Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

WELCOME TO THE NORTH – Officials were on hand at the city’s airport Saturday evening to greet the Syrian family members. Here, Health and Social Services Minister Mike Nixon shakes hands with one of them.

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

EXPRESSING GRATITUDE – After their arrival on Saturday evening, members of the Syrian family wanted to shake the hands of the many people who were on hand at the Erik Nielsen Whitehorse International Airport. They had spent three days in Montreal before coming north.

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

A WARM WELCOME – A large crowd gathered Saturday evening at Erik Nielsen Whitehorse International Airport to greet the family of 11 Syrian refugees who are making the city their new home.

Family assured that they’re safe and loved in new home

“You are safe here, and this community loves you.”

By Stephanie Waddell on February 1, 2016

“You are safe here, and this community loves you.”

The message was simple and clear as Yukon Cares’ head Raquel de Queiroz welcomed the refugee family of 11 her group has been working to sponsor since last year.

The family arrived in Whitehorse on Saturday night to a reception of well over 100 people.

Many held up welcome signs in both English and Arabic.

Others had come with balloons (including one decorated with maple leafs), flowers and a red and white soccer ball bearing a maple leaf logo that two Whitehorse youngsters presented to one of the youngest of the newcomers.

The crowd had gathered early awaiting the 8:30 p.m. flight arrival.

Yukon Cares had already cornered off an area at Erik Nielsen Whitehorse International Airport designating spots for officials from the territory, city and Kwanlin Dun First Nation and others to greet the new arrivals, as well as areas for the media and the general crowd.

As they awaited the flight, excited chatter could be heard throughout the area.

Some people talked about the work over the last several months to bring the family to Whitehorse.

Those efforts included several fundraisers, making housing arrangements and sorting through a steady stream of donations that flooded in.

There has been overwhelming support from the general Whitehorse community in helping to bring the family here. 

Mike Gladish, who volunteers with Yukon Cares, noted there were so many donations of items that the group has been able to pass them along to the Riverdale Baptist Church, which is working toward sponsoring a family of four to come to the territory.

As de Queiroz said in a statement that followed the family’s arrival: “I have always been impressed with how welcoming and generous Canadians are.

“This community effort has proven this again, and Yukoners were especially generous with their time and donations allowing us to make this happen.

“We, as a community, are really helping to change the world by helping others in their time of need and uniting our efforts to those being done world-wide in order to respond to this true humanitarian crisis.”

Premier Darrell Pasloski and Yukon MP Larry Bagnell also reflected on the generosity of Yukoners in welcoming refugees into the community.

That welcome was clear at the airport Saturday night as the crowd anxiously awaited the thumbs up from the Yukon Cares volunteer tasked with keeping her eyes out for the family as a translator and Bagnell led them down the hallway to the crowd.

“Here they come!” Gladish said as the other volunteer gave the thumbs up.

Applause erupted as the family walked through the doors.

The older members of the family smiled and happily shook hands with the dignitaries.

It was no secret that the family was probably tired from their journey, with the youngest – at 16 months – clinging to an older family member who used one hand to meet the Yukoners and the other to hold the little one close.

de Queiroz then told the family they were safe in Whitehorse surrounded by a community that loves them before getting down to the more practical advice in telling them to “bundle up; it’s cold outside.”

Before they were led outside though, Kwanlin Dun councillor Sean Smith formally welcomed them to the First Nation’s traditional territory.

Those who had brought balloons, flowers and the soccer ball for the family also had a chance to pass them the gifts.

It was then time to “bundle up” for the weather.

Both de Queiroz and Bagnell helped the younger family members with zippers on the winter coats that had been set aside for each family member.

As they donned their winter gear ready for the outdoors, applause erupted once again through the crowd.

The formalities were kept short to get the family home as soon as possible after their long journey overseas to Montreal, where they had stayed for three days, and finally on to Whitehorse. The family, however, wasn’t quite ready to leave just yet.

They soon told the translator they’d like to shake hands with those who had come out to welcome them.

They then reached out to the smiling crowd, greeting their new neighbours in their new community.

