Syrian refugees welcomed to B.C. despite Paris attacks

November 16, 2015

By Yvette Brend, CBC News |

The terror attacks in Paris have not discouraged thousands in B.C. from reaching out to Syrian refugees heading to the province, with one local dentist even offering free dental work.

While some have sent hate messages online, and a mosque burns in Ontario, others are reaching out with job and housing offers

If his professional association will allow it, a North Vancouver dentist is offering to fix teeth for free.

Open arms and big smiles

“Initial contact is the key. I just think that’s the way. Open arms and big smiles,” said Cyrus Ali Akbari, who recalls his own experience coming from Iran to Canada.

“Integration takes time. Everyone of us has to chip in. We have to help them. The more we do, the more they can do their best to help others who helped them in the beginning,” said Akbari.

Help still being offered

The dentist is one of thousands in B.C. who have reached out to offer help, pledging housing, jobs and other services.

“It hasn’t abated since the unfortunate situation in Paris,” said Chris Friesen, director of settlement service for the Immigrant Services Society (ISS) of B.C., before heading into an emergency planning meeting Monday.

ISS is working on the logistics of moving people into temporary receiving centres as early as December.

“We continue to see high numbers of people come to our website — over 30,000 now — and we have over 1,000 volunteers and 375 housing leads and close to 50 employers willing to offer employment,” he said.

Many of those who are reaching out are recent immigrants who remember the journey.

They say the Syrian newcomers will need help, advice and patience.

Lendro Pereira and Livia Fernandes arrived in Canada last month from Brazil.

They browsed pamphlets and asked questions at the Canadian Immigration Job Fair today in Vancouver.

Culture shock

“We came here to get some information,” said Pereira, who advised the Syrian refugees to work on language skills and never stop searching for answers.

“The biggest challenge is the language and also the culture. There is a culture shock. It’s kind of hard.”

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