British Columbia

Syrian refugee family celebrates 5th anniversary of arrival in northern B.C.

The Tohme family was the first Syrian refugees to come to northern B.C. Rose Tohme and her husband Nael were granted Canadian citizenship in Oct. 2019.

Rose Tohme says their welcome was warm and challenges were few

Syrian refugee Rose Tohme, right, and her husband Nael at a ceremony in Prince George, B.C., where they were granted Canadian citizenship in Oct. 2019. They celebrated the fifth anniversary of coming to Canada on Friday. (Submitted by Rose Tohme)

On Friday, Rose Tohme and her family celebrated their fifth anniversary arriving in the northern B.C. city of Prince George after a long journey fleeing Syria's civil war. 

Tohme, her husband Nael and their four children left Latakia — a Syrian port city on the Mediterranean — in 2012. They made their way to Lebanon before being sponsored by a church in northern B.C. to come to Canada.  

On Jan. 8, 2016, at 1 a.m., the Tohmes became the first Syrian refugees to arrive in northern B.C., landing in the Prince George airport after flying from Lebanon via Jordan and Toronto. 

"We were very excited. We just wanted to survive," said Tohme.

It was −21 C that night, but the family was warmly greeted by a large group of locals with welcome signs and flowers. The group included Prince George Mayor Lyn Hall, the family's church sponsors and smiling strangers.

Tohme is grateful that she and her family have settled down easily. She and her husband became Canadian citizens in October 2019. 

"We almost didn't have any challenges," she said.

Formerly a teacher in Syria, Tohme is an education assistant at a local high school working with Syrian students. 

Tohme's four children are now grown, and two of her three sons are now married.  

Tohme says she and her daughter both have similar plans for further study. 

Rose and Nael Tohme in a family photo with their four children and two daughters-in-law. (Submitted by Rose Tohme)

"I would like also to study counselling as my daughter so we can help more people," she said.

As a Christian for 30 years, Tohme says she has learned to relish every moment of life in Canada amid the difficult times. 

"Especially with this pandemic thing, we are trying to live day by day and just enjoy it and leave tomorrow for tomorrow," she said.

With files from Nicole Oud and Betsy Trumpener