Livelihood Project by lonyoo

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									National Organization of Immigrant and Visible
          Minority Women of Canada

            The Livelihood Project

   Report of the Livelihood Conference
              Calgary, April 22-23, 2005


   Income        Dignity
              Sustainability      Services


                                             June 2005

                               Table of Contents

A. Introduction                                                 1

B. Setting the Stage – Keynote Presentations                    3

C. Strategies for Action                                        4

D. Cross-Cutting Strategies                                     6
      Leadership
      Advocacy
      Collaboration and Networking
      Funding
      Education and Training
      Creating

E. NOIVMWC’s Role                                               9

F. Vision – Creating Community                                  9

G. Actions on Specific Issues                                   11
      Accreditation                                            11
      Canadian Networking and Experience                       12
      Income Security                                          13
      Social Enterprise and Micro Enterprises                  14
      Discrimination and Racism                                16
      Coming into Leadership Roles                             17
      Being Involved in our Community                          19
      Settlement Services                                      19
      Health Care                                              21
      Language Training                                        22
      Shifting the Public Perception of Immigrants             22
      Immigrant Youth                                          23

H. Moving Forward                                               23

Appendix A – Timeline of the Livelihood Project                 24

NOIVMWC • Livelihoods of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women        2

                   National Organization of Immigrant and
                     Visible Minority Women of Canada
           Report of the Livelihood Conference
                            Calgary, April 22-23, 2005

A. Introduction
The National Organization of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women of Canada held a
national conference in Calgary, April 22-23, 2005, on the subject of “Livelihoods of
Immigrant and Visible Minority Women”, attended by approximately 100 participants
from across the country.

NOVWMC had been working for some time on the issue of “livelihood” and had
released a background research paper, in the form of a discussion guide. The
organization had also held a series of twelve community consultations in cities across
Canada, to gather the direct personal testimony, insights and suggestions from
immigrant women themselves. The consultations were attended by over 180 women
who had originally come to Canada from over 60 countries around the world.

The purpose of the conference was to build on this prior work (see Appendix A) and to
create a set of strategies by which NOIVMWC, in collaboration with other organizations,
could create concrete and measurable change over the next few years to improve the
lives of immigrant and visible minority women.

National Organization of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women of Canada (NOIVMWC)
a non-profit, non-partisan, non-sectarian national organization We work to ensure
equality for immigrant and visible minority women. Our major roles are research and
advocacy on behalf of the immigrant community Some of the areas we have worked on
include: health; youth; children; employment and labour market; justice issues;
immigration, refugee and domestic workers; and violence against women.

What is the “Livelihood” Issue?

When we started to examine immigrant women and poverty, we started with looking at
income levels. How much did women make? How did that amount relate to Canadian
born women? Where was the money coming from (e.g. work, social security, business)?

We quickly moved beyond income to looking at a combination of issues that impacted
on what income immigrant women had. We asked other questions including, were
women able to use their skills, knowledge and experience in Canada?

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

NOIVMWC • Livelihoods of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women                   1

reflect the interplay between four essential and interconnected states or conditions that
are necessary to live reasonably well. It goes beyond how much money a particular
woman has and instead looks at four distinct areas of a woman’s life.


             Income              Dignity
                              Sustainability           Services


Income means all sources of money a woman might have. First is employment, which
     remains the most important source of income for the majority of working age
     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).

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, health care,
      recreation, libraries, childcare, affordable housing, police and victim 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.

B. Setting the Stage: Keynote Presentations

After a warm and gracious opening by Dr. Lan Tran Gien, president of NOIVMWC, two
speakers started the conference off on a strong note.

NOIVMWC • Livelihoods of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women                       2

Dr. Ajike Olayedin, originally of Nigeria, related the heartening story of her efforts to
obtain her credentials as a physician in Canada. Although she was warned prior to
coming to Canada that there would be some barriers, she was astonished at how many
there were. However, her determination and her positive attitude, which were so clear
in her presentation, enabled her to overcome these obstacles. After some two years of
relentlessly hard work, she has now successfully completed all of her requirements and
is qualified to practice medicine in Canada.

Dr. Peter Li presented an incisive exposé of how language is used to mask racist
concepts, while still perpetuating and promoting them. He gave a number of examples
of excerpts from federal government immigration documents in which terms such as
“immigrants from traditional countries of origin” were used to obscure the fact that the
immigrants being discussed were primarily white, in contrast to “non-traditional”
countries of origin, from which the immigrants were primarily people of colour. Similarly,
he cited various public opinion polls in which Canadians were asked the astonishing
and offensive question of whether the number of immigrants from Southern countries
were too many, too few or about the right number. Of course, the question refers to
immigrants who are primarily people of colour, but never says so explicitly. In this way,
racist attitudes and concepts are promoted, but the language is obscured and indirect.

Livelihoods: Summary of Consultations

Monica Buchanan, vice-president of NOIVMWC and chair of the committee overseeing
the livelihood project, presented a brief overview of the research results, and the
comments and insights gathered from immigrant women during the community
consultations. The full text of the research report and consultations report will be
available on the NOIVMWC website shortly.

Research studies consistently show what we all know from experience – immigrants,
and particularly immigrant women, face tremendous barriers to equality – not just when
they first arrive, but throughout their lives.

In terms of income, women talked about barriers related to lack of recognition of their
education, credentials, skills and experience acquired outside Canada. They mentioned
language and cultural barriers, racism and being trapped in low-wage dead-end jobs.

