South Okanagan Immigrant & Community Services is working in Penticton, Summerland, Okanagan Falls, Oliver, Osoyoos, Keremeos and Princeton to make our communities more open and welcoming to immigrants. We want a welcoming community where immigrants feel safe and can participate in all aspects of community life.
The Welcoming Communities Project’s goal is to get the city, employers, and community partners to work together to build a more inclusive environment where newcomers feel accepted and can be successful in the workplace.
Read more about the Welcoming Communities Project:
- Replace and grow population
- Decrease average age of population
- Skilled workers needed for Healthcare and other industries
Youth Leaving the Area
- Attract new youth to area
- Young families bring children to fill our schools
Succession Planning for Businesses
- Immigrants can take over existing business
- Buy and run farms
- Bring in new businesses
- Replace retiring skilled workers
- Canadian education system not producing enough graduates in key skilled areas
- Increased competition for skilled workers means Canadian born grads are being recruited by other countries
Lack of Workers in Low Skilled Jobs
- Need workers for agriculture, service industry, and retail sector
1. Beautiful Nature and Landscape:
- We have it all here. Lakes, mountains, desert, valleys, orchards, vineyard, forests, and a diverse variety of plants and animals.
2. Great Weather
- The South Okanagan has hot dry summers and mild winters with little snow. According to Environment Canada Statistics Penticton has the most attractive climates of all cities in Canada, and Osoyoos is one of the hottest towns in Canada.
- Over 2100 hours of sunshine and only 15 inches of rain annually gives this area a comfortable climate year-round.
- Golfing, biking, hiking, climbing, wind sports, skiing, back country, hockey, and much more.
- Many indoor and outdoor activities for children of all ages, to seniors (Penticton Recreation)
4. Small Town Benefits with all the Amenities:
- Smaller population
- Community involvement and friendly neighbours
- Safety of city and neighborhoods
- Less traffic
- Access to arts, culture, and music
- What to Do: Ethnic restaurants from around the world, local shopping, near major shopping centres, South Okanagan Events Centre with concerts, shows and sporting events, ice areans, swimming pools
- Health Care: hospitals, health care facilities and wellness centres
- Small community with amenities, near larger centres
- Community Directory of Businesses
- Directory of Community Resources and Services
6. Employment Opportunities:
- Business opportunities: farming, restaurants, business owners retiring and looking to sell their businesses
- Strong, stable economy: The traditional natural resource-based economy has widened to include tourism, high-tech and service industries. Solid growth in manufacturing continues to enhance the economic environment to create a diverse economic base. A significant retired population helps keep the economy stable.
7. Multicultural Population:
- Religious Organizations: churches, temples, and other places of worship
- Ethnic Foods: a variety of ethnic restaurants, stores selling ethnic foods, ethnic delis
- Multicultural Organizations and Groups
- Penticton and District Community Resource Society: lists of faith organizations, multicultural groups and other Penticton services
8. High Quality Education:
- School District 67
- School District 53
- Okanagan College
- Okanagan School of the Arts
- Close to University of British Columbia Okanagan
9. Welcoming Community
- Community Charter of Dignity, Respect, and Acceptance
- Diversity Protocols for Responding to Discrimination, Racism and Disunity (a handbook on responding to critical incident)
- Employers dedicated to assisting immigrants enter the workforce:
- Immigrant settlement and employment services
- Close to international airport (Kelowna)
- Local airports
- Local and between city buses
Penticton has a population of about 35,000 and is located between the Okanagan and Skaha Lakes in the southern Okanagan Valley. It is an outdoor enthusiasts playground. With the Skaha rock climbing bluffs, the multitude of water sports, the many trails for hiking and biking, and the 7 championship golf courses, the possibilities are endless. Other attractions include a cruise on the lake aboard a paddle wheeler, a float down the channel on a tube, or browsing one of the many art studios and galleries.
Penticton is situated in the middle of wine country so stop by and visit one of the 24 nearby vineyards and try ice wines, white wines, fruit wines, or red wines. Penticton also has the South Okanagan Events Centre, which attracts internationally-known performers and musicians. Penticton is also home to a world-class hockey school and the world famous Ironman Triathalon Competition.
The economy is based on forestry, manufacturing, agriculture, high technology industries, tourism, wineries and the retirement industry. Several major construction projects, including residential, resort and tourism developments, particularly for seniors, are drawing people from many countries to retire here.
Summerland is a community of 10,370 just north of Penticton. Surrounded by farmland Summerland is a major fruit growing area in the region and you will find a string of fruit stands along the highway selling peaches, cherries, apples, pears, and much more. Visit one of the many award winning wineries along Bottleneck Drive. Summerland has sunny beaches for swimming, parks for picnics, annd beautiful mountains to hike and bike.
What makes Summerland unique from the rest of the Okanagan is the “Old English” theme that town was modeled on. Every June the community hosts the Good Will Shakespeare Festival where highschool students from all over come to participate in workshops where they act, sing, design and take part in all aspects of theatre.
Okanagan Falls is a community of 6,000 along Skaha Lake, just 26 kilometres south of Penticton. It is along the Kettle Valley Rail Trail and includes biking, hiking, kiteboarding and windsurfing to name a few. It known for its icecream shop, homemade pies, and chocolate making. Stroll through the town with its old time feel and quaint shops. Or visit one of the many wineries and fruit farms in the area as well.
