The Refugee Sponsors Network, a Central Okanagan grassroots coalition of volunteer groups who have sponsored and support local refugees, calls upon the parties to return to the bargaining table and resolve this strike. The strike has the greatest impact on vulnerable groups such as the newcomers and other low income Canadians, the disabled, and students. It must end now!
The Kelowna transit strike is having a major impact on newcomers who are trying hard to integrate into our community. The Okanagan is home to about 20 recently arrived families that our groups – volunteers of all faiths and ages – are supporting with our time and with funding from our community and from our governments. Most of these 120 newcomers, who came to Canada as refugees, cannot afford vehicles and rely heavily on public transit to get to English classes, workplaces, grocery shopping and health and employment services.
We also call upon the Province of British Columbia and the City of Kelowna to put pressure on the employer, First Canada, and on the union, to settle their differences. First Canada is a private company funded by the Province of British Columbia through Translink, and by the City of Kelowna, to provide public transportation. These government entities have a responsibility to ensure that this service is restored as soon as possible.
The Refugee Sponsors Network is a Central Okanagan multi-faith forum that brings together members of a dozen sponsorship groups active in the Regional District of Kelowna. The Network meets regularly to share experience and best practices to welcome refugees; it organizes community events and advocates for newcomers. It was created around the arrival, in 2015-2016, of 20 privately and government sponsored families to Kelowna and its surroundings.