Nova Scotians thanked for stepping up to help Syrian refugees

By Steve Berry, CBC News, 2 February 2017

‘You saved the lives of 1,586 people … but the job is not done’

Mahmoud Masalma through ISANS translator Nada Abdeen thanked all the people in attendance for their help. Masalma says working in Canada is the real way to thank everyone. (Steve Berry/CBC)

The ISANS publicly thanked all those who helped Syrian refugees settle in the province, with a celebration at the Halifax Central Library Wednesday night.

It’s been a long road for those Syrians who came to Canada as refugees over the last year.

Nova Scotians gave their time, money, furniture, and their friendship to refugees fleeing conflict in their home country, said ISANS.

“You saved the lives of 1,586 people. You welcomed them into your homes and your hearts.” said ISANS’ director of operations Gerry Mills.

“But the job is not done, we still have a lot of work to do”

The 1,586 number includes 506 people brought to Canada through private sponsorships.

During last night’s event, Syrian newcomer, Hussam Jado Al Assaf, played traditional music before organizers and politicians to say thank you.

Gerry Mills

Gerry Mills is the director of operations for ISANS. (Steve Berry/CBC)

Two newcomers, Mahmoud Masalma and Zeher Abdulmaula took the podium last night as well.

“The real thanks will be when we start to work here in Canada, this is the real way to thank everybody” said Masalma, through ISANS translator Nada Abdeen.

Teaching new Canadians English and finding them jobs are no small tasks, and newcomers need to find employment after their first year here, or else rely on social assistance.

In December, more than 100 Syrian newcomers attended an employment workshop, pitching 22 new business ideas.

Many are also looking to finish their education in the province.

“I started learning language at Dalhousie, because I want to complete my study and get a masters degree in computer science,” said Abdulmaula who has been in Canada for eight months.

Abdulmaula spoke to the crowd in English, which Abdeen translated back into Arabic for the newcomers in the crowd.

ISANS said only one of the families who came to Nova Scotia has moved to another province. They did so for family reasons.

The new Canadians at last night’s meeting are just a fraction of the 39,671 Syrians who have come to Canada since the refugee crisis began in 2015, not including a family who landed at the Halifax airport yesterday.