What is a “newcomer”?

What is a “newcomer”? This is a term used in Canadian immigration and settlement contexts but it defies easy meaning.

For some a newcomer is someone who has immigrated to Canada but has not yet become a Canadian Citizen. Since the Canadian citizenship process can take 5 or 6 years (or longer), a newcomer is usually someone who has been in Canada for less than 6 years.

For others being a newcomer can last a very long time and is a subjective notion. They just do not feel like they are at “home” even after decades in Canada and “home” is their country of origin.

Yet another layer or complexity is added to the whole idea of a newcomer, when you consider the perspective of Canada’s aboriginal communities. The City of Vancouver recently passed a resolution that it was on unceded traditional territory of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations

This makes all who have come to Vancouver, other than the original aboriginal communities, newcomers.

The City of Vancouver (COV) has been grappling with these and other immigration related issues over the past few years with the creation of a Mayors Task Force on Immigration (or Working Group, depending on the Mayor) (MWGI) since the last year of Mayor Campbell being Mayor, in 2005. I have been fortunate enough to serve as a member of the Mayors Working Group on Immigration over the course of three Mayors – Campbell, Sullivan and Robertson. In its 2007 Report to Vancouver City Council, the MWGI passed a “Vision and Value Statement Concerning Immigrants and Refugees” that in part noted that the First Nations were the “initial occupants” of Canada.

Since 2005, the COV has published three guides to assist in trying to understand the complex issues related to immigrants, refugees and aboriginal communities.

In 2011, the COV published “Vancouver Dialogues – First Nations, Urban Aboriginal and Immigrant Communities” as a record of the Vancouver Dialogues project. A project which through talking circles, in depth interviews, community visits and more had tried to build bridges of understanding between Vancouver’s various resident communities. I was the writer of the report.

In 2014 the COV published “First Peoples: A Guide for Newcomers” which notes that it grew out of the Dialogues Project of 2011. An interactive guide, it links to various web based resources, such as Thomas King’s provocative “I’m Not the Indian You Had in Mind” at page 37 under “Further Resources”.

In 2014, the COV also updated its popular “Newcomers Guide” by publishing on line (and a very limited print run) of “Growing Roots – A Newcomer’s Guide to Vancouver“. The Growing Roots guide has many web resources such as videos, interviews and graphic created only for the web.

With each guide, the COV has continued to emphasize the reader’s experience and included increasing web content.

As for the issue of what is a “newcomer”? Read the guides and make up your own mind.