Amid immigration bump, welcome centre struggles to keep up with demand for French courses

October 29, 2017

By CBC News |

Munia Mohamed’s face lights up when she talks about Montreal.

“She’s a refugee and she wants to live here because she is comfortable and in security here,” said Asma Benaziz, an outreach worker at Bienvenue à NDG, an immigration welcome centre in the city’s west end.

Mohamed switches between English and Arabic with Benaziz, who is helping her navigate the system as she’s come to sign up for French classes.

Mohamed arrived in Montreal seven months ago, after fleeing Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, for both safety and familial reasons.

She had been studying to become a nurse and hopes to pursue the profession here.

But Bienvenue à NDG says it’s struggling to keep up with the demand for language classes — especially in French — that will help immigrants like Mohamed contribute to Quebec society by seeking education and employment.

Immigrants in Canada represent the biggest share of the population they’ve been in nearly a century, according to 2016 census figures released this week, and the centre’s executive director Luis Miguel Cristancho says it’s lacking the resources to meet that demand.

Bienvenue à NDG opened in 2009 to organize activities for immigrant families. It has since evolved into a non-profit agency that helps recently arrived immigrants integrate into the community through a range of services, including providing French and English classes.

Cristancho says employees have been working many unpaid hours to meet the high demand.

The funding provided by Quebec’s Immigration Ministry and the guidelines for who the agency can serve limit the number of people Bienvenue à NDG is able to help, he said.

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