Hundreds of Winnipeggers came together Sunday in a push to get Arabic language classes included as an option for students in Manitoba schools.
Adults and children filled the Winnipeg Grand Mosque on Waverley Street to get more information on how to get Arabic into the school curriculum.
"It is the first step in a long process to know what the options [are]," Ibrahim Eldessouky said.
The crowd heard advice from a consultant from Manitoba Education and Advanced Learning. He explained that the likelihood of getting Arabic classes into the public school system is dependent not only on demand, but on the volume of students from Arabic-speaking families in different parts of the province.
"If we have large volume in one school it could be implemented easy," said Eldessouky, who helped organize the meeting. "If we are scattered ... we don't think it will be accepted."
Eldessouky said the fast-growing Muslim and Arabic-speaking community is growing in Manitoba, thanks in part to the arrival of Syrian refugees.
If German, Ukrainian and Spanish languages are able to be taught in schools across the province, Eldessouky said Arabic should be as well.
"Arabic language is very important for not only Arab but for all Muslims," he said.
According to Statistics Canada, there were almost 12,500 people who identified as Muslim in 2011. Eldessouky said that number has grown to about 15,000 since then.
"We need the 15,000 people, at least their children and next generation, to speak Arabic," he said.
Unlike areas like Montreal, Toronto and British Columbia, Manitoba is still behind the curve when it comes to offering Arabic language courses in school, Eldessouky added.
"We are struggling here," he said. "It's very important."
Eldessouky said currently, families who want their children to learn Arabic have to enrol them in weekend language classes.