Alberta group to sponsor Syrian refugees, despite fears from some residents

Fears of bringing 'terrorism' to an Alberta town has prompted a group raising money to sponsor a Syrian refugee family to change its name from 'Strathmore for Syria' to 'Hope for Syria.'

Group changes name from 'Strathmore for Syria' to 'Hope for Syria' to avoid misrepresentation

Hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees and others are still making their way slowly across Europe, seeking shelter where they can, taking a bus or a train where one is available, walking where it isn't. (Andreas Gebert/dpa/Associated Press)

A Strathmore, Alta. group trying to sponsor a Syrian refugee family have changed the name of their fundraising group to smooth over concerns from some community members.

'Strathmore for Syria' is now called 'Hope for Syria,' says Shelby Dwyer, who launched the initiative a few weeks ago.

She says it was a Facebook post that prompted the group to re-name themselves.

"Somebody notified me that, while they thought the movement was very warm-hearted ... it may not necessarily speak for everyone in the community. I wouldn't want to misrepresent anyone else's desires," said Dwyer.

Shelby Dwyer (photographed here with her husband, Roger) is leading a group of residents raising money to bring a refugee family from Syria to Strathmore, Alta. (Shelby Dwyer/Facebook)

"There's a lot of fear about terrorism and — how do we know they're not ISIS in disguise? And you know, I've had a few people in the community reach out to me with those fears."

Dwyer likens the situation to when Canada opened its doors to refugees of the Vietnam War.

By the end of 1980, more than 60,000 Vietnamese were sponsored by private organizations and Canadian families.

"People were worried about communists infiltrating our system, and criminals," said Dwyer.

We meet a Strathmore woman who is organizing a community effort to sponsor Syrian refugees in her community. 6:28

She says when she does hear those concerns, she always tries to explain the arduous vetting process that refugees must go through in order to come to Canada.

"It can take up to three years," said Dwyer, who will be donating some of her own money to bring a Syrian refugee family to Strathmore.

'Hope for Syria' is reaching out to local businesses and residents to raise $15,000 to cover the cost of the family's housing, furniture, clothing, food and ESL lessons for their first year in Strathmore.

While the actual cost to sponsor a refugee family is around $30,000, Dwyer says the government of Canada will be covering the family's expenses for the first six months.

The group is still waiting to be matched with a Syrian family, which Dwyer says will likely be coming from a refugee camp in Lebanon or Turkey.


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