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A guide to your first winter in Canada 

A guide to your first winter in Canada

By Emma Siegel

Posted on February 22, 2021

shoveling snow

When the leaves have fallen off the trees, the birds have flown south, and you wake up every morning with a glittery frost on your lawn, you know one thing for certain: winter is just around the corner. While Canada is known for its freezing temperatures and heavy snowfalls, winter is also a big part of Canadian identity. As long as you’re prepared and ready, the coldest season of the year can be a lot of fun; and The Newcomer has created just the guide to help you along the way.

Outerwear for everywhere

Before you can go out and enjoy the first snowfall of the year, you’ll need to be dressed for the occasion.
snowy tree

Jackets

Jackets are considered to be the most essential piece of clothing you’ll wear over the winter, so it’s important to pick a good one. Remember, this will be something you’ll likely be wearing for six to nine months out of the year.

There are a few considerations when looking for a jacket. First, is it water-resistant? A woolly coat may be warm and fashionable, but it won’t do you much good in a snowstorm—and there are a lot of those across Canada.

Next, you want to make sure it’s warm enough. Temperatures range from -15 °C all the way down to -40 °C, depending on where you are in the country. You’ll want an “insulated jacket,” which is a type of coat that will keep you warm in very cold conditions by trapping in your body heat.

Boots

There’s no feeling worse than walking through the snow in a pair of boots that clearly weren’t made for the weather. You’ll be left with cold feet, wet socks, and a bad mood. A jacket may be the most important piece of clothing, but winter boots are a close second.

Like with a good jacket, you’ll want water-resistant boots to keep the snow and slush from seeping in. The bottom of the boots need to have good soles, or treads; otherwise, you’ll be slipping and sliding on the snow and ice. If the soles are made of rubber or have grooves throughout (little indents usually in the shape of squiggles, circles, or hexagons), those boots are good for winter.

Finally, winter boots follow a temperature rating scale with five sections: 5 °C to -10 °C, 0 °C to -20 °C, -10 °C to -25 °C, -20 °C to -40 °C, and -25 °C and beyond. Choosing the boots you’ll need will depend on where you will be. If you’re living in Toronto, for example, -10 °C to -25 °C is the best option. But if you’re in Vancouver, boots ranging in the 5 °C to -10 °C category would suit you better. If you’re living in Vancouver and you are wearing boots made for -25 °C weather, your feet will start to sweat in the boots. This will leave you with damp, cold feet, so the ratings are important to follow.

Hats and gloves

No one likes cold ears and frozen fingers, and this is where hats and gloves make their entrance. When looking for a hat, the criteria is pretty simple: something big enough to cover your ears and forehead that feels thick and warm. And here’s a tip: many people in Canada call a winter hat a toque (pronounced TOO-CK).

As for gloves, it depends on what you’re going to be doing. If you don’t plan to be outside for long, like going grocery shopping or for a quick walk, a pair of wool, fur lined, or cotton gloves will suit you just fine. If you’re going to be outside for a while, like shovelling snow, a pair of water-resistant, insulated gloves are your best option.

Let the fun begin

A little cold weather shouldn’t stop you from going outside and having a good time. In fact, some of the best activities can only be done in cold, snowy conditions.

Tobogganing

Sledding, more commonly called tobogganing, is a favourite winter pastime for many kids. All you need for this is a snowy hill and a sled (also called a toboggan). The activity is simple: sit down on the toboggan at the top of the hill and inch forward until gravity does its job and you find yourself speeding down the hill. While constantly climbing up the hill can become tiring in all your winter layers, it’s always worth it for the thrill of racing back down again. You’ll need a pair of snow pants for this (a pair of water-resistant, insulated pants), or your pants and legs will be soaked by the end of the first trip down the hill.

Skating

skating

No matter where you are in Canada, there will always be a skating rink close by. Whether it is a frozen lake (when skating on frozen water, check and listen to all safety measures first) or a man-made rink at a local community center, skating is a great activity for people of all ages. Some community centers will rent skates for you to use, or you can buy a pair at a nearby sporting store. Skating can be a tricky skill to learn at first, as you’re balancing on slippery ice with thin bladed boots, but there are plenty of beginner classes to help you along the way. Chances are, you’re going to fall a lot in the beginning, so make sure you’re wearing a helmet!

Stocking up on supplies

You’re all set with your winter clothes and outdoor activities. Now all you need are a few winter necessities and you’re ready to take on the season!

Shovels and ice melt

When the snow and ice storms hit, your walkway, driveway, and sidewalk will be covered in either fluffy snow or slippery ice. If snow is your problem, it’s time to break out your shovel and scoop the snow onto your lawn. If ice is your problem, you’ll need to spread ice melt—a gravelly-like material that you can buy in the hardware or car section of most retail stores that sell seasonable goods. The ice melt does exactly what it sounds like: melt the ice and make the pavement less slippery. If the weather is calling for an ice storm, or the melting snow is expected to freeze overnight, you can put down ice melt beforehand and be prepared for the icy conditions the next morning. While homeowners are tasked with shovelling and spreading ice melt outside their homes, apartment renters and condo owners can leave this job to their building maintenance staff to do. So instead of being outside on a cold morning to clear snow off of your driveway, you can get an extra ten minutes of sleep.

Winter tires and car brushes

Regular car tires, like shoes, slip and slide in snowy conditions. Snow tires are made out of a softer rubber that works well in cold weather and have deeper treads that are designed for a better grip on snow and ice. You’ll also need to keep a car brush in your car at all times. Usually, one of its sides is for brushing off snow and the other side is for scraping ice. This is an essential item for your car during the winter months. Quick tip—if you leave your car outside during a snow or ice storm, keep the wipers raised so you won’t have to dig them out later.
snowy road with bus

Making healthy food choices

Making healthy food choices

By Dara Poizner

Posted on February 22, 2021

Meal prep

Eating a healthy diet is an important part of overall well-being. But what exactly is involved in keeping a healthy diet?

This article will discuss Canada’s guidelines for healthy eating, challenges that Canadians might face with food and nutrition, and tips for making healthy choices with limited money and time.

Canada’s Food Guide

Canada’s Food Guide is a nutrition guide created by Health Canada. The newest version was released in 2019, and it is a key source of nutritional information for Canadians. The guide includes advice about healthy food choices and eating habits, recipes, and healthy eating tips and resources.

The food guide snapshot, a visual representation of the guide’s main food suggestions, is available to view and download in many languages.

Key points from the Food Guide

Eat plenty of foods that can improve overall health and lower the risk of some health problems. This includes:

  • Vegetables and fruits, which have important nutrients like fibre, vitamins, and minerals. Choose vegetables and fruits with a variety of textures and colours.
  • Whole grains such as quinoa, oats, brown rice, and whole grain bread or pasta, which are high in fibre, vitamins, and minerals.
  • Protein foods such as beans, lentils, lean meats, fish, tofu, eggs, and lower fat dairy products. Choose plant-based proteins often, as they can provide more fibre with less saturated fat.
  • Healthy fats such as nuts and seeds, avocado, fatty fish, and vegetable oils, which can lower the risk of heart disease.

Some foods can increase the risk of some health problems, including heart disease and blood pressure. These foods include:

  • Foods that are high in sodium or sugar.
  • Foods that are high in saturated fats such as fatty meats, high-fat dairy products, and some oils.
  • Highly processed foods such as processed meats, prepared sauces, fast foods, sugary drinks, frozen desserts, and baked goods.

