Edmonton agencies nearing 1 year anniversary of helping Syrian refugees

Click to play video 'Supporting refugees in Canada: one year later' Supporting refugees in Canada: one year later
WATCH: It's been about a year since Canada began accepting thousands of Syrian refugees. As Shallima Maharaj reports, that has many thinking about what's next. – Dec 3, 2016

It’s been a life-changing year for thousands of Syrian refugees who are now nearing the first anniversary of their arrival in Canada.

On Saturday, Action for Healthy Communities hosted a year-end celebration to mark the occasion and look to the future as well.

The organization has helped about 53 per cent of the refugees that arrived in Edmonton, but a spokesperson for the group says more still needs to be done.

“They need some more time,” Aftab Khan said. “Maybe we need some more efforts to integrate them into the system.”

Khan said many of the refugees he works with still struggle with literacy, adjusting to the Canadian culture and employment.

The new year brings new concerns for many including, “job development, developing businesses here [in Canada] that they did back home and then connecting with the local business community.”
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READ MORE: ‘Our life is running very well’: Syrian refugees settle in to life in Edmonton

The agency is starting more job-related programs in the new year and both provincial and federal governments have said funding for those programs will be available.

“We’re definitely committed as a government to providing that stable predictable funding they need,” Edmonton Centre MLA David Sheppard said. He specifically made note of the Immigrant Nominee Program, a program that speeds up the immigration process for newcomers with work-ready skills.

“We’re going to see some positive changes that will help more new Canadians get settled,” Sheppard said.

Watch Below: Before the war, Aleppo was booming. The city, much like Toronto, was known as the cultural and economic hub of Syria, but the war has reduced the eastern portion of the once vibrant city to rubble. With similar populations as growing city Global News Anchor Farah Nasser compares the landscape of Toronto to Aleppo.

Click to play video 'How does Toronto compare to Aleppo?' How does Toronto compare to Aleppo?
How does Toronto compare to Aleppo? – Nov 28, 2016

Edmonton Centre MP Randy Boissonnault said the weeks and months ahead will change from a period of resettlement to a period of integration for refugees.

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“It’s really making sure that new refugee families can connect from an employment perspective, housing and making sure the schooling is in place,” he said adding, “making sure that there are sustainable jobs, making sure there’s language supports.”

Boissonnault said the government has been working closely with groups like Catholic Social Services, the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers and other non-governmental organizations working directly with refugees to make sure “no one has fallen through the cracks.”

“We can take care of Canadians that have been here for generations and we can take care of newcomers. It’s how Canada was built- it’s how we’re going to continue to build our country.”

— With files from Shallima Maharaj, Global News

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