In 2008

In 2008

Support growing to bring Syrian refugees to Victoria

Seven years ago, Julie Angus and her husband Colin embarked upon a 7,000 kilometre journey, cycling from Scotland to Syria.

Seven years ago, Julie Angus and her husband Colin embarked upon a 7,000 kilometre journey, cycling from Scotland to Syria, where they stayed at her uncle’s home in Aleppo.

Filled with at least 2,000 years of history, Angus recalls the Syrian sights and countryside was beautiful, and the pair were touched by the hospitality of the people who were celebrating the end of Ramadan. Some invited the Angus’ into their homes to take part in a great feast.

Syria is home to at least six Unesco world heritage sites, but many have been damaged or destroyed by the ongoing civil war. Looking at photos of the places Angus visited during her trip is heartbreaking.

“Our family’s apartment where we stayed, it’s gone, it’s been bombed,” said the 41-year-old. “All those people we met on the street that welcomed us in for dinner have been terrorized and they no longer have a home.”

Last March, the family of Angus’ uncle (his wife and three children — a boy aged 19 and two girls, ages 10 and 14), fled the war-town country by paying a smuggler to take them across the border into Turkey. It was a dangerous journey, noted Angus, with check points and mine fields along the way. Even though they arrived at their destination safely, their new life hasn’t been easy.

According to Angus, the region where the family is living is very dangerous with constant gunfire and bombings. It’s a no-man’s land fought over by government forces and various rebel factions with civilians caught in the crossfire.

Their neighbours who lived across the hall in the apartment building they are staying were killed when their building was bombed in January. The only reason Angus’ family survived is because they happened to be out at the time.

“It’s quite difficult for them to live there. They don’t really have any money, so it’s been difficult for them to pay for accommodation and food.”

“They aren’t able to work because they don’t have a work permit and they don’t speak the language,” said Angus, noting her uncle has a degree in English and lived in Canada briefly. His wife is a hairdresser.

“There’s no future for these refugees in Turkey and they need to find a home.”

After hearing about her family’s situation in Turkey, Angus felt compelled to help. Thus the Fairfield Refugee Sponsorship was born.

The group of 12 strangers has come together to raise funds to bring the family to Victoria. They’re navigating through the process with the help of the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria and need to raise about $55,000 to support the family of five during their first year in Canada. So far, about $28,000 has been raised.

The process involves about 100 pages of paperwork, detailing everything about the family’s personal history, education, work experiences, organizations and associations they belong to, and the reason they are fleeing. Once they arrive, the group plans to help them adjust to life in Canada by providing assistance with housing, start-up supplies like furniture and clothing, school enrolment, English as a second language training, employment and whatever else they need.

“More than 200,000 people have now been killed. Many have lost friends, acquaintances, neighbours and family members, so we want to know how best to help them deal with those issues when they arrive here,” said Angus, who keeps in touch with the family through Facebook Messenger whenever they find an Internet connection.

Fairfield Refugee Sponsorship is among a number of groups that are trying to help Syrian refugees get to Victoria.

The Canadian government has committed to bringing 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada by the end of the year. Some premiers, however, have raised concerns about the Justin Trudeau’s timeline and measures for security screening.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps has been working with refugee organizations and mayors across the Island, and is waiting for word from the federal government as to if and how many refugees could be coming to the city. During a workshop on the issue in Vancouver earlier this week, Helps said Victoria and Vancouver were both mentioned.

Jean McRae, executive director of the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria — a non profit group that offers support to immigrants — is also waiting to hear what the federal government has planned. At this point, she said there are about a dozen sponsorships on the go and she expects more to come.

“Before the end of the year, we might have 20 sponsorships. I’m not quite sure,” said McRae, who isn’t aware of any Syrian refugees recently arriving in Victoria, but noted the Syrian community in the city is very small.

“I think that Canada has a lot to offer and we can offer assistance to people who clearly need a lot of help. We’re very excited that we’re able to do that. The timeline is short, so that really is the biggest part of the challenge. Other than that, we’re happy to have people come.”

So far, McRae has seen a lot of support for Syrian refugees from the local community, including groups such as Fairfield Refugee Sponsorship.

For Angus, helping Syrian refugees is a moral obligation. Her father came to Canada from Syria when he was a young man and didn’t speak much English. But he managed to build a career with the military, serving in Afghanistan and a number of war-torn areas, and provide Angus with opportunities she never would have had otherwise.

