News / Vancouver

Syrian refugees, one year later: ‘I feel like Canada is my country’

Abdurrhman Said arrived in Vancouver ten months ago and has not looked back since

Abdurrahman Said sits with his father Wahid and sister Reza in their Coquitlam home on Dec. 8, 2016.

Jennifer Gauthier/For Metro

Abdurrahman Said sits with his father Wahid and sister Reza in their Coquitlam home on Dec. 8, 2016.

Twenty-four year old Abdurrahman Said is one of 2,100 Syrians who came to B.C. after the Canadian government promised to accept 25,000 refugees from war-torn Syria.

Said arrived in Toronto on February 19, 2016 with his parents and his brother and sister. They spent two days there before government workers told them the news – they were going to Vancouver.

It was love at first sight, he said.

“Before I came to here, I didn’t have ID. We were refugees,” Said told Metro.

“Here in Canada, everyone, even when I show them my ID, they don’t think I am a refugee. They think I am an immigrant.”

Ten months later, Said and his family live in a three-bedroom apartment in Coquitlam. It is a far cry from Aleppo, Syria, where he witnessed his neighbourhood school being bombed to the ground. He is taking full-time English classes in hopes he can one day attend university to continue his engineering studies.

Abdurrahman Said arrived in Canada in February 2015.

Jennifer Gauthier/Metro

Abdurrahman Said arrived in Canada in February 2015.

Said, who studied electrical engineering in Turkey, says he is dedicated to giving back to the country that took him in when no one else would.

“I said to myself, we will be good here. We will be good to Canada and we have to work and work and work more because this country accepted us and we have to learn what we can do here.”

These days, he spends his free time looking for work – something related to electrical engineering, he said – and filling out an application to have his brother, Yaman, the only family member still overseas, transferred to Canada.  Yaman is currently receiving dialysis treatment for kidney failure in Germany.  

“My dream is to go to university and my dream is to have my brother come here to Canada to share our country. I feel like Canada is my country.”

Abdurrahman Said sits with his father Wahid and sister Reza in their Coquitlam home on Dec. 8, 2016.

Jennifer Gauthier/Metro

Abdurrahman Said sits with his father Wahid and sister Reza in their Coquitlam home on Dec. 8, 2016.

He knows there are some who don’t agree with the government’s decision to take in Syrian refugees but is optimistic they will change their minds.

“Maybe there are a few people who don’t want us, but they don’t know us.”

He says the vast majority of Vancouverites he has met have welcomed him, embraced the things his family celebrates, and help him navigate the city.

Some counsellors from Immigrant Services Society of B.C. even joined his family in Coquitlam to celebrate the end of Ramadan, a Muslim holiday, he said.

“They don’t even know what Ramadan is and they treated us like we are from this community,” he said.

“At Christmas, I will celebrate because everyone here is my family. I feel that.” 

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