Sudbury·Up North

Timmins welcomes Syrian refugee family after 2-year wait

A nearly two-year wait is over for a sponsorship group in Timmins, Ont. who welcomed a family of five Syrian refugees to the city on Friday.

‘They were smiling as soon as they saw us,’ says group that brought refugee family to Timmins

A Syrian family of five finally arrived in Timmins on Friday. (Tom Baby/Timmins Refugee Sponsorship Committee)

A nearly two-year wait is over for a sponsorship group in Timmins, Ont., which welcomed a family of five Syrian refugees to the city on Friday.

'The City with a Heart of Gold' has been waiting for a family to arrive since a sponsorship group formed in 2015.

Like other sponsors across the country have discovered, it can be a painful waiting game.

Tom Baby, chair of the Timmins Refugee Sponsorship Committee, said they weren't given much information during the long waiting period.

"When we received our match with the family, we were given some names, some numbers, whether they could speak English, and that was it," Baby said.

Overwhelming support of Canadians likely created backlog

Baby said he thinks the generosity of Canadians likely overwhelmed the system and caused delays.

"My guess is, after the 25,000 [refugees] came over last year, the capacity and resources were tapered down after the goal was reached," he said.

"There were also delays with our [refugee] family, going through medical and security screening. We were given a replacement [refugee family] in December, and they finally made it here last week," he said.

Listen to Tom Baby on CBC's northern Ontario afternoon show Up North.

Baby said his group — like other sponsorship groups — had to figure out its own contingency plan for when the family arrived.

Fortunately, some employers immediately stepped up to help.

"We're really lucky a member of our group has already offered a job," Baby said.

"We've also had employers in the community offer potential employment once [the family's] English skills are better."

Family easing into the community, and the weather

Baby said the family hasn't revealed a lot about their past, and he's in no hurry to pressure them to tell their story. He knows the family has three children — two boys and a girl, but not much else.

"As time goes by, we'll find out a little more about their particular situation," he said. "It's up to family to share what they want with us."

The family did quickly learn about Timmins' less-than-accommodating weather.

"The family arrived on a cold day," Baby said.

"But they replied they would come any day of the year, summer, winter, fall. They're just happy to get out of the conflict zone, out of the refugee camp. They were smiling as soon as they saw us. They were very thankful, looking forward to starting their new life here."

Another family?

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Baby's group is now hoping they can sponsor another family. They've got $90,000 raised ready, and he says he's confident the community will continue to rally around the cause.

"It really speaks to how enthusiastic and how people really wanted to make a difference in the refugee crisis," Baby said.

"The fact that we surpassed our original goal twofold, shows the amount of support the community was giving to our sponsorship group."

With files from Jason Turnbull


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