The Canadian government promised to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees and a group of like-minded people are looking to sponsor a family to live in Prince Rupert.
Kristi and John Farrell and Ray Pedersen have joined forces to figure out how they can bring one, two, or hopefully five families to the North Coast.
“It feels like an obligation if we have the fortitude to do it,” Kristi said. Both her and her husband own and operate Opa Sushi and Cow Bay Cafe.
Over the past 12 years the Farrells have brought foreign workers into the area, providing employment and even helping with immigration papers for residency in Canada.
“We know how to bring people into town and make use of the resources,” Kristi said. Between the three of them they have two rental homes to offer.
Pedersen owns Slate Consulting Group, a head-hunting company that operates in the Asia-Pacific region.
“It’s tough to recruit people for business in entry level jobs in Prince Rupert,” Pedersen said, which is why he feels that if they’re able to bring Syrians to the community they won’t have a problem finding employment and filling the gaps.
He said that almost everyone he’s spoken to so far, including churches in the city, are willing to help.
There may be an absence of Syrians in Prince Rupert but it’s a multicultural society with a history of accepting newcomers in need of refuge.
“It’s a grand experiment. We’re so multicultural here. We have a history of providing shelter to people,” John said.
In the late 1970s, the government accepted 60,000 refugees from Vietnam for resettlement in communities across the country. Don and Alberta Seidel along with some other members of the Annunciation Church, put together a committee to sponsor Vietnamese refugees.
“It was gratifying at the time. A little bit of a grind,” Don said. He’s offered to provide advice on bringing Syrians to Rupert.
The challenges the Farrells and Pedersen are facing now is finding a handful of people interested in becoming a sponsor.
There are two main ways for the public to sponsor a refugee. The most common means is through a sponsorship agreement holder (SAH), which is an organization, usually a church, that has a legally binding agreement with the government.
The second way is through a group of five sponsorship. Kristi, John and Pedersen make three— they need another two sponsors. This could be an individual or a family who are permanent residents of Canada, members of Prince Rupert and have $5,000 for a contingency fund. The actual cost of sponsoring could be significantly less once fundraising and in-kind donations are taken into account.
The group are also searching for people willing to offer support for when the newcomers arrive.
Those interested can meet the group on Monday, Jan. 18 at the Community Futures office at 7 p.m. For questions call Kristi at 250-600-1647 or email Info@opasushi.com