We Are All Treaty People

Bridging newcomers: Facts, not stereotypes

  • Published - 31/03/2016
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  • Posted By - Sasha-Gay Lobban
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Organizations help Syrians learn about first peoples of Canada Several organizations across the province have teamed up for a ground breaking partnership that helps to integrate newcomers with the indigenous community.
Following the recent arrival of Syrian refugees in Saskatchewan, the Multicultural Council ofSaskatchewan (MCOS) and the Aboriginal Friendship Centers of Saskatchewan (AFCS), have teamed up in a partnership to facilitate programs that help new comers adjust to the culture of the province and to learn about the indigenous population and the importance of treaty territories.
The program, called BRIDGES (Building Relationships Interculturally through Dialogue and Growing Engagement), is under the umbrella of the Saskatchewan Association for Immigrant Settlement and Integration Agency. It aims to “build bridges of understanding between two growing, but often marginalized, groups in Saskatchewan,”according to MCOS.
Executive director at the Multicultural Council, Rhonda Rosenberg, and cultural co-ordinator at the Aboriginal Friendship Center, Brad Bird, both have stressed the importance of unity.
They said one of the most essential aspects of this program is to offset some of the stereotypes that newcomers would likely be exposed to when they move to the province.
“Once they go into the community, they’ll start hearing stereotypes, and we want to ensure that they are fully aware of the culture,” said Bird.
He added that they are receiving good feedback and newcomers appreciate sharing their culture and learning about the indigenous culture.
“At first they were hesitant at the round dance we held to welcome them, but once they felt comfortable, they started dancing and also sharing some of their culture,” he said.
It is important to get the aboriginal community involved in this process because, “treaty territories are important and indigenous peoples are the original inhabitants of the land and we want to make sure that native stereotypes are not perpetuated,”said Rosenberg.
She talked about the importance of making sure that newcomers have, “opportunities for interaction with the indigenous community, and see them as people and not just representatives of a group.”
The Regina Open Door Society has also been an integral part of this process, ensuring the inclusion of indigenous communities every step of the way. The Open Door Society also participates in the BRIDGES program and have hosted activities to connect newcomers through training workshops, schools and support groups.
“An evaluation of some of the activities so far has shown thatnewcomers appreciate the programs and the aboriginal community say that these programs are very helpful,” said Getachew Woldyesus, manager of settlement, family and community services.
“The indigenous community is a large percentage of our population and we thought it was important to include them in these activities so that newcomers would not learn the stereotypes, but the facts.”