Drink water to stay hydrated. Try to avoid too many drinks that are high in sodium, sugar, or saturated fat, including sugary drinks (like pop or juice), alcoholic drinks, energy drinks, and specialty teas or coffees made with high-fat dairy.

Cook often to support healthy eating habits. Cooking more means having better awareness of nutrition, relying less on highly processed foods, and saving money on food from restaurants.
Family making dinner

Check food labels to be informed about ingredients and nutritional value, and be aware of the impact of food marketing. Rely on nutritional information to make healthy food choices rather than on marketing messages. Be aware that kids and teens are especially likely to be affected by marketing.

Enjoying the food we eat helps us build healthy attitudes about food. Enjoying foods can involve choosing a variety of flavours, including cultural food traditions, socializing during mealtimes, cooking with loved ones, and creating a positive eating environment.

Challenges with healthy eating

Canada’s Food Guide provides helpful advice, but it has its limitations. Parts of Canada do not have proper access to healthy food, and there are many social and economic factors that influence how we eat—like cultural values, closeness to grocery stores, and income. According to Sarah Duignan, a biocultural anthropologist, the guide does not do enough to address these barriers, which many Canadians face. She says that the guide should be more aware of these issues so that it can make practical recommendations. Even though it does state that culture is an important part of a healthy diet, the guide does not acknowledge how important it is for people’s well-being to maintain a connection to their culture through food. It does not effectively include traditional Indigenous foods or foods that may be more familiar to newcomers to Canada.

When people do not have access to affordable, nutritious food, it is called food insecurity. Duignan points out that new immigrant families, low-income households, and Indigenous populations living off-reserve have higher rates of food insecurity.

The diets of refugees and immigrants in Canada may be affected by factors like stress, lower economic status, and cultural difference. As a result, people who have immigrated are sometimes at a higher risk of certain health problems such as high cholesterol and blood pressure.

Healthy eating, although it is important, is easier said than done. Sometimes it is cheaper to buy fast food than healthy ingredients. And for busy people, it can be hard to find the time to cook nutritious meals. People dealing with many pressures in their lives may often find that buying cheaper, ready-made meals and snacks is the easiest option, even if not the healthiest.

It is okay to eat foods that are not very healthy—like fast food or baked goods—in moderation. Remember that enjoying your food is important. However, it is best to try to get good nutritional value from your diet overall.

Cooking when you’re low on cash or time

Cooking healthy meals with a limited budget or time can be tricky, but it can be made easier with good shopping and cooking habits. Here is some advice for how to make the most of your time and money.

Tips

Stock up on food staples while they are on sale. Canned items like beans, frozen items like vegetables, and dry goods like pasta and rice last a long time. Some foods that go bad more quickly—like fresh fruit, meat, fish, and bread—can be frozen for later. By buying many pantry staples during a single trip to the grocery store, you may not need to go shopping as often.

Buy canned legumes and canned or frozen fruits and vegetables that are low in added sugar or sodium. They are often more affordable than fresh fruits and vegetables but have similar nutritional value. They are also usually quick to cook.

Choose fruits and vegetables that are in season, as they tend to be cheaper and of better quality. You can also freeze produce to save it for a time when it is no longer in season.

grocery store

Compare the prices of similar items. There are “name brand” and “store brand” versions of many foods: the store brands are usually less expensive, but similar in quality.

Make a shopping list and stick to it. Planning what to buy before you go to the store saves time and money. Try not to shop while hungry—you are more likely to buy something you didn’t plan to.

Prepare large amounts of food at one time; these can be stored in the fridge or freezer and used later when you have less time. For example: Make a big pot of soup and freeze some of it, and then defrost it for another meal.

  • Often certain food items can be used for more than one recipe. You can cook enough of it to last you for a few days. To prepare them, you can use simple flavours which can later be adjusted for other recipes as well (e.g. rice can be used for stir-fry, rice pilaf, and burrito bowls; ground turkey can be used in pasta sauce and chili).
  • Cut up a lot of veggies and fruit at once to refrigerate and save, either for a snack or to use in cooking later.

For detailed advice about grocery shopping in Canada, see this article.

Resources for cooking on a budget

“Healthy eating on a budget” in Canada’s Food Guide: The Food Guide has a section with ideas on how to save money while eating healthy.

“Healthy eating on a budget” by the Heart and Stroke Foundation: The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, a nonprofit organization that researches heart and brain health, features advice from a dietitian.

The Healthy Living Guide 2020-2021 from the Department of Nutrition at Harvard University has a section called “Eating Well on a Budget.” The guide also contains lots of other information about living a healthy lifestyle.

Budget Bytes is a recipe website designed for lower budgets. The recipes use mostly inexpensive ingredients and calculate the approximate cost of a meal, providing estimates of how much you’ll need to spend on ingredients. There are options for many types of meals and diets as well as meal prep recipes that can help you save time. You can even search for recipes by ingredient if you need ideas for how to use a certain food. Try looking for recipes here or on another budget cooking website.

Kids’ healthy lifestyle resources

Research suggests that children who have immigrated may be at a higher risk of some health problems than children who were born in Canada. These resources have advice for keeping your kids eating well and staying active.

Healthy Habits for Life Resource Kit Part 1: Get Moving! from Sesame Workshop and Nemours KidsHealth is a kit with lessons and activities that parents, guardians, and teachers can use to teach younger kids about healthy exercise and eating habits, using characters from the educational kids show Sesame Street.

The Eat Right Be Active guides from Nutrition Connections, a registered charity within the Ontario Public Health Association, provide activity and nutrition guidelines for caregivers of children at different ages:

Taking care of your mental health

Taking care of your mental health

By Delaney Rombough

Posted on February 22, 2021

Man with his head in his hands

TRIGGER WARNING: This article contains topics such as self-harm, violence, suicide, and rape. This may distress some readers.

Moving to a new country can be exciting, stressful, lonely, and hard all at the same time. It can take a toll on your mental health. Mental well-being affects our ability to enjoy and cope with everyday life. Mental health is as important as physical health, so it’s important that you take care of it.

Symptoms

There are many different kinds of mental illness, and people may experience different symptoms. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you should consider seeing a mental health professional or your family doctor.

  • Feeling sad
  • Reduced ability to concentrate
  • Extreme mood changes of highs and lows
  • Significant tiredness, low energy, or sleeping problems
  • Detachment from reality, paranoia, or hallucinations
  • Withdrawal from friends, family, or activities
  • Inability to cope with daily problems or stress
  • Major changes in eating habits
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Problems with drugs or alcohol abuse
  • Excessive anger, hostility, or violence
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Physical symptoms may include: headaches, stomach aches, back pain, or other unexplained aches and pains.

Common mental illnesses

There are many different kinds of mental illness, and each one may affect individuals differently. These are some of the most common mental illnesses that newcomers may experience.

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Anxiety causes a person to be extremely worried about many things, even if there might not be a reason for it. This goes beyond your everyday nervousness about a presentation at work or similar activity.
  • Major Depressive Disorder (also known as clinical depression): Depression causes feelings of extreme sadness or hopelessness that lasts for two weeks or more.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): PTSD is a mental illness that can be triggered by traumatic events experienced or witnessed in the past. These experiences may range from extreme events, like natural disasters or war, to verbal abuse.
  • Social Anxiety Disorder: Social anxiety disorder causes extreme fear or nervousness of social situations. This may make it difficult for people to be around other people, make new friends, and/or attend social events.

