'Welcome to Canada': Ont. sponsors greet early Syrian refugee arrivals

TORONTO -- Cheers erupted at Toronto's Pearson airport as two families of Syrian refugees emerged from the arrival gate Wednesday night and came face to face with those whose support brought them to Canada.

See Full Article

The newcomers appeared weary but moved by the sea of strangers awaiting them. Emotions shone through clearly, however, when they spotted a familiar face -- a friend from their hometown in Syria who had arrived as a refugee only a week earlier.

Mazen Khabbaz, 46, and his brother Ziad Khabbaz, 48, both embraced Rakan Almasri, who had waited with the crowd for more than four hours in order to welcome them.

The men were separated 2 1/2 years ago when the Khabbaz families fled to Egypt, said Almasri, 44.

"I missed them," he said. "It's wonderful to meet each other after that long time."

The eldest Khabbaz and his wife have three children, two of them teenagers, according to their sponsors. The youngest brother and his wife have four children between six and 16 years old.

The brothers spoke briefly through their friend, who acted as translator, saying they were surprised by the welcome and grateful for the help that Canadians and their government have provided.

When asked what they knew of Canada before their arrival, Mazen Khabbaz said: "We just think that Canada is the country of peace ... we will also participate in peace, making peace."

Though himself new to the country, Almasri pledged to help his friends adjust to their new home.

Their sponsors were also quick to take the families under their wing, handing out bags bursting with winter coats, clothes and children's backpacks.

Lubna Malik stood at the gate for hours flanked by her husband and other relatives, who took turns hoisting up a sign that read "Welcome to Canada Khabbaz family."

They learned Sunday that the two families would be arriving in a matter of days and had been scrambling ever since to get everything ready, she said.

For now, she said, the refugees will be staying with community members who have freed up their basement apartments in Milton, Ont., but only until more permanent lodging is found.

Malik and her husband are part of several families to join forces to sponsor Syrian refugees through a Muslim community group -- the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama'at.

"In Islam, we are supposed to help our fellow human beings," the stay-at-home mother of three said. "I think we all feel empathetic to them, these are people that were just like us and now they've lost everything.

"We are pretty much cancelling whatever we can because we just want to be there for them."

The group's spokesman, Safwan Choudhry, said the fundraising effort began only a few weeks ago, but the families had been on a waiting list for some time.

It was announced Wednesday afternoon that the first government airlift of Syrian refugees would arrive Thursday night.

The Liberal government has committed to resettling 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of February, with 10,000 of them set to arrive by year's end.

Temporary processing centres have been set up to handle the waves of newcomers at Toronto's Pearson airport and Montreal's Pierre Elliott Trudeau airport.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Death toll of April Stockholm truck attack rises to 5 after woman dies

    World News CTV News
    STOCKHOLM - A woman in her 60s who was injured in the April 7 truck attack in Stockholm has died, Swedish authorities said Friday, raising the death toll to five. The Stockholm police said in a statement the woman, who has not been publicly identified, had been hospitalized in southern Sweden. Source
  • British police say they've foiled active terrorist plot

    World News CBC News
    British police said on Friday they had thwarted an active terrorism plot after a woman was shot during an armed raid on a house in north London. Armed counterterrorism officers using CS gas stormed a house in the Willesden area of the capital on Thursday evening which had been under surveillance, shooting a woman in her 20s. Source
  • Sweden truck attack death toll climbs to 5 after woman's death

    World News CBC News
    Swedish authorities say a woman in her 60s injured in the April 7 truck attack in Stockholm has died, raising the death toll to five. In a statement Friday, the Stockholm police said the woman, who has not been publicly identified, had been hospitalized in southern Sweden. Source
  • Peaceful demonstrations held at UC Berkeley as Ann Coulter is a no-show

    World News CTV News
    BERKELEY, Calif. - Ann Coulter did not turn up in Berkeley where hundreds held a raucous but largely peaceful demonstration in her absence and lamented what they called the latest blow to free speech in the home of America's free speech movement. Source
  • South Korea hits back after Trump says country has to pay for THAAD

    World News CTV News
    SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of - Contradicting U.S. President Donald Trump, South Korea said Friday it has no plan to renegotiate a bilateral trade deal with the U.S., or to pay for the U.S. missile defence system being deployed on its territory. Source
  • Witness says execution of 4th inmate in 8 days in Arkansas was problematic

    World News CBC News
    Arkansas executed its fourth inmate in eight days Thursday night, wrapping up an accelerated schedule with a lethal injection that left the prisoner lurching and convulsing 20 times before he died. Kenneth Williams, 38, was pronounced dead at 11:05 p.m. Source
  • Human rights group demands India prosecute 'cow protectors'

    World News CTV News
    NEW DELHI - A human rights group has expressed concern over rising brutal attacks in India by self-appointed "cow protectors" against Muslims and lower castes over rumours that they sold, bought or killed cows for beef. Source
  • South Korea baffled by Trump comments on missile defence, trade

    World News CBC News
    Contradicting U.S. President Donald Trump, South Korea said Friday it has no plan to renegotiate a bilateral trade deal with the U.S., or to pay for the U.S. missile defence system being deployed on its territory. Source
  • Secret jail discovered in Philippine police station

    World News CTV News
    MANILA, Philippines - Philippine police relieved a station chief and his staff on Friday after human rights representatives discovered a secret jail cell inside the Manila station where a dozen detainees complained they were being held for extortion. Source
  • Arkansas completes execution schedule, kills 4th person in 8 days

    World News CTV News
    VARNER, Ark. - Arkansas wrapped up an aggressive execution schedule Thursday, putting to death its fourth inmate in eight days. Kenneth Williams, 38, received a lethal injection Thursday night at the Cummins Unit prison at Varner for the death of a former deputy warden killed after Williams escaped from prison in 1999. Source