Elgin This Month – September 2016

The St. Thomas & District region isn’t as much of a hub for immigration and refugee settlement as some areas, but that doesn’t mean we’re not active on the issue.

Since formation a few years ago, the Chamber has been active in work with a local organization called STELIP – the St. Thomas-Elgin Local Immigration Partnership. Our focus is to assist and welcome newcomers as they arrive here from any other part of the world. Education, employment, language and culture are often barriers for newcomers as it is STELIP’s goal to help overcome any obstacles to enable the skills and talents of new arrivals to contribute to the community.

We asked STELIP Project Coordinator Petrusia Hontar for an update on what the current Syrian refugee crisis has meant to the region. Petrusia said “Locally, in St. Thomas and Elgin, we’ve welcomed three families specific to this case and are expecting the arrival of a few more families this year. The settlement of these families has been made possible by the dedication and commitment of sponsoring groups and the support of local business and organizations. Several of the newcomers have had the opportunity to gain seasonal and part-time employment to help set roots for their life here in Canada.”

She adds that “Current information and coordination in support of the refugee crisis has been developed for our local community and can be found online at www.uniteforrefugees.org. Additionally, the local Rogers cable television show We Are St. Thomas-Elgin highlights the journeys of newcomers to the region and shared information about supports available to them.

Our efforts are part of a national focus led by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce to support our ‘New Neighbours’.

Last year, the federal government announced that they would be welcoming 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada. These refugees have come in a mix of government and privately sponsored refugees. Government sponsored refugees have been destined for larger urban centers across Canada. Because these news stories have touched the hearts of many Canadians, the number of privately sponsored refugees is quite large; many of these refugees have ended up in smaller communities across Canada where private groups of all kinds have been their sponsors. Among other things, sponsors have found them housing, clothing and toys to help make their settlement less traumatic.

In short, regardless of where these refugees have gone, they have been welcomed.

The Canadian Chamber network has been active across the country, assisting within their communities to help settle and engage our newcomers. Much of the initial effort has been to assist in settlement. Many of these settlement activities are completed and now, the focus starts to turn to how refugees can find work and integration into the economy. John McCallum, minister if Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship has challenged business to help the refugees settle through employment and jobs.

We want to capture the level of involvement that businesses have had in the initial integration and support newly-arrived Syrian Refugees. We have heard many touching stories, and would love to hear many more. We would also like to gather some information about best practices and gain a big-picture perspective about where community efforts are being focused. Finally, we’d like to be able to share what we gather with others – so they might copy your good work!

So that we might gather some of this data, we would ask that you provide some information online.

Your support to show us how your company and/or he people within has helped in the effort with be deeply appreciated!

Full article: https://issuu.com/elginthismonth/docs/etmd_sept07