Saskatchewan

'We can restart our life': Syrian refugee happy to be in Saskatchewan

Syrian refugees began arriving in Saskatchewan about a year ago, and one newcomer has embraced her new prairie life with joy.

Nearly 1,200 refugees settled in the province in 9 months

A gathering at the legislature in Regina on Nov. 2, 2016, noted the progress of newly settled Syrian refugees in the province. (CBC)

Syrian refugees began arriving in Saskatchewan about a year ago, and one newcomer has embraced her new prairie life with joy.

"I have a chance now and an opportunity to shine here," Naiala Al-Shatir said during a gathering at the provincial legislature in Regina on Wednesday. "We are in a safe place now [and] we can restart our life again."

Al-Shatir spoke about how her life in Syria was disrupted by violence. Some of her family members died. She lost her job as an English teacher.

She ended up in a refugee camp and counts herself lucky to have been chosen to come to Canada.

Naiala Al-Shatir arrived in Canada from a refugee camp in March 2016. (CBC)

Al-Shatir arrived in March and has been working as a volunteer with the refugee community. She said that, like others, she is hoping to get a paid job.

In time, we'll see them as a new Canadian, not a Syrian refugee.- Naiala  Al-Shatir

"Until now [we've been] without any teaching, without any education," she said.

According to information from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, Saskatchewan settled 1,188 refugees between November 2015 and the end of July. Most were families of five to six.

In one case, 11 family members arrived in Saskatchewan under Canada's refugee sponsorship program.

Children adapting fast

Al-Shatir said while many refugees are facing challenges — primarily language — they are learning fast, especially children.

"The children are like a sponge. They'll learn quickly," she said, noting that some of them had never had a stable school environment before arriving in the province. "They need time and they need support."

She said the youngsters are also quickly picking up new sports and games.

"The children are very happy here," Al-Shatir said. "In time, we'll see them as a new Canadian, not a Syrian refugee."

Al-Shatir added she hopes people will come to know more about Syria and not see it simply as a country engulfed by war.

"[We] want to give a good impression of Syria," she said.

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