Free Holiday Activities in the Lower Mainland

It’s beginning to look a lot like holidays. Kids school concerts are booked, black Friday is tomorrow, and work functions have been scheduled to celebrate the season. One thing about holidays is that they generally cost a lot of money. It’s good to know where to find activities that will get you into the spirit of the holidays without breaking the bank.

Here’s a few events to get you into the spirit of the season:


December 5th:

Lantern Festival and Parade in Port Coquitlam
At Leigh Square Community Arts Village

December 6th:

Rogers Santa Claus Parade
On Georgia and along Howe

Big Rigs for Kids Lighted Truck Parade in Surrey
At Surrey City Hall Plaza (and University Blvd)

Christmas in Steveston Village
On Steveston Public Wharf

December 11th & 12th:

Lumiere Festival Vancouver
In Vancouver’s West End


Burnaby Village Museum Heritage Christmas
Until January 1, 2016. Free gate admission. Carousel rides are $2.55.

Christmas at Canada Place
Beginning December 12th, free outdoor displays, lights, the legendary Woodward’s Windows, 15-foot snow globe, and more.

CP Holiday Train
In Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows (December 18th), in Port Coquitlam and Port Moody (December 19th).

St Paul’s Hospital Lights of Hope
On now and throughout December. A beautiful light display in Downtown Vancouver.

Skating at Robson Square Ice Rink
Free when you bring your own skates. Rentals are available for $4.00. Open December 1st until February.

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Bridging Services in Burnaby

What do newcomers need in order to fit into their community? Apparently, the answer is: more parties.

How would I know this? The Burnaby Intercultural Planning Table (BIPT) shared their findings of their immigrants focus groups to the various stakeholders in Burnaby – the City of Burnaby, Burnaby businesses, schools, libraries, cultural organizations, service providers and more. These folks were meeting to use view results and brainstorm how to better assist newcomer integration into Burnaby and bridge gaps in services.


Welcoming newcomers is something that Burnaby has done naturally over the years as a result of being the most culturally diverse community in the lower mainland. The Vancouver Sun recently published an article articulating that ‘East Burnaby is Metro Vancouver’s most multi-cultural ’hood.’ They describe how “the chances that any two people, chosen at random, will be of a different ethnic background.”

Newcomers choose Burnaby for its central location, its safe community, and the diversity that is already here. Once here, people often find it difficult to navigate all there is to know – ranging from health care, language services, employment services and general day to day life. One focus group participant indicated that she would have loved the universal picture; a big picture perspective to understand how each service connects with another.

One thing to me is clear: the folks in Burnaby are working on making continual improvements to bridge these gaps. The representatives attending last night’s meeting to hear what newcomers had to say, are collectively trying to fine tune how to assist newcomers in their transition to life in Burnaby. Partnerships are being created, discussions are happening and real work is being done. From the focus group results provided, and the people around the table listening, I have a feeling that a few more parties are in the works.

If you’re living in Burnaby and you wish to better understand the multitude of services available to assist you, I strongly recommend you start with this site; I believe it’s very close to the universal picture that one newcomer was hoping for.

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Settling in BC: Training to Become a Medical Doctor – Again

image-ce5979cce96a1c8b38f47798c5cb3cf1572673681fa84733eff274e0e3acd73c-V“I moved to Canada on Sep.25 of 2013 from Iran” to the beautiful city of North Vancouver. For my husband and I the biggest challenge faced was finding a job, but the other issue we faced was the fact that our daughter was starting high school in a foreign country.”

Firouzeh Madani, like many new Canadians was ready to integrate to life in Canada. Trained as a medical doctor, Firouzeh has since learned that it will optimistically take her three to four years to pass the required exams to get back into her chosen profession:
“I have just passed the first one and I am preparing for the second one.”

A recent article published by the Now Newspaper highlighted this common theme amongst newcomers to Canada. In this article, the Bokharis family, formerly of Surrey, BC, asserted that “[they were] mentally prepared for the cultural shock, but [they weren’t] mentally prepared for the challenges in [their] professional life.” Firouzeh agrees. “I wish I knew more about the job market that without Canadian work experience one most likely needs to take courses.”

