Fruit­i­cana CEO Tony Singh

gives Gift of Gro­ceries to Syr­ian Refugees

Asian Journal - - Front Page - Ray Hud­son

Sur­rey: “When I ar­rived in Canada at the age of ten, our neigh­bour in­vited us over for din­ner,” said Tony Singh, Pres­i­dent and founder of the highly suc­cess­ful Fruit­i­cana chain of stores. “It was so spe­cial, and it meant so much, that I can still re­mem­ber what we had, and showed me what be­ing a Cana­dian was all about. Now it’s my chance to give some­thing back, to give th­ese refugees from Syria that same feel­ing.” “Ac­tions that are pos­i­tive, help build com­mu­ni­ties and pro­duce pos­i­tive re­sults,” says Singh. “I be­came a suc­cess­ful busi­nessper­son and Cana­dian be­cause of a sim­ple pow­er­ful mes­sage. I am sure many of th­ese refugees, es­pe­cially the chil­dren, will go on to make many pos­i­tive con­tri­bu­tions to Canada in the fu­ture.” In a spe­cial pre­sen­ta­tion at the Sur­rey Wel­come Cen­tre, Singh pre­sented each fam­ily with a week’s worth of gro­ceries. Ul­ti­mately, he in­tends to pro­vide 500 food bas­kets to refugee fam­i­lies. The bas­kets con­tain a wide ar­ray of prod­ucts from fruits and veg­eta­bles to eggs, Philadel­phia Cream Cheese, or­anges, ap­ples and ap­ple juice, bas­mati rice, dates, flat breads, Dan­ish But­ter Cook­ies, teas as well as snacks and treats for the chil­dren. In 1994, Tony Singh, Founder and Pres­i­dent, care­fully planted and nur­tured a seed by es­tab­lish­ing a small pro­duce store in Sur­rey called Fruit­i­cana. Nearly 20 years later, that seed has blos­somed into a gro­cery-store em­pire that now en­com­passes 500 em­ploy­ees, 18 lo­ca­tions across BC and Al­berta and an­nual sales of more than $100 mil­lion. Fruit­i­cana has been re­cip­i­ent of var­i­ous awards and ac­co­lades. Tony Singh was named Busi­nessper­son of the Year from the Sur­rey Board of Trade, while Fruit­i­cana was rec­og­nized as the Best Ethic Gro­cery Store. He has re­ceived a Cul­tural Di­ver­sity Award, a Con­sumer Choice Award of Canada, an In­ter­na­tional Trade Award for Large Busi­ness from the Sur­rey Board of Trade, and the Premier’s Peo­ple’s Choice Award for 2014 Busi­ness BC Awards. Tony Singh, an ad­vo­cate for small busi­ness, firmly be­lieves in giv­ing back to the com­mu­ni­ties that have con­trib­uted to his suc­cess.

• the BC Jobs Grant boosted to $1.5 mil­lion with $1 mil­lion specif­i­cally for refugees, to as­sist in skills up­grad­ing, cre­den­tial recog­ni­tion, even where doc­u­men­ta­tion is lost.

• $2.6 mil­lion to pay for work as­so­ci­ated lan­guage skills, through ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions and ser­vice providers.

• 30 ad­di­tional pro­fes­sional in­ter­preters hired in the health ser­vices Fleet­wood MLA Peter Fass­ben­der, Min­is­ter of both Tran­slink, and Sport and Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment, in re­ply to a ques­tion about refugees run­ning out of money for food, said that emer­gency funds were avail­able for such cir­cum­stances. Christo­pher Kerr – Act­ing Di­rec­tor Gen­eral of the Western Re­gion Im­mi­gra­tion, Refugees and Cit­i­zen­ship Canada, re­ported that11, 600 Syr­ian refugees are now in Canada. “The next mile­stone is to wel­come an ad­di­tional 15 thou­sand by the end of Fe­bru­ary to meet the 25 thou­sand com­mit­ment,” said Kerr. “BC has re­ceived over 1000 refugees al­ready and will re­ceive about 2000 by the end of Fe­bru­ary and up to 3,500 by the end of the cal­en­dar year.” He said they are also work­ing on a new pro­gram called Fam­ily Links that arose as a re­sult of the Syr­ian Com­mu­nity in Canada ex­press­ing an in­ter­est in fam­ily re­uni­fi­ca­tion, by fa­cil­i­tat­ing Syr­ian refugees bring­ing their rel­a­tives, who fled Syria, to Canada but lack the means to pur­sue pri­vate spon­sor­ship. For more in­for­ma­tion, peo­ple should check out the IRCC web­site at english/refugees/wel­come/overview.asp Chris Friesen, the Di­rec­tor of Set­tle­ment Ser­vices of Im­mi­grant Ser­vices So­ci­ety of BC (ISSBC), which is the pri­mary agency han­dling the refugees, re­ported that in the last 5 weeks they had opened seven tem­po­rary cen­tres and that ISS had brought on 50 ad­di­tional Ara­bic speak­ing staff. He of­fered some sta­tis­tics about the refugees:

• One in four Syr­i­ans ar­riv­ing in Canada are un­der six years old.

