Thousands of refugees are arriving in communities across Canada as the federal government follows through on admitting 25,000 Syrians displaced by the war. This is a significant challenge and Canadian co-operatives are doing their part in different ways to ease the pressure of integrating new families.

In December, The Co-operators announced a commitment of $250,000 in funding in a special one-time grant created through The Co-operators Foundation’s Community Economic Development Fund aimed at supporting organizations’ initiatives that will prepare refugees for employability in Canada. “This is a national project of historic proportions that demands the support of not only government, but community organizations, private enterprises and individual Canadians” stated Kathy Bardswick, President and CEO of The Co-operators.

Desjardins Group partnered with the Canadian Red Cross to welcome Syrian refugees by making a $50,000 donation to help ensure that their basic needs are met upon arrival.

Health, wellness and social service co-ops across Canada are committing their expertise, experience and commitment to the care of refugees. In Vancouver, the Umbrella Multicultural Health Co-op in Vancouver, which has served people from Latin America, Afghanistan, India and Sudan with its language of origin health services, is responding to the needs of privately sponsored refugees in its family practice clinic. This is targeted at refugees who are not yet covered under the mandate of the publicly funded newcomer clinics.

To cover the costs of supplying health screening and Arabic language health navigation services, Umbrella Co-op launched an on-line fundraising appeal, which raised nearly $6,000 for this spike in demand for their services. Esther Hsieh, Co-Executive Director

Of the Umbrella Multicultural Health Co-op stated, “The fundraising is targeted to the current need for services, but we are committed to help people for the long term; we take them on as patients and stick with them well after the hype is over.”

Umbrella Multicultural Health Co-op is one of many Health and Wellness co-ops across Canada that has engaged in this effort. The Saskatoon Community Clinic Co-op has partnered with the Global Gathering Place, the Open Door Society, the College of Physicians and Surgeons and the Saskatoon Health Region to provide the initial Health Assessments and treatment for the influx of Syrian refugees.  The Regina Community Health Clinic deals with Government Assisted Refugees (GARS). Regina has received 300 Syrian refugees, most originating from camps in Jordan

Other members of the Health Care Co-op Federation all across Canada from Newfoundland and Labrador to British Columbia are also working together with churches, mosques, synagogues, temples and the wider community to provide the best possible health and community welcome to Canada for refugees.

If your co-op or mutual is actively engaged in this national project through fundraising or other activities aimed at welcoming refugees, we would be pleased to hear about your efforts. To donate to any of the front line health co-ops supporting refugees with crucial services, we ask you to please contact them directly or reach out to the Health Care Co-operatives Federation of Canada.