“I know there are people who will make the most of their new lives in Canada and contribute to our country,” she said.

“Syria was a peaceful country throughout their whole lives until the war broke out four years ago. It’s very hard for them to adapt and to know that their home is gone. It will never be the same. They will never be able to return, they’ve lost everything they have…It’s heartbreaking.”

On Friday, Nov. 20, the Fairfield Refugee Sponsorship will be hosting Sweet on Syria at the City Light Church. The event includes desserts, non-alcoholic drinks and live music, as well as a silent auction and multi-media presentation on Syria. For more information visit fairfieldrefugeesponsorship.com.

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Jerry Dyck plans to purchase a new RV to drive across Canada in, once it’s safe to travel again. (Courtesy BCLC)
Victoria man plans post-pandemic cross-Canada RV trip after $2M lottery win

Retired electrician bought the winning ticket in Duncan

(Black Press Media file photo)
Saanich police, GVERT arrest suspect in West Shore investigation

Man arrested near Rutledge Park early Saturday morning

Saanich council approves of a five-story multi-family development at 300 Gorge Road West and 2900 Tillicum Road. (Rendering via Alan Lowe Architect Inc.)
Saanich approves five-storey, mixed-use development for Tillicum area

Plans include 53 residential units, three commercial units at Tillicum Road, Gorge Road West

The fine for changing lanes or merging over a solid line costs drivers $109 and two penalty points in B.C. (Screenshot via Google Street View)
B.C. drivers caught crossing, merging over solid white lines face hefty fine

Ticket for $109, two penalty points issued under Motor Vehicle Act for crossing solid lines

Crews with Discovery Channel film as an Aggressive Towing driver moves a Grumman S2F Tracker aircraft around a 90-degree turn from its compound and onto the road on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. It was the “most difficult” part of the move for the airplane, one organizer said. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Vintage military plane gets towed from Chilliwack to Greater Victoria

Grumman CP-121 Tracker’s eventual home the British Columbia Aviation Museum on Vancouver Island

Local musician and artist Daisy Melville created a watercolour portrait of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders from the recent American inauguration, and with help from her mom, is now selling t-shirts and more with funds going to the Comox Valley Food Bank. Image submitted
Island artist turns Sanders inauguration meme into art for good

All proceeds from the sale of shirts, sweaters and more will go to the Comox Valley Food Bank

A Kelowna couple welcomed their Nooner baby in December. (Flytographer)
Kelowna couple welcomes baby girl from Hotel Zed Nooner campaign

Nicole and Alex will now have 18 years of free stays at the hotel

Kyrell Sopotyk was drafted by the Kamloops Blazers in 2016 and played two seasons with the Western Hockey League club. (Photograph By ALLEN DOUGLAS/KTW)
Kamloops Blazer paralyzed in snowboarding accident sparks fundraiser for family

As of Jan. 24, more than $68,000 had been raised to help Kamloops Blazers’ forward Kyrell Sopotyk

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker in an undated photo from social media. The couple has been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Great Canadian Gaming CEO resigns after being accused of sneaking into Yukon for vaccine

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker were charged with two CEMA violations each

(Pixhere photo)
B.C. dentists argue for COVID-19 vaccine priority after ‘disappointing’ exclusion from plan

Vaccines are essential for dentists as patients cannot wear masks during treatment, argues BCDA

A registered nurse prepares a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in Halifax on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. Yukon’s Minister of Community Services, John Streiker, says he’s outraged that a couple from outside the territory travelled to a remote community this week and received doses of COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan-POOL
Couple charged after travelling to Yukon to get COVID-19 vaccine

The maximum fine under the emergency measures act is $500, and up to six months in jail

Metis Nation of B.C. President Clara Morin Dal Col poses in this undated handout photo. The Metis Nation of B.C. says Dal Col has been suspended from her role as president. The Metis Nation of B.C. says Dal Col has been suspended from her role as president. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Metis Nation of B.C. *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Metis Nation of B.C. suspends president, citing ‘breach’ of policies, procedures

Vice-president Lissa Smith is stepping in to fill the position on an acting basis

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks in the in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Payette shouldn’t get same benefits as other ex-governors general: O’Toole

Former governors general are entitled to a pension and also get a regular income paid to them for the rest of their lives

Most Read