The first of the two Iraqi refugee families who found a new home here in Fort Frances late last year has decided to move to Toronto to reconnect with relatives and pursue new opportunities.
Bashar Al-Zeebaree, the family's father, recently was offered a job relating to satellite TV instalment by his cousin who lives in Toronto.
He accepted the job and plans to leave town with his family next Tuesday (June 26).
Kathy Mueller of “Families for Families,” the local committee that helped settle in the Al-Zeebarees since they arrived here in November, said the family is grateful for the overwhelming support they received from the community during their transition to life in Canada.
Even though the community has done an excellent job in making the refugee family feel at home, they still very much miss their family and interacting with other people who speak their language.
“They are lonely for their Iraqi people,” Mueller remarked.
“There is a fairly large Iraqi community in Toronto and so they're looking forward to celebrating with that community of people who speak their own language,” she explained.
The cousin, as well as good friends of the Al-Zeebarees who live in Toronto, already have found them accommodations and eagerly are awaiting their arrival.
Mueller has a strong relationship with the refugee family and is sad to see them go, but still is glad to provide them with the tools they need to be successful in Toronto.
“We want them to be happy in Canada," she stressed. "And if they think they are going to be happiest in Toronto, then we would like to support them in doing that.”
“Families for Families” will continue to provide the family with monthly financial support until November, when the sponsorship money runs out.
By this time, it's hoped the family will operate independently and Mueller believes the Al-Zeebarees' relatives in Toronto can help them achieve just that.
“They are well-established in Toronto already; they have a house of kids,” she noted.
Mueller also hopes the things the Al-Zeebaree family learned in Fort Frances will help them in navigating their new lives in Toronto.
“I think we've really enabled them to do well, once they go to Toronto, because they've had such a good start,” she enthused.
The family's youngest child, Phillip, already has picked up on English quite fast.
“He speaks English as if it was his first language already,” Mueller said.
She also thanked all those who offered support leading up to and during the refugee family's time here.
“The community was so generous with their money, with their time, with their commitment and we really appreciated that,” Mueller lauded.
“I think we did the right thing in bringing this family out of a very difficult situation and we've given them the opportunity now to be part of Canadian society,” she added.
“And I hope they do really well and I hope they contribute back to society in many good ways.”
Mueller is sad to watch the Al-Zeebarees leave but what is most important to her is having the family succeed.
“We've certainly learned to love them and we are sad to see them go, but the most important thing is that they are happy,” she reiterated.
“Hopefully, they will achieve the goals that they would like to achieve for their family.”
Mueller has high hopes for the Al-Zeebaree family and has been assured by their cousin that they will be looked after adequately.
“They're cousin has promised us he will take good care of them," she said. "So we are counting on that.”
Meanwhile, the second Iraqi refugee family who came here at the end of December are looking forward to making a permanent home here in Fort Frances.
“They're staying, they really like it here," Mueller enthused. "They certainly like how the people have been so welcoming.”
That family's father, Rami Canoon, is really enjoying his job at Revco Carpet and his family is settling in nicely, as well.
Mueller said the family definitely can see themselves building a new life here.
“They see a lot of opportunity here for their life," she noted. ”They know that eventually they will be able to buy a house, that they will be able to get a vehicle, and that they will be able to take care of their family in a safe place.
“And that's very important to them.”
The Canoon family also is overjoyed by the equal rights they see in Canada for their daughters.
“They're very happy that their girls are seen with some equality to the boys,” Mueller enthused.
“They have big hopes for their girls.”
She reiterated the Canoon family “is very happy to be in Canada” and looks forward to building a new life here, free of fear.