue?
At the national conference in Calgary in April,
2005, the delegates created strategies for
action. They developed approaches in three
a) over-arching strategies that NOIVMWC could
draw on, regardless of the specific issue
(strategies like advocacy, leadership
National Organization of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women of Canada 4
development, education, collaboration with
b) specific actions and strategies in each of the
Board Members of 13 key issues identified out of the community
c) NOIVMWC’s role: providing leadership, acting
as a communication centre, engaging women to
Monica Buchanan, President be leaders in their communities, etc.
Sonia Bitar, Vice-President
Lan Tran Gien, Past
What were the Findings?
Nezha Zizi, Treasurer
Jennifer Paiva, Newfoundland
Foreign education and experience not
Language barriers, cultural barriers and
Madhu Verma, New
outright discrimination and racism.
Immigrant and Visible minority women are
trapped in low-paying jobs.
Mirsada Stasevic, Nova
Social assistance is insufficient
Tania Best, Québec
Sophie- Anne Kretz, Québec The lack of information is a significant
Eva Pakyam, Ontario More immigrant women are needed in
leadership positions in order to be role
Velinka Nevrencan, Ontario models.
The family is important and they need to be
Kim Truong, Manitoba factored into a woman’s work life.
Fleurette Osbourne, The lack of information about services is a
Congress of Black Women of barrier.
Canada There are specific challenges with settlement
services including their funding being eroded.
Employment services are not always useful.
Language training needs to be improved.
Need to improve other community services
so they are responsive to immigrant women.
National Organization of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women of Canada 5
Immigrant and visible minority women need
to feel welcome in their new communities.
The children of new families need to be
supported to find their way into the new
We need to recognize that we are creating
new communities as we contribute to the
shaping of society.
What were the Issues?
Throughout the consultations and at the
conference, some recurring issues have arisen.
At the conference, women offered specific ways
to address these issues. Below are the issues
and some of the strategies that NOIVMWC will
be looking at it to address these issues:
Accreditation: NOIVMWC launchs a
national campaign to get specific
improvements. These could include: self-
assessments available online for all
professionals, language training tailored to
the specific technical language need in
various professions, and regular and
thorough briefing of all immigration officers
so they are up-to-date on the current
situation. Action is also needed with
accreditation and professional regulating
bodies, to raise their awareness of the issues
and find viable solutions.
Canadian Networking and Experience
Meet with corporate sector and stakeholders
in the community to explain the problem (lack
of recognition of foreign experience and
education), use success stories to make our
point, and provide examples of what is
National Organization of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women of Canada 6
needed. (e.g. mentorship programs in the
corporate world, volunteer programs to
develop transferable skills)
How can you be Income Security: We need to pressure the
involved? government to change programs such as EI
(extend it beyond 10 months) and stop the
Check the NOIVMWC clawback of the Child Tax Benefit from social
website and keep yourself assistance. Community organizations also
posted on the livelihood need to become more culturally sensitive
project. (e.g. Food Banks). NOIVMWC can
encourage anti-poverty organizations and
In the Fall: groups working on non-standard work and
Participate in the problems with EI, to include immigrant
campaign for positive women’s poverty issues on their agendas.
change for immigrant and
visible minority women. Social Enterprise and Micro Enterprises:
Attend a meeting in your Immigrant agencies could provide workshops
community. on how to start your own business (tailored
Write a letter of support. to the questions and issues of immigrant
Become a member of women), get volunteer mentors from the
NOIVMWC. business community to assist with business
plans, and provide ongoing support as
women go through the difficult process of
starting up and running a business.
Immigrant agencies can also act as a
clearinghouse or reference point for
accessing resources, services and funding
available. There are resources available, but
they are unfamiliar to immigrant women
Discrimination and Racism: Public
education at all levels is key, from schools to
community agencies, to self-education, to
media campaigns. We can utilize existing
events such as “International Week”, and
WHORM (World History of Racism in
Minutes). An important part of public
education is to publish success stories – the
contributions of immigrants to Canada.