Firouzeh connected with MOSAIC and Back In Motion – Skills Connect for Immigrants Program, governmental facilities that help immigrants with higher-education find work in their fields. These programs provided her with mentors to help her understand Canadian workplace and processes. While working towards accreditation, Firouzeh also volunteered as a Library Champion for the North Vancouver City Library. She recounts:

“Shortly after we settled we heard about the library near where we live. Enrollment was easy and accessibility to the public was contradictory to how libraries are in Iran. I was astonished that even if I was not registered with a library, I could use almost every possible service the library offered.”

As a Champion, Firouzeh tells other newcomers of the myriad of services available to newcomers at libraries in BC. An example is the interconnectedness of libraries in BC: people can “get books sent to [their] library from libraries all over the country in the shortest amount of time possible.” Additionally, BC Libraries, in conjunction with governmental facilities offer workshops related to finding employment in BC – ranging from resume and cover letter workshops, to understanding labour market information. The Library Champion project “provided me with the opportunity to find out about other cultures, and to share my knowledge with people who didn’t know about the library.”

While the journey has not been an easy one, Firouzeh appreciates things that many Canadians take for granted: “the freedom of speech, the fact that education is provided for the general public, and that everyone is respected regardless of age, race, gender and other personal matter.” She also appreciates that she can continue cooking the food that she loves: “a traditional Persian dish called Fesenjoon – an aromatic mix of walnuts and pomegranate molasses that makes it an incredible mix of savoury and sweet and sour, with chunks of chicken.”

If you’re reading this, and would benefit from upcoming workshops at Libraries related to employment, please review a few options available at:

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Champions for Impact

DSC_0538The Library Champions Project has been in operation for over two years now and continues to grow. Newcomers to Canada are recruited by libraries throughout BC as champions for libraries who reach out to their own community to educate others about the services available within. In the process of educating, these Champions gain a deeper insight as to services available within libraries and communities, meet new people and make fast friends.

In addition to educating others, Library Champions:

Help other newcomers realize they are not alone in this new and strange world.

“During the outreach period, one day I met an old woman in my apartment. She looked somewhat lonely and wanted to talk with me. I tried to talk with her about the library, telling her she could go to Richmond Public Library. There are what she needs including Chinese books and people who can talk with her in her mother tone. The old woman is from Shanghai, speaking Shanghai dialect. I told her I could help her communicating with library staffs. I could see her appreciation in her eyes when I made appointment with her to see each other at the library gate.”

Help strengthen existing communities.

“I handed out the flyers to a lot of Chinese moms. Then I told them what I was doing and what the project will benefit us. Although most of them had already had library cards and had used some of the facilities in the library, they were quite unfamiliar with the new features such as ‘good online stuff’ and ‘study room reservation’. Also they were all interested in the program itself and were eager to know how to become champions. I successfully and proudly shared my experience and gave them the relevant information. I was so happy that I could make presentation in public! I was so happy that I could do something for our community!”

Become more confident in their own abilities.

“What I have experienced through this experience is that I get more confidence in public speech. This is due to have presentation to different groups and organization which I believe was a great achievement for me.”

Library Champions are trained by facilitators in three training sessions. The first training session focuses on communication skills (listening, public speaking and cross-cultural communications) as well as settlement (how difficult it is to be a newcomer, and the cultural changes that come with this). The second session focuses on orientation of the libraries – language collections, programs and services. The final session focuses on outreach – creation of an outreach plan, how to ensure personal safety and knowing boundaries.

There have been more than 530 Library Champions from over 60 countries in the world who have connected with more than 39,000 newcomers. Impactful does not even begin to describe what these volunteers do for their communities and their libraries.

We’re currently looking for new Library Champions in Vancouver and Richmond. If you would like to connect to your community, if you would like to make a difference in someone’s life, and if you would like to make a difference in your own life, please visit us for our next information session.

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Thursday Night Law School: Immigration

eventsTrying to navigate the information available on the Canadian Government website can be overwhelming. When it comes to immigration, you want to be sure you have a very clear understanding of what you’re doing in order to make the process as smooth as possible. Enter the Richmond Public Library.

On Thursday, October 8th, lawyer Robert YC Leong will present the intricacies of the Canadian Immigration system. He will outline the issues that permanent residents face trying to complete the immigration process including:

  • Meeting the residency obligation and renewing PR cards;
  • Becoming a citizen;
  • Sponsorship of spouses or parents
    and Immigration issues faced by temporary residents (workers, students, visitors)
  • Changes to the Caregiver program
  • 4-year cap for temporary foreign workers
  • Path to permanent residence under Economic Class – Express Entry

The People’s Law School is a non-profit charitable society providing public legal education and information to British Columbians. Not only do they offer workshops, like the one above, they also have publications and multimedia as well as referral services covering topics from consumer law, paying taxes, wills and estates and more.

