New Brunswick is honouring the important role played by Canada immigrants in essential jobs with a touring picture exhibit.
It’s called Héros de l’immigration – Heroes of Immigration in the French language – and showcases the important contributions of 21 francophone immigrants to Canada.
“In Canada, one healthcare worker in four is an immigrant and more than 50,000 temporary foreign workers support our agricultural and food processing industries every year,” notes the Réseau en Immigration Francophone du Nouveau-Brunswick (RIFNB) in French on its website.
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“In New Brunswick, they work hand in hand with New Brunswickers to offer the services that allow us to move forward.”
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Photographed by David Champagne, the exhibit first opened in Moncton in October and is now in the adjacent city of Dieppe’s arts and culture centre until Feb. 8.
From there, it will travel to Fredericton through to the start of spring and wind up in the Acadian Peninsula community of Shippagan where the photographs will be on display throughout June.
Along with the photographs are testimonials by these essential workers indicating the importance of their jobs to them and those who received their services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was a tough job but we held on thanks in part to the residents,” said Algeria-born Esma Moknache, a personal support worker in Shippagan. “They were a source of strength for us. You get used to it so much that you forget the coronavirus. You live with it. The work becomes a passion.”
Throughout last summer, Moknache worked seven days a week to provide this essential service. The secret to her perseverance is simply recognizing that her clients needed her.
“You simply remind yourself that they need you and a strength comes from within you – you don’t even know where it comes from – but you find yourself able to say that you will be there tomorrow at 7 a.m. and stay until 7 p.m. and even longer,” she said.
“That’s how we hung on until now.”
Burundi-born Cedric Mpawenimana, a community support worker based in Fredericton, agreed. He said his biggest motivation during the pandemic was simply to help people.
Exhibit Features Videos and Pictures
Each of the photographs in the exhibit, which can be seen online here, features a QR code to allow visitors to watch and listen to video testimonials by these essential workers in Atlantic Canada.
“These are our physicians, our nurses, our orderlies, our grocery store clerks, and our garage collectors,” notes the RIFNB on its website. “They work in agriculture, food processing, transportation and other essential services.
“We applaud their courage and their exceptional work.”
Throughout the pandemic, Ottawa has held open the door for immigrants and temporary foreign workers wanting to come to Canada despite the need for border closures and other public health restrictions from time to time.
As a result of that open-door policy, Canada was able to welcome a record-breaking 401,000 new permanent residents to Canada last year and intends to surpass that with 411,000 new permanent residents as the immigration target for 2022.
In January this year, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser announced an investment of $35 million into its settlement services to expand their reach to include 41 communities.
“Newcomers and refugees have long been the motor of Canada’s society and economy, and our country has a proud tradition of being an international leader in resettlement and integration,” said Fraser.
“This success could not be achieved without the help of vital settlement service organizations that help newcomers learn Canada’s official languages, find jobs and build successful lives in their new communities.”