Impressions of Kingston
Based on the focus group data, most newcomers to Kingston view the city as safe and quiet. Kingston’s relatively small size was seen as positive, as it provides for easy travel to any part of town. Newcomers also favourably mentioned Kingston’s historical sites, green space and location on Lake Ontario, as well as the city’s proximity to Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and the United States.
Most focus group participants viewed Kingston residents as polite and friendly on the whole. However, a number of participants reported that some residents were not very knowledgeable about cultural differences; several participants also reported experiencing acts of overt racism and discrimination.
Responses from the public assemblies, focus groups and interviews suggest a perception of Kingston (by both newcomers and long-term residents) as being a “white” and “monocultural” city. The percentage of Kingston residents identifying as a visible minority is very low; this lack of visible diversity, combined with a lack of cultural understanding among some residents, can create an unwelcoming atmosphere for newcomers.
Challenges of Immigration and Settlement
A number of concerns and challenges were brought forward by both newcomers and people working with immigrants to Kingston:
Employment and Training
Issues related to employment were raised by a large majority of participants. Specific challenges included finding work in one’s field, having foreign credentials and education recognized, a perceived lack of job opportunities, difficulty learning English for the workplace, and understanding Canadian work culture. The need for networking events in order to access the hidden job market and support for entrepreneurs was also mentioned.
Social Supports and Community Connections
Connecting with the community was another major challenge for many newcomers. This area includes making friends and building social networks, both with other newcomers and long-term residents. The lack of visible diversity in Kingston, as discussed above, was viewed as a major challenge to feeling welcome. Newcomers also mentioned the lack of stores and services in Kingston for meeting their needs, such as ethnic grocery stores.
Information, Orientation and Welcoming
Although some participants reported difficulties with the federal immigration process, newcomers were generally satisfied with settlement services, such as those provided by ISKA1. Generally, many felt that these services need to be promoted more broadly in the community, and that more information on settlement should be provided in multiple forms, such as online2. Some newcomers reported facing language barriers in accessing non-immigration specific services in the Kingston area.
Health and Wellness
By far, the largest challenge related to health was the three-month waiting period to obtain OHIP coverage upon initial arrival. Other issues raised included the cost of dental care and medicine, wait times to find a family physician and the lack of cultural awareness among some health care providers.
A number of participants spoke about Kingston Transit services, particularly the infrequent service provided in the evenings and on Sundays. Newcomer parents noted the difficulty in finding affordable child care and the challenges that their children faced in schools. Finding affordable housing was another concern echoed by several participants.
- ACFO-MI was not offering settlement services at the time of the focus groups and interviews [↩]
- These observations were made prior to the launch of the Newcomers’ Web Portal [↩]