Large multicultural crowd welcomes newest members of Island community

Mitch MacDonald
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“Amazing” is one of the few words that fits Syrian Sandra Antoun’s description of the warm welcome she’s received in P.E.I.

“Amazing” is one of the few words that fits Sandra Antoun’s description of the warm welcome she’s received in P.E.I.

The 21-year-old Syrian immigrated with her father, mother and two brothers in February as refugees looking to start a new life in the province.

“P.E.I. and the people here have been amazing,” Antoun said during a welcome reception held at Murphy’s Community Centre on Saturday. “A lot of people and families have shown us support to improve our lives here. Even today, there’s a lot of the people communicating with us from other nationalities.”

A packed crowd featuring a diverse mix of ethnicities and cultures was only fitting for Saturday’s official welcome to the approximate 250 Syrian refugees who’ve immigrated to the province in the past couple months.

The reception was hosted by Premier Wade MacLauchlan and served as an introduction between Syrians and the many cultures already living in P.E.I.

MacLauchlan said the diversity is a major strength in P.E.I. and Canada’s overall culture.

“Canada is better from our differences, and better because we learn from each other and we build a beautiful community together,” he said. “If I have one message, it’s that today we are all Prince Edward Islanders. We’re here as newcomers and as people who are working together.”

Although the experience has left Antoun’s family with a new start, it’s been somewhat overwhelming.

“It’s also a time for discovering a new area and learning how to start a new life,” she said. “But it’s amazing.”

Antoun’s family is originally from Al-Zabadani, one of the areas heavily affected by the ongoing civil war in Syria.

While they moved to Lebanon about four years ago, Antoun said they still faced a number of difficulties.

Eventually, her father connected with a friend currently living in P.E.I., who teamed with the First Baptist Church to sponsor the family’s immigration to Canada.

“We’re thankful for God because my father’s friend from school is here,” said Antoun. “The First Baptist Church, they sponsored us with him to come here.”

Saturday’s reception gave credit to the many volunteers and sponsors across the province who helped bring in refugees.

Charlottetown MP Sean Casey credited Islanders for rallying around the newcomers since the federal government announced last fall to accept at least 25,000 refugees.

P.E.I. is set to receive about 100 more Syrian refugees by the end of this year.

“Prince Edward Island stepped up in numbers well beyond our small size,” said Casey.

He also ensured newcomers the support would continue while they find their own ways to contribute to Canada.

“Your community will rally around you to help you find a foothold here,” he said. “But in just a matter of time, you will be anxious to see how you will be able to contribute to the future of this community, province and country.”

Antoun already has her mind made up on how she wants to contribute.

She’s now taking English lessons, and hopes to enroll in UPEI next year.

It will be her “third chance” at getting a university education after previously having to quit her studies in both Syria and Lebanon.

After having done some work with the United Nations in Lebanon, she hopes to either have a career in nursing or humanitarian work.

“I started my job as a volunteer to help Syrian families in Lebanon,” she said. “I loved my job, when I arrived in Canada I was looking to find the same kind of work to help Syrian families here.”

Organizations: First Baptist Church, United Nations

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Canada, Lebanon Syria UPEI

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Recent comments

  • Cromwell
    March 14, 2016 - 16:37

    I have no doubt that Mr. Thoreau will ensure that this response will be summarily censored, but I again wish to express my profound disgust at the depths the liberal apologists for cultural Marxism will plough to try to bolster support for the global failure that is multiculturalism. As such, another inane commentary in support of more Syrian migrants being forced on Island taxpayers, but the story about white, Christian, educated people, conversant in English and French, and needing no government assistance, is facing the prospect of having to leave Canada. The world is now officially insane.

  • Charles
    March 13, 2016 - 20:08

    Justin says he has a mandate to bring in the 25.000 He told us he was going to do this during the campaign. He did NOT tell us he was going to bring in 300.000 all together in this year, not that he was going to change the Citizens Act to allow family reunification with grandparents , parents and extended families, regardless of age. Nor that if you are over 54 you don't need to speak English to become a citizen. |Along with that the waiting time to become a citizen is to be reduced. Time if of essence, it all need to be in place in time for the 2019 election. Plain political calculation, - from 'the heart' no less. Disgusting hypocrisy - and then walking away and leaving the cost to the provinces. Wade did not have a mandate to accept all these people, - he is just dictating that Islanders just take what he decides. But hey, you all voted for these guys, - so good luck with it all.

  • Murdock
    March 13, 2016 - 19:56

    Please stop stuffing this diversity crap down our throats, Premier Wade. You sound like Justin, and the whole frigging thing is pukeable. Look to other countries and note that integration of Muslims is next to impossible, and so the employability. I can't figure out why Justin hate Canadians so much, and why he has this need to punish us and grind us into poverty and despair, just to glorify himself. It borders on mental instability. Amazingly Casey and Wade appears to only approve of this, but promote it. Weird.

  • Peter
    March 13, 2016 - 19:47

    Thanks Wade, nice to see our tax dollars at work.

  • Yolanda
    March 13, 2016 - 19:45

    Politicians have the belief that if they repeat the same thing over and over, we will eventually believe it, - and they are right, a majority will believe what they are spoon fed, - it is called brain washing. Some of us, however will see this for what it is, - political exploitation. A means to get as many liberal voters I into the country as possible, before the next federal election. Casey know that all the rest of the guff is neither here nor there. - Diversity is our strength, - what pure horse manure. Meanwhile, we will be paying dearly for this Trudeau vote buying, in many more ways that we can even contemplate. Just ask any European citizens who are at the end of their robes about what to do with hordes of unruly, ungrateful and demanding migrants eating up their resources while roaming the streets unemployable and on welfare. In 5 years time we will wonder what hit us and why our standard of living has been so reduced.