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Yellowknife gets ready to welcome first Syrian refugees

A Yellowknife group has received the green light from the federal government to privately sponsor a family of Syrian refugees.

Residents and the territorial government have been looking at ways to help with the Syrian refugee crisis since September of last year.

The group – which consists of Bob Horton, Nazim Awan, Aggie Brockman, Lindsay Armer and James and Sheila Anderson – is sponsoring a family of six through Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s Group of Five program.

In the coming weeks, a mother, father and four boys between the ages of seven and 13 will arrive in Yellowknife. Horton says the group sifted through hundreds of refugees before settling on the family of six.

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Read: Should Yellowknife Help? Public Meeting On Syrian Refugees

“We had previously made a decision, as a group, to go for a family of six and within that context, also made the decision to not have kids who were in preschool,” he said.

“Finding a daycare can be a challenge and we didn’t want to add that burden.

“We also decided not to have kids who are almost ready to graduate high school because then they’d have the stress of university or post-secondary education.

“We ended up with a family with parents in their mid-thirties and four kids, boys as it were, aged seven to 13.”

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Horton believes the family is in Beirut, Lebanon though the group has yet to make direct contact with them.

Once Citizenship and Immigration Canada gives the final go-ahead, it could be a matter of weeks before the family arrives.

Horton hopes Yellowknife residents welcome them with open arms.

“It could be weeks, it could be a couple months, we’re not exactly sure,” he said. “My estimation is sort of six to eight weeks but I could get a phone call tomorrow.

“One of the obligations that the Government of Canada puts on any sponsoring group is you must meet them at the airport.

“But we’re hoping to actually turn it into a real welcoming party.”

Read: Yellowknife Hosts Dinner, Fundraiser For Syrian Refugees

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Beyond that, the group has already lined up an apartment and met with a number of English instructors. But Horton says that’s just the beginning.

“We’re also going to have to help them get a bank account, a doctor and a dentist,” he said.

“Once we’re a little closer, we’ll need to get some clothing … we’ll need seven dressers, five or six beds so there’s lots of stuff we need.

“The Muslim community is also stepping up a great deal and being very willing to provide interpretation services and things of that nature.

“That will help a lot in terms of making them feel more at home.”

The City of Yellowknife has also agreed to chip in, offering bus passes for a year.

Horton says he knows of at least three other groups trying to bring Syrian refugees to Yellowknife – two of them through the Group of Five program.

He estimates it will cost a shade under $70,000 to set the family up for a year in the city.

While the federal government has agreed to pay a small amount, the rest will have to be covered through fundraising.

To find out how you can help, email [email protected].

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