Providing assistance for newcomers with a click

“Click, Connect” is up and running in Simcoe County.

The video conferencing service will give newcomers direct access to the Welcome Centre for Immigrant Services (WCIS), located in Newmarket, right from their local library. With 31 library branches across the Simcoe County, the goal is to offer immigrants living in more rural communities a solution that supports integration.

The program is available now at all three Clearview branches, but will expand to the rest of the county over the next couple of months.

The project is a partnership of the WCIS and the Simcoe County Library Co-operative. Funding is provided by both federal and provincial grant money that is earmarked toward improving services for immigrants.

Libraries throughout the county are already serving as information hubs, thanks to another provincially-funded program that rolled out last year. The idea then was to make libraries a one-stop location to help immigrants feel at home, access materials in different languages as well as find community information and referral services.

“Click, Connect” takes it another step further by providing immediate, face-to-face access to newcomer community services, including information on settlement supports, employment and language assistance. Users of the service can simply visit their local library branch, borrow a dedicated laptop computer and connect with an input worker at the centre.

“It makes it easy, both for the newcomer and the library staff,” Gayle Hall, county library CEO, told Simcoe Review. “You just turn it on.”

Translation services are also provided.

According to Statistics Canada, in 2011, almost 51,000 of the more than 438,000 Simcoe County residents identified themselves as immigrants and the newcomer population has continued to increase. Between 2011 and 2016, growth by more than 33,000 residents represents a 7.5 per cent increase from 2011. That compares to the provincial average of 4.6 per cent and the national average of five per cent.

With 550 to 700 immigrants arriving from foreign countries to Simcoe County every year, it’s no wonder county forecasters say the population is expected to reach 667,000 by 2031. New residents are also moving from other parts of Ontario, with the majority coming from the Greater Toronto Area.

In the photo, from the left, are County Councillor Chris Vandercruys, County Warden Gerry Marshall, Darlene Brown from the Social Enterprise for Canada, Deputy Warden Terry Dowdall and County Councillor Sandra Cooper.

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