For more information and more details about various mental illnesses, symptoms, and treatments, visit mayoclinic.org.

Types of resources and treatments available

Depending on your situation, there are different types of resources available. Different organizations offer different services. Some examples of services that are available across Canada include: Individual counselling and psychology services, group therapy, women’s groups, men’s groups, and yoga, and other specific programs.
counseling/therapy

  • Individual psychotherapy: Psychotherapy can either be short-term (up to 16 sessions), focusing on immediate issues and concerns, or long-term, addressing more complex, long standing issues. This form of therapy can be beneficial for both children and adults. It is primarily talk-based. Therapists are trained in a wide variety of methods which can be tailored for your specific needs. These professionals can help you work through anxiety, depression, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, violence, or any other emotional difficulty. Everyone has their own goals for therapy; therapists can help you develop healthy coping strategies, provide insight, evaluate and treat mental illness, or just be someone you can talk to. You may need a referral from your family doctor in order to see a psychiatrist. This is usually not required for therapists with other mental health designations.
  • Group therapy and peer support: In group therapy, a qualified therapist works with a small group of patients or clients. The goal is to relieve stress through discussion, express feelings, change attitudes and behaviours, and provide more constructive ways of coping. It may also be beneficial to connect with others who have gone through similar experiences and provide a sense of community. There are also options for couples’ counselling and family counselling depending on your needs and therapy goals.
  • Women’s groups: Women in the group gain support from other women and share their experiences on various aspects of their lives, such as relationships, prenatal and postpartum periods, rape, domestic abuse, and trauma.
  • Men’s groups: Men’s groups are less common, but they do exist. In these small groups, a therapist facilitates a discussion on diverse topics like sexism, systemic issues, and other individual problems that impact their mental health.
  • Hospitals: Most hospitals have a mental health unit that can assist you in getting the help you need.

Getting help in your first language

Often, it is easier to communicate your needs to someone who speaks the same language as you. There are many organizations that offer services in different languages. These organizations offer many of the same services and programs mentioned above, but the psychologists and counsellors speak your first language. The following organizations offer mental health help in multiple languages.

  • Access Alliance – offers services in over 180 languages, onsite and remote interpretation and translation, and services in American Sign Language (ASL).
  • Afghan Women’s Organization Refugee & Immigrant Services – offers interpretation and translation services as well as English classes; their services are provided in different languages including but not limited to: Dari, Farsi, Pashto, Tajiki, Uzbeki, Arabic, Punjabi, Urdu, Hindi, and Turkmani.
  • Hong Fook Mental Health Association – works with Asian communities (Cambodian, Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin), Korean and Vietnamese) in the Greater Toronto Area.
  • Multicultural Mental Health Resource Centre – offers services in over 20 languages. They also have written information on their website in multiple languages, and they offer interpretation services. You can easily find mental health practitioners who speak your languages in this organization.
  • Carizon – primarily offers group programs and workshops; the information on their website is also available in English, Farsi, Spanish, Arabic, and Tigrigna.
  • Across Boundaries – provides a wide range of support to people of colour in the Greater Toronto Area who are experiencing severe mental illness. Services are available in English, Arabic, Urdu, Somali, Hindi, Gujarati, Filipino, Chinese, Farsi, Tamil, Twi, Dari, Pashto, Sinhala, and Swahili.

In case of an emergency

If you are experiencing severe mental health symptoms and if you think you may hurt yourself or others, get help right away.

  • Call 911 or the local emergency number.
  • Go to the emergency room at the hospital.
  • Call the Canada Suicide Prevention Service at toll free 1-833-456-4566.
  • Contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 686868.
  • Youth ages 20 and under can call Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868.
  • Call your doctor or mental health professional.

It is important to note that if you are not the one experiencing symptoms but know someone who is, you should take suicide threats seriously; call emergency services and notify them of the situation, and/or go to the hospital for further assistance.

Mental illness affects one in five Canadians, and it’s OK if it affects you, too. There are plenty of resources available and people who are willing to help. For additional resources in your city, check out www.ementalhealth.ca. You are not alone.
frustrated/upset

Research/References

Home hunting: How to find the right housing option for you

Home hunting: How to find the right housing option for you

By Russul Sahib

Posted on February 22, 2021

Home doormat

As a newcomer, finding the perfect home for you and your family means considering many things, from location to price point to space. Not to mention that different housing options can offer different benefits and disadvantages for newcomer families. Many new immigrants may also face difficulties when it comes to learning about the types of housing options there are, how much they cost, as well as what is included in their monthly rent. Yet, whether newcomers settle in an apartment, condo, or house, their home must be well-suited for their needs and lifestyle.

Apartments and studios

apartment building

An apartment building is a building composed of different residential units. People live in separate units, called apartments. Unlike regular apartments, studio apartments may not have separate bedrooms from the living and kitchen spaces. Choosing to live in an apartment or studio means that you have to pay monthly rent to the person or company who owns the building. For people living alone, it’s also an option to find a roommate to help split rents costs. A roommate is someone who shares the apartment with you and helps cover the costs of rent or even other utilities. You can ask friends or people you know about the possibility of renting an apartment together, or you can print and distribute flyers or post an advertisement online to let people know that you are looking for a roommate.

In Canada, big cities charge higher amounts of rent, while smaller cities can provide a cheaper alternative. In October 2019, the average price of rent in Canada was $1,574 a month.

Robert Mundie, a retired professor, and researcher who studied immigrants and housing, said in an email response that the pricing of housing in these big cities is the biggest challenge faced by recent immigrants.

“Housing markets such as Toronto and Vancouver, where many immigrants end up, are very expensive. The housing market in Montreal and smaller centres is generally less expensive and therefore more accessible,” Mundie said.

Other cities in Canada, such as Quebec City or Saskatoon, offer one-bedroom apartments for an average monthly rent ranging between $870 to $969.

While some cities in Canada have pricier rent costs, Mundie said apartments are still generally more affordable than other housing options.

Another good thing about apartments is that the costs of other utilities, such as electricity and water, are often included. This means newcomers often do not have to pay extra for these, as they are included in their monthly payments. However, it is always important to double-check what is included in the rent of the signed rental agreement. Many apartments also come with amenities, such as a swimming pool or playground, which can offer fun entertainment for young children or the whole family!

Generally, apartments are a great option for smaller immigrant families or single individuals who do not need as much space.

“Rental apartments, especially newer builds in central city areas, tend to be relatively small and are not suitable for large immigrant families, thereby leading to overcrowding,” Mundie said.

However, some apartments have multiple rooms which could be a solution for larger immigrant families.

Condominiums

Condos

Condominiums (condos) are very similar to apartments, except that you can own your condo! You can typically pay a monthly rate until you have paid off the full price of the condo. When this is done, you become the owner of the home! For newcomers looking for long-term investment options, condos can be a great option, as it allows them to pay for their home over a period of time and ultimately own their home.

According to Remax Canada, “financing” or paying for your condo means that you have to first pay five to 20 per cent of the overall value as a down payment, when signing the condo agreement. You must then continue to pay the remaining amount as a monthly expense, similar to how a mortgage is taken out on a house. These payments are added up until you are finally able to own the condo. However, living in a condo means that you also have to pay monthly maintenance fees to keep amenities, such as gyms or swimming pools, clean and functional.

In December 2019, the average sale prices of condos in Canadian cities ranged greatly. Generally, the sale prices of condos ranged from around $170,000 to $670,000 across various Canadian cities.

