In his first holiday greeting as prime minister, Justin Trudeau urged Canadians to think outside of their own families when giving gifts this season.
“We often celebrate this time of year by showing our generosity to family and friends,” says Trudeau. “I trust that we will do the same with the thousands of people who are experiencing the Canadian holidays and the Canadian winter for the first time — the Syrian refugees.”
Trudeau stressed that Canadians consider what they have in common with these newcomers to Canada: “We share values of love, hope and compassion. It’s what we do, and it’s who we are.”
Canadians helping refugees
Over 1,800 Syrian refugees will be starting new lives and experiencing their first Canadian winter this season. Canadians should expect many more Syrian refugees, as the government has committed to resettling 25,000 refugees in our country.
Many Canadians have already made efforts to help the refugees feel more at home in our country. Janet Howitt worked with her church group in Kitchener, Ontario, to sponsor a Syrian family who fled the conflict in Aleppo. Howitt tells NPR how the process of sponsoring refugees works:
“For their first year in Canada, you are responsible for all of their living expenses, for settling them, if you will, orientation support, for helping them get into school or into work, supporting them in every way,” Howitt says.
She pitched in by picking up the family at the airport: “We had a sign that said ‘Welcome’ in English and Arabic and their names,” Howitt recalls. “You could just visibly see their body posture change a bit, lift up a little bit, smile. You know… you’re here. Somebody is here.”
The mother from the family Howitt’s church group sponsored (who asked NPR to not use her name) says the family is happy to finally be resettled in Canada.
“For us, every day is new people, new values and new learning… It’s amazing,” she says. “I am so happy here and feel like I want to encourage everyone to come to Canada who is now a refugee and seeking a safe place.”
What can you do?
If you’re interested in donating money to help Syrians resettle in Canada, you can donate money to Canada’s Syria Emergency Relief Fund. Alternately you can connect with your local charities working with refugees to donate items that will help these newcomers start new lives, like warm winter jackets, kitchenware and furniture. Or you could even get a group from your community together to privately sponsor a refugee family by following these instructions from Citizen and Immigration Canada.