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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National conversation on immigration launched

National conversation on immigration launched

The Government of Canada is asking Canadians about what they think immigration means for Canada, and how we can continue to grow our nation through immigration.

Starting Tuesday (July 5), until August 5, Canadians can get involved by providing an on-line written submission. Other consultation activities include cross-Canada round-table discussions led by John McCallum, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, and Arif Virani, Parliamentary Secretary, stakeholder engagement by departmental officials, and public opinion research.

The government said: “Canada’s strength lies in its diversity. Our diversity is closely tied to immigration and is a valued part of Canada’s story—we are asking Canadians to help us write the next chapter.”

The feedback gathered from Canadians will be used to help guide decisions on how many people Canada will welcome in the coming years and the future of immigration in Canada.

The government said: “Immigrants have always been a central part of Canada’s success. The contributions of newcomers result in jobs, innovation and economic growth. Immigrants also strengthen our country socially and culturally.”

The government said it is committed to an immigration system that supports Canada’s diversity and helps grow the economy as it strengthens society. This is an ambitious undertaking that will help determine the way forward on immigration to Canada, it added.

We are all Immigrants

We are all Immigrants

July 22, 2016 – The Canadian Jewish News (CJN)

“Immigrants get the job done!” These were the strong words of Lin Manuel-Miranda at the recent University of Pennsylvania commencement ceremony. (I was there to proudly watch my son receive his doctorate!)

What message was Lin sending to the thousands in the stadium? How was this idea being received by the many watching the live stream of the address? After all, this incredible man who just received an honorary doctorate, and whose Broadway play, Hamilton, was nominated for more Tony awards (16) than any other play in history, was telling the world something important, and his words carry weight. In fact, he told us that he chose Alexander Hamilton as his topic because this man was the only immigrant amongst the founding fathers. So in the context of an American election year that’s so full of anti-foreigner sentiments colliding with a global refugee crisis, how shall we approach this topic of immigration?

Jews have been migrating throughout history it seems. Certainly our presence in North America is a wonderful story of successive waves of individual and family arrivals on these shores. At times, we were welcomed, and at critical times, we were denied.

My parents were immigrants. My father came from Vishnitz, my mother from Hungary. Their stories are similar, yet different from so many others. Without them, we would not have this thriving American Jewish community. Significantly, North America would also not have the rich and pioneering culture it has today. Immigrant Jews have been at the forefront of so much that eventually became America and Canada. We have contributed to all aspects of culture, to the economic, political, social, artistic, entertainment, social and health fields. I cannot think of any arena in which immigrant Jews have not played a critical creative role.

Even in sports, while many might laugh, Jews have been active. Do you know the name Fanny “Bobbie” Rosenfeld? She was a Canadian athlete who won a gold medal for the 400-metre relay and a silver medal for the 100 metre at the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam.

Immigrants get the job done!

So many jobs the world over depend on immigrant populations. Why should we be wary of them?

What is an immigrant? A person who moves from one place to another. Usually, we reserve that word to signify the movement of a population from one country to another. Statistics Canada specifies that immigrants are “persons residing in Canada who were born outside of Canada, excluding temporary foreign workers.”

However, the word itself signifies newcomer, someone who comes from somewhere else and settles in a new neighbourhood. In that sense, we are all immigrants. We all move from one place to another. We change houses and neighbours, and in our relocation, we must re-absorb new cultural and social patterns. Sometimes the adjustments are minor, sometimes major. But change is constant. So why treat immigrants from foreign countries as so radically different?

Is it because we deign to deny them citizenship? What rights and privileges do we want to hold only for ourselves? What divides do we insist mark us as different from “them”?

Again, I remind everyone that there was a time, not so long ago, when Jews were not allowed to be “citizens,” even a time when women were not “citizens.” Shocking, eh?

We are not so different from these others. We move and change, just as they do. Immigrants contribute to our cultures and communities. There will be changes – some we will be comfortable with, some not. But remember: immigrants get the job done.

On the base of the Statue of Liberty is the poem by Emma Lazarus: “Give me your tired, your poor,/ Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,/ The wretched refuse of your teeming shore./ Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,/ I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

South Asian community role model

South Asian community role model

Photo: Rukhsana Ahmed, Associate Professor at the University of Ottawa presents certificate to Rayhan Pitigala.  Rayhan was one of the winners of a writing contest launched by the Ottawa Multicultural Media Initiative (OMMI).

My community role model is much closer to home than most. Through a lot of soul searching, I have come to realize there is no one I know better who inspires me than my very own mother. Being Sri Lankan-Sinhalese, a minority in Canada, has many inherent challenges, and throughout my mum’s life she has had to work much harder than most other people for the same ends. Through her example, I have learned the value of perseverance and appreciation of hardworking women.

Earlier this year, my mum lost her job at the WSIB, which left my family and me devastated. It came as a massive shock, and could’ve become a true burden if not for my mum’s character.

It hurts to see the ones we love go through a hard time, and seeing her cry was hard to take. I wondered if her pain would go on for long, but sure enough, the very next day she was back on her feet on the hunt for a new and better job. I have to credit my mum for her mental strength, because she was confident and resilient enough to assure my brothers and me that we were going to be fine, and that she would soon work again. Unfortunately, what followed were days of disappointment, as most of the companies she had applied to were not interested. Many would get disheartened if they were in a similar position, but my mum doubled her efforts. Within a week, her persistence, experience, and qualifications helped her land a job that she is much more satisfied with.

When things don’t work out for me in my life, I try to draw from her experience, to reason with myself so as to not give up on my dreams and goals. In life it can be far too easy to succumb to adversity and capitulate. She has shown me to keep fighting, and keep trying even when my back is against the ropes with the odds stacked against me.
Throughout her career as a business analyst/project manager, my mum recalls numerous occasions on which she lost out on opportunities to men who were less qualified and experienced than her. She also admits that for the majority of time in her career, there has been unequal pay between men and women. My mum regularly attends the “women of influence” conferences in Toronto to gain inspiration and bring about change for working women like her. Through this, she has motivated me to become a feminist.

I think the South Asian community ought to make further strides towards appreciating the women and the hard work they do, and break free from the bounds of an outdated patriarchal society. I think what women in the South Asian community can learn from my mother is that they don’t have to feel subservient or see themselves as inferior; they should stand up for themselves and never settle for less than they deserve.

By: Rayhan Pitigala, University of Ottawa

Rayhan Pitigala was one of the winners of a writing contest launched by the Ottawa Multicultural Media Initiative (OMMI).

For more information about the OMMI, please visit: https://uottawaommi.wordpress.com/

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.”

SYRIAN REFUGEES

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