Yip answers call to help immigrants
When Eliot Yip left China to study at the University of Toronto, he was overwhelmed by all the changes. Seeking help, Yip turned to the Toronto Chinese Community Services Association where he received guidance and encouragement as he began his new life in Canada.
Now, 25 years later, Yip is executive director of The Cross-Cultural Community Services Association (TCCSA). “Several years ago we changed our name because we extended our services beyond the ethnic Chinese we were originally serving. Now we help anyone such as immigrants from Vietnam and the Philippines,” he told China Daily in a telephone interview.
There are about 700,000 Chinese living in the Toronto metropolitan area, according to Yip. His organization began in 1973 when a handful of students at the University of Toronto began helping other Chinese students with their English. Eventually the group expanded their outreach to the Chinese community in Chinatown.
“Many of the immigrants spoke little English and that is still true today,” he said. “They also needed help with filling out government forms and even learning how to use Toronto’s mass transit system. That aid remains part of our core service package today.”
TCCSA now has four offices in the Toronto area and 70 fulland part-time staff members. Funding for the group comes from the federal government along with other governmental entities. Private donations from community organizations like the United Way of Toronto and businesses fill out the budget.
TCCSA builds its offerings around these main areas: settlement services, education and language training and community improvement.
Settlement services include just about everything a new arriving immigrant might need in Toronto.
“We serve a wide range of folks — from infants to senior citizens,” Yip said. “They may not know how to get a health card or are seeking employment and perhaps a place to live. Whatever issue that comes up, we can provide the help to solve the problem.”
TCCSA’s service program has been recognized with a special award by the United Way.
Asked to describe the immigrants coming to Toronto from China today, Yip said the vast majority are from the mainland and speak Mandarin. “Some are wealthy and some are not. Many of them are professionals looking to find work in their specialty. Other than the professionals, most immigrants don’t speak English,” added Yip.
And what motivates the Chinese to leave their homeland? “The main reason is people are seeking a better quality of life. Educational opportunity, particularly when it comes to the next generation, is a very important factor when someone decides to come to Canada,” he noted.
Yip said immigrants have also been citing environmental concerns when moving to Canada. “The air quality is much better here and it is far less crowded than China.”
Yip describes Toronto’s attitude toward immigration as favorable and enlightened. “Toronto is one of the most diverse cities in North America and the world. There are a lot of non-whites who live here as Toronto welcomes new immigrants.”
He estimates that 20 percent of Chinese immigrants decide to move back to China. “It usually happens in the first few years and mainly it’s because they couldn’t get a job. There are other factors – the language barrier and lack of friends and family close by. I know that when I first made the decision to stay in Toronto after completing my education, I too questioned at one point if I should go back. But I stayed and I think most immigrants are grateful that they did.”
Yip expects Toronto and Canada to continue to draw Chinese immigrants. “I don’t expect that the need for our services will end anytime soon,” he said.