Refugee and Indigenous youth connect through Surrey immigration program

posted on August 13, 2018

By CBC News |

The Surrey Refugee Youth Team is made up of young immigrants with refugee status or experience. They’re helping new refugee youth form meaningful connections in the community. 

Members of the Surrey Refugee Youth Team are helping new immigrants form cross-cultural connections by introducing them to B.C.’s Indigenous history.

Surrey, B.C., is one of the fastest growing cities in Canada and immigration is a major driving force behind this surge.

It’s got a larger portion of young people compared to the rest of Metro Vancouver, and one of the Surrey Local Immigration Partnership’s goals is to make sure immigrant and refugee youth have opportunities to connect across cultures and build leadership skills.

Indigenous and refugee youth met for two dialogue circles and a traditional longhouse ceremony with Kwantlen First Nation this past spring to discuss common experiences of displacement, trauma, and colonization.

“The way I see it is pain is the same everywhere, loss is the same everywhere … Coming from places where blood has been shed, we can relate to what the Aboriginal people have felt and maybe are feeling right now,” said Mumtaz Sultan, co-leader of Surrey Refugee Youth Team.

Sultan, 16, spent his first 10 years growing up in Syria. His family fled the war to Moldova in Eastern Europe where they lived for five years before relocating to Canada about a year ago.

“I think that together, because we share the same kind of loss — the loss of our homes, the loss of our people, the loss even of our cultures … if we strengthen that relationship and help each other we can take another step into a better future,” he told The Early Edition’s Stephen Quinn.

Growing the team
The team was created last summer to foster those uniquely similar connections and now they’re looking for new members.

Dacious Richardson, another co-leader of the Surrey Refugee Youth Team, said he’s made some close friends through the program and has learned new ways to care for his community through conversations with Indigenous youth.

“One of the things I learned from the Aboriginal community is they value the nature, the environment, and they care much about it … With the experience they have gone through, they still have love in their hearts toward everyone, so I tend to follow that path as well,” he said.

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