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MANITOBA: Groups in Altona, Dauphin and Steinbach sponsoring Syrian migrants — but will they stay?

Manitoba towns to sponsor new refugees despite past exits

Nurashem Male and her son, Ezra came to Altona in 2005 but left this year.   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

Nurashem Male and her son, Ezra came to Altona in 2005 but left this year. (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

Groups in Altona, Dauphin and Steinbach are sponsoring Syrian refugees to come to Manitoba — but will they stay?

Yazidis left Morden, Vietnamese “boat people” left Dauphin and some refugees from Africa have left Altona, so why are communities still putting out the welcome mat?

Because, they say, it’s the right thing to do, and everyone in Friendly Manitoba wins.

“Of course we are happy when people decide to stay in Altona, but that is never our expectation,” said Ray Loewen, spokesman for Build a Village — a group sponsoring five Syrian families expected to arrive this month.


Image by Christopher Johnson, Globalite Media, all rights reserved Zaatari refugee camp supermaket, Jordan Source

It has already sponsored or supported 25 refugee families in the last 10 years from Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Rwanda, Iraq, Burundi and Colombia.

About one-third of those families have stayed in the community for different reasons, he said.

The town wins if the newcomers stay or not, added Loewen.

“Our world view is certainly broader than it was 10 years ago,” he said. “Each newcomer brings some of their traditions, culture (and) language when they come, so our community is much more diverse today than it was.

“Spending time with a newcomer is always a great reminder of the many things that we take for granted in Canada — things that much of the rest of our world does not enjoy.”


(…)“Coming from a refugee camp where you fear for your life every minute then here where you’re free” is a major adjustment, she said. They learned how Canadians should treat one another and just how important education is, said Naso, who trained to be a nurse and is married with children. “Having someone there running you through little things like that is important,” she said.

In Dauphin, three churches sponsoring three Syrian refugee families are doing what they can to welcome the newcomers and make their resettlement a success, said sponsorship spokesman Ron Marlin.

They’re holding meetings in the community of 8,200 to answer questions, address fears and enlist donations and volunteers. They’re meeting with the chamber of commerce and lining up English language instruction and religious services for the Syrians who are likely Muslims and will be moving to a town without a mosque.

Marlin said they know no matter what they do, after a one-year commitment to the families is up, some might want to move — possibly to a larger centre with a Syrian community.

“We’re cognizant that once they arrive and after they settle they have the same right to move as the rest of us,” said Marlin, noting the Vietnamese Dauphin welcomed decades ago have moved on but stay in touch with some residents.

If the Syrians decide to leave, their sponsors will be fine with it, said Marlin. “We did our part and provided them with a decent place and will wish them well.”



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