OTTAWA -- Young women and girls who are new to Canada were invited to their first skating opportunity on Wednesday.

Hockey 4 Youth, a program that wants to make hockey more accessible, hosted the event at the Jim Durrell Arena.

The program was introduced to 53 new Canadians from Ridgemont and Gloucester High Schools in grades 9 to 12. The participants skated alongside teachers, volunteer coaches and Hockey 4 Youth staff. 

Organizers say while the event is dedicated to sharing one of Canada’s favourite sports, it is also meant to help enhance their English literacy skills at the same time. 

The program runs for 10 weeks. 

Hockey 4 Youth says the program is put on in co-operation with the Ontario Trillium Foundation, the City of Ottawa, OSEG Foundation and Osler. 

To date, Hockey 4 Youth has run programming in Toronto, Montreal and now Ottawa.

“Participants in the programming represent over 25 countries of origin including: Syria, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Yemen, Cuba, China, Brazil and Mexico,” according to Hockey 4 Youth. 

Organizers say, according to the institute of Canadian citizenship, 71 per cent of new Canadians express interest in hockey yet only one per cent will get an opportunity to play the game. The program is designed to change that.