Welcome to WOW!June 18, 2015
By Louisa Taylor
Co-chair, Welcoming Ottawa Week 2015
When I was a little girl, I sometimes accompanied my mother as she went door-to-door in our neighbourhood, collecting donations for the Canadian Cancer Society every spring. With yellow plastic daffodils pinned to our shirts, one of us would ring the bell or knock, then step back and wait. If we were greeted with a scowl and wary eyes, chances were high that we’d walk away empty-handed. But if the homeowner greeted us with a smile and welcomed us across the threshold, it was usually the first sign that everything was going to be okay.
The quality of a welcome matters, whether to strangers on our doorstep or immigrants landing here to make a new life. Do we leave new neighbours standing on the porch, do we shoo them away to another address or do we ask them how we can help? When you see someone standing on a street corner, map in hand, looking confused, do you walk on by, or pause and ask if they need directions?
Welcoming Ottawa Week – WOW – is seven days of celebrating our immigrant past and present, and sparking conversations about ways to expand and preserve that quality of welcome for new generations. It’s organized by the Ottawa Local Immigrant Partnership (OLIP), a coalition of local partners including the City of Ottawa, school boards, business leaders, social services and settlement agencies. OLIP created WOW in 2013 as an annual platform for community groups to highlight the strength in diversity and encourage personal connection between residents old and new. This year WOW’s partners have embraced the opportunity in record numbers. From June 22 to 28, there are more than 50 opportunities to learn about your city and your neighbours through sport, culture, the arts, storytelling and public discussions.
A key theme of this year’s WOW is the 400th anniversary of the French presence in Ontario, and Ottawa’s Francophone community has several events planned to mark the occasion, including a forum on cultural diversity and a walking tour of the historically Francophone neighbourhood of Vanier.
Other highlights of this year’s Welcoming Ottawa Week include:
- Third annual Ottawa Immigration Forum on Monday, June 22, where attendees will review the city’s progress and generate ideas for making Ottawa the most welcoming city in Canada
- Three documentary screenings on the subject of migration and integration at the Ottawa Public Library
- Qigong sessions at the Maplesoft Centre, organized by the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation
- Walking tour of Ottawa’s Indigenous history, by Indigenous Walks
- Community picnic at Mooney’s Bay organized by OCISO and open to students of English as a second language
- Persian dance workshop in Nepean on June 23
- Panel discussions on LGBTQ refugees and on homelessness among the immigrant population
- Annual Community Cup soccer tournament and picnic on June 28
There’s so much to tell you about! I’m honoured to be returning for a second year as honorary co-chair of WOW along with Sarah Onyango. In the coming days, this blog will be your place to find information on everything WOW. We’ll have new posts every day, including spotlights on specific events, links to local resources, background information and daily recaps once the week is under way. We’ll also have guest posts from event hosts and photos from WOW events across the city. Follow OLIP on Twitter for the latest updates and check out the OLIP Facebook page. Use our hashtag #2015WOW to share your photos and experiences.
WOW is about fun with a serious side: the health of Ottawa’s economy depends on immigrants. More than that, the strength of Ottawa’s social fabric depends immigrants feeling at home here, and raising children who feel they belong.
That’s why WOW isn’t just for newcomers. It isn’t just for old-timers, either – it’s for all of us who live in the capital and want it to thrive. So check out the 2015 WOW calendar of events, pick a couple that appeal to you and step outside your comfort zone. You are welcome.