Despite the fact that Saskatchewan today has one of the lowest proportions of new immigrants for any Canadian province, immigrants continue to add to the ethnic diversity of the province; immigrant integration into Canadian life thus remains an important service. The Saskatoon Open Door Society (SODS) was founded in 1980, soon after the Regina Open Door Society, to serve the growing needs of refugees (mostly from Vietnam, but also from Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Ethiopia). The mission of Open Door has been “to welcome and assist refugees and immigrants to become informed and effective participants in Canadian society and to involve the community in their hospitable reception and just acceptance.” Open Door has assisted refugees and immigrants from numerous countries in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia, and Europe. SODS, with a staff of over forty (not including board members and many volunteers), now assists over 1,600 clients a year, including more than 200 government-assisted refugees (almost a third of whom in 2002-04 were from Sudan, a quarter from Afghanistan, plus others from Sierra Leone, Columbia, Burma, Iran, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Burundi, Eritrea, Congo, etc.). Together, staff and volunteers speak some forty languages. This agency currently offers language training to about 200 immigrants and refugees a year from at least twenty-five countries (not counting casual “drop-ins”), or as many as ninety people on a busy day. Between 400 and 500 people a year are assisted in finding suitable employment.
SODS also offers many other programs and services: multicultural child care, youth programs, refugee reception and resettlement, family and parenting programs, men’s and women’s programs, social and recreational activities, employment services, community outreach and home visits, civic orientation, interpretation services, personal counselling, etc. SODS and the Regina Open Door Society are part of an extensive network of agencies assisting with immigrant integration, such as the Saskatoon Refugee Coalition, Immigrant Women of Saskatchewan, Global Gathering Place, the Saskatchewan Intercultural Association, plus a broad range of health, family, youth and children services.