Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Federal takeover quashes immigrant service

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The Immigrant Centre is no longer offering a service that helped people navigate Manitoba's Provincial Nominee Program, thanks to a shift in settlement services that's seen the federal government take over.

The Nominee Application Centre (NAC) helped people with the program application form, about 68 single-sided pages, said Fred DeVilla: "It's hard."

Many Winnipeggers went to the centre for help with nominee applications, said DeVilla, a Filipino community leader.

Last week, he took a co-worker to the centre housed in the multi-service Immigrant Centre. His colleague had questions about his cousin in Trinidad applying to come to Manitoba through the nominee program. The program selects people based on their employability and the likelihood they'll stay in Manitoba -- that they have friends, loved ones and communities already settled here.

DeVilla said he was surprised when he heard the announcement that the Immigrant Centre was no longer offering the nominee application service effective April 1.

He and his co-worker rushed to get help there before the nominee application centre closed for good. When they arrived last week, they were told they were too late.

"We were told, 'I'm sorry we don't have that service anymore.' They'd closed the office," he said.

It was unsettling, said DeVilla.

Executive director Linda Lalande did not respond to a request for comment Thursday. The provincial government said the Nominee Application Centre had to shut down.

"The centre does not qualify for funding under the federal government's terms and conditions," said a statement issued by a provincial Immigration spokeswoman. "As a result of the federal government's unilateral decision to take over management of settlement services, the NAC is no longer eligible for funding."

The province said it will pick up the slack and help people with questions at the provincial nominee program offices on Notre Dame Avenue downtown. It will run community information sessions starting on April 2, set up individual appointments with application advisers, and help people fill out online application forms, the statement said.

DeVilla said there is a need for help with the application process.

The Immigrant Centre website states that, since 2009, its nominee program advisers held more than 300 information sessions and helped more than 6,000 clients complete their applications on paper or online.

"It's a valuable service," DeVilla said. "If you go to an immigration consultant or a lawyer, you have to pay."

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 22, 2013 A6

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