In the shadow of Toronto’s City Hall, thousands of new Torontonians got a warm welcome to the city.
“Toronto has been like a home away from my situation,” Ali Kaviri told CTV News Toronto. Kaviri is a youth rights activist who left Uganda just two months ago, and is beginning a new life in Toronto.
“It’s been a bit trying” said Kaviri, “but I want to say that today I feel greatly welcomed by Canada. I can get the spirit of Canadian hospitality which I’ve been blown away by so much.”
More than 100 exhibitors were on site for the 8th annual “Toronto Newcomer Day” Wednesday. The thousands in attendance were offered information on everything from housing supports, to education, to career training.
Roya Madomi and her friends hoped they might be able to get information on the best ways to regain the careers they left behind in Afghanistan some seven months ago.
“I want to improve my English,” Madomi said. “and I want to be a journalist here, if it’s possible!”
Each story in the crowd was unique, just like the journeys of the people in attendance.
Yevheniia Shablova and her mother were exploring the event, they fled Ukraine barely a month ago, and are still getting used to their new home.
“There’s a lot of people,” Shablova said, when asked for her first impressions of Toronto. “Great architecture, and the people are really nice and so polite, so I definitely like this city.”
According to officials with the City of Toronto, between 80,000 and 100,000 new permanent residents make Toronto their home each year.
“[Fifty per cent] of our population wasn’t born in Canada,” Deputy Mayor Ana Bailão said, while speaking of her own journey coming to Canada and Toronto.
“Every day we know there’s people arriving in this city and we need to welcome them and we need to make sure they have all the information they need to succeed and see all the opportunities that this city has to offer them.”
Organizers of the event hope it can be a starting point for those beginning a new life in Toronto.
“There are more than 200 settlement agencies in Toronto and many more community agencies that are providing a range of services,” Vera Dodic, the manager of Toronto’s newcomer office, told CTV News Toronto.
“From housing supports to settlement supports and language training to many many others. There are networks of people to help newcomers integrate and settle better and find their own way here.”
As for what she wanted participants to take away from the event, Dodic said a sense of community was key.
“I want them to feel a little more at home. I want them to feel that they belong. I want them to feel that they are part of the city and they have the resources that they need in order to establish themselves and reach whatever goals they have for their life here in Canada.”
After speaking with many of the exhibitors, Kaviri left with an armful of information, pamphlets and brochures – all aimed at helping him get the best start as he settles in his new home.
“Toronto actually gives you so much opportunities, but also this great mix of so many people from all walks of life who have settled here and this is the place they call home.”
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