It didn’t take long for my parents — who emigrated from Italy to Canada in the mid-1950s — to fall in love with their adoptive country. But those early days were rough, especially when it came to communicating in an English-speaking nation.
Shopping at a department store where sales staff couldn’t understand their heavily accented broken English was a particularly complicated task.
Sometimes, said my mother, it was humiliating.
While Canada drew waves of post-Second World War immigrants, it offered few, if any, programs to support newcomers.
Businesses, in particular, were inhospitable to a growing, lucrative market for their goods and services. The onus was on immigrants to fit in, and if they couldn’t speak what was then Canada’s sole official language, they had to fend for themselves.
Thankfully, attitudes have changed. Today, a host of programs and services exist to help immigrants, who are transforming the face of this country. And, smart businesses, like Roadsport Honda in Toronto, are ensuring that language is never a barrier for aspiring Canadians.
As we reported in our last print edition and online last week, 15 languages are spoken at Roadsport, which markets its multilingual staff.
“It does lend a bit of a comfort level for some new immigrants ... who don’t really speak Englis in some cases, that being their second language or in other cases a third language. It’s more of a matter of comfort to the clients,” General Manager Craig Cowling told Automotive News Canada Toronto bureau reporter John Irwin.
Roadsport’s efforts to stay o top of and respond to demographic trends in one of the cou try’s most culturally diverse citie is paying off. Its reputation as a welcoming place for newcomers drawing customers far outside it immediate market, said Cowling.
A Harvard Business School survey of 250 businesses found that companies with greater diversity earned higher revenue and reported greater customer satisfaction than those with a more homogeneous team.
Since 1990, more than six million new immigrants have arrived in this country, where more than one in five residents is foreign-born, according to Statistics Canada. That number is expected to rise as Canada seeks to draw more than one mil lion newcomers between 2019 and 2021.
Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal have traditionally been magnets for newcomers. However, the Prairies and Atlantic provinces also are attracting increasing numbers of immigrants and refugees, according to Statistics Canada.
That means dealerships across the country have an opportunity to make newcomers feel welcome as well as boosting the bottom line.