Reflections on the 2020 Pathways to Prosperity National Conference
Pathways to Prosperity held a virtual conference from 23rd November to 25th November 2020. The online conference did not compromise on anything to make it as lively as an in- person conference. There were plenaries, keynote speakers, workshops, posters, exhibitors, and networking opportunities. It was amazing to see the facilitators of every workshop considering most of the questions from the audience to the different speakers. There were nine concurrent workshops (6 concurrent breakout sessions on Nov 25), more than 30 posters and 20 plus exhibitors. There were networking opportunities with over 1,000 attendees, discussion rooms and an even live music and poetry in the evening. The first two days of the conference focused on immigration and (re)settlement in Canada during pandemic, increased awareness of racism and discrimination facing immigrants daily, and discussion on challenges and opportunities for change now and in coming years. The final day of the conference, 25th November was for Local Immigration Partnerships and Reseaux en immigration francophone and the focus was on upcoming priorities set by the collaborative enterprises.
It was presented that the impact of COVID-19 on migration was huge, with the border closure there was significantly decrease in temporary foreign workers, international students, and economy class immigrants. During this time, these was lesser number of family unification and humanitarian services. It was also noted that more recent immigrants lost jobs compared to Canadian born residents and lower number of recent immigrants went back to work after the economy reopened.
Honorable Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship CanadaMarco Mendicino thanked all the workers in the immigration sector while delivering opening remarks on the conference. He shared that immigration plan for 2021-2023 includes an increase in newcomers by 1% of the domestic population and promised that there will be enough budget allocated to settlement organisations, for helping newcomers settle in Canada. He also mentioned that “Municipal Nominee Program” can be expected in the first half of 2021. This is indeed a good news for rural development.
On the panel discussion on impacts of pandemic on marginalized immigrants and refugees, intersectionality of racism, rurality, SOGIE (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression) and language were highlighted. It was discussed that racism is prominent while reading names in hiring process and hearing ascent in interviews. Dr. Christopher S Taylor,anti-racism professional rightly said that there is no race in children. He said children just play with children of all colors and we must learn from them.
It was a great discussion on how Canada can include internationally trained professional into workforce. The pandemic proved that internationally trained professional and specially internationally educated health professionals should not be discriminated to work in their profession.
In another panel discussion on “Quality Sport for Newcomers: Settlement and Integration” by Winnipeg Newcomer Sport Academy, Michael Kananoja presented programs their academy has for newcomer children and how their participation in sports is helping in not only inclusion, belonging, citizenship building but also in building their intellect and confidence. While children are involved in sports, they just live in that moment and they forget life beyond that sports. It helps them to forget all the burden. He mentioned, like in any other cities in Canada, providing transportation to the newcomer children to get to the sports academy and back home was a challenge for both the academy and for parents. They resolved this issue by providing a school bus to transport children from the sports academy to their home and vice versa. It involves a dedicated team for logistics, operation and coordination.
Overall, the Pathways to Prosperity national conference was virtual and was as effective as it was in-person. To create a racially just economy, Canada needs to work together to eliminate inequalities. It was a good sign that Canadians now understand immigrants an important for economic recovery, but it was also sad that “Corona racism” was most seen on Asians and Blacks through harassment and attacks. Canada also needs to work towards “Foreign Educated Immigrants” education credentials so that they can work in their own field of study. During the pandemic, organisations like Food Bank was used the most specially by those in isolation and technology was the most important tool for information dissemination.
Written by Niva Shrestha