The City of Burlington hosted a public meeting called Syria Action Burlington on Tuesday, Dec. 1.
This was a community event focused on finding ways to connect the many offers of help the city has received with the numerous churches, faith groups, school groups and others working to not only bring Syrian refugees to Canada, but successfully integrate them into our community.
The outpouring of support materialized into more than 250 people filling Mainway Recreation Centre. The tone of the evening was caring and compassionate – two of the key qualities for which the people in our community are known.
As a city, we came together during the ice storm of December 2013, the flood of August 2014 and now, to assist during the largest global refugee crisis since the Second World War. The City of Burlington anticipates a minimum of 14 families and as many as 30 will settle in our community.
After listening to the comments Tuesday night and reviewing the many submitted forms offering assistance, City of Burlington staff came together and under the leadership of Mike O’Brien at the Burlington Fire Department, created a website called: https://burlingtonactionsyria.recovers.org/.
This website allows groups seeking donations, services, volunteers to connect with people who have services and goods to offer. We are asking all interested residents and groups – including those who have already submitted written forms – to visit this page and enter your information, creating an online database.
The link to this site, as well as other updates, is available on the City webpage: www.burlington.ca/welcomesyria, which will provide a central portal of information for Burlington. This page will be updated regularly.
For those who were unable to attend the meeting, the first half of the evening featured presentations by Burlington MP Karina Gould (http://www.canada.ca/refugees), Burlington MPP Eleanor McMahon (www.Ontario.ca/SyrianRefugees), Alexandra Kotyk of Lifeline Syria (http://lifelinesyria.ca) and Gillian Kearns of Wesley Urban Ministries (http://wesley.ca). We will be posting video footage from the meeting soon as it is available.
The second half of the meeting, facilitated by Steve Howse, featured comments by members of the audience. During this time we heard from many people talking about how they were helping, could help, or what they needed to help.
Here are just some of the many comments shared around support and opportunities:
- Luke’s Anglican Church is starting the process to sponsor a family. They are located in downtown Burlington and are looking for people to partner with them. StLukesBurlington.ca.
- Halton Multicultural Council reminds us it takes a community to raise a family. They are a community-based settlement agency that provides a variety of programs and services to immigrant and refugee communities. Locations across Halton. http://hmcconnections.com/
- Halton Mosque is looking for partners to sponsor a family. They are also able to help with translation services and in many other ways. Visit haltonmosque.ca or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- North Burlington Baptist Church sponsored an Iraqi family that arrived in October. They recommended the website rstp.ca, noting a link on main page to prepare for a family and what to expect. http://www.nbbc.ca/
- YMCA Hamilton/Burlington/Brantford spoke about their employment programs that help people find jobs. They also work with a lot of youth and have a youth centre. http://ymcahbb.ca/
- Burlington Public Library and its partners has a lot to offer newcomers, such as books and DVDs in other languages, ESL books and CDs, ESL conversation circles, as well as settlement workers available every other Wednesday at the Alton branch and every Friday at the Central branch. bpl.on.ca
- McMaster Students Union is looking to work with organizations in Hamilton and Burlington who are interested in sponsoring families. They are also seeking donations. Email: email@example.com.
- St. Christopher’s Anglican Church is seeking monetary help as they would like to sponsor a family. They also offer community meals, food bank and youth programs. http://www.stchristophersburlington.com/
- Centre for Skills Development and Training spoke about settlement work within Burlington and Oakville and Milton. They said they would be happy to provide assistance. http://thecentre.on.ca/
- Port Nelson United Church is sponsoring a family that is expected to arrive in the coming weeks. They have collected household items and may have more than they need. They will likely need volunteers in the coming weeks. http://portnelsonunitedchurch.com/
- The evening also featured many offers of help from individuals. Jacquie G. said she had a room in her condo and would be happy to share her home. She explained it would be as good for her as for the family or individual she was assisting.
- Retired teacher Brenda C.L. said she would be happy to help teach English.
- And in another heartwarming moment of the evening, a young girl said she was raising money to provide Beanie Boos to children of refugee families. By the end of the evening, people opened their hearts and provided several hundred dollars to her cause.
As I mentioned, this is just a small sample of the many people working to bring Syrian refugees to our community.
I believe one of the ways I can help as mayor, along with our team at the City of Burlington, is to serve as coordinators to help connect groups who need help and those who have something to offer. We want to bring people together. We are stronger when we work together.
It is heartening to see the positive community response to welcoming Syrian refugees. Canada has a long history of welcoming refugees and we are proud to continue this tradition. Our diversity is an asset and what makes Canada special. Burlington is proud to welcome Syrian refugees into our community.
I would like to sign off with a quote I shared at Tuesday night’s meeting:
“In a world darkened by ethnic conflicts that tear nations apart, Canada stands as a model of how people of different cultures can live and work together in peace, prosperity, and mutual respect.” – Bill Clinton
In the News
Hamilton Spectator: Burlington Prepares for Refugees
Burlington Lifestyle: Syria Action Burlington
CHCH: Welcoming refuges