As they made their way to the main part of the airport and out the door, de Queiroz excitedly raised her hands and gave a big thumbs up to the onlookers, who again erupted in applause.

Comments (22)

Up 0 Down 0

mary laker on Feb 7, 2016 at 6:26 pm

I would imagine mom is going to be busy with the nine children, so dad will be a sole bread winner. I hope he can find a job that supports himself and ten dependents! It's a lot more expensive in Canada than it is in the middle east, which is one of the reasons we tend to have one or two kids, not nine. I wish them well and I hope they can find a way to be contributors to our country after a settling in period. I wonder though, whether that will ever happen. Raising nine kids is going to cost a fortune. Welcome to the realities of Canada!

Up 19 Down 13

CLR on Feb 5, 2016 at 2:57 pm

Pretty shameful for those only concerned about our own homeless population after refugees enter our country.

Up 33 Down 16

Yukoner62 on Feb 5, 2016 at 10:12 am

"Too bad this kindness and generosity can't be shared with the people right here in Whitehorse.....the ones you see on the street everyday.....but that won't make the news. ....."

Hey Warren - how much do you donate to the homeless? How many hours do you volunteer? Yeah I thought so. The people helping the homeless are typically the same ones helping the refugees.
I guess we should not have accepted any Jewish people during WW2 trying to escape the holocaust because you know.....there are some homeless people in Canada.
If anyone ever offers you help in life, I hope you turn it down and tell them to help the less fortunate instead. Just following your logic.

Up 16 Down 39

Guncache on Feb 5, 2016 at 9:10 am

Ahh, the subservient females with their head scarves. Most people are blind to the violence that Syrian immigrants are causing in Europe and England. Even in Canada there are Imans preaching violence to non believers. Rape is common and the muslims blame the women. Muslims want Sharia law where ever they go. Beware people, your head is in the sand or up your a____. Dig a little deeper for news and see what really goes on. Muslims are using violence and fighting in Europe but they won't fight for their country. I for one do not welcome the new refugees.

Up 28 Down 13

from y'all that say... on Feb 4, 2016 at 6:16 pm

Yes we are all entitled to our opinions. Just don't ever try to sugar coat your opinion on 'giving to Yukoners or Canadians first' when people saying that often give nothing, don't help out the less fortunate…. No bragging either, just noting that I give to our local community as well as those who are not from Canada or our local community. I'm rich you see, so I just have more to give than the people complaining about helping the less fortunate Syrians. Funny I don't have a new truck, new house or new clothes and no unhealthy debt either. But I share what I have and I share my love of my fellow human beings who are in a desperate state.

Up 14 Down 9

ProScience Greenie on Feb 4, 2016 at 2:07 pm

Actually For y'all that say, you did judge those here that are asking fair questions or being a bit critical about the rush to bring in so many Syrian refugees into Canada by calling them selfish *&^$#.

The erosion of our freedom of expression is coming from many directions and will be a death by a thousand cuts of free speech and expression unless we stay vigilant to protect it. The biggest source of that erosion these days seems to be from the progressive crowd. Congratulations outrageously outraged Progressives and SJWs for outdoing the Moral Majority types of the past in calculated the erosion of a most fundamental right.

Unless it is an incitement of violence or outright bigotry / racism let people speak their minds, if you don't like it you can turn the other cheek as the saying goes.

Perhaps things have changed in today's world but back in the day it wasn't polite to brag about how much one donates to charity.

Best of luck to this new Syrian family. This is Canada and thanks to our Charter of Rights and Freedoms you can enjoy starting a new life free of the negatives that existed where you came from. Freedom, equality, safety and prosperity are yours for the taking and the only price is to give the same to others. And don't let anybody tell you that you can't express yourself as you see fit.

