'They're amazing people in our community': RISE Awards celebrate immigrants in Edmonton

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The 17th anniversary of the Recognizing Immigrant Success in Edmonton (RISE) Awards was held Friday at the Edmonton Expo Centre.

The RISE Awards started in the wake of the 9/11 tragedy in New York as a way to celebrate and honour the work that immigrants do in Edmonton, according to the executive director of the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers (EMCN).

"There was a rise in xenophobia and racism, and we thought, 'Hey, they're amazing people in our community, they're community builders, let's celebrate them,'" said Meghan Klein.

The EMCN started the RISE Awards in 2003 to recognize "individuals and local organizations for their commendable service to building strong communities through social, cultural and economic development," according to the organization.

"One of the shocker stats when I started in this role is that one in four Edmontonians was actually born outside of Canada," said Klein. "Think about that and think about our city, it is being built by people who came from all over the world.

"It's a pretty important and large segment of our community."

On Friday, the seven recipients of the 2021 awards were also honoured, after that year's event was cancelled due to the pandemic.

The EMCN also celebrated its 40th anniversary at the event Friday, though Thursday actually marked the organization's 41st anniversary, added Klein.

"(EMCN) started with three Mennonite churches, and they wanted to help the people who were coming over from Vietnam who were coming over as refugees," said Klein. "We're still doing it today with people from Afghanistan and from Ukraine and from all over."

The RISE Awards were emceed by CTV News Edmonton's chief meteorologist Josh Classen.