Soldiers return from refugee mission: 'We were helping to change lives'

OROMOCTO, N.B. -- The first of the Canadian troops sent to Lebanon and Jordan to help process Syrian refugees destined for Canada have returned home, saying the smiles on the faces of young Syrian children made it worthwhile.

See Full Article

"All it takes is seeing one little one the same age as my daughter -- smiling because they are going to Canada," said Major Drew Willis, who was among 68 soldiers who arrived to waiting family members early Tuesday at Base Gagetown in New Brunswick.

They were among the 230 soldiers who left Canada in mid-November as part of Operation Provision, assisting with the federal government's initiative to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees in Canada by the end of February.

Warrant Officer Stephen Mills and his wife Wendy kissed and hugged as they reunited. The two spoke to reporters about their experience over the last month-and-a-half -- Stephen in Beirut and Wendy at home in New Maryland, N.B.

Q: Was it difficult to have him away?

Wendy Mills: It's kind of a hard time of year to have him away with snowstorms and power outages and everything. It's a long wait, but I'm so proud of him for what he was doing.

When we saw the first refugees land, I was just so proud to know that he was over there, kind of starting the process and being part of the process. He would tell me stories about the kids over there.

Q: Can you share some of those stories about the kids and what you experienced?

Stephen Mills: I was in Beirut, Lebanon, and we worked at the processing centre where families would come in.

It was mostly families with little kids, and where I have kids myself, you see the personal experience where you see these kids coming from refugee camps. It was humbling to see them and see the looks in their faces.

They seen us there, especially in uniform, Canadians helping them get from there to here. It was different from my other deployments in the past.

Q: What resonated most for you? What did you take away from the experience?

Stephen Mills: Just the fact that we were helping to change lives ... just to know they were getting something better. That's pretty much what kept us going.

Q: Fredericton is one of the areas where the Syrian immigrants will be located. There's a chance you could see someone here that you helped relocate.

Stephen Mills: We live in New Maryland and there is a family there.

Wendy Mills: We could see them at the gas station, or elsewhere. It's going to be nice.

Q: For some of the public who may not be sure about what has been happening, what would you say to them?

Stephen Mills: We are doing a really important thing. I think it's an important mission that will keep going on. We're trying to help these people.

Wendy Mills: You just put yourself in their shoes, like if you were in the same position. I really hope that a country would step up and help us as well as much as Canada has.

When you see that with young children, I don't know what I would do. To uproot yourself from your house and your work and to settle somewhere with nothing or whatever they have.

Q: Is there one image you take away from your experience there?

Stephen Mills: To see the looks in their faces. The happiness when they came in and left and they just knew that they were coming here.

At that point they were going on an airplane and getting to Canada, and we just knew that we were just a small part of that bigger piece that was making it happen.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Crews from other provinces, U.S., Mexico helping Ontario fight forest fires

    Canada News CBC News
    Crews fighting forest fires in northern Ontario are receiving help from other provinces, the U.S. and Mexico as they try to contain several blazes after days of hot and humid weather. Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry said in a release that, as of Saturday night, 64 forest fires were burning in the northern and northeastern half of the province, with 29 of them out of control. Source
  • B.C. wildfire out of control but situation improving: authorities

    Canada News CTV News
    Some residents of the Okanagan region in British Columbia woke up Sunday to a sight they hadn’t seen in days: a smoke-free blue sky. “This is the best I’ve seen it in the last couple days,” Peachland Mayor Cindy Fortin told CTV News Channel. Source
  • Fight over land dispute on Alberta reserve heads to federal court

    Canada News CTV News
    STANDOFF, Alta. -- A dispute between two families over land on Canada's largest reserve is heading to court in part to question whether First Nations members have any right to the ground beneath their feet. Source
  • Ethiopia has 'no option' but multiparty democracy, PM says

    World News CTV News
    JOHANNESBURG -- Ethiopia has "no option" but to pursue multi-party democracy, the reformist new prime minister said Sunday, again shaking up Africa's second most populous nation that for decades has been ruled by a single coalition. Source
  • Homebuyers penning letters to gain edge over competition

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- Monica Martins and her husband had been looking for a house for nine months by the time they fell in love with a "character home" in Toronto's east end. With demand for properties high and bidding wars the norm, they knew getting the home wouldn't be easy, so to convince the seller to choose their offer, they decided to go beyond simply digging deep into their bank account. Source
  • Jonathan Gold, Pulitzer-winning L.A. restaurant critic, dead at 57

    World News CBC News
    Jonathan Gold, who became the first restaurant critic to win the Pulitzer Prize for criticism, has died. He was 57. The Los Angeles Times, where Gold most recently worked, reported that he died Saturday after being diagnosed earlier this month with pancreatic cancer. Source
  • Grazing on weeds: Goats brought to Edmonton parks as herbicide alternative

    Canada News CTV News
    A little taste of farm life has descended on Edmonton as nearly 400 goats have been hired to help out with weed removal in the city’s parks. On Saturday, the herd was tasked with chowing down on leafy spurge, an invasive weed species with several yellow flowers in a bunch, at Rundle Park in Edmonton’s east end. Source
  • 'If they don't make it, Lord, take me too': Grieving mother recounts panicked moments as duck boat sank

    World News CBC News
    "Grab the baby!" Those were the last words Tia Coleman recalls her sister-in-law yelling before the tourist boat they were on sank into a Missouri lake, killing 17 people, including nine of Coleman's family members. A huge wave hit, scattering passengers on the amphibious vessel known as a duck boat into Table Rock Lake near Branson, Coleman said. Source
  • Cree filmmaker from Manitoba crowdfunds her way to Comic-Con

    Canada News CBC News
    She had to crowdfund her way there, but an Indigenous filmmaker from Manitoba made her voice heard as a speaker at this year's popular Comic-Con festival in San Diego. "I was like, I would love to go to Comic-Con and talk about the special challenges faced by Indigenous creators when they want to make films and comic books and novels that aren't about poverty porn," said Sonya Ballantyne, who's from Misipawistik First Nation near Grand Rapids, Man. Source
  • 11 killed in ambush on South African taxi drivers

    World News CTV News
    A minibus with bullet holes on its side is seen on the road between Weenen and Colenso, in KwaZulu Natal province, South Africa, early Sunday, July 22, 2018. South African police say gunmen opened fire on the vehicle carrying members of a taxi drivers' association, killing 11 people and critically wounding four others. Source