St. Thomas group aims to break down barriers through community conversation

The St. Thomas-Elgin Local Immigration Partnership hosted a public forum Thursday on the issues of immigration and diversity in the region.

Officials hope that people will walk away feeling more educated

St. Thomas-Elgin Local Immigration Partnership held the event on Thursday.

The St. Thomas-Elgin Local Immigration Partnership hosted a public forum Thursday on the issues of immigration and diversity in the region.

The event featured three guest speakers including Victoria Esses, psychology professor at Western University, who talked about media and its portrayal of immigrants and refugees.

Abd Alfatah Twakkal, who represents the London Muslim Mosque, talked about the religion of Islam and what it means to be a Muslim today.

Corrine Walsh, co-founder of Platinum Leadership, a London-based company that focuses on corporate change, spoke about the regional economic impact of immigrants and the demand for their skills and experiences in the labour market.

Tom Sproat, project facilitator, said it's more common for people to be curious and have questions.

"When you hear something like a flood of refugees, flood is a very weighted term and it doesn't have to be used," he said. That kind of terminology "paints a picture that isn't overall helpful," he added.

The public forum aimed to engage community members and "hopefully leave them feeling more educated," said Sproat.

Overall, Sproat said his community is a welcoming one to newcomers.

Back in December 2017, Toronto lawyer Mark Phillips attacked an immigrant family with a baseball bat. He pleaded guilty to one count of assault causing bodily harm and was given a conditional discharge with three years of probation.