Yukon Cares ups efforts to bring more Syrian refugees to territory

Three refugee families came to Yukon in the last couple of years, and all have since moved south. That hasn't deterred the enthusiasm for bringing more, says the president of Yukon Cares.

Departure of three refugee families from Yukon has not dampened enthusiasm to bring more

People gather to take basic food stuffs and other aid from community leaders distributing supplies to the 64,000-person refugee camp called Ruqban on the Jordan-Syria border in 2016. (The Associated Press)

Whitehorse-based charitable group Yukon Cares is hoping to bring four more refugee families to the territory within the next year or two, according to its president, Raquel de Queiroz.

She said Yukon Cares — which sponsored the first Syrian refugee family to come to Yukon, two years ago — is working on a number of refugee files.

The community organization was founded to re-settle refugees in the territory. It's now assisting an Eritrean man who has come to Canada from Israel, de Queiroz said. 

It is also waiting for the final clearances for a single Syrian man and a Syrian family of five, said de Queiroz. They are relatives of the Aarafats, the first family who came to Yukon.

Raquel De Queiroz, far left, with three of the Aarafat sisters, in 2016 at Swan Haven on Marsh Lake. The Aarafats were the first Syrian refugee family to arrive in Yukon, and have since moved to Ontario. (Dave Croft/CBC)

De Queiroz said knowing how long it will take for the newcomers to arrive is like predicting the weather — it's hard to know.

"It's really up to the speed of the government at the federal level at this point, and all we can do is advocate for things to be processed faster," she said.

Yukon Cares has also applied to become part of a federal government program set up to help refugees. The program covers half the cost of supporting refugees during their first year in Canada with community sponsors covering the rest, said de Queiroz.

Those refugees have been pre-approved by the government so they can arrive in Canada relatively quickly once they've been paired with local sponsors, she said.

Yukon Cares has raised enough money for two families under that plan, she said.

Not unusual to move on

Yukoners have not lost any enthusiasm after the three previous families left Yukon for better job opportunities in southern Canada, said de Queiroz.

People moving to find new opportunities is not unusual in Yukon or the rest of Canada, said de Queiroz.

"I came from Brazil, lived a few different places in Canada before I settled in the Yukon," she said.

De Queiroz said there's no end in sight for Yukon Cares since there's no sign various refugee crises in the world will be solved soon.

The UN Refugee Agency said last year that more than five million Syrians are refugees.
 

About the Author

Dave Croft

Reporter, CBC North

Dave Croft is a reporter in the CBC Yukon newsroom in Whitehorse. He has been been covering Yukon stories since 1990.