British Columbia

Coquitlam Syrian family says this will be 'the best Christmas ever'

A Coquitlam family torn apart because of the civil war in Syria, is finally reunited.

Mirna Nakhleh's mother and brothers are now settling in B.C.

Mirna Nakhleh (centre) and her three children will spend their first Christmas with their grandmother Maryam Hawa (left) in 10 years. Hawa arrived in B.C. as a Syrian refugee last week. (Bal Brach/CBC News)

After 10 years apart and the last twelve months in limbo, Mirna Nakhleh's mother and two brothers arrived in Canada last week via Lebanon.

This Christmas will be the first one Mirna's three young children celebrate with their Syrian uncles and grandmother.

"It's going to be the best Christmas ever," said Nakhleh. 

"That's what I've always dreamt of  to have my family around. During the war I was so worried I was praying every single night with tears."

Nakhleh's brothers, Michael and Milad Nakhleh and mother Maryam Hawa, have spent the last year in Lebanon, awaiting word on their private sponsorship.

The family fled Syria amid growing violence last year.

Mirna Nakhleh said her mother Maryam is "beyond happy and joyful," to have arrived in Canada to be with her daughter and grandchildren.

"She never thought she'd see us ever again — her dream has come true, thank God."

Mirna's 11-year-old son Christian said seeing his grandmother and taking her to the mall for the first time over the weekend was exciting.

"It's like I went to a mall I never went to in my life," he said.

"When you first see something you never saw you get very interested — I was like that."

The Nakhleh family gathers inside Mirna Nakhleh's Coquitlam home. The Syrian family was reunited through a private sponsorship after spending 10 years apart. (Bal Brach/CBC News)

The Syrian refugees were brought to Canada by a private sponsorship through the Nakhleh's church.

 Kimberly Franklin is the Parish Council Chair at the Holy Nativity Orthodox Church in Langley.

"We're really grateful for all the people that made this possible," she said.

"To be part of a community that cares so much and we're grateful to have new family because Mirna and Maher [her husband] are our family and their family is also our family."

Father Michael Gillis said raising the $30,000 needed for the sponsorship wasn't difficult.

"Canada is a country of immigrants — many of whom were refugees. When there's a need you've got to kind of step up and do something otherwise you lose your own identity."

The family will spend the next few days catching up before meeting the congregation that brought them together.


Bal Brach


Bal Brach is an award-winning reporter at CBC News Vancouver. She has worked in television, radio and online news across Canada for more than 15 years. Bal's storytelling skills have earned her two Jack Webster Awards. She is also the recipient of regional and national Radio Television Digital News Association awards. Bal can be reached at or on social media @BalBrach