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

  • Second man arrested in violent assault of Elnaz Hajtamiri in Richmond Hill, Ont.

    Canada News CTV News
    Police have arrested another man in connection to an alleged violent attack on Elnaz Hajtamiri in a Richmond Hill, Ont. parking garage just weeks before she disappeared in January. Investigators with the York Regional Police Criminal Bureau announced Harshdeep Binner, 24, of Brampton, who was wanted on a Canada-wide warrant, was arrested last week. Source
  • China's Xi reappears on state TV amid rumours over absence

    World News CTV News
    BEIJING - Chinese President Xi Jinping reappeared on state television Tuesday after a several-day absence from public view that sparked rumours about the 69-year-old leader's political fortunes. Xi was shown visiting a display at the Beijing Exhibition Hall on the theme of "Forging Ahead into the New Era. Source
  • Appeals court stops short of declaring Donald Trump immune from rape accuser claim

    World News CTV News
    NEW YORK - A federal appeals court on Tuesday stopped short of declaring Donald Trump immune from author E. Jean Carroll's defamation lawsuit, saying it needed guidance on whether Trump was acting as U.S. president when he denied raping her. Source
  • Iranians are risking it all to protest. Their families say some of them aren't coming home

    World News CTV News
    The last time Farnaz heard her brother's voice was over the phone, on an unknown number. "He called me and said only one sentence: 'I was caught' ... I immediately understood what my dear brother meant and went to the morality police department (to look for him)," the 22-year-old, who asked to use a pseudonym for safety reasons, told CNN. Source
  • Russia to transfer wounded in school shooting to Moscow

    World News CTV News
    MOSCOW - More than a dozen people wounded in a school shooting in central Russia will be taken to Moscow for further treatment, authorities said Tuesday, a day after a gunman killed 17 people and wounded 24 others. Source
  • Rescuers search for famed ski climber who fell off 8th-highest mountain

    World News CBC News
    Nepalese rescuers in a helicopter were searching Tuesday for a famed U.S. ski climber a day after she fell off near the peak of the world's eighth-highest mountain. Also Monday, an avalanche at a lower elevation on Mount Manaslu swept several climbers, killing a Nepalese guide and injuring others. Source
  • $490K worth of drugs seized during investigation into Calgary Airbnb tenant

    Canada News CTV News
    An investigation into suspected drug activity involving an Airbnb tenant in Calgary's Beltline led to the seizure of $490,000 worth of illegal drugs as well as several guns. Officers searched a bedroom rental in the 1500 block of Fifth Street S.W. Source
  • Trudeau scheduled to visit communities hit by Fiona in Nova Scotia and P.E.I.

    Canada News CTV News
    Justin Trudeau is scheduled to travel today to P.E.I. and Nova Scotia, where he will meet with residents and inspect the extensive damage caused by post-tropical storm Fiona. The prime minister is expected to make stops in Stanley Bridge, P.E.I. Source
  • American released in Russia-Ukraine exchange says it's 'surreal' to be home

    World News CTV News
    An American who returned to U.S. soil last week after being held by Russian-backed forces for more than three months said Monday that it's "surreal" to be back home. "Honestly, it's still surreal. It's going to take time to adjust," Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh told CNN's Erin Burnett on "OutFront" Monday evening. Source
  • German population hits a record 84M due to Ukraine refugees

    World News CTV News
    BERLIN - The influx of Ukrainian refugees to Germany has pushed the country's population to a new all-time high of more than 84 million, the German Federal Statistical Office said Tuesday. By the end of June, the country's population increased by 843,000 people, or 1%, compared to the end of 2021. Source