The arrival of Syrian refugees at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport is being seen as a sign of hope by Campbell River’s Syrian Refugee Support Committee.
The group has been working since September to bring over a family of 13 Syrians, reuniting them with Campbell River’s Fouad family.
“Yesterday I was watching the Prime Minister welcoming the newcomers to Canada and I couldn’t stop crying,” said Merrell Fouad whose relatives are the ones the committee is working to relocate to Campbell River. “I was wondering, ‘Is it going to happen (for us) soon?’”
The welcoming of the first of an expected 25,000 Syrian refugees is being seen as a possible boost to the committee’s efforts to welcome the 13 Fouad relatives they’re sponsoring. They’re not part of the refugee wave that has left Syria for neighbouring countries and which Canada and other countries are relocating but Merrell Fouad believes Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s support for the refugees will impact independently-sponsored Syrians.
Fouad used to think that it was going to take a year to bring them to Canada but now they have reason to think it will be significantly less.
“Instead of it being a year, we are hoping we will get them here in three-to-four months,” Fouad said.
In the meantime, the paperwork required by Immigration Canada has been completed and is now under review by the Sponsorship Agreement Holder lawyers. The 13 Syrians make up six families and so each family is a separate application.
Each application involves three separate forms with about four pages and multiply that by six – it’s a lot of forms.
But the paperwork is done and now it’s a matter of waiting for the process to work its way through.
In the meantime, the committee has set a goal of raising $150,000 to house, feed and settle the families in Campbell River. The committee is sponsoring the refugees, so they are responsible for them for a year; that’s why so much money is needed. So far, the group has raised more than $50,000 since September.
That has been done through a dance in the fall – that garnered mention in the Toronto Globe and Mail – individual donations and fundraisers by local people that range from a popcorn, dessert and movie night to a fundraising dance on Quadra Island, the band Inclusion raising $729 from a two-hour concert event.
“I would love to thank the community for their support and standing for us,” Fouad said.
There has been some debate in the community about the impact of refugees on the community, some of it negative. The issue has been raised in light of the current effort to raise money for the homeless in Campbell River.
But Fouad said they won’t be a burden to the community.
“They are hard workers and intelligent and well-educated people,” Fouad said.
Mary Cook, a member of the Campbell River Syrian Refugee Support Committee, said “My joke about Merrell’s family is that if they’re not an accountant, they’re engineers.”
The refugees will be vetted by the Canadian government and Fouad says they welcome that.
With the potential earlier-than-expected arrival of the refugees, the committee is planning the details of how they will support the family as they begin their lives in Campbell River. Their needs will include housing, household items, and services like language classes, medical supports, and more. The committee welcomes contributions from the community on those fronts.
If you would like to keep up with the progress or contribute to the committee, like their Facebook page – Campbell River Syrian Refugee Support Committee – or contact Mary Cook at firstname.lastname@example.org. Financial donations are accepted at St. Peter’s Anglican Church (note Syrian Refugee on the cheque) or you can visit their Canada Helps page to make a donation (St. Peter’s Anglican Church Syrian Refugee Support Committee).
You can also mark your calendar for the upcoming Sadie Hawkins Dance on Feb. 27, 2016.