toronto police refugees

Toronto police officers have been helping strangers move into their homes

Moving into a new home is a stressful endeavour, and any fan of the classic TV sitcom Friends knows all too well how troublesome moving furniture can be.

Add in the anxiety and uncertainty of relocating to a new country as a refugee, and the stress of moving can be a truly traumatic experience. Luckily, newcomers to Toronto are finding help from an unlikely source in the local police service, part of a project assisting new Canadians for almost two years.

Toronto Police Constable Mustafa Popalzai shared a recent account on social media where a family of new arrivals was given a helping hand (technically four helping hands) by officers, who delivered furniture to the family in a time of need.

Popalzai tells blogTO that "the family was a newcomer/refugee to Canada recently from Afghanistan with a couple of kids," one of whom is living with a disability.

Officers visited the family on Sunday, April 23, at their new home in the Thorncliffe Park area, a hub for newcomers and refugees.

Popalzai says the family "did not have any furniture or a bed to sleep on for his kids, so we were able to deliver a donated piece of furniture to him."

"So far, we have personally visited and assisted hundreds of homes, and we are in touch with over 200 families who we have assisted so far through our project," says Popalzai.

Across the two-year program, Popalzai says that close to $580,000 (donations in kind) has been handed out personally by participating officers, stressing that "most of this work is on our own time, outside our work duties as we are very busy."

Popalzai himself understands the importance of community resources for newcomers, as he and his family arrived in Toronto as refugees after fleeing the Taliban in Afghanistan in the summer of 2001.

Over two decades later, he has established himself as a lifeline for newcomers from Afghanistan, a role that has only grown in importance since the Taliban reclaimed power in 2021.

"The reality is that the majority of newcomers to Canada from certain regions from around the globe have never trusted Police and/or law enforcement in their lifetime due to their past negative experiences in other countries where, unfortunately, policing was nowhere near what it should be," says Popalzai.

"It is important for them to understand that the police, laws and the judicial system in Canada are much different. And yes, if the Police can deliver a piece of furniture to assist a newcomer with kick-starting their new life in Canada, then they WILL!"

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