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Current Issue
March, 2018
Volume 44, Number 1
  
30 June 2016
CNEWA staff




In this image from December, Syrian refugees Reemas Al Abdullah, 5, Sawsan Al Samman and Aya Al Abdullah, 8, wait to be served at a dinner hosted by Friends of Syria, at the Toronto Port Authority. The Canadian government says thousands of sponsors have stepped forward to welcome Syrian refugees — so many, in fact, that the government can't keep up with the demand. (photo: Bernard Weil/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

The New York Times today throws a spotlight on Syrian refugees who have found a new home — and a warm welcome — in Canada:

One frigid day in February, Kerry McLorg drove to an airport hotel here to pick up a family of Syrian refugees. She was cautious by nature, with a job poring over insurance data, but she had never even spoken to the people who were about to move into her basement.

“I don’t know if they even know we exist,” she said.

At the hotel, Abdullah Mohammad’s room phone rang, and an interpreter told him to go downstairs. His children’s only belongings were in pink plastic bags, and the family’s documents lay in a white paper bag printed with a Canadian flag. His sponsors had come, he was told. He had no idea what that meant.

Across Canada, ordinary citizens, distressed by news reports of drowning children and the shunning of desperate migrants, are intervening in one of the world’s most pressing problems. Their country allows them a rare power and responsibility: They can band together in small groups and personally resettle — essentially adopt — a refugee family. In Toronto alone, hockey moms, dog-walking friends, book club members, poker buddies and lawyers have formed circles to take in Syrian families. The Canadian government says sponsors officially number in the thousands, but the groups have many more extended members.

...Much of the world is reacting to the refugee crisis — 21 million displaced from their countries, nearly five million of them Syrian — with hesitation or hostility. Greece shipped desperate migrants back to Turkey; Denmark confiscated their valuables; and even Germany, which has accepted more than half a million refugees, is struggling with growing resistance to them. Broader anxiety about immigration and borders helped motivate Britons to take the extraordinary step last week of voting to leave the European Union.

In the United States, even before the Orlando massacre spawned new dread about “lone wolf” terrorism, a majority of American governors said they wanted to block Syrian refugees because some could be dangerous. Donald J. Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, has called for temporary bans on all Muslims from entering the country and recently warned that Syrian refugees would cause “big problems in the future.” The Obama administration promised to take in 10,000 Syrians by 30 September but has so far admitted about half that many.

Just across the border, however, the Canadian government can barely keep up with the demand to welcome them.

Read more. And to learn more about how the Canadian sponsorship program works, check out this sidebar.