“Condos are often newer and generally larger than rental apartments” Mundie said. “Because they are often newer and contain more amenities than rental apartments the monthly cost for maintenance is higher,” he said.

Despite being a little pricey, condos are a great option for newcomers hoping to own their home rather than rent. Many condos are much cheaper than actual houses, giving newcomers more leeway and flexibility.

Houses

House

Lastly, houses are another housing option that some newcomers may consider. There are many kinds of houses newcomers can choose from, ranging from townhouses, semi-detached houses, and detached houses. These terms simply refer to whether your house is connected to another house or not. Detached houses are physically separated from surrounding neighbours, while townhouses and semi-detached homes are not. The price of the home will vary depending on whether your house is attached to others or not.

In December 2019, the average sale prices of a house in Canada ranged between $186,000 to $1.6 million for Canada’s most expensive city, Vancouver.

“The major advantage of a house over rental apartments and condos is size. Houses are larger and therefore tend to be more suitable for larger immigrant families. They also usually contain a backyard space that is ideal for younger children,” Mundie said.

In October 2019, survey results showed that one in five Canadians buying a house was a Canadian newcomer who had arrived within the last 10 years. As much as 75 per cent of the newcomers surveyed came to Canada with savings reserved for the purchase of a home. The results also showed that on average, it takes about three years for newcomers to purchase a house in Canada.

For newcomers who may not have the financial means to buy a house, there are also opportunities to rent a house. Newcomers typically make arrangements with the homeowner to pay a monthly price to live in the house for a specified period of time. There are also opportunities for newcomers to rent someone’s basement if they do not have enough money to rent a house. Renting a basement can be a cheaper alternative for families or individuals who cannot afford to pay more. TorontoRentals.com is a website that lists the different properties up for rent in major cities in Ontario. For example, a basement in the Greater Toronto Area is typically rented for $1200 to 1500 per month. Houses for rent in the GTA range between $2000 to $4000 monthly, depending on the number of rooms in the house.

There are many housing options available for newcomers to consider and choose from. While the cost of housing can be difficult for newcomers to deal with, options for housing usually increase as they settle in and find employment.

“As their time in Canada increases and they achieve more stable employment, many will be able to improve their housing position,” Mundie said.

There are also many organizations and services available that help match newcomers with cheaper housing options as well as offer support for paying rent and handling the legal aspects of lease agreements. For example, the Housing and Help Centre offers many services, such as the Toronto Rent Bank, which provides interest-free loans for those unable to pay overdue rent or provide a rent deposit. They also offer programs that help newcomers pay for their electricity and gas if it is not covered in their rental agreement. This website also allows new immigrants to find affordable housing services based on the region they live in. After choosing the region they live in, newcomers can click on the “Housing Assistance” link, and this will provide them with an entire list of housing organizations around them. New immigrants can learn more about each organization, such as their application processes, eligibility requirements, and contact information, by clicking on the links to each housing organization.

Newcomers struggling to find appropriate housing can get in touch with organizations and settlement agencies that provide housing assistance and resources to receive help. It is often difficult to find housing on your own, especially if you are unaware of where to look or who to ask. Make use of any help that is available to you, and don’t be afraid to ask for more help if you need it. At the end of the day, housing is a human right, and everyone deserves help in finding the right home for themselves.

Résumés 101

Résumés 101

By Michelle Boon

Posted on February 22, 2021

resume

One of the first steps to finding a job in Canada is writing an excellent résumé. A résumé is an overview of your professional experience, skills, and achievements. They are usually submitted alongside a cover letter. When you’re finished writing your résumé, check out this how-to article about cover letters.

Résumés look different all over the world. This article will show you what to include in your résumé to impress Canadian employers.

Before you start writing, it’s helpful to save a copy of the job listing you are applying for. You can take a screenshot, copy and paste the text into a word document, or write down the points listed under “responsibilities” and “qualifications.” This will come in handy as you write your résumé and cover letter.

What does a Canadian résumé look like?

Canadian résumés are generally one to two pages long. Résumés for senior-level positions, however, can be three pages long. When submitting an application online, send your résumé as a PDF (.pdf) or Word document (.doc). These are the easiest formats for employers to access.

Your résumé should be well-organized and easy to read. Use headings and bullet points to organize your professional experience and skills. Before submitting it, pay close attention to detail. Make sure your font is consistent and large enough to read. It is recommended to use a professional font, such as Arial or Calibri, in 10- or 12-point size. Also make sure your margins are wide enough. A general guideline is to use 1-inch margins. Résumés crammed with text can be overwhelming to read. Some words may even be cut off if the résumé is printed.

Canadian résumés also look different depending on the job and the company. Relating your skills and experience directly to a job description shows that you fully understand the position. Changing your résumés for each application increases your chances of getting an interview but takes more time.
Resume
Additionally, many companies use software to filter applicants based on keywords. Language copied from the job description will help your résumé stand out positively.

Starting at the top of the page, your résumé should include:

  • Your full legal name
  • Phone number
  • An email address

Set your name to a slightly bigger font to stand out. Be sure that your email address looks professional. Avoid nicknames and email addresses with lots of numbers, like newcomer1234@gmail.com. Try to get an email as close to your full name as possible. Additionally, use email services like Gmail or Outlook. These are the most commonly used and look the most professional.

Summary statement

When a hiring manager reviews your application, you want to get their attention from the start with a summary statement. A summary statement includes the skills and accomplishments that qualify you for the job. It is usually no longer than two to three sentences, and it usually appears at the top of your résumé. Make sure to highlight skills that match the job description and use keywords in your statement. If possible, quantify your skills with numbers.

Here is an example of a summary statement for a cashier résumé:

Precise and friendly cashier with 1+ year of experience delivering quality customer service. Thrives in a fast-paced work environment, moves through the check-out process with consistent speed and accuracy, and serves upwards of 100 customers in a regular shift.

Notice how the summary statement avoids pronouns. Avoiding “I” statements saves space and lists your skillset more efficiently.

If you don’t have a lot of previous work experience, a summary statement might not be necessary. You may benefit more from expanding your list of skills or highlighting your volunteer experience.

Work Experience

This section makes up the bulk of your résumé. Here you list previous job positions and detail what you did in those positions in four or five bullet points. This does not necessarily mean paid work. Volunteer positions are also worth listing if you gained useful skills or completed impressive projects.

There are many different ways to format this information, but for each position, you must always include:

  • Your job title
  • The company name
  • Start and end dates for the position you held

As always, use key words and phrases when describing previous work.

There are different ways to organize your work experiences:

Reverse chronological is the most common. In this format, you list your most recent position first and work backwards.

Functional résumés emphasize relevant experience regardless of when you gained that experience. This format is ideal if you don’t have much work experience or if you had periods of time where you were not working. Gaps in employment may raise concerns for hiring managers. The best résumés draw attention away from any time gaps and highlight your work and skills.

Education

If you have limited professional experience, you can list your education directly after your summary statement. If you have multiple post-secondary degrees, list your highest level of education first. You usually do not include high school education unless it is your highest level of education.

If you completed education outside of Canada, consider getting your degree assessed. Listing the Canadian equivalent to your qualification can help employers gage your skill level.

You can also mention specific courses you have taken if they are relevant to the job.

Skills

Include skills that match the job description. Use those keywords! You might want to mention skills like proficiency in Microsoft Office, customer service, communication, and leadership.

You don’t have to list all of your skills in a single section. Your summary statement and bullet points detailing your work experience also convey your abilities. To save space, include skills that you haven’t already mentioned.

