UNB forum seeks volunteers to help Syrian refugees
'We get to be part of the process that gives them the opportunity to raise their families here'
A public information session on the refugee resettlement process at the University of New Brunswick on Tuesday night heard about the complexity of bringing Syrians to Canada, and the rewards.
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The forum, which was sponsored by the university and the Gregg Centre for the Study of War and Society, featured a number of speakers, including Major Drew Willis of the 2nd Battalion Royal Canadian Regiment, based at CFB Gagetown.
Willis said he and his soldiers were deployed in Jordan and Lebanon, where he spent 40 days overseeing "biometric collection, which is taking fingerprints and photos of the various refugees so they can be catalogued as part of the larger immigration process."
The soldiers also processed the reams of paper work necessary before the refugees could leave for Canada. Willis said it was a "phenomenally rewarding" experience.
I want to make them welcome here in Fredericton.- Patricia Ellsworth, volunteer
"You know that you're helping people that have gone through horrible things, in some cases, and they're looking for a safe place to raise their families," he said.
Patricia Ellsworth attended the forum looking for more information about the resettlement process and hopes to volunteer as a tutor.
Ellsworth is a bilingual retired teacher who has worked with refugees in the past, when she helped settle newcomers from Burundi.
"I want to make them welcome here in Fredericton and whatever I can do in that process, I'd like to be able to do it."
Finding volunteers here is only part of the effort when it comes to resettlement.
On Tuesday, the federal government revealed almost half of all Syrian refugees now in Canada are without a permanent home.
The government has now put out a tender for Fredericton and Oromocto hotels to house 450 Syrian refugees.