French villages in Nova Scotia offer to 'share this peace' with Afghan refugees

·2 min read
The Municipality of Clare is opening its doors to Afghan refugees who wish to settle in the Acadian community. Jean-Paul Kalwahali is the manager of the Rendez-vous Welcome Centre on the campus of Université Sainte-Anne.  (Charlene Dela Cruz - image credit)
The Municipality of Clare is opening its doors to Afghan refugees who wish to settle in the Acadian community. Jean-Paul Kalwahali is the manager of the Rendez-vous Welcome Centre on the campus of Université Sainte-Anne. (Charlene Dela Cruz - image credit)

A campaign has been launched to attract Afghan refugees to French-speaking communities in Nova Scotia and to offer support to local organizations wishing to help the newcomers integrate.

The Canadian government is assisting refugees in Afghanistan and has committed to resettling 40,000 of them in Canada. Some of them may end up in the Clare region.

"People don't often think to settle in Nova Scotia in French, but in reality there are many vibrant Acadian and Francophone communities in the province that would be privileged to welcome not only Francophones, but also immigrants and refugees who know neither English nor French," said Emmanuel Nahimana, the project manager for Francophone Immigration de la Nouvelle-Écosse (Francophone Immigration of Nova Scotia).

This week marks National Francophone Immigration Week.

'It's a big job'

Nahimana and his Halifax-based team are laying the groundwork for bringing Afghan refugees to Nova Scotia, including French-speaking communities in the Municipality of Clare.

"The community has expressed to us their interest in accepting Afghan refugees," said Nahimana, who grew up speaking French in his native Burundi but immigrated to Canada seven years ago. "It is a big job, but the good thing is when they have volunteers, everything can come easy."

Sgt. Samuel Ruiz/U.S. Marine Corps/The Associated Press
Sgt. Samuel Ruiz/U.S. Marine Corps/The Associated Press

Located in southwest Nova Scotia, the Municipality of Clare is situated on St. Marys Bay and is home to more than 25 small villages. It has a population of more than 8,000 and is one of 14 communities across Canada that is taking part in the Welcoming Francophone Communities initiative led by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

"We were all affected by the pictures of thousands of refugees fleeing Afghanistan earlier this year," said Amy Paradis, the communications officer with the Municipality of Clare. "A lot of our people want to band together to see what we can do as Acadian and Francophone communities to help refugees settle in our peaceful and welcoming communities."

Good for Clare, too

Hundreds of Afghan refugees have already landed in Canada.

Work has already begun to try and bring some of those refugees, many of whom are currently in some of Canada's larger cities, to their quiet seaside communities. Some of that work includes creating documents that promote what Clare has to offer.

"There are many benefits to immigration for Clare from an economic standpoint, a cultural standpoint and from a humanitarian standpoint," said Municipality of Clare Deputy Warden Yvon LeBlanc.

"We are fortunate to live in a peaceful community and it would be an honour to share this peace with Afghan refugees, who are very much deserving of it."

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