They don't call us the 'heart of the continent' for nothing. Winnipeg sponsors more refugees than any other community in Canada. And Africans are our newest and fastest-growing group of refugees.
Today we present the Africa edition, a Free Press editorial project designed to explore the city and province's ties to the continent.
The newsroom has been working on it for several months, co-ordinated by deputy editor Julie Carl.
There are more than 30,000 Africans currently living in the province, and in many small ways, as the stories on the following pages will show, they have had an impact on our schools, workplaces, community centres and churches.
Reporter Larry Kusch found almost a dozen powerful non-governmental organizations headquartered in Winnipeg -- including the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, Canadian Lutheran World Relief and Mennonite Central Committee -- that have been making a difference in Africa for decades. Read Larry's story.
This is a significant time for this edition. Fifty years ago, in 1962, Canada finally removed racial discrimination from its immigration policy.
Up until then we had a 'preferred nationalities' system that discouraged Chinese, East Indian and 'Black' immigrants. Canada led the way on the issue, opening the nation's doors to all qualified peoples regardless of race or colour, inspiring Australia (in 1973) and the United States (in 1978) to follow suit.
Today, immigration is the lifeblood of this province. If not for its aggressive and successful immigration strategy, the province and its economy would be shrinking. We welcomed more than 15,000 immigrants last year alone.
On the following pages, you will find an array of news stories, from overwhelmed immigration services to climate change, from successful entrepreneurs to life-transforming driving lessons, from gang recruitment to after-school programs.
We thank Sen. Roméo Dallaire for his guest editorial for the edition, on page A10. And John Longhurst for his extraordinary 'Lessons Learned,' which give us a glimpse of the impact of Africa on local volunteers.
Just for fun, reporter Carol Sanders talked to an array of Africans on why they came and their first impressions of Canada. The word 'cold' kept cropping up, for some reason. Read Carol's "Faces of Africa."
On one of the coldest days of the year, we offer a bridge to somewhere warm. Welcome to the Africa edition.