Hitting the ice and connecting with Canadian culture

C.A.R.E. participants learn to skate at Red Deer’s Bower Ponds

What better way to get integrated into winter in Canada than through skating?

The Central Alberta Refugee Effort (C.A.R.E.) Learn to Skate Program had many skaters head out to Bower Ponds today to skate with the help of the Red Deer RCMP and Hockey Alberta.

According to Qabas Al-Sammarraie, immigrant youth program coordinator with C.A.R.E., there are over 60 involved in the program.

This is the sixth year the program has been taking place, and it’s all about immigrant youth getting integrated into the community and Canadian culture.

It was the first time skating for some of the participants, but f0r many, it’s now their second or third year in a row.

“If you see them from last year, it amazes me how fast they learn to skate,” said Al-Sammarraie.

He added that the majority of skaters are from Syria, while others are from Africa or Europe. Some are even exchange students.

Chief Superintendent Shahin Mehdizadeh, district commander for Central Alberta District, said the RCMP were at Bower Ponds as part of their engagement with the community, and in this case helping newcomers learn to skate.

Being an immigrant himself, Mehdizadeh said the immigrant population is one of the largest sectors of Canada’s population, and it’s growing fast.

“From my perspective, any investment in getting better interaction and building relationships with our newcomers for the future of the country is an investment in the future of Canada,” he said.

He added that RCMP members are encouraged to be active not just with newcomers, but in every aspect of the community.

“This sort of effort breaks down the barriers that may exist based on some of the newcomers coming from certain countries that may not enjoy the same sort of relationship with the police.”

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