Syrian refugee family meets the Toronto students who helped them find a new home

After lingering for three years in Lebanon waiting to get to Canada, a Syrian refugee family finally got its first taste of Canada last week — at a Tim Hortons, where else?

Gulesarian family, who waited 3 years to get to Canada, gets warm welcome during 1st visit to Tim Hortons

Refugee family's first days in Canada

7 years ago
Duration 5:00
Amid the culture shock of new places and new faces, a Syrian refugee family meets the Toronto students who helped them find a new home.

CBC first met the Gulesarian family when they were living in a run-down apartment block in Beirut in early December 2015. At the time, the refugees from Aleppo, Syria, had been living in Lebanon for three years and were anxious to get to Canada before the new year.

In Lebanon, the family of five had no legal standing, were not able to work or attend school and faced discrimination.

The family has a cousin in Toronto and was able to obtain a combination of private and government sponsorship to come to Canada.

Bedros, 6, the youngest member of the Gulesarian family, is a natural ham. He and his two siblings arrived in Canada with their parents as refugees from Syria in January 2016. They are slowly adjusting to life in their new home and recently paid their first visit the neighbourhood Tim Hortons to get a taste of Canadian culture. (CBC)

The Gulesarians' private sponsors are a group of teachers, students and parents from Dewson Street Public School in Toronto's west end. The group formed out of a parent's initiative to teach students and the community about the plight of refugees and encourage them to be global citizens and lend a helping hand. 

Refugee family checks out Tim Hortons for the first time

7 years ago
Duration 0:47
Watch how customers reacted to these Syrian refugees who went to Tim Hortons for the first time.

After a few holdups having to do with the medical tests that refugees are required to undergo, the Gulesarians finally arrived in Canada on Jan. 29.  CBC's Adrienne Arsenault caught up with them that week at their new home in the Toronto suburb of Scarborough.

Suzy Dabaghian, left, and her daughter, Gracia Gulesarian, 23, at the family's apartment in the Toronto suburb of Scarborough. The family of five spent three years as refugees in Lebanon, where they could not work or attend school and faced discrimination. (CBC)

That day, one of their sponsors wanted to introduce the newcomers to a few of the essential resources in their new neighbourhood. First stop: Tim Hortons. 

Watch the video above to see the Gulesarians get their first taste of Timbits and double-doubles and meet the schoolkids who helped bring them to Canada.

Harout Gulesarian, 19, hopes to resume his studies in Canada. (CBC)


Adrienne Arsenault

Senior Correspondent

Emmy Award-winning journalist Adrienne Arsenault co-hosts The National. Her investigative work on security has seen her cross Canada and pursue stories across the globe. Since joining CBC in 1991, her postings have included Vancouver, Washington, Jerusalem and London.


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