“Thank you to the Government of Canada for the opportunity to speak tonight in this great Parliament Building.
My name is Khaled. I arrived in Canada 20 months ago. I am a student at the Adult High School and I am a shift supervisor at Bridgehead Coffee House. I would like to tell you a bit about me. In Syria I was like a baby bird without feathers. I was threatened by everything outside my nest. My nest was destroyed by war, and intolerance, in Syria. I fell, but I didn’t hit the ground because I was helped by my Sponsor Canadian group. For me they are my Family. They are here tonight and I want everyone to know how much they helped me. They caught me and they helped my wings to grow and helped me to see life from a different view. They didn’t put me in a cage and make me change. They encouraged me to be myself.
Capital Rainbow Refuge gave me the opportunity to find success in my life in Canada. They taught me how to think not just about my right to be accepted but taught me to realize others also have rights. They gave me strength by giving me love, education and support. There is a great need for more organizations such as Capital Rainbow Refuge. I didn’t just escape from death, I escaped every obstacle that prevented me from living my life happily and peacefully. I am so grateful to be in Canada because I have found success and happiness.
As a future Canadian, I am proud to be a part of an open and accepting country and to live with such strong people who accept everyone. I am strong because Canadians are strong. Canadians have accepted me, not to change me, but to be a part of this colourful country. Every person needs help, and now Syria is crying for help. I now have the confidence to fly anywhere in my sky. Canadians have a bad winter, but they make it into a paradise. Syria had a paradise, but they make it hell.
I would like to say THANK YOU to the Government of Canada, Capital Rainbow Refuge, Adult High School, Bridgehead and to every Canadian for supporting me.”
Can you imagine how it would be if a lesbian couple in love had been detected by their Arabic families? The families who represented their fundamentalist society. A couple who had been treated as molesters would be denied, and then vanished by the most horrible methods humanity has ever known. In the midst of despair, fear and escape, there were people who showed us light at the end of the tunnel, people from Capital Rainbow Refuge and Rainbow Haven, our real family who proved that goodness and humanity still exist. A family who helped us to get out of the swamp and start from zero to establish a new safe life with dignity. They helped us to have the chance of travelling to our new home Canada together, hand by hand, and to have the chance to get married with each other as we have always dreamed.
They opened their hearts to us before their houses. They let us in their lives, introduced us to their families, kids and their friends via distance communications before we physically met with them, trying to help us coexisting with the new life we are about to live and the new society which we truly belong. These people are treating us as human beings. We are very grateful for your existence in our lives.
25/2/2016 is my new birthday. It is the day I was reborn; the day I started a new life without constant fear and stress. It is the day I arrived in Canada. I used to live in a state of relentless stress that someone might kill me because I am gay, or that my family would find out about me.
My life turned around about one year earlier when Capital Rainbow Refuge told me that they decided to sponsor me, and would help me escape from the terror of my life in my country.
Now life is so different for me. I am safe and comfortable in my new life. I can tell anyone that I am gay without being afraid. I am so proud that I can be myself, and everyone here accepts me.
Everything that I have achieved now is because CRR has been supporting me, and helping me settle here. Every day I feel myself becoming a stronger person who is part of the Canadian community.
Many thanks to CRR and the Canadian government for their efforts to help people like me to live like we are actually human.
We are a gay couple from the Middle East, and we have been sponsored by CRR. Being sponsored by CRR for both of us is like being sponsored by our family. The support they have provided, from the beginning and before we even got the ok of the embassy, was particularly important for us both psychologically and morally. As to when we got the ok from the government and they were sure we were arriving, their support was even bigger. We honestly feel like our family is waiting for us in Canada. We know exactly what is waiting for us, where we will be going, who will be doing what for us and with us.... We know everything we need to know even before we get to Canada. However, and more importantly, we feel that although we may not know Canada, we have so much support from CRR, that we have absolutely nothing to worry about. For people like us who have lost everything, it is this moral support and being treated like we count, as part of CRR's family, that is allowing us to continue to believe in a better and brighter future.
My graduation- Drum roll...An almost impossible dream of 20+ years was finally realized and a milestone achieved! I still remember that morning as I walked into the auditorium with the soon-to-be grads, my heart pounding and limbs shaking. I saw Lisa, Nicole and my partner stand along the aisle, cheering me on with smiles galore. Lisa played the perfect paparazzi- clicking photos of me from every angle, thus making me feel like a total celebrity!
In a nutshell, without the incredible love and support of my very amazing CRR family…none of this would have been possible!
On that very special note, I am humbled to announce that I dedicate my very first achievement—my high-school diploma—to the iconic Nicole LaViolette, one of the most instrumental figures in my life.
Never had I felt more lost and vulnerable as I did through the grueling asylum process in Thailand. It was as if every living cell in my body was being stripped of its most basic human rights. It is inconceivable, at the very least, to walk into the shoes of a person whose rights have been callously taken away from them: the right to a healthy and safe life, life without fear; fear of being separated from the loved ones.
Imagine going to bed at night with a constant, lurking fear, that any moment through the moonlight, your apartment could be raided by the immigration authority. And like many others who bore the wrath of the authority and been brutally tossed into vans, their spirits crushed into millions of pieces, it could now be my turn to embark on a dark journey to the detention center. The detention center or should I say, the proverbial hell on earth, for those who have either consciously/unconsciously committed the “cardinal” sin of overstaying in a country which blatantly rejects the rights of asylum seekers or refugees.
Under those circumstances, I looked for every possible way to protect myself. I sought comfort in prayers - my only source of sanity. When I prayed, I was reassured of a divine intervention. I believed that I was protected by the angels but the divine intervention happened for real when I learned that a group of private sponsors expressed an interest in sponsoring my partner and me to Canada. Sooner than I had expected, a miracle had been handed down to us from the Heavens. The angels I had been waiting for were none other than Capital Rainbow Refuge, who not only came to our rescue but took us under their wings! Our arrival in the beautiful city of Ottawa two years ago marked the humble beginning of our new life in Canada.