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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

Tibetans find warm welcome as they reach new home in Calgary

January 20, 2014

By Damien Wood

January 19, 2014 - Setting foot on Canadian soil for the first time feels good, Namgyal Tsering says. His plane touched down in Toronto, before Calgary, but he never got off the plane.

Coming down the escalator at Calgary International Airport into the arrivals hall, it’s the real deal — an end to more than 20 hours in the air, a long journey from India to Canada for the 35-year-old Tibetan and seven others.

“I’m excited to see Canada,” he says. “We are happy to be here.”

These eight Tibetans — the first of 400 planned to relocate to Calgary over the next three to four years via Canada’s Tibetan resettlement program — are greeted by people presenting white scarves called “khata,” and cookies, traditional symbols of goodwill.

Project Tibet Society President Nima Dorjee explains when this process started some five years ago, 8,000 Tibetans living in India were asked if they’d like to come to Canada.

Of those 8,000, 7,000 said yes. The resettlement program will allow for 1,000, country-wide.

“They were stateless, and they had been (stateless) their whole lives and living in India,” Dorjee says. “(Because of) the political situation for Tibet and the occupation of Tibet by China ... that issue continues.

“Many of them remain stateless ... 150,000 Tibetans are living in India today.”

Life in India is good, but tenuous at best: They must renew their application to continue living there every six months, Dorjee explains. Canada is the end of that, he says, and the beginning of opportunity.

“We will work hard — we came here to work, mainly, and to mix in with different types of people,” Tsering says.

Tsering already has the education to back his working — many of those already landed and those coming do, too.

Dorjee explains Project Tibet Society will work to integrate them into Canadian life.

“That’s upon us. We’re excited for the fact (that we can) make a difference in a thousand lives,” Dorjee says.

Calgary is to be a destination for many of those lives. It’s expected 90 of the 400 coming here will arrive by June, and the number should be 200 by the end of the year.

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