Up 68 Down 25

For y'all that say... on Feb 3, 2016 at 9:36 pm

let's help out our own homeless people first, how much money do any of you give to help with anything? I just gave a $5000 donation to help youth in the community and thousands of dollars for Syrian refugees, young people trying to make a difference like Morgan in Haiti, Terry Fox foundation….I can go on and on but you'll get my point. I give to many organizations, including Syrian refugees and I have to say too that I think our Canadian people are spoiled and have many agencies to help them. The Syrians do not. Those of you who say give to our homeless, blah, blah, blah…you don't give at all, do you? You just don't want to give because you are SELFISH!!! Maybe you spend your money on big, fancy trucks or skidoos, or tv, alcohol and drugs, or internet, cellphone, or going out to eat…so for those of us who want to help those less fortunate, support us. We don't judge you for being selfish a**holes (it wouldn't help anyways) so don't judge us for helping in a humanitarian situation.
Welcome wonderful Syrian family. I wish you ALL the best. You are safe now and your precious little ones will not have to worry about their parents, their limbs or their lives being blown up.

Up 22 Down 51

June Jackson on Feb 3, 2016 at 7:07 pm

I will never understand why people can't just voice their opinion? Why do they have to call others names? Accuse them of being gone wild american's or having no humanity. Trying to shame them? Just because we don't agree with you?

Maggie, Rebecca, J. Trapnell, K. Bradley, Northern View and most others all managed to state their opinion and thoughts on this issue without ridiculing or judging anyone else's opinion. I don't agree with them, but, they make their case that much more valuable because they are sincere and don't defame anyone else. I don't agree, but they command my respect.

Unlike the windbags that are more interested in telling someone else how wrong they are...they must have really long arms to be patting themselves on the back all the time.

Up 63 Down 34

Richard Gartner on Feb 3, 2016 at 2:37 pm

I think more than anything, this doesn’t impact anyone’s life here at all except a very small few of us might get a new family as neighbors.
We are not importing terrorists. We are importing refugees whose homes do not exist any longer, in a country who would most likely see them dead and rotting on the streets then help them, but those streets don’t even exist anymore because they were blown up by systematic bombing.
I highly doubt they will be a plight on the system as some are screaming. In fact this family will probably do better here than most Canadians do because they weren’t raised to rely on a welfare system like ours, nor were they raised with the sense of entitlement that a lot of Canadians have when it comes to the system.
People who say we should be helping those in need in Whitehorse first before these people need to remember that as Canadians that those who are in need as they put it had all the same opportunity more or less than the rest of us and chose poorly with their life choices. I’m not saying everyone who is in the system choose poorly either. Sometimes shit happens. You lose a job. You have an unexpected expense, or you even lose a family member, maybe the bread winner. These people lost their country, all the infrastructure, all the safety nets if their country was lucky enough to have them.
I see people crying about this and shake my head and have to wonder where your humanity has gone?
Where has your ability for compassion gone?
All you nay-sayers sound like Americans gone wild. Have we allowed ourselves to become that shallow?

To the family that will now call Whitehorse home, welcome and may your fortunes be different here.

Up 29 Down 19

Rosa D. on Feb 3, 2016 at 11:59 am

The refugee family is here, regardless of who wanted them and who did not. I am sure no one is going to be mean to them or make their life unpleasant here.

There is more to not wanting refugee's, TFWs etc. here than just homelessness. The unemployment rate is over 7%, the highest its been since 2010. If there are no jobs for Canadians, there are no jobs for these people. They will either be forced to stay on Social Assistance, or the government might be saving a few cushy jobs for them given the community resistance to sponsoring them here. There is food. 1.1 million Canadians are at the food bank every month. Will they be at the food bank? Or will adequate food for them be paid for?

Some food for thought. Steven Hawking said that the earth can not withstand man's abuse and if we want mankind to survive we better find a way to get our genes off this planet. We could be eliminated as soon as 2050. Next to that, worrying about weather we have refugee's here or not is pretty trivial.

Up 45 Down 16

LarryDavid'sBrother on Feb 3, 2016 at 9:05 am

Welcome all. Nine dependents , including a 16 month old baby. Must be quite a handful . One might have thought that at the height of the war in Syria, back in 2014, when the bombs were raining down and citizens were fleeing for their lives, and with eight mouths to feed, the notion of NOT having another baby might have arisen. Then again, maybe not. Best of luck to all eleven of them ( eleven , for now, that is ). They are going to need it. ( one person's opinion Mr Moderator - one person's opinion ).

