March 01, 2016: Outside Hamilton’s City Hall, a major winter storm was brewing and it was bitterly cold. The snow was piling on thick, but that did not stop community members from gathering to welcome Hamilton’s newest residents from Syria and other countries. The #WelcomeRefugees information fair was in full swing.
Inside Hamilton’s City Hall, Arabic music played in the background, as volunteers served traditional Syrian refreshments such as manakish zaatar, yalanji, and Syrian red tea. Over 25 local organizations and groups showcased services and information that support newcomers and refugees and help them make Hamilton home. Smiles were all around, as the community members celebrated the caring spirit of all those who are working hard to welcome Syrian refugees to Hamilton.
Around 100 newcomers, community members, and service providers attended the fair. Mayor Fred Eisenberger shared his experiences of immigrating to Canada as a young boy and thanked community members for supporting the City during Hamilton’s refugee resettlement response. Members of Parliament, Filomena Tassi and Bob Bratina also addressed the gathering, acknowledging the incredible compassion of those sponsoring refugees and working tirelessly to help them settle.
As newcomers visited the different tables and spoke to local groups and service providers, a small group of Syrian men formed a circle and celebrated their move to Hamilton in a traditional Syrian dance. Soon everyone joined in - clapping, dancing, and sharing in this joyous moment. Outside the wind howled and it snowed harder, but inside the dancing and the laughter kept everyone warm.
The #WelcomeRefugees information fair was hosted by the Hamilton Immigration Partnership Council (HIPC) in partnership with Filomena Tassi, Member of Parliament, Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas, City of Hamilton, Immigrants Working Centre, and Wesley Urban Ministries.