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Newcomer Chronicles

From Arrival to Integration: 

By IRYNA PALTSEVA - February 27 2024

Navigating Toronto’s Newcomer Support Network

When it comes to immigration, Canada consistently holds leading positions in the list of countries with the most pleasant and understandable conditions for newcomers. Indeed, as a country of immigrants, Canada annually welcomes tens of thousands of residents from other countries with open arms, ready to exchange the familiar conditions of their homeland for the hope of a better life.

Living in Ukraine, I never seriously considered moving to another country. However, when in February 2022 Russia attacked my homeland and my city found itself under occupation, I had to make a decision very quickly. Now, looking back 1.5 years later, I am incredibly happy that a series of coincidences (destiny, the Lord, intuition, or something else) led me precisely to Toronto, Canada. But at that time, my path was filled with fear and doubts.

Most immigrants carefully plan their move and prepare for it for months, learning about the living conditions in the new place and studying the customs and traditions of their new homeland. I did not have such an opportunity, so I came to Canada unprepared. How surprised I was when I encountered not only the friendliness and immense willingness to help from Canadians but also realized that there is a well-thought-out state system to assist newcomers, aimed at adapting and integrating immigrants into society as quickly as possible. And I must say, this system works excellently! 

What should newcomers do upon arrival in Toronto?

Loneliness and a sense of being lost often accompany newcomers in any country. But in Canada, you can quickly find your community, gain free access to essential information, and make new friends. This can be done in various ways:

  • Local Government Websites: Check the official website of the City of Toronto or other municipal government websites. They often provide information on newcomer services and organizations.
  • Community Centers: Explore community centers and libraries in different neighborhoods in Toronto. They might have information about local newcomer programs and services.
  • Online Directories: Use online directories and databases like 211 Toronto or the New to Toronto website. These platforms compile information on various services available to newcomers.
  • Ethnic and Cultural Organizations: Depending on your background, there may be specific cultural or ethnic organizations that provide support to newcomers from your community.
  • Refugee and Immigration Support Organizations: Organizations like Access Alliance Multicultural Health and Community Services or FCJ Refugee Centre often provide support and resources for refugees and immigrants.
  • Libraries: Local libraries often have information about community services and may be a good starting point.
  • Online Forums and Communities: Join online forums or communities where newcomers share their experiences and recommendations. Websites like Settlement.Org or forums like Reddit may be helpful.

Separately, Settlement Agencies are worth mentioning. These organizations are well-established in assisting newcomers. They often have various programs and services.

The most popular in the Toronto area are:

  • YMCA Newcomer Services
  • COSTI Immigrant Services
  • CultureLink Settlement and Community Services
  • Access Alliance Multicultural Health and Community Services
  • JVS Toronto
  • Catholic Crosscultural Services
  • WoodGreen Community Services
  • ACSA Community Services
  • South Asian Women’s Centre
  • Toronto Newcomer Office
  • North York Community House
  • Polycultural Immigrant and Community Services
  • Davenport-Perth Neighbourhood and Community Health Centre
  • Council of Agencies Serving South Asians (CASSA)
  • Toronto South Local Immigration Partnership

When looking for newcomer services, consider your specific needs, such as language support, employment assistance, housing, and cultural integration programs. Always verify the information and contact the organizations directly for the most up-to-date details.

People who are members of these organizations also get the opportunity to get acquainted with various attractions of Toronto for free or for a minimal fee, since almost all centers periodically organize group trips to exhibitions, theaters and museums. But the most important thing is that there you can find a company of friends and like-minded people who will help you cope with confusion and feelings of loneliness.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to all these organizations – they exist precisely to help you. Also, there’s no need to limit yourself to just one organization; you can register with several newcomer centers near your place of residence. And remember – it’s completely free!

This article s written by Iryna Paltseva, a freelance writer, journalist, web-developer. You can contact her at irynapaltseva@gmail.com


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