'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

  • Russia warns Syrian-Kurdish YPG must pull back or face Turkish army

    World News CBC News
    Russia warned Syrian-Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) forces on Wednesday they face further armed conflict with Turkey if they fail to comply with a Russian-Turkish accord calling for their withdrawal from the entire length of Syria's northeastern border with Turkey. Source
  • Once considered a pest, Alberta's official fish is now under threat

    Canada News CBC News
    For decades bull trout would be removed from a fishing line and left to rot in the sun. Alberta anglers considered the once-abundant fish as unwanted predators, feeding on more favoured trout species such as brook trout and brown trout. Source
  • Boeing quarterly profit drops 53% as Max grounding takes heavy toll

    World News CBC News
    Boeing Co cut production of its flagship Dreamliner and delayed the arrival of a successor to its 777 mini-jumbo, piling new pressures on a rejigged senior management team as the continued safety grounding of its 737 Max sliced third-quarter profits. Source
  • Has the Harry and Meghan photo in the Queen's reception room disappeared?

    World News CTV News
    TORONTO -- A framed photo of Prince Harry and Meghan appears to have been removed from a table in Queen Elizabeth II’s Buckingham Palace reception room, as questions continue to swirl about a possible rift within the Royal Family. Source
  • Body of missing Alabama girl found at a landfill; 2 being charged

    World News CTV News
    BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Investigators searching through garbage found the body of a 3-year-old girl who was missing more than a week, and authorities are charging two people with murder, police said Tuesday. Birmingham Police Chief Patrick Smith told a news conference that the remains of Kamille McKinney were located in a trash bin that had been taken to a landfill. Source
  • Google says it has achieved 'quantum supremacy' computing milestone

    World News CBC News
    Google said it has achieved a breakthrough in quantum computing research, saying an experimental quantum processor has completed a calculation in just a few minutes that would take a traditional supercomputer thousands of years. The findings, published Wednesday in the scientific journal Nature, show that "quantum speedup is achievable in a real-world system and is not precluded by any hidden physical laws," the researchers wrote. Source
  • Iraq violated human rights in protest crackdowns that left 149 dead, UN report finds

    World News CBC News
    Iraqi authorities committed serious human rights violations and abuses in their response to a wave of anti-government protests earlier this month that saw 149 civilians killed, the United Nations said. In a report by its Human Rights Office published late on Monday, the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) said there was evidence security forces had used excessive force against protesters and made mass arrests. Source
  • Indian troops kill 3 senior Kashmiri militants

    World News CTV News
    SRINAGAR, India -- Indian forces have killed a top militant commander and his two associates in a counterinsurgency operation in Indian-controlled Kashmir, police said Wednesday. Hamid Lelhari and his associates were killed Tuesday evening in a gunfight that erupted after Indian security forces launched a counterinsurgency operation in southern Awantipora area, said Dilbagh Singh, chief of police in Indian-controlled Kashmir. Source
  • Online name calling between Alberta, N.L. an unexpected post-election fallout 

    Canada News CBC News
    Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador have a lot in common, including a shared economic reliance on oil, but the comments of social media users took on a disturbing twist after Monday night's federal election. In Newfoundland and Labrador, six of the seven seats went to Liberal incumbents; in Alberta, voters chose Conservative candidates in all but one of its 34 ridings, shutting out the Liberals. Source
  • Norway downplays terror fears over injury to toddlers

    World News CTV News
    COPENHAGEN -- Norway's domestic security agency says early investigations into the injury of two toddlers in a stroller on an Oslo sidewalk by a man driving a stolen ambulance "doesn't look like a terrorist incident. Source