By Adam Brazeau
CORNWALL, Ontario – The Cornwall Public Library hosted its second annual multicultural event – a celebration of the different ethnicities and customs that are a part of our colourful city.
Over 45 members attended from the TR Leger Immigrant Services’ Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) and English as a Second Language (ESL) programs.
Among the group was Bertha Puis Argote, a Cuba-born Ingleside resident who became a Canadian last year.
She proudly showcased jewelry, sculptures, and various other artifacts from her hometown of Varadero.
Argote has been studying English for only six months and has already established a foundation with the language.
“I love it so much here – it’s beautiful,” said Argote. “The people are so friendly.”
Booths lined the library’s hallway with representatives of 17 nationalities, including Egypt, Thailand, Sri Lanka, China, and Pakistan.
Organizer Rabia Zeeshan, a settlement outreach worker for TR Leger Immigrant Services, said the main goal of the event was to showcase the city’s different cultures so residents can learn more about them.
Zeeshan and Pierre Dufour, the library’s communications and programs coordinator, are hoping that it lives longer than two years.
“It’s very easy to find information on different cultures on the Internet, but it’s not the same thing as actually meeting the people themselves,” said Zeeshan.
This year, the event expanded from its original multicultural fashion show format and featured various community agencies that offer services to newcomers.
Jessica Wyatt, public educator and volunteer coordinator for Maison Baldwin House, said a lot of women who are newcomers to Canada use their services.
The Cornwall women’s shelter stays in close contact with TR Leger to ensure its clients understand the city’s domestic abuse laws.
“It’s important they know there are free and confidential services available they can contact if they’re in a dangerous relationship,” said Wyatt. “Just because they’re seeking refuge from abuse doesn’t mean they’re going to lose their immigrant status.”
The event also coincided with the kick off Culture Days, a national event founded in 2009, which runs from Sept. 25-28.
“We are a cultural centre and embrace all cultures as we always have,” said Dufour.