Saskatoon

Saskatoon organizations ready for Syrian refugees

Organizations around the city say they are more than ready to help the newcomers adjust to their unfamiliar homes.

Organizations around the city say they are ready for the planes to land

Fwad Malik, member of a group sponsoring Syrian Families to settle in Canada, holds up a sign welcoming his charges as he waits for them to arrive at Toronto's Pearson International Airport on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

The first group of Saskatchewan-bound Syrian refugees are on their way to Saskatoon, and residents in the bridge city are ready for their arrival.

Lori Steward, community relations manager at Saskatoon's Global Gathering Place, said the organization is more than ready to help the newcomers adjust to their unfamiliar home.

"It's a very client-centred approach, so different families are going to have different needs," said Steward. "Some are going to be really comfortable with a lot of that and others are going to need more help."

We know we're part of something that is making history.- Helen Smith-McIntyre, chair of the Saskatoon Refugee Coalition

Steward said the help offered includes basic and essential life skills such as taking the bus, using the laundry systems and going to the grocery store.

"It can be very different from what they're used to at home," said Steward. "But we're ready for whatever comes."

According to the federal government, the first wave of 14 newcomers destined for Saskatoon will arrive in Toronto today before boarding a flight to the prairies.
Lori Steward, community relations manager at Saskatoon's Global Gathering Place, says the organization is more than ready to help the newcomers adjust to their unfamiliar home. (Anouk Lebel/CBC)

Helen Smith-McIntyre, chair of the Saskatoon Refugee Coalition, said over the next two months, there will be a steady stream of several hundreds of refugees coming to Saskatoon and residents are ready for the planes to land.

"There's been a lot of work that's gone in to preparing this big movement of refugees," she said. "And I think people are really ready."

However, she said there are questions lingering in the midst of the excitement. 

"We don't know if people will come with serious medical issues," said Smith-McIntyre. "Are we prepared to work with people who have experienced the trauma of war?"  

But in the end, she said it all comes down to one thing.

"We know we're part of something that is making history. We remember the Vietnamese, we remember the Kasovars, and we will remember the Syrians." 

No details on Regina arrivals

As for when Regina can expect its first Syrian refugees, local MP and federal cabinet minister Ralph Goodale said that is not known.

"We don't have a specific arrival time yet," Goodale said Friday. But the numbers are building all the time and sometimes we don't have a lot of advance notice because these arrangements come together in these very extraordinary circumstances very quickly."

Goodale added he was impressed with how people of the province have stepped up, to help out. He noted the efforts of a Regina pub owner where furniture and clothing, valued at around $200,000, was collected and shared with aid agencies.

"The collection of all the donations has been just amazing," Goodale said. "[Pub owner] Niall O'Hanlon and the people he motivated are truly remarkable."

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