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South Simcoe Police launch Newcomers Academy

While the South Simcoe Police Service has been running a citizen’s police academy for years, the one hosted throughout the month of May had a twist.

Instead of seniors or other residents, it has helped in the past; the community services department specifically hosted newcomers to Canada once a week.

“I’m from a family of newcomers. My parents came over here from Switzerland many years ago, but growing up with parents who had to learn the language and figure out resources and all of that. That definitely played a part,” said South Simcoe Police Special Constable Elisabeth Aschwanden.

The month-long course, which ran for two hours every Tuesday in May, gave people integrating into a new country a chance to understand their surroundings better.

Many students who participated in the program are lawyers, doctors, and teachers but have had to restart their lives in Canada. Coming from all across the globe, the newcomers could connect and ask questions about settling into a new culture without worrying about their language barrier.

“Road safety, fire safety, settlement services, mental health, employment, food bank. Any possible resources that they could access that are actually free in Bradford, they were here,” said Tiffany Tyrrell-Shand, a job developer with CONTACT Community Services.

With many students from countries that fear the police, it was a chance to build trust and comfort in asking for help.

“It’s a little scary, police. But here in Canada, in Bradford, they are really friendly, and I like it. I’m happy to be here,” said Ratnova.

Officers said they noticed a big difference in the demeanour of each participant from when the class first began until Tuesday’s graduation.

“Today, it was can we take pictures and hugs and asking how to contact me if they need to. So, I think that’s a big takeaway because we can always put them in touch with the community partners as well. So they’ll always have that,” said Aschwanden.

The Newcomers Academy program also allowed the now-local residents to meet others facing the same drastic life changes.

“There are a lot more people in Bradford that are not from Canada than they realized. There is such a huge community of different cultures, diverse cultures that they can connect with on different levels about different things,” said Tyrrell-Shand.

While this is the first year for the Newcomers Academy, officials with South Simcoe Police said this is a program they hope to continue for years to come.

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