Tuesday, March 21, 2017 2:30 pm ·  2 Comments
With all the controversy swirling around the United States regarding the banning of Syrian immigrants, I thought that this would be an excellent time to see how the Syrian Refugees who were sponsored by a coalition of faith groups in Oakville were doing.
About 2 years ago, as Canadians watched in horror to what was happening to Syrians at the hands of their own leader, a group of dedicated individuals from Oakville’s faith groups came together. They knew they wanted to do something to help, and out of this meeting came the decision to sponsor a Syrian family. So they raised the money, found a willing landlord in Mississauga, and filled out the mountains of paper work and waited. They were told that it would take at least one year before the family would be processed.
The Harper government wasn’t too interested in bringing in a group of refugees, especially those from Syria. The concern was that anyone from Syria was a security threat. Does this sound familiar? This became a hot potato for Prime Minister Harper, because for the first time Immigration became a Federal Election issue. Mr. Trudeau took the opposite point of view, and indicated he would agree to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees if he was elected. As we all know, Canada has accepted a significantly higher number since the Liberals took power.
The idea that all the refugees from Syria were terrorists was absurd, and Mr. Trudeau knew that accepting 25,000 people out of millions gave Canada the pick the very best and brightest. The refugees had already been pre-screened by the United Nations, prior to them entering the Refugee System. Canada did a secondary vetting to ensure that there were no cracks in the system.
Shortly after the Liberals took power, Oakville’s Syrian Refugee family was given the green light to come to Canada. A total of 7 made up our family, so I thought it would be enlightening to see how they were doing, now that a year has passed. The Dad was an engineer and his wife looked after the home. They have 5 children of which the last two are twins. They lived in a Refugee Camp for 3 years prior to coming to Oakville.
The family is now self-supporting. The father and the two older boys are already employed, and the mom is taking English and is close to the top of her class. The four younger ones are enrolled in school for the first time in several years, and are fitting in nicely. They are all being tutored in English.
This has also been an enlightening experience for the volunteers as they get to know this new family who have gone through hardships that are hard to comprehend. It has brought the various faith groups together with a common goal. This was the first time in Canada that Christian, Muslim, and Jewish faith groups came together to work on a common goal.
We are seeing this desire to respect each keep growing, such as when the Jewish and Christian groups created a ring of peace around the Quebec Mosque that was bombed. And in Oakville, after all the recent threats to the Jewish community in Toronto, the local Muslim community reached out to Oakville’s Rabbi Wise to offer similar support.
There is a great deal of negative rhetoric towards newcomers, but what is more important is the outpouring of positive action to embrace peace, respect and love. Are there going to be a few bad apples in this group, the answer is yes. However, that mass majority of these newcomers are so grateful to find a safe, tolerant, and embracing country.
More information about how you can help a Syrian Refugee family can be found on the Government of Canada website: Help Refugees. If residents would like to help local refugees they can do so through the Oakville Community Foundation’s Resettlement fund. The OCF currently provides coverage on the town’s monthly portion of the bus pass and have issued over $22000 of passes in the past year. They have also supported many newcomers with housing subsidies, mental health and culturally sensitive programming through local charities like the YMCA.
If you have a story to share about newcomers experience in Oakville, please comment below.