Special to Black Press Media
The strength of this province has always been its people.
I have seen first-hand how quickly British Columbians will drop everything to provide protection, comfort and support to their neighbours in need.
Whether it’s Chilliwack volunteers gathering en masse to save the Barrowtown pump station during the catastrophic floods in November 2021 or the individual effort British Columbians made to slow the spread of COVID-19, people are our greatest asset.
And since becoming Minister of Municipal Affairs, responsible for provincial immigration, I have witnessed not only what British Columbians will do for each other, but what they will do for strangers thousands of kilometres away.
When Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine at the end of February, the world watched in horror.
As the Russian tanks rolled in, Ukrainian cultural organizations in B.C., service providers, faith groups and everyday British Columbians mobilized to provide protection and safety to Ukrainians in need.
Our government doubled the financial support to non-profit settlement agencies last month as they worked around the clock to ensure displaced Ukrainians, and all refugees, have an opportunity to find safety, dignity and support here in British Columbia.
Connecting people to the support services they need, the work we have done together has made an impact. For many people working at our settlement agencies, it has been an emotional journey. And while it can be a thankless job, they are my heroes.
From Grade 5 students in Abbotsford donating personal hygiene supplies to arriving Ukrainians, to the Okanagan Falls Sunflower Festival that raised $20,000, it’s heartwarming to see the continued outpouring of support from British Columbians.
Some service providers were so overwhelmed with donations and offers of support that our government launched a Welcome Ukraine website to facilitate that generosity.
Our country is also undertaking one of the world’s largest humanitarian programs by committing to resettle 40,000 Afghan refugees, many of whom now call B.C. home.
Newcomers who are fleeing violence have endured so much in their pursuit of health and safety. As a father of two young children, I can’t imagine what some of these families are going through, but I know we have a responsibility to help.
British Columbia has never regretted opening its doors to newcomers. The valuable education, skills and experience refugees bring add to the richness and strength of our province.
Please join me on World Refugee Day (June 20) to reflect on the tremendous resilience of refugees, the value they bring to our communities and the generosity British Columbians have shown them as they arrive.
Whether you work for a settlement agency, donated to charity, volunteered your time or opened your heart and home to give a Ukrainian family a place to call home, I thank you.
We celebrate your efforts and we honour the thousands of newcomers who have made B.C. their home away from home.
– Nathan Cullen is the Minister of Municipal Affairs, and Minister responsible for Immigration