British Columbia

Syrian refugee family reunited after years of waiting

After years of anticipation, Hisham Wattar was finally able to hug and hold the rest of his family after five of his relatives arrived Monday at the Vancouver International Airport.

'Today they can start their lives'

Emotional reunion for Hisham Wattar who greeted his sister Fadia Wattar, two nieces and two of his niece's children at Vancouver International Airport. (CBC News)

After years of anticipation, Hisham Wattar was finally able to hug and hold the rest of his family after five of his relatives arrived Monday at the Vancouver International Airport. 

"They're very excited to be here. This is a great day for them that now today they can start their lives," said Wattar. 

He welcomed his sister Fadia, his two nieces, Ghufran and Shukran and Shukran's eight-year-old daughter Sama and eleven-year-old son Hakim. The family fled war-torn Syria four years ago and was living in a refugee camp in Egypt. 

Wattar's niece Ghufran Alrez speaking Arabic told reporters she was excited be in Canada. (CBC News)

Canyon Heights Church in North Vancouver agreed to privately sponsor Wattar's relatives two years ago

Wattar had approached the church's pastor Steve Moore. After several long conversations over coffee, the church agreed to sponsor the family. 

"When things like this come our way, we don't really have to take much time to assess them," said Moore, "These are lives; these are people. It's our responsibility." 

But the application to get the family to Vancouver was delayed several times. As recently as August, they were told it would be another 42 months. However, the family says under the new government, the process was expedited.

"We were at a breaking point, yes, but the result today is everyone is happy and everyone is safe here," said Ghufran Alrez in Arabic. 

The next step for the family is to enroll the children in school and for the adults to sign up for ESL classes.

Wattar family along with Pastor Steve Moore take questions from reporters. (CBC News)

To hear the full audio click on Hisham Wattar's Syrian family reunion on the CBC's The Early Edition.

With files from Elaine Chau and Kamil Karmali.


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