• 38% are school-aged, 61% are un­der 18 and very few speak English or French. “Our spe­cific tar­get,” said Friesen, “in­cludes women at risk, lone par­ent fam­i­lies, chil­dren with phys­i­cal im­pair­ments and those who suf­fer with some trauma con­di­tions. But the one thing they have in com­mon is their grat­i­tude to this coun­try for giv­ing them the op­por­tu­nity to re­build their lives.” The big push right now is for per­ma­nent ac­com­mo­da­tion in Sur­rey, Delta, Co­quit­lam, Burn­aby and New West­min­ster. ISS has a team of seven full­time staff work­ing on that chal­lenge right now. If any­one in the pub­lic can help with per­ma­nent ac­com­mo­da­tion, please con­tact the Im­mi­grant Ser­vices So­ci­ety at 604.684.5683 or go on­line at Bill Fordy, Chief Su­per­in­ten­dent in charge of the Sur­rey RCMP said “It’s im­por­tant that as a com­mu­nity, each of us rec­og­nize that cur­rent stereo­types of new­com­ers or refugees, might per­pet­u­ate un­nec­es­sary fear. One of those mis­con­cep­tions is that they pose a threat to our na­tional se­cu­rity. From a se­cu­rity per­spec­tive the new­comer pop­u­la­tion is a low risk, specif­i­cally youth, women and the el­derly.” “In pre­par­ing the refugees still over­seas, the RCMP has been de­ployed to Am- man Jor­dan, in or­der to en­gage with the Syr­ian refugees and gain an un­der­stand­ing of their needs and ex­pec­ta­tions from a law en­force­ment per­spec­tive, to an­swer ques­tions they may have about law en­force­ment in Canada as well as to share with them cor­re­spon­dence and ma­te­rial that has been de­signed here in Sur­rey and trans­lated into Ara­bic. Ul­ti­mately it’s about build­ing pos­i­tive re­la­tions with a pop­u­la­tion that tra­di­tion­ally sees po­lice as cor­rupt, as agents of the rul­ing regime and some­thing to be feared as op­posed to be­ing trusted.” Fordy said of­fi­cers here will re­ceive ad­di­tional prepa­ra­tion in­clud­ing train­ing on po­lice deal­ing with vul­ner­a­ble per­sons. He will iden­tify Ara­bic speak­ing of­fi­cers to de­velop guides and cor­re­spon­dence. Once the refugees have ad­justed to their new com­mu­nity, Sur­rey RCMP will en­gage with them more proac­tively. De­pend­ing on their spe­cific needs at the time, they will con­duct new­comer fo­rums, school talks and a so­cial me­dia cam­paign to ed­u­cate Sur­rey res­i­dents about their new neigh­bours. Judy Villeneuve, a Sur­rey City Coun­cil­lor, Co-Chairs the Sur­rey Lo­cal Im­mi­gra­tion Part­ner­ship (LIP) with Anita Hu­ber­man CEO of the Sur­rey Board of Trade. It has been work­ing on the refugee is­sue for sev­eral years and is re­spon­si­ble for the re­search and con­sul­ta­tions in the de­vel­op­ment of the Im­mi­grant and Refugee Set­tle­ment Strate­gic plans, for those refugees com­ing to Sur­rey. One of the most an­tic­i­pated speak­ers of the evening was Ma­teen Aminie, a 19 year old im­mi­grant who ar­rived in Canada when he was 13 years old. He works for Sur­rey Crime Preven­tion So­ci­ety and has the goal of be­com­ing a po­lice of­fi­cer. He ex­plained his ca­reer choice was the re­sult of a se­ri­ous as­sault he suf­fered at the age of four­teen. “I was re­turn­ing from work when I was se­verely beaten,” said Aminie. “With the help of Sur­rey RCMP we got through it. Over­seas peo­ple fear and hate the po­lice, and I came with the same per­spec­tive. But when I came into con­tact with the RCMP over the as­sault, it to­tally blew my mind. It changed my mind how help­ful and ded­i­cated they were in do­ing their job. I ex­pe­ri­enced be­ing a vic­tim of crime and not know­ing how the le­gal sys­tem works. I went through it my­self and I know it’s stress­ful, but that’s one of the rea­sons I’m here tonight talk­ing about my ex­pe­ri­ence “I think Canada is the best coun­try in the world,” Aminie said. “I’m orig­i­nally from Afghanistan, but I was born in Pak­istan. I never had any sta­tus. Canada was the first coun­try to give me sta­tus, and it’s an hon­our for me to be part of this amaz­ing coun­try and I’m look­ing for­ward to serv­ing this coun­try one day.” There was a large rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the city’s so­cial agen­cies in­clud­ing The Sur­rey School District #36, DI­VERSEcity, SUC­CESS, PICS, ISSBC, PCRS, and the Mus­lim Food Bank, of­fer­ing many op­por­tu­ni­ties for the au­di­ence to in­ter­act with those agen­cies. It is ob­vi­ous that a great many peo­ple are con­cerned that the new­com­ers have a pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence from the start, with many peo­ple and or­ga­ni­za­tions pre­pared to con­trib­ute ev­ery­thing from ma­te­rial goods to time and tal­ent to par­tic­i­pate in in­for­mal Con­ver­sa­tional English meet­ings at var­i­ous venues. For fur­ther in­for­ma­tion on vol­un­teer­ing, con­tact any of the men­tioned agen­cies.

Photo: Ray Hud­son

Photo: Ray Hud­son

Tony Singh gives the first bags of gro­ceries to Syr­ian fam­ily.

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