'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

  • Plane crashes southwest of Edmonton

    Canada News CTV News
    EDMONTON -- Emergency crews are on scene of a plane crash in the Thorsby area. The call came in around 1:40 p.m. on Saturday. RCMP told CTV News Edmonton there is no information yet on injuries or fatalities. Source
  • Trump set to nominate staunch conservative Amy Coney Barrett to Supreme Court

    World News CBC News
    U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday is set to nominate Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, capping a dramatic reshaping of the federal judiciary that will resonate for a generation and that he hopes will provide a needed boost to his re-election effort. Source
  • Thousands of Israelis protest in Jerusalem, despite lockdown

    World News CTV News
    JERUSALEM -- Thousands of Israelis gathered outside the official residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday night to demand his resignation, pressing ahead with weeks of protests against the embattled Israeli leader despite a strict new lockdown order. Source
  • Toronto Public Health orders 3 restaurants to close to slow COVID-19 spread

    Canada News CBC News
    Toronto Public Health has ordered three restaurants on King Street West to close to protect the public from COVID-19. In a news release on Saturday, the public health unit said the restaurants are: MARBL, 455 King St. W.; King Taps, 100 King St. Source
  • Nevada woman accused of bitcoin murder-for-hire plot

    World News CTV News
    RENO, NEV. -- A federal grand jury in California has indicted a Nevada woman accused of trying to hire a hit man on the internet for $5,000 in bitcoin to kill her ex-husband. Kristy Lynn Felkins, 36, of Fallon, is accused of communicating with someone in 2016 on a website that purported to offer murder-for-hire services. Source
  • Brazil's Bolsonaro released from hospital after surgery

    World News CTV News
    RIO DE JANEIRO -- Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro was released from hospital Saturday, the government said, a day after he underwent surgery to remove a bladder stone. "The president... was released from Albert Einstein Hospital in Sao Paulo this afternoon at 1:30 pm," said a brief statement issued by the communications ministry and signed by Bolsonaro's medical team. Source
  • Mexico to pursue soldiers, federal police in abduction probe

    World News CTV News
    MEXICO CITY -- Mexico has issued 25 arrest warrants for those who carried out and knew about the abduction of 43 students in southern Mexico in 2014, including for the first time members of the military and federal police, the Attorney General's Office announced Saturday. Source
  • Greek police seize 500,000 ecstasy pills, arrest 3 people

    World News CTV News
    THESSALONIKI, GREECE -- Greek police said Saturday they have seized 500,000 ecstasy pills and arrested three people. The operation took place Friday in Thessaloniki, Greece's second-largest city, police said. The street value of the pills was 10 million euros (CAD$15.5 million). Source
  • How Trump, Biden are preparing for first presidential debate

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- Ahead of the first debate-stage matchup between U.S. President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden, each campaign is promising a stark contrast in policy, personality and preparation. Trump has decided to skip any formal preparation. Source
  • Scores arrested in protest against Belarus' president

    World News CTV News
    KYIV, UKRAINE -- Hundreds of women calling for the authoritarian president to step down protested in Belarus' capital on Saturday, continuing the large demonstrations that have rocked the country since early August. Police blocked off the centre of Minsk and arrested more than 80 demonstrators, according to the Viasna human rights organization. Source