“Because it is a free country, everything is possible. We are optimistic, and we think the opportunities will be endless,” says Rezan. “We were living a serious life in Syria, a life in which we were achieving. We want to go back to that here. We want to have a happy home. We want to be achievers again here in Canada.”
It looks like Canada might be accepting a few more Syrian refugees than expected. I would love for each and every one of them to have an experience similar to what the Abdou family had.
So, let's think a bit about societal onboarding and how to make it the best process possible, resulting in new Canadians feeling welcome and empowered and existing Canadians feeling renewed and engaged.
What can we do right here in Toronto that could provide some best practices other communities could follow?
The first thing that came to mind was better service education. What are existing best practices that can be expanded on? How can we incorporate the lessons learned from other New Canadians?
Second thing was Jane's Walk. New employees and new students get tours of their new places of belonging - why can't we do the same for Syrian refugees settling in as new Torontonians? How about an Open Doors tour of education facilities, places of government, museums, etc. to make it clear that these are places they belong and that opportunities exist in many quarters here? Who knows - by participating, established Torontonians may find out more about their community as well.
Culture! Festivals! Toronto, at its best, is the best of everywhere else. We're not afraid of differences - we celebrate them. How can we establish this ethic from day one with celebrations of that diversity?
My last one, for now - green space and quiet. Refugees landing on our shores will bring little baggage with them, but carry the great weight of often horrific experience. It needs to be reflected upon; healing needs to occur.
As members of their new community, we can learn to provide the space needed to heal - we have lots of it - but be there when needed with support and encouragement.
I'd love to hear your ideas - and how to implement them.