Syria to Baddeck

October 29th, 2018


Our Family has arrived  !!!!  (April 2018)
The Esmaeel family, shown above, has finally come to its new home in Baddeck. – Submitted

BADDECK, N.S. — The wait is finally over for a Cape Breton community hoping to bring a Syrian refugee family to Canada.

It’s been two years since the Syria to Baddeck Steering Committee began the process of one day bringing a family to the Victoria County village, but the dream has finally become a reality.

The Esmaeel family, consisting of a father, mother and four children, was expected to arrive at the J.A. Douglas McCurdy Airport in Sydney late Thursday night, where two committee members planned to accompany them to their new home in Baddeck.

“It’s a huge relief and it’s still a little bit unbelievable that they’re finally coming,” said Jennifer MacDonald, a member of the local committee.

“Wednesday night they were sitting at the airport in Amman as refugees in Jordan and Friday they’re permanent residents in Canada — their whole life is shifting in the next few hours.”


The Syria to Baddeck Steering Committee received strong support in November 2015 in their effort to bring a family to Canada.

The committee later identified the Esmaeels as the family they wanted to sponsor and began raising money and forming sub-committees to help the family.

The family’s application was processed in July 2016 and the committee initially believed it would take 12 to 19 months until the family would be approved and allowed to enter the country.

In May 2017, the committee learned the application to sponsor the family had been approved by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and later forwarded to the Canadian embassy in Amman, Jordan, with only security checks and medical screenings holding the family back from their Canadian permanent residency cards.

With that, the committee believed the family would arrive in Victoria County on Sept. 1, but they later learned it could take another 19 months due to a backlog in the private sponsorship refugee program.

It wasn’t until last November when the committee found out the Esmaeels had been interviewed and their medical checks and background screening had been conducted by a private security firm and that they’d eventually be coming.

MacDonald said the delays in the family arriving were frustrating, but the process was worthwhile in the end.

“It was only minor compared to the experience of the family,” she said. “We can’t begin to understand what they’re leaving and I’m sure they’re having mixed emotions leaving their family and friends behind.

“The story is really about them and how brave they’ve been through this process and hopefully their life will change when they step off that plane.”

The committee was told three weeks ago that the family would be arriving in April, much to the pleasure of the group.

“Our ultimate goal is to make them feel like they’re part of the community and I know Baddeck has certainly embraced them,” said MacDonald. “This is something that the whole community has taken ownership of and it’s been amazing to experience it.”

Earlier this year, the committee was able to secure housing for the family, who will live in a home previously owned by Baddeck resident Bill Fraser, a supporter of the Syrian to Baddeck project, who died on Jan. 17.

The committee officially signed the lease for the three-bedroom village home on Feb. 13.

MacDonald understands the community’s excitement for the family’s arrival, but the committee plans to be “protective” of the them in the early stages.

“They’re going to need time to adjust to everything from the weather to their new space, their new home and all of those things,” said MacDonald. “Right now, what they need is a little bit of privacy.

“There are some logistical things that we need to do like getting them a health card, social insurance number and setting up bank accounts and all of those things need to be done and will be done.”

Over the past two years, the Syria to Baddeck committee was able to raise $40,000 to help the family for one year, through fundraisers and donations.

Although a lot of work has already been put into planning for the family’s arrival, MacDonald said the work isn’t over yet.

“We don’t really know what to expect,” she said. “We need to respond to their needs. We want them to be ultimately self-sufficient, but we need to help them develop skills and we need to learn the skills that they have so that we can help them find meaningful employment.”

The Esmaeels have family members currently living in the Halifax area. Those family members were expected to arrive today in Baddeck and stay throughout the weekend to help the family transition and help with the language barrier.

“It will be an emotional reunion because these folks haven’t seen each other in a really long time,” said MacDonad. “The kids haven’t met each other, so we’re really grateful that their relatives are coming to be part of this process.”

