Ahlan Canada Story


In early 2016, the ICC joined the movement to help refugees displaced by the war in Syria. Our goal was to create a program that was free, family friendly, and fun. The result was Ahlan Canada, a program to introduce Canada to hundreds of Syrian families who’d just arrived, through some of its iconic cultural attractions.

The Ahlan program — Ahlan means welcome in Arabic — quickly became a favourite of the ICC staff and our cultural partners.  We pioneered Ahlan events with our founding partners at the Royal Ontario Museum and the Art Gallery of Ontario, and then expanded the program to include 15 cultural partners across the country. There were tours of Canadian exhibits, kids’ activities, visits to outdoor heritage sites, and two train trips on VIA Rail.

The key to every event was translation, and Ahlan Canada would not have been possible without the help of Arabic speakers who volunteered to bridge the language gap between the Syrian families and their cultural hosts. These weren’t professional interpreters, but rather everyday Canadians who answered our call for support. In all, 136 volunteers helped us host 786 Syrian newcomers at 20 Ahlan events across the country from March 2016 to January 2017.

Ahlan Canada, with its emphasis on community and culture, was a project of inclusion, a modest but warm welcome to a new home. At the ICC, it continues to inspire the work we do in creating connections and expanding access to our shared cultural spaces.


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