Jean McRae is the chief executive officer of the Intercultural Association of Greater Victoria.

Sponsors still needed for many more Syrian refugees

Victoria has welcomed a total of 40 Syrian families (154 individuals) who have arrived as refugees to make their new home in our city.

Victoria has welcomed a total of 40 Syrian families (154 individuals) who have arrived as refugees to make their new home in our city.

Finding a home for these families has been a part the commitment Canada made last year to ensure 25,000 people from that war torn state would find refuge and a new home in Canada before year’s end in 2015. That target was met early in 2016 and the total number of Syrian refugees now stands at 30,862.

More than 4.5 million people have fled Syria since the start of the conflict in that country — the majority of whom are  women and children.

“It’s hard, challenging work, but for many of the volunteers involved in the process (here in Victoria) it is the best thing they’ve done in their entire lives,” said Rev. Canon Bruce Scott, the refugee coordinator for the Anglican Diocese of B.C.

“These people have lost loved ones, their homes, in some cases their careers and professions, and certainly they’ve lost their country. They lost all those things, yet they arrive with a sense of gratitude and hope for the future. It’s really quite inspiring.”

Scott expressed hope the work can continue as the initial flood of people wanting to help settle and support refugees has slowed since last year.

That slowdown comes as an increasing number of individuals identified for private sponsorships has increased as a result of the current refugees identifying family members and other acquaintances still in Syria and desperate to escape.

“Private sponsors have to identify specific individuals they wish to sponsor,” said Jean McRae, chief executive officer of the InterCultural Association of Greater Victoria.

“Now, with those individuals being identified by relatives already here, we have way more people identified than we have groups to sponsor them.”

McRae’s association has sponsored 61 individuals to date, but have another 100 waiting in the system as they are processed by the relevant government agencies.

The process, said McRae, can be difficult for both the refugees and those waiting to help.

Scott has seen similar delays with sponsors working with his organization as well. He said anyone who fears the screening process for refugees isn’t stringent enough really doesn’t know the facts.

“Right now it’s taking about 18 months to process the applicants. I’d love to see that brought down to nine months, but it certainly isn’t a wide open system,” said Scott.

Once the refugees arrive in Victoria, their challenges are far from over.

McRae explained language is a significant issue for the newcomers.

“Without a working knowledge of English, it’s hard for them to find employment, and the children, who have already had significant disruptions in their education, find it difficult to catch up in a new language,” said McRae, adding the stellar work of the school system and volunteers in providing help with English education has helped to address the situation.

“We also run workshops on the Canadian workplace, teaching the refugees how to look for work, prepare a resume, reply to online job offerings and even how to handle interviews. It’s a completely different culture, and we know that getting them here was just the beginning of the work that needs to be done.”

The truth, though, is some refugees may be looking at a period when they need to receive social assistance and other help to survive in their new home.

The commitment of the government and private sponsors has been to provide housing and support for one year, noted McRae, adding that, for some, it may not be reasonable to expect full self sufficiency at the end of that time.

“Of course, we’ll stay in touch with them beyond the first year and help where we can. But I can tell you these people are quite amazing and I have no doubt they’ll soon find their way to becoming self sufficient and contributing residents to Victoria.”

Anyone interested in helping Syrian refugees can contact icavictoria.org or refugeecommittee@bc.anglican.ca.

 

 

 

Just Posted

Greater Victoria enjoys sunny first day of spring

Summer-like temperatures of 21 degrees hit Wednesday for first day of spring

Esquimalt puts freeze on taxes for local businesses

The tax increase for residents sits at 5.51 per cent, averaging to an additional $46

Bitter Saturna land-use dispute highlights legal grey areas

Unhappy Tsawout accuse leadership of cultural destruction

Development replacing Fairfield United Church gets final approval

The new Unity Commons Development will take over the space at 1303 Fairfield Rd.

Saanich forwards student-targeted development to public hearing

Proposed development advertises itself to individuals who want a car-free lifestyle

VIDEO: Can you believe it? This B.C. hill pulls cars backwards up a slope

Sir Isaac Newton had clearly never been to this Vernon anomaly when he discovered gravity

Greater Victoria Wanted List for the week of March 19

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: When do you think the next major earthquake will hit Vancouver Island?

According to seismologists, Vancouver Island is overdue for a magnitude 7 earthquake.… Continue reading

Canucks hang on for 7-4 win over Senators

Horvat nets 2 for Vancouver

European, Canadian regulators to do own review of Boeing jet

Air Canada plans to remove the Boeing 737 Max from its schedule at least through July 1

Prime minister defends Liberal budget measures as sales effort gets underway

Conservatives under Andrew Scheer say it’s a spree funded by borrowing against the future

Mayor meets with B.C. health minister on homeless taxi transfers

Two homeless people were discharged from Surrey Memorial and sent to a Chilliwack shelter

B.C. lottery winner being sued by co-workers

They claim he owes them $200,000 each, in a lawsuit filed in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver

Teacher reprimanded for conduct towards special needs student

Alan Stephen Berry told vice principal he did not have time to use positive strategies

Most Read