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

  • Mississippi moves one step closer to banning transgender athletes from women's sports

    World News CTV News
    Mississippi moved one step closer to banning transgender athletes from participating in women's sports after the state House approved a bill on Wednesday that could make the state the first in the country to add anti-transgender legislation to its books this year. Source
  • After record COVID-19 deaths, Bolsonaro tells Brazilians to stop 'whining'

    World News CTV News
    BRASILIA -- After two straight days of record COVID-19 deaths in Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro on Thursday told Brazilians to stop "whining" and move on, in his latest remarks attacking distancing measures and downplaying the gravity of the pandemic. Source
  • Minassian decision opens door for verdict of not criminally responsible due to autism

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- The judge who found Alek Minassian guilty of murder and attempted murder in the Toronto van attack set Canadian precedent Wednesday by considering autism a "mental disorder" under the Criminal Code. Justice Anne Molloy ruled that autism spectrum disorder did not leave the 28-year-old not criminally responsible for killing 10 people and injuring 16 others, but her decision to consider that possibility means the argument could be made in future cases. Source
  • Health Canada approves Johnson and Johnson vaccine

    Canada News CTV News
    OTTAWA -- Health Canada is to announce approval of the COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson and Johnson this morning, according to multiple sources aware of the decision but not authorized to discuss it publicly. The federal regulator has found the evidence shows the vaccine is both safe and effective against the virus that causes COVID-19. Source
  • Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine becomes 4th to receive Health Canada approval

    Canada News CBC News
    Health Canada has approved the use of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine in Canada, CBC News has learned. Health officials will announce the approval at a media briefing this morning at 10 a.m., multiple sources with knowledge of the approval confirmed. Source
  • Prince Philip back at King Edward VII's Hospital after heart procedure

    World News CBC News
    Prince Philip, the 99-year-old husband of Queen Elizabeth, has been transferred back to a private hospital after successfully undergoing a procedure to treat a heart condition, Buckingham Palace said on Friday. Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh who has been hospitalized for more than two weeks, was moved to a London hospital with a specialist cardiac centre on Monday for treatment for a pre-existing heart issue. Source
  • Teenage girl's beheading spurs calls for 'honour killings' law in India

    World News CTV News
    LUCKNOW, INDIA -- Police in northern India said on Thursday they had arrested a man who beheaded his daughter and carried her severed head to the village police station, a case that spurred calls for a new law against so-called honour killings. Source
  • Ontario to release updated COVID-19 vaccine rollout plan today

    Canada News CBC News
    Ontario officials are expected to provide an update on the province's COVID-19 vaccine rollout on Friday, as residents of three health units also wait to see if stay-at-home orders will be lifted for their regions. Premier Doug Ford is scheduled to hold a news conference beginning at 1 p.m. Source
  • Prince Philip transferred back to private hospital

    World News CTV News
    LONDON -- Buckingham Palace says Prince Philip has been transferred back to the private Prince Edward VII's hospital to continue his recovery after a heart procedure. The palace says the 99-year-old husband of Queen Elizabeth II underwent a successful procedure for a pre-existing heart condition at St Bartholomew's Hospital on Wednesday. Source
  • Ontario to decide on public health restrictions for remaining three COVID-19 hot spots

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- Ontario will decide today what level of restrictions to place on three COVID-19 hot spots still under strict stay-at-home orders. The government extended those orders for Toronto, Peel Region and North Bay two weeks ago due to high virus case numbers. Source