Extract of an article by Jenny Uechi for the National Observer on 11 October 2016.
Please talk to us more, get to know refugees in Canada better and be our friends. That’s the message from 19-year-old Syrian refugee Fadia Jouni, who had arrived in Canada one year ago.
If Canadians reach out, Fadia said they’ll discover that they have a lot in common with the young people from Syria.
“We had pizza in Syria. We had computers. We weren’t living in the Stone Age, you know?” she joked in English, to a burst of laughter from an audience in British Columbia.
The group of Syrian youth ranged in age from 15 to 22 and gathered at the new Immigrant Services Society of B.C. with Canadian stakeholders on a rainy Thursday evening. They presented the results of a discussion about refugees’ experiences during their first eight months in Canada, and how things could be improved in the future.
While the meeting was focused on ‘troubleshooting’ difficulties faced by refugees, the youth emphasized gratitude and appreciation toward Canada for opening its doors as some countries were shutting refugees out.
Facilitators from Vancouver Foundation’s Fresh Voices, a joint initiative of Vancouver Foundation and the BC Representative for Children and Youth helping young newcomers in B.C., were present at the meeting leading the discussion.
Fadia was among the newly recruited Syrian representatives working with the organization.
In late September, they had brought together 57 participants — roughly one third of the Syrian youth that arrived between November 2015 and February — to ISSofBC for a full day consultation about what challenges they faced. Fresh Voices’ Jorge Salazar and Nada Elmasry told the audience of Canadians that the consultation was a success, resulting in frank discussions, which wrapped up with everyone dancing at the end.
“Some of these youth have been out of school for years because of the war,” said Fresh Voices’ Nada Elmasry. “So they already feel a lot of social anxiety about coming back into class.” More efforts to understand refugees, their home culture and where they’ve come from would help, she suggested.
Read the full article on the National Observer.
26.5% of British Columbians’ “mother tongue” is a non-official language, followed by Ontario (25.7%), Alberta (19.4%), and Quebec (12.3%). British Columbia has the highest percentage of language diversity of any Canadian province.