Syrian community strives to bring families to Canada

Canadians of Syrian origin are anxious to bring family members to Canada because of the violence in their home country.

Canadian Syrian Council says Canadian government is failing immigrants

Up to 40,000 Syrian immigrants live in Montreal 2:15

Canadians of Syrian origin say they are struggling to bring family members to Canada because of the violence in their home country.

Concordia University student Kinda Masri said she can barely reach her family in the coastal Syrian town of Latakia by phone. She said she wants to bring her family to Montreal, her efforts so far have been in vain.

"I don't want to see any people that I know because -- it happened to me once, I read the name of my friend who had been captured by security, forces, and after 12 days he was delivered to his family as a dead body," said Masri.

Canadian Syrian Council spokesperson Faisal Alazem said most Syrians who have immigrated to Canada are living in a constant state of anxiety and struggle to stay in contact with their family members.

Alazem said he wants the government to expedite cases where Syrians are applying to sponsor family members as immigrants.

"The situation is a human catastrophe on every level," said Alazem. "We are very concerned that our own Canadian government has not done anything to support this humanitarian crisis in our own border."

He also wants to see the government give priority to Syrians who have applied for immigration and are living in refugee camps or in dangerous parts of Syria.

Alazem has met with federal officials and sent numerous letters to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, but the requests have yielded no results.

He said his demands are in line with what the government has done in the past for countries such as Haiti, where an earthquake shook the lives of more than 1.5 million people in 2010.

Former assistant director of intelligence at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Ray Boisvert said opening up the border to Syrians could pose a threat to Canadians.

"You have to consider what sort of risk we have to bring on board if people are allowed to come in at a faster rate, without being properly checked in an area in the world where its already quite difficult to do background checks," he said.

Syrian organizations claim more than 40,000 immigrants from Syria live in Quebec.

Canada reduced its staff in Damascus in January. It's also been asking any Canadians in Syria to leave the country since then. CBC's calls to Canada's immigration ministry were not returned.