Advocacy is needed for government action to
acknowledge Canada’s historical racist
actions, and to change the framing of
government policies and programs.
Government also needs to expand the Stop
National Organization of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women of Canada 7
Racism Campaign, to address systemic
racism and acknowledge the connection
between racism and power.
Coming into Leadership Roles: Leaders
are not simply those who have power and
money, but are those who have the vision
and the skills to successfully create positive
change in Canadian society. Grassroots
leaders are usually outside of the formal
system of power and funding for groups is a
challenge. Government and community
agencies need to be encouraged to promote
immigrant women to boards and leadership
roles. We need to develop a database of
qualified immigrant women to provide them
with support, training and coaching.. We
need champions in all sectors, including
corporate allies and immigrant and visible
minority women who are already engaged in
politics and community leadership.
Being involved in the community:
Strategies are needed to encourage the
inclusion of immigrant and visible minority
women. Public education and awareness
among the larger community about
immigrants will help create positive
education. Women’s training programs are
an important transition into the community for
immigrant women. NOIVMWC could develop
and share a list of good model programs that
agencies can learn from (i.e. that are
effective ways of involving immigrant women
in the community).
Settlement Services: Advocacy with
government is needed to secure funding that
is adequate, consistent, stable (long term)
and designed to fit the needs of all
newcomers regardless of status, including
implementation of more women’s programs.
We will need a long term strategy, with clear
goals and objectives, in the form of a national
platform (e.g. national standards).
NOIVMWC could also connect various
National Organization of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women of Canada 8
organizations and share best practices,
creating a catalogue for all settlement
agencies. To build organizing skills among
agencies across the country, the larger
established agencies could share their skills
and successes with smaller, newer agencies.
Health Care: The policy framework for
health care at a provincial or regional level
needs to recognize a commitment to equity,
the importance of culturally relevant care, the
need to integrate alternative care/medicine,
and a patient-centred approach. Certain
specific services are needed. For example,
Opportunity an advocate or navigator to assist women as
they move through the system. NOIVMWC
needs to work with the federal Minister of
Health to increase funding for provincial
Income Equality health care to immigrant women. The priority
Dignity areas for action are: immigrant women health
Sustainability care centres, national standards in health
care delivery, and local level alliances and
Services networking to promote change.
Language Training: Access to language
training access needs to be improved,
including: more classes, smaller classes,
Community extended hours, and better day care
provisions. It is also important to address the
benefits issue. Language training could be
linked to life skills and pre-employment
training, and also could be made a
responsibility of employers. NOIVMWC could
prepare a brief or white paper to summarize
the previous suggestions on this issue and
put forward solutions. We also need to
engage provincial and federal governments,
and other partners in this debate.
Shifting the Public Perception of
Immigrants: Immigrants are presented as a
burden to Canadian society, rather than
recognizing our resilience and hard work.
We need to learn to use the media as an ally
to dispel negative myths about immigrants.
We can do this through providing fact sheets,
National Organization of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women of Canada 9
and using hard data to raise awareness. It is
also important to be responsive to issues put
forth by the media and engage in constant
dialogue with them to help them understand
the background behind the issues.
Supporting Immigrant Youth: Youth are
torn between two worlds, caught in
intergenerational conflict related to identity,
culture, religion, sexuality, peer pressure.
Young women need to have opportunities to
network with each other, build skills to
become future leaders within their respective
movements. NOIVMWC can create space to
address youth issues within the organization,
help identify funding resources for youth
activities and organizations, and recruit role
models who will mentor youth.
Creating a new community: We need to
always recognize that we are part of the
community and we need to have
opportunities as immigrant women to
imagine the best so that we are not just
reacting to what is wrong but working
towards creating the kind of community we
want for immigrant and visible minority
women and our families.
What is next?
The Board of NOIVMWC will be deciding on
which of the 13 issues above to focus on over
the next year. In the fall, NOIVMWC will be
training women from across the country to go
back to their communities and mobolize the
community to make a specific policy change that
will improve the lives of immigrant and visible
We hope you will join us in this project!
National Organization of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women of Canada 10