Above: Chamber President Simon Boersma speaks about Syrian refugees during the Feb. 2 Chamber luncheon.
– Stephen Dafoe Photo

by Stephen Dafoe – stephen@morinvillenews.com

The Morinville & District Chamber of Commerce brought forth the province’s message to businesses that Syrian refugees need work. Board Member Grant Cree presented on a Jan. 13 meeting with Deputy Minister Andre Corbould that he attended on behalf of the Chamber.

Cree told local business owners at the Feb. 2 luncheon that there are 17 provincial agencies in Alberta assisting, and that the five key centres for refugees are Edmonton, Calgary, Red Deer, Medicine Hat, and Lethbridge.

“You’ve got to remember where they’re coming from is a war zone. You read the news; it should not be surprising to you,” Cree said. “They leave their situation and come over here, and their number one item is housing.”

Cree went on to say the refugees are currently at the point of obtaining the most basic of needs. “Even though they are very grateful to be in Alberta, they still need very basic requirements such as housing and food and so on,” he said, adding the government had reached out to Chambers in the hopes they could assist with the refugees next need – jobs. “It’s rather interesting roller coaster ride in Alberta these days because of our own economy; however, the jobs that the Alberta government is recommending are service-related ones where the Syrian refugees can make the cultural and linguistic transition. They can learn how Canadians think and operate, and a bit of the language as they are getting accustomed to their new job.”

Chambers can play a role

The province sees Alberta’s Chambers as a potential partner to help refugees. As job creators, local businesses have the opportunity to offer employment to those resettling in Canada.

“Despite fluctuations in the economy, employers will always need a workforce that is productive and demonstrates a wide variety of skills and skill levels,” Cree said, reading from the province’s ask of Chambers. “If any of you are interested as business owners or business leaders in hiring a Syrian refugee and giving that person or persons a chance – trust me, the Alberta Government would love to hear from you. It’d be like winning the lottery in their world.”

Chamber President Boersma sees a role

In his closing remarks Feb. 3, Chamber President Simon Boersma called on local businesses to see if they could assist.

“If we do have placements within our organizations, or we may be even able to hand over a coat or a warm blanket or help some of these associations that are helping these people,” he said. “There are a lot of private organizations out there that can use help. Some of them are overwhelmed with what’s going on.”

Boersma said nobody was expecting a downturn in the economy while refugees were coming to Canada, but said the economy was in similar shape in the 1970s when Vietnamese refugees were coming to the country.

“Those people are taxpayers today,” Boersma said. “Canada is a great country to be enjoyed by all, and we need to welcome them with open arms.”

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