REGINA — It was a long journey but an Iranian family of four — father, mother 13-year-old son and two-year-old daughter — were happy to be in Canada after living two years in a Turkish refugee camp. The family did not want their photo or names used. “They have ways of finding you,” they said.
They arrived in Regina July 29 and were met by members of the St. Cecilia Parish Social Justice Committee and pastor Rev. John Weckend. The parish will be responsible for them for a year. Looking tired after their long journey, the two-year-old hanging tightly onto her mother, the family looked relieved and a little confused. With the help of committee members, luggage was retrieved and the family taken to their apartment.
The four left their home in southern Iran fearful for their safety after the father took part in a demonstration in support of an individual who had been persecuted because of his religion. The family belongs to a faith community known as Alxaque. Through interpreter Farbod Jenabidh, the family, who speak Farsi and no English at all, said it is not associated with any other faith.
Iran is an Islamic republic and its constitution tolerates few other religions. Adherents of other faiths often suffer discrimination, officially are unable to obtain government jobs and are often harassed to the point of violence.
Social Justice chair Bernadette Warnke said the parish has raised something over $28,000 for the family’s support. “We are responsible for them for one year,” said Warnke, “Federal government programs help financially.”
The parish provided a fully furnished apartment in a two storey fourplex in the city’s west central district convenient to grocery and medical services. “All the furnishings were donated by parish members and others. We had truck loads and lots of volunteers set up the apartment,” said Warnke.
The family described life in the refugee camp as grim. “There were many times when there was no food,” they said through interpreter Jenabidh. The mother has a brother still living in the refugee camp. Asked if they knew anything about Canada before their arrival the father, smiling, said only that it was cold.
Since their arrival members of the committee have taken the family to the various government agencies for registration and identification as landed immigrants. They’re also enrolled in English classes through the Regina open Door Society (who also supplied the interpreter) and the 13-year-old boy will enter school this fall.
In an interview about a week after their arrival, the family looked settled in their apartment and said their ambition was to learn English, find work, and have their children obtain an education.