Calgary

Calgary to welcome 200 Yazidi refugees by end of year

Dozens of Yazidi refugees are starting to settle into life in Calgary. They're among a larger community of about 1,200 the federal government has promised to resettle over the course of this year.

U.N. report says ISIS seeking to destroy small religious minority community

A Yazidi family sits outside their tent at a camp for internal displaced persons on Feb. 22, 2017, in Dohuk, Iraq. Canada has promised to accept hundreds of Yazidi refugees by the end of this year. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Dozens of Yazidi refugees are starting to settle into life in Calgary. 

They're among a larger community of about 1,200 the federal government has promised to resettle over the course of this year.

Fariborz Birjandian, with the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society, is helping the newcomers adjust. 

So far, 48 Yazidi refugees have arrived in Calgary, including one family of seven consisting of two sisters and their children. 

"The men, the members of their family, they are missing," said Birjandian. "Obviously, they have both been killed. Obviously, that is quite significant."

Persecuted minority

The Yazidis are a religious minority with a 6,000-year-old culture based mainly in northern Iraq. ISIS launched brutal attacks targeting the Yazidi community in August 2014.

Last June, a United Nations report said ISIS was seeking to destroy the community of 400,000 people through killings, sexual slavery and other crimes.

Fariborz Birjandian of the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society is helping Yazidi refugees adjust to life in this city. (Bryan Labby)

The refugees' arrival in Canada has been tightly controlled and kept largely under wraps — unlike the very public airport arrivals of some of the first Syrian refugees more than a year ago.

In January, Dawn Edlund, associate assistant deputy minister for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, said the government is carefully avoiding language that could lead to revictimization, and avoiding releasing any details publically that could put other relatives still in captivity at risk.

Resilient families

Back in Calgary, Birjandian says each of the families have managed to settle as best they can.

"They have a lot of question, a lot of fears coming to [Canada] but definitely they are really appreciative and they are very positive, actually. I'm very impressed with their resilience."

Birjandian said Calgary is one of four settlement locations in Canada, and the families are living close together because the Yazidi community is so small. 

Calgary will accept about 200 Yazidi refugees this year.

With files from the CBC's Colleen Underwood

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