Vancity’s investment and support for immigrants and refugees

As a values-based financial cooperative, Vancity credit union is committed to promoting social justice and financial inclusion for its members and those who reside in the communities it serves.

Supporting the needs of the financially underserved, including immigrants and refugees is an important area of focus for the credit union. Vancity invests in these initiatives to promote financial literacy, encourage member well-being and to build healthy, sustainable communities—all contributing to a more resilient local economy.

Vancity’s investment in social justice and financial inclusion for immigrants and refugees

  • In December 2015, the credit union launched its Vancity Ready to Rent Loan offering members an interest-free personal loan up to $50,000 to help them undertake home upgrades for readying a suite or room to house a Refugee.
  • Vancity’s Community Partner Refugee Travel Loan program provides interest-free loans to assist government-assisted refugees and privately sponsored refugees in paying back their federal government travel loans, to help them and their families start their new life in Canada and begin establishing their credit history in Canada. Note: While the federal government has waived travel loans for the 25,000 Syrian refugees arriving in Canada, all other refugees arriving in Canada must repay the loans, with interest.
  • Vancity’s Community Partner Refugee Travel Loan program provides interest-free loans to assist government-assisted refugees and privately sponsored refugees in paying back their federal government travel loans, to help them and their families start their new life in Canada and begin establishing their credit history in Canada. Note: While the federal government has waived travel loans for the 25,000 Syrian refugees arriving in Canada, all other refugees arriving in Canada must repay the loans, with interest.
  • The Vancity Humanitarian Fund, established in September 2015, has been very successful in raising money in response to the refugee crisis and to provide ongoing support for this and other humanitarian funds. Since its inception, the fund has distributed more than $216,000 to support the Syrian refugee crisis as part of a matching donation program. Vancity continues to capitalize what it hopes will become a permanent endowment in this fund, so it is always ready to respond to humanitarian needs.
  • Vancity uses a portion of the operating revenue from Jumpstart® savings accounts to offer a unique community impact program that supports a range of settlement agencies for newcomers to Canada.
  • For more than a decade, Vancity has offered microcredit loans to newcomers to help them get into productive economic activity in their new neighbourhoods. The Back to Work loan has been helping “foreign trained professionals” recertify in their chosen profession, and the With These Hands loan provides the funds to get into a trade (funds can be used to rent a chair in a barber shop, buy a sewing machine, acquire landscaping tools, etc).
  • Many of Vancity’s Each One, Teach One workshops are run in partnership with community organizations that work with newcomers, refugees or individuals who face barriers to financial services. Workshops are delivered in English with key concepts translated into other languages such as Farsi, Dari, Punjabi, Hindi, Kiswahili and many others.

Vancity’s partnership with Immigrant Services Society of BC (ISSofBC)

  • Since the 1990s, Vancity has opened bank accounts for more than 12,000 government-assisted refugees who transition through the ISSofBC during their first two weeks in Canada.
  • In 2016, the much anticipated Welcome Centre opened on World Refugee Day. This 58,000-sq-foot facility located at 2610 Victoria Drive in Vancouver has 180 beds of first-stage and second-stage housing, a childcare centre, a youth centre, a medical clinic, education services, trauma support, and a Vancity banking kiosk at which refugees open bank accounts, in some cases for the first time. Vancity provided a $1 million capital grant and a $200,000 pre-development loan to the ISSofBC towards their new Welcome Centre for refugees.
  • In 2018, Vancity supported the development of a text messaging program that helps settlement workers at ISSofBC quickly reach their newcomer clients with up-to-date information about their settlement journeys.
  • In early 2019, Vancity is moving into a second Welcome Centre in Surrey with ISSofBC. Vancity will provide a broad range of onsite services and is sponsoring a training and meeting room for community purposes onsite.
  • Vancity provides culturally-sensitive financial literacy workshops through its Each One, Teach One financial literacy program onsite at the Welcome Centre. Through this program, Vancity employees are trained to deliver basic modules of financial literacy from basic banking and budgeting to how compound interest works or how to avoid fraud. The workshops have been delivered to thousands of community members in community gathering places such as libraries, neighbourhood houses and places of worship.

Vancity’s partnerships with other refugee and immigrant service organizations

  • In fall 2018, Vancity became a financial partner of a new Foreign Credential Recognition Loan Program, supported in part by the federal government. This program provides loans to write challenge exams, upgrade credentials and improve professional language skills to doctors, dentists, technicians, nurses and others who have moved to Canada and want to work in their chosen field. Vancity anticipates providing approximately 500 loans a year through this new program and partners include S.U.C.C.E.S.S. and Progressive Intercultural Community Services (PICS).
  • Vancity is working with a number of agencies that help settle refugees who come in through private sponsorship and need access to bank accounts, as well as small loans to pay for their work permit and other fees collected by Citizenship and Immigration Canada. These loans are provided at a number of Vancity branches.