Halifax Syrian refugees celebrate and thank Nova Scotians
Canadians 'open their arms,' says Mohammed Harb, who came to Halifax as a Syrian refugee
Hundreds filled a community centre in Halifax Saturday in celebration of the efforts to settle Syrian refugees.
Mohammed Harb, a father of seven children, said he felt moved to organize the event to thank Canadians who've helped Syrians make their homes in Halifax.
"This is nothing for them because only we just say thank you for them," Harb said through a friend who translated.
"They open their arms for them, for us."
More than 1,000 Syrians settled in Nova Scotia as refugees as of mid-March, the provincial government says.
Most recently, Islamic State has captured more than a dozen villages in northern Syria and around 30,000 displaced people fled shelters near the Turkish border.
Families continue to arrive in Nova Scotia. Even those who moved to Halifax in recent weeks attended Saturday's event at the St. Andrew's Community Centre, said Donna Sutton of the Bayers Westwood Family Resource Centre.
'Passion and dreams'
Sutton said she was touched when Harb approached the centre to organize the event.
"Thank you Mohammed for his passion and dreams," she told the crowd.
'Thank you for your generosity'
Children lined the gymnasium stage clutching posters that read, "Thank you for your generosity," and "We are really pleased to be here."
They gathered on stage as anti-violence activist and musician Quentrel Provo led the crowd to sing O Canada.
So many happy dances today at the thank you ceremony by Syrian families <a href="https://t.co/e0ux8PW7Co">pic.twitter.com/e0ux8PW7Co</a>—@wardrachel
'Halifax is better off'
Dignitaries including Member of Parliament Andy Fillmore and Halifax Mayor Mike Savage sat in the front row.
"I believe Halifax is better off because you're here," Savage told the crowd.
Young men performed a traditional Syrian dance, soon joined by children hopping on the stage. Kids of all ages — some wearing face paint — twirled to the music.
Young men show us their dance moves at this community event of Syrian families and friends <a href="https://t.co/3DsgvEzsxv">pic.twitter.com/3DsgvEzsxv</a>—@wardrachel
'A better life'
Aisha Ahmed said she feels better to be in Canada, to stay in one place and have a chance to seek medical help. Her son, Ahmed Moummed, is waiting to see a specialist doctor.
"She wants him to get a better life," Ahmed's friend said, translating for her.
Ahmed said she's looking forward to taking English classes. She and her husband are on a waiting list, she said.
'It's truly amazing'
Nova Scotia Immigration Minister Lena Diab said she's happy to see such a response to the province's humanitarian effort and the many volunteers who have helped out.
"It's amazing to feel that you can help people no matter where they are and it's wonderful," said Diab.
"They are all so grateful to be here and be able to give back as Canadians to this wonderful, wonderful country — and it's truly amazing."