News / Toronto

Toronto effort fulfilling Canada's promise to Syrian refugees

One Syrian family may soon leave refugee life and settle in Toronto thanks to a grassroots effort dedicated to fulfilling a government promise.

The First Unitarian Congregation is working with the Muslim Association of Canada’s Masjid to make sure the government holds true to a pledge of taking in 10,000 Syrian refugees over three years.

The government has committed to sponsor 40 per cent of the refugees with private groups expected to pick up the rest — making partnerships like the one between the church and mosque critical. As of March, only about 1,300 Syrian refugees had been admitted to Canada.

For its initial project, the group chose to support Talek, Walaa and their daughters, Sedana, 3, and Nawal, 1. They’ve been living in Lebanon for the past two years and continue to struggle for survival, said Annette Wilde, head of the sponsorship initiative at the Unitarian Congregation.

“These two kids need a proper education and a system that can provide for their healthcare,” Wilde said.

The effort has raised about $40,000 for the cause — more than the $26,000 required by Citizenship and Immigration Canada for sponsoring a family of four to move to Toronto.

The family submitted its application to immigration officials in May and is waiting to hear when the visa interview process will begin. The news can’t come too soon, Wilde said.

“Every day counts for the lives of these people,” she said. “The more days they stay in those conditions, the more traumatized they become. We really hope the process goes through fast.”

Once the family gets here, leaders of the initiative will be responsible for making sure they have housing and the means they need to survive.

The group has already started raising money to sponsor a second family, which is yet to be identified.

“These refugees are scattered around, at the mercy of the Lebanese people,” said Wilde. “It’s very dangerous out there for them.”

Call to action

  • More than four years of civil war in Syria has led to millions of people seeking refuge in neighbouring countries, where they’re faced with poor living conditions, security concerns and almost no chance of education for kids.
  • Almost anyone who meets requirements outlined by the Canadian government can sponsor a refugee.
  • For more information about the grassroots initiative and how you can help, click here.

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