By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
Arriving in a new community, let alone a new country can be a harrowing experience.
Yet, newcomers to the area have extensive resources available to them through Durham Region’s immigration portal, durhamimmigration.ca.
Launched in 2010, the portal underwent a complete redevelopment over the past eight months.
The new website went live in early-February and was unveiled during a special ceremony at Durham College’s Whitby campus on Friday, March 2.
According to Audrey Andrews, manager of strategic partnerships and initiatives for the Region of Durham, the portal has been “rebuilt with more accessible and social media-friendly content and tools.”
Feedback from users figured heavily in the portal’s redesign.
“For the past seven years, we’ve asked [users] what do you wish you knew more about and what are you struggling to make sense of,” Andrews says. “We’ve been adding and removing content on a consistent basis based on the input we’ve received from the people we interact with.”
The Durham immigration portal resulted from a collaborative effort of 60 organizations across the region beginning in 2009.
This partnership later formalized into the region’s Local Diversity and Immigration Partnership Council.
Andrews says the number of involved organizations has now grown to 85, all of whom have identified a single vision for the initiative.
“We’ve come to understand each other’s organizations, share best practices and make personal connections,” she says.
The portal offers a wide variety of resources for immigrants, including links to employment opportunities, housing, health care and language training.
Key new features include a searchable community event calendar, social media feeds and expanded content for Francophone immigrants and international students.
$50,000 in funding was provided through the Ontario government’s Municipal Immigration Information Online program, and the Region of Durham provided IT expertise.
Durham MPP Granville Anderson says the portal is an invaluable tool.
“Durham Region is one of the greatest places to raise a family and thanks to this redesigned website the rest of the world knows that as well,” Anderson says. “It’s an absolute first-rate resource for people looking to [live], study, work or own a business right here in Durham.”
With new Canadians accounting for one-third of Ontario’s workforce, Anderson says employers and businesses “rely heavily on immigration for skilled workers and labour shortages.”
Anderson zeroed in on the expanded resources for French-speaking individuals, which he says aligns with the province’s goal of five per cent Francophone immigration per year.
“I’m so happy that Durham Region is leading the way in Francophone immigration and revitalizing Francophone communities across Canada,” he adds.