Afghan Newcomers Celebrated

By Brent Smyth

Brent Smyth


51 Division

On June 28th, the first day of Eid and just days before Canada Day, Project Hope, partnering with the Toronto Police Service and Afghan Nobel TV hosted a first-of-its-kind Afghan Newcomers Welcoming event.

Project Hope was started by Constables Mustafa Popalzai and Farzad Ghotbi, with the support of 51 Division, in August 2021 as thousands of Afghan refugees came to Canada after the Taliban government assumed control of the country. Both officers, refugees to Canada themselves, wanted to meet newcomers right away to ensure they had essential household items but also advice about the culture and laws of their new home.

They started with a truckload of donations of clothes, baby products and toys they brought to a hotel housing people who left the country with a suitcase at most. To date, Project Hope has donated more then $600,000 worth of goods to hundreds of families.

Approximately 800 newcomers to Canada attended the Welcoming event, which heard speeches from officers Popalzai and Ghotbi as well as Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie, the Honourable Bill Blair, Minister of Emergency Preparedness and President of the King’s Privy Council, the Honourable Michael Kerzner, Solicitor General of Ontario, His Excellency Hassan Soroosh, Afghanistan's Ambassador to Canada and other dignitaries, before various performances, awards and a shared meal.

Abdul Hadi is a newcomer to Canada who felt first-hand the help of Project Hope. 

Having worked in Afghanistan as a psychotherapist, he moved to Canada with his wife and two young children in June of 2022.

A man and little girl laugh
Abdul Hadi and his 5-year-old daughter Armita laugh before the newcomer's event Photo: Brent Smyth

He remembers the police greeting him at the hotel his family was temporarily staying in, and being added to a group chat with other newcomers and members of Project HOPE to act as a resource for any needs.

“The police are trying to build a good relationship with the community. They are helping us to know we should not have fear and that they can help us.”

He said the event helped him feel more welcome to the country because of the wide variety of speakers and supporters.

”I feel like I am now part of this society, it’s helping me meet other people and be able to use my skills to help people. It’s a good way we can be connecting with different people and opportunities.”

Chief Demkiw addressed newcomers directly in his speech.

“I know that many of you have faced uncertainty and numerous challenges throughout your journey to settlement, including language barriers, finding housing and employment, and adjusting to a new way of life so far from your home,” the Chief said. “On behalf of the Toronto Police Service, I would like to offer every newcomer here tonight a heartfelt welcome to Canada, your new home.” 

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