CBC News New Brunswick - Mahmud Kahwaji passed his road test on Monday in Sussex in his second attempt.

"I am very happy" said the Syrian refugee.

Kahwaji said he would usually call other people when he wanted to go somewhere but now he can travel alone.

Zakaria Al Sabagh is another refugee and also passed his road test Monday.

"I need to get a car now and take my family touring to see Canada everywhere and I need to find a job," said Al Sabagh. "I need to start again with my life."

Kahwaji and Al Sabagh are two of several Syrian refugees who already have licences despite not fully learning English yet.

The province offers the written test translated in Arabic and allows a translator during the road test.

The decision to offer the test in Arabic was made in December by the province.

"The changes were made to help ease the transition for this group." said Paul Bradley, a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety in an email.

Posted: 06/29/2016 - 11:58

CBC News Windsor - The cultural mix in Leamington, better known for its migrant workers from Jamaica and Mexico, now includes three families of Syrian refugees. They are part of a major influx of 125 Syrian refugees expected within the year.

It's been a long journey for the Halil family, but they now have a place to call home, 9,400 km from Aleppo, Syria.

"We weren't expecting to come here but it was a nice, pleasant surprise to be in Canada, in Leamington specifically, because it's very beautiful," said Fatma Halil, mother of four.

Her husband, Abdulrazzak Halil, says safety is key.

"The kids are very happy. They are in school. They are making friends and being safe is a huge difference to us," he said.

They rely heavily on the New Canadians' Centre of Excellence's resettlement assistance program for support.

Unlike Windsor, and most Canadian cities, the agency says housing isn't an issue in Leamington.

"We haven't had a challenge, yet, so far, thank God," program lead Rima Nohra said. "We're very blessed that way. The landlords are very accommodating and they're welcoming. Even the large family will be OK, will be set, the family of 10 will have a house soon, too."

The family of 10 arrived earlier this month.

Posted: 06/28/2016 - 09:50

CBC News - A Toronto charity hopes to make Syrian refugees in Waterloo Region feel at home as they celebrate their first Ramadan in a new country.

Julie Mahfouz heads up The Clothing Drive, which has spearheaded a project to give Syrian families food hampers to celebrate the end of Ramadan on July 6.

"We wanted to give them something that would remind them of Ramadan in their homes, because this is the first Ramadan that they would be spending without their families," Mahfouz said.

Food and gifts

The hampers will contain foods familiar to the families, including lentils, bulgur and sweets called maamoul, and gifts for children.

Her group has already delivered hampers in Toronto, Hamilton and Burlington.

"With Kitchener, there isn't as large a support network as there is in, let's say, Toronto or Mississauga, when it comes to the Syrian families," she said.

Local volunteers will pack the baskets at the Great Hall at Conrad Grebel University College, and then deliver them on Saturday.

Posted: 06/24/2016 - 14:48

Exchange Waterloo Region - The Immigration Partnership Council announced three new grants to agencies and private sponsorship groups supporting Syrian newcomers. $51,470 in new grants under the Immigration Partnership Fund for Syrian Newcomers was approved in May, bringing total grants to $348,970.

New grants include:

  • $6,000 to a private sponsorship group led by Mark Bowman to support the funeral costs of a Syrian family with a member who was diagnosed with a fatal illness upon arrival.
  • $20,470 to Kitchener Public Library to convene women-focused social and conversation groups and English conversation circles at library spaces throughout the city.
  • $25,000 to the Community Coalition of Refugee and Immigrant Concerns to help refugees access services and support their wellbeing, and to work with local agencies to develop cultural awareness and support private sponsorship groups.

Since November 2015, more than 26,600 Syrian refugees have arrived in Canada. Over 1,200 have settled in Waterloo Region.

Posted: 06/24/2016 - 14:15

The Star - Hamza Ali, 13, remembers clearly the day last November when a trio of Canadian cabinet ministers, including Immigration Minister John McCallum, trooped into an ad-hoc art gallery set up in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.

Ottawa - Federal politicians meet a lot of people, but Syrian children don’t meet a lot of federal politicians - let alone the same one twice, in two different countries, each a world apart from the other.

Hamza Ali, 13, remembers clearly the day last November when a trio of Canadian cabinet ministers trooped into an ad-hoc art gallery set up in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.

Ali, one of the artists, shook the ministers’ hands and explained the concept behind his gripping paintings of women and men struggling with life and the war in Syria.

Immigration Minister John McCallum told Ali he was struck by the symbolism of a painting showing a woman carrying a map of Syria on her back up a flight of stairs, a heavy red sky in the background.

