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Newcomer champion awards recognize people who foster a welcoming society


The province of Ontario honoured 15 remarkable people and organizations with the province’s Newcomer Champion Award for their significant contributions to fostering a more welcoming society.

The awards included three categories – Celebrating Inclusion and Diversity, Integration of Immigrants and Promoting Cultural Heritage. 

This year’s recipients include:
A mentor who helps international medical graduates navigate the complex process of obtaining a Canadian medical licence.

An organization that started an initiative aimed at educating newcomers about conservation issues in their communities and connecting them to potential jobs in the environmental sector.

The founder of an outreach program that helps migrant workers access support services, improve their language skills and better understand their legal rights.

Created in 2007, the Newcomer Champion Awards recognize people and groups who have made a difference in their community and the province through active citizenship and engagement.

A few quick facts:
• Ontario remains the number one destination for newcomers to Canada, receiving more immigrants than the combined total of all western provinces and territories.
• Newcomers make up 30 per cent of Ontario’s labour force.
• Over the next 25 years, immigration will account for all of the increases in Ontario’s working age population and is expected to be a major source of future labour force growth.

The 2014 Newcomer Champion Award recipients are:
Dr. Aruna Saroea Alexander of Belleville was instrumental in the City of Belleville’s move to join the Canadian Coalition of Municipalities Against Racism and Discrimination. Her volunteer work in the community has opened doors and created opportunities for individuals and families from around the world now living in Belleville.

Le Comité multiculturel de l'école des adultes Le Carrefour du Conseil des écoles publiques de l'Est de l'Ontario (CEPEO) of Ottawa works to raise awareness within the local school community about cultural diversity in Ontario and Canada, and has developed tools and resources to help students better understand and appreciate the histories and contributions of the different cultures that make up Ontario.

Ethno-Cultural and Diversity Advisory Committee of Whitby has had a profound impact on the Town of Whitby by breaking down barriers, promoting diversity and inclusion, engaging young people and bringing about significant change in how the community welcomes newcomers.

Meho Halimich of Sudbury helped establish Sudbury’s first mosque in 1967 – the only mosque in Northern Ontario at that time. Since then he has continued to work with a number of community organizations and local government agencies to promote understanding and inclusion for immigrants who have made Sudbury their home.

F. Blaine Courtney of Owen Sound is the current Chair of the Owen Sound Emancipation Festival. During his time as Chair he has worked to increase its profile both locally and across the province. His contributions have had a significant impact on the preservation and cultivation of this important chapter in Ontario’s history.

Karen Ng of Markham is one of the founders of the Toronto Multicultural Youth Council Foundation, a charitable organization that seeks to bridge the gaps between the many cultural communities in and around Toronto through youth-run events.

Alexia Rookwood of Stoney Creek is an active member of the Guava Tree Dance Theatre Group, a group of young dancers who perform to the sound of African-Caribbean music and stories as a way to promote and preserve the rich African heritage of Hamilton and Ontario. Ms. Rookwood also recently wrote and narrated a play called Road to Freedom, which was performed during last year’s Black History month celebrations.

Dr. Devkumar Sainani of London is Chair of the Ontario Trillium Foundation. Dr. Sainani works with a great number of ethnocultural communities to create culturally appropriate and sensitive policies, programs, services and events across Ontario. He is also committed to supporting young people from immigrant families and leads two youth groups for the South Asian community, helping them unlock their full potential and open new doors for their future.

Narine Dat Sookram of Waterloo is the host of a popular weekly radio show called Caribbean Spice where he shares and promotes West Indian and local Caribbean music and culture with his listeners. For 10 years he has also organized and hosted the annual Caribbean Dreams concert showcasing new and upcoming talent and promoting the Canadian-Caribbean community.

Dr. Farhan Asrar of Mississauga has been a mentor for international medical graduates, assisting and guiding them to realize their dreams of working as medical doctors in Canada. In addition, he created a database of physician volunteers who know a second language that can be used to assist other doctors and patients in situations where there are language barriers and important medical information needs to be conveyed to a patient.

Kalsang Dolma of Toronto is a Program Coordinator for the youth settlement program at Parkdale Community Information Centre and Parkdale Intercultural Association. She has helped hundreds of newcomers access employment through work placements and skills development programs. She also developed and supervises a leadership program that offers opportunities for skills development and leadership training to newcomer youth.

Futurewatch Environment and Development Education Partners of Toronto has developed an outreach and engagement initiative aimed at connecting newcomers in Halton to the local environmental issues in that community. They help immigrants gain a better understanding and appreciation for local conservation issues, see how they can have an impact through their actions, and explore employment opportunities within Ontario's growing environmental sector.

Theresa Seim of Hanover is the former assistant librarian at the local public library. She initiated a partnership with the local Adult Learning Centre to create the ESL Café, which provides newcomers with a place to connect, learn about other local programs and services, meet new friends and practise their language skills in a supportive and relaxed atmosphere.

Bharati Sethi of Brantford successfully defended her PhD thesis in July of 2014 on the link between employment and health for immigrant women of colour. She devotes, not only her academic time but much of her own personal time, to working to develop programs and policies for immigrants in rural communities who may otherwise have little or no access to support.

Piyarat Lek van Koeverden of Thamesville is the founder of the Thai Volunteer Outreach of Essex-Kent and a long-time champion for the Thai migrant worker community. To-date, over 800 Thai migrant workers have accessed the services and supports offered by the organization, empowering them with the information and support they need to improve their lives and working conditions.

Posted: Nov 3, 2014

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