Refugees receive warm reception from immigration minister

Dave Mabell

On their first day, they got a glimpse of Lethbridge.

On their second day here, the Bhutanese refugees were welcomed by Canada’s minister of citizenship and immigration.

Jason Kenney took time Wednesday to chat with nine men, women and children who’d just been given passage from a refugee camp in Nepal.

The Calgary MP, who’s also responsible for multiculturalism programs across Canada, stretched his schedule to chat with newcomers and staff at the city’s Immigrant Services office.

The warm reception came in contrast to an angry demonstration a day earlier in Surrey, B.C., where residents of the multi-ethnic community protested Kenney’s plans to cut health-care programs for refugees. Through a translator, he told the refugees “Canada is a big country with big opportunities” and he urged them to get to know other people in the community.

Lethbridge is a safe and welcoming community, Kenney told them.

About 500 Bhutanese people have already settled here, he learned, giving Lethbridge the highest Bhutanese population in the country. Another 38 are due next month.

In response, the president of the city’s Canadian Bhutanese Society told the minister many members who’ve arrived over the last three years have succeeded in finding employment. They’ve gone on to purchase a home and vehicle. “We are now living our dream, especially after going through the horror of being a refugee for two decades,” Hemlal Timsina said. “The peace of mind and being able to breathe freely itself is a great relief for us.

“He thanked Lethbridge Family Services and its Immigration Services staff for their support for the refugees – some of them women who’d been victims of violence and torture. Timsina also praised the federal government’s health-care programs for refugees, which are now being cut. Other challenges, he said, include learning the city’s transportation system, qualifying for a driver’s licence, and finding a place for Hindu worship

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