As a newcomer, you have many valuable skills. Settling in a new country demonstrates resilience, initiative, and the ability to learn new things quickly. Canadian companies also value candidates who can speak a second language. Multilingualism is a unique ability that not everyone has. Definitely show off these skills on your résumé.

Other things to include

So, you included your name, personal contact information, work experience, education, and skills on your résumé. Still have space? You can round out your résumé with hobbies, publications, awards, or a project you worked on. Again, always try to keep it relevant to the job posting and the company you are applying to. For example, if a company values sustainability, you could include a blog post you wrote about reducing carbon emissions.

What not to include

Leave out any information about your personal life. Canadian employers value professional skills and experience. They are not allowed to factor personal identity into the hiring process.

Never include:

  • A photo of yourself
  • Age
  • Marital status
  • Social insurance number
  • Religious or political views
  • The number of children you have

If you need help writing a résumé, here are some resources:

Monster.ca offers sample résumés from all different fields and job positions.

Settlement.org also offers a search engine to find services near you. Search “employment resource centre” or “settlement services” to find a help centre in your area. These centres often offer free résumé and cover letter workshops.

If you’re not quite ready to write your résumé, check out this article which provides an overview on how to gain work experience in Canada.

How to build your business in Canada

How to build your business in Canada

By Maria Montemayor

Posted on February 22, 2021

Open sign

As an immigrant, permanent resident, or Canadian citizen one of your goals might be to run your own company in Canada. Maybe you have an entrepreneurial spirit. Maybe you don’t enjoy working for an employer. Perhaps you have a brilliant business idea that you want to bring to life. If you feel like running a company is your calling, there are several steps you can take to achieve that goal.

Brainstorm and research ideas

In order to launch a successful company, you have to have a good business idea. Take note of your skills, conduct market research, examine trends, and think of ways to enhance existing products or offer something new to the market. Attend entrepreneurial and business events where you can meet like-minded individuals. Find a mentor, someone who can help you further develop your idea and keep you accountable to your goals.

Create a business plan

Once you have developed your idea, you should start writing a business plan. A well-developed plan is clear, precise, thorough, and easy to review. Investors, lenders, and bankers should be able to see how you will organize, manage, and grow your new company.

Resources for creating a business plan:

Choose and register your business name

Select a memorable name that summarizes and reflects your brand. If you decide to register as the sole proprietor of your company and are operating it under your legal name, you do not need to register your business name. In any other case (partnership or corporation), you’ll have to register your business name.

Look at financing options

In terms of financing, adults can apply for funding from government funding programs, while teenagers and young adults can apply for specific grants or loans. Another option is to apply for CBC’s Dragons’ Den, a Canadian TV show where Canadians pitch their business ideas to Dragons (investors), and the Dragons decide whether or not they want to invest in them (offer capital).

Obtain business licenses and permits

You may need to obtain municipal, federal, or provincial licenses or permits for your company. You can check out BizPal for a list of documents you will need for your business.

Register for a GST/HST account

Unless your business’ gross earnings stay under $30,000, you will need to register for a goods and services tax (GST) and harmonized sales tax (HST) account. If you don’t register, your company will incur tax penalties for not filing GST/HST returns.

Open a business bank account

A business chequing account can help you manage and keep track of your company expenses and deal with any tax or legal issues.

Promote your business

Lastly, once your business is up and running—you’ve done all the paperwork, received financial support, purchased business insurance, and hired employees (if necessary)—all you have left to do is promote it! Develop and put your marketing plan to action and promote your company across social media channels and other forms of advertisement.
inspirational signs

Apply for the Start-up Visa Program (for immigrants only)

If you would like to start a company in Canada but are not yet a permanent resident or Canadian citizen, you can immigrate to Canada through the Start-up Visa Program. The Start-up Visa Program is for innovative immigrant entrepreneurs with the skills and potential to build businesses in Canada. The business must be able to create jobs for Canadians and compete globally.

In order to apply for the program, the immigrant must:

  • Get a letter of support from a designated organization — convincingly pitch your idea to one or more venture capital funds, angel investor groups, or business incubators.
  • Have a qualifying business — you should have over 10 per cent voting rights as well as joint voting rights of over 50 per cent with the designated organization. Once you are a permanent resident, you need to manage your company, run essential business operations, and incorporate the business in Canada.
  • Meet the language requirements — take a language test from an approved agency and achieve the minimum Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) requirements for the listening, reading, speaking, and writing components in either English or French.
  • Bring enough money to settle — provide proof that you have the money to support yourself and your dependants. (The minimum amount required is nearly $13, 000 CAD for one family member. This amount is updated every year.)

5 ways to build your credit score

5 ways to build your credit score

By Amanda Owusu

Posted on February 22, 2021
mobile app - credit score

According to Experian, a consumer credit company, credit is the ability to borrow money or access goods or services with the understanding that you will pay it back later. In Canada, credit is really important and can help you make big purchases like a house and car. Credit can also be used to get access to credit cards, phone plans, and other types of goods and services. Having bad credit in Canada can be a disadvantage, which is why it’s important to maintain a good credit score.

What is a credit score?

A credit score is a three-digit number that comes from information taken from your credit report. This number shows whether or not you manage your credit well, and if it would be risky for lenders to let you borrow money. Credit scores usually range from 300 to 900. The lower the number, the worse your credit. In Canada, good credit scores are usually between 660 and 724; 725 to 759 is very good, and 760 and up is considered excellent. It generally takes about 18 months for you to build your credit score to the point that it will be considered when applying for a loan.

What affects my credit score?

Information taken from your credit report has a direct impact on your credit score. Information in your credit report will be taken from places that have extended you credit. This could include institutions such as the bank, your telephone provider, or a car dealership.

Your payment history is something that directly impacts your credit score. Whether or not you pay your bills on time is reflected in your score. If you always pay your bills on time and in full, you can expect your credit score to go up. If you don’t pay your bills on time, you can expect your score to go down. If you miss a payment, your credit score will be negatively affected and will go down.

The amount of debt you have will also impact your credit score. If you have a lot of debt from other lenders, other borrowers may not want to lend you money. It’s best to keep your debt as little as possible. If you owe money, it’s important to make active payments to reduce the amount due. Otherwise, this debt will be poorly reflected in your credit score.

The duration of your credit history also has an impact on your credit score. The longer you are in Canada practicing good financial habits, the higher your credit score will be.

Your credit utilization ratio also impacts your credit score. Your credit utilization ratio is calculated by taking how much you currently owe and dividing it by your current credit limit. The lower this number is, the better. This number represents the percentage of the available credit you have used up. The general rule of thumb is not to use more than 30 to 35 percent of the available limit on your credit cards to help maintain a good credit score.

Five easy ways to build your credit:

Now that you have an understanding of what a credit score is and how it works, here are five easy ways to help build your credit as a newcomer.
piggy bank

1. Apply for a secured credit card

Credit cards provide you with a set amount of funds that you can use. At the end of the month, you are expected to pay back these funds. The better your credit score and payment history, the more funds you can access. This is one of the best ways to build your credit score, as it’s an important form of credit that many lenders look at. Because you’re trying to build your new credit history, you want to go for a secured credit card. This is because these cards are easier to get with no credit history. With a secured credit card, you put down a deposit that will act as collateral in case you don’t make a payment. If you can access an unsecured credit card, this is even better, as the interest rates and fees will typically be lower. The difference between secured and unsecured cards is that with an unsecured one, you don’t have to make a deposit, and it’s harder to get an unsecured card. You usually qualify for these cards if you have good credit history and good financial health.

