Yip an­swers call to help im­mi­grants

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By PAUL WELITZKIN in New York paulwelitzkin@ chi­nadai­lyusa.com

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.

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