New Brunswick

Quispamsis church picks Syrian family for refugee sponsorship

"We had one person on the committee saying, 'Isn't there any reason we couldn't do two families?'" said Doug Morgan, after reviewing multiple files of registered refugees.

Family of eight should arrive in New Brunswick by November

Doug Morgan reviewed multiple files of registered refugees before selecting one family. (CBC)

A Saint John man who helped choose one Syrian family to be sponsored by his church says the selection process was emotional.

"We had one person on the committee saying, 'Is there any reason we couldn't do two families?'" said Doug Morgan, who reviewed multiple files of registered refugees.

"No there isn't," said Morgan. "But we'll get this one right, first."

The Kennebecasis Baptist Church is now formally matched with a family of eight, including six children ranging in age from three to 20.

The oldest daughter has mental disabilities. The Blended Visa Office Referral says the 45-year-old father is considered a survivor of violence and torture.

Morgan says the selection committee, comprised of eight church members, didn't look at photos or see names. Those details did not appear in the case files they considered. 

The group was only given some basic facts such as the ages of children and the educational level of the parents. Health issues were flagged. Language skills were identified. Relatives who hoped to resettle together were able to indicate their preference. 

"I'm going to move up the emotional ladder a little bit more as pictures and family-type things [come out]," said Morgan.

"As we get closer to putting a face, well, eight faces to the process, I'm going to be a little higher on the emotional ladder." 

Hard choices between Syrian and Somalian refugees

The selection committee endured one false start.

After meeting on Sept. 6, the group selected three large families only to learn those files were already taken. 

On Sunday, the group met again to consider two files, including the Syrian family of eight living in Beirut and a Somali family living in Kenya.

The 35-year-old Somali father had grown up in a refugee camp from the time he was ten. His six children had been born in the camp. 

"I guess being somewhat naive, I didn't realize you could be in a refugee camp for a long time," said Morgan. 

Morgan says the stress of choosing between the two compelling files was alleviated, somewhat, when two rural churches near Kentville, N.S., expressed an interest in taking the family not chosen for Saint John. 

On Tuesday morning, he and his wife Sheila received an email confirming the Syrian match. It also provided the names of the family members and the Morgans were able to read those names for the first time. 

According to the blended visa documents, the family could depart Beirut within three to six weeks. 

The United Nations Human Rights Commission says 1.1 million Syrians have registered as refugees in Lebanon.

Morgan agrees the sponsorship to Canada is a golden opportunity and he says it will be a relief to see the children and their parents arrive safely at the Saint John airport, probably some time in November.