Women told us that, as newcomers, opportunities were difficult to access because they
were often unaware of information about services and organizations in the community,
and their rights and responsibilities in Canadian society. They emphasized that we
many more immigrant women and women of colour in senior positions in all facets of
Canadian society: government, business, justice system, all professions.
Fundamentally, we need to reach a better understanding of one another’s values within
a multicultural Canadian society.

What did women tell us about services? The services that immigrant women need are
not always there and the ones that are in existence are not always appropriate.

NOIVMWC • Livelihoods of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women                     3

Settlement services have been cut back over recent years, or, at best, grew only a little
while the needs grew rapidly. Many women have difficulty accessing adequate
language training, and most of what is available is very basic. Almost all immigrants
arriving in Canada head to a large city yet cities have had their budgets from federal
and provincial governments cut, so that many essential services in major cities are on
the verge of collapse. In many communities, the faith groups - churches, mosques,
temples - are stepping in to try to help fill the gap.

Community is an essential part of immigrant women’s lives - both the immediate and
familiar community which provides support, and our participation and access to the
wider Canadian community. The women at our consultations emphasized that it is
important for immigrant women to get involved in the community: participate in
community meetings and in debates at City Hall, organize services, create new
organizations, or advocate for change in other ways.

There is a pressing and urgent need for action on the issues of livelihoods for immigrant
and visible minority women. Simultaneously, there are clear opportunities for change.
Our challenge is to mobilize immigrant and visible minority women, and our allies, to
seize these opportunities, and bring about the needed change.

C. Strategies for Action
Strategic Framework

Sonia Bitar, from the NOIVMWC board, presented a framework for NOIVMWC’s
strategies in approaching issues of livelihood.

There are four main types of strategies which have proven successful in achieving
social change. NOIVMWC will draw on each of these approaches as needed, for
different issues or different aspects of the overall national campaign.

1. Expertise-based: The focus is on changes to specific policy or legislation, and the
   technique is to bring highly developed expertise (usually legal expertise) to bear,
   through detailed briefs and discussions with key decision-makers. There is rarely a
   significant public element to this type of advocacy. Example: changes to Immigrant
   and Refugee Protection Act related to gender implications.

2. Public focused: Again, the focus is on changes to policy or legislation, but usually
   in a situation where expertise alone will not have enough impact. This type of
   strategy combines expertise with two other key elements: public support (usually
   demonstrated through letter campaigns, public meetings or polling), and constructive
   relationships with key governmental decision-makers. This combination of
   “inside/outside” strategy is often more effective than simple public pressure, or
   expertise alone. Example: Jubilee 2000.

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3. Change a way of thinking: A few NGOs are starting to develop strategies that are
   aimed at changing the entire environment around a particular policy area and they
   set themselves action plans that can be as long as ten years. Their thinking is that
   individual policies can be reversed with a change in government, but by shifting the
   public’s way of thinking than all future policies will come from a different set of
   assumptions or a different consciousness. Example: Mothers Against Drunk

4. Emergence: This involves individuals and groups deciding to conduct themselves
   in a way that is consistent with the change they are seeking. In a way, they are
   acting as if the change was already happening, as a kind of “not waiting for
   permission” approach. This is a way to start from the community level, and build
   social change from the ground up, without waiting for the policies to change.
   Example: Dene Declaration.

Currently, there are some key opportunities for action.
 The pending federal election will provide a forum for raising immigration issues with
   candidates and with the major parties.
 Recent media attention to immigrant issues has helped raise the profile of the issues
   in the minds of the public and politicians.
 The federal government and some provincial governments are also looking at
   settlement services, and considering ways to enhance them.
 Business leaders are increasingly recognizing the economic benefits being lost
   because skilled immigrants are not properly integrated into the Canadian workforce.
 Business and government analysts are realizing that an aging population and low
   birth rate means that meeting labour force needs in the future is dependent on

All of these factors combine to create an environment which may be open to
NOIVMWC’s messages.

In the development of the national campaign, we will use various strategic approaches.
First, we will position ourselves as Canadians. We contribute enormously to Canadian
society, both economically and socially. We expect reasonable opportunities and
benefits in return, like any other Canadian. However, in our lived experiences, we have
encountered barriers that prevent us from accessing these opportunities and benefits,
and that prevent us from contributing as fully as we might. It is important to describe
these problems clearly and convincingly, and to offer solutions. Our arguments can be
based both on equality, a basic Canadian value, and on immigrant women’s potential
contribution to the economy.

D. Cross-Cutting Strategies

Regardless of the specific issues which NOIVMWC chooses to focus on, there are six
cross-cutting strategies which participants recommended over and over in different
workshops and from different perspectives.

NOIVMWC • Livelihoods of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women                   5

1. Leadership
It is important to develop, encourage and support leadership by immigrant and visible
minority women, including those already in leadership roles and those who have the
potential to become leaders in the future. The conference participants emphasized that
leadership is understood in its broadest sense, 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.

In this sense, leaders work at every level, from the grassroots to the national scene.
They work in the community, within different organizations, and in various political
institutions and bodies.

