Bhutanese Refugees say Thank You to Halifax

Yesterday afternoon, the Bhutanese families who have arrived in Halifax as government-assisted refugees over the last 18 months expressed their deep gratitude to the city of Halifax for welcoming them with open arms to their new home in Canada. The community met with Mayor Peter Kelly at City Hall. The event included speeches by the Mayor, Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia board chair Joe Malek, and community representative Bhagawat Pokhrel, as well as a presentation of music and dance by community members.

CBC News covered the event and the video can be found on their website. The Bhutanese piece starts around the 14 minute mark. Following that story, is another immigration piece about former Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia client Jacob Deng, so keep watching! Also, be sure to check out our photo gallery below!


Since July 2009, 32 families, comprised of approximately 130 people, have arrived in Halifax from refugee camps in Nepal. These families of Nepalese origin lived in the Kingdom of Bhutan for several generations until a change of government policy forced them to flee to refugee camps in Nepal in the early 1990s. Fifteen rounds of talks between the governments of Nepal and Bhutan on the Bhutanese refugees’ right to return have yielded no results. In 2007 the government of Nepal accepted the option of third country resettlement and Canada agreed to take 5,000 refugees. Since then, family groups have gone to every province.

Government-assisted refugees are identified for resettlement by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and supported by Citizenship & Immigration Canada.  In Halifax, Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia staff meet the refugees at the airport, take them to temporary accommodation, help them find permanent accommodation, orient them to life in Canada and provide a wide range of services through the initial settlement period.

The Bhutanese refugees in Halifax consist of multi-generational family groups who provide strong support for each other.  Bhagawat Pokhrel , the initiator of this event, is one of six members of the Pokhrel family who came to Halifax in the first group of refugees in July 2009.  He now serves as an interpreter and life skills worker with Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia, while continuing to improve his English and work part-time. Bhagawat’s parents, sisters and their families now also live here.

Joe Malek, board chair at ISANS says, “This is a wonderful success story. It is essential for the long term growth of our region that we welcome and successfully integrate newcomers. The Bhutanese are a resilient and resourceful group of people that has faced many challenges and continues to work hard to build their new lives in Halifax. They are already making great contributions to our community.”