COLUMN: A valuable resource for newcomers to Canada

A Surrey-based group is doing excellent work in assisting newer Canadians to become more fully-engaged citizens and community members.

Surrey-White Rock Community Engagement Society started several years ago and has quickly grown to involve hundreds of people – most of whom are of Chinese background. The organization, originally known as Surrey-White Rock Political Engagement Society, serves as a bridge for people.

They learn more about the Canadian way of life and are able to contrast it with their former countries and ways of doing things.

For people who come from Mainland China, for example, there is no equivalent to the democratic system of elections and dialogue with leaders between elections that we take for granted in Canada.

That was the original mission of the group – to help newer Canadians be able to fully participate in the democratic system. Since that time, its mission has broadened to offer education on how to fully participate in Canadian society.

The approach the society has taken is basically an ongoing course in civics. It is an approach that would work very well with new Canadians who have come here from other parts of the world.

It would help them to find their feet and become fully-participating members of Canadian society more easily.

SWRCES held a Chinese New Year celebration at the Imperial Garden, a South Surrey restaurant, on Jan. 15 (a very snowy night). The weather did not hamper attendance.

The event was held in conjunction with the South Surrey & White Rock Chamber of Commerce, and it was a great opportunity for members of two distinct groups – the business community and new Canadians – to mingle and better understand one another.

My first knowledge of this group came when I was asked by their leaders to moderate a candidates’ forum in the South Surrey-White Rock federal riding last fall.

It was a new experience for me – to speak and operate in the English language and allow time for translation into the Chinese language. The forum at White Rock Community Centre was very well-attended, and it unquestionably increased voter participation.

The society holds regular forums known as Cornerstone Community Forums, which allows its members to get to know community leaders, put questions to them and fully understand what they say through translation. These have been very successful and continue on a regular basis.

We all know that Canada is a great place to live, and regularly welcome arrivals from all over the globe. Surrey is home to a large number of new Canadians who speak many languages and come from a wide variety of cultures.

Helping them to feel more comfortable in their new homes and participate in the community is a great objective.

Frank Bucholtz writes Wednesdays for Peace Arch News, as well as at frankbucholtz.blogspot.ca – email frank.bucholtz@gmail.com

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