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Published On: Fri, Feb 19th, 2016

Riaz Mamdani, and other Canadian executives continue to help Syrian refugees

It was a cold December evening at Toronto’s Pearson Airport when Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, alongside a large delegation of the county’s dignitaries and officials welcomed the first plane load of government sponsored Syrian refugees. The Canadian Air Forces jet, full with refugees ready to begin a new chapter of life, was the first of many that will shuttle the 10,000 displaced Syrians Canada has vowed to take in.

While the Prime Minister was on hand for hours helping children try on winter coats and aiding adults in signing up for health care and citizenship, Trudeau’s first few words when the passengers debarked showcased the attitude of Canadians across the country.

You are home,” said Prime Minister Trudeau. “Welcome home.”

That was two months ago. Since then, the government, in conjunction with many of Canada’s prominent business leaders and companies, have worked tirelessly to integrate the growing number of refugees into Canadian society. From housing and work, to clothing and school, from coast to coast, Canadians are displaying their true northern generosity to their newest citizens.

In Toronto, LifeLine Syria offers a full range of services aimed at smoothing the transition process for refugees who often don’t speak English. LifeLine Syria works in conjunction with Toronto’s federally-backed Syrian refugee integration organization, COSTI Immigrant Services. While both agencies work to offer broad services to the more than 1,000 refugees who have settled in the Toronto area, they are especially adamant about getting their clients into English language programs.

History has shown us that with past waves of immigrants and refugees, if you don’t acquire your language in the earlier time of arrival, then it’s less likely you are to acquire it down the road,” said Josie Ditzio, a COSTI immigration representative.

Finding Employment

While settling in and learning the language, Canada’s new citizens will still need to work, in order to provide for themselves and their families. Again, Canadians across the country have stepped up to provide training and employment.

Earlier this month, John McCallum, the Minister of Immigration and Refugees, told the National Post that many Canadian employers are looking to hire refugees. “I’ve met many small business owners across Canada who are keen to consider the recent wave of refugees for positions that have been vacant far too long,” he said.

The Minister also pointed out, despite the skill levels of many refugees being yet to be determined, “There are many small to medium-sized businesses looking for staff at all skill levels,” McCallum said.

While iconic Canadian company, Maple Leaf Foods, is far from a small business, they are doing their part in terms of refugee integration, offering 35 jobs at their food processing plants in Manitoba and Alberta.

photo/ Mstyslav Chernov - Wikimedia Commons

photo/ Mstyslav Chernov – Wikimedia Commons

“We have jobs available,” Rory McAlpine, a senior vice-president at Maple Leaf, told the Huffington Post. “We would be very pleased and honoured to be part of the solution in terms of helping find employment for the Syrian refugees.”

A Place To Call Home

One of the most basic human needs is safe shelter, and that is no different for those who have left everything behind in search of a safe home. Finding long-term permanent housing is often the first tangible step in the long journey refugees face. As most of the services the new arrivals need are located in city centers, most of the refugees have chosen to settle in the larger Canadian cities, cities that are already facing housing shortages.

Big cities also boast big rents, another obstacle for those who have a loose grasp of the official languages and are rebuilding a life from tatters. Calgary-based real estate developer and President of Strategic Group, Riaz Mamdani, understands the plight of the refugees and has offered up units in his rental developments for Canada’s new citizens.

Canada is a country of immigrants, so it is only fitting that we do all we can to welcome the next generation of Canadians,” Riaz Mamdani explains.

Mamdani knows that finances will be a challenge for the refugees and will work on an individual basis to ensure no former refugee in his units has to sacrifice food or other essentials to pay rent.

Whatever it takes, Strategic Group is here to help,” Riaz Mamdani adds.

Mamdani and Strategic Group are known in Calgary and central Alberta for their many philanthropic initiatives, so his commitment to the refugee cause comes as no surprise.

In addition to the 10,000 government sponsored Syrian refugees, hundreds of private citizens and community groups are also privately sponsoring thousands of refugees.

“Canadians from coast to coast to coast have come together to help vulnerable Syrian refugees in a truly national effort,” said Minister John McCallum.

Guest Author: Yanni Thomas

On the DISPATCH: Headlines  Local  Opinion

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