West Shore accommodating Syrian refugees

Parks and Recreation, public library provide services for hotel-bound immigrants

With Canada committed to accepting thousands of Syrian refugees, the West Shore is doing its part.

A total of 155 refugees of varying ages are in temporary residence in the area while permanent housing is arranged. While they are here, recreation facilities including West Shore Parks & Recreation and the Greater Victoria Public Library are providing short-term complimentary access to services and facilities for family members.

“We can only imagine the upheaval these families have been through and it may be some time before they are fully settled,” said Colwood Coun. Rob Martin, who is also GVPL vice-chair.

“It’s our pleasure to help them access recreation opportunities that will be enjoyable, healthy and a great way to make connections within our community.”

West Shore Parks and Rec is providing free access to the pool and playing fields, as well as the use of some sporting equipment. The library is opening up its facilities for access to resources in their native language, including books and movies whenever possible. An orientation to the library’s services, offered via an interpreter, as well as some transportation will be provided with help from the Inter-Cultural Association and the Red Cross.

“I am very excited we have these new immigrants in our community and look forward to supporting them to become a valued part of our community,” Martin continued. “We’re grateful to our partners (including) the West Shore Parks & Recreation Society for their flexibility and their commitment to providing all residents with access to an exceptional variety of recreation opportunities.”

The families include many school-aged youth who have been out of school for years. They are being assisted by the ICA in preparation for a return to the education system through a series of translated workshops, English lessons and other training. Approximately 60 per cent of the total number of refugees are youth.

The families are awaiting placement throughout the Capital Regional District, which will be happening over the next few weeks, said Jean McRae, CEO of the association.

“(When they) arrived they were very tired and they really needed an opportunity to rest and regroup. Some had travelled a long way in a short period of time,” she said. “They are happy to be here and anxious to get started.”

McRae said those looking to support the refugees can do so by signing up online to volunteer at icavictoria.org. The organization is also seeking potential rental space for families currently accommodated in a hotel on the West Shore.

“Thank you to the community for the great outpouring of support,” she said.

“It’s great Greater Victoria is playing a part like many other Canadian communities.”

alim@goldstreamgazette.com