'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

  • Thanks but no: Queen turns down 'Oldie of the Year' title

    World News CTV News
    LONDON -- Queen Elizabeth II is Britain and Commonwealth's longest-lived and longest-reigning monarch. But don't call her an oldie. The 95-year-old queen has politely declined the honor of being named "Oldie of the Year" by a British magazine, saying she does not meet "the relevant criteria. Source
  • Anatomy of a kidnapping: Haitian woman recounts abduction

    World News CTV News
    SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO -- When Doris Michel steps outside her home in Haiti, she packs her bulletproof vest and tries to use a bulletproof car. Ever since her father was kidnapped last month in the capital of Port-au-Prince, the 34-year-old Haitian-American woman won't take any chances. Source
  • Jury selection resumes slowly in Ahmaud Arbery slaying trial

    World News CTV News
    BRUNSWICK, GA. -- Attorneys resumed questioning potential jurors Tuesday in the trial of three white men charged with chasing and killing Ahmaud Arbery, with several jury pool members saying they know the defendants or other people close to the case. Source
  • Taliban agree to new polio vaccination across Afghanistan

    World News CTV News
    ISTANBUL, TURKEY -- U.N. agencies are gearing up to vaccinate all of Afghanistan's children under 5 against polio for the first time since 2018, after the Taliban agreed to the campaign, the World Health Organization says. Source
  • One injury reported after plane crash in Waller County, Texas

    World News CTV News
    A plane carrying 22 people crashed while taking off at Houston Executive Airport on Tuesday morning, officials said. All passengers and crew were safely removed with one minor injury, Waller County Judge Trey Duhon reported via Facebook. Source
  • Israel gives legal status to 4K in gesture to Palestinians

    World News CTV News
    JERUSALEM -- Israel said Tuesday it would grant legal residency to 4,000 Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, a gesture to the Palestinian Authority that will allow people who have lived under severe restrictions for years to get official IDs. Source
  • Parents anxious as dispute between optometrists, Ontario government drags on

    Canada News CBC News
    As a dispute between optometrists and the Ontario government drags on, parents of children whose eyesight is deteriorating are getting worried. Since watching her son Jack, 15, play indoor soccer this fall, Jo-Anne Bishop of London, Ont., is convinced he's having trouble with his depth perception. Source
  • Alex Murdaugh is denied bond on US$3M theft charges

    World News CTV News
    COLUMBIA, S.C. -- A judge in South Carolina denied bond Tuesday for attorney Alex Murdaugh on the second set of charges he has faced since finding his wife and son dead last June. Circuit Judge Clifton Newman issued the decision after hearing attorneys describe how Murdaugh used portions of US$3.4 million in insurance payments to pay off his father, personal credit card bills and checks to himself. Source
  • Ontario Premier Doug Ford refuses to apologize for comments about immigration

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- Ontario Premier Doug Ford refused to apologize for comments he made about immigrants coming to the province “to collect the dole,” instead saying that he is “pro immigration.” Speaking to reporters in Tecumseh, Ont. Source
  • 10,000 children killed or maimed during Yemen's long war: UN

    World News CTV News
    GENEVA -- More than 10,000 children in Yemen have been killed or injured in violence linked to years of war in the impoverished country, a spokesman for UNICEF said Tuesday. The verified tally from the United Nations' reporting and monitoring operation provides what is surely an undercount of the real toll because many more child deaths and injuries go unrecorded, UNICEF spokesman James Elder told reporters. Source