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Welcome! Bienvenue! Ahlan!

November 28th, 2016

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Photo: the Institute for Canadian Citizenship/Andrew Williamson

Imagine the joy of exploring an art museum following a harrowing move to a new country. This year we said welcome, bienvenue, and ahlan to nearly 100 Syrian newcomers who took part in two special afternoons at the AGO, discovering Canadian art and learning about the country they now call home.

AGO Education Officers led the group on a Gallery tour with assistance from volunteer Arabic interpreters with the Institute for Canadian Citizenship’s Cultural Access Pass program (new Canadian citizens themselves). They discussed Canada’s identity through nature, the history of Toronto and Ontario, stories of Canadian immigration, and the diverse backgrounds and traditions that make Canada so unique.

The family-friendly field trip was organized by the AGO in partnership with the Institute for Canadian Citizenship (ICC) as part of the ICC’s Ahlan Canada program, which works with its Cultural Access Pass partners to develop Canadian cultural attractions tours to welcome newcomers. As a founding partner of the program, the AGO hosted two of the 20 Ahlan Canada visits planned across the country.

“It was an amazing experience,” says Yasmine Mohamed, manager of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship’s Cultural Access Pass program. “The tour and activities really helped the kids connect with Canadian culture, and in turn inspired their parents and grandparents. It was wonderful to see such a multi-generational approach to learning.”

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Photo: Institute for Canadian Citizenship/Andrew Williamson

The fun didn’t stop when the tours ended. As one group left the Gallery, with AGO Kids’ Activity Bags in hand, the children jumped onto the bus with smiles on their faces. Even the traffic jam they faced on the highway didn’t faze them as they took on an art project of their own, sculpting animals with plasticine and learning the names in Arabic and English.

If you know any Syrian newcomer families who want to get to know Canada through free cultural events, please connect them with Ahlan Canada. Are you a new Canadian citizen? Sign up for the ICC’s Cultural Access Pass and receive free admission to participating cultural organizations, including the AGO, for a year!

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