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Stigma-Free Society Opportunity – Part-Time Community Development Officer

Stigma-Free Society Employment Job Description

Position: Community Development Manager (CDM) Victoria, BC

Annual Salary: $30,000 gross salary annually

Job Application deadline: September 15th, 2019

Community Development Officer Duties:

  • Act in a leadership role by encouraging and meeting with the Stigma-Free Society’s four program staff members under the direction of the Society’s President;
  • Work as part of the Stigma-Free Task Force remotely and provide perspective and feedback to Society programs on monthly evening calls;
  • Act in an administration role as necessary for the effective operations of the Society;
  • Build on existing community partnerships via in-person and phone meetings and strive to develop new public/private sector relationships by establishing and following up on Stigma-Free Zone programs in schools, businesses/orgs and geographical areas;
  • Promote and market the new Stigma-Free Zone Online Program across Canada in schools remotely from Victoria, BC;
  • Design and execute successful fundraising and awareness events in Victoria managing numerous volunteers and logistics;
  • Design and conduct presentations in a format that is outlined and approved by the President to community organizations and schools as needed;
  • Assist families and individuals to seek out appropriate resources for mental health care;
  • Work effectively with the Executive Assistant/Program Coordinator and additional Society staff in a Non-Managerial position;
  • Network at events and represent the Society and attend meetings on behalf of the President upon request;
  • Assist with the delivery of the Stigma-Free Society’s Children’s Mental Health Program by offering presentations in schools and to the community and assisting in the recruitment of presentations;
  • Assist with items such as the Society newsletter, website, traditional media and advertisements upon request;
  • Be very flexible and open to conducting tasks that are not identified in the Community Development Manager’s job description that allows for adaptability, versatility and assistance to the President;
  • Possess basic computer software experience: Outlook, Excel, Power Point

Employee Qualifications, Skills, Knowledge and Abilities:

  • Highly organized and able to balance multiple priorities while maintaining high degree of professionalism and strong attention to detail;
  • Ability to communicate information effectively and concisely to various audiences verbally and in writing;
  • Ability to make sound recommendations and decisions based on own analysis;
  • Ability to work with minimal supervision;
  • Ability to use a variety of computer applications, including word processing, spread sheets, and presentation software.
  • Adequate knowledge and understanding about mental health issues, local/provincial resources and how to address stigma related social issues;
  • Experience working with community members with diverse backgrounds;
  • Possess excellent presentation and communications abilities;
  • Ability to market Society programs acting as a Society representative with various stakeholders in schools and the community;
  • Receive feedback and take direction in a positive and effective manner;
  • Prefer a certificate or diploma in mental health, community service worker, or related field.
  • Prefer candidates who have worked with youth aged grades 4-7.

Additional Notes:

  • Gas Mileage is the responsibility of the employee and the Society does not provide remuneration.
  • The employee must have access to a vehicle.
  • The employee must utilize their own laptop computer and Office Suite 2018 may be provided by the Society if necessary.
  • Employment Conditions: (3-month review with conditions as set out as per the BC Standards Act) Performance reviews and future consideration of an increase in salary are at the discretion of the President.
  • Health Benefits: The Society will provide basic medical insurance upon a 3-month approval of a probationary period as determined by the President.
  • Work hours are 20 hours per week. M-F 10-2pm. Hours may be slightly flexible upon a request to the President.

THIS POSITION IS FILLED. THANK YOU.

Hiring a new Stigma-Free Zone School and Community Presenter in Metro Vancouver

The Stigma-Free Society is currently looking to hire an additional Stigma-Free Zone School and Community Presenter to join our Metro Vancouver team!

The Stigma-Free Society provides education and awareness about the effects of stigma, as well as peer support for those facing personal challenges in hopes of fostering acceptance of ourselves and others. One of our primary programs is the Stigma-Free Zone School Program that is delivered provincially.

We are looking for an extraordinary individual to tell their amazing personal story of hope and resiliency in schools to small and large groups in Metro Vancouver only. With an initial focus on mental health, we have now expanded our mandate to include all stigmas under the Stigma-Free banner (www.stigmafreesociety.com) such as LGBTQ2+, homelessness, race, substance use, etc. If you have a powerful story of overcoming obstacles and dealing with stigma, be it societal stigma or self-stigma, we welcome your application.