At the bottom of this article, you will find links to the major banks in Canada and their banking services, such as the credit cards they offer. You can take a look at the links below to find the best option for you!

2. Apply for a phone

Applying for a contract-based monthly phone plan is a great and easy way to start earning your credit. These plans are called “postpaid” and mean that they are paid after the date of use. These are different from prepaid plans, where you pay for the plan before you use it. When you pay your phone bill on time, the phone provider reports this to the credit bureaus, which helps build your credit history. You can go to a major communications provider, such as Rogers, Telus, Bell, and many others, and apply for a postpaid phone plan. The cost of these phone plans varies depending on what features you get, and they can be as low as $40 or as high as $200. Some providers such as Telus don’t require credit history to open an account, if you are new to Canada. Moving2Canada, a guide for newcomers in Canada, has more information on their site about Canadian phone providers and what they require.

3. Pay bills and credit card balance on time

Paying your bills on time is one of the most important things you can do as a newcomer to build your credit history. This shows lenders that you are a good borrower and that you will pay what you owe, which makes it more likely for them to give you money. For example, the bank may offer to raise your credit limit from $1,000 to $2,500 if they see that you have a good credit history. If you do not pay your bills on time, lenders will also see this and be more likely to say no or set more terms. Even if you can’t pay the entire balance, making some effort to pay even a small amount will work wonders for you. If you can’t pay your bill on time that month, call your provider as soon as possible and ask to set up a payment plan that works for you. Not only is paying your bills on time important for your credit score, but it’ll also help you save money. Sometimes when you don’t pay your bills on time, interest is added to your initial balance.

4. Apply to the Landlord Credit Bureau

This is an alternative option for people who are looking for additional ways to boost their credit score. The Landlord Credit Bureau has partnered with major credit reporting agencies like Equifax and TransUnion. This partnership makes it possible for tenants and landlords to have their rent payments reflected on their credit score. You can report your information to the Landlord Credit Bureau, who then passes it onto companies like Equifax and TransUnion, and these companies, in turn, incorporate it in your credit report. If you are paying your rent on time and in full, this could be a great option for you. However, this service is not free and starts at $29.99/year.

5. Use different types of credit

You can also use various types of credit to help build your credit history. Having different types of credits means having credit with different companies that offer different products. For example, having a credit card, a postpaid phone plan, and paying for a car on a monthly basis are three different types of credit. Having different types of credit helps build your credit history faster than having just one. Paying your bills on time shows that you’re able to handle different types and amounts of credit.

Credit is very important in Canada. It can either make your life easier or harder, depending on your financial choices. Making good financial choices can help set you up for success and increase your credit score. Don’t let a bad credit score prevent you from making important purchases for your life in Canada.

Resources:

Landlord Credit Bureau:
https://landlordcreditbureau.com

Cell Phone Related:
A newcomer’s guide to understanding Canadian cellphones: https://moving2canada.com/cell-phone-plan-in-canada/

Banking/Credit Card Related:
How to choose the Canadian bank for you (for newcomers): https://moving2canada.com/best-bank-in-canada/

Canadian Newcomer Banking Programs (Including Credit Cards):

Secured Credit Cards:

12 tips and tricks that you can use to save money when shopping

12 tips and tricks that you can use to save money when shopping

By Amanda Owusu

Posted on February 22, 2021

online shopping

Whether you’re shopping online or in person, there is most likely something you can do to save money. There are many resources that you can access online to help you cut costs. There are also other ways to save money, like using credit cards and choosing the right time to shop. This article will give you 12 tips and tricks that you can use to save money when shopping.

1. Research

First things first; it’s important to research the product that you are trying to buy. You should look at different retailers and compare the price that they are selling the item for. This can help you save money or even find other deals for things you were hoping to purchase. Thanks to technology, there are many great websites that you can use that will help you do this. Canadian websites like ShopBot and PriceGrabber let you compare the price of the item you’re looking for. ShopBot is especially good for electronics and can be great to use when you’re looking for a phone or computer. PriceGrabber is helpful when you are looking for furniture. You can also use these sites to help you price match. You can do this by going into the store and presenting proof that one of their products is sold at a lower price by one of their competitors, and if they offer price-matching, they’ll sell you the item for the same price. Double-check with the places you’re looking to shop in to find out if they do price matching.

Another site you can use to research great deals and savings is GroupOn. This site offers thousands of coupons and special deals for various categories. When making a purchase, visit these sites and search for what you’re looking to buy. This small action could save you money, making it more than worth your while.

2. Coupons

Another way to cut costs when you want to buy something is to use coupons. You can find a coupon for almost anything online. A quick google search can give you access to hundreds of coupons that could save you money when you shop online or in person. Websites and apps that you can use to find coupons include: RetailMeNot, Coupon Follow, GroupOn, Save.ca, Honey, and Smart Source. If you’re shopping online, you may have to try two or three different codes to find one that works.

3. Take advantage of holidays such as Black Friday and Boxing Day

In Canada, there are special holidays that are dedicated to shopping and sales, including Black Friday and Boxing Day.
shopping

  • Black Friday in Canada is in November. In 2021, it will take place on Friday, Nov. 26. During this holiday, many retailers have exclusive sales and deals that they don’t usually offer. Stores to pay attention to on Black Friday include Best Buy, Walmart, and Amazon. These stores usually have big sales on high-priced items, making it the perfect time to purchase them.
  • Boxing Day is on Dec. 26 and is also known for its big sales. The day after Christmas almost every retailer has a sale, which could be a great time to stock up on products and buy what you’ve been looking for.

Save some money, so that when these days arrive, you can purchase what you need at discounted amounts.

4. Sign up for email newsletters

A big tip that is often overlooked when trying to save money while shopping is signing up for email newsletters. When online shopping, little pop-ups may appear on your screen asking you to enter your email and sign up for their newsletter in return for a special coupon code. Simply entering your email could earn you 10 or 20 per cent off your purchase! When you shop in person, retailers usually ask you for your email, so they can send you newsletters. Take the extra 30 seconds and sign up, so you can take advantage of their deals the next time you are there.

5. Follow the brands on social media

If you like to shop at a certain place, it’s wise to follow their social media accounts. Many brands promote their sales through social media and sometimes even offer special discount codes for their followers to use. This is a free and easy trick that you can use to save money.

6. Sign up for rewards programs

Signing up for rewards programs can help you save money at shops that you frequent. Stores usually offer membership programs or clubs which you can join. Once you join, you typically receive a card or ID number that you can use when shopping. Some stores also offer special membership programs that provide further opportunities for savings. Sometimes, you have to pay for these programs. If you visit these stores often, that up-front cost could end up saving you more in the long-run. Many times, these programs are free! For example, some gas stations offer membership rewards programs, which allow you to earn points and later redeem them for other items.

There are also programs like PC Optimum and Air Miles that are popular in Canada. These programs allow shoppers to save money when shopping at hundreds of different retailers. A PC Optimum membership allows you to earn points on every purchase you make at popular Canadian stores like Shoppers Drug Mart, Fortinos, Loblaws, NoFrills, The Real Canadian Superstore, and some gas stations. Likewise, Air Miles also helps you earn points on purchases you make, which could then be exchanged for cash. These programs might require a small investment at the start, but that investment will be worth it if you’re a frequent shopper at these places.

