Toronto: The Sikh community in Canada will help Syrian refugees with free food, clothing, housing and schooling upon their arrival, an Indian-origin MP has said. The Sikhs of Lower Mainland in British Columbia’s Vancouver have come together and formed a group called Sikh Societies of British Columbia to offer several services to the Syrian refugees who are expected to arrive in the area over the next few months.
“The Sikh community has come to Canada themselves in many different ways from the early 1900s and onwards,” Indian- origin Liberal Party’s Member of Parliament (MP) Randeep Sarai was quoted as saying by CBC News. “Welcoming others, newcomers, was part of their lives, whether they knew them or not. Whether immigrants came from India, or whether they were refugees in tumultuous times during the 80s, the Sikh way, the Canadian way, was always to give them a home, help them at the temple and help feed them,” he said.
Over the weekend, Sarai facilitated a forum of Sikh organisations which had all expressed a desire to answer the Canadian government’s call for help in resettling the refugees.
The wide-ranging services Sikhs will provide include free tuition for 1,000 students at Khalsa School for one year besides free meals, clothing and blankets for 2,000 refugees from Gurdwaras in Vancouver, Richmond, New Westminster, Abbotsford and Surrey.
A province-wide campaign to find free housing for an expected 200 families, transportation from the airport, pro bono medical services and childcare for as many as 100 children and schooling for all religions will be undertaken. “We even have several teachers who speak Arabic, and we will do whatever we can to help the new students feel welcome,” Principal of Khalsa School Kamalpreet Bagga said.
At the schools one period a day is set aside for Sikh religious or cultural studies, but Sarai says refugee students would not be required to take those courses and that interfaith teaching will be offered.
The group said the value of donations being offered is 5 million Canadian dollars. According to officials’ estimate, around 2,500 efugees could land in the region within the next few weeks, as part of Canada’s plan to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to the country by the new year.