There are a number of different strategies NOIVMWC might use to develop and support
leaders. Some of these include:
      o Grassroots training programs
      o Mentoring programs in which emerging or potential new leaders are matched
          with more experienced women who already have had leadership roles, and
          can pass on some of their wisdom and experience
      o Support groups among women in leadership roles (whether in formal
          positions or in the community), and other ways to link these leaders with each
      o Women’s candidate school, in which women learn how to run for public office
      o Identify role models in the community – immigrant or visible minority women
          who are already taking leadership in some way, and then support these
          leaders, and also publicize them as role models among younger women or
          among the general public
      o National leadership program to provide a mix of methods (courses,
          workshops, mentors, etc.)
      o Network with other organizations doing leadership development to collaborate
          in the delivery of the programs

Immigrant and visible minority women need to take the initiative in developing their own
leadership skills to the next level, and to step forward and take on leadership roles.
This can start at any level, e.g. by becoming a volunteer, by joining a community
organization, by offering to help translate materials, by volunteering in a political
campaign. The important thing is to get involved in some way.

2. Advocacy
Almost every issue discussed by conference participants, from accreditation to racism,
from health care to language training, will require an advocacy strategy. Lobbying is
needed to change policies, laws, funding, standards (e.g national standards for
settlement services) or programs, and, depending on the issue chosen, it could be at
the municipal, provincial or federal level.

NOIVMWC • Livelihoods of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women                     6

As NOIVMWC develops its advocacy strategy, it will need to consider various elements,
such as:
      o Media campaigns;
      o Background research on the issues;
      o Strategic letter writing campaigns or other ways to mobilize public support;
      o Success stories to build its case; and
      o Identification of key stakeholders in communities/government in order to build

3. Collaboration and Networking
Collaboration with others will be a key to NOIVMWC’s success, and Conference
participants thought it was important to develop a “united front”.

This would include cooperation with NGOs involved in social change and civic
engagement, and partnerships with organizations who have common goals (e.g.
National Anti-Poverty Organization). We need to connect with local, provincial and
national groups, both those in the immigrant and visible minority community, and

The purpose of collaboration is to work together for common goals, to learn and use
strategies that have worked for others, and to share innovative ideas, successful
projects and any useful ideas. There are many ways to undertake this collaboration, for
example, the internet offers a powerful tool for sharing information.

As NOIVMWC implements this strategy, it will be important to ensure small
organizations grow along with larger, national organizations.

4. Funding
We need to be vigilant to protect and enhance funding sources for organizations that
support improving the lives of immigrant and visible minority women.

We also need to seek a broader base of financial support for our organizations,
       o Government
       o Foundations
       o Corporations
       o Revenue-generation, through operating businesses whose profits support
           community groups

5. Education and Training
A number of strategies were suggested which were related to education and training.
Public education and awareness will be important in almost any strategy NOIVMWC

NOIVMWC • Livelihoods of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women                   7

undertakes to change public understanding and attitudes about immigrant women, and
so this strategy was recommended by many of the issue workshops. Education in the
schools could be a major element of this overall public education strategy (e.g. World
History of Racism in Minutes).

More specific education and training programs may also be needed, depending on the
issue NOIVMWC focuses on. National training sessions were recommended for some
areas (e.g. campaign schools ), or self development courses for specific skills or needs.

National conferences would be useful to bring together people working on an issue, to
compare best practices, pool information and develop common strategies, e.g. a
conference was recommended for immigrant women who are establishing cooperatives
or social enterprises.

6. Creating something new
It is quite possible that, to achieve its objectives related to livelihoods, NOIVMWC may
need to support the creation of new associations or organizations. For example, it was
suggested that it would be helpful to establish a Lawyers’ Association for Immigrant
Women. Another workshop recommended the creation of Immigrant Women’s Health
Centres in cities across Canada.

The conference recommended several elements to NOIVMWC’s overall role in
advancing these issue and strategies:

1) Develop a clear political agenda relevant to the bigger context, and undertake
   focused lobbying to implement it. This involves choosing issues strategically and
   ensuring the actions are pertinent and timely.

2) Support women to be leaders at all levels (community, provincial, national), through
   mentoring, training, networking, finding role models and profiling them, and recruiting
   champions for this effort. NOIVMWC needs to identify women in our communities
   with leadership skills and leadership potential, and engage them in the national

3) Act as a national network and communication centre that will connect with key allies,
   link projects and initiatives working on the issues, and share best practices and
   innovative ideas. This can be done through meetings, conferences, the website,
   interactive on-line settings (chatrooms, listserves) and databases on organizations,
   key women leaders, and issues.

4) Ensure greater visibility for the issues chosen as a focus, and greater visibility for

NOIVMWC • Livelihoods of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women                       8

5) Specifically on the upcoming federal election, NOIVMWC was asked to identify
   specific questions for parties and candidates, distribute those to the community, and
   create a media strategy to bring attention to the issues.

F. Vision – Creating Community

1. Creating Community for Immigrant Women
One workshop at the conference was a visioning exercise. Women were asked to
visually and verbally describe their ideal community. The map on the next page
represents the four pillars of Livelihood (income, opportunity, services, community). In
the centre are the qualities of this ideal community that were described by the women at
the conference.

