Dear Friends,

Finally, after over a year and a half of waiting, first for Faydalla and family who are still waiting in Turkey for clearance to come to Canada, and then for another family,  we have had news that the Bakhits – father and mother and their four young children – will be arriving in Toronto on March 16.

In many ways, we are ready for them; we have all the furniture and household goods that we have put in storage, we have recently collected children’s clothes, toys and books, and baby equipment –  but we had no place for them to live. Housing in St Catharines is more and more difficult and more and more expensive to find. However, one of our volunteers, Jim Reynolds, has worked tirelessly over the last months investigating apartment availability in St Catharines. Miraculously he has found a reasonably priced and well-located three-bedroom apartment that is available this Monday. With the support of a small group of very dedicated volunteers, we will move in and be ready for the family when they arrive on Thursday after a long flight from Beirut via Cairo.

This is very thrilling for us but more so for this family of 6 whom we are about to welcome into their new life in Canada. We will keep you informed of what happens next.

Thank you for all you interest and support over the last many months

I am sending you photos that the Bakhits sent us of their family.

Virginia Mainprize, Marilyn Shepherd, Heather Doyle, Debi Goodwin, Don MacLeod, Niagara on the Lake Syrian Refugee Project



Syrian Refugees update – January 2017

In January 2016, the St Mark’s component of the Niagara on the Lake Syrian Refugee Project received notice that the Syrian family we had chosen to sponsor would be arriving in Canada imminently. The family, who is waiting in Turkey, where they have been for three years, was told even earlier that they would be coming to Canada within a few weeks.

Our group quickly rented a three-bedroom apartment in St Catharines in February, furnished it, collected clothes and stocked it with basic food supplies. Since then we have waited, and neither we nor our family has received any news. Finally in August, we sadly and reluctantly cancelled our lease and packed up and moved all the furniture, clothes and household goods into storage. In the meantime we are in regular contact with our family, by both email and Skype.

In late August, we, and other Blended Visa Officer Referred sponsoring groups that are still waiting for their families, were notified we would be given the opportunity to sponsor an alternate family. This is part of the letter that was sent to groups whose refugee families have not yet arrived.

This is regarding a number of delayed Blended Visa Office Referred (BVOR) cases.  As you are aware, the delays were in large part due to the fact that cases were made available to sponsors prior to the finalization of eligibility, medical, and security decisions to meet the demand from sponsors at that time and to have them included in the initiative to resettle 25,000 Syrians by the end of February 2016.  We understand that the delays have been disappointing for some private sponsors and regret the challenges that we know this caused for many. As a special exception given the pace and volume of the Syrian initiative, we will begin offering replacement cases in the coming weeks to those sponsors that have been impacted by these delays.

It now seems that when we and our family were told that they would be arriving in Canada last February, some members of the family had not had all their clearances completed. And they are still incomplete.

So the government offered us the option of continuing to sponsor our original family, whose clearance may take much more time to complete, or they may never be admissible, or of sponsoring another family. However, the original family will have the opportunity – if and when their clearance is completed – to come to Canada as Government Assisted Refugees (GAR) with their expenses covered by the government for a year. There is no option for us to sponsor both cases.

Sivan, Berivan, Silan, Kiymet and FadiHere is a picture (right) of our first family – Sivan, Berivan, Silan, Kiymet and Fadi – waiting in Turkey.

Our steering committee debated whether or not we would agree to support another family; it was a terrible dilemma – we knew that we had a responsibility to our donors but also felt that we were abandoning our family with whom we had established a personal relationship. After much thought and deliberation, we decided that we would sponsor a new family.

In mid-October, Scott McLeod at the Diocese of Niagara – our agreement holder – received notification that an offer of sponsoring another family would be forthcoming. We told him we would accept. Just before Christmas we signed the papers to sponsor a young family of six with two parents and four young children ranging in age from nine years to a few months. They are Syrian and waiting in Lebanon. We have been told only that they will arrive within a couple of months.

As soon as we know when they will be arriving, we will rent another apartment, take our furniture out of storage, and create a new home for this young family. Some of their needs will be very different from our first family’s – car seats, cribs, highchairs, and all the paraphernalia associated with young children. We will ask the community for donations before we buy this equipment.

In mid-January, Father Scott McLeod, and Debi Goodwin and Virginia Mainprize from our steering committee, contacted our original family by Skype to tell them that their application to come to Canada has still not been finalized and that when it is, they will be coming to Canada as government-sponsored refugees (GAR) and could be settled anywhere in Canada. We also told them we will make every effort to find them support in the community where they will be settled.

There are still thousands of other Syrian families whose applications have been finalized, or are in process, who are still waiting to come to Canada. (http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/refugees/welcome/milestones.asp). It is horrible to think that our family has been waiting in Turkey for three-and-a-half years, hoping every day that they may hear when they will come to Canada. Amazingly, they continue to be positive and hopeful. We will continue to be in regular contact with them by email and by Skype.

Our committee thanks you for your continued support of and interest in this project.

Virginia Mainprize and Marilyn Shepherd – chair and co-chair of the committee; Debi Goodwin, Don MacLeod and Heather Doyle – members of the committee.