ORT HAWKESBURY: Making newcomers feel welcome – be they refuges, immigrants, or just people from away – was the goal at the heart of the Nova Scotia Community College’s Welcoming Newcomers event held at the NSCC Strait Area Campus.
“We want to create an annual event where we celebrate immigration and newcomers to the area,” said Strait Area Campus principal Tom Gunn. “We believe immigration is good for our area and good for Nova Scotia. There are lots of people who want to say welcome, and we want to show that.”
The event took place on October 18 and hosted people from throughout the local area. A number of Syrian refugee families were at the venue, but Gunn explained the event wasn’t just meant for the newly-arrived Syrians. At one point, a show of hands revealed a host of cultures were in attendance, including people originally from India, the Philippines, France, and a number of other countries.
Indeed, the stars of the show were members of a family originally from Holland.
“Tonight is focusing on Ted and John VanZutphen, and their incredible story of immigration and the impact it’s had on Inverness County and quad-counties really,” Gunn said. “We’re fortunate to have them.”
The VanZutphen family came to Canada from Holland 65 years ago, and in 1964, John and Ted started their first company, Zutphen Contractors, which has become one of the most successful construction companies in Atlantic Canada. In 1977, the Zutphen brand expanded to include Ideal Concrete and, in 2007, Zutphen Contractors partnered with ECC to form Nordlys Environmental.
The family was also very successful in terms of farming. In addition to their success in the business world, Gunn pointed out the VanZutphens have supported virtually all charities and good causes in Inverness County.
Stories like that, Gunn said, show the positive impact of immigration on Nova Scotia.
“We know that immigrants bring new ideas and new perspectives and create jobs,” said Gunn, “and tonight we want to celebrate that.”
Gunn went onto say he and the NSCC were happy to honour John and Ted VanZutphen as community innovators.
The brothers were presented the first-ever NSCC Community Innovator Award. Both spoke at the event and thanked the NSCC officials for the honour.
“Hard work and determination will move mountains and get you where you need to go,” said John. “That’s very true, especially with a little education. We didn’t have that, but we survived.
“My father immigrated here with 11 of us, and that was the best move he could make. We appreciate very much that he decided to come here and give us this chance.”
Ted said that it was great to see so many people from diverse backgrounds under one roof.
“People need to give immigrants a chance to show what they can do,” he said. “They have experience, knowledge, and they will be good citizens.”
Serving as the night’s keynote speaker was Danny Graham, a lawyer and Chief Engagement Officer with Engage Nova Scotia. Graham is originally from Antigonish and a former Leader of the Nova Scotia Liberal Party and MLA for Halifax Citadel.
In speaking about his work with Engage Nova Scotia, he said the least like us often teach us the most.
“What you are modeling in this community is the best of the demonstrations of what it means to be your brother and sister’s keeper,” he said. “It creates the hope that one day, more and more, we’ll find ways to love our neighbours.”

Danny Graham of Engage Nova Scotia was the keynote speaker at the Welcome Newcomers event held at the NSCC. He’s seen here being presented a gift package from faculty member Vivek Saxena and, held high, is a box of chocolates made by Peace By Chocolate. The company is owned by the Hadhad family of Antigonish, who came to the area as a result of the Syrian conflict.
Danny Graham of Engage Nova Scotia was the keynote speaker at the Welcome Newcomers event held at the NSCC. He’s seen here being presented a gift package from faculty member Vivek Saxena and, held high, is a box of chocolates made by Peace By Chocolate. The company is owned by the Hadhad family of Antigonish, who came to the area as a result of the Syrian conflict.
Amanda Mombourquette, the executive director of the Strait Area Chamber of Commerce, is assisted by Vivek Saxena, the Academic Chair of the Strait Area Campus’ Nautical Institute, in selecting the winner of ‘People Bingo.
Amanda Mombourquette, the executive director of the Strait Area Chamber of Commerce, is assisted by Vivek Saxena, the Academic Chair of the Strait Area Campus’ Nautical Institute, in selecting the winner of ‘People Bingo.