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For Dawson Creek Literacy Society, literacy about more than just language

Settlement service provider in Dawson Creek offers everything from citizenship prep classes to winter survival workshops
Jamie Bond, Michele Mobley, Carole Taylor and Gaganpreet Kaur at the Lake View Larning Centre last week. Ahead of B.C.’s Family Literacy week, the centre says new immigrants need more than just English skills to succeed in Dawson Creek.

For newcomers to Canada, gaining literacy skills typically means learning one of the country’s official languages. But in Northeast B.C., there’s a lot more to literacy than just English and French.

Take winter survival, for one.  

“There’s some information before (immigrants) get here, but you really need a hands-on ‘this is what you do in Dawson Creek in the wintertime’ kind of class,” laughed Jamie Bond, an employee with Lake View Learning Centre, Dawson Creek’s only settlement services provider.  

Ahead of B.C.’s Family Literacy Week, set to run Jan. 22-29, the organization is highlighting the many literacies new immigrants need help acquiring when they come to Canada.

Run by the Dawson Creek Literacy Society, the centre has been offering everything from language classes and citizenship prep courses to more hands-on skills immigrants need to get settled in Canada since 1991. It also offers adult education classes.

Several hundred people take courses offered out of Lake View’s downtown Dawson Creek office each year. Recently, their countries of origin have included China, Peru, Korea, the Philippines, India, Ukraine, Hungary, Venezuela. Much of that influx comes from Northern Lights College, which has upped its international recruiting in recent years.  

“Dawson Creek is small, so it’s truly a multicultural community,” Bond said. “Our English classes will have people from all over the world, all together, learning together. There’s some really cool cultural connectedness there.”

But Bond said those newcomers need more than just English language skills. Many need assistance with everything from finding a family doctor to setting up a bank account to staying active during the winter.  

“There are so many different types of literacy, and we try to touch on all of them,” she said.

While it might seem separate thing entirely, Bond thinks staying healthy Canadian winter is its own kind of literacy.

Their classes “cover mental health, physical safety, what to keep in your car while you’re driving around in the winter, how to keep your pet and yourself safe, how to stop cabin fever,” Bond said. “It’s all of the above.”