Catholic Centre for Immigrants – Ottawa

The Catholic Centre for Immigrants (CCI Ottawa):

  • promotes and facilitates the reception of newcomers to Canada
  • sensitizes the community to address newcomers’ needs and invites it to respond
  • assists newcomers to realize their full potential in Canadian Society


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Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards

Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards

Each year, the City of Ottawa acknowledges the business success of select individuals who were born outside of Canada and who now make Ottawa their home, for their considerable contribution to the Ottawa economy.

Nominate an immigrant entrepreneur for the 2016 awards today! The nomination period is open until September 30 and the awards will be presented on November 4, 2016.


It is the best ‘job’ I have ever had!

It is the best ‘job’ I have ever had!

“Remember the words ‘snow storm!’  When you hear these words you know that it will be very cold and that the snow will slow everything down and there might not be any school buses…”

This important heads-up about the Canadian winter comes from Nadia Almeshal, a Syrian volunteer who is taking part in “Listen, Talk, Learn and Practice English.”  It’s a weekly get-together between volunteers and newly -arrived Syrian families. This one takes place in the social room at the Donald Street apartment building, where newcomers chat with volunteers in conversation circles, while their children do arts and crafts.

Nadia helps translate when necessary and provides important context for expressions like snow storm.  Nadia already spoke English when she arrived as a privately sponsored refugee in 1993.  She has completed her studies in office administration at Algonquin College and volunteers with CCI in office administration and as an Arabic translator.  “This is my way of giving back and thanking Canada for helping Syrian refugees.”

Kim Davison is one of the newer volunteers. She trained back in April to help with CCI Ottawa’s resettlement efforts.  Kim sits by a large window with Wafaa Aun and her 10 year-old daughter Kadijah.  Both are making great progress and say the words Kim shows them on flash cards.  Although Kim isn’t an English teacher, she uses creativity, lively body language and sounds to convey the meaning of the words on flash cards she has prepared for today’s lesson.  “It is the best ‘job’ I have ever had!  I come here every week with a big smile on my face and leave with an even bigger smile.  It has been amazing,” she says.

The volunteers have been coming here every week for the past four months. Some have been involved with CCI Ottawa for many years; while others signed up to volunteer when the government announced Canada would be receiving 25,000 Syrian refugees.  The groups were set up to create ongoing opportunities for newcomers to work on their English skills, and have an informal way to ask questions and learn about life in Canada in their own neighbourhoods.

Tell us about your volunteer experience with Syrian refugees.  We would love to hear from you!

Summer English Camp Prepares Refugee Youth for School

Summer English Camp Prepares Refugee Youth for School

Some are shy and others are more outgoing.  Most have only had a few months of school to start learning English before the summer holidays began.  Many are still adjusting to a new city and culture.  So these teens – refugees from Syria, immigrants from Haiti and elsewhere– have a strong mission.  They are participants in a day camp designed to bridge the “learning gap” of the summer.

This session of the “Express Mobile Summer English Camp” takes place at Queen Elizabeth School in Ottawa’s east end.  The goal of the camp is to prepare these young people for school in September… and much more besides.  The two-week day camp presents information on nutrition, health, non-violent conflict resolution, and self-esteem.  It is also an opportunity to make friends, and visit recreational facilities, libraries, movies, and museums.  Newcomer youth work on their English language skills, but also on their integration, exploring everyday life experiences, such as shopping, medical appointments, and talking to fellow classmates.  The curriculum offers insight into contemporary Canadian society, including lessons on Aboriginal history, the role of women, and perspectives on prejudice and discrimination.

In the morning, the camp’s activities include formal, classroom-like teaching, with lesson plans that emphasize skills such as reading, comprehension, grammar, and writing.  The afternoons are less structured, and use student-centred approaches including group projects, sports, and outings.

Camp activities respond to the specific needs of the participants. For example, a dozen girls from different countries who had recently arrived in Ottawa as refugees took part in a self-esteem session.  Working in pairs, they took turns presenting their partners: their names, ages, ambitions, and interests.  For some of them it was the first time to speak in English in front of a class.  In another session a group who had seen the film “Zootopia,” which deals with prejudice, considered how to respond to experiences of discrimination.

As well as Queen Elizabeth School, the camp is being run at Canterbury High School and Pinecrest Public School.  The camp moves around the city to serve newly arrived refugee youth in the various pockets in the city where they live.   It is staffed by a mix of CCI staff and volunteers.  Reaching and engaging these young newcomers over the summer will not only make for a smoother September school re-entry, it lays the foundation for their successful integration in the years to come.


UN Secretary General visits CCI Ottawa

UN Secretary General visits CCI Ottawa

“A once in a lifetime opportunity.” That’s how CCI Executive Director Carl Nicholson characterized the informal visit of United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to the Catholic Centre for Immigrants on Thursday, February 11.

Seven Syrian refugee families who had arrived in Ottawa in December and January were invited to participate in the special visit by His Excellency and his wife, Mrs. Ban Soon-taek. The Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, and Ms. Anita Biguzs Deputy Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada were also on hand.

Handshakes and cell phone photos were the order of the day as His Excellency and his wife made their way around the circle of chairs, greeting newcomers one by one, and leaning down to touch the faces of the excited children. His Excellency then began his remarks to the families by expressing his gratitude to Mr. Nicholson and the Centre for its generous support for the refugees.  He praised the “long civilization and culture” of Syria’s people.

His Excellency Ki-Moon noted that the UN was mobilizing record amounts of resources, and “working day and night” to aid those affected by the crisis in Syria, through political negotiations and humanitarian aid.  “Do not despair, do not be frustrated,” he told the group, saying that in his childhood his own country, South Korea, “was able to be rescued by the help of the UN.”

Participants took the opportunity during the informal interaction following His Excellency’s remarks to reiterate their gratitude to the Canadian government for the support, and for the honour of the Secretary General’s personal visit. “You’ve put hope again into our lives,” commented one family member.

Prior to His Excellency’s arrival, Minister Bibeau spoke about the work CCI and other Canadian agencies are doing to settle refugees. “You make us look good,” she joked to Mr. Nicholson. “You are doing the big job.” She encouraged everyone to “work hard to learn the language, it’s the key to integration and the key to finding a job.”  Deputy Minister Anita Biguzs noted that her parents had been refugees to Canada who spoke neither English nor French, and probably never imagined that their daughter would become a Deputy Minister. She described herself as “very privileged and very humbled” to hold this office “because it has a lot of personal meaning for me.”


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