NOIVMWC • Livelihoods of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women                   9

            UNITED FRONT of women
            Affordable housing (especially for seniors) and affordable, accessible transportation
            Everyone is welcome : Inclusive, active engagement of all community members
             (especially new immigrants)
            Freedom of choice/multiple choices (for affordable housing, education…)
            No violence, no discrimination, no racism, no isolation
            Educated community – educated about immigrants, and the importance of
             immigrants to successful, sustainable communities
            Coordinated effort of agencies
            Family reunification and support
            Educational support for all children
            All cultures respected and appreciated
            Youth representation
            Leisure and recreational activities accessible
   Equal pay                                                                Opportunity
   Higher minimum wage                                                    Education & training
                                    “Interconnectedness”                
   Less economic power                                                     Meaningful and
                                    Good services lead to good
    into the hands of the                                                   relevant employment
                                    communities, and then that
    few – more even                                                        Self-development
                                    leads to good opportunities,
    distribution of wealth                                                 Social-economic
                                    and that leads to good income.
    (different tax system?)                                                 opportunity
                                    Like the Medicine Wheel –
   Access to business,             circle, all interconnected –           Leadership –
    capital start-up money          symbolic of the life of a woman         community of
   Recognition of foreign          – all pieces need to be working         leaders, and
    credentials and                 to make her feel appreciated            leadership programs
    international experience        and whole.                              to develop leadership
   Full time employment            Equal opportunities. No                 (women as decision-
    with benefits – not have        racism. Jobs. Ethnic                    makers)
    to depend on no-benefit         representation and voice               Voice in media
    part-time and casual            Ideal Community is like                Healthy food and
    employment                      someone’s Dream Home                    water
                                                                           For travel and leisure
                                                                           Affordable daycare
            Accessible and relevant
            Language facilities – more options, and greater level of proficiencies
            Services that represent different religious groups
            Life skills
            Job search help
            Justice – for victims of violence, more sensitive services
            Building allies/networking- coordinated efforts of agencies
         Actions on Specific Issues

         NOIVMWC • Livelihoods of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women                               10

G. Actions on Specific Issues
The conference focused on thirteen key issues identified through the research and the
community consultations. Workshops on each of these topics developed possible
strategies and actions, which are summarized below. The NOIVMWC board will review
these and develop an integrated national strategy focused on a few carefully selected

1. Accreditation
Actions by federal and provincial governments:

   Build on the commitments in the Speech from the Throne
   The First Minister’s Conference can be an opportunity to advance this discussion at
    a federal-provincial level, and get co-operation and action among different levels of
   Specific improvements needed: 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.

Actions by NOIVMWC:

   A campaign should be mounted that includes letter writing, media relations, and
    mobilizing members organizations provincially. A kit from NOIVMWC would provide
    an introductory letter as well as resources and information on the issue, to enable
    individuals across the country to write their MP.

   NOIVMWC to provide a reality check on progress by governments, with grassroots
    backing based on the education and mobilization campaign noted above.

   Work with accreditation bodies, to raise their awareness of the issues and possible
    solutions. NOIVMWC needs to work with professional regulating bodies to find viable
    solutions, including ways to provide for mobility of qualifications across provincial
    borders, reviewing examination fees and community-based assessments. Members
    agencies can be an asset and resource to NOIVMWC in supporting this work.

   As NOIVMWC sets the framework for action, it will be important to identify short and
    long term benchmarks for progress.

Another related issue which needs attention is the situation of immigrants with Canadian
qualifications and/or Canadian post secondary education, who are also encountering

NOIVMWC • Livelihoods of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women                    11

2. Canadian Networking and Experience
The key issue addressed by this workshop was the lack of recognition of international
experience and the challenges in obtaining Canadian experience and references,
including the absence of social and professional networks and supports for immigrants,
and the exclusion from Canadian networks and supports, either due to systemic barriers
or due to lack of information.

To move from exclusion to inclusion, the workshop agreed that strategies would need to
focus both internally (skills and qualities we need to develop in ourselves as immigrant
women) and externally (actions we can take in the community and with other partners to
bring about the needed changes).

Actions by Immigrant and Visible Minority Women:

Within our own lives and within immigrant organizations, women need to cultivate a
proactive and democratic mindset. We need to seek out opportunities to learn
leadership skills in networking and in operations (policies and processes) within
organizations we know. This means proactively becoming decision-makers – joining
boards and committees. It also means becoming active in the community in other ways:
become a volunteer, translate materials for community organizations, get active in
politics – in short, be involved. By the same token, immigrant organizations need to
create an inclusive democratic framework, and establish leadership opportunities
amongst board members, staff, volunteers, members, etc. In doing this, we need to
engage and Involve all members of our communities, including youth and seniors.

Actions by NOIVMWC:

The challenge for NOIVMWC is to engage the greater community and bring in the
corporate sectors and all areas of society. The first step is to identify key stakeholders in
communities and government, and meet with them to build alliances. Then, we can use
success stories to demonstrate our point, and provide examples of what is needed,
such as the actions recommended below.

A whole other arena of action relates to political lobbying – identifying women in our
communities with leadership skills and leadership potential, and utilizing these skills to
help advocate on issues related to the systemic barriers preventing the recognition of
international experience. The media are important allies in this process. One element
of this is to educate communities about the issues, and opportunities for action – for
example, the upcoming election is a chance to raise these issues.

Communications among different organizations working on this issue is very important.
It would be helpful to have a national newsletter or a website that is updated monthly, or
a news chatroom to share information

Actions by Government, Corporate Sector and Community Groups:

NOIVMWC • Livelihoods of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women                      12

Corporations and government can assist by introducing mentorship programs to
facilitate the transition into the corporate world or volunteer programs to develop
transferable skills. Job search workshops for immigrant/visible minority women can also
be useful, and are often most effective when delivered by immigrant/visible minority
women who have been through the experience and know the situation. Community
partnerships are often an efficient way to give the best service, and enable small
organizations to grow along with larger ones, through a united front. These
partnerships enable immigrant women to use and share network connections from a
variety of organizations.

