'You are home now': Manitoba's Syrian refugees get official welcome

Applause, handshakes and a Cree drum song officially welcomed Manitoba's Syrian refugees to Winnipeg during a ceremony Monday morning.
Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger welcomed Yaser Albakar and his family on Monday. The refugee family, which had been living in Lebanon after escaping Syria, landed in Winnipeg on Saturday. 1:13

Applause, handshakes and a Cree drum song officially welcomed Manitoba's Syrian refugees to Winnipeg during a ceremony Monday morning.

"Our home is your home. We're very pleased to have you here," Premier Greg Selinger told Yaser Albakar and his family during the event at Welcome Place, a temporary apartment complex for newly-arrived refugees.

Premier Greg Selinger welcomes Yaser Albakar and his family on Monday. The refugee family, which had been living in Lebanon after escaping Syria, landed in Winnipeg on Saturday. (CBC)
Traditional Cree women's drum group, Keewatin Otchitchak, plays Monday morning at Welcome Place. (CBC)
"The weather may be cold some days but the warmth and friendliness of the people of Manitoba — I'm sure you will feel it every day.

Selinger, Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman and federal Minister of Natural Resources Jim Carr were on hand for the event, along with traditional Cree women's drum group, Keewatin Otchitchak.

A family of nine refugees, who will be living in Altona, arrived on Friday. They were unable to attend on Monday.

Albakar's family of eight, who will call Winnipeg home, arrived in the city on Saturday.

"The two families have spent several years, having fled from Syria, in Lebanon. And I have to say to them, you are home now. Welcome home," said Rita Chahal, executive director of Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council, which operates Welcome House.

It is expected that more than 25,000 Syrian refugees will be arriving in Canada over the next few months. Approximately, 1,500 to 2,000 will soon be calling Manitoba home, Selinger said.

More families arriving

An official with Welcome Place said four more Syrian refugee families are arriving in Winnipeg on Monday afternoon.

They wouldn't say, however, what time they are expected, citing privacy reasons.

Selinger said some of the new arrivals are expected to be settled in St. Boniface while others will go to Welcome Place.

"Welcoming thousands of Syrian refugees brings out the best in Canadians," said Carr. "The warmth and generosity that our nation has shown to people escaping persecution continues today as we reach out to displaced people literally running for their lives.

"Manitobans yet again are demonstrating their compassion, understanding and hospitality. This is a proud moment for Canada."

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