Change of plans for Sudbury refugee group

  • Written by:

Carol Mulligan
By Carol Mulligan, Sudbury Star
Migrants eat rations of hot soup during a heavy rain storm at the northern Greek border station of Idomeni, Wednesday, March 9, 2016. Northbound borders are closed and authorities plan to distribute fliers telling refugees seeking to reach central Europe that “there is no hope of you continuing north, therefore come to the camps where we can provide assistance” as more than 36,000 transient migrants are thought to be stuck in financially struggling Greece. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
An Iraqi refugee family whom Sudbury Project Hope was sponsoring has accepted an offer from Australia to emigrate there instead because of fears for its safety.

Seven members of a Christian family, who fled their home two years ago to Jordan, weren’t living in a refugee camp, but were told they would likely have to move to one by August if they weren’t flown to Sudbury.

Australia offered the family plane tickets and a sure place to stay, and the family accepted that offer 10 days ago, said Jim Gordon.

Gordon is chair of Sudbury Project Hope, a group of volunteers who have been working to bring two Middle Eastern refugee families to Sudbury and set them up in a new life.

The group was in the process of sponsoring two families, the Iraqi Christians and a family of seven Syrians who are Muslim. Gordon said his group didn’t choose the families because of their religions, but because they were refugees.

Priority is being given to applications of people fleeing Syria to come to Canada, however, so there was uncertainty about when the Sudbury Project Hope family would be approved to leave Jordan, said Gordon.

The father of the Iraqi family feared for its safety if it moved into a camp — that his family would be killed, his children brutalized and his wife raped, which are all strong possibilities.

Gordon said the Christian population of the Middle East has fallen from 20 per cent to 4 per cent, and Christians are being driven out of their homes by ISIS or radical Islam.

The family his group was sponsoring got to Jordan from Iraq with the help of several churches, but not without witnessing the horrors of what’s going on in that part of the world.

Sudbury Project Hope had been working with them to get their paperwork in order for them to come to Sudbury, but there was no guarantee when that would be.

Gordon said the Iraqi family informed him it was accepting the offer from Australia and the group told them to go.

“I would take it if I was them and we told them, ‘Take it. Go,'” said Gordon, a father of six and grandfather of many more.

Christians in the Middle East are victims of genocide, said Gordon, a Roman Catholic who is heading the non-denominational Sudbury Project Hope.

Meanwhile, his group is helping a family of Syrian refugees get its application in order so they can move to Sudbury. There was no photograph of the youngest child in the family and that has held up their transfer here, said Gordon.

So it likely will be some time before that family comes to Sudbury, which is frustrating and disappointing for the dozens and dozens of volunteers with Sudbury Project Hope.

Gordon is telling his group, which next meets Friday, to be patient.

“We’re not the ones who should be feeling that way. They’re the ones who have the pain and who have lost everything and the meaning has been stripped out of their lives. People are suffering.

“What we have to do is be patient, work with Citizenship and Immigration and be prepared to take care of these people when they arrive,” said the former teacher, Sudbury mayor and Sudbury Progressive Conservative MPP.

Volunteers with Sudbury Project Hope will discuss bringing a third family in, said Gordon. Sudburians have demonstrated they want to help refugees. “We want to welcome them and we feel bringing these people in in the long run will be good for everybody.”

Business owners have called Gordon to say they have jobs for refugees who come to Sudbury, some of them jobs Sudburians won’t accept. They have also indicated they are willing to train people.

Gordon said research shows 78 per cent of the children of immigrants and refugees achieve higher education goals. And their children go on to higher education and more sophisticated careers. That adds wealth to Canada.

Gordon has been impressed with how welcoming Sudburians have been to two Syrian families who have arrived in Canada and how supportive they have been of the groups sponsoring them.

For more about Sudbury Project Hope, go to