Syrian refugee family celebrates their first Canada Day in Surrey
Published Saturday, July 1, 2017 5:54PM PDT
Last Updated Sunday, July 2, 2017 2:55PM PDT
Several Syrian families gathered at a park in Surrey to mark to mark their first Canada day celebration ever.
Nabil Al Halabi and his family came to Canada on Dec. 1, 2016. They're among the roughly half of Syrian refugees in B.C. who have settled in Surrey. The family was forced to flee because of the Syrian civil war.
"When the war started and the bombing started and the shooting started, it was an unsafe area," Al Halabi told CTV News. "We leave quickly. We don't take anything with us. Just running, running."
The family fled to Egypt. Al Halabi still doesn't know what happened to his house in Syria, or whether his neighbours are alive. But he was thrilled when they got approved to move to Canada.
"Canada was the dream for us," he said. He remembers picking up his mother and embracing her in celebration.
Life in their new home proved challenging, though. Especially with a language barrier.
"When we came here, we moved, everything was strange," he said. "Everybody spoke English. My family doesn't speak English."
The snow was an adjustment too, especially after living in a place as hot as Egypt.
Al Halabi was an accountant in Syria. Here, he's starting over by enrolling in both language and accounting classes here.
His brother is the only one so far who's found work outside the home—he works in a window frame factory.
The family come a long way in a few short months. They're adapting, learning English through school and a Google translation app. Al Halabi now even volunteers to translate for a local Muslim food bank.
On their first Canada Day, they’re celebrating. They've learned to sing the national anthem, and Al Halabi's mother even flashes a temporary tattoo of a maple leaf on her wrist.
Al Halabi says he feels accepted in Canada, remembering fondly when people would try to welcome him despite not speaking the same language.
"It's not just a country. It's a paradise," he said.
With a report from CTV's Michele Brunoro.