Oliver has a community of 4,400 and is located in the southern part of the Okanagan Valley. Oliver is known as the Wine Capital of Canada because of the number of vineyards and its reputation for producing some of the best rated wines. Apples, pears and cherries are also in supply and can be bought at local farms and fruit stands. With two championship golf courses, theatre performances throughout the summer, and skiing in the winter, there is something to do throughout the year.
Osoyoos is a community of about 5,000 located along the US border at the northern tip of Canada’s only desert. The Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre offers demonstrations and guided tours of the area, which is home to hundreds of rare animals and plants. Being on the lake and surrounded by grasslands Osoyoos is an outdoor recreation paradise. From golfing,and biking, to sailing and bird watching there are many things to do here. With the lowest annual rainfall and highest average year-round temperatures it is perfect for growing grapes, peaches and cherries. It is a destination that appeals to all ages.
Keremeos has a population of about 1,400 and is surrounded by mountains in the Similkameen Valley. It has a “Wild West” look and feel. The community is known for its fruit and vegetable stands along its streets, as a result of its warm temperatures and large variety of produce. Keremeos has fishing, camping, and hiking, amongst many other outdoor activities. It also has one of the few remaining covered railway bridges and an unusual grouping of towering basalt columns near the Keremeos Columns Provincial Park.
Princeton is a city of about 3,000 located at the meeting of the Tulameen and Similkameen rivers, about 112 kilometres west of Penticton. The surrounding Cascade Mountains and river valleys provide year-round outdoor recreation opportunities. Princeton’s economy is based on agriculture, ranching and tourism. Princeton is known as the gateway to the Southern Interior, due to its location at the junction of Highway 3 and Highway 5A. Highway 3, also known as the Crowsnest Highway, is a key transportation corridor connecting the Southwest / Lower Mainland part of the province with the Thompson / Okanagan region.
The South Okanagan Similkameen region is a friendly and welcoming place for immigrants. The communities hold cultural events, start initiatives to stop racism, build awareness around diversity, and create resources for immigrants to help them settle and integrate.
Community Diversity Protocol
Businesses, service providers, and the community all care about making the South Okanagan and Similkameen region inclusive and welcoming to immigrants. Members in these communities signed the Community Diversity Protocol and have the Diversity Protocols for Discrimination, Racism and Disunity Handbook pledging to promote equity, compassion and respect for all members of the South Okanagan Similkameen. In addition, the handbook provides critical information on what to do if you encounter racism or hate.
SOICS’s award winning staff have produced some of the Province’s most creative and innovative projects to assist South Okanagan Similkameen communities in becoming more welcoming and inclusive. Below are just some of the events, activities, and projects that they have initiated in order to accomplish this:
- Multicultural Festival: with food, dance, performances, and activities for the whole family it is an event not to miss. A diverse variety of cultures come together to share food, dance, and traditions with larger community.
- PeachFest Parade: SOICS puts together a larger entry each year. Volunteers from over 30 countries come together to wave their national flag, perform, or help to raise awareness of the variety of cultures that live and work in our community.
- Employer Toolkit: this toolkit was developed to promote and support employers to hire immigrant workers and to create a diversified workplace. It illustrates the benefits immigrant workers bring to employers, with practical suggestions on culturally sensitive practices. For example, interview techniques, hiring, supporting, and integrating immigrants into the workplace.
- Welcoming Communities Website: SOICS has dedicated a section of this website to providing immigrant employers and newly arrived immigrants with resources and information that supports their settlement and integration processes and introduces them to their local community.
- SOICS Newsletters: SOICS distributes a monthly newsletter in print and electronic form to inform immigrants and the mainstream population of events and workshops SOICS has to offer, tips for employment, settlement, and learning English, community events and much more.
- Welcoming and Inclusive Communities and Workplaces Knowledge Development and Exchange Project completed an asset mapping of the immigrant resources available in the South Okanagan. Through the project, knowledge of these services was expanded and gaps in services were identified. The results of the survey are being used in order to compile a list of best practices to share and promote in the community. A Community Forum was also held in 2009 to discuss current best practices and improvements for making our communities more welcoming and inclusive.
- Critical Incident Response Mechanism (C.I.R.M): identified and addressd racism and racist incidents. The Diversity Promotion Network created three information booklets for communities in the South Okanagan Similkameen to celebrate and value diversity.
- South Okanagan Similkameen Community Diversity Protocol (English, French)
- Charter of Dignity, Respect, and Acceptance
- Diversity Protocals for Responding to Discrimination, Racism and Disunity (a handbook on responding to critical incident)
Attracting Immigrants to the Okanagan
Wolf Depner, through funding from Mitacs and SOICS, is researching “Attracting Immigrant Families to Smaller Communities”. Though his research is still ongoing some preliminary findings are as follows:
- Many newcomers are working in jobs that do not maximize their level of education and expertise in the first few years after arriving to Canada (SOICS can assist immigrants in getting their credentials recognized and assist with their job search)
- A common obstacle to newcomers finding work in the local job market is a lack of employer connections (SOICS can help immigrants expand their networks, our mentoring program connects immigrants with employer mentors)
- On a positive note the longer an immigrant is in Canada the more likely they are to find employment and find work that matches their education and experience (SOICS can help immigrants continually improve their employability skills no matter how long they have lived in Canada
All of SOICS’ services are free for eligible immigrants. For more information on becoming a SOICS client, please visit Getting Started at SOICS. To make an appointment, please call or visit one of our offices:
508 Main Street
Penticton, British Columbia
6239 Main Street
Oliver, British Columbia