3. Income Security
The key issues related to income security for immigrant women are lack of recognition
of women’s education and skills, changes in the labour market making work more
precarious (part-time work, on-call, no job security, non-unionized, few benefits, casual
labour, etc.), family obligations (especially for single mothers), and government
programs such aas Social Assistance and Employment Insurance.

Actions by government:
    Improve the criteria for employment programs to provide more support (e.g. do
      not limit EI to only 10 months)
    Provide more funding to settlement programs
    Offer tax credits to employers for utilizing skills of new Canadians
    End the clawback of Child Tax Benefit/GST from Social Assistance
    Provide stable government funding for community agencies working to end
      immigrant women’s poverty
    Establish a mentoring program to address accreditation and help new immigrants
      through the maze of foreign accreditation process
    Have “Learn-While-You-Work” programs to allow for immigrants to expand on
      their skills as they work
    Provide on-line learning options that are affordable and flexible
    Utilize the successful strategies of other sectors in placing and utilizing foreign
      credentials (ex. Nursing Assistants, Social Workers)
    Provide funding to legal clinics and associations to support for immigrant women
      to deal with labour issues

Actions by community organizations:
    Offer culturally sensitive service (e.g. Food Banks)
    Better coordination of organizations to avoid overlap and duplication of services
    Follow example of such successful organizations as “Collective Kitchen”; and the
      “Calgary Mennonite Centre for Newcomers (CMCN)”
    Enable women from different communities to set up non-profit businesses and
      agencies to supplement their incomes

NOIVMWC • Livelihoods of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women                    13

Actions by NOIVMWC:
    Run an environmental scan and assessment of existing businesses run by
      immigrant women. Using this information, it would be possible to create a model
      for success that can be followed by members to use in advocacy and by women
      wanting to start their own business.
    Collaborate with government, private sector, non-profit to customize strategies
      for helping different diverse groups. One example of this would be to create a
      Lawyers’ Association for Immigrant Women – made up of immigrant women
    Co-operate with local and national anti-poverty sectors and immigrant and visible
      minority women’s networks, to create a united front and be allies for each other.
      As part of this, NOIVMWC can encourage anti-poverty agencies (like NAPO) and
      groups currently working on non-standard work and problems with EI, to include
      immigrant women’s poverty issues on their agendas. Based on this, it may be
      possible to work together and form partnerships. For example, NOIVMWC may
      host an annual conference with agencies in each community to address poverty,
      and form common goals and strategies. Poverty could also be the theme for
      NOIVMWC’s biannual conferences.
    Use upcoming opportunities (such as national conferences on poverty or social
      welfare) to raise these issues and gather support; NOIMVWC could offer to
      provide speakers for gatherings such as these.
    Develop tools for this campaign (posters in public areas, video to be shown
      television, sticker campaign, etc.).

Resources/Opportunities for Action:
Resources: Book “Entitlement Structure” by Vasco

4. Social Enterprises and Micro enterprises
The group noted that any strategies around supporting social enterprise should include
cooperatives as an option. Government funds may be available for this, and it is also a
familiar structure for many immigrant women. Examples of such enterprises might
include high quality crafts, childcare and homecare, catering, consulting groups formed
around the professional skills of the women (e.g. strategic planning, business skills,
computer skills, etc.), or health care co-op (e.g. Edmonton Multicultural Health Brokers
which employs immigrant health care professionals).

Actions by immigrant women starting up an enterprise:

The first step is to create a business plan. You need to ensure your products are cost-
effective, that you can market your products effectively, and that, in the end, you can
make money. Women can use various provincial and federal agencies who are
available to help set up; these can provide advice and sometime modest funding for
feasibility, etc. Initial funding from foundations, city, province, and new federal funding
for co-ops is coming soon. It is often helpful to involve individuals you know in the
corporate world to provide advice on business plan, marketing, etc. For most new

NOIVMWC • Livelihoods of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women                      14

businesses, it is better to move slowly and build success gradually. Issues around
insurance are a major barrier and need to be investigated carefully.

Actions by immigrant and settlement services

Community agencies can act as clearinghouse or reference point for accessing
resources, services and funding available. There are resources available, but they are
unfamiliar to immigrant women. Access needs to be facilitated and simplified.

Agencies can provide workshops for free on how to start your own business. Identify
skilled community volunteers who know the business sector, and ask them to provide
workshops to immigrant women wanting to start to a business. The development of
business plan is the key. Women need an assessment as to whether they are likely to
succeed as a businessperson. Many women who cannot find employment are told to
set up a business, but this is not for everyone. Immigrant agencies can provide a
service to assess their skills, experience, interests. Ongoing support is also needed as
they go through the process of start-up. Government often provides loans for businesss
start-up, but women need assistance in accessing these programs.

Actions by NOIVMWC

It would be helpful to have a networking function nationally: a brief description of each
immigrant social enterprise in Canada, contact person, website. It would be set up in
such a way as to connect people to mentor each other, offer suggestions, and learn
from each other. NOIVMWC could host a section on their website that would provide
innovative ideas, funding opportunities, good practices. There is also an opportunity to
learn from Community Economic Development experience in Nova Scotia, and apply
this to the situation of immigrant women.

