Sunny ways and goodwill not enough

January 22, 2016

By Daphne Bramham, Vancouver Sun |

More than 5,000 refugees and immigrants in Metro Vancouver are on waiting lists for basic English classes and are isolated by their inability to easily manage many of the simplest tasks of daily life.

It can take up to nine months for a refugee to get into the first stage of the Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) program. That’s where they learn enough English to navigate the transit system, do their banking and buy groceries without having to find a store where someone speaks their home language.

For anyone wanting or needing more than functional literacy, the wait can be up to 17 months. There are bottlenecks because not everyone learns at the same rate.

And, pity the poor refugees who are illiterate and may have never even held a pencil before they arrived. They may have to wait for pre-literacy classes before their names can even be added to the Stage 1 waiting list.

This is flawed public policy. Without a large infusion of government money to clear the waiting lists and expand the programs to accommodate the imminent arrival of 2,500 Syrians, newcomers will struggle.

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