Sudbury

Syrian refugees: Sudbury will soon welcome 1 family, 2 students

A family of six will soon be Sudbury-bound thanks to parishioners at St. Andrew's United Church, while two Syrians are coming to study at Laurentian University next year as part of a decades-old program.

St. Andrew's United Church taking in family of 6, Laurentian University to welcome 2 students

Joanne Ross helped organize the the sponsorship of a Syrian family through St. Andrew's United Church. (Erik White/CBC)

While the federal government has unveiled its plans for bringing 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada over the next several months, planning by groups in Sudbury to welcome some of them are starting to bear fruit.

A family of six will soon be Sudbury-bound thanks to parishioners at St. Andrew's United Church, while two Syrians are coming to study at Laurentian University next year as part of a decades-old refugee student program.

Joanne Ross and her fellow parishioners raised $20,000 and are lining up a year's worth of volunteers to help the family adjust to living in Sudbury. The exact date of their arrival isn't yet known.

Ross said she's been driven to help by thoughts of what it would be like if she and her family were refugees.

"I would hope that somebody would care enough to reach out and help, and I'm responding to that in the same way that so many Sudburians are," she said.

The government announced on Tuesday it will identify all 25,000 refugees by its self-imposed deadline of Dec. 31, 2015, but only 10,000 will arrive by year's end. The rest will arrive by March 2016.

Refugees will include families, women at risk, gays and lesbians, and single men identified as vulnerable due to membership in the LGBT community or those who are accompanying parents as part of a family. 

Ross said she finds the immediate exclusion of some young men unfair.

Ross has been scanning through the United Nations documents outlining the refugees wanting to come to Canada, and says the entries for single young men often come with a pleading note from UN officials.

"'This young kid is so hard-working and so eager,'" she paraphrased. "'He would be a great asset to any community, if you just give him a chance.' And you want to, but I understand people's concern, I understand the government's concern."

'An education process'

Two Syrians will also be coming to Sudbury next year to study at Laurentian as part of a refugee student program administered by geography professor Jorge Virchez.

He says the students gets a degree, and other students learn about a world outside their own.

"Both ways it's an education process," Virchez said. "And we believe that we want to change the world, through education."

Virchez says over the last two decades, the program has seen 20 refugee students start a new life with a Laurentian diploma.​

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