If you’re interested in this workshop, or finding out more about the People’s Law School, click on the calendar, find the workshop on October 8th and register.

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Words To Live By

There is a story within each and every one of us. As a new Canadian, your story is rich in cultural experiences, world-views, triumphs and struggles. Written stories offer insight into experiences and history; an author’s ability to share their innermost experiences to educate, challenge beliefs, offer connection through location and time, and deepens understanding of the world. Quiet time to absorb the journey of the characters allow reflection, connection, and insight into our own beliefs and values. If written well enough, stories invoke action for change.

Vancouver Writers FestThe Vancouver Writers Fest is coming. The diversity of the writers and experiences are rich. Some of the events scheduled for this event are particularly timely. With the Syrian refugee crisis at its peak, these will resonate with those who have overcome the odds to build a life in a new country:

Michel Chikwanine, a refugee to Canada, will speak about his traumatic experience as a child soldier in ‘Finding Freedom.’

As a teenage refugee to Canada, Michel Chikwanine found it hard to relate when his high school friends complained about their privileged lives. He was only five when Congolese rebel soldiers descended on an after-school soccer game, forced him and his friends into trucks and carted them off into the jungle to be trained as child soldiers. In his graphic novel, Child Soldier: When Boys and Girls are Used in War, Chikwanine retells the traumatic experience – the horrors of which didn’t end when he escaped. Now a vocal peace advocate, Chikwanine has spoken to more than 100,000 people across North America, inspiring audiences young and old to believe in their ability to create change.”

Against All Odds follows. Writers Michel Chikwanine and Tanya Lloyd Kyi present a “riveting discussion about why people act the way they do in the worst imaginable circumstances and what we can learn about surviving and thriving.” Tanya Lloyd Kyi wrote ‘When the Worst Happens,’ intense stories of survival.

Of course, many of the estimated 60 million undocumented refugees do not, or cannot share their stories. Words for the Undocumented features four authors who write fictional accounts to bring compassion to stories of “desperation, hope, and with luck, a better life.” By bringing fictional characters to life, the reader is able to better understand why people risk everything to leave their country behind.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Vancouver Writers Fest, visit their website, Facebook page. If you want to read the books ahead of time, head over to your local library. The festival is scheduled for October 20 – 25, 2015.

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An Election is Coming…







Of course,  you already know this.

What you may not know is how to understand the complexity of the Canadian political landscape. How does the Canadian Government and Elections work? What are the current election issues? Why is it important to vote?

The North Shore Community Resources Society has put together a series of workshops to help newcomers and first time voters understand the Canadian political landscape.

Workshop 1: Civics 101: How our Government & Elections Work
What is government? Discuss the characteristics of the Canadian system of government and democracy. 

Workshop 2: Democratic Values and Experiences + Current Election Issues
Share your personal experiences and discuss current federal election issues. 

Workshop 3: Overcoming Voter Apathy + Public Life Beyond the Vote
How to encourage others to participate in public life. 

You can also join the conversation online with #NSDemocracyCafe to learn more.

An election is coming. Get the facts and vote!

North Vancouver City Library 120 West 14th Street
Saturday Mornings| 10:00am – 12:00pm
September 19, 26 & October 3
Register through the online calendar at

West Vancouver Memorial Library 1950 Marine Drive, West Vancouver
Evenings | 7:00pm – 9:00pm Mondays
September 21, 28 & Tuesday, October 6
Register through the online calendar at

Parkgate Community Centre 3625 Banff Court
Tuesday Evenings | 7:00pm – 9:00pm
September 22, 29 & October 6
Register at 604-983-63

North Vancouver District Public Library: Lynn Valley Library 1277 Lynn Valley Road
Wednesday Evenings | 7:00pm – 9:00pm
September 23, 30 & October 7
Register at 604-984-0286, ext. 8144

North Vancouver District Public Library: Capilano Library 3045 Highland Blvd
Thursday Evenings | 7:00pm – 9:00pm
September 24, October 1 & 8
Register at 604-987-4471, ext. 8175

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