It was a full class with students at full attention asking plenty of questions.
On Tuesday, 26 'students' filled a classroom at South Simcoe Police Service’s South Division building for the second class of the Newcomers’ Academy.
Held once a week for four weeks, the class features guest speakers from the police service and community partners who provide information about safety and community services to those in Bradford who have recently immigrated to Canada.
This week's class featured four presentations. Paul Dubniak, transportation technician with the town, spoke about BWG Transit schedules, routes, how to ride the bus and finding connections to regional transit services such as GO and York Region Transit. Dubniak handed out transit maps and schedules while the town donated transit passes worth 50 trips each.
Geoff McKnight, town CAO, spoke about the town’s history, services, council and opportunities with sports clubs and recreation.
“It’s a big name, but a small town,” McKnight said about the Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury.
He explained that while the population is currently at about 45,000, it is expected to grow to 85,000 in the future, partly as a result of newcomers making the town their home.
Const. Chelsea Trenouth spoke about the law, the Criminal Code and concepts such as assault, force, intent, consent and neighbour disputes. She also answered questions from attendees surprised to find marijuana legal in Canada.
Special Const. Elisabeth Aschwanden, who organized and oversaw the program, spoke at the end about everyday personal safety including walking, shopping, using elevators, going to the laundromat, vehicle safety and underground parking garages. She offered tips such as, keep a dog dish by the front door even if you don’t have a dog, keep your head on a swivel and trust your instincts.
Attendees of the class speak 10 different languages including: Ukrainian, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Russian, Czech, Farsi, Dari, and Turkish.
While there’s variety in the participants' cultural backgrounds, the reaction from attendees was consistently positive.
“It was good. It was great,” Mercan Firat said. “It’s very friendly ... and all the stuff is helpful for us.”
“It’s very good for me, because I just moved to Bradford, maybe one year ago, so I know about the safety of the community,” Alina Li said. “The safety is important for my family, because I have two kids, so I must know how to stay safe.”
“I love this class, I enjoy it. It’s very important for daily life,” said Karla Marin, who added she was surprised to learn about all of the different safety tips.
This is the first year Aschwanden has been able to implement the program.
“It’s my idea, my baby, from a few years back, but then it was on hold because of the pandemic, and then I got the green light to make it happen,” said Aschwanden.
She said the idea was inspired by the fact that her parents were also newcomers to Canada, so she grew up with that lens.
“One of the things we want to do as a police service is to reach out to people who are more vulnerable in our community — seniors, people new to our country — just to make them feel welcome and to understand what Bradford has to offer and what we as a police service have to offer, too,” she said.
When asked how she thinks it’s going so far she has a quick answer: “Fantastic!”
“Everyone has just been very engaged. Having interpreters I think has helped a lot,” she said. “I’ve heard from other members in the community, community partners, who say ‘people have reached out to us already.’ ”
While it’s too early to guarantee another instalment of the program next year, Aschwanden said it is “absolutely something we would like to try to do annually if possible.”
The last of the four classes for this year’s program runs next week, and is planned to include a potluck.
The program is already fully subscribed, but anyone interested in information about other community programs offered by South Simcoe Police Service can contact them by phone at 905-775-3311.