OVER the past decade, Surrey has become the primary destination for refugees arriving in British Columbia. Last year alone, over half of the Syrian refugees that arrived in Metro Vancouver settled in Surrey. Given the unique challenges that refugees face, the Surrey Local Immigration Partnership (LIP) developed a three-year strategy called “Surrey Our New Home”.
The City of Surrey noted that investing in the potential of refugee youth is the strategy’s top priority – not surprising given the majority of refugees are children and youth. Other priorities are: supporting economic self-sufficiency and inclusion; enhancing service capacity and coordination; and enhancing social inclusion.
“Surrey is a city that welcomes refugees” said Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner on Tuesday. “Caring and compassion is important. Opportunities to work, to participate and contribute to the community, for the children to succeed at school are equally important. This is what will restore a sense of dignity and hope. The City of Surrey is proud to play a leadership role with the Surrey Local Immigration Partnership.”
Over the next three years the Surrey LIP will work on specific actions outlined in the strategy which were based on extensive research and consultations conducted by SFU Surrey. Community leaders, front-line settlement workers and Surrey residents who arrived as refugees helped to shape the strategy.
“The refugees settling in Surrey are coming from war zones where they have experienced tremendous loss and trauma” said Councillor Judy Villeneuve, Co-Chair of the Surrey LIP. “We are committed to continuing to work with our community partners so that refugee families settle, integrate, thrive, and truly feel at home in Surrey.”
The refugee strategy complements the LIP’s immigrant strategy, released in 2016. One of the activities undertaken by the LIP was to help meaningful employment among new immigrants by initiating business sector dialogues. Organized in partnership with the Surrey Board of Trade, four sector-specific roundtables brought together employers and new immigrants to discuss employer skill shortages and immigrant labour challenges in the health care, manufacturing, construction and technology sectors.
The dialogues revealed that the challenges and solutions for immigrants to secure employment in each sector are different. The discussions will help to inform future actions to ensure the skills and talents of newcomers are fully utilized to support Surrey’s growing economy.
“The business sector dialogues are part of an ongoing initiative of the Surrey Board of Trade’s Workforce Development Strategy for Surrey’s business community,” said Anita Huberman, CEO of Surrey Board of Trade and Co-Chair of Surrey LIP. “The Surrey Board of Trade has another strategy identified just for refugees as well.”
The Surrey LIP Committee includes 30 representatives of government agencies, educational institutions, business and community agencies. The Committee supports a coordinated and strategic approach to immigrant and refugee settlement and integration. The City of Surrey is the lead agency.
The Surrey LIP was established in 2014. It is funded by Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada.
The full “Surrey Our New Home” report can be viewed here.