Whitehorse getting ready for third Syrian refugee family

Whitehorse getting ready for third Syrian refugee family

A committee from Whitehorse's Riverdale Baptist Church is preparing for the arrival of another Syrian refugee family, next week.

It will be the second family of refugees sponsored by the church group, and the third to come to Yukon since last year (the first family was sponsored by Yukon Cares).

Hillary Gladish of the Riverdale Baptist Church says it has taken the better part of a year to clear all the hurdles to bring another family.

Mohamed Omar, his wife Shereen, and their two young children are Kurdish, originally from Syria. They fled the country three years ago because of the ongoing civil war and have been living in Iraq ever since, Gladish says.

The couple speaks fluent English. Mohamed has a Ph.D. in geology and Shereen has a bachelor's degree in English literature.

Gladish says it took two tries to get approvals from Canadian immigration officials to allow the family to come to Yukon.

"Unfortunately, the first time that Canadian representatives were in Iraq, they were not able to schedule an interview with this family," she said. 

"And then the second go-round, they were able to get an interview, go through the interview process, get their medical done, security clearance, and then now we have arrived here." 

Gladish says the Omar family is being privately sponsored, which is different from the church group's first sponsored family, that came through Canada's blended visa program. That program provides up to six months of financial support to refugees, with another six months of support coming from the sponsoring group.

Gladish says the community support has been amazing.

"We have done fund-raising and reached out to the larger community in Whitehorse and across Yukon," she said. 

The church has raised nearly $80,000 for its sponsorship efforts, with some of it coming from the Yukon government and Yukon Cares. A local business owner has also provided an apartment for the Omar family to live in for a year for free.