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Fort Nelson to sponsor refugee family

Community members in Fort Nelson are working to bring a family of refugees to town. Around a dozen people in the town of 3,900 have formed a refugee sponsorship group to privately sponsor a family fleeing the war in Syria.
FN-refugees
The committee that is sponsoring a refugee family in Fort Nelson. From left to right: Ben Wall, James Klassen, Bruce Looney, Marg Looney, Val Keeler, Tim Siemens, Seanah Roper, Lorraine Gerwing, Mike Gilbert, Jim Patterson, Barbara Wall, Cristina Klassen, Danny Soles, Brenda Patterson, Pablo Bazerque. Supplied Photo

Community members in Fort Nelson are working to bring a family of refugees to town.

Around a dozen people in the town of 3,900 have formed a refugee sponsorship group to privately sponsor a family fleeing the war in Syria.

Seanah Roper, a member of the committee, said the group is confirmed as a sponsor, and is trying to pick a family from a list of people in refugee camps.

"I'm trying to take a positive attitude," said Roper. "There are so many people on these lists, going through them is just overwhelming, looking at all the people in the camps.

"There's a list of names, the ages of the kids, the languages they speak, the education they have."

The family would be a small part of the 25,000 refugees the Canadian government hopes to bring in by the end of the year.

It's still too early to say whether the family destined for Fort Nelson will be from Syria, or another nearby country with large numbers of refugees. 

The family is being privately sponsored through the Alliance Church.

B.C. is expected to take 2,700 people, with the majority of government-assisted refugees being settled in Metro Vancouver.

Roper said the group was concerned about publicizing the plan amid anti-refugee backlash in northern B.C. 

"We were hesitant about putting it out in the media right now since it's so heated," she said. "There's a lot of fear right now, a lot of 'othering.' It's resulted in different things around the country—some hate crimes have popped up.

"The education piece of it, the cultural awareness has to come in tandem. We've got our work cut out," she said.

She said the committee would likely pick a family with established English skills, since the community would not be able to offer counseling services in their first language. 

"So we've got certain things we're going to be looking for in the family," she said, adding the Canadian refugee entrance process is "comprehensive." 

She said the committee believed they needed to step up, adding a group in Fort Nelson sponsored a Vietnamese refugee family in the 1980s.

Val Keeler got involved in the refugee committee this fall.   

"I've been followign the war and the awful things the refugees had to go through, and I have a very good friend who came here as one of the boat people from Vietnam many years ago," she said. "I learned her story, and knew there were many more." 

"We're a small community that's very accepting of others generally," she said. "I think that we're ready."

reporter@dcdn.ca