7. Use a cash-back credit card

Another simple way you can save money when shopping is by getting a cash-back credit card. Almost all Canadian banks have a cash-back credit card option. These special cards allow you to earn a percentage of your purchase back in cash. This percentage might be a small figure, but it adds up after a while. Typically, these cards allow you to earn money back on a few categories of your choice—such as food or gas—at one fixed rate. They then offer you a lower fixed rate for the rest of your purchases.

Some cards have a fee, but others, like the Tangerine Money-Back Card, are cost-free. Getting one of these cards is one of the best things you can do to help you save money when you shop.

8. Add items to your cart online

An overlooked tip that could help you buy cheaper products online involves adding items to your online cart and then leaving the website. A lot of websites have an automated service that they use to recover abandoned carts by emailing the person. These emails often provide a special discount code that the retailer uses to lure the customer in. Being aware of this marketing strategy can help you save money next time you shop somewhere online.

9. When online shopping, clear your browser history and cache

Sometimes, websites will charge you a higher price for an item that they know you have been researching. For instance, when you’re looking to purchase flights, it’s best to clear your browser history or even use a private browsing mode to search for your tickets. Websites may overcharge you if they can access your browser history and see that they have something you need.

10. Timing is everything

Timing is everything when it comes to shopping. Specific times or dates are particularly better for purchasing certain items than others. Some people say that it’s better to shop for flights on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Whatever you’re looking to get, it pays to find out the ideal time to make the purchase. When looking for clothes, it’s usually cheaper to buy summer clothes in the winter and winter clothes in the summer. Because the demand for these products is low during these times, you can usually get them at a better price. If you’re hoping to purchase food, many restaurants offer items at a discounted amount around closing time to help them sell the remaining food. Even buying fruits and vegetables while they’re in season can help you cut down some costs. Find out when things are sold for a lower price and take advantage of this to save more money.

11. Take advantage of smartphone apps

Apps and websites can also help you save money when you shop. Apps like Paribus notify you when the price of an item drops. Sites like Rakuten allow you to earn cash back on products you buy by shopping through their platform. Other apps like Flipp let you access flyers for stores, which is helpful for research and price matching purposes.
online shopping

12. Don’t be afraid of used items

When shopping, don’t be afraid to buy used items. Sometimes, you can get items in good condition. Sites like Kijiji, eBay, and Facebook Marketplace allow you to purchase used products such as cars, appliances, furniture, and almost anything else you can think of. Poshmark and ThredUP are websites and apps that you can use to find used clothing. You can also go to thrift stores and consignment shops to find used items for a lower amount than you would in stores. When purchasing used products, make sure to inspect them thoroughly before you buy them, especially for more expensive purchases, like a car.

These are just some of the many ways that could help you save money while shopping. Don’t break the bank when making your routine purchases. If you’re looking for more information on how to cut costs while grocery shopping, The Newcomer provides tips for doing so.

If there’s one thing you should always do when shopping, it’s to make sure to research whatever you’re looking to buy. Putting everything else aside, this is the most important way to save money as a shopper.

Catholic education in Canada 

Catholic education in Canada

By Delaney Rombough

Posted on February 22, 2021

Catholic school

When considering elementary schools and high schools in Canada, you have the option of sending your children to a public school, private school, or Catholic school. Canadians can choose to enroll in whichever type of school they want, depending on their personal values and beliefs. Some of the reasons parents might choose to send their children to Catholic school are:

  • They are Catholic and want their kids to develop a strong foundation with the church and their faith.
  • They believe their kids’ teachers will be good role models who have strong moral values because they are also Catholic.
  • Schools often have ties to the local parish. For example, all the students who attend one school will often attend the same church on Sundays.
  • People may believe that Catholic schools provide a better education.

On the other hand, Catholic schools aren’t for everybody. Some reasons that parents choose to send their kids to public schools are:

  • They don’t identify with the Catholic faith.
  • Public schools are fully funded by the government but not all Catholic schools are.
  • There is more diversity in the classrooms
  • Public schools often have additional programs, like Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate, which Catholic schools may or may not have.
  • Proximity to home – there are more public schools than Catholic schools, so public schools are more likely to be closer to home.

The choice between Catholic and public schools largely depends on whether or not parents want their kids exposed to Catholic teachings at school or whether religion is something that will be taught and practiced at home.
classroom

History

The history of Catholic education in Canada goes back to its colonial roots. Both Protestant and Catholic schools exist across the country, reflecting the status of denominational schools (schools associated with a particular religion) before Confederation in 1867. In 1620, the Recollets missionaries established a school for Native children in the colony of Quebec. Jesuits and other Protestant religions later established their own schools as well. The majority of the French population was Catholic and had attended schools operated by the Catholic church. However, the English colonists were Anglican, but they agreed to support Catholic schools, in addition to their own schools, if they followed the provincial curriculum and if certified teachers taught the curriculum.

Public schools gradually removed religious education from the curriculum, but religious education continued in Catholic schools. In the 1970s, a World Religions course was introduced in Catholic and public high schools, which was optional for public school students. Universities also began establishing departments for religious studies. In 1990, the Ontario Ministry of Education announced a new policy that did not permit public boards to teach specific religious education; however, religious education was still permitted in Catholic boards.

Over time, denominational school systems in the provinces have dissolved. Currently, the only publicly funded faith-based school boards are in Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Northwest Territories, and Yukon. However, there are Catholic private schools in all provinces. In Ontario alone, there are four distinct school systems: English public, English Catholic, French public, and French Catholic.

Curriculum

The Catholic education curriculum follows the provincial curriculum, and it is grounded in the foundational teachings of the Catholic Church. According to the Ontario Catholic Schools Trustees’ Association, the focus of Catholic education is to learn about Jesus Christ and live according to his teachings. Subjects including math, reading, science, and arts are taught through a Catholic lens. One example in the Ontario Catholic Elementary Curriculum Policy Document for Religious Education states that studying ecosystems in science class can be used as a lesson on how God created all living things and how these must be cared for. Religion is a separate subject where students study the Bible and Christ’s teachings. Students also engage in daily prayer in the classroom. They also attend regular Catholic mass and prepare for Catholic sacraments, or religious ceremonies. For example, Grade 2 students usually prepare for their First Eucharist and First Reconciliation, and Grade 7 students prepare for their Confirmation.
kids at school

Current issues

Catholic school boards promote themselves as inclusive, welcoming, and supportive environments. However, that’s not always the case. Discrimination and homophobic bullying regularly occur in Catholic schools among students, teachers, and administrators. In 2018, Barb Hamilton, a principal at the Calgary Catholic School District, was forced to leave her job because of her sexuality. Hamilton said she knew of ten LGBQT+ students who had hurt themselves. Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that every individual is equal under the law regardless of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age, or mental or physical ability. The constant discrimination against the LGBQT+ community in Catholic schools is likely because of the Catholic doctrine itself, which considers “homosexual acts” as “intrinsically immoral and contrary to the natural law.” There is also an ongoing battle in Alberta Catholic schools to set up and protect Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) clubs. In 2018, a legislation known as Bill 24 was passed in Alberta, which states that all school boards must allow GSA clubs to be formed if students request it. However, not all schools complied.

Not only does the Catholic school system discriminate against the LGBTQ+ community, but it is also divisive among other religions. While 38 per cent of Canadians identify as Roman Catholic, the largest denomination, the majority of Canadians identify with any of a dozen other religions and belief systems that exist across Canada. Students of these other religions typically attend public schools. In 1999, the United Nations Human Rights Committee found that Ontario’s policy of funding Roman Catholic schools was discriminatory, as it provided funding to Catholic schools but not to other religious schools. Unfortunately, that didn’t change anything.

