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Meka Okochi in his office

The Saskatchewan Urban Municipality Association is holding its 109th annual convention next week and this year’s theme is “Strength from Many People”.

 

CRA award winner, world-class long distance runner and former Ethiopian refugee, Ted Jaleta will be the convention's keynote speaker.

 

Jaleta is hoping to inspire the delegation by telling them his life story. He wants people to know about the great potential Saskatchewan and Canada has to offer immigrants.

 

Jaleta has lived in Saskatchewan for 32 years and will be sharing some of the things he has done to immerse himself into Canadian society.

 

Jaleta said there is often a lack of understanding when it comes to new immigrants. People often forget about the struggles refugee have gone through to survive daily life and thus when they arrive to Canada they cannot be expected to instantly adjust or grasp to our social norms.

 

He will be speaking to high school students at Balfour Collegiate later this week to educate young people about the challenges other people may face. Influencing a younger generation will help discourage the ideology that different is dangerous or bad. Jaleta said immigrants need to appreciate Canada for giving them a second chance and in turn Canada must appreciate the knowledge and diversity immigrants offer society.

 

Meka Okochi, vice president and economic development manager at Regina Regional Opportunities Commission could not agree more with Jaleta. Okochi, who was born in Lagos and educated in Tokyo, Paris and Sweden says, “The more diverse you are the more competitive you can be on a global scale.” Okocki said people living outside Canada are attracted to major cities like Toronto but they are quickly realizing the jobs are in small towns and cities.

 

We have a lot of talented people coming in but the question is how do we retain those people if the economy slows down? That is why we need to develop the right social and fiscal infrastructure, according to Okochi. He said businesses and government play a big part in keeping people in Saskatchewan.

 

“It's not just about making money. There is distance that money can get you to but it can’t buy you the whole package,” said Okocki. For him it means that we need to develop our music, art, cultural, and general attitude as a mosaic to really make immigrants feel like a part of the community. Okochi also said it is a great loss to our economy that high-skilled people, educated in foreign countries, are not given a clear path to meeting the requirements for working in Canada.

 

The notion of having a “Canadian experience” is something that people need to snap out of and just ask if people can do the job they have been trained, said Okochi. This is an issue that is sure to hold back our economy on a federal and provincial scale.

 

In addition to promoting diversity, the conference’s 1,600 participants will discuss a wide range of issues, including a reliable power grid in Northern Saskatchewan, burning of demolition material, policy levies and more, according to Laurent Mougeot, chief executive officer of SUMA.