Exiled Tibetans arrive in Calgary under resettlement plan

Calgary is home to a growing number of Tibetan exiles due to the work of a non-profit organization.

Canadian government, non-profit group co-ordinating move of 1,000 Tibetans over 5 years

Calgary is welcoming a growing number of Tibetan exiles as part of the federal government's five-year plan to help 1,000 people immigrate to Canada from northeastern India. (Project Tibet Society/Facebook)

Calgary is home to a growing number of Tibetan exiles due to the work of a non-profit organization.

At the Dalai Lama's urging in 2007, the Canadian government agreed to facilitate the immigration of 1,000 exiled Tibetans over a five-year period starting in 2013 — but it isn't providing funding for the program.

Instead, a Canadian non-profit called Project Tibet Society is covering all the costs, including language and job training.

"We're able to provide them that leg up, if you will," said Nima Dorjee, who runs the group. "We provide them with transition housing for the first two months and an individual mentor so that they can succeed."

All of the exiles coming to Calgary are from one of five settlements in a disputed state in northeastern India called Arunachal Pradesh.

India has sheltered the Tibetan exiles in the region — which China says is part of Tibet —  for almost 50 years, but for those in the refugee camps, education can be difficult to access.

Many have to leave the camps and their families if they are able to attend boarding school and only return every few years.

Tibetans hope for 'great life'

Over the past few several years, Project Tibet Society has been working with Citizenship and Immigration Canada as well as the Home Department of the Central Tibetan Administration to ensure the immigration process follows the public policy set out by the federal government.

According to the federal government's policy on the immigration project, the Tibetans coming to Canada must be matched with approved sponsors and must not be inadmissible on grounds of security, criminality, war crimes and crimes against humanity, organized crime, health and misrepresentation.

Fifteen of the exiles arrived in Calgary Saturday night and despite being travel-weary they were excited about getting a new start in Canada.

"I hope all of us have a great life over here," said 24-year-old Sherab Choedon.

The 15 who arrived on Saturday are among 26 Tibetans — all single and between the ages of 24 and 45 — arriving over the course of the week, according to the Project Tibet Society.