Norfolk County has long been a haven for folks from all over the globe, something further evidenced June 14.

Beginning at Venture Norfolk in Simcoe, the municipality welcomed over 40 potential newcomers as part of a collaborative workplace.

In conjunction with the Newcomer Centre of Peel, and Venture Norfolk, Norfolk County welcomed a group of immigrants currently based in the GTA (most displaced due to conflict in Ukraine), toured sites in Norfolk searching for employees in welding, labour and trades, wine making, restaurant management and wait staff, farm help, truck driving, and more.

Stops also included Unilever and Toyotetsu Canada in Simcoe, Titan Trailers in Courtland, and Burning Kiln Winery in Turkey Point.

Deputy Mayor Chris Van Paassen addresses the tour.
Deputy Mayor Chris Van Paassen addresses the tour.

“It was a pleasure to do this,” said Chris Garwood, Norfolk County’s Economic Development Supervisor, said. “This is a very difficult time – the situation that they’re in was just out of this world, so we thought about it and said ‘how can we assist in any way?’.”

“We do have businesses looking for skilled labour and a lot of these people – the majority of them as a matter of fact – are skilled people,” Garwood continued. “So if we can utilize these transferrable skills in the community, absolutely that’s what we’re going to do.”

Norfolk County Mayor Kristal Chopp echoed Garwood’s sentiments. The visitors, seven of which had either accepted or received job offers prior to the tour.

“This is forward-thinking for economic development, exactly the kind of thinking we need to be using when looking to innovate and develop within the county,” said Mayor Chopp.

“We are confident that this event will be beneficial both for the County and the visitors as we hope to encourage them to relocate as new residents – inviting them to thrive in our community, fill employment vacancies, enjoy what our area has to offer, and contribute to bettering life in Norfolk County.”

The Brantford YWCA was on-hand to offer settlement service advice and the Joseph Brant Learning Centre with information on English as a Second Language (ESL) courses available. Fanshawe College’s Simcoe campus was also represented, providing options to courses readily available. A handful of local companies and volunteers donated snacks and goody bags.

Temporary housing for those wishing to relocate will be a hurdle. Some companies have gone so far as to provide accommodation and transportation for newcomer workers, but any local homeowners willing to host a family are urged to contact the Brantford YWCA at 519-752-4568 or visit their website for additional details.

“The most important thing, we have to be sure we find accommodations,” noted Oksana Andraos, one of the visitors, who is currently living in east Toronto.

Andraos couldn’t say enough about the efforts of Norfolk County and Canadians in general for all they’ve done to help those in her homeland.

“We feel the support from Canadians to Ukrainians and we thank you so much,” she added.

“All of us have so much thanks for the Canadian Government, the Canadian consulate, each place (that we’ve been) has given us a warm feeling and a family welcoming.”

The 2016 Census shows that over 2,545 of Norfolk residents have Ukrainian roots. As Deputy Mayor Chris Van Paassen pointed out, the County has a rich history of welcoming those from afar.

“If you look around Delhi, we have a lot of second, third, fourth generation Ukrainian immigrants from 100 years ago. My family came here from Europe,” VanPaassen said. “We’re built on immigrants, that’s what’s made this county strong and to bring some more here and make (Norfolk) their home, that would fit just beautifully.”