“Women do all the heavy lifting,” McCallum remarked.

That painting now hangs in Health Minister Jane Philpott’s office in Ottawa. McCallum didn’t have one — until Monday.

Posted: 06/23/2016 - 11:55

CBC News Nova Scotia - The Muslim holy month of Ramadan continues and a special meal was held at a Halifax area Islamic centre Saturday night, but it was especially meaningful for one family from Syria.

The Al Hraki family can't say exactly when they arrived in Canada. They think it may have been four or five days ago, but because of jet lag their memories are fuzzy. 

A transatlantic journey is difficult enough, but during Ramadan when the faithful must fast from dawn to sunset, it presents an extra challenge.

Ahmed Al Hraki is a 28-year-old electrician who flew to Canada with his mother, father and 25-year-old brother

"The challenge began the moment they took the flight from Germany to Toronto because they never went on that long of a flight, nine hours or so," he said through a translator.

"They are adapting very well," the translator said. "Because the weather here is way better than in their refugee camp. It's way cooler here so they are enjoying that and the fresh air is giving them the energy they need to be productive during the day."

The Al-Rasoul Islamic Centre was hoping to further ease the transition with their Iftar.

Posted: 06/21/2016 - 15:38

Mississauga News - Almost four times as many Syrian refugees than initially anticipated have chosen to settle in Peel Region.

By the end of last February, the federal government had met its target to take in 25,000 Syrian men, women and children fleeing civil war in their homeland.

Approximately 11,500 refugees are now calling Ontario home and about 732 are living in Mississauga and Brampton.

The figures were part of a recent report submitted to Peel Region Council. The update on local efforts to support the newcomers to Canada indicated initial data from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) indicated 192 were designated to settle in Peel.

However, Toronto-based COSTI Immigrant Services, the agency designated by the federal government to coordinate resettlement in this region, has confirmed that about 40 per cent of the people temporarily housed in Toronto ultimately chose to settle in Peel.

Most of them, about 708 refugees, are putting down roots in Mississauga, while 24 refugees are trying to begin new lives in Brampton.

Posted: 06/21/2016 - 10:19

CBC News Kitchener Waterloo - The Family Partnership Program is a collaboration between Reception House and Community Volunteers

Local refugee resettlement agency Reception House has launched a new partnership program using resources lined up for privately-sponsored refugees to address the growing number of government-sponsored Syrian refugees arriving in Waterloo Region. 

Between November 2015 and March 2016, the agency received more than 800 refugees, most of whom were fleeing the conflict in Syria, according to community educator Christian Snyder. 

Community connections - Family Partnership Program, which brings together groups of volunteers that already exist in the region with refugee families.

Social support only - "They're specifically for social orientation," Snyder said. "So, sitting down and having tea, riding the bus ... showing them where the libraries are and how to use them."

Posted: 06/21/2016 - 09:55

CBC News Ottawa - Homeful.ca was conceived and created by group of local volunteers

Call it an online swap shop for people in need: some need clothing, appliances and household items and others need to unload those things.

In this case, the people in need are Syrian refugees to the Ottawa area.

The swap shop is called Homeful.ca, and three of the people who helped create the site, volunteers for the settlement group Refugee 613, were complete strangers last autumn.

Then, after dozens of brainstorming meetings — and lots of coffee — Yani Roumeliotis, Jennifer Jeppsson and Anne Pham-Huy became good friends.

They say Homeful is similar to Kijiji or Craigslist, except it's designed to help refugees, settlement workers and private sponsors connect with Ottawa residents looking to donate clothing and other goods.

Posted: 06/20/2016 - 10:32

TheStar.com - Progrma opens the door to education for biomedical engineering student Roua Alkadi and otheres who fled their war-torn homeland.

Roua Alkadi had gotten used to the deafening sound of bomb blasts as she sat in class at Damascus University.

But when the growing conflict in Syria made it too dangerous even to attend class, she dropped out of her studies in accounting and joined the exodus of people fleeing the country.

For many young Syrians, leaving their war-torn country has meant suspending if not ending their education completely — and shelving dreams of a career and bright future.

But thanks to a new post-secondary scholarship program for Syrian women, a door has opened for Alkadi to resume her education in her adopted home of Toronto.

“I applied to Ryerson University in February and got a conditional offer, but I had no idea how I was going to pay for my tuition,” said Alkadi, one of six scholarship recipients set to attend a Canadian university this fall under the 100 Syrian Women, 10,000 Lives scholarship program offered by Jusoor Canada.

Posted: 06/17/2016 - 15:06