Prince Edward Island 

2019-11-01: Office of Immigration expanding to Summerside View

Office of Immigration expanding to Summerside

A new office of immigration is opening in Summerside to improve access to services for newcomers and employers in the region.
The office, located at 268 Water St., will open with five staff including: 
“Immigration is really important to the overall growth and success of Prince Edward Island and newcomers contribute greatly to our social and economic fabric. Newcomers are working when they arrive and many are young adults with young families, which bring positive changes to our province. An office of immigration in Summerside, encourages more of this growth in Prince County.”
- Economic Growth, Tourism and Culture Minister Matthew MacKay
“We are very excited to have this new office opening in the heart of our city that will provide critical services for newcomers and help them feel more at home in the area,” said Summerside Mayor Basil Stewart. “The collaboration between municipal and provincial governments to create this office means people will have easier access to services and immigration in the Summerside area will be strengthened.”
The office will open at 268 Water St. by end of this year.
Media contact:
Hillary MacDonald
Department of Economic Growth, Tourism and Culture

2019-02-14: Studying and celebrating strong, diverse communities View

Studying and celebrating strong, diverse communities

Island entrepreneur Daniel Ikechukwu Ohaegbu is working hard to build the Island’s multicultural community while researching some of the barriers that make it difficult for newcomers.
Ikechukwu Ohaegbu immigrated from Nigeria five years ago to study psychology at UPEI. After graduation he began working on an honours thesis with Dr. Colleen MacQuarrie, entitled How African men thrive despite racism in Canadian post secondary institutions.
He’s reluctant to reveal too much information about his findings yet but does say it’s been fascinating to study liberation psychology and the dismantling of systems of oppression.
When he’s not buried in psychology books he and his business partner Jonah Chininga can be found running Overtime Entertainment out of the StartUp Zone in Charlottetown.
“It’s been so helpful and good,” he says of the community space for burgeoning businesses.
Overtime Entertainment is an entertainment and event management group working to create a platform for international students to feel at home and integrate into the community. 
"We want to help foster connections," he said. "It’s growing slowly. We are promoting and advocating for diversity and inclusion.” 
The Overtime Entertainment team – including Oniel Kuku, Joshua Daniels, Eko-hokpoma Ambrose, Jiaru Li and Foyinsayemi Senbanjo – hosted their first party in a Browns Court apartment during the Christmas break of 2015. It was for international students who couldn’t go home.
They have also worked with local businesses with the same goals, and organized a mental wellness and youth development week program and a panel discussion on black community growth during Black History Month.
Reflecting on his personal experiences as a new Canadian during Black History Month reminds Daniel that he has landed in a good place.
“Canada is a safe country; racism here is not overt as it is in the USA. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, but it’s more contemporary racism,” he said. “It’s not as overt as a KKK mask.”
Ikechukwu Ohaegbu suggests a post graduate entrepreneurship program would be a great incentive to keep international students here after graduation.
“That way you’re not just telling them to get a job, but supporting their ventures,” he explains. “Action on diversity, I don’t think enough is done to empower individuals. It’s about filling the gap in the off seasons on PEI.”
Daniel says Nigeria, where he and his brother grew up with their single mother, is where his heart will always be. His only sibling ended up in the United States and his mother visits them both.
Even though PEI’s black community numbers more than a thousand -- and is growing -- Daniel says there is still work to do. 
“The black community is not as empowered as it should be compared to Nova Scotia and Ontario. It starts with empowering individuals and attracting more young people to stay. 
It’s easy to love PEI. As much as I want to stay here, it has to make me want to stay -- it has to be a love story.”
The province agrees. Through the population action plan, and in collaboration with business and community partners, the government of Prince Edward Island is working to build a resilient, diverse and growing population.
Overtime Entertainment is planning a Masquerade Ball at Confederation Centre of the Arts next month. The event is designed to promote diversity in creative industries and will feature fashion, music, art, poetry and dance from around the world. Last year the event had 150 spectators and 30 artists.
Ikechukwu Ohaegbu and Chininga are looking for partnerships and sponsorships to make this year’s event even bigger.
“We want to make this happen.”

2019-02-12: This lady's got soul - blues singer makes life on PEI View

This lady's got soul - blues singer makes life on PEI

For the past two decades Tamara Steele has watched Prince Edward Island’s black community grow.
The 37-year-old, originally from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, moved to PEI at age 17 to get a UPEI music degree. When she graduated in 2004, she decided to stay. 
Wrapped in a worn crocheted shawl handmade by her mother, Tamara talks with her hands, flashing a yellow sapphire engagement band her husband, woodworker Mark Steele had designed for her by local artist Jeanette Walker.  She sports a peace tattoo on her forearm.
Today, by day, she works as an administrative assistant at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery and by night she’s a blues singer in a band called Lady Soul.  She’s lived longer in PEI than she lived with her parents – a nurse and a courier driver – in NS; she’s seen many changes in the diversity of the island.
Tamara says when she first moved to Charlottetown, she felt like a novelty.
“In my 19 years here I have seen such a difference in the people you see on the street. When I was new here I felt somewhat novel and that was really weird.
"Most of my friends were white. After a year or two I was able to weed out the people who were just excited to have a black friend. I just wanted to be their friend, not their ‘black friend’.”
With UPEI and Holland College working to recruit international students Steele says she meets people from Africa and the Caribbean more regularly now.
“There is a large, young, black community now and they want to stay here, but they need places to live and to work,” she said. “It can make for a lively future. This community is going to keep growing.”
Tamara recently became a member of the Black Cultural Society of PEI because she wants to help make the community more accessible to new Islanders. She says she hasn’t experienced overt racism here, using the example of the way she has worn her hair natural, since deciding years ago to stop straightening it.
“This is the way my hair grows naturally; I have never been told I look unprofessional and I know that happens to black women in other places.”
But a couple of interactions stand out in her mind, things she would like to make people aware of during Black History Month. Tamara said one time she was getting into a cab in the dead of winter and the cab driver commented on how cold it was, then quickly followed up with 'but you wouldn’t be used to the cold.'
“I said ‘I’m from Halifax, we get the same weather as PEI does,’ then he responded with ‘Ya, but still.’
“I truly believe that man thought I felt cold differently than him because my skin is dark. That is true ignorance, not racism.”
Steele also says she wishes people would stop asking twice where she is from.
“When I tell them I am from Halifax and they ask ‘no, where are you really from?’ It implies we don’t belong here, it’s very rude. As the community grows I think this might stop happening. I think so. I hope so.”
In her spare time Tamara likes to crochet and read, and is an actor. Her next gig will be as Juror #5 in ACT’s production of Twelve Angry Women, opening in late April.
She performs with Lady Soul on Friday, February 15, 2019 at Upstreet Craft Brewing.