Immigrants can ‘click, connect’ for info

November 16, 2017

By Gisele Winton Sarvis, Orilliapacket |

New immigrants moving anywhere into Simcoe County will now only have to visit their local library to access information on how to settle into Canadian society.

The Click, Connect Immigrant Assistance Program is rolling out to 16 library branches across Simcoe County in January.

The new residents will go to a computer station, sign in and be connected to a worker with the Welcome Centre Immigrant Services based in Newmarket, who they can see via computer camera, and who can answer questions on a variety of topics including the citizenship process, housing and language resources.

The Stayner branch of the Clearview Public Library is the pilot site for the new service. At Monday’s launch, local politicians, librarians and immigrant service workers gathered for the presentation.

County Warden Gerry Marshall supports the program.

“I think it’s great. If you think about the County of Simcoe, 13% of our population or about 62,000 people are new immigrants. Our population is scheduled to double by 2041, so most of that growth will be new immigrants coming into the County of Simcoe.”

The county has 93 communities, Marshall said.

“To get this service into our local libraries makes it more local for everyone.”

Social Enterprise for Canada is the company that developed the Welcome Centre mobile immigrant services unit and the new program.

“Right now, we are rolling it out to 16 libraries in Simcoe County. We picked one branch out of each of the municipalities,” said Darlene Brown, vice-president of Social Enterprise for Canada.

“When we wanted to do a public demonstration, we were looking for a library that was in a non-urban centre. We wanted to show that the technology is capable of shortening distance everywhere.”

Stayner library staff is the first to be trained. The laptops are pre-programmed to the portal. The librarian just has to get the person started before the live person on the other side takes over.

“We are supplying the laptops. They are not library laptops,” Brown said.

This project has been in the works with the County of Simcoe for about one year.

“It’s an extension of services that Social Enterprises of Canada has been offering through the Welcome Centre mobile unit, but it takes the job of having to having a physical person there out of it,” Brown said.

In Simcoe County, immigrant services offices are located in Barrie and Bradford.

“I think it’s great that Clearview got this honour because we are a rural community and the whole concept is to bring it out to communities that don’t have access,” said Jennifer LaChapelle, CEO of the Clearview Public Library.

“This allows us to facilitate the immigration process without having to travel over half an hour to get to the service and have immediate appointments rather than having to book an appointment.”

Click Connect staff speak 14 languages and have access to interpreters for other languages.

“We have people coming in now who struggle to communicate with us, so we know there are people who are recent immigrants who are going to need services, and now we can connect them,” LaChapelle said.

Gayle Hall, chief librarian and CEO of the Simcoe County Library Co-operative, said there is no cost to municipalities as it is funded through provincial grants. The program is also being delivered to Orillia and Barrie.

“Over the last few years, we’ve had a grant from the province to roll out this immigrant-hub program in all the libraries,” she said.

County libraries have been developing a variety of programs for newcomers over the past few years, including offering more multilingual books and services.

“They are starting to focus more and more on newcomers. We also completed cultural competency training for all the staff in all the libraries.”

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