Nova Scotia

Hubbards Community Refugee Sponsorship aims to help 2 Syrian families

A group based out of Hubbards is moving ahead with plans to help two families escape the Syrian refugee crisis and bring them to the South Shore of Nova Scotia.

Group convened over long weekend; 40 residents attended

After three meetings in just one week, a group of concerned residents in Hubbards are rallying together to sponsor two Syrian refugee families. (Turgut Yeter/CBC News)

A group based out of Hubbards is moving ahead with plans to help two families escape the Syrian refugee crisis and bring them to the South Shore of Nova Scotia.

The Hubbards Community Refugee Sponsorship was formed less than a week ago and has already held three planning meetings.

Shelly Whitman is a member of the group and is also the executive director of the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative at Dalhousie University.

She just returned in July from one of the biggest refugee camps in the world in Jordan.

Whitman told CBC's Mainstreet the group first met last Thursday after being created by local residents, including a woman who recently worked in Syria and saw the crisis as it started.

A community meeting was held over the long weekend and organizers were thrilled with the response.

"It was pretty incredible that over a Labour Day weekend you were able to convene 40 people in a small community who were very passionate about being there," Whitman said.

Attending was Glenn Davidson, Canada's Ambassador to Syria from 2008 to 2011. He has a summer home in Hubbards.

Communities rallying

Elizabeth Wozniak is an immigration lawyer in Halifax and says it's the smaller communities that are taking action to help in this crisis.

"I think the federal government can and should do a lot more, but it's wonderful to hear that there are communities that are getting this involved," she said.

The group will next form a board of directors and set out a plan for fundraising. About $25,000 to $30,000 will be needed to support each family in their first year.

It is hoped the families will choose to stay in Nova Scotia, especially in a smaller community.

"We need to have refugees and immigrants come to this province," Whitman said.

'There is no political will'

Wozniak said the federal government should tackle this crisis as they did with the 1990s Kosovo crisis. At that time, military aircraft were sent to the crisis area to fly refugees directly to Canada.

Refugees were processed at a military base once they got into Canada, making the procedure much quicker.

"The process in Canada is very slow. We have some amazing regular immigration programs that get people permanent residence in under six months. Why can't we do that for refugees?" Wozniak said. "There is no political will."

Whitman said the will is in her community and in many others across Nova Scotia.

"The key message we want to get out is that there's nothing extraordinary about us, only that we feel compelled to do something and that every community in Nova Scotia could also feel compelled to do something similar," she said.

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