Supporting newcomers to your community

Recent shifts in Alberta’s economic and social landscapes have stimulated discussions about diversity, integration, racism, and immigration policy.

Municipalities play a vital role in the attraction and long-term integration of newcomers to our province. Alberta Municipalities has developed Immigration Matters to help our members learn more about immigration to Alberta and how to improve outcomes for newcomers. 

Newcomers are attracted to communities that make them feel welcome and included. Planning Together: Guide to Municipal Immigration Action Planning in Alberta was produced to help communities achieve that goal. It provides ideas for getting people working together and helps set targets and develop action plans that complement work already being done in the community. 

We have also developed a Municipal-Employer Partnership brochure that highlights the important role local governments and businesses play in attracting and retaining newcomers and providing ideas for collaboration.

Contact us at wic [at] (wic[at]abmunis[dot]ca) with your ideas and best practices for attracting and retaining newcomers to your community.

Check out the resources section at the bottom of the page for a collection of toolkits, guides, supports, municipal examples, and reports to help your community take action.

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Small communities face their own unique set of challenges when it comes to attracting and retaining newcomers. In addition to appropriate housing, transportation systems and suitable employment, smaller communities also often face challenges in providing help with settlement through service organizations, providing cultural amenities and ensuring diversity in the school system. Often this is because smaller communities lack the institutional and resource capacity of larger centres, which limits their ability to provide the same level of service. Nevertheless, many immigrants opt to live in smaller centres, and many small communities around Alberta are making great strides in their approach to newcomer attraction and settlement either individually, or regionally. Creating a community that is attractive to newcomers is one way to improve the sustainability of a small community.

Once newcomers arrive in our communities, we need to give them reasons to stay. We also need to make sure they are integrated into the economic and social fabric of the community. Affordable housing and public transit, English language classes, employment opportunities, and schools are just some of the things municipalities need to consider when making the entire newcomer family feel welcome.

Municipalities have an important role to play in ensuring that their communities are welcoming and inclusive, and can attract and retain newcomers in today’s highly competitive environment. As well, municipalities play a key role in providing supports to assist newcomers in settling and living in their communities.

Municipalities can:

  • Ensure their website is attractive, informative, free from jargon and draws attention to their region’s strengths, such as employment opportunities, service organizations, housing, transportation and faith organizations;
  • Leverage established ethnic communities to market their municipality in the “source country”;
  • Facilitate collaboration between service providers to help meet the needs of the entire newcomer family;
  • Market their community as being welcoming and inclusive. Municipalities can use the promotional materials in our Welcoming and Inclusive Communities Campaign Kit for free. Click here for more information;
  • Create a welcome kit with community information or start a newcomer committee. Click here for our Terms of Reference Guide to help get you started;
  • Host inclusive community events and encourage newcomers to attend and participate in the planning process; and
  • Ensure recreational facilities and leisure activities are inclusive and affordable.

Refugees can be a common target for discrimination. While discrimination based on physical and cultural differences is common, refugees are also targets of discrimination because of the nature of how they have come to immigrate to Canada and the financial support that is made available to them. In many cases, refugees suffer from symptoms of trauma and may report feelings of anger, hopelessness, loss of dignity and humiliation. 

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) defines a refugee as someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Most likely, they cannot return home or are afraid to do so. War and ethnic, tribal and religious violence are leading causes of refugees fleeing their countries.

The spread of misinformation can be a key factor in why refugees are often targets of discrimination. The following information clarifies many of the common areas of misunderstanding.

Refugees come to Canada through one of three streams: a government-assisted refugee, a privately-sponsored refugee or through the Blended Visa Office-Referred Program. Government-assisted refugees receive income support from the federal government for up to one year unless they can financially support themselves sooner. The amount of income support is based on each province’s social assistance rates and provides for food, shelter and other basic needs. Alberta Municipalities' webinar titled ‘Understanding the refugee experience’ highlights how in 2017, a refugee household of three persons would receive approximately $1,100 per month in income support. A privately-sponsored refugee is financially supported by a voluntary group of people for one to three years. Refugees arriving as part of the Blended Visa Office-Referred Program will receive income support from the federal government for six months and a private sponsor for six months. The federal and provincial governments provide a variety of other short and long-term supports (e.g. language, mental health support and skills training) to help refugees and other immigrants successfully integrate in Alberta’s communities.

