A vibrant past
MOSAIC – Multi-lingual Orientation Service Association for Immigrant Communities – became a non-profit society in 1976, and was formally registered as a charity in 1978.
MOSAIC was founded from the union of two grass-roots agencies which had sprung up in response to unaddressed community needs in 1972. Both Multilingual Social Service1, and Language Aid for Ethnic Groups2, began as “Local Initiative Projects”, and developed in response to the ongoing challenges faced by Vancouver’s many non-English-speaking immigrants.
At the request of the (then) Department of Manpower and Immigration, and the urging of the Vancouver Resources Board, the two organizations were amalgamated to form MOSAIC. Since that time, MOSAIC has established itself in the community as a vibrant, collaborative and highly-effective organization serving immigrants, newcomers and refugees in the Greater Vancouver area.
Today, and since 1994, the Law Foundation of British Columbia supports the Legal Advocacy Program for low-income clients in the areas related to immigration and poverty law. MOSAIC has additionally provided clients with language support or interpreters as needed for both programs.
The MOSAIC Immigrant Youth Job Corps Program (developed in conjunction with, and funded by Canada Employment) helped to establish the organization’s Employment Programs division, which then incorporated the Employment Orientation and Job Placement program, as well as the Bilingual Employment Orientation for Immigrant Women later that same year. Today, MOSAIC is the largest immigrant-serving organization provider of employment services in British Columbia.
MOSAIC once again pioneered services in the immigrant-serving sector by developing a program to serve recently-arrived families from Latin America, many of whom had fled from oppressive regimes.
The program was a precursor to later family support programs and included pre-natal classes; employment orientation; and assistance with topics such as housing, health, immigration and education. In 2000, Children and Family Programs was established as a cluster and today includes the Community Action Program for Children; Building Blocks Vancouver; and the Newcomers’ Centre for Children & Families.
The objective was to teach basic language skills and provide some cultural education about Canada. Two years later, Canada Employment and Immigration approached MOSAIC to administer full-time classes for 160 immigrants at Vancouver Community College and the Canada Language Centre, and English for Work Program was launched in 1989. Today, MOSAIC provides language training to over 1000 newcomers at any given time in Vancouver, Burnaby and the North Shore.
MOSAIC’s Translations Department becomes a social enterprise. The rationale for this move is to provide a higher-level of professional service and to compensate translators fairly for their work. Today, Interpretation and Translation Services is a leading provider of interpretation and translation services in British Columbia, and works with highly-trained, certified, and/or accredited language specialists fluent in 70 languages.
This was followed over the next decade by counselling, support and outreach programs for women, multicultural victim services, youth programs and research-based projects addressing issues impacting immigrant women, men and their families.
The Community Interpretation Service Department is established when interpretation services transitions from a volunteer service to fee-for-service. Workshops addressing legal and medical interpretations were developed as were recruitment workshops that focused on the role of the interpreter, issues of confidentiality and impartiality, professional conduct and ethical behaviour. The use of correct terminology and developing good resource skills was also explored. Advocacy efforts related to employing interpreters to allow for equal access to services and better and/or new training opportunities for interpreters also becomes a focus.
Today, Interpretation and Translation Services is a leading provider of interpretation and translation services in British Columbia, and works with highly-trained, certified, and/or accredited language specialists fluent in 70 languages.
With the highly publicized stand, and ongoing lobbying efforts, the province exempted refugees from this legislation just four months later. Prior to this, advocacy work on behalf of the refugee community included: the 1984-1988 research project The Inland Refugee Experience in BC; assisting in the formation of the Inland Refugee Society of BC; and the formation of the coalitions Working Group on Poverty, and Refugee Access to Income Security.
Conceptualized to celebrate the artistic contribution of immigrants and refugees to Canadian society, the event showcased Vancouver’s diverse cultures through theatre, dance and the visual arts with performances each night.
In response to demands from clients and community partners, MOSAIC opens an office in Southeast Burnaby, considered to be the heart of the immigrant community in that municipality. Today, MOSAIC staff and services can be accessed via 10 sites in Burnaby, as well as in the communities of North Vancouver, Richmond, New Westminster, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Surrey and Langley.
MOSAIC’s accreditation is an indication of the organization’s dedication and commitment to improving the quality of the lives of clients. The surveyors noted that “it is evident that the rights of clients are respected and protected by staff members. A high level of dignity and respect is given to each and every client,” and “MOSAIC has an effective blend of new and long-term staff members, representing outstanding diversity ethnically and culturally, who personalize services and model the harmonious diversity in Canada.”
Combined with MOSAIC employment programs and services, the organization is the largest immigrant-serving provider of employment services in British Columbia.
The decision to accommodate MOSAIC with community amenity space at Wall Centre – Central Park was preceded by years of collaboration and planning between the city and the organization. MOSAIC will re-locate to its new premises in the Collingwood community in 2017.
Even before the federal government announced that Canada would welcome 25,000 Syrian refugees, MOSAIC had announced its preparedness to provide support for 1,000 displaced persons and called on local, provincial and federal governments to step up support. In a six month period since September 2015, MOSAIC worked with almost 1800 refugees, with close to 500 identified as being Syrian.
Canada’s acceptance of 25,000 Syrian refugees over just a few months meant that a large influx of refugees required orientation and integration support that has been unprecedented in this country. MOSAIC’s expertise working with refugees, and our history of successful collaboration with community institutions and resource providers positioned the organization well to coordinate the response efforts involving the health, education, employment and language training sectors, and community groups which will be assisting with refugee resettlement in Metro Vancouver.
1Multilingual Social Services
When the Grandview-Woodlands interagency team saw a need to reach out to the area’s many immigrants the YWCA sponsored a grant for “Project Contact”, to bridge the language and cultural barriers between non-English-speaking people and the community. That project evolved into the Multilingual Information Service and, as its focus shifted from information giving to counselling and interpretation, it was renamed Multilingual Social Service (MSS).
2Language Aid for Ethnic Groups
Based in the Downtown Eastside, four immigrant women of different ethnic backgrounds conceived of this agency while reflecting on the difficulties each had in adjusting to Canadian society. The project, launched without any external help, provided information, referral, counselling, interpretation and home-visiting services to immigrants.