The need for Catholic schools might also become redundant. According to an article in The Walrus, organized religion is losing significance. The Roman Catholic church’s reputation is at an all-time low, and government budgets are scrutinized. Having different school systems results in higher costs, given that each system requires office space, copies of curricula, buses, buildings and facilities, and administrative staff. Students are fundamentally taught the same curriculum no matter what school they are in. However, students learn different things in Catholic school compared to public school, especially when it comes to controversial topics, such as gender identity, sex education, and science-related topics. Catholic school teachers are also increasingly worried, as the educational system becomes less Catholic and the number of students with little to no knowledge of Catholicism increases. However, there are private Catholic schools, where Catholic education is guaranteed. Tuition for these private schools may range between $7,000 and $20,000 dollars per year.

When choosing a school, it is important to do what is right for you and consider the advantages and disadvantages of attending a public, Catholic, or private school.

References

https://www.cisscanada.com/news/catholic-high-schools-in-canada.html

https://thewalrus.ca/why-are-we-still-paying-for-catholic-schools/

https://web.archive.org/web/20140325190948/http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/document/curricul/religion/religioe.html

https://iceont.ca/partners/

https://iceont.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Elementary-Religious-Ed-2012.pdf

https://iceont.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Secondary-Religious-Education-Policy-Document-FINAL-MASTER-DOCUMENT-Nov-2016.FINAL-for-PRINT16-11-23-minus-COURSE-CODES.pdf

https://www.ucalgary.ca/news/homophobia-hallways-lgbtq-people-risk-catholic-schools

https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/csj-sjc/rfc-dlc/ccrf-ccdl/check/art15.html

https://www.hrc.org/resources/stances-of-faiths-on-lgbt-issues-roman-catholic-church

https://edmontonjournal.com/news/local-news/new-gay-straight-alliance-law-takes-effect-not-all-schools-appear-to-comply

https://www.ocsta.on.ca/

https://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~wallind/chaptertwo5.html

https://www.ourkids.net/private-catholic-schools.php

Cover Letters 101

Cover Letters 101

By Michelle Boon

Posted on February 22, 2021

Typewriter

When you apply for jobs in Canada, there are often two parts to the application. Your résumé, and your cover letter.

Your résumé is an overview of your experience and skills. Your cover letter is your opportunity to expand on your skills and demonstrate that you are exactly the person for the job.

Companies aren’t just looking for qualified people. They are looking for people who align with the culture and goals of the company.

To convey that you’re perfect for the job, research company values, projects, or recent news. Use this knowledge as the basis of your cover letter. Hiring managers appreciate this level of effort. Additionally, relating your skills to the company makes a stronger argument that you’re right for the job.

Like writing résumés, it’s best to customize each cover letter. In addition to including details about the companies, use key words and phrases from the job description.

This can be time consuming, but it could be the difference between getting an interview and not hearing back at all. This research will also be useful if you are invited for an interview.
Shaking hands
Your cover letter should not exceed one page (unless the job description says otherwise). Use a basic, professional font, such as Arial or Calibri, in a 10- or 12-point size and standard 1-inch margins on all sides. Unless otherwise specified, it is advised that you include your first and last name as well as type of document, in this case, “Cover Letter,” in your file name (for example, FirstName_LastName_CoverLetter). Lastly, save your file as either a Word document (.doc) or a PDF (.pdf). If you are printing your letter, it would be a good idea to use quality paper and ink for better presentation.

Typically, a cover letter includes the following elements:

  • Your name
  • Your email address
  • Your phone number
  • The date
  • Address of the company you are applying to
  • A salutation
  • A demonstration of your qualifications
  • Knowledge of the company
  • A closing statement
  • A closing salutation

Name and contact information

Your name and contact information follow the same rules as your résumé. This information goes at the top of page. Set your name to a slightly larger font, and make sure your email address looks professional.

The address

Next, address your letter. Even if you are not sending your cover letter by mail, it looks more professional to include the address of the company. This information is usually just a Google search away.

Greeting

The greeting on the other hand is a little trickier to research. Whenever possible, avoid using generic greetings, such as “Dear Hiring Manager.” While using this greeting is fine, using the hiring manager’s name makes a better impression.

If this information is not listed in the job description, there are a few ways to find it.

If there is an email address included in the job listing, send them a message asking who to address your cover letter to.

If there is no contact information listed, try LinkedIn. You can search the company on the professional networking site and view their employees. See if you can find anyone with the job title “hiring manager,” “talent acquisition,” or “human resources.” It’s likely that these individuals handle the hiring process at the company, but it’s always good to double check. Send them a message to confirm whom to reference in your letter.

In some cases, you can also message any employee who works at the company. They may not be the ones viewing your application, but they might be able to give you the hiring manager’s name. You may also be able to use this opportunity to make new professional connections. Check out this article on how to network in Canada to learn more about networking.

Introduction

Introduce yourself in the first paragraph. Write two or three sentences about why you are qualified and why you want to work for that company. It can be as simple as stating your job title, the amount of experience you have, and your skills as well as highlighting why you would be an asset for the company.

Here is an example of an introductory paragraph for a position in accounting:

As a highly organized account manager with 3+ years of experience, I hope to bring my attention to detail, computer skills, and superior financial reporting skills to Company XYZ.

Why you’re the best person for the job

Then, in the body paragraphs of your cover letter, relate your work experience to the company. A mistake many people make in their cover letters is focusing exclusively on themselves. Your cover letter should tell the company how your skills would benefit them.

Use your company research and the job description as inspiration. Key words and phrases from the company website and job listing are your best friend. A job listing might ask for a “team player” who “works closely with clients to develop projects.” Write about experiences that closely relate to these elements using specific words from the job description.

When discussing your skills and experience, avoid simply listing your day-to-day responsibilities. Instead, emphasize the impact you made in your previous positions. This can be anything from increasing sales, making a system more efficient, or starting a new club at your school. When possible, quantify your impact with numbers. For example: “I increased sales by 10%.”

These paragraphs vary in content and structure depending on the field and position you apply to. To get an idea of what a cover letter looks like, check out these sample cover letters on Monster.ca.

Closing statements

To finish your cover letter:

1. Sum up your strengths. Remind the reader of your skills and how they would benefit the company. Try not to use too many words and phrases from your body paragraphs. It can be repetitive to read.

2. Be assertive. “I look forward to discussing how I would apply my skills at Company XYZ” shows more confidence than “I hope to hear from you.” It’s a simple way to potentially increase your chances of getting that interview.

3. Be polite. Always thank your reader for their time and consideration. Also, use a professional phrase when signing off, such as “sincerely” or “best regards” instead of “yours” or “cheers.”

Need help? Here are some resources:

If you are having difficulty writing your cover letter, don’t worry. There are many resources to help you write your résumé and cover letter:

This Settle At Work document breaks down the different parts of a cover letter, provides sample cover letters, and includes a checklist of what to include.

Settlement.org also offers a search engine to find services near you. Search “employment resource centre” or “settlement services” to find a help centre in your area. These centres often offer free résumé and cover letter workshops.

Cover letters can be tricky for everyone. Luckily, as a newcomer you have lots of skills to offer to Canadian employers. With some practice and proofreading, you’re sure to get an interview.