Submitted by Steven Lorenzo Baileys, Community Development Coordinator
For many Syrian refugees, the police are often feared and avoided at all costs in their home country. Here in Greater Victoria, the police and RCMP are making efforts to inform and dispel the misconceptions and fears Syrian refugees understandably may have about police.
On August 26, police members from Victoria, Saanich and the RCMP, met with newcomer Syrian Refugees and their families at an information session hosted at the local Masjid Al-Iman Mosque. The event was organized by the Greater Victoria Police Diversity Advisory Committee (DAC), a police and community group which works to build understanding between police and diverse communities. ICA has been a long-time member of the DAC and, along with the Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society (VIRCS), helped to organize this event.
With the support of an Arabic translator, the event began with a welcome by Acting Vic PD Police Chief Del Manak. Manak welcomed the refugees and spoke about how his parents first immigrated to Canada in the early 1960’s from India – a country where police were also not trusted. Manak encouraged the newcomers to use every opportunity get to know police and understand that police are here to serve them and foster a positive relationship. Saanich Police Staff Sergeant Scott Treble then provided an overview about the role of police and the rights and responsibilities of residents when engaging with police. Treble also spoke with the refugees about how there is zero tolerance for domestic violence in Canada and to never be afraid to approach police with a concern. At the conclusion of the event, police and the refugee families got to know each other better over pizza and refreshments provided by the Masjid.
Presentations like this one are designed to help refugees better understand policing in Canada, in hope that they will feel more comfortable with police. According to Treble,
“Some of the refugees arriving in Victoria have had negative experiences with police in their home country of Syria or elsewhere. The idea of trusting police and understanding police are here to protect them is our goal … We wanted to meet with them and dispel myths refugees may have about police that are out there. Having the support of the community and the Masjid Al-Iman has also been invaluable to help police reach out to them, share information and build that needed trust.”