We are seeking a school and community presenter with passion and positivity–someone who has lived through and overcome many challenges. If you are truly inspired to share your story with youth in schools (grades 7-12) and occasionally with adults at businesses and organizations, then please keep reading.

This position best suits someone who is VERY accepting and comfortable with themselves and their personal circumstances and is not afraid to talk about their struggles in a public forum. This someone wants to shout their story from the rooftops because they feel that their experiences will make a difference in the lives of others.

A Stigma-Free Zone Presenter must:

  • Be professional and possess experience in public speaking;
  • Be open-minded and willing to learn from different perspectives while taking direction from the President of Stigma-Free Society;
  • Have a positive, respectful attitude and a willingness to be open and authentic;
  • Be comfortable with public speaking and presenting to small or large audiences;
  • Be self-motivated, punctual, and able to adapt to changing situations;
  • Have an engaging and impacting personal story to share;
  • Prior experience working with youth is an asset

Further Important Details: 

  • You will create a PowerPoint presentation with the Society’s guidance and it must be suitable for youth in grades 7-12, which is also used for community presentations;
  • You will be presenting between 45 to 90 minutes to classes or assemblies and various groups in the community;
  • We will train you. The training will generally take about up to 3 weeks to complete (part-time) and you will be paid $400 when the training is complete;
  • We want to put out a very positive message and we welcome stories that are tough. We are seeking applicants who have been through a great deal to get to where they are today and we will work with you to share your story that will encourage others;
  • It is very key to know that if hired, we ask you to commit to work with us for one school year and absolutely no shorter please as it take a great amount of resources to train staff;
  • There is not an average number of presentations promised, but enough that is rewarding and will give you the skills and practice you need to keep you engaged;
  • We expect you to be aware and educated about various marginalized communities and on what available mental health resources exist in the community; and
  • We pay you a flat rate of $100 per presentation – this fee includes all of your expenses, including gas/mileage.

*ESSENTIAL DETAILS TO NOTE – You will be contracted during the school year with summers off. This position is best suited to someone who has a part-time job and/or plenty of flexibility in their schedule. We offer a minimum of 2 weeks’ notice for each presentation, so you can plan ahead. We are accommodating and respectful of your time, but it is preferred that presenters have an adequate amount of availability as determined by the President, SFS.

*You require a guaranteed means of transport to and from your presentation. Public transportation is not acceptable as it is very important you show up at schools and community organizations 20 minutes for set-up before a presentation and many schools and places are not accessible by public transit.

We would really love to hear from you and have you join our amazing Stigma-Free Society Team.

Please be sure to describe in your Cover Letter why you believe you have a powerful story to share. APPLICATIONS WITHOUT A COVER LETTER WILL NOT BE CONSIDERED. 

Remember that no matter what our challenges, we can all live extraordinary lives!

Job Type: Casual (You are deemed a contractor, not an employee of the Society)

Jason: 1 – Stigma: 0 – My Battle with Mental Illness at Home and in the Workplace

I was diagnosed with a mental illness at 29 years old, but the greatest challenge I faced wasn’t the illness itself. It is was the suffocating stigma that came with it.

I am speaking of the stigma that still surrounds mental illness, and the lack of empathy and understanding that follows – and that’s at best. At worst, blatant discrimination is the result. Stigma is inappropriate, unnecessary and offensive. But, unlike mental illness, we have the power to overcome stigma.

Mental illness can be treated – but stigma can be cured.

I came to this realization through the unique experience of being diagnosed with both a major physical illness and a mental illness. The former was a rare nerve defect in my heart that began causing symptoms at 9 years old, and ultimately lead to open-heart surgery at 12 years old. During the entire experience I was overwhelmed with support, love – and a complete lack of stigma. Who would look at a young boy with a heart problem and think his character was in question? Or ask him to just “try harder” or “get more exercise”?

