Signs in Chinese languages like Mandarin and Cantonese can be fairly common place in parts of major cities like Vancouver and Toronto. In Saskatchewan however, they stick out a little bit more.
Royal LePage realtor Qing Zhang has two bill boards on Moose Jaw’s Manitoba Expressway, one in English, the other in Mandarin.
“Every week, probably I meet with around 10 families, they come every week. Recently I’ve got lots of buyers from overseas, especially China,” Zhang said.
Many of the people Zhang helps find homes are coming to the province through the Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program (SINP). Applicants first come visit Saskatchewan on a business tour and are then able to apply for a working visa.
In addition to real estate work, Zhang has been helping get newcomers settled in other ways.
“I try to help as I can, like Iqiu [Xiao] was at the dentist this morning and I helped to translate for her,” she explained.
Xiao and her family moved to Regina from China at the end of May. In addition to Zhang helping Xiao at the dentist, Zhang assisted as an interpreter for this interview.
“Once she moved here I helped her on how to get a car, go to the bank and find who can speak Chinese. I also helped her find a church so it’s much easier to adjust from China to here,” Zhang said on Xiao’s behalf.
Xiao and her family are among the thousands that have come to Saskatchewan since 2007.
Between 2007 and 2017, 11,696 people moved to Saskatchewan from China. A few hundred would come to the province annually between 2007 and 2011. Totals cracked the 1,000 mark between 2012 and 2014. There was a dip in 2015, but 1,871 came in 2016, followed by 2,947 last year.
In working with these families, Zhang said she has a lot of business in Moose Jaw. This is because SINP clients are encouraged to look at smaller cities, opposed to just Regina and Saskatoon.
“In Chinese culture, when people come overseas they always want to purchase their home. They feel more safe,” Zhang said.
“Another reason is they bring their kids and family. Kids attend school here, so they always like to buy a house, especially in the good areas.”
There was a learning curve when Xiao bought her house. She lived in an apartment in China, so certain things were unfamiliar.
“She didn’t know how to take care of the lawn, so her neighbour came over with the kids and helped her, so she really appreciates it. People here are so nice,” Zhang translated for Xiao.