Canadians helping Syrian families recall their own refugee past

HALIFAX -- Writing a cheque for a Syrian refugee family gave Gabrielle Horne a powerful sense of connection to her own grandparents.

See Full Article

The Halifax cardiologist is among the thousands of Canadian donors who reached into their bank accounts this fall to ensure privately sponsored refugees can make the voyage from crowded camps in the Middle East to resettle here in the New Year.

As she read media reports and watched footage of the Syrians attempting to cross into Europe, Horne says she found herself thinking of her maternal grandparents Aaron Belenkie and Rose Friberg.

"My grandparents came to Canada in the 1920s by what was then the Soviet Union and so I know firsthand the importance of providing a safe haven for people in desperate circumstances," she said.

The couple met in Montreal and married, launched a business and raised a family. But the anguish of separation from their families and their struggle to come here after persecution for their Jewish faith was seldom spoken of.

It was too painful, says Horne.

When she heard of a refugee support group in Hubbards, N.S., the physician contacted organizers to promise a $2,000 cheque.

"I appreciated the opportunity to reflect on the meaning of welcoming refugees to Canada. So that cheque didn't hurt. I felt it was a personal opportunity."

The federal government requires the groups provide $30,000 for a small family, and many of the privately formed groups have been going beyond that in recognition that that figure may not be enough to provide for four or five people during a 12-month period.

The group in Hubbards began in a church hall in the small community on the province's south shore with the goal of sponsoring one family, and has been fundraising with community meals and art shows.

Susy MacGillivray of the Bay Refugee Project said in an email that donations of $1000, $2000 and $5000 have flowed in, helping lift the group beyond its original expectations.

"We have raised enough to sponsor two families and may well have enough to sponsor a third. We have turned our focus from fundraising to settlement," she said in an email.

"However, many other groups are not quite there yet with their fundraising."

The motives for those writing cheques are diverse, but often converge on a view that the Syrian struggles mirror those of past generations of refugees.

Jack and Nancy Jefferson, retirees who live in Vancouver, made the first private donation to the Bay Refugee Project. The couple provided $800 after reading a newspaper story about the group as they travelled through the province visiting their daughter.

"The war has changed the Syrians' lives and changed the lives of their children. ... They are people who have no place to go and they're desperate," said Jack. "I wanted to do something to bring them out of this and give them something brighter."

By writing a cheque, "you don't feel completely helpless," he explained.

The federal government has said 10,000 of the 25,000 Syrians it will bring to Canada by the end of February will be privately sponsored.

The federal website that updates progress says that as of Christmas Eve there were almost 5,000 refugees who have either arrived in Canada or whose application has been finalized but have not yet travelled to Canada.

In a news conference on Wednesday, federal immigration minister John McCallum said corporations including CN, RBC, and Scotiabank had provided $8.5 million, and many other companies were contributing.

"We have an anonymous company who's just pledged $2 million, but doesn't want its name to be known," he said.

The minister also noted that Khalid Usman, a leading member of the Muslim community in the Toronto area, held a fundraiser and had raised $1 million, while mosques in the area raised a further $2 million.

"At the other end of the spectrum, we have little children across the country committing to produce 25,000 toques for the refugees, and this started in Quebec, but has spread across the country," said McCallum.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Palestinian kills three members of Israeli family in West Bank stabbing [Video]

    World News Toronto Sun
    JERUSALEM — Israel’s military fortified its troops in the West Bank and placed forces on high alert Saturday, a day after a Palestinian stabbed to death three members of an Israeli family and some of the worst Israeli-Palestinian clashes in years erupted over tensions at the Holy Land’s most contested shrine. Source
  • Crane collapse kills 7, injures 2 in southern Chinese city

    World News CTV News
    BEIJING -- A crane leaned and collapsed on a construction site of a major infrastructure company in southern China, killing seven people and injuring two, authorities said Sunday. The collapse occurred late Saturday at the construction site for the southern headquarters of the state-owned China Communications Construction Co. Source
  • Alberta Progressive Conservatives and Wildrose vote 95% in favour of merger

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    The Wildrose Party approved unifying with Progressive Conservatives in an historic vote Saturday. Just over ninety-five per cent of Wildrose members voted yes for unity, well above the 75 per cent majority it needed to give the merger a go-ahead. Source
  • B.C. wildfire evacuation lifted for hundreds as federal government promises funds

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    KAMLOOPS, B.C. — The federal government is promising more funding to support residents affected by raging wildfires in British Columbia as some of the thousands of people displaced prepare to return home. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the government will supply $600 per household evacuated due to wildfires and $300 for their eventual return — funds that will be managed and distributed by the Canadian Red Cross. Source
  • Wildrose, Progressive Conservative parties to merge with 95% approval

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    The Wildrose Party approved unifying with Progressive Conservatives in an historic vote Saturday. Just over ninety-five per cent of Wildrose members voted yes for unity, well above the 75 per cent majority it needed to give the merger a go-ahead. Source
  • Princess Diana's last conversation with her sons recounted in documentary

    World News CTV News
    LONDON -- It was a typical phone call between two boys playing and their mother, who was on vacation in France. It was brief -- the boys wanted to get back to playing with their cousins, not spend time on the phone chatting. Source
  • O.J. Simpson's brand out of juice

    World News Toronto Sun
    Can O.J. have a fourth quarter comeback? Not without a game ball. O.J. isn’t the first celebrity to grace his mug on a mugshot, and many have made their way back to the top — Hugh Grant, Keifer Sutherland, Britney Spears and Robert Downey Jr. Source
  • Wildrose votes yes to unity with 95% of the vote

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    The Wildrose Party approved unifying with Progressive Conservatives in an historic vote Saturday. Just over ninety-five per cent of Wildrose members voted yes for unity, well above the 75 per cent majority it needed to give the merger a go-ahead. Source
  • What’s next for O.J. Simpson? [Photos]

    World News Toronto Sun
    At times, during O.J. Simpson’s parole hearing it seemed as though the battered old jock was moving his body like he was evading bruising linebackers. The big man on campus. Bobbing. Weaving. Jocular. Locker room O.J. O.J. Source
  • 9/11 victim's wife disgusted by $10.5M Khadr deal [Photos]

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    The widow of a Toronto businessman killed in the World Trade Centre on 9/11 says its sickening that the Liberal government has allowed terrorist Omar Khadr to play the victim card and collect $10.5 million. Maureen Basnicki’s husband, Ken Basnicki, was in New York City on business when he was killed in the North Tower on Sept. Source