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An Immigrant's Companion

New Canadians in Toronto and Vancouver can count on having a magazine to help them adjust

 

By David Miadovnik

Photo by Kenneth Brown

It takes nearly 10 years for newcomers to get established in a new country, according to Statistics Canada, and one of the most immediate problems immigrants face is a lack of information, a problem Canadian Immigrant Magazine aims to address.

The free monthly, owned by the Torstar Corporation, assists newcomers to Canada in finding jobs, housing, and education.

“It has a lot of helpful hints for new immigrants,” says Svetlana Gurevich, a Russian immigrant and skin care consultant at the Rexall Health Centre in Richmond Hill. She recommends the magazine to other newcomers to Canada.

“I think the most useful part is about where they give information on how to get a licence,” she says referring to the February 2008 issue. “For this part – for this month, they are talking also about RRSPs, which for a lot of countries probably is very new and people don’t know what that is all about.”
Gurevich is a reader who makes good use of Canadian Immigrant Magazine. The magazine’s editors make use of their readers.

“We get a lot of our stories through word-of-mouth,” says Simona Siad, associate editor for the Toronto edition. “You have these ordinary, interesting people with some of the most amazing stories you’ll ever hear of hardship and struggle. So as a journalist, it’s very exciting to see these stories being told.”
Although immigrants are the primary audience, Canadian Immigrant Magazine attracts other readers also.

“One of our important audiences is government and businesses that look to us to get a temperature of what issues immigrants are facing,” says David Frattini, the Toronto edition’s associate publisher. All too often, immigrants arrive in Canada only to find that their education is outdated and their skills are unrecognized.

In a recent issue, the publisher welcomed readers to the magazine with notes on how opportunities await immigrants willing to settle in Canadian small towns rather than big cities. The next five pages contained profiles on writer, lawyer and South Asian community leader Jay Chauhan, as well as Florence Wong, a former district commissioner in Hong Kong who became the chief executive officer of the Yee Hong Centre for Geriatric Care in Scarborough, Ontario.

The publication’s Money section concentrated on upcoming changes to income tax and the registered retirement savings plans, while the Settlement section discussed finding love as an immigrant on Valentine’s Day, getting the Immigration and Refugee Board to recognize a marriage in sponsorship appeals, and warning potential refugees against making mistakes on personal information forms.

The lack of diversity in Canada’s legal system was the central theme of a column by George Abraham, a Harvard scholar who writes from Ottawa.

The magazine also carries advertising, largely composed of real estate, banking, and tax services, as well as education and career opportunities.

Canadian Immigrant Magazine, published in English, was established three years ago in Vancouver and branched out into Toronto last June. Though certain stories are featured in both editions, there are articles that focus on city-specific immigrant populations. Calgary and Montreal editions are planned for the coming year.

About 50,000 copies in Toronto and 30,000 in Vancouver are distributed monthly, for the most part through Gateway Newstands, settlement agencies, Greater Toronto Area street boxes, libraries and campuses. 

“We’re getting a lot of interest from the education category as a big supporter of the magazine,” says Frattini. “Banks and the financial institutions are reaching out to this audience; that’s another category that we’re seeing good support from.”

In Frattini’s opinion, the South Asian and Chinese communities represent Canadian Immigrant Magazine's largest body of readers.

Frattini feels that dealing with diversity is not as daunting as it appears.

“The reality is there’s commonality of information needs that immigrants from a number of ethnicities have when they arrive here,” says Frattini. “They need to know about health care systems, they need to know job opportunities, and they need to know about credential recognition opportunities.”

Svetlana Gurevich immigrated to Canada 18 years ago when she was 22. Although  she didn’t have Canadian Immigrant Magazine to read then, today she says, “It makes people feel better about immigrating.”