Family of 10 Syrian refugees one step closer to the Yukon

If everything goes as planned, a family of 10 Syrian refugees, including eight children, could soon be on their way from the civil war-ravaged country to the Yukon.

If everything goes as planned, a family of 10 Syrian refugees, including eight children, could soon be on their way from the civil war-ravaged country to the Yukon.

Yukon Cares, a group that has been raising money to sponsor Syrian refugees, announced Monday that a family has been found.

They were notified last week “that the family of eight children and two parents are ready to be interviewed for security and medical clearance,” Yukon Cares said in a news release.

“Once they have been successfully screened, if the family wants to come to the Yukon, they will.”

No other details about the family, including the age of the children, are available until after they make it through the screening.

“We’re here, we’re ready, we’re eager,” said group member Jean-Francois Des Lauriers.

Yukon Cares applied to sponsor refugees through Canada’s Blended Visa Office-Referred Program, which matches refugees identified by the United Nations Refugee Agency with private sponsors in Canada.

For a while, it looked like there wasn’t going to be any approved families ready to come North. When the Yukon group started raising money last month all the families approved through the Blended Visa program were already spoken for.

But last week more families were approved. Within 30 minutes the Yukon group had been connected with a match, according to its fundraising page.

Under this program, the federal government provides up to six months of income support, with the private sponsors responsible for another six months of financial support, as well as social and emotional support throughout the first year.

So far the local group has collected more than $12,000.

Education Minister Doug Graham confirmed that the territorial government is prepared to match the money that’s raised.

The specific details haven’t been worked out yet, but the government will be matching, at a minimum, the $12,000, he said.

The family will also have access to the same services as other Yukoners, including English as a second language services and pre-employment help, Graham said.

The education and health departments are in the wings waiting to help when they get here.

Usually, once a family has been identified, it takes between one and four months for them to make it through the process, Des Lauriers said.

“We never expected to have a family of 10, but we’re more than happy to welcome them,” he said.

“But it’s going to increase the level of urgency for fundraising.”

The group set an initial fundraising goal of $27,000, although with a family as big as the one identified, and the high cost of living in the Yukon, it’s expected it will need more than that. Over the past month, the group has so far raised $12,575.

A spaghetti dinner and silent auction to raise more cash is scheduled for Oct. 24 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Porter Creek Secondary School.

Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for children younger than 18 and free for kids five and younger.

Right now the group is just looking to raise cash, Des Lauriers said. Until they know the basics like how old the kids are, they can’t start accepting donations of items like winter coats or boots.

“Usually they have no possessions when they get here,” he said. “Everything is going to have to come from the community.”

The Conservative federal government has promised to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees between now and next September.

As of Sept. 8, Canada had received 1,108 Syrian refugees, mostly through private sponsorships by churches and community groups.

The Yukon group has paired up with the Archdiocese of Vancouver, which already has a sponsorship agreement with the government. They are also getting support from the Whitehorse Diocese.

Anyone who wants to donate can visit the group’s GoFundMe page at gofundme.com/3k3babf5 or mail a cheque to the Whitehorse Diocese, at 406 Steele St, Whitehorse, YT, Y1A 2C8.

Contact Ashley Joannou at

ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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