The immigration of refugees is a long-standing practice by the Government of Canada to assist persons from all over the world to enjoy a life in Canada free of persecution. The federal government sets annual targets for the number of refugees that will immigrate to Canada. For example, the government’s 2017 plan targeted to welcome 300,000 immigrants to Canada, which included 25,000 persons under the refugee class. In 2017, the United Nations Refugee Agency estimated that there were 65.6 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, which included 22.5 million refugees. Click here for a historical time line of refugees coming to Canada.

For more information about refugees, visit for a comprehensive source of information that is categorized based on the type of user. 


Integrating Newcomers

Building Champions of Anti-Racism and Anti-Islamophobia: A Practice Guide for Alberta’s Settlement Community

A practical manual of principles, tools, resources and case examples that can help you address racism and Islamophobia at an individual, community, or systems level. The Guide was developed by the Alberta Association of Immigrant Serving Agencies.

Civic Engagement for Immigrant Women

The Calgary Immigrant Women's Association (CIWA) produced this guide to civic engagement, covering volunteering, elections, voting and having a public voice. While the tool is outdated from 2011, municipalities could use this guide as a template for a handbook for newcomers on how to vote in municipal elections or how to get involved in the community. The guide has been translated into Arabic, Farsi, French, Mandarin and Spanish.

Everybody's Welcome: A Social Inclusion Approach to Program Planning and Development for Recreation and Parks Services

Welcoming and barrier-free recreation and parks services can make a substantial difference to the attractiveness of a municipality and newcomer social integration. This guide, produced by BC Recreation and Parks, is intended to support planners to create community facilities, programs and services that are open and responsive to the needs of all members of a community.

Onboarding Syrian Refugees: A Toolkit for Employers

The Edmonton Region Immigrant Employment Council released this Toolkit in 2016 to increase employer knowledge of culturally sensitive hiring and retention practices. While the Toolkit is based on Syrian refugees, the majority of information is applicable to all newcomers.

Welcoming Communities: A Toolkit for Municipalities

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) released this report in 2016 to provide guidance on how to support the integration of newcomers. The report references many best practices used by municipalities in 2015 and 2016 to help integrate Syrian refugees.

Welcoming Immigrants and Refugees to Canada – The Role of Municipalities

This 2019 toolkit by the Canadian Commission for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization offers a variety of strategies that municipal governments can implement to be more inclusive of newcomers.

Attracting Newcomers

Private Sponsorship of Refugees Toolkit

Developed by the Canadian Council for Refugees, this Toolkit provides information for groups considering sponsoring refugees to immigrate to Canada.

Understanding the refugee experience

An Alberta Municipalities' webinar (2017) that breaks down the myths of refugees and highlights the challenges that refugees face through resettlement. The presentation features the Centre for Race and Culture and the Multi-Cultural Health Brokers Cooperative.

Calgary Local Immigration Partnership: Emerging Priorities -- Jeny Mathews-Thusoo

Jeny Mathews-Thusoo from the City of Calgary presents at the 2014 Come Together Alberta Conference. 

Settlement and Integration Services in Alberta -- Fariborz Birjandian

Fariborz Birjandian from the Alberta Association of Immigrant Serving Agencies presents at the 2014 Come Together Alberta conference.

Demystifying Immigration: Immigration and Temporary Foreign Workers Processes

An AUMA webinar (2014) featuring the Ministry of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour.

Hiring and Retaining Immigrant Employees

Alberta Municipalities' Good Municipal Practices in Immigration webinar (2012) featuring the City of Hamilton and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.

Supporting Newcomer Community Engagement

Alberta Municipalities' Good Municipal Practices in Immigration webinar (2011) featuring Zenev & Associates Diversity and Equity Consultants, Immigrant Sector Council of Calgary, Ethno-Cultural Council of Calgary and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. 

