'Warm Canadian welcome': sponsors prepare for arrival of Syrian refugees
Graham Slaughter, CTVNews.ca Staff
Published Saturday, December 5, 2015 8:08PM EST
Last Updated Saturday, December 5, 2015 10:06PM EST
Immigration Minister John McCallum says he hopes Syrian refugees receive “a super warm Canadian welcome” as people around the country come together to help those fleeing war.
McCallum was in a Toronto apartment Saturday to help assemble furniture for a Syrian mother and her five children. They are expected to arrive on Canadian soil within days.
“I’ve been around the country as a cheerleader, if you like, encouraging all Canadians to participate, but this is the first time I’ve been in a real apartment which will soon receive real refugees,” McCallum said.
The family was privately sponsored by Room For More, a Toronto-based volunteer organization. McCallum says he hopes similar plans will “mushroom” in businesses and families across Canada.
“I’ve said many times this is not a government project, this is a national project,” McCallum said. “I’m hoping that more and more people will do that so the refugees and soon-to-be Canadians will get a super warm Canadian welcome.”
The minister’s visit is the latest in an ongoing publicity blitz to encourage Canadians to open their doors and pocketbooks to the cause. The government aims to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees in Canada by the end of February.
According to government figures released Wednesday, 271 Syrian refugees have already landed in Canada, and 208 of those were sponsored privately.
At least 9,090 resettlement applications are already in progress, according to the data.
McCallum says that sponsoring Syrian refugees doesn’t come with any “material gain” but that “it’s largely something from the heart.”
Volunteer groups have sprung up across Canada to collect winter clothing for the refugees. On Saturday, a Toronto group collected hundreds of garbage bags filled with boots, sweaters and other winter supplies from donors across the city.
At Room For More, the goal is to help the newcomers adjust to Canadian life.
"So we pay the rent, we make sure they have money for groceries, clothing, anything that they might need,” said volunteer Jennifer Nagel.
Sponsors across Canada have gained attention for their bold acts of generosity. A Hamilton, Ont. man whose family fled to Canada after the Vietnam War is helping sponsor a family of 14 Syrian refugees, a task estimated to cost around $64,000. In Orangeville, Ont., a retired couple plans to welcome a family of four refugees into their small-town home for the Christmas holidays.
“I think they do it because we know it’s the right thing to do. And so many Canadians are stepping up to the plate,” McCallum said.
For a family of Syrian refugees who settled in Montreal four months ago, the welcome has been undeniably warm.
“Everything is good, the people [are] so kind, everyone wants to help us,” said Talin Allah Werdian, who came with her family from a war-torn town near Damascus. “I like Canada.”
With files from The Canadian Press