February 26, 2016 8:16 pm
Updated: February 26, 2016 8:49 pm

Indigenous community welcomes Syrian refugees

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REGINA – Syrian refugees in Regina were given the chance to learn about Canada’s Indigenous people and their culture.

As part of an effort to bridge the gap between cultures, the event gave refugees the chance to meet and build relationships with First Nations people before any misinformation can take root.

“[Syrian refugees] learn negative stereotypes about Indigenous people very quickly, sometimes within three days of arriving in Canada,” Rhonda Rosenberg, Executive Director, Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan said.

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The meet and greet included a presentation on First Nations treaties, a cultural information exchange, round dance, and reception.

Elder Bob Smoker, who delivered a speech and blessing, hopes the Indigenous community will take the time to welcome refugees.

“They’re born from a different country in their status as refugees. We hope that the number one protocol is respect,” Smoker said.

“Nice people, nice people in Canada. I see many people from Canada. I like them, and they like me I suppose,” said Syrian refugee, Zayd al-Rabbai, who landed in Regina just 20 days ago.

The Indigenous welcome event was hosted by Building Relationships through Intercultural Dialogue and Growing Engagement (BRIDGES); Saskatchewan Association of Immigrant Settlement and Integration Agencies (SAISIA); Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan (MCoS); and the Aboriginal Friendship Centre of Saskatchewan (AFCS).

Another Indigenous welcome will be held in Moose Jaw on February 29.

Currently, 1205 Syrian refugees have been settled in Saskatchewan with 424 in Regina. 256 of those refugees in Regina are under the age of 18.

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