Whitehorse to welcome third family of Syrian refugees

A third family of Syrian refugees is coming to Whitehorse. The Omar family of four will be arriving in the territory at the end of March, and is being sponsored by the Riverdale Baptist Church.

A third family of Syrian refugees is coming to Whitehorse.

The Omar family of four will be arriving in the territory at the end of March, and is being sponsored by the Riverdale Baptist Church.

“They’re very motivated,” said Hillary Gladish, who’s helping to organize the sponsorship. “They’re very excited to come.”

The Omar family is Kurdish, and left Syria three years ago because of the ongoing civil war. The family has been living in Iraq since then.

Mohamed Omar has a PhD in geology and his wife, Shereen, has a bachelor’s degree in English literature and languages. Gladish said they’re both very fluent in English. Their two children, a girl and a boy, are three and four years old.

Gladish said she’s been corresponding with the couple by email, and they seem unfazed by her description of the climate in Whitehorse.

“They’re just really happy to be able to make a life somewhere else,” she said. “I think that living in Iraq has been very difficult for them.”

The Omar family will move into an apartment that’s been prepared for them in Riverdale. Gladish said the church is no longer actively fundraising, but is still looking for donations of clothing for the young girl and winter gear for Shereen.

The Riverdale Baptist Church has already sponsored one family of Syrian refugees, the Ahmet family, who arrived in September. Both they and the Aarafat family, sponsored by Yukon Cares, came to Whitehorse under Canada’s blended visa program. Under that program, the federal government provides up to six months of financial support, with private sponsors responsible for another six months.

But the Omar family is being privately sponsored by the Baptist Church, meaning there will be no contribution from the federal government. Gladish said the church has raised about $45,000 in donations, as well as $15,000 from Yukon Cares and $18,000 from the Yukon government, to support Syrian refugee families.

The church actually began the process of bringing the Omars to Canada before it applied to sponsor the Ahmet family, but the process has taken longer because there is no Canadian immigration office in Iraq. As a result, the federal government estimates it can take 53 months to process applications for private refugee sponsorships in that country. That could have meant years of waiting for the family.

But Gladish said the Canadian government ended up sending workers into Iraq to interview refugees, and the Omar family was able to get into the second group of people being interviewed.

The Aarafat family has now been in Whitehorse for more than a year, while the Ahmet family arrived six months ago today. Gladish said the Ahmets are doing well, though the cold weather took some getting used to when they first arrived.

“That was all they could talk about, how cold it was,” she said.

The parents, Yaser and Semra, are now taking English classes, and the children are in school, playing soccer and taking piano lessons.

Gladish said Yaser is working as a mechanic a couple of times a week, and Semra is hoping to work at a spa.

They’ve also been helping to prepare for the Omar family’s arrival.

“I think they’re quite eager to meet this new family,” Gladish said.

Contact Maura Forrest at maura.forrest@yukon-news.com

Just Posted

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker plead guilty to offences under the Yukon’s Civil Emergency Measures Act for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Couple who broke isolation rules to get vaccines in Beaver Creek fined $2,300

Crown and defence agreed on no jail time for Rod and Ekaterina Baker

X
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for June 16, 2021.… Continue reading

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Yukon News file)
COVID-19 outbreak surges to 50 active cases in the Yukon

Officials urge Yukoners to continue following guidelines, get vaccinated

Team Yukon during the 2007 Canada Winter Games in Whitehorse. (Submitted/Sport Yukon)
Whitehorse will bid for 2027 Canada Winter Games

Bid would be submitted in July 2022

File Photo
The overdose crisis, largely driven by synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and carfentanil was the topic of an online discussion hosted by Blood Ties Four Directions Centre and the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition on June 8 and 10.
Discussion of overdose crisis in Yukon leaves participants hopeful for future

The forum brought together people including some with personal drug use and addiction experience.

Two participants cross the finish line at the City of Whitehorse Kids Triathlon on June 12 with Mayor Dan Curtis on hand to present medals. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
2021 Kids’ Triathlon draws 76 young athletes

Youth ages five to 14 swim, run and bike their way to finish line

Lily Witten performs her Canadian Nationals beam routine on June 14. John Tonin/Yukon News
Three Yukon gymnasts break 20-year Nationals absence

Bianca Berko-Malvasio, Maude Molgat and Lily Witten competed at the Canadian Nationals – the first time in 20 years the Yukon’s been represented at the meet

For the second year running, the Yukon Quest will not have 1,000 mile race. Crystal Schick/Yukon News
The Yukon Quest will be two shorter distance events instead of a 1,000 mile race

After receiving musher feeback, the Yukon Quest Joint Board of Directors to hold two shorter distances races instead of going forward with the 1,000 mile distance

Western and Northern premiers met this week to discuss joint issues. (Joe Savikataaq/Twitter)
Premiers meet at Northern Premiers’ Forum and Western Premiers’ Conference

Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq virtually hosted both meetings this year

The sun sets over Iqaluit on Oct. 26, 2020. Nunavut’s chief public health officer says two COVID-19 cases at Iqaluit’s middle school came from household transmission and the risk to other students is low. (Emma Tranter/Canadian Press)
Iqaluit school’s contacts and classmates cleared after two COVID-19 cases

With an outbreak ongoing in Iqaluit, the Aqsarniit middle school has split students into two groups

An extended range impact weapon is a “less lethal” option that fires sponge or silicon-tipped rounds, according to RCMP. (File photo)
Whitehorse RCMP under investigation for use of “less lethal” projectile weapon during arrest

Police used the weapon to subdue a hatchet-wielding woman on June 4

Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press
Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino holds a press conference in Ottawa on Nov. 12, 2020. The federal government is announcing that Indigenous people can now apply to reclaim their names on passports and other government documents.
Indigenous people can now reclaim traditional names on their passports and other ID

The move comes in response to a call to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015

Teslin Lake is one of two bodies of water the Yukon Government has place on flood watch. (Google Maps Image)
Flood watch issued for Teslin Lake, Yukon River at Carmacks

The bodies of water may soon burst their banks due to melting snow and rainfall

Most Read