IWC Board Spotlight: Karen Evans

Board Spotlight Karen Evans

We are pleased to introduce you to one of our Board Members, Karen Evans. We are grateful for Karen’s expertise, and for being so passionate about helping newcomers to build a multicultural community here on the North Island.

 

How long have you served on the board?

Since March 2021

Does your family have an immigration story you’d like to share?

I have lived an intercultural and international life. As the child and grandchild of immigrants, I had the privilege of moving from Canada to Sweden as a young child. When I returned to Canada, I had insight into what it is like to be a newcomer to a country such as Sweden, and then re-integrate back into Canadian society.

As a young wife and mother, I lived in Germany as the spouse of a member of the Canadian military. During the Gulf War, I learned what it is like to experience military conflict and while my spouse was deployed to the Middle East, my children and I were subject to military supervision every day as a result of the very real threat of terrorist attacks. As Director of Family Services for military families, I oversaw support services for families and children. The military conflict took an immense toll on the families which included bomb threats, derogatory treatment, and comments about how “Americans” weren’t welcome there. That we were Canadians didn’t matter. I learned quickly that Canadians were viewed through the same lens as any other NATO member. Europeans, at times, did not see the difference, and experiencing that type of discomfort informed much of my future work as an advocate of anti-racism initiatives, and as a proponent of newcomer support and services.

What motivated you to volunteer on the board?

I see tremendous value in providing culturally safe services and supports to newcomers, who play a vital role in the future of Canada. Newcomer success is Canada’s success.

For 10 years I worked as a University Dean, with responsibility and involvement for building the capacity of International Education and related academic departments at the University of the Fraser Valley, building awareness of the importance of welcoming students from other countries to study in Canada as well as integrate into the larger community.

Then, as Associate Vice-President and then Vice-President at UFV from 2007 to 2012, I saw major developments in English as a Second Language, International Student Counseling and Advising Services, Literacy Services, and Educators Without Borders. I have a long history of creating and building intercultural environments that best serve the needs of individuals and the community.

Tell us about a favourite memory with the IWC.

My favourite activity is reading the profiles provided each month on a newcomer and family members that have settled in the North Island region. These stories make all that is done in support of newcomers so worthwhile.

If you knew anyone immigrating to Canada, what would you tell them about the IWC to help them make the best of their experience settling here?

The IWC is a great place to learn about Canada, meet new people and network, acquire language skills and cultural knowledge, learn about career and business opportunities and prepare for Canadian citizenship.

Other than the IWC, what are some of your passions? 

I have volunteered with several First Nations communities assisting with various economic and individual business initiatives since 1993. Over the years that followed, awareness grew about the impacts of colonization on First Nations people. These experiences shaped my determination to not be “one of those individuals from the predominantly white settler community” who would ignore the past and tell people who had been so poorly treated to “just get over it.”

In the summer of 2020, I formed a group called “Check Your Privilege and Leave it at the Door,” in response to what seemed to be an ever-increasing number of race-based incidents. I became painfully aware of the lack of insight, empathy, and knowledge about racism. This private Facebook group is by invitation only and encourages people to share their thoughts and ideas on privilege and racism, building awareness and knowledge, as well as providing resources that can be shared by members with other people. The group has 132 members and the goal is to educate and provide tools to people who wish to understand and grow their knowledge about multiculturalism and anti-racism.

Other activities include hiking, biking, snowshoeing, camping, and traveling. We recently adopted a rescue pup from Rankin Inlet and he is keeping us very busy.

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Immigrant Welcome Centre
Immigrant Welcome Centre

We provide free specialized services for immigrants, refugees and newcomers in Campbell River, the Comox Valley, and northern Vancouver Island.

Immigrant Welcome Centre

Free Professional Services for Immigrants & Newcomers in Courtenay, Comox, Campbell River and northern Vancouver Island.

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