On Tuesday, January 11th, a plane carrying 251 Afghan citizens touched down in Calgary. It was the first of several flights carrying refugees after coalition forces pulled out of the country late last year, part of a much larger effort to help resettle up to 40,000 Afghans in Canada over two years, with ports of entry in Toronto and Calgary.
The refugees are composed of interpreters for the Canadian Armed Forces, human rights defenders, LGBTQ+ individuals, journalists, interpreters, and coalition contractors. Many are arriving on Canadian soil with just the clothes on their back, and 80% are women and children.
Most of the newcomers are settling in Calgary, with other families and individuals moving on to Edmonton, Red Deer, Medicine Hat, and Lethbridge, with the help of several of our agency partners and led by the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society (CCIS).
Local immigrant-serving agencies are doing a tremendous job helping the Afghans with the necessities of life: warm clothing, housing, medical care, job training, and so much more. But what about everything else that goes along with a new life in Alberta?
Enter the Calgary Local Immigration Partnership (CLIP) and the #RefugeesWelcomeHere campaign.
Made up of a broad coalition of educators, employers, health care networks, government, and ethnocultural and non-profit groups (including United Way), CLIP aims to support the development of community-based partnerships that build welcoming communities.
So what can we, as Albertans, do to help?
#RefugeesWelcomeHere is a grassroots effort encouraging Albertans to show refugees a “random act of welcome,” which can mean anything from friendly banter in the coffee grocery store, inviting new families to community events, offering help with everyday things like how garbage and recycling collection works, or talking to your kids about being welcoming to new friends at school.
Anyone who has ever moved to a new street, town, province, or country knows how much even a small gesture of kindness can mean. So as a nation of immigrants and refugees, we are being encouraged to tip our hats and offer a helping hand to new members of our community, many of whom are experiencing significant culture shock.
The Calgary Local Immigration Partnership is encouraging the community to help in three additional ways:
- Learn the facts about refugees in Canada
- Speak up for refugees and stand up against racism
- Join the #RefugeesWelcomeHere Campaign
CLIP strives to make the transition into Canadian life easier. Through fostering public discourse around the newcomer experience, CLIP not only supports the settlement and integration of newcomers, but supports our city as well. Because when immigrants succeed, we all do.