New West residents invited to help Syrian refugees

New Westminster residents have showed tremendous desire to help Syrian refugees who settle in the Royal City.

New Westminster MLA Judy Darcy and New Westminster-Burnaby MP Peter Julian are co-hosting a community meeting on Sunday, Nov. 29 from 1 to 3 p.m. at UFCW, 350 Columbia St. Darcy said the city, immigrant services organizations and constituency offices have seen “an incredible outpouring of support for refugees and for welcoming refugees to New Westminster,” from individuals, churches, the Sikh temple, businesses and other organizations.

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“We thought it would be really important to have a public event where people can come and find out how they can support refugees coming to New Westminster,” she told the Record. “We think it could be as early as mid-December. We understand that the first air lifts will start around Dec. 1.”

Darcy said it’s been heartwarming to see the outpouring of kindness that local residents and businesses are showing the Syrian refugees.

“There are so many people coming forward who are offering to donate clothing and food, and to volunteer, and to do translation, to donate glasses or dental work – you name it. We have been quite overwhelmed with people contacting us,” she said. “New Westminster has always been a very welcoming community, a very supportive community for newcomers. I think we have just seen the beginnings of that. People want to know what they can do.”

At the meeting, people will be able to learn how they can volunteer and what kind of donations would help the refugees get settled in the city.

“This is really about being ready and about providing an opportunity for people to both learn what kind of support is needed and for people to find out how they can support and for the community to come together,” Darcy said.

Although the federal Liberal government had planned to allow 25,000 Syrian refugees to come to Canada by the end of the year, it revised those numbers on Nov. 24 and stated 10,000 would arrive by year-end and the remaining 15,000 would come in January and February.

“Whatever was needed, people were going to do, but obviously more time means there can be more supports in place,” Darcy said. “It’s not until people actually arrive in New Westminster that we will know exactly what they need.”

Based on past history, it’s expected New Westminster could become home to about 100 refugees from Syria and Iraq.

“Usually 23 to 25 per cent of the refugees are school-aged children,” Darcy said. “Those numbers are all approximately. Normally B.C. gets about 10 to 11 per cent of the refugees who come to the country, and New Westminster has historically had about four per cent – really we won’t know that for a few weeks.”

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