The latter was bipolar disorder, the symptoms of which began appearing in 2002 and progressively worsened until 2005, when I had a 6-day manic episode that resulted in a forced 2-week stay in psychiatric hospital. During those tumultuous three years, bipolar disorder nearly destroyed my life.

It was in comparing these two experiences, both personally and professionally, that I realized the destructive power of stigma, which is very prevalent with respect to mental illness and yet non-existent with other, more known illnesses.

The reality was that years after fixing one major organ with open-heart surgery, it appeared another, this time my brain, wasn’t working properly. Despite the similarities of the illnesses – in both cases, a major organ had a biological failure that created dramatic symptoms – there was nothing similar about the two experiences. First, there was the challenge of self-stigma, which was so strong that for nearly two years I refused treatment and actually tried to find my way back to health through the sheer force of will and determination (as though that was a viable option).

Stigma also reared its ugly head in a second, external way. This time it came in the form of confusion, discomfort, judgment and at times outright discrimination in the minds of those around me. This happened regularly, and not only with those in my professional life, but also those in my social life and family. It was jarring to realize that all of the support, unconditional love and empathy that came my way when my heart wasn’t working was nowhere to be seen now that my brain was failing.

After finally winning the battle against stigma, I began to treat my illness properly – as a medical illness that required my attention, research and, ultimately, treatment. This approach lead to a successful return to full health within 6 months of being hospitalized and diagnosed and, for the vast majority of the days since June, 2005, I have been living well, free of the worst symptoms of bipolar disorder. I work very hard to manage my illness and maintain my physical and mental health, and it isn’t always easy or perfect, but approaching my illness with zero stigma has helped immeasurably.

Once I fully ‘owned’ my illness, I realized I had the opportunity to help others by sharing my experience. Very few people have faced both a physical and mental illness, recovered, are willing to speak about it, and are effective public speakers. My degree in Theatre and Speech Communication provided the final ingredient.

So, in 2006, I started talking. From 2006 to 2015, I delivered over 40 keynotes as a volunteer on behalf of AMI QC, a Montreal-based organization that helps caregivers of those facing mental illness, and also provides outreach education. In 2015, after years of seeing the positive impact of sharing my message, I founded StigmaZero to work towards a future without stigma by helping employers eradicate stigma in their workplaces, so they can better manage mental illness as it arises in their workplace.

My message was, and still is, very clear: stigma continues to exist regarding mental illness because of fear and a lack of understanding. It may often be innocent, but it doesn’t belong, and education is the first step toward eradicating it. We should never again speak of mental illness in any other terms than what it is – an illness.

If you know someone who suffers from a mental illness (and statistics say that you probably do) or if you suffer from one yourself, be a part of the effort to end the stigma.

Stigma is something we have the power to cure.  Let’s get rid of it.

Jason Finucan

Founder, StigmaZero

Author of the book Jason: 1, Stigma: 0 – My battle with mental illness at home and in the workplace

Jason Finucan is a mental health advocate, stigma fighter, professional speaker, founder of StigmaZero and instructor of the programs found within The StigmaZero Online Training Academy.

Visit www.stigmazero.com for more information, and www.stigmazero.com/book to purchase the book.

Transforming Obstacles into Strength: Meet our Scholarship Winner Gabriella!

Gabriella has made her mental health challenges into one of her greatest strengths, but it didn’t start that way.

Struggling with anxiety for as long as she can remember, Gabriella says, “I never knew any different. I thought everyone’s brain just worked that way.” As she got older, the anxiety evolved into recurring panic attacks and began affecting her schoolwork. Still, her anxiety also motivated her to work harder, and although her anxiety caused her to have challenges in school, she asserts, “It was also one of the biggest factors that led me to where I am now.”

With the support of OtsukaLundbeck Alliance, the Stigma-Free Society provided a post-secondary school scholarship to Gabriella to put towards earning her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration at Simon Fraser University. She feels that her competitive spirit and perfectionism allow her to have success in such a difficult program, but it’s these same traits that made her reluctant to seek help for so long.