Twitter: @CBPost_Jeremy


Syria To Baddeck Group – March 19th, 2018

Friends and supporters,

We have news to share. We received an email this afternoon from the Embassy indicating that our file has been officially approved, visas have been issued and the family will be called in to the Embassy get exit visas and to make travel plans. The International Office of Migration will support the family in this pre-arrival phase, and has indicated that we can expect them to arrive in Baddeck in 4-10 weeks. I realise this is still a bit of a wait, but it is a clear picture and exactly what we’ve been waiting for. The Embassy will inform us of their travel specifics 10 days before arrival, but I would suspect that the family will know that information sooner than that. We are fortunate that we’re able to communicate with them, so hopefully we will know more soon. We will hope for the earliest possible arrival, and that crocuses and daffodils are popping up for their arrival!

Fortunately, we have had folks generously contribute time and effort into preparing the house, and we feel that we are ready to welcome them any day. There are still some final details/finishing touches to add, but it is certainly a home that could be moved into. Folks have generously contributed personal care items, groceries, bedding, furniture, kitchen goods, boys and games and toys – the list goes on and on. Thank you to everyone who has contributed.

We will be calling a public meeting soon to discuss the settlement plan, our budget and to share some photos of the house and details of the family’s travel plans. We want to be sure that we do the arrival and early stages properly – so the family feels supported, and also has space to adjust. We know we can rely on everyone’s cooperation and support as you’ve been nothing but supportive so far. Well begun is half done, as they say.

We would like to put out a call for someone who has a skill set and interest in personal financial planning. We will need someone to help the family learn about our banking system, talk them through their budget, and accompany them to the first few trips to the bank (setting up debit cards, etc.). Whomever that person is will have to undergo a criminal record check through the RCMP as per the government’s expectations for sponsorship groups (it’s a simple trip to the barracks with ID, it is free and is done right then and there). If you think you may be interested, please let one of the steering committee members know, or reply to this email.

Thank you again for all your support. This has been a long and arduous process, but it will all become worth it when this family is welcomed into a safe home and community.

With thanks,

The Steering Committee

(Donnell Beaton, Athol Grant, Chris King, Jen MacDonald, Aynsley MacFarlane)

February 13, 2018 Update

Hello friends and supporters,

Our family now has a house in Baddeck!! We signed a lease today on the family’s behalf for a 3 bedroom house in the village. Incredibly, the homeowner also donated the vast majority of the furnishings to the family. Given that act of generosity, we don’t have to do a major furniture drive. On that note, we do have a beautiful dining room table with 4 chairs, a buffet, a coffee table and two side tables that had been previously donated and we currently have stored that we do not have a need for. The donor has graciously told us to sell the furniture, and take the proceeds as a monetary donation. So, I will post details shortly on the “Syria to Baddeck” Facebook page and will include photos. Please, share widely. If you’re not on Facebook and would like me to email you the pictures, just reply back and I’ll do so.

At our meeting last week, we handed out lists of items that will help us make our house a home – things like pantry staples, personal care items, books and bedding. Thank you so much to those folks who took a list – there were none left at the end of the evening! There will undoubtedly be more things that come up, so stay tuned! We also asked for people who may be able to help us clean and organize the house, or who are able to help us do some of the heavy lifting of furniture and whatnot. If you already signed up at the meeting, I have your contact information so no need to re-send. If you weren’t able to attend the meeting, but may have some time to spare, please reply back with the best way to contact you. When we have times that we will need help, I’ll send out an email asking who is available at that time. Many hands make light work, as they say! There won’t be any “deep cleaning” required, more just organizing and a quick wipe to make everything fresh.

We are still awaiting word from the Embassy with an exact arrival time, but our family has been told that March is likely. Given what we’ve heard from other groups, this seems a likely timeline (most groups had their families arrive somewhere between 3-6 months after their medical, and our family had their medical done in November). Know that we continue to press for an answer, and we will keep you posted.

We feel confident that we will