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Thousands of immigrants stand on the frontlines everyday during the pandemic to bring us food, health care, services

Another year went by under lockdowns, travel restrictions, quarantine, outbreaks, variants, vaccines, healthcare constrains, recession, inflation, and other related COVID-19 challenges and relief measures.  

What was expected to be a temporary circumstance is sadly likely becoming the new norm. A new generation of young children masks and social distancing is all they know. Jacob, my nine-year-old son included. He was seven years old when the pandemic started. He experienced, like many others, the restrictions in schools, sports, community, social, and recreational events. It’s yet to be determined what the long-term impacts will be on human behaviour and social development.  

However, there is a “half-full” side. Humans are resilient. Immigrants in particular.   

Globally, a 2020 OECD report on managing international migration under COVID-19 suggests this pandemic crisis is likely to have a disproportionate and long-lasting negative impact on immigrants and their children. This is based on experience from previous economic crises and the first labour market indications. This report provides evidence on how this pandemic has affected immigrants in terms of health, jobs, education, language training, public opinion, and other integration measures alongside the changes in the social patterns brought about by this pandemic. 

Close to home, Statics Canada says recent immigrants, especially new arrivals and particularly the ones with lower language proficiency, may find it too hard to understand and follow public health mandates. They are likely to have low income, to be employed in essential work, or occupations with a greater risk of infection, such as in health care or the services industry. As such, they are more prone to encounter mental health or anxiety issues and likely live in overcrowded homes or multigenerational households. The information suggests recent immigrants are at disproportionately increased risk of infection and mortality than more established immigrants and those Canadian born. 

Sounds concerning? I mentioned “half-full” earlier, right?   

Indeed, it is. 

Many immigrants, including recent immigrants or new arrivals, are helping not just other immigrants, but also Canadian born during the pandemic. Immigrants stepping-in, stepping-up, willing and eager to work, to help others, whether it’s frontline work health work, essential work, supply chain or service work. Some of them could’ve preferred the safety of staying home, cashing pandemic cheques they may qualify for, but they didn’t. They filled shortages of many strategic essential job vacancies, vacancies employers were struggling to fill to make our society function. 

I’m not just talking about higher paid glamorous jobs, but equally important minimum wage ones. Simply ask yourself a question: How often did you order food, receive delivery, take out, drive-through, a package, or went to the supermarket or a gas station during the lockdowns? Do you recall the wide range and diverse faces you saw and the several different or strong accents you may have heard that made this possible? 

Immigrants are key elements in supporting Canada’s economic recovery and growth post-pandemic in terms of population, demographics, and statistics as population continues rising during the pandemic. 

I was privileged to be a member of the esteemed advisory committee for the Most Inspiring Immigrants in Atlantic Canada awards. I was overwhelmed by the number of amazing individuals making a difference and leaving great impact on our communities.   

As we celebrate the Most Inspiring Immigrants in Atlantic Canada and their great impact, accomplishments, successes, and journey, each in their own field and with a unique, inspiring story, let’s also celebrate every one of the ones that made a regular small impact, unnoticeable as it may be, on our daily life. 

To them all I want to say: Thank you! 

You made a difference. You had an impact. You were noticed. And you are greatly appreciated!    

Rany Ibrahim

Rany Ibrahim is a business strategy professional, communicator, writer, analyst, business workforce consultant, tech startup founder, and part-time university faculty. He also serves on various academic and professional boards. Rany is a member of the Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference, is among Atlantic Canada’s 50 most inspiring entrepreneurial leaders under 40, is a Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Awards winner, and was recognized by the Nova Scotia House of Assembly for his contributions and community involvement. He is passionate about immigration, human rights, freedoms, and democracy.

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