Residents of Cochrane know that it is a beautiful, safe, and friendly place to live, and those attributes are becoming more apparent to the world outside its boundaries.  

Recently, Statistics Canada released the immigration numbers in Canada. The result showed almost a quarter of Canada's people were or are immigrants or permanent residents and that Canada is leading the way in immigration more than any other G7 country.  

Consequently, those stats are trickling down to our part of the country and Cochrane is seeing more immigrants than ever before. However, what is at the centre of this story is that our town is becoming a model of inclusivity for welcoming newcomers. Cochrane is being recognized by other parts of the province and country as a role model in how to make newcomers feel at home in the community.  

Rockyview Immigrant Services is the rural project for the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society which oversees the operation of the Cochrane Immigrant Services Committee (CISC). 

Fleeha Ahmad is the Program Coordinator and Settlement Counsellor for Rockyview Immigrant Services (RVIS). She also chairs the Advisory Board for the Cochrane Immigrant Service Committee (CISC) Both positions provide her the opportunity to witness, firsthand, the increase of immigrants arriving in Cochrane and the area. She says, “Right now, we have the highest volume of Ukrainian arrivals coming to Cochrane and settling, and I believe we have over 100 right now.”  

Ahmad’s work takes her outside of our area to attend and speak at conferences about immigration in Vancouver, Halifax, Lake Louise, and Claresholm. The feedback that she has received from those meetings is that “They are seeing and noticing the acceptance of the diverse and inclusive community that Cochrane is becoming by the day. But not only that but the way it is setting up a role model to build a sense of belonging for each person.”   

Ahmad says, “I’ve been called to various communities to do presentations as to how we are doing that. How we are involving volunteers, how we're building that sense of belonging that people don't feel they are newcomers. They feel this is their community, and they're part of it, and they want to do everything to be part of it.” Naturally, gaining such a reputation takes a lot of work, passion, and dedication from many people. 

For example, the Cochrane Immigrant Services Committee is an organization that started as a very small group of service providers and a couple of volunteers back in 2014. It has grown to become a society with board members and a handful of volunteers who work very hard to support their vision that, “All immigrants and newcomers are welcomed, engaged and can be actively involved in all aspects of community life in Cochrane and area. Everyone has access to, and knowledge of the services needed in order to pursue their goals.” 

The vision is being realized and the results are being noticed far and wide. The Cochrane Immigrant Services Committee has worked hard to build a relationship with citizens and municipal and provincial representatives. Ahmad believes the support of the town council and our local MLA is invaluable “...making that effort and taking the time and setting an example for the rest of the community.”  

CICS works hard to host numerous events in our community such as an annual Citizenship Ceremony, Christmas Day Celebration, and Newcomer Welcoming events. Partaking in local food drives and community cleanups. In 2019, they held their 1st Annual CultureFest celebration that highlighted 18 cultural performances and 16 interactive learning opportunities. This year, they hosted CultureFest 2022, post-pandemic, which was strongly attended. It was held in conjunction with National Culture Days. In 2020 due to the pandemic, they created a COVID-19 safe event called the Amazing Cochrane Culture Hunt held in conjunction with National Culture Days and highlighted 11 cultures.  

Stats Can projects that by 2041, immigrants will make up one-third of the national population and undoubtedly Cochrane will continue to see an influx of newcomers as well. CISC is already feeling the need to expand to keep up with the growing demand for its services. They are currently looking for an Executive Director to help with the work.

Cochrane's success as an accepting, inclusive community and a model for other communities is due in part to its generosity. “Cochranites are so generous in tackling the need. […] Local agencies like FCSS, RVIS, Prospect, the food bank, and FRN all collaborate so tightly and well together that it is if one expresses a need, everybody is on board to tackle that need. So, I think that is another success factor,” says Ahmad. 

If you would like to be a part of the positive impact our community has on newcomers, you can learn more about the Cochrane Immigrant Services Committee by clicking HERE

For more information about Rockyview Immigrant Services (RVIS) click HERE.