Immigrants and refugees welcome a Christmas party
Published Tuesday, December 22, 2009 2:42PM EST
Many newcomers to the country are experiencing Quebec's customs for the first time, and getting used to the weather.
So on a blustery December night, the warmth is generous at a community Christmas party, where the Carrefour d'Intercultures de Laval is introducing immigrants to the holiday spirit.
Many of the guests are much more used to tropical conditions.
"Oh it's very good. Pretty cold but it's okay," said one woman.
However the festivities make up for the chill of winter, and are a welcome change from the brutality many left behind.
Irene Thomas came to Quebec from Iraq, and does not regret leaving.
"It's very bad, bombs everywhere and everything," said Thomas. "Yes it's very bad."
She is one of 100 refugees who came to Laval this year because of a U.N. program.
For the last 20 years the nonprofit group has been on the front lines, welcoming newcomers to Laval after they're processed by immigration.
"We help people, the Bhutanese for instance," said Denis Arvanitakis, the Director of the Carrefour. "They've been in camps for many many years, 17 years approximately and many of these children are born in the camps."
Kausila Muktan came to Canada in 1998, but her parents only arrived this summer after living in a refugee camp in Nepal.
They were among 100,000 ethnic Nepalis forced to leave Bhutan in the 1990's.
"It was hard in Bhutan," said Muktan. "Still we can't go back to it, Bhutan."
The Carrefour also provides French courses, and information on Quebec values.
"We start searching for housing, the clothing, winter clothing then all-season clothing," said Arvanitakis.
Many surprises await these newcomers, but the Carrefour is trying to give them the support they need to adapt.
"We show how we celebrate Christmas in Quebec," said Arvanitakis. "For some of the people present it's their first time."