Multicultural society hopes money for refugees heads to Nanaimo

NANAIMO – Group aims to provide support to refugee settlement organizations across the Island.

A taskforce has been established by the provincial government to better assist refugees on Vancouver Island.

Last month, the province announced it established a Refugee Readiness Team to better help refugees in Nanaimo, Victoria and Duncan integrate into the community. The team will be headed by the Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society and will receive approximately $52,500 from the province.

David Lau, executive director of the Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society, said the response team will work with immigrant organizations across the Island as well as representatives from housing agencies, school boards and regional districts.

“[Our goal is] to create planning tables with local and regional authorities and some provincial agencies to listen to the needs of the settlement agencies … so that we can work together with local agencies, create solutions for this whole region,” Lau said.

Lau said the team is being advised by four planning groups representing the areas of housing, education, employment and health care.

“They are sitting down and talking to senior staff from settlement agencies and coming up with strategies and things that we can do together that don’t cost extra money,” he said. “Basically just building efficiency so that when we plan out this next critical year we can solve a lot of problems just by all talking together at the same time.”

Hilde Schlosar, executive director of the Central Vancouver Island Multicultural Society, wasn’t sure how the taskforce would affect Nanaimo.

“I am interested in seeing how it will benefit us given where we already are,” she said.

According to Schlosar, the multicultural society is in frequent communication with groups such as the Regional District of Nanaimo, Nanaimo school district, the City of Nanaimo and the Vancouver Island Health Authority.

“Everybody has already been at the table working together for six months,” she said.

Schlosar said she was hoping the province would share the money with the agencies to help them deal with the refugee response.

According to Lau, the first two years in Canada for refugees are extremely critical and that the first five years are very difficult for them. Lau said it is important to get refugees settled and integrated during their first 24 months in the country.

“What I think about is getting people as functional as possible with the least amount of problems in the first two years so that they can launch,” he said.

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