In His Own Words
January 17, 2016 10:28 PM   Subscribe

A Syrian Refugee's first month in Canada Vanig Garabedian, 47, was on board the first government-organized flight of Syrian refugees to Canada on Dec. 10. He came with his wife Anjilik Jaghlassian and their daughters Sylvie and Lucie, 12, and Anna-Maria, 10. The very first people to leave the plane, the family’s arrival in Toronto was widely photographed, as was their meeting with the prime minister. One month later, Garabedian, an obstetrician/gynecologist for 15 years in Aleppo, has settled into an apartment in the suburbs of Toronto.
posted by modernnomad (27 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
From the very beginning, I told my family, we are going to be like the Canadians. I’m not going to bring my life — we are going to be changed. So far, it is as I read. The people are very nice, even nicer than I read about.
We see the whole world here. On the subway, you can see everybody, from every country. It is lovely to be multicultural and one culture. In the end, you are Canadian. We love this country, we love the people, the generosity of them, and we thank them.
It's great to have first-hand evidence that no, Syrian refugees are not "invading" Western countries to recreate their old society. I'm glad Garabedian's family survived the rocket attacks and made it somewhere they can continue their lives.
posted by Rangi at 10:47 PM on January 17, 2016 [10 favorites]


Man, after the stolid meanness and the grey blankness of the Harper years it's damned refreshing to see the effort our country has made to bring in Syrian refugees. So yeah, this makes me happy, which is a feeling I haven't had in regards to my identity as a Canadian for a very long time.
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 10:57 PM on January 17, 2016 [27 favorites]


This is lovely and all (sincerely) but this family is Christian Armenian and highly educated. It seems a bit propagandistic to highlight them.
posted by k8t at 10:59 PM on January 17, 2016 [6 favorites]


k8t, you have my word the National Post is very far from being a shill for the Liberal Party and its policies.
posted by modernnomad at 11:18 PM on January 17, 2016 [20 favorites]


In what way is it propagandist? Are we to presuppose that all Real Refugees (TM) are single uneducated Muslim men? Surely it is less propagandist to highlight the diversity of the Syrian refugee population - Christians, Muslims, Shia, Sunni, highly educated and less so - and to tell multiple refugee stories.
posted by Aravis76 at 11:24 PM on January 17, 2016 [8 favorites]


Pretty damn sure anyone who gets trough the nightmarish and expensive Bearucracy and background vetting required to even be considered to be resettled in going to be fairly well off and educated families
posted by The Whelk at 11:26 PM on January 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


this family is Christian Armenian and highly educated. It seems a bit propagandistic to highlight them.

They came from Syria apparently.
posted by colie at 11:41 PM on January 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


According to this, Syria's had ~20% enrolled in tertiary education (not sure about % of attained qualifications) since the 90s (no data prior to that); they also seem to have (or have had) streaming at the secondary level, with strong options for technical/vocational education (pdf).

Pretty damn sure anyone who gets trough the nightmarish and expensive Bearucracy and background vetting required to even be considered to be resettled in going to be fairly well off and educated families

Without a doubt.
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:42 PM on January 17, 2016


Man, this makes me so happy. Immigrants like these are the backbone of Canada, and what makes living here such a rewarding experience. It's amazing to go to a work party and look around the room and see WASPs, and Pakistanis, and Chileans, and Taiwanese, and Quebecois, and Aussies, and Cree, and Lebanese, and Ukranians; all eating poutine.

I love the observation about how Trudeau and Sophie are really just ordinary people. Such a difference in style and attitude from the uncaring meanness of Harper. (I mentioned here before that I saved Justin from drowning, some 30 odd years ago, so I'll take a bit of that credit.)
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 12:14 AM on January 18, 2016 [16 favorites]


this family is Christian Armenian and highly educated. It seems a bit propagandistic to highlight them.

They came from Syria apparently.


An interesting thing is that this family does defy the "young, jobless, single, Arab Muslim men out for trouble" story on all possible axes - family consisting of middle-aged parents with children (with cute French names), father is highly-educated medical doctor and leader of a clinic, Christian, ethnic Armenian, sponsored by organizations within the Armenian community.

A hypothesis comes to mind: because of proximity to the conflict, Europe receives anyone who decides to make the trek across the Mediterranean and cross a few more borders; conversely, more distant nations like Canada can pick and choose, and carefully select the refugees with the best chance of successful resettlement and integration into a new society.
posted by theorique at 1:49 AM on January 18, 2016 [7 favorites]


I don't know about 'propagandist', but I see the issue. For the best of reasons liberal opinion has been very emphatic about contradicting racist or scaremongering stories about refugees. My perception is that unfortunately that tipped over into denying that there were any possible problems. Fears that terrorists might exploit the situation were just ignorant; all the refugees were charming, hard-working families with no issues. When the real challenges became undeniable that rose-tinted attitude gifted a big win to the anti-immigrants that they could not have obtained otherwise.

