Good first step: Paula Shields

Welcoming newcomers reaps benefits for all

The beginning of what’s hoped will become a trend was celebrated at Salmon Arm Savings and Credit Union last Wednesday

The beginning of what’s hoped will become a trend was celebrated at Salmon Arm Savings and Credit Union last Wednesday.

In a continuing effort to help build a community that is welcoming to everyone and free of prejudice and hate, Shuswap Settlement Services Society presented SASCU with its Safe Harbour designation.

Ninety SASCU employees have taken the Safe Harbour ‘Respect for All’ workshops where staff are trained to identify and address discrimination in their workplace. The remaining staff will be trained in the coming months.

About 30 people turned out to watch Monday’s presentation, where SASCU CEO Michael Wagner was presented with a certificate that now adorns the entrance to the downtown location.

Wagner said when he and SASCU’s executive team heard about the Safe Harbour program, they realized it aligned completely with credit union values.

“Every employee has the right to feel safe.”

Vice president of the society, Paula Shields, spoke about how welcoming newcomers is of benefit to the entire community and economy.

“Salmon Arm’s future and economic growth is dependent on its ability to attract and retain newcomers. Increasingly newcomers to Salmon Arm are diverse in our looks, values and skills. The community must work together to help newcomers feel welcomed, valued and fully integrated into life in Salmon Arm, so that we can all benefit from our collective contributions.”

Shields said Immigrant Service Shuswap works with more than 40 community partners to provide services to clients in helping ease their transition. Workshops for all age groups are offered, providing peer-to-peer language support, assistance and guidance through the immigration process. Last year the society worked with more than 180 clients.

“We have monthly meetings open to the public which are an opportunity to come out and meet your neighbours. So I invite you to come out as we are always happy to see new faces and hear their stories and you will find that we are more alike than different,” she said, adding, “We look forward to engaging the municipal government in playing a leadership role in helping to foster an environment that is supportive of diversity and the inclusion of all who call Salmon Arm home.”

Society president Bernie Desrosiers said he would like to see the Safe Harbour designation spread throughout the community.

In a news release he pointed out that much prejudice is systemic in nature and less openly apparent than are overt acts of prejudice.

“For example, people of colour, gays or lesbians, Hindus and Muslims, or the disabled or mentally ill may experience more difficulty securing employment or services than do other members of the community. If we wish to see our community become a more ethnically mixed community, we need to make a special effort to include them in both the social and commercial sectors of the community.”

Those organizations wishing to become a designated Safe Harbour should email Immigrant Services Shuswap at immigrantservices@shaw.ca.

 

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