Fredericton welcomed the most Syrian newcomers per capita of any Canadian city, and New Brunswick welcomed the most Syrians of any other province, according to the Multicultural Association of Fredericton (MCAF).
More than 500 refugees from Syria and other countries moved to Fredericton over the past year, the MCAF said Thursday at the Community Connections Appreciation Night, held to recognize the volunteers and community partners who played a role in the resettlement.
Mohammed Bakhash, who came to Canada from Syria with his family, said he’s grateful for all the support he’s received since arriving in his new home.
“It’s a great opportunity to express our great gratitude for the people who received us,” Bakhash said.
Bakhash said the most difficult thing about coming to Canada was leaving his brother in Egypt.
After waiting months, Bakhash got the call Thursday morning that his brother will be joining them in Canada in February.
“That was the happiest moment for me,” Bakhash said.
One of the first people Bakhash and his family met in Canada was First Fredericton Friends volunteer Erik Moore and his family.
“It was cold, and here’s this family just crammed into a tiny motel room and they looked just like you would expect — they’re haggard and tired and just overwhelmed,” Moore said, remembering meeting the Bakhash family.
According to MCAF community connections coordinator Bonnie Doughty, the First Friend program sees volunteers meet refugee families at the airport, then visit them to their new homes and work to get to know the families and build relationships.
Bakhash said the First Friends program really helped his family with their difficult transition.
Fredericton Mayor Mike O’Brien also told the crowd of the pride he has in his city for their efforts to welcome refugees.
“Fredericton is a shining example for Canada, and Canada is for the world,” O’Brien said. “We don’t build walls in this country, we meet newcomers at the airport and welcome them to our city.”