The Comité de soutien auprès des réfugiés syriens (CSRS) had the pleasure to organize the Friendship Gathering event that took place in Gatineau at the Auditorium of the Outaouais CEGEP on Sunday, January 27, 2019, at 1:30 pm. The CSRS is a community-based initiative in Gatineau that provides support to 70 Syrian, Iraqi and Palestinian refugee families who have been resettled in our community over the last three years. Through a wide range of activities, the CSRS is committed to helping these families develop a sense of belonging and ownership to the community and support them in becoming well-informed, autonomous and responsible citizens who can play an active role in the community and on the employment market. This event aimed to create an opportunity to remove cultural, religious and linguistic barriers and stimulate direct interactions between long-time residents of Gatineau and the 350 people benefiting from the CSRS’ support, who hardly speak French or English. The CSRS is proud to help Syrian, Iraqi and Palestinian refugee families without any discrimination. Those who benefit from the CSRS’ support belong to various cultural groups (Arabic, Kurdish, Druze, Armenian and Yazidi families) as well as families who are either of the Muslim or Christian faith. The Friendship Gathering presented Cynthia Baroud, a professional artist from Lebanon. She performed popular songs in both Arabic and French. A snack made up of oriental and Canadian pastries, and dry and fresh fruit was offered after the concert. A band by the name of the Alkhouri Group made up of Syrian refugee musicians and singers performed folkloric songs during the snack. For the Friendship Gathering event was attended by approximately 600 guests, including elected officials as the seating capacity of the Auditorium is 700. The Friendship Gathering is a fundraising event to support the activities that the CSRS will carry out in 2019, like renting a bus for a group outing to Montreal as well as renting a room for a workshop that we plan to have to provide information on the resources available in the community to help the refugee families who have been re-settled in Gatineau. The CSRS is engaged in activities aimed at advocating positive changes. In the spring of 2019, we will have a special event featuring Syrian food and folkloric music. We feel that bringing together Gatineau residents and Syrian, Iraqi and Palestinian refugees around music and food in the same venue is important to promote friendship and solidarity. Some of the funds collected by the Friendship Gathering event will help us set up this other event. The CSRS would be delighted if you could help to promote the event among your wide range of contacts. Dr. Alsharif and Mr. Eric Purdie represented Humans for Peace Institution at the event.
The event was opened by the spokesperson of CSRS Mr. Jacques Laberge who talked about the role of CSRS in helping newcomers to Gatineau. Then the main speaker Dr. Jamal Alsharif, the founder and president of Humans for Peace Institution, was invited to address the audience. Dr. Alsharif talked about the importance of the cultural integration and learning the language used by the majority of the people who live in Gatineau, their capacity to find a job, and how shall they put all their energy in becoming comfortable in French and also English and in taking vocational training courses and learning new skills. In 2019 there is a shortage of skilled workers in Quebec, including in Gatineau. There are great opportunities for those who have the right set of skills and know-how. It is time for our refugee’s friends to learn how to communicate with the Canadian population, develop their skills and take their place in our communities. We shall all contribute to the well-being of Canada. The speech was a strong motivation message. Then Mrs. Maryse Gaudreault, MPP for Hull, who is most committed to supporting the integration of the refugee's families who have been resettled in Hull, welcomed everyone to Gatineau and talked about the importance of the being a Canadian Qubiquase.