Like many people in our society, Gabriella didn’t want to admit that her mental distress was an issue and that it severely impacted her life. She told herself that she ought to simply, “Suck it up,” and get by on her own.  A shift in thinking came after she made many positive lifestyle changes from diet modifications to exercise regimens, and while this helped to some degree her mind simply would not shut off from relentless anxiety and worries. She stumbled across a documentary about women struggling with anxiety and depression, and eventually decided to try medication.

Gabriella often told herself, “If I’m not taking medication, I’m winning.” There is so much stigma around people who take medication for mental health, whereas people who take medication for physical illness are rarely judged so harshly. Gabriella states, “I noticed in a lot of people, they feel that taking medication for mental health is something that is a weakness instead of something that can make you feel stronger.”

Since then, she has received support from friends and family, and has had friends tell her that her decision to take care of her own mental health has inspired them to do the same. Gabriella asserts,

“Mental health is in everybody, and everybody needs to be taking care of it.”

Finding out her condition had a name felt empowering to Gabriella. She finds success in overcoming her anxiety through regular meditation and exercise, and practices positive affirmations. Like many people who struggle with perfectionism and anxiety, no matter what has been achieved, Gabriella often felt like she was never enough, or that she was not meeting her own expectations. These practices, as well as working with a doctor regularly to manage her mental health, help her feel that she is not a victim, but rather an active driver in her own wellness. Gabriella states, “I have a part-time job in Finance and I am in school full time for Business. I have a really great support system and my friends mean the world to me.”

One of the most important insights about managing her mental health is refusing to see herself as a victim. Gabriella does not view her anxiety as a negative obstacle, but as a means to push herself and become stronger. She encourages others by saying, “Use whatever strengths and weaknesses you have, that’s who you are. You can work to improve yourself, but you can’t change who you are. Use that to motivate yourself and do great things. Use it as a positive light.”

Author,

Robyn Thomas, Community Development Manager, Stigma-Free Society

Thank you to the OtsukaLundbeck Alliance between Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co. and Lundbeck Canada  for their generous donations to two Stigma-Free Scholarships in 2018-19. We are very grateful.

Meet our Stigma-Free Society – Otsuka-Lundbeck Alliance Scholarship Winner!

Many students on campus are carrying around more than just heavy textbooks. Not only burdened by the pressures of fitting in, and keeping up high grades, some students are facing hidden adversity made worse by the effects of stigma.

Ruzzelle – Stigma-Free Society Scholarship Winner

With the support of Otsuka-Lundbeck Alliance, we were able to give two deserving students who have overcome societal and self-stigma a scholarship to put towards their post-secondary program of choice. One of our two scholarship winners, Ruzzelle, began having mental health issues in high school but didn’t believe that getting help from a professional was an option.

“I almost failed my first year of University”, she says, “and it wasn’t until I started to see somebody later on that I could slowly get a handle on just living.” Mental health wasn’t something Ruzzelle’s friends in high school talked about, and like many families, hers did not talk about mental illness in a constructive way. “When I told them I was depressed, they wanted to take me to Disney Land because it’s the happiest place on earth! They just wanted me to get better and they didn’t know how.” Eventually, her family offered her the financial support to see a counselor.

The counseling sessions helped Ruzzelle become aware of her self-defeating thoughts, self-stigma being among them. She spent years struggling to simply get out of bed, but for a long time, felt that it was a problem best handled alone.  Now Ruzzelle says, “I feel like the anxious thoughts are more manageable now, I think because I’ve had all this practice, time and support.”

Now that she has the support she needs, Ruzzelle is completing a Masters Degree in Speech-Language Pathology. “I’m entering a field where I’m going to be able to help other people go through their own journey of stigma which is amazing. I never thought I’d be able to do that.”

We asked Ruzzelle how it felt to receive a scholarship based on her experiences of overcoming stigma and she responded, “I felt very supported. I heard all this bad news in the media all the time, but hearing what one non-profit is doing for students about stigma is amazing. One of the good pieces of news that I need.”

When asked what she would say to other students suffering from the effects of societal or self-stigma, Ruzzelle would like them to know that, “You’re not alone in your journey. All it takes is one person to really listen to you and it can be life changing.”

Congratulations Ruzzelle and all the best in your Masters Program!

