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Sources of information


How to find information

The Government of Canada has designed this guide for you -- the new permanent resident of Canada. It includes some basic information about living in Canada. The guide also contains many telephone numbers and addresses which should be helpful in the next few days, and during the next few years. It can refer you to the help you need, or tell you how to find it.

You may have already received general information about your new country. But what you'll need to know now is more specific. Where can you take language classes? What about housing? How do you go about finding a job in Canada? Whom do you call to find out about schools for your children?

The Welcome to Canada guidebook and pamphlets can help you find the answers to these questions. Canada is a huge country, and every province is different. While we can't provide you with all the information you need, we may be able to refer you to the departments, agencies, and organizations which can help you. Some may be able to help you directly; others may refer you to another source of information.

Immigrant-serving organizations can help you to settle into Canadian society, and many of their services are free. Contact an immigrant-serving organization to find what services are provided. You may find the addresses and telephone numbers of some of these organizations in the pamphlet called Finding Help in Your Community, which is in the back pocket of this guide. Many of these organizations represent a number of different immigrant services and groups, so they are a great place to start.

Canada's three levels of government -- federal, provincial and municipal -- also offer a variety of helpful programs and services for newcomers. Who offers these programs and services may vary across Canada, since different provinces have different immigration agreements with the federal government. You will find commonly used government telephone numbers listed in the pamphlet called Key Information Sources, which is in the back pocket of this guide. To find out about free language training in your area, please refer to the pamphlet called Language Training, also in the back pocket of this guide.

Since the province of Quebec looks after many important aspects of its immigration program, this guide does not attempt to cover services in this province. If you are planning to move to Quebec, you may wish to pick up their guide for newcomers, entitled: Vivre au QUÉBEC! You can obtain this booklet from the ministère des Relations avec les citoyens et de l'Immigration (MRCI). You will find the MRCI telephone numbers for your area listed in the pamphlets called Key Information Sources and Finding Help in Your Community, which are in the back pocket of this guide.

Religious institutions, community groups, ethnic associations and newcomer clubs which can give you a hand are probably located right in your neighbourhood. Their telephone numbers can be found in the local telephone book.

Remember, the information and services provided may vary from one place to another. To get the most out of this guide and the pamphlets that go with it, we suggest that you:

  • get a map of your community;

  • get a copy of the local telephone book; and

  • contact the immigrant-serving organizations in your community.

This guide, along with an immigrant-serving organization, can help you through the steps you need to take to settle. It can help you sort out the information you are missing and what services you need. The Welcome to Canada guide also includes a checklist to help you with the things you need to do first.

Getting around

It is useful to have a map of the area where you will be living. It will help you to get around and find the services you need. Most book stores, gas stations and convenience stores sell maps at a reasonable price. You may also be able to get a map of your community free through your local Chamber of Commerce or municipal office. You can also look at maps in the library, at no cost. However, you can't take maps out of the library.

Using the telephone

Canadians like to use the telephone for communicating. They talk on the telephone everywhere -- at home, in their cars, on the street, in telephone booths. You will find that telephone books are great sources of information. Most of the important telephone numbers you need can be found in alphabetical order in the telephone book. You will receive one from the company which installs a telephone in your home. You may also be able to pick one up from a phonecentre. Phonecentres are often located in large shopping malls. There are also telephone books at the library, and where you find pay phones.

At home: You pay a basic rate each month for telephone service. This pays for all local calls. You will be charged extra for each long distance call you make. Long distance calls are made to telephone numbers outside your local area.

Away from home: Pay phones in most provinces cost 25 cents per local call, and you can find them in most public places. If you do not know a telephone number, dial 411 and ask the operator. There is a charge for using this number. You may also purchase telephone cards, which can be used to call anywhere from any telephone, including public telephones.

The telephone book

Telephone books in Canada include white, blue, and yellow pages. The white pages list home telephone numbers in and around your area, as well as some businesses. The blue pages list government numbers. The yellow pages list business numbers -- restaurants, services, stores, and so on. These are listed by subject or product.

In the front part of the telephone book you will find emergency numbers like fire departments and ambulance services. The most important number listed here is an emergency number, 911 in many provinces, which you can call for help in life-threatening emergencies.

The white pages of the telephone book list home and business numbers in alphabetical order, from A to Z, using the last name of the person listed. So look up John Smith under S, for Smith.

