Welcoming Ottawa Week begins for newcomers in the capital

Lauren Roulston • Jun 18, 2024

Welcoming Ottawa Week 2024 commences by celebrating community ambassadors (@OLIP_PLIO/X)

Welcoming Ottawa Week (WOW) runs every year in the capital with the aim of welcoming newcomers and immigrants to the community. The Ottawa Local Immigration Partnership (OLIP) plans the annual string of events, and this year it’s running from Jun. 17 to Jun. 30. 

Partners, organizers, and planners alike gathered at Invest Ottawa yesterday to kick off WOW2024. The day began with a launch breakfast reception where they recognized Welcoming Ottawa Ambassadors.

“Those are individuals in the community that go far and beyond to help newcomers feel at home,” explains Jean-Pierre Niyitanga, communications officer for OLIP. 

He’s worked there since 2020. “It’s been an incredible journey to see people connect together,” he says. 

This year’s reception celebrated David Pepper, Doreen Katto, Heather Wacyk, Jacques J.M. Shore, C.M., Joan Turner and Joe Connor. Niyitanga says well over a thousand people have been nominated as ambassadors. 

Each year WOW’s diverse and free events touch on different elements of life for Ottawa’s newcomers to become acquainted with. This year, they’ve got over 140 lined up.

“We get a mix of events every year,” says Niyitanga. 

The tours of neighbourhoods like Chinatown, Little Italy, and Vanier are popular, for example. These spots in Ottawa have a rich history of immigration, he says  

There are also events that highlight civic engagement, where elected officials will talk about citizenship ceremonies or town hall meetings. 

Mayor Mark Sutcliffe at yesterday’s launch event (Parujee Akarasewi/CHUO)

OLIP partners with many local organizations to set up the days of events. Many of the groups they work with provide different integration and settlement services. 

“It could be a school board, it could be a hospital,” says Niyitanga. He says these gatherings are helpful for those trying to figure out where to enrol their kids in school or daycare, or how they can get a health card, for instance.

“For newcomers, in general integration is not something easy,” he says, himself an immigrant from Rwanda. “It’s a long time and process.”

As of 2023, there are roughly 8 million immigrants with permanent residence living in Canada, which make up a sizeable portion of the country, roughly 20 per cent according to Statista

Statistics Canada reports that last year 471,771 permanent immigrants from around the world made Canada their home. A major part of the journey for many of them is settlement and integration. 

For Kiyitanga, Welcoming Ottawa Week’s sporting events, cultural celebrations, workshops and guided tours are an important display of unity.

“The fact that the community as a whole comes together to host those events, it creates that opportunity for newcomers to meet a neighbour, to meet people at their work,” he says. 

What’s more, it gives them the chance to feel more at home in a new city. “It all starts with creating that bond and breaking that ice so that people can feel that they belong to the community.”