Government-sponsored Syrian refugees struggle to adjust to Canadian life

After years spent surviving through the bombs of war, Syrian refugees have arrived in Canada. While some seem to thrive, others struggle. The Current looks at how government-sponsored refugees are facing more challenges adjusting to new life.
Syrian refugee Mohammad Almostafa and his daughter Jana relax in his apartment with some of his sponsors. From left, they are Don Strangway, Ron Gamache, Lynn Gamache, Connie Thompson and Sue Head. (Catherine Rolfsen )

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They had a poster and it was written, 'Welcome to Canada' in Arabic and in English. It had my name, it had my wife's name and Jana's name as well ... It was a happy moment for us.- Syrian refugee Mohammad Almostafa arriving in Canada

The federal government is expected to reveal how many refugees Canada plans to accept by the end of the year on March 9, 2016. The Trudeau government has already welcomed 25,000 Syrian refugees and the outpouring of support has been well-documented.

But what has been lost in all the crafted photo ops and happy airport arrivals, are the real struggles refugees are having to survive in this country. In many ways, the real work for Canada is still ahead — making sure refugees do more than just survive.

Mohammad Almostafa and his 10-month-old daughter Jana arrived in B.C. just over a month ago, and were surprised to find that they were being privately sponsored. (Catherine Rolfsen/CBC)

CBC story producer Catherine Rolfsen has been covering stories of Syrian refugees for the past three months. She's found that not all refugees get started in Canada on an equal footing and that those without private sponsors are having a much harder time settling in. 

Daughter Hoda Alsidawi, 24, her mother Fayza. The Syrian refugee family of six is having difficulty finding a permanent home in Lower Mainland, B.C., because two of the daughters have special needs. (Catherine Rolfsen/CBC)
We would like to move to our own house as soon as possible and to learn the language and start communicating with Canadian society.- Government-sponsored Syrian refugee Fayza Alsidawi

Across the country, 60 per cent of government-assisted refugees are now living in permanent housing. In B.C., less than half have moved on from temporary accommodation.

We requested an interview with John McCallum, the minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship. He was unavailable.

If you have stories about refugees settling in your community, let us know.

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This story was produced by the CBC's Catherine Rolfsen. Read more about this story on