Regina’s newest citizens were given the chance to meet Canada’s original residents at an event designed to share culture and beliefs.
First Nations and Syrian refugees sat together in a conference room at Evraz Place Friday for the Indigenous Welcome to Syrian Refugees.
“We’re trying to introduce them to these people, directly to these people to learn about their history and hear it from these people,” said Justin Waldrop with the Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan.
The event was hosted by Building Relationships through Intercultural Dialogue and Growing Engagement (BRIDGES), the Saskatchewan Association of Immigrant Settlement and Integration Agencies (SAISIA), the Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan, and the Aboriginal Friendship Centre of Saskatchewan.
Waldrop said they have heard some disturbing rumours from frontline workers and people working with refugees.
“Within a couple days, they were learning negative stereotypes and racism about First Nations and aboriginal People in our province being told to stay away from them, avoid them,” Waldrop explained.
That is another reason why the event was held, to target and eliminate racism before it gets started.
Newcomers Zayd Al-Rabbai participated in the event.
“When we came together, and there was another person like Canadian, like Greek, you know, we can learn some things about our lives and the future and Canada,” Al-Rabbai who arrived in Regina 20 days ago, explained.
Al-Rabbai said his family — which includes his wife and three daughters — is comfortable and enjoying their time in Canada, although he did mention it can be pretty cold here.
The indigenous welcome event included various presentations and speeches, food, and a round dance.
“You don’t come to understand a culture and you don’t come to understand the way another culture sees and believes and experiences the world unless you really start to get into the beliefs and the values and their history and their language,” said Waldrop. “The sooner you can connect these two groups, the less of a chance there is for the racism to start to spread.”
Two similar events have already been held in Prince Albert and Saskatoon. Moose Jaw will host one on Monday.