Syrian refugees booted from Ontario hotels for Garth Brooks fans

Some Syrian refugees are being temporarily moved out of Hamilton, Ont., hotels to make room for fans of country music superstar Garth Brooks.
Some Syrian refugees are being temporarily moved out of Hamilton, Ont., hotels to make room for fans of country music superstar Garth Brooks. AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, file

HAMILTON – An influx of Garth Brooks fans to Hamilton is temporarily pushing some Syrian refugee families out.

Various local media reports say more than 200 Syrian refugees were bumped from their accommodations at downtown Hamilton hotels to make way for thousands of Brooks fans who previously booked rooms.

READ MORE: 5 things to know about the Syrian refugee resettlement program

The country music legend is playing a series of concerts in the city Thursday through Sunday night. The first show sold out within 45 minutes after tickets went on sale in January. Promoters quickly announced four additional shows, including a second performance on Saturday night. Many of the hotel rooms were booked around that time.

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Reports say the refugees have been shuttled to St. Catharines – about 55 kilometres away – to stay at another hotel for the duration of the shows.

Wesley Urban Ministries handles the reception of some government-assisted refugees, helping them find places to stay as they search for permanent housing in the region. Requests for comment to Wesley Urban Ministries were not returned on Thursday.

READ MORE: Months after arriving in B.C., many Syrian refugees still stuck in hotels

A spokeswoman for Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger said she was confident in the plan to temporarily relocate the refugees.

“As the concert – and by extension the hotel rooms – were booked (in January) the decision to temporarily relocate the newcomers for the next four days, while disruptive, was made in advance, and our partners in the Niagara Region were ready and accommodating,” said Amanda Kinnaird.

“We are expecting 80,000-plus out-of-town visitors to our city over the next four days, and are confident Wesley Urban Ministries … has expertly managed the process of ensuring a comfortable transition for our newcomers.”

READ MORE: 48% of Syrian refugees not yet in permanent housing

Management for Brooks didn’t immediately respond to questions.

Brooks rolls into Hamilton as part of a global comeback tour launched in late 2014. It’s the first time he’s played the city in nearly 20 years.

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Five shows are scheduled over four days at the FirstOntario Centre.

Brooks is one of country’s most endearing stars with hit singles like “Friends in Low Places” and “Thunder Rolls.”

His wife Trisha Yearwood, whose most popular songs include “How Do I Live” and “Georgia Rain,” will also take the stage to perform.

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