November is Financial Literacy Month and, according to Ximema Londono, it’s an important time to remember the challenges faced by Victoria’s new immigrants when it comes time to navigate the financial realities of their new home.
Londono is a settlement worker with Victoria’s Intercultural Centre, where she meets with new Canadians on a one-on-one basis to help them meet people, develop social networks and achieve the skills they need to prosper in a new environment.
And, while it’s common to focus on the development of language skills for new residents of Victoria, Londono points out the difficulties facing people who arrive from different social and financial environments. That’s why, when ABC Life Literacy Canada, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping Canadians increase their literacy skills, offered a program called Money Matters, she jumped at the chance to help deliver the program.
“For some people, depending on where they come from, money is managed in a very different way,” said Londono.
“For those arriving here from Muslim countries, for example, there is a religious restriction against charging or accepting interest payments related to loans and banking. In Canada, it’s important for people to establish their credit score so they may qualify for a mortgage, buy a car, or make any large purchase on credit. The two concepts are difficult to reconcile.”
The program taught participants the concepts of establishing credit and the basics of Canadian banking.
“For some, that religious restriction will mean they will only make a large purchase when they have saved the money and can make a cash payment for the full amount,” she said. For some people, they have to find a way around being paid interest on their savings at the bank.
“Some take that money and simply donate it, rather than accepting the money and being in violation of their faith.”
For some of the program participants, it wasn’t just religious tenets posing a problem to assimilation to Canadian finance.
“It is all so different,” said Amal, one of the program participants and a Victoria resident.
Amal arrived from Morocco in 2010 and became a Canadian citizen last August, but despite her many years in Canada, it was the Money Matters program that finally clarified a number of financial issues in her own mind.
“A big change for me was how I could just send money to Morocco if I wanted to do that,” said Amal.
In Morocco, it was not possible for the average person to simply send money to another country. There, she would have to explain why she wanted to send money, to whom it was going, and what they needed the money for.
“In Canada, you need to have a credit card to rent a car or have a hotel room…or even buy some things. And it’s so easy to have a bank account. Not like home,” she said.
The concept of a mortgage was also very different for Amal, as she tried to understand how the bank was buying the house and letting her live there if she paid them a certain amount every month.
“ABC is very proud of Money Matters and these new achievements are a testament to the valued support of TD Bank Group and our dedicated network of community organizations,” said Mack Rogers, Director, Community Programs for ABC Life Literacy Canada.
“There is more room for program growth and ABC is committed to support every adult learner with the skills they need to live a more fully engaged life.”
ABC Life Literacy Canada is planning on hosting another workshop in the coming months.