There is now a need to develop a more nuanced view that acknowledges the issues and gives full weight to them while maintaining they should not be allowed to overcome the humanitarian response. Within that it's still legitimate to point out the majority of decent refugees, but to focus on a non-problematic non-typical family at this stage looks very like a siren call to return to the comfort zone; a call I think a lot of people will find all too seductive. But we cannot afford a situation where ordinary reasonable German women feel their experience of assault is glossed over and minimised by everyone but anti-immigrant nutcases.
posted by Segundus at 1:51 AM on January 18, 2016 [7 favorites]


Exactly. The Garabedian family, clearly worthy as they are for migration and resettlement, must be viewed as kind of a unicorn case - as they apparently were viewed by the Canadian government, since they were deemed worthy of a photo op with the Prime Minister.

Not to say that we should apply some sort of scoring system - but of course we do, don't we? Hmm, bonus points for Christian (at risk in Muslim nation), bonus points for minority status in Syria (ethnic Armenians are well under 10% of Syria's population), bonus points for family, etc.

Would the response be equally positive for hypothetical 20 year old Abdel Muhammad? Day laborer when he gets some work, Shia Muslim, worked now and then for one of the Shia Militias, knows his way around an AK-47 and RPG, and has mild PTSD from things that he's seen (but he's never committed any violence ... according to him), bumps Salil Sawarim on his iPhone.

Every human being is worthy in some absolute sense, but there are going to be many tough choices made as to who is deemed a "more desirable refugee".
posted by theorique at 2:20 AM on January 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'd rather have landed in Winnipeg or Edmonton, but if Shanahan & Babcock can bring a Cup to Toronto, or just make it past the first round of the playoffs...
posted by Lukenlogs at 2:27 AM on January 18, 2016


My perception is that unfortunately that tipped over into denying that there were any possible problems.

The problem is that the whole issue is now framed around whether 'we' in 'our' country will benefit from these people, what their attitudes may be, and whether they'll integrate in a way that 'we' think is appropriate. Immigrants have always had complex and ambivalent relations to their new countries. As soon as you stop focusing on why they're fleeing, and the history of how waves of immigrants have always negotiated their own lives, there is nowhere to go but a load of reactionary nonsense about 'mindsets' and 'the perils of multiculturalism' etc etc - see: any European liberal newspaper, every day.
posted by colie at 3:34 AM on January 18, 2016 [9 favorites]


Real Refugees (TM)

Damn it - I wanted that trademark!
posted by fairmettle at 4:45 AM on January 18, 2016


In Canada, I believe all refugees are privately sponsored, and single men are ineligible. It's definitely very different from the situation in Europe, where the host countries have little control over who turns up. The Economist ran a story recently which showed that 60 to 70 % of asylsum seekeds were male, with the largest bracket being 18 to 34. And the numbers are in a different league. Canada expects to welcome about 10,000. Germany, with three times the population, has taken 400, 000 already.

I'm Canadian and I live in Germany. I've tried to exlain to friends back home how Europe is strained by the influx of refugees and they have trouble grasping it. I think Canada is doing a great job so far. But one should not to extrapolate the experience there as an example to be followed in Europe. it's simply a different game.
posted by PercussivePaul at 6:16 AM on January 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


In Canada, I believe all refugees are privately sponsored, and single men are ineligible

Nope

I'm a member of a sponsorship group... There are three types of sponsorship:
Government
Private
Blended pruvate-government (known as BVOR)

Sponsorship is not limited to families or Christians.

Government sponsors the most vulnerable, which is defined by UNHCR, and includes those without family with them as automatically the most vulnerable.

Private sponsorship can sponsor anyone they like, but must make a case they are refugees

BVOR groups pick from a list of people designated as refugees. BVOR groups are done in association with a sponsorship agreement holder (SAH)

Refugees by definition are outside their country of origin when designated.

The second largest SAH in Canada is World University Students Canada which sponsors students to study in Canada. Most Canadian post secondary students fund WUSC with student fees and we havebbrought many students t Canada since the SAH system was established in Canada.