The blue pages of the telephone book list telephone numbers for Canadian government departments, including the federal, provincial, municipal and regional governments. For frequently used government telephone numbers, see the pamphlet called Key Information Sources, in the back pocket of this guide.

The yellow pages are found in a separate telephone book in some of the larger cities in Canada.

Call centres and touch-tone telephones

Many businesses and government departments receive so many calls that they have set up "call centres" to help them answer the most commonly asked questions. Call centres use a series of messages which have already been recorded to answer your questions. You find these messages by using the numbers, letters and symbols on the keys of your touch-tone telephone. The call centre message will tell you which keys on your telephone to press for the information you need. If you miss it the first time around, the message will usually tell you which key to press to hear it again. The list of messages is usually called a "menu." You choose and order the information you want.

You can also enter information into some call centres, using the keys on the telephone.

Remember: the "pound" key is the one that looks like this [#]. The "star" key looks like this [*].

Emergency 911

If you fear for your safety, or the safety of someone in your family, you should call your local emergency number for help. In many Canadian cities this number is 911. This connects you immediately to ambulances, fire departments, the police, and other emergency services. In other communities not equipped with 911 services, dial 0 and ask the operator for help. Other medical emergency numbers are listed in the first few white pages of the telephone book. These may include a poison information number, a distress or sexual assault help line, and a number to call if you or someone in your family is being abused.

Voice mail

Many Canadians, and most Canadian businesses and departments, have some form of answering machine or service to take messages for them when they are away from their phones. The telephone may ring several times, and then a recorded message will ask you to leave your name and number and a short message. You will usually hear a beeping sound followed by a silence. At this point leave your spoken message and remember to speak clearly and slowly. You may want to repeat your telephone number twice.

Pay telephones

You may want to use a public telephone when you are out, or before you get your telephone installed. There are many pay telephone booths set up on city streets, in shopping malls, in airports -- anywhere there are lots of people. You pay for these telephone calls as you use the telephone. For local calls, you put in 25 cents (this charge may vary in some provinces) and make your call. You should have the right number of coins to put in the slot. If the call is long distance, you will need to put in more money (coins) as you go along, and an operator, or the message across the screen on the pay telephone, will tell you how much. Make sure you have lots of coins with you! Eventually, you may want to get a calling card from a telephone company. This card allows you to dial in a special code and make calls on public phones without putting in any money. These calls are then billed on your regular telephone bill at home.

Directory assistance

If you need help finding a telephone number, you may call for assistance. Call 411 for local numbers, and 0 for overseas numbers. All telephone numbers have an area code, which refers to the location of the number. You can look up these codes in your local telephone book. If the call you wish to make is outside the local area code, it is probably going to be long distance. Call 1+AREA CODE+555-1212 if you need help to find the number. Remember, there is a charge for using this service.

Toll-free numbers

Canada is a very large country, and it can be expensive to make calls from one city to another. Many businesses and government departments use telephone numbers that start with 1-800, 1-888, or 1-877. This lets you call them for free, within a province, or within Canada. These are known as toll-free numbers. Simply dial the 1-800, 1-888, or 1-877 number exactly as listed.

Telephone services for people with special needs

Many telephone companies in Canada can provide special telephone equipment for people with a hearing, speech, visual or physical disability. Contact your local telephone company to get more information on these kinds of services and equipment. You can find the name of the telephone company in your area by looking at a telephone book in a pay telephone. The Customer Service number should be in the first few pages of the book. In areas served by Bell Canada, you can also visit a Bell Phonecentre. These are usually found in large shopping malls.

Using computers

A great deal of helpful information is now available through the Internet, a world-wide resource and information system. You don't need to own a computer or have Internet access at home to use it. You can often use the Internet (or "surf the web," as Canadians like to say), free of charge at your local public library (you must reserve a time slot), community centre, school, immigrant-serving organization or Human Resources Development Canada office. Useful information can be found on various "web sites," which are like codes or addresses on the Internet.

Public libraries

In most communities across Canada, there are public libraries which can be used free of charge. Libraries are a resource which many newcomers make use of to read the daily newspapers, use the internet and borrow books.

 Web site designed and maintained by Yaser Kherdaji
Toronto - Canada
Copyright 2003 -
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