Thank you to Lundbeck Canada and Otsuka Canada Pharmaceuticals Inc.for making the Stigma-Free Society Scholarships possible.

Join the Stigma-Free Society Team! Recruiting a Vancouver Stigma-Free Zone Presenter!

The Stigma-Free Society is currently looking to hire an additional Stigma-Free Zone School Presenter to join our team!

The Stigma-Free Society provides education and awareness about the effects of stigma, as well as peer support for those facing personal challenges in hopes of fostering acceptance of ourselves and others. One of our primary programs is the Stigma-Free Zone School Program.

We are looking for an extraordinary individual to tell their amazing personal story of hope and resiliency in schools to small and large groups. With an initial focus on mental health, we have now expanded our mandate to include all stigmas under the Stigma-Free Zone banner (www.stigmafreesociety.com) with an emphasis on mental health, LGBTQ2+, homelessness, race, and substance use. If you have a powerful story of overcoming obstacles and dealing with stigma, be it societal stigma or self-stigma, we welcome your application.

We are seeking a school presenter with passion and positivity–someone who has lived through and overcome many challenges. If you are truly inspired to share your story with youth in schools (grades 7-12) and occasionally with adults at businesses and organizations, then please keep reading!

This position best suits someone who is VERY accepting and comfortable with themselves and their personal circumstances and is not afraid to talk about their struggles in a public forum. This someone wants to shout their story from the rooftops because they feel that their experiences will make a difference in the lives of others.

A Stigma-Free Zone Presenter must:

  • Be professional and possess experience in public speaking;
  • Be open-minded and willing to learn from different perspectives;
  • Have a positive, respectful attitude and a willingness to be open and authentic;
  • Be comfortable with public speaking and presenting to small or large audiences;
  • Be self-motivated, punctual, and able to take direction;
  • Have an engaging and impacting personal story to share;
  • Prior experience working with youth is an asset

Further Details: 

  • You will create a PowerPoint presentation with the Society’s guidance and it must be suitable for youth in grades 7-12;
  • You will be presenting between 45 to 90 minutes to classes or assemblies and various groups in the community;
  • We will train you. The training will generally take about 2-3 weeks to complete (part-time) and you will be paid $400;
  • We want to put out a very positive message and we welcome stories that are tough. We are seeking applicants who have been through a great deal to get to where they are today and we will work with you to share your story that will encourage others;
  • It is very key to know that if hired, we ask you to commit to work with us for 1 year;
  • There is not an average number of presentations promised, but enough that is rewarding and will give you the skills and practice you need to keep you inspired;
  • We expect you to be aware and educated about various marginalized communities and on what available mental health resources exist in the community; and
  • We pay you a flat rate of $100 per presentation – this fee includes all of your expenses, including gas.

*VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE – You will be contracted during the school year with summers off. This position is best suited to someone who has a part-time job and/or plenty of flexibility in their schedule. We offer a minimum of 2 weeks’ notice for each presentation, so you can plan ahead.

**You require a guaranteed means of transport to and from your presentation. Public transportation is not acceptable as it is very important you are to show up at schools 20 minutes for set-up before a presentation and many schools are not accessible by public transit.

We would really love to hear from you and have you join our amazing Stigma-Free Society Team. Please be sure to describe in your Cover Letter why you believe you have a powerful story to share.

 

APPLICATIONS WITHOUT A COVER LETTER WILL NOT BE CONSIDERED. 

Remember that no matter what our challenges, we can all live extraordinary lives!

We look forward to receiving your resume and cover letter at: robyn@stigmafreezone.com 

Thank you 🙂

#thatwellnessthing – Join us at our Second Annual Open House!

Join Speaker, Andrea Paquette, President and Founder, Stigma-Free Society for the #thatwellnessthing

Join the Langley Education Centre to learn more about mental health and wellness at their Second Annual Open House & community resource fair!

Wednesday February 27, 2019 4:30-7 PM at Langley Education Centre

21405A 56 Avenue, Langley BC

Presentations & Information Tables

  • Mental Health & Wellness Counselling
  • Suicide Prevention
  • Violence Prevention
  • Recreation
  • Healthy Living
  • Substance Use
  • Employment
  • Settlement Services

Students 16+, adults, and school staff welcome.