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5. Discrimination and Racism
Key issues in this workshop were about how income (especially employment) is
impacted by racial and sexual discrimination, the voice, visibility and representation of
immigrant and visible minority women on boards, and the use of power, hierarchy and
other tools to keep people down through the persistent, prevalent and inherent
presence of sexual harassment and racial discrimination in all sectors.

A united front among women’s groups is important, working in solidarity together to
combat racism.

Actions by government:

Public education at all levels is key to eradicating racism. This might include working in
schools, utilizing existing school festivals such as “International Week”, and WHORM
(World History of Racism in Minutes) a workshop for children to show how racism
developed and was perpetuated through (for ex.) in colonialism (put on by Toronto
School Board).

Acknowledgement of Canada’s historical racist actions, including through changes in
the framing of government documents and surveys as mentioned by Dr. Li in the
keynote speech.

Expand the Stop Racism Campaign, address questions such as “What is Racism?”,
“What is Systematic Racism?”, and acknowledge the connection between racism and
power. No more “song and dance” approach!

Actions by NOIVMWC:

National workshops could share knowledge of what is successful in combating racism
and build on these successes. National leadership programs could develop trained
facilitators (e.g. in WHORM). We need to empower women with public speaking
workshops, self-esteem workshops, and other related areas.

Publish success stories – the contributions of immigrants to Canada.

Actions by community organizations:

Community agencies need to provide culturally sensitive service – anti-racism training is
needed at human service agencies. Settlement agencies also need to introduce some
changes, for example, connecting a new immigrant family with a Canadian family to
build networks and increase feeling of inclusiveness, and utilize pre-existing networks
and opportunities

Actions by immigrant and visible minority women:

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Self education is also important, to be aware ourselves and address internalized racism
and biases. If we see an incident of racism or harassment, we need to call the person
on it.

Lawrence Hill “Blackberrry Sweetjuice” (book on race, identity, belonging in Canada)
Kaberi Sarma-Debnath “People, Personality and Contributions of Foreign-Born
   Canadians: Selected Profiles”

6. Coming into Leadership Roles
The total number of immigrants is increasing, but immigrant women are not in
leadership positions. Our goal is to increase the number of immigrant women in
leadership. Leadership is defined as “setting goals and getting them accomplished with
interpersonal power”. It involves bringing sides together – together, committed women
can make a difference. Our strategy will be emergence: as Gandhi said, “Become the
change that you want to see”.

In all of this, we need broaden the understanding of leadership – it is not about power or

Leaders are at all levels, from the community to the national scene. Grassroots leaders
are part of the community, are usually outside of the formal system of power and have
few resources, and as a result, are generally very flexible. They may be volunteers or
working for pay. Their focus is passion, not power. For grassroots leaders, they must
create a support system and funding is a challenge.

Actions by government and community agencies

   Implement policies to promote women, and immigrant women, to boards and
    leadership roles. This is particularly important for boards that are currently without

Actions by NOIVMWC and community agencies:

   Develop a database of qualified immigrant women, perhaps building on work that is
    already in place (e.g. Dominion Institute, Maytree Foundation, Toronto).
   Once women are in the database, provide them with support and build their
    confidence. Women need to be encouraged to step out of their comfort zone and
    put their names forward for the databases.
   Women also need training and orientation: How do you get on a board? What is
    required? What boards are out there?
   When women do not get on a board that they applied for, there needs to be follow-
    up support.

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   Local recognition of successful immigrant women in business and leadership is a
    useful way to focus on the leadership potential in the community, e.g. immigrant
    contribution award, immigrants of distinction award, women of distinction. It is
    important to recognize racism in this process, and understand the situation of
    immigrant women and their challenges. and support them through every step.

Actions by NOIVMWC:

   Leadership development strategies are essential, and NOIVMWC has a key role to
    play in this as a national network. First, NOIVMWC needs to build allies. A scan of
    other groups at the national and provincial level doing civic engagement and
    leadership development work would lead to opportunities to introduce NOIVMWC.
    Based on these initial connections, it may be possible to produce a directory of
    leadership projects and build relationships around priority issues. Some overall
    program of leadership training needs to be available to immigrant women, whether
    through existing programs or the development of new ones at the grassroots through
    to national level. This would include development of training materials, and the
    actual training of women in all types of leadership (community, city, provincial,

    (Three specific examples of actions were highlighted. Multicultural support group
    have proven successful in providing support and education to women moving into
    leadership roles. A women’s campaign school, such as the one at UBC, can provide
    specific skills and knowledge useful to emerging leaders. The establishment of
    Centres of Excellence on immigration/Citizenship could be extremely useful in
    researching leadership issues among the immigrant women’s community.)

   Define and develop NOIVMWC’s political agenda in the bigger context. To be
    successful, we will need to know the political agenda and how to navigate
    NOIVMWC’s interest in that. NOIVMWC’s platform might be cross party, and
    activism will emerge around the issues in this platform.

   Engage the media to build support for immigrant and visible minority women’s
    engagement in politics and community leadership. Media people who are visible
    minorities and immigrants can be a valuable asset in this.

   Engage public influencers to build support for immigrant and visible minority
    women’s engagement in politics and community leadership. We need champions in
    all sectors, and corporate allies. Immigrant and visible minority women who are
    already engaged in politics and community leadership can be contacted and invited
    to become involved in NOIVMWC and in this strategy. Also in this area, we can tap
    into other women’s groups and networks to build support.