Small Communities

ESL Rural Routes

The Rural Routes initiative at NorQuest College provides ongoing ESL capacity development services to rural and small urban ESL providers in Alberta, so they can offer culturally integrated English language programs and services to enhance economic and social integration in rural communities for adult newcomers.

Integrating Newcomers

Alberta Association of Immigrant Serving Agencies

AAISA supports Alberta’s newcomer settlement sector by conducting research, providing training and tools and communicating with stakeholders.

Alberta Global Talent

Alberta Global Talent is a readiness and engagement program in Central Alberta that is designed to assist employers to attract, hire, onboard, and retain qualified immigrants.

Cities of Migration

This website, produced by the Maytree Foundation and linked with Ryerson University, seeks to improve local integration practices in major immigrant receiving cities worldwide, through information sharing and learning exchange. The website is anchored by a collection of Good Ideas in Integration, which showcase city-level integration practices that provide innovative and practical solutions to common problems and challenges.

Federation of Canadian Municipalities

FCM provides information on newcomer integration including a report called ‘Starting on Solid Ground: The Municipal Role in Immigrant Settlement’.

Pathways to Prosperity: Canada

The Pathways to Prosperity Partnership (P2P) is an alliance dedicated to fostering welcoming communities that promote the economic, social and civic integration of migrants and minorities in Canada. They also help communities grow their economies, renew their populace, and reinvigorate their labour markets by fully welcoming immigrants, international students and temporary foreign workers. Their website houses numerous publications, research and best practices on immigration.

Attracting Newcomers

Alberta Canada Website

The Alberta Canada website hosts lots of good information on living in Alberta, including the economic advantages of living in the province, climate, geography, the diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds found in the province, and help for employers looking to recruit. The website also hosts the Interactive Alberta Map, which lets users search by region or municipality and provides specific information on support services.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada

The Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) website provides information for those looking to immigrate, visit, study or work in Canada as well as apply for citizenship or permanent residence.


Refugee Alberta is a comprehensive multi-lingual website designed to meet the information needs of refugees, organizations serving refugees and the general public. The site is managed by the Alberta Association of Immigrant Serving Agencies.

Alberta Association of Immigrant Serving Agencies

AAISA supports Alberta’s settlement sector by conducting research, providing training and tools and communicating with stakeholders.

Government of Canada

The federal department of Immigration, Citizenship, and Refugees Canada provides information on refugees including an interactive map of newcomer services by region. 

Small Communities

Municipality of Jasper
Community volunteers host a donation-based weekly community dinner for residents. Months after their arrival, two Syrian refugee families were invited to cook a Syrian-themed meal for the weekly dinner. The dinner allowed the Syrian families to meet other residents and display their cultural food. The Syrian-themed meal drew over 500 residents, which happened to be one of the largest attended dinners in the 15-year history of the program.

Integrating Newcomers

Brooks: New Demographics, New Directions
The City of Brooks is a unique example of a culturally diverse mid-sized community. This video (2011) highlights the importance of council leadership in responding to the diverse needs of the population through such initiatives as the creation of a newcomers guide, recruitment practices of the local volunteer fire department, and partnership with settlement associations.

The City hosts well attended Citizenship Ceremonies throughout the year to celebrate newcomers that obtain Canadian citizenship as well as marches and festivals on notable days such as March 21, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

City of Calgary
A report titled ‘Hidden in Plain Sight: Housing Challenges of Newcomers in Calgary was released in 2009, which describes the unique challenges that newcomers face in finding and keeping housing. The report includes a set of recommendations on how to improve policy and programming for housing newcomers.

City of Edmonton
The City of Edmonton’s Newcomers Guide contains information about municipal services to help new arrivals to the city settle more easily. The guide is available in nine languages and covers information about housing, policing, garbage collection, transportation, public transit, education, health, recreation, libraries and municipal government.

Handbook for Strengthening Harmony between Immigrant Communities and the Edmonton Police Service
This handbook is intended to help newcomers understand the role of policing in Edmonton, provide information on how to access police services, and explain what to expect if approached by the police. It also explains the rights and responsibilities of both community members and the police and is available in multiple languages.

City of Grande Prairie

This video (2011) highlights how the City of Grande Prairie responded to the influx of new residents during a boom in the local economy. It describes the work of the City’s WIC committee, the Adult Learning Council and the local Francophone association.

Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo

This video (2011) profiles how the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo has established strong partnerships with community organizations allowing it to work more effectively towards its commitments as a member of the Canadian Coalition of Municipalities Against Racism and Discrimination.

Town of Banff

Through its local immigration partnership, the communities of Banff, Canmore and Lake Louise implemented an inclusion-training program for employers in 2016. Businesses that complete the training are profiled in local media and receive ongoing guidance to implement inclusive policies and practices that support the integration of minority populations that are commonly employed in the local food and accommodation service industry.  

Town of Olds

This video (2011) profiles the Town of Olds and the Olds Municipal Library efforts to be inclusive of newcomers. It profiles the use of language learning software, a multilingual collection of books and videos, a newcomers guide (in several languages), and a Skype “living room” where immigrants can have free video chats with their families back home.

Attracting Newcomers

Produced by the Community Airport Newcomers Network (CANN), this website goes over immigrant landing procedures, community resources and advice on initial settlement. CANN operates in the Vancouver International Airport and assists all newcomers on their first day of permanent residence in Canada.

Government of Alberta
This series of short videos was designed to attract immigrants to the province with a particular emphasis on the health care sector. Your municipality could use these videos in your attraction strategy, or consider creating your own video to profile your community.


City of Calgary
In 2016, the City hosted the Calgary Welcome and Newcomers Fair where over 30 City departments set up booths for newcomers to learn about available services and resources. Volunteers were present to help translate for the new Syrian refugees and other Arabic-speaking newcomers.

During the influx of Syrian refugees in 2016, many Syrians stayed in hotels until permanent housing was available. To help parents complete necessary testing and training, the City of Calgary placed lifeguards at hotel pools to create a safe environment for Syrian children to play without parental supervision.

City of Edmonton
During the influx of Syrian refugees in 2016, the City of Edmonton provided all Syrian refugees with free transit passes to help remove barriers for them to attend necessary medical appointments and language training to allow for a successful transition into the community.

Municipality of Jasper
Community volunteers host a donation-based weekly community dinner for residents. Months after their arrival, two Syrian refugee families were invited to cook a Syrian-themed meal for the weekly dinner. The dinner allowed the Syrian families to meet other residents and showcase their cultural food. The Syrian-themed meal drew over 500 residents, which happened to be one of the largest attended dinners in the 15-year history of the program. 

Small Communities

BCSAP Rural Services Networking Event: Final Report

This report summarizes discussions from the BC Settlement and Adaption Program (BCSAP) Rural Services Networking Event held in May 2011. It provides an overview of some of the key challenges that small communities might face when trying to create strategies to integrate newcomers, as well as some strategies used to overcome those challenges.

Canada's Decentralized Immigration Policy Through a Local Lens: How Small Communities are Attracting and Welcoming Immigrants

Drawing on a “welcoming communities” perspective, this research report sets out to understand the drivers of small-community immigrant attraction, the challenges that result, and the existing responses of local actors to these challenges. Six small communities in different parts of Canada are selected for case-study analysis.

Lakeland Regional Workshop Report

On September 24, 2013, AUMA partnered with the Lakeland Inclusion Project – a collaboration between Cold Lake and District Family and Community Support Services (FCSS), Bonnyville FCSS and Lac La Biche FCSS – to deliver a workshop entitled “Richness and Diversity in Our Community” in the City of Cold Lake. Participants discussed growing diversity and the promise of greater richness in the community, culture and prosperity. In addition, participants also worked on identifying barriers to the inclusion of newcomers and developing responses.

Integrating Newcomers

Diverse Cities Marketplace: Successful Approaches to Welcoming New Canadians to Cities across Canada

A summary of successful strategies presented at the June, 2011 meeting of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM). The workbook highlights nine initiatives from Canada and beyond that municipalities can review. A few “tips” follow each program/idea/tool to make it applicable to any city, community or organization.

Starting on Solid Ground: The Municipal Role in Immigrant Settlement

A report by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to the Government of Canada on how municipalities can be better supported to improve outcomes for immigrant settlement.