Speaking notes for Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship: An announcement on the Visible Minority Newcomer Women Pilot


As Delivered
Toronto, Ontario

Good morning, everyone. I want to begin by acknowledging that we are on the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit and the Haudenosaunee.

My nephew told me a few weeks ago, he called me very excitedly and said, “this city will never be the same. The Toronto Raptors have made it to the finals.” I said, “no, wait until we win the championship.” He said, “no, it’s good enough that we made the finals.” It’s really good to see that game three resulted in our success and I’m so excited to be back here.

Thank you, Rola (Dagher) for hosting us. Your story is amazing in Canada because it’s not unique. I’ve heard similar stories all around the country, of people who came either fleeing persecution or seeking a better life and finding in Canada an opportunity to start over.

Each and every one of them that I’ve seen, including yourself, has this burning desire to give back to the country that allowed them to restart their lives and succeed beyond their wildest dreams. That’s the success of Canada. When you think about the waves of different immigrants that have come to Canada, apart from our Indigenous brothers and sisters, it’s basically those two stories – either fleeing persecution and searching safety and security for themselves and their families, or seeking a better life and an opportunity to fulfill their full potential.

What we are talking about today is a continuation of that. Your example, Rola, is really inspiring because it shows that with the right kinds of supports, with the right kinds of mentorship, and with the opportunity to thrive, that visible minority newcomer women succeed just like everyone else. I share this story because, we can talk about supporting newcomers, but we need to recognize that supporting them is supporting ourselves.

They’re the job builders of tomorrow. They are the future engineers, the future business people and, yes, even the future CEOs and that’s what this announcement is about. We know that these positive results don’t happen by accident. People need to be supported. People need to be given the right kinds of supports to succeed and to thrive.

Here’s what we know now: we know that visible minority newcomer women face more challenges than any other newcomer group.

Despite our country’s openness to diversity, visible minority newcomer women continue to face more barriers to full fulfillment and inclusion in Canadian society. They face so many barriers, race-based barriers, gender-based challenges, fewer social supports and lack of affordable childcare among others.

For those who do find jobs we find that visible minority newcomer women are paid less than any other newcomer group. For example, did you know that visible minority newcomer women have the lowest median annual income in Canada out of all the newcomer groups?

Another important fact is that visible minority newcomer women are more likely to be unemployed than their peers. The unemployment rate of visible minority newcomer women is 9.7% higher than that of newcomer men. We know this is not fair and if we as Canadians strive to achieve a goal of a truly inclusive society, we must fix this. Making sure that everyone in Canada has an equal chance to succeed is not just the right thing to do. It’s not just the kind thing to do. It’s actually the smart thing to do.

For all these reasons we created the Visible Minority Newcomer Women Pilot Program. This exciting program will provide better supports and services to visible minority newcomer women. Last December, we announced the creation of this program and we sought out new partners.

As part of our commitment to innovate within the settlement and integration sector, we invited new partners that had never worked with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada before. The response, quite frankly, was overwhelming. Today it gives me immense pleasure to announce that we will provide up to $7.5 million to successful organizations over the next two years, for new innovative programs and services that will support newcomer visible minority women to find employment and their post-employment life.

I am also pleased to announce that we have selected our partner organizations who will help deliver these innovative programs. Among the 22 organizations who will help deliver these innovative programs and services across Canada is NPower. They do a lot of work with our host Cisco to help prepare underrepresented groups with the skills for the tech and digital jobs for the future.

NPower will enroll 140 visible minority newcomer women into its Alberta and Ontario programs. At least 80% will secure IT-related employment and enroll in higher education within the first six months of the program’s completion. NPower Canada will also provide visible minority newcomer women graduates with at least five years of alumnae services to support their continued career goals and progression.

This is really important. It’s not just about helping people find a job. It’s about helping people retain those jobs and continue to advance in their chosen career and field. These alumnae services include but are not limited to connections within the industry, obtaining mentors, ongoing job placement support and retention, networking, coaching, professional development opportunities and, as I said, supporting them to access further education.

Another example of an organization that we’re partnering with in Scarborough is Heritage Skills and Development Centre. They are going to provide 80 visible minority newcomer women with the necessary training, guidance and resources to improve their employment outcomes and focus on the gap of digital literacy.

These organizations will each support the delivery of this program, by providing innovative employment-related supports, by enhancing their own capacity to help visible minority newcomer women, and by providing services to improve their digital literacy skills.

I want to thank the many local organizations here such as New Circle Community Services, Syrian Canadian Foundation, Newcomer Kitchen, Access Community Capital Fund and many others that are with us here today, to share how excited we are to work together with them on making a difference in the lives of these women in our communities.

I will end with another story. This is the story of Shoushi Bakarian, a young woman who Canada provided a safe haven to three years ago. She lives in Montreal. She fled Syria. She is of Armenian background and she initially started a regular job to support herself in Montreal. She was very happy that she was able to find a country that provided safety for her, but she wasn’t satisfied.

She wanted to improve her life and she always had a dream of pursuing aerospace engineering. She joined Concordia University. She is not only learning her fourth language. She is already making a contribution. She has invented a small aircraft engine part that leads to less emissions and more powerful aircraft engines.

When you hear that refugees do not make a contribution, Shoushi Bakarian’s story is the concrete answer and a disproving element to that kind of rhetoric. Her story caught the attention of Bombardier and she is now being celebrated as a great Canadian story in Montreal. What we are doing today, ladies and gentlemen, is empowering visible minority newcomer women to achieve economic independence.

After all, having a job is not just about making an economic contribution. It’s about providing someone with a sense of dignity and true fulfillment of their own potential. In Canada gender equality is for all women, not just for some. Today, we’re helping to create opportunities so that visible minority newcomer women can succeed in Canada and reach their full potential.

When they do that, as I said, it’s not only good for them. It’s the smart thing to do, because it’s also good for Canada. If they’re not included in the economy, we lose out on their contributions. We lose out on their economic contributions but also their skillsets which we need as a country. Our government knows full well that, when women succeed, Canada succeeds.

Thank you.

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