ARIS – helping immigrants settle into our communities and reunite with family members

by Maritime
Categories: 2019, News Archive

The Salvation Army continues to play a vital role in the journey of many new Canadians to Halifax through the Atlantic Refugee & Immigrant Services (ARIS), which operates through the Spryfield Community Church and Family Resource Centre in Halifax.

Unique to Nova Scotia, ARIS is unlike any other settlement program in the city. The program helps newcomers to Canada through the complex and sometimes confusing paperwork and options that comes with immigration. It provides support for low-income newcomers who are having settlement or family reunification issues, assisting with citizenship applications and family sponsorship applications at no cost to the individual. ARIS can submit a request on behalf of a family member within the first year of arrival to bring their other family member(s) to NS.

ARIS’ many valuable community partners support its success. These include: ISANS, the YMCA, YWCA, local interpreters, Halifax Refugee Clinic, the Refugee Sponsorship Training Program, which supports private sponsorship, sometimes referring people to Legal Aid, and Dalhousie University’s law program. ARIS also embarks on local Salvation Army Ministry Units to help individuals and families find shelter, receive food assistance, and clothing vouchers.

Emma Jackshaw is the Settlement Coordinator for ARIS. She works diligently to provide assistance for newcomers with immigration and refugee applications; Emma experiences about 50 face to face meetings each month with individuals and families who are settling in NS. She has and will continue to play an important role with several successful citizenship cases, which often take several months to process after the individual has been in Canada for three full years. The ARIS program largely focuses on the One-Year Window of Opportunity application; this application allows one year for all documents to be submitted to the government – the application processing can take up to 30 months.

With a bachelor’s degree from Ambrose University in Calgary where she majored in Intercultural Studies and Community Development and completed an eight-month internship in Mexico City, Emma brings her dynamic education and cultural experience to this role that she has been in for 1.5 years. Her primary role during the internship was to work alongside families living in poverty who come to the city from rural areas to try and make a living. Prior to taking on the ARIS position, Emma worked for Community Family Services at The Salvation Army in Summerside, PEI.

When asked about the rewards of her job, Emma says, “When people work with us and receive their citizenship, meaning the entire process has been approved, this is very exciting.” She adds, “It’s a privilege to be a part of a seeing someone’s family member arrive, which can take one to two years or more; during my time with ARIS, I have only experienced a few of these success stories, but I anticipate many more.” When asked about her wish list for ARIS, Emma says, “Having a lawyer on staff would be a great help to the program and its participants; also, expanding to another location to help with accessibility for clients would be great.”

While many of the applications coming across Emma’s desk come from Syria, ARIS assists with applications from all over the world. Family sponsorship and citizenship processes are most common and involve a significant amount of coordination with provincial and federal programming such as through Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). “We don’t turn anyone away and they don’t have to fit into any particular category,” says Emma. “And our partnerships with local organizations help to provide applicants with a support network as they navigate the often complex immigration process.”

Despite a long list composed of those waiting for help with citizenship applications, permanent residence and travel documents, eight students from Dalhousie University’s Schulich School of Law have joined Emma to support her vital work. She says, “This will help to move people off the waiting list, while at the same time, offering valuable experience to the students who each work about three hours per week while they are also taking classes full-time.”

The Dalhousie students will meet with their own clients starting with citizenship and permanent residence applications, which can generally be completed within two appointments. As they gain experience, the students will eventually take on a sponsorship or a one-year window of opportunity application process, which are more complex. Unfortunately, the students won’t see the whole process through given the timeframe required to complete the process. “Each scenario is a case by case process, we essentially work together to create a tailor-made solution, which is empowering for the individual,” says Emma.

The Salvation Army offers immigration services in Montreal and Toronto, but one important distinction is that, unlike those centres, NS does not provide legal aid to refugees and immigrants, but rather referrals. The costs can quickly rise for people trying to bring family members into the country once application costs, medical fees, photographs, document translations and legal fees are factored in. To make a donation to this vital program, visit