No registration required.

Light refreshments and on site photo booth.

Door prizes!

Contacts: Amanda Rawle arawle@sd35.bc.ca / Nicky Harder nharder@sd35.bc.ca

Community Services

The BC Responsible and Problem Gambling Program

Provides free information, resources, and treatment to support informed choices and healthy behaviours with respect to gambling participation.

Encompass Support Services Society

Offers a variety of free, accessible community programs and activities for all ages with a primary focus on children, youth, and families. Programs and services include: family mediation and reunification, youth homelessness, sexual abuse counselling, after school activity programs, pre-and-postnatal support, parent-child drop-in groups, and parenting support groups.

Fraser Health

Several different programs of Fraser Health will be attending the event including public health nurses from the Healthy Schools program and overdose prevention, as well as mental health clinicians from START.

Fraser Valley Youth Society

Supports LGBTQ2S+ and Allied youth in the Fraser Valley by connecting them to their peers, their communities, and by providing supportive & inclusive help where needed. FVYS operates a weekly drop-in and attends other special events and programs throughout the year offering Education and Awareness Programming.

Langley Community Services Society

Assists individuals and families to enhance their lives through the provision of information, services, and programs. Staff from the Substance Use Program and the Settlement & Employment Program will be attending.

Langley Hospice Society

Provides compassionate support to help people live with dignity and hope while coping with grief and the end of life.

The Stigma Free Society

This new and exciting initiative is dedicated to the awareness of the stigmas that exist in society, to help develop an understanding of the challenges that numerous people face, and to encourage acceptance.

The Baristas Training Program

This program of Pacific Community Resources Society is partnered with Starbucks and BladeRunners to provide support, guidance, and training for at-risk youth. Eligible youth ages 16-30 will receive life and employability workshops (5 weeks), and work experience at a Starbucks store (4 weeks).

Express to Success

Offered through Mission Community Skills Centre Society, Express to Success is a 14 week paid training program (6 weeks in class, 8 weeks work experience) for eligible youth ages 15-30.

This Way Ahead

This program of Pacific Community Resources Society offers youth ages 16 through 24 an opportunity to gain valuable skills and confidence in the customer service field through a series of supported workshops (9 weeks, part time) and a paid internship with the GAP, Old Navy, or Banana Republic (10 weeks, part time).

Let’s Talk at Glenlyon Norfolk School with EJ Weston

On January 30, Middle and Senior School Assemblies included presentations by EJ Weston, a School and Community speaker from the Stigma-Free Society on the topic of stigma with a special focus on mental health.

With a focus on resilience and hope, EJ shared their own personal experience with mental illness, overcoming trauma, and the importance of self care. The thought-provoking talk was an excellent way to reach students with important information, and provided a framework that will encourage them to work together to create an environment free of judgement and stigma.

Please view Glenlyon Norfolk School’s newsletter HERE

Thank you so much to Glenlyon Norfolk School for supporting the Stigma-Free Zone Movement.

MANAGING YOUR PERSISTENT FEARS, ANXIETIES, AND STRESS

Everybody deals with anxiety and depression, however some people have a difficult time in managing it. As a result, here is a brief list of techniques that a person can use to help manage their most persistent fears and every day anxieties.

When facing a current or upcoming task that overwhelms you with a lot of anxiety, the first thing you can do is to divide the task into a series of smaller steps. Completing these smaller tasks one at a time will make the stress more manageable and increases your chances of success.

Sometimes we get stressed out when everything happens all at once. When this happens, a person should take a deep breath and try to find something to do for a few minutes to get their mind off of the problem.  A person could get some fresh air, listen to some music, or do an activity that will give them a fresh perspective on things.

Another technique that is very helpful is to have a small notebook of positive statements that makes you feel good. Whenever you come across an affirmation that makes you feel good, write it down in a small notebook that you can carry around with you in your pocket.  Whenever you feel depressed or frustrated, open up your small notebook and read those statements.   This will help to manage your negative thinking.

