Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Syrian Refugees Tell MP Finding Jobs, Learning Language Are Hurdles

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Syrian Refugees Tell MP Finding Jobs, Learning Language Are Hurdles

Article excerpt

Syrians tell MP of barriers to jobs, language

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OTTAWA - They might not yet be able to vote but that's not stopping Syrians from taking part in one element of Canadian political life -- giving their MP an earful.

Over two dozen Syrians who've arrived in Canada since the fall were in Ottawa Thursday to get a tour, thanks to their member of Parliament Melanie Joly.

The small reception she held for them on Parliament Hill at first had all the hallmarks of a typical political meet and greet, guests nibbling on hummus and chips before Joly came and began shaking hands and posing for photos.

But then she asked if they had any questions. The group instantly crowded around.

"I do not want to sit at home," said Aida Farres, telling Joly she is in her 40s and used to work assisting with organ transplants in Syria, but can't find a job now.

Joly offered a sympathetic ear, saying Farres' challenges are common among all newcomers and the government is doing what it can.

But it is going to take time, Joly noted, given that the Liberal refugee program only began in earnest in December and it's only April.

"I'm hoping by next December everyone is going to have a job," she said.

For 17-year-old Wanes Nlabandian, the issue is the requirement to learn French. He already speaks English and Arabic. But since arriving in Canada in February, he's been told he now needs to learn French and go to CEGEP, the post-Grade 11 program that's a requirement for Quebecers who want to go to university.

What about all the education he already has, he wanted to know.

"What can I do to not lose these three or four years?" he asked.

Think of the future, Joly replied, and how much stronger his skill set will be when he speaks not two, but three, languages. …

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