Rural Saskatchewan Embraces Multiculturalism

“The Indian restaurant is just across the street, so you can smell the spices.”

The Southwest Newcomer Welcome Centre in Swift Current is surrounded by world cultures, explained Icashiana de Gala, the centre’s executive director.

“You go to the back and there’s a Filipino store.”

And an Asian marketplace.

“A Mexican store just recently opened,” she added, explaining there’s food, there’s language and there’s new business in the growing city.

“There’s diversity now,” she said proudly.

Thousands of immigrants have moved to the southwest since 2005 when the oil industry left job gaps in manufacturing and the service industry. Since Saskatchewan started booming, many employers have relied on foreign immigrants to fill job vacancies – not just in the city centres, but also in smaller communities. And that’s reviving rural Saskatchewan, de Gala said.

hi-shellbrook-google-2009Throughout the province, ‘gateway’ welcome centres like the one in downtown Swift Current help to provide services for newcomers in small communities. The effect of immigration is so pronounced, places like Maple Creek, Frontier and Shaunavon offer English as a Second Language classes.

“Before, it was so lonesome here,” said Edna Davidson, co-owner of a new Filipino grocery store in Swift Current, called Me-Mart. “I felt I wanted to go back home, it seemed I did not belong here.”

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