Up 31 Down 25

ProfessorPlum on Feb 3, 2016 at 7:53 am

Welcome to the refugees. But let's keep perspective. There are hundreds and thousands still in the system, awaiting decisions on residency, threatened with being returned to their home country, suffering the incompetence of CIC and the faceless incompetent bureaucrats there. There are thousands who wait in line whilst others jump the line-up . I'd take a thousand more from Syria and Iraq if we could trade an equivalent number of taxpayer-funded parasites at CIC and send them over there in an exchange mission ! That would wake them up !

Up 36 Down 23

Northern view on Feb 2, 2016 at 10:32 pm

Glad they're here, couldn't imagine their journey and now the kids have a chance at a decent life! With that said, I fully expect them to learn English ASAP, and start contributing to our community.

As long as this family does their part, as many of us Yukoners have, and they do not strain our systems or become a collective burden ......... we're Good to go!
Best of luck, on you to make it happen........we're rooting for you!

Up 42 Down 12

Gregory Bryce on Feb 2, 2016 at 4:51 pm

Too bad this kindness and generosity can't be shared with the people right here in Whitehorse.....the ones you see on the street everyday.. [Warren]

It's not a case of either/or, is it? Every day, many volunteers and many agencies in Whitehorse offer kindness and generosity to existing residents who are down and out.

This wasn't a community effort, it was a project by Yukon C.A.R.E.S.
Just in case you have not been reading the forums. The "Community" was not in favor of bringing these people here, SOME people in the community were, and some were not. [June Jackson]

Of course there are different opinions, some very strongly felt. Those working to bring Syrian refugees to Whitehorse are very aware that not everyone supports their efforts. On the other hand, Yukon Cares' Facebook page has 457 members, and I am sure many other supporters who do not use Facebook.

It would be very rare to get 100% support of anything. Does that mean doing nothing for anybody?

These refugees are fleeing war zones, don't forget, where they risked everything, including their lives, every day.

While the sponsors will be paying their bills for 6 months, how much does a family of 11 get from S.A. a month?

I believe the sponsors are obliged to provide support for a year and I'm sure they will continue to do so as needed. Are you assuming that this family will need to apply for social assistance? I imagine that the older members of the family will be eager to find employment as soon as they learn enough English to function.

Up 35 Down 167

Yukoner on Feb 2, 2016 at 1:47 pm

Take a vote. I am sure this is not a case of all the community agreeing that they should be here.

Up 71 Down 162

Warren on Feb 2, 2016 at 9:14 am

Too bad this kindness and generosity can't be shared with the people right here in Whitehorse.....the ones you see on the street everyday.....but that won't make the news. .....

Up 54 Down 12

Just Say'in on Feb 2, 2016 at 3:18 am

Where in heavens name will they find a house to house eleven?

Up 79 Down 36

K. Bradley on Feb 1, 2016 at 11:02 pm

What a lovely article, about a beautiful welcome for people who absolutely deserve a second chance at life. Welcome to Whitehorse! I am very happy that you made it. You are safe now, and you can get back to some semblance of normal life.

Up 70 Down 36

J Trapnell on Feb 1, 2016 at 10:07 pm

A big Yukon welcome to the family and thanks to the Yukon Cares volunteers and officials who made this happen. This is a good thing for our community to support.

Up 60 Down 37

Maggie Larocque on Feb 1, 2016 at 7:05 pm

It did my heart good to know that this family is finally in Whitehorse where they can start the process of building a new life for themselves. The video of their arrival brought a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes.
I will be one of the ESL volunteers who will help them navigate their way to being English speakers.
I can not imagine what they have gone through or what they had to give up.

Up 52 Down 174

June Jackson on Feb 1, 2016 at 6:53 pm

"This community effort has proven this again" Whose community are you talking about Ms. de Queiroz? This wasn't a community effort, it was a project by Yukon C.A.R.E.S.
Just in case you have not been reading the forums. The "Community" was not in favor of bringing these people here, SOME people in the community were, and some were not.

While the sponsors will be paying their bills for 6 months, how much does a family of 11 get from S.A. a month?

Up 75 Down 31

Rebecca Edzerza on Feb 1, 2016 at 6:22 pm

Yay! Welcome to Whitehorse!!!

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