TWO churches in Canada have finally welcomed a Syrian refugee family into the community, after 18 months of bureaucratic delays.
The Niagara-on-the-Lake Syrian Refugee Project, a programme led jointly by St Mark’s, and Grace United Church, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, signed up to sponsor privately a refugee family, in response to a national pledge by the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2015.
But, although the group received approval from the government in January last year, and leased a property in preparation, the family were held in Turkey, and never arrived (News, 24 June). Virginia Mainprize, who chairs the project, said that the group had been forced to cancel the lease in August, after seven months, having spent about £6000 in rent, and subsequently £200 a month in storage fees for clothes, furniture, and household goods, all of which had been donated privately, and for which they were unlikely to be compensated (News, 23/30 December).
But the churches were then told to expect a new family, the Bakhits, who arrived at Toronto International Airport last month — “12 hours late, a year-and-a-half after we put in our application, and six years after they arrived in Beirut as refugees”, Ms Mainprize said.
The family, two parents and four young children. were collected by their sponsors before being shown to their new home in St Catherine’s, Ontario, Ms Mainprize said.
“The first week was very busy: the parents had to learn about currency, open a bank account, and secure a debit card. They had to learn how to go food shopping in the supermarket, ride the bus, and register for innumerable government programmes.”
A retired high-school principal volunteered to take the three eldest children to a school and pick them up, for the first few days.
“The children were a little shy at first, but made friends within an hour,” Ms Mainprize said. “Each day, their English vocabulary grows.”