New Brunswick

Surge in refugees forces Moncton multiculturalism association to expand

The number of refugees in Moncton increased exponentially over the past few years, stretching resources at the Multicultural Association of the Greater Moncton Area.

Association's staff increased to 65 from 27 as the number of refugees jumped to 374 from 50

Justin Ryan, spokesperson for the Multicultural Association of the Greater Moncton, says a large influx of refugees in 2016 taught the group important lessons in how to organize itself. (Kate Letterick/CBC)

The number of refugees in Moncton increased exponentially over the past few years, stretching resources at the Multicultural Association of the Greater Moncton Area.

The growth meant the association, which held its annual general meeting Monday night, had to grow as well.

Justin Ryan, a spokesperson for the association, said it had 27 employees in 2016, and the number has jumped to 65.

"In 2014 we saw 50 refugees over the entire year," said Ryan.

"In 2016 in the first 10 weeks we saw 374. So there was phenomenal change in how we had to organize ourselves."

Syrian influx

The growth of the association, driven largely by the influx of Syrian refugees, came with more than a few challenges.

"When five families arrive on a flight, we don't have five vans, we don't have five teams who are set to do that," said Ryan.

Board members, staff, various organizations and members of the public gathered at the Peace Centre in Moncton for the Multicultural Association of Greater Moncton annual general meeting. (Kate Letterick/CBC)

"We don't have five apartments to put them up in, so the entire nature of the logistics and the way we had to respond really changed quite fundamentally."

Vinay Wadnikop, the association's outgoing president, said the influx taught the organization important lessons, such as having a strong team of individuals in place.

Ryan said the association has gone from a grassroots effort to a midsize organization with long-term growth strategies.

Those strategies include the ability to respond to sudden surges in refugees, all the while dealing with changes in governments and policies.

"It takes a community to welcome a newcomer," Ryan said.

Immigration vital

New Brunswick's aging population means the province is going to be heavily dependent on immigrants, according to Wadnikop.

"I think that is where settlement agencies [play] a key role in terms of welcoming these new people, making them feel at home and making sure they get a job here and they make New Brunswick their home," Wadnikop said.

Outgoing MAGMA president Vinay Wadnikop says, with an aging population, New Brunswick is going to need more immigrants. (Kate Letterick/CBC)

Meanwhile, Ryan said, growing the population of the province is vital, and if not for immigration, there would be a net deficit.

"We're getting older and older, we're having fewer and fewer children," said Ryan.

"In order to fuel [the] sort of social and economic growth that we need, that drive is coming from all levels of government to attract and retain newcomers here which means that our job is only going to get busier."

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