‘Be proud of who you are’: Event celebrates RNIP families
More than 130 people come together to share in RNIP success as pilot winds down in 2024
VERNON, BC—Wherever you come from, whatever your background, you’re welcome here. That’s the story told in laughs and smiles as grandparents carried grandkids on their shoulders and family and new friends shared their cultures, stories, dances and food. Nearly 150 people gathered at the Coldstream Community Hall Thursday night to celebrate families of the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot (RNIP) program, and the community is stronger for it.
“Tonight is a celebration of diversity and the richness that immigrants bring to our community. It is also a celebration of the courage it takes to embark on a journey to a new place,” says Leigha Horsfield, Executive Director of Community Futures North Okanagan, after a welcome from Pauline Archachan and Amber Cardenas of the Okanagan Indian Band. “We value acceptance and unity and believe that our differences make us stronger. By embracing people from all parts of the world, our community benefits.”
The RNIP program helps rural communities attract skilled immigrants by matching jobseekers with employers and creating a path to permanent residency. Since 2020, 642 vacant jobs have been filled in the North Okanagan and Shuswap by RNIP newcomers. Along with primary candidates’ family members, 1,279 newcomers now call the North Okanagan and Shuswap home.
Standing in front of the microphone with tears welling in her eyes, Krista Frasz has seen first-hand the impact the program has had on local businesses and the families welcomed through the program. The director of HR at Predator Ridge, Frasz has hired 11 skilled workers from across the globe through the program. She’s helped newcomers search for apartments and shared in the excitement as family members reunite in their new home.
“For me, what the RNIP means is the individuals attached to it, the connections we’ve made and the chance to be a part of this journey,” says Frasz. “I’m incredibly grateful. It’s been a wonderful experience. Our lives will forever be different because of it.”
From the beginning, the RNIP program sought to welcome newcomers to rural communities and encourage retention. In a survey conducted this summer, Horsfield says, nearly 90 per cent of candidates have stayed in the region after receiving permanent residency.
Harwinder Sandhu, Vernon-Monashee MLA, shared her own experience of moving to small-town BC in the middle of winter 25 years ago, and the powerful impact of immigration on the community.
“Immigrants are part of the solution,” says Sandhu. “Be proud of who you are. You help make Canada’s fabric beautiful.”
For Mandeep Kaur, there’s no place she’d rather call home. A worker at Namaste Indian Restaurant in Vernon, Kaur recently received permanent residency. Her daughters Parneet and Tavleen say they’re making friends and enjoying school in Canada.
“The people have been very helpful. We love this new way to live,” says Kaur. “We’re very happy here.”
ABOUT COMMUNITY FUTURES NORTH OKANAGAN
Community Futures North Okanagan is a not-for-profit organization that supports economic development projects and helps our business community, job-seekers, and employers succeed. As a community-based organization with roots in Vernon dating back to 1984, Community Futures acts as a leader to create opportunities for growth and success across the North Okanagan. A team of nearly 45 staff provide workshops, programs and services for three departments: Business Services, Employment Services, and Economic Development. Visit www.futuresbc.com to learn more.
The RNIP is made possible through funding from the Government of Canada and the Province of British Columbia.