New immigrants get taste of Canada and its history

YMCA Connections is a new series of programs for new immigrants to helps them integrate and settle in the Chilliwack area.

A series of programs at the Chilliwack Family YMCA is doing its part to welcome new immigrants to Canada, educate them about our history, and make them feel at home right here in Chilliwack.

YMCA Connections is made up of three new programs geared specifically for newcomers to Canada. It’s currently only offered in three cities in B.C., and Chilliwack –  along with Vancouver, Burnaby – is one of them.

“All of the programming helps them integrate and settle in the Chilliwack area,” said Linda Rubuliak, manager of YMCA Connections.

The Citizenship Preparation and Participation Course is a 10-week program where students learn from the Discover Canada Study Guide. The course takes place every Saturday morning for three hours and begins on Sept. 20.

Since it’s only offered once a year, those interested are encouraged to sign up now.

“We want to help people not just pass the citizenship test, but it’s more about how can we help people understand how to be a good citizen,” said Rubuliak. “So telling the story of Canada teaches them how we can be citizens together, such as by paying our taxes, volunteering, and voting.”

The Canadian Fitness Connection Courses blends fitness activities — such as hiking, cycling and yoga — with workshops about work and life in Canada.

And lastly, the monthly social and educational events which began in Chilliwack in May, bring groups of new immigrants together to learn about life in Chilliwack.

“The intent is to help people connect with each other, and the second is to practise their communication skills,” said Rubuliak.

Plus, they learn a brief history about the Chilliwack area and Canada, she adds.

In August, a small but chatty group of six new immigrants gathered at the Neighbourhood Learning Centre at Chilliwack secondary to learn how to make raspberry jam.

Beki Misener led the workshop. She talked about the history of canning in Canada which began in Prince Edward County, Ont. In the 1880s, nursery salesman George Dunning visited the Philadelphia Food Exposition where he learned about the new and popular industry of canning in the U.S., and brought it back to Canada

Misener grew up with canning and juicing, and it’s now commonplace in her young family’s home.

“It makes me feel good because I know I’m providing for my family,” she said. “This way you can control how healthy it is for your family, and you save money.”

She cans a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, as well as salmon.

“I like going to my pantry and opening it up and seeing what I can have today. It’s like having a little store right in your own home,” she said.

Her husband fishes and hunts, so they always have a freezer full of wild meat such as moose, bear, deer, and elk.

“Sounds like you have a safari in your freezer,” said Swan Lin from Taiwan.

Lin, who had never before tried homemade raspberry jam, was the first one to bring a handful of crackers over to the jars as they’re being filled, hoping to get the first taste.

She succeeded.

A dollop of hot jam was spooned onto a cracker and she immediately popped it into her mouth. A huge smile came across her face.

It tastes “sour and sweet and very fresh,” she said. “And the colour is very nice.”

As they started to make the second batch of raspberry jam, the workshop quickly turned from a Canadian history lesson into a world history lesson as each of the new immigrants chatted about how and what they can at home.

In Romania, they mix sugar and fruit and let it sit overnight instead of using pectin, says Aurica Carnaru, who hails from that country.

Sahar Beyram Abadi says they do the same thing in Iran. It’s also common to can carrots, apples, sour cherries, and quince.

In Taiwan, pineapple, green plums and grapes are popular canning fruits.

And in Ukraine, along with the typical Canadian canning fruits of peaches and strawberries and pickling cucumbers, they also can green walnuts, said Alina Protsiuk.

For another new immigrant, it was her first time making jam.

“No one back home cans,” said Patricia McLeod from Brazil, but she was pleased with the results.

“Awesome. Really good,” she said of the raspberry jam. “It tastes fresh and different than store-bought.”

Misener helped pour the last batch of jam into jars.

“You’re preserving a bit of heritage and what Canada is,” she said. “This is part of who I am.”

All three of the YMCA Connections programs are free for permanent residents who are immigrants.

To register, submit a completed application form (found at to, or call 604-685-8066.

You can also contact the local YMCA Connections program by calling Tara Cummings at 604-316-3576 or emailing

Applicants are asked to submit their forms as soon as possible as space is limited.