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Why CBC Calgary is publishing an Alberta utility bill explainer in six languages

Shakeel Ahmed pictured with a copy of his utility bill in northwest Calgary. Ahmed says a large portion of his bill is made up of additional fees outside of his home's energy usage. (Oseremen Irete/CBC - image credit)

CBC Calgary is rolling out a new explanatory journalism project — Six things to know about utility bills.

And we’re doing it in six languages.

Leaders with the Calgary Local Immigration Partnership (CLIP) stepped up to fund and distribute the guide to newcomers who aren’t proficient in English or French.

They chose five languages where they saw the highest need: Tigrinya, Arabic, Spanish, Mandarin and Cantonese.

The guides are available here:

Helen Henderson, head of the CBC Calgary newsroom, said this was a new project for the local team.

“We were thrilled when CLIP volunteered to work with us on this,” Henderson said.

“Newcomers are a significant part of our community. To be able to get them information they need is an important piece of our mandate as the public broadcaster. And it’s not just about lowering their bills, although that’s important. It’s also about understanding how our systems work, encouraging them to feel that they belong in Calgary and can contribute to our city.”

The links will be distributed through Gateway, an information resource for organizations involved with newcomers and immigration in Calgary. The project also includes social cards, which can be shared through groups on What’s App and Facebook.

“With utility bills and understanding what they are, I feel like it’s even difficult for a Canadian-born person to understand what they’re made up of and what exactly we’re being charged for,” said Rebeca Andrada, outreach co-ordinator with Immigrant Services Calgary, one of the partners.

Robert Jones/CBC
Depending on a person’s history and prior experiences, it can be tough to learn so many different systems in a new language and new culture. She said basic tasks like taking transit, renting an apartment and using a bank can be very different from how things are done in a newcomer’s country of origin. 

“There are a lot of challenges that come up, especially in the first year of their life here in Canada,” said Andrada, whose family moved from Argentina when she was a child.

“I think it will be such a good resource to start sharing with all the families that we serve. I’m excited to get them and then start sharing them. I have a lot of people in mind.”

Translation work was done by Immigrant Services Calgary’s Interpretation and Translation Centre.

This project is the last piece of CBC Calgary’s community-driven focus on utility bills, which used the questions and experiences of everyday Calgarians to shape the topics we tackled. We used a text-messaging app to hear from community members, then tackled their questions on increasing fees, the options offered by alternative retailers, what happens when Calgary residents fall behind on the bills and others.

Read the full series at cbc.ca/utilities.

Radio-Canada has also been covering the challenge of increasing utility bills and what’s behind it. That information is available in French through stories such as this one.

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Credit belongs to : ca.news.yahoo.com

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