7. Being involved in our communities

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Strategies are needed to encourage the inclusion of immigrant and visible minority

Actions by NOIVMWC:

   Undertake public education and awareness among the larger community about
    immigrants. The Coalition for Equal Access to Education in Calgary can be used as
    an example of immigrant women’s involvement in the school system. There may be
    other models to build on and collaborate with.
   Develop a list of good model programs that agencies can learn from (i.e. that are
    effective ways of involving immigrant women in the community) and post these on its
   List upcoming workshops in communities on the NOIVMWC website.
   Be a media watch dog for negative media coverage of immigrants.
   Use or develop a “blogging” site so immigrant women can communicate and
    exchange ideas.
   Identify role models nationwide, so immigrant women can connect with a positive
    leader in their communities. NOIVMWC should also recognize these women in their
   To help create a united front, train people to have a consistent voice in speaking out
    on immigrant issues. Questions to potential political candidates could be prepared
    by NOIVMWC and circulated widely so that immigrant women could present these at
    candidates meetings.

Actions by government:

   Undertake public education and awareness among the larger community about
    immigrants. The Coalition for Equal Access to Education in Calgary can be used as
    an example of immigrant women’s involvement in the school system. There may be
    other models to build on and collaborate with.
   Fund women’s training programs, which are an important transition into the
    community for immigrant women.
   Provide public access computers throughout Canada.

8. Settlement Services
Settlement services need to be adequate, consistent, stable (long term funding) and
designed to fit the needs of all newcomers regardless of status. It is a constant struggle
for non-profit organizations to find and keep funding that is timely and sufficient. Money
for many programs is lessening and there is no long-term funding available.

Actions by government:

   Provide more funding, funding equality and implementation of more women’s
    programs to use where most strategically needed.

NOIVMWC • Livelihoods of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women                    19

Actions by settlement agencies:

   Develop a closer relationship with funders (partnerships).
   Diversify funding for settlement services to ensure long-term, stable funding.

Actions by NOIVMWC:

   Act as a national voice for women and immigrant women, and to speak out on
    immigrant women’s settlement issues.
   Identify key stakeholders (allies, media, politicians, etc.) and build relationships that
    can advance our agenda. Working with allies will be important.
   A media strategy is needed (e.g. media blitz, use International Women’s Day or
    other major event that already gets coverage, have spokeswomen across Canada
    with a consistent message, perhaps an event on Parliament Hill, etc.)
   Develop a public relations kit to distribute to member and partner organizations at
    the local and national level, who could do equivalent press releases and media
    events in their locations. The results of the national funding project can be used,
    and we can lobby to implement the strategies nationally.

To change a way of thinking about immigrant services, we will need a long term
strategy, with clear goals and objectives for the future, in the form of a national platform.
(For example, we might be aiming for national standards). Based on this, we need to
recruit other community agencies to our cause and mobilize the support of women in
the community (e.g. through events such as March 8). There needs to be long-term
continuity in the strategy, to sustain engagement and actions over a period of time.

Emergence will also be a strategy to consider. We need to recognize leadership
nationally and locally in women’s organizations, and also invest in the development of
more women’s groups and individual women with leadership skills. To do this,
NOIVMWC could connect with various organizations and share best practices, creating
a catalogue for all settlement agencies.

Another emergence strategy is to build organizing skills among agencies across the
country. Through agency mentorship, the larger established agencies could share their
skills and successes with smaller, newer agencies. There could also be media
packages distributed to public organizations on “how to approach media…”, “how to
write a press release….”; and training in public relations could be provided to

Action priorities identified by the workshop were a national press release by NOIVMWC,
identification of the spokeswomen for NOIVMWC across the country, and national

9. Health Care
The key issues related to health care services for immigrant women are:

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language barriers, discrimination, cultural sensitivity, narrow/non-holistic services, lack
of access, the relevance of the service to women, the actual concept of health,
economic, social, and cultural factors of our community, mutual support, fragmentation
of the system, and the fact that women are the most marginalised. A number of
strategies were discussed.

Actions by federal and provincial governments:

   The framework or policy context of health care at a provincial or regional level needs
    to recognize an equity framework and a commitment to equity, the importance of
    culturally relevant care, the need to integrate alternative care/medicine, and a
    patient-centred approach (vs. provider-centred).
   Certain specific services are needed, for example, an advocate or navigator to assist
    women as they move through the system. It is also important to create immigrant
    women-centred health centres, and specific services only for immigrant women as
    bridging clinics Provision of home visit to newcomers from health care
    professionals is also needed.
   There need to be federal standards for cultural competency in the training of health
    care professionals and providers, and national standards for provision of health care
    services for immigrant women.
   We need a strategy to increase access to health information for immigrant women in
    their communities. Schools (ESL, heritage language schools, all schools) can play
    an important role, including in partnership with local agencies. They can
    disseminate information on health services, and educate women and mothers on
    health care issues.

Actions by NOIVMWC:

   Lobby the federal government and work with the federal Minister of Health to
    increase funding for provincial health care to immigrant women.
   Using future-oriented messages and key and consistent messages, develop a fool-
    proof advocacy strategy to build networks and alliances with local stakeholders.

