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A young Syrian refugee’s father holds her and a Canadian flag after arriving at Pearson International Airport on Dec. 18, 2015. (MARK BLINCH/REUTERS)
A young Syrian refugee’s father holds her and a Canadian flag after arriving at Pearson International Airport on Dec. 18, 2015. (MARK BLINCH/REUTERS)

Where would you take a new Canadian this summer? Add to ...

Ali Khan is seeing his city through new eyes.

After watching images of Syrian refugees risk their lives to escape the country last summer, Khan and his wife, Ashley Hilkewich, joined a private sponsorship group. A Syrian family of four arrived in the couple’s hometown of Toronto in February.

“We’ve developed a strong social bond with them. We see them as our friends, not new Canadians,” says Khan, who works as a director at an insurance company.

Khan credits one of his new friends, Amir Al Jabouli, for giving him a greater appreciation for his city. “I took Amir to the Toronto Reference Library. He was fascinated that he had access to free books, videos, resources in different languages and a good place for his kids to play and read.”

The experience reminded Khan not to take these resources for granted. “Now, I am grateful for libraries. I ask myself, ‘why buy a book if you will only use it once?’ ”

Jesse Giddings grew up watching his parents help refugees from Kosovo and Myanmar settle into his hometown of Langley, B.C. It had a lasting impact on the photojournalist, who is best known for his gigs as co-host of The X-Factor USA and a correspondent with E! News.

“My parents took newcomers on road trips to show them more of Canada,” says Giddings. Seeing others fall in love with Canada “showed me how lucky I was to be living here.”

Since then, Giddings has travelled the globe and his passion for all things Canadian has grown deeper. “This country has incredible landscape and diversity. I encourage everyone to explore it.”

Have your say in the comments: Where would you take a new Canadian this summer – and why?

Amanda Lindhout, journalist, activist, author of A House in the Sky: A Memoir (2013)

“I was born and raised in Alberta and am always proud to show off the Rocky Mountains. Canmore was my home for the last six years and this magical mountain community must be one of the most beautiful places on the planet. The short but spectacular hike to Grassi Lakes is my favourite place to take people.”

Gregg Saretsky, president and CEO, WestJet

“I have been in the airline business for more than 30 years, which has given me the opportunity to see much of Canada. I was born and raised in Quebec, went to school in Vancouver, and now live and work in Calgary, and yet I would pick Newfoundland. It offers a unique mix of harsh weather and breathtakingly stunning scenery with some of the warmest and friendliest people you’ll ever meet. It is also home to Gros Morne National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site.”

Jesse Giddings

“I would rent bikes in Vancouver. We would ride around Stanley Park, go over the bridge to Kitsilano Beach and then onto Granville Island. I would then take them on a gondola ride to the top of a mountain for some hiking.”

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