WUSC students are all arriving as single, many are men.
posted by chapps at 6:29 AM on January 18, 2016 [17 favorites]


*to clarify, UNHCR has several categories that make a person "most vulnerable" in each group considered. You can have many factors that combine to make you the most vulnerable as well.
posted by chapps at 6:34 AM on January 18, 2016


However you are right that Canada is not in the same situation as Europe. First, largely in this situation, people coming to Canada are already designated as refugees when the arrive, not arriving then claiming refugee status, and then needing to have the hearing and assessment while being housed, which can take years.
posted by chapps at 6:54 AM on January 18, 2016


Also Armenian groups in the US and Canada are particularly active in sponsoring refugees, as ethnic Armenians in the Middle East and Central Asia are quite often the subject of violence and persecution, and the communities in North America remain tightly-tied to their church, so they are well-organized for refugee sponsorship. Ethnic Armenians are typically slightly overrepresented among Middle Eastern refugees to North America. Which is to say, not a unicorn, in terms of the refugees we get in the US and Canada.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:35 AM on January 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


The second largest SAH in Canada is World University Students Canada which sponsors students to study in Canada. Most Canadian post secondary students fund WUSC with student fees and we have brought many students [to] Canada since the SAH system was established in Canada.


Does this offer to a path to permanent residence/citizenship or is it strictly a "student visa"?

In the USA, at least, university and graduate students tend to be granted an F-1 visa which is a non-immigrant visa that has certain restrictions specifically associated with their university and course of study (e.g. no off-campus employment, must remain student in good standing, etc). There's no direct path to permanent residence via F-1 - a student must graduate, find work (typically under H-1 or TN-1 status, but there are other less common statuses as well), and be sponsored by the employer for an I-551 (aka "permanent resident" / "immigrant visa" / "green card).
posted by theorique at 8:07 AM on January 18, 2016


"Not to say that we should apply some sort of scoring system - but of course we do, don't we? Hmm, bonus points for Christian (at risk in Muslim nation), bonus points for minority status in Syria (ethnic Armenians are well under 10% of Syria's population), bonus points for family, etc."

It's a bit complicated, but it's not the government determining how many Armenians are privately sponsored. That is up to the private sponsors. The Armenian Community Centre alone is sponsoring over 1000 of the 2600 refugees expected in the Greater Toronto Area.

The real test might be to see who the government brings over as government-assisted refugees. Canada does have the ability to pick-and-chose who is coming. There are some people arriving as refugee claimants as well, but obviously geographic isolation means that it's never going to be a huge number of people.
posted by beau jackson at 8:11 AM on January 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


RE WUSC Does this offer to a path to permanent residence/citizenship or is it strictly a "student visa"?

yes.
Every person admitted to Canada as a refugee immediately becomes a landed immigrant upon arrival.
Landed immigrant is the first step to citizenship.

It is assumed, but not always the case, that refugees will make Canada their permanent home and become citizens, but being a landed immigrant is not a full guarantee. Some people also choose to return to their country of origin if the situation changes.
posted by chapps at 8:15 AM on January 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


Being a landed immigrant also means cheaper tuition, but at my uni at least the university covers the tuition for WUSC students and the WUSC student funds cover their living expenses. A student WUSC club handled the personal support to the students.
posted by chapps at 8:16 AM on January 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Note that most international students coming to Canada have a study permit. They are not in the same stream as WUSC students.

WUSC has a long and proud history, even pre-dating our current Sponsorship system, which is pretty unique and was founded under the leadership of Canada's first female Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Flora MacDonald. Notably, she was also at the helm during the Iran hostage crisis.
posted by chapps at 8:24 AM on January 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


Interestingly most Syrian Armenians left/fled for The Republic of Armenia (not their original homeland, speak a language that is moderately different from theirs - like Spanish and Portuguese different), so I wonder why these folks were not out sooner. They've been in Lebanon for awhile though.
posted by k8t at 9:53 AM on January 18, 2016


Re the article, I am kind of fascinated by the media around the arrivals, and the photo ops.

I am glad to see this family expressed happiness at being brought into a media frenzy upon arrival -- the group I am working with strives to maintain the privacy of the arrivals.

"People's stories are their own" is what we were told in one training session, and I agree.

However, I also recognize the importance of stories to mobilizing support. After all the crisis of Syrian (and other!) refugees is longstanding but it was one tragic story of a child's death, and subsequently learning that his aunt was trying to bring him to Canada, that has triggered a surge in support for refugees. A kind of national atonement.

I am not sure where to put the competing impulses of sharing stories, and preserving privacy for people who have been through so much -- and who are vulnerable to attack as we recently saw in Vancouver with people at a refugee welcome event being pepper sprayed by an individual attacker.
posted by chapps at 12:51 AM on January 21, 2016


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