NOIVMWC • Livelihoods of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women                      21

10. Language Training
The main issues related to language training are: funding, financial support,
eligibility/access, day care access, job or profession specific ESL/FSL, and career
counselling integral to language training.

There was a brief presentation of the FSL model from Québec, which is seen by some
as a fairly effective model. The more positive elements include small classes, reduced
funding cuts, refugee support and access to day care at relatively low cost. However,
there were some concerns flagged, including access, funding level, and the fact that
certain groups (e.g. women from South Asian countries) have difficulties.

Actions by government:
 Access to language training access needs to be improved, including through
   providing more extended hours, and better day care provisions. It is also important
   to address the benefits issue.
 Women need to be given more time to access language training.
 Language training could be linked to life skills and pre-employment training, and also
   could be made a responsibility of employers.
 There needs to be better accountability of funds to settlement agencies.

Actions by NOIVMWC:
 Engage provincial and federal governments in the discourse around language
   training. Other partners need to be involved in this, for sharing information and
   developing joint strategies.
 Prepare a brief or white paper to summarize the previous suggestions and debate
   on this issue and put forward solutions. Tap into local organizations to find out who
   is doing what, and include good practices in the paper.
 Develop benchmarks around language training and then move beyond those

11. Shifting the public perspectives of immigrants
The main issues here are that immigrants are presented as a burden to Canadian
society, rather than recognizing our resilience and hard work. Immigrants are often
looked “down” upon, and there is discrimination and racial profiling.

Actions by NOIVMWC and by community agencies:

   Use the media as an ally to dispel negativity around immigrants rather than have
    them perpetuate stereotypes.
   Provide fact sheets to the media, and use hard data to raise awareness.
   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.

NOIVMWC • Livelihoods of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women                    22

   Train immigrant women to access the media and work effectively with the media as
   Build community capacity to be both proactive and reactive, depending on whether
    we are dealing with issues raised by others, or whether we are trying to bring
    forward issues from our own perspective.

12. Immigrant Youth
Youth are torn between two worlds, caught in intergenerational conflict related to
identity, culture, religion, sexuality, peer pressure. Other factors can exacerbate this,
including poverty and war trauma, which can contribute to crime and difficult relations
with police and the justice system. An integrated approach shows that child poverty is
directly connected to the poverty of their parents. There is also a connection between
poverty and crime as youth are sometimes susceptible to crime because of a need for

Actions by NOIVMWC:
 Create space to address youth issues within the organization. Part of this would
   include recruiting visible minority, immigrant, and refugee youth to represent the
   various regions.
 Network with youth organizations working on issues of anti-racism, immigration and
 Help identify funding resources for youth activities and organizations, so young
   immigrant women can gain experience and have opportunities to express their
 Provide opportunities for young women to network with each other, build skills to
   become future leaders within their respective movements. One element of this could
   be recruiting role models who will mentor youth.

H. Moving Forward
NOIVMWC is committed to taking action on these issues. The national board will be
reviewing the strategies and actions proposed at the conference, along with the wealth
of information generated through the research and community consultations. Based on
this, NOIVMWC will develop a national strategy which focuses on a small number of
issues that are considered most strategic at this time. NOIVMWC invites all interested
organizations and individuals to join in implementing this national strategy.

NOIVMWC • Livelihoods of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women                    23

Appendix A: Timeline of the Livelihood Project

Summer 2004        What does the research say?
                   NOIVMWC’s research report on immigrant women and
                   poverty showed that:
                    Immigrant women are more likely to be poor than
                       Canadian-born, although they are more highly educated.
                    Most immigrants are not working in the field for which they
                       have education, training or credentials.
                    The situation is getting worse. Poverty rates have been
                       rising among immigrants over the last 20 years, while they
                       have been falling for 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 poverty.
Available on       Research Report “Releasing the wellspring: Addressing the
website            economic reality of immigrant women” September 2004
Fall 2004          What model can explain poverty in the context of
                   immigrant women’s lives?
                   NOIVMWC steering committee for the project developed the
                   Livelihood Model. The interplay of the four components
                   reflects the complexity of immigrant women’s lives – “it’s not
                   just about money”.


                             Income            Dignity           Services


Available on       Discussion Guide “Releasing the wellspring:
website            Livelihoods of immigrant and visible minority women” October

NOIVMWC • Livelihoods of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women                 24

Jan-Feb 2005       What do immigrant women in the community say about
                   these issues?
                   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 where strategies
                   were discussed.
Available on       Consultations Report “Livelihoods of immigrant and visible
website            minority women” April 2005
April 2005         What strategies do we need to pursue?
                   At the national conference in Calgary, 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 development, education, collaboration with others,
                   b) specific actions and strategies in each of the 13 key issues
                   identified out of the community consultations
                   c) NOIVMWC’s role: providing leadership, acting as a
                   communication centre, engaging women to be leaders in their
                   communities, etc.
Available on       Conference Report “Report of the Livelihood Conference”
website            June 2005
July-Sept 2005     What issue(s) do we focus on?
                   Livelihood Committee meets to focus on a specific issue or
                   issues, and develop detailed strategy for implementation.
                   NOIVMWC Board meets to review and approve the issue
                   chosen and the strategy (September)
Fall 2005          Mobilizing the community to action
                   Implementation of the strategy by NOIVMWC and allies at the
                   community level across Canada.

NOIVMWC • Livelihoods of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women                  25

NOIVMWC • Livelihoods of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women   26

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