For close to 25 years, MCRC has proven to be instrumental to the success of refugee resettlement in our city and, in many cases, has helped to prevent homelessness for newly arrived individuals and families.
Published on April 11, 2018
By Fariborz Birjandian, CEO Calgary Catholic Immigration Society
Dear City Council Members,
My name is Fariborz Birjandian, and I am the CEO of the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society
(CCIS). It is my understanding that on April 23rd, 2018, the Calgary City Council will be tabling a resolution regarding the donation of 2 parcels of City Calgary Land to CCIS’ Margaret Chisholm Resettlement Centre (MCRC). In preparation for this meeting, I wish to share more information with you regarding the potential impact of this decision, and the role that MCRC plays in the Calgary community.
As you know, Calgary receives between 1,000 and 1,200 refugees and refugee claimants each
year and these numbers have been steadily increasing. In a 24-month period, the Calgary
community facilitated the resettlement of over 3,000 refugees from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan,
Sudan, the Condo, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and other countries. It is important that we, as a community, continue to explore ways in which we can enhance our support for these individuals and families, and provide services and resources that are timely, relevant, and impactful. This is why CCIS is seeking the support of City Council in an initiative that will help us build our capacity as the first point of contact for the refugees who will be calling Calgary their new home.
Since our inception, CCIS has been the primary agency in the Calgary area responsible for
delivering Resettlement Assistance Program (RAP) services to Government Assisted Refugees.
Through this work, we have assisted over 17,500 GARs. One of the most important and impactful elements of our RAP services is our Margaret Chisholm Resettlement Centre (MCRC). MCRC provides refugees with temporary accommodations during their first weeks after their arrival.
Within MCRC, they not only receive necessities such as food, shelter, and winter clothing, but
also information, orientation, and support to ensure that they are prepared to launch their new
lives in Canada with a sense of belonging and a high degree of self-reliance.
For close to 25 years, MCRC has proven to be instrumental to the success of refugee resettlement in our city and, in many cases, has helped to prevent homelessness for newly arrived individuals and families. Looking at recent trends and projections, however, we are confident that our facility will not be able to meet the logistical needs of the current and future refugees who will be resettling in Calgary. CCIS and our partners have therefore been exploring the possibility of expanding our resettlement facilities.
To do this, we will need to utilize the 2 small parcels of land that are adjacent to MCRC, and that are currently owned by the City of Calgary. City Assessors have appraised the land at $925,000. This amount would obviously be a significant and difficult amount for a non-profit organization to pay. CCIS, however, is committing to cover all costs of improvement and future development on this land, if the City of Calgary will follow donate these 2 parcels to CCIS to support refugee resettlement in our city.
Other Canadian agencies, that have faced similar struggles to accommodate and meet the needs of growing numbers of refugees, have received generous support from their local governments. The Immigrant Service Society of Vancouver, BC opened the doors to its welcome centre in 2016 with the support of the City of Vancouver, which provided $500,000 and donated the land. The total cost of the building was 20 million. The City of Winnipeg also donated a 35,000 s.f. building to a resettlement service provider to accommodate the growing numbers of refugees arriving in the city.
I firmly believe that this donation will greatly enhance our ability to accommodate and serve
newly-arrived refugees, and will bolster our city’s reputation as a welcoming and supportive community that strives to ensure that the resettlement and integration of refugees is a positive experience.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Councillor Gian-Carlo Carra, the Ward 9 Office or The City of Calgary.