Canada has a long history of welcoming refugees fleeing war, famine and persecution. Since the 1700’s Canada has welcomed refugees around the world. In the 1780’s we welcomed African Americans that were runaway slaves. From 1900-1939 Ukrainians fleeing civil war came to Canada. In the 1940’s refugees of the WWII settled here. In 2009 we welcomed Iraqis fleeing from the rule of Saddam Hussein.
“A refugee is one that flees; especially : a person who flees to a foreign country or power to escape danger or persecution” – Merriam Webster
Most recently Canada has opened its arms to thousands of Syrian refugees, and we are proud to do our part.
This is yet another example of giving and inclusive spirit that Canadians have always had. I am glad that we are able to share our amazing country with our new Syrian community members!
Syrian families are just like ours. Moms, dads, brothers, sisters, grandpas, grandmas, aunts and uncles; many have moved into our North York community; maybe you’ve had a chance to meet them? As they are settling in, their first step is to meet their basic needs and thus many have been referred to our food banks both to access food for their family, learn more about Canadian food and often as a point of entry to other services in their community. They receive a 3 day supply of food for their families as well as referrals to any other services they may need. We are happy to help them get back on their feet.
The food bank that has seen the greatest increase of newcomers is the Oriole Food Space, located in the Parkway Forest Community Centre at 55 Forest Manor Road. I wanted to share with you what it’s like supporting our new neighbours at the food bank, so I went directly to the expert. Even with her busy schedule, I managed to track down Oriole Food Space Manager, Daffodil Davis, so she could share her experiences with us.
How many newcomers have you seen in the past year?
“Since January we have seen about 300 new faces. Last month we served 60 Syrian households”
What challenges do they face at the food bank?
“I think an obvious challenge is their unfamiliarity with Canadian food. They have trouble with the canned food items such as instant soups and meals. They are more familiar with foods such as rice, sugar, meat, dairy and fresh vegetables and fruit. Part of my job is to help educate them about this new food. I try to help them with ways they can use canned items as part of their meals.”
What other challenges are they facing as newcomers to the country?
“It is a huge learning experience for them. They are still getting used to their neighbourhoods, how to register their children for school and public transportation. Many of them are looking for employment and have a lot of skills to offer but language is a barrier.”
What are some positive responses you have received?
“I know many of them are excited and feel privileged to be here. They are incredibly ambitious people and want to experience all Canada has to offer and give back to their new community.
What are some not so positive responses you have received?
“A lot of attention is being put on them at the moment which can be really hard. I’ve spoken to a few people that feel as though they must always be sharing their stories. Sometimes they feel they are under a microscope because of their situation.”
What other services are available to them through the food bank?
“Here at the Community Centre, they have access to our partners Working Women, who provide programs such as ESL (English as a Second Language) and LINC (Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada). We have also facilitated community fairs featuring agencies that offer health care, legal clinics and other government services.”
Can you share an experience or story of working with one of the new refugee families?
“We offer a free food-handling certificate program and many of them are excited to have the opportunity to get the certificate. One woman that loves art and working with children is hoping to get a job in childcare. She was excited that she would be able to work in a kitchen preparing snacks because of this certificate”
What is your takeaway from working so closely with these individuals?
“Their goal in Canada is to find a new life, work, friends, give back to their new home and to be given a chance. They are living in a new country and looking for new beginnings.”
I can’t tell you how proud I am that we as a country were able to step up and support thousands of people in need!
It’s because of you that we are able to give these newcomers a helping hand to get back on their feet! Thank you for your incredible support of our programs throughout the years and especially during these past few months! Together we can give our new neighbours the new beginning they deserve!
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” – Anne Frank