Take advantage of the help that is available around you. If possible, talk to a professional who can help you manage your depression and anxieties. They will be able to provide you with additional advice and insights on how to deal with your current problem.  By talking to a professional, a person will be helping themselves in the long run because they will become better able to deal with their problems in the future.

Remember that it never hurts to ask for help.

By: Stanley Popovich

BIOGRAPHY:

Stan Popovich is the author of “A Layman’s Guide to Managing Fear Using Psychology, Christianity and Non Resistant Methods”. Stan’s managing fear book has become very popular with over 300 positive book reviews and counting. Please read the many book reviews of Stan’s popular book by going to Stan’s website at http://www.managingfear.com

Diversity, Inclusion, and Integration: The Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria

To a passer-by, the Inter-Cultural Association’s Immigrant Welcome Centre on Balmoral Avenue in Victoria, BC, may not seem like much: a colourful doorway underneath the United Church appears to invite visitors into a small, unassuming space.

Stepping inside, however, you enter a labyrinth — two and a half floors of offices, classrooms, resource rooms, and even a fully equipped childcare centre with an adjoining outdoor playground. Steven Baileys is the Community Development Coordinator at the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria and he showed me around the space, identifying the many ways in which this organization serves immigrants in Victoria.

Immigrants make up around 18% of the entire population of Victoria, a total of 13,875 as of 2011. From April 2016 to March 2017, the ICA served over 450 newcomers.

The Immigrant Welcome Centre offers English language classes for over 500 students each year, as well as employment readiness training and various other settlement services. Child care services, which are much sought after and oversaturated in Victoria, are another incredibly valuable resource at the Centre, supporting newcomer parents who need time to learn English and prepare for the work force in their new community.

I asked Steve to identify some of the most significant stigmas for immigrants coming to Canada. He spoke of longstanding discrimination — assumptions that people from different countries or cultures aren’t capable because they don’t look, speak, or act like a stereotypical Canadian.

There’s been a concerning resurgence of this kind of discrimination as the global migrant crisis is on the rise, and governments and populations are divided about the importance of multiculturalism and diversity, Steve explained.

The ICA is a part of the Canadian welcome centre model, which is funded almost entirely by the federal government. The Centre is often a destination for US and European researchers and PhD students, hoping to engage with this unique Canadian service.

Steve identified that dispelling stigmas and assumptions about immigrants in a forthright way is a priority for the ICA. When immigrants first arrive at the Centre, they receive a basic training session, outlining their rights and freedoms as an immigrant, as a Canadian, and as a future member of the Canadian workforce.

The programs offered at the ICA are developed to give newcomers the ability to be resilient and stand up for their rights in cases of discrimination. As newcomers meet these exclusionary stigmas, it can be deflating and demoralizing, said Steve.

One level of discrimination is microaggressions — discriminatory comments or actions in academic, professional, or public settings. These instances aren’t necessarily noticeable to a bystander, but they create a landscape of exclusion and isolation. These microaggressions are combined with overt practices, such as employers telling immigrant job candidates that they only hire “Canadians,” or that they don’t consider applicants with values or cultural backgrounds different than their own.

On top of these stigmas, mental health is another issue that newcomers face. “Immigration is an amazingly difficult experience: we receive clients who have faced violence, trauma, dislocation, PTSD, and many other mental health concerns,” Steve said. Cultural stigmas around mental health often prevent newcomers from seeking help when they arrive in Canada and they’re dealing with so many other pressing issues.

The ICA works to give newcomers tools to deal with discrimination and stigma, including a strong partnership with all six regional police divisions in the Greater Victoria Area and connections with the BC Human Rights Coalition, should clients need external support with a case.

The organization also emphasizes the importance of social connection to fight discrimination and stigmas which can isolate newcomers and make it hard for them to engage with others. Their social and artistic programs, as well as the Community Partnership Network, are some of the many ways the ICA connects newcomers with the greater community.

The ICA is a strong representative of Stigma-Free culture in the Greater Victoria Area. We look forward to further collaborative work with them, and the promotion of mental health awareness with newcomers.

Author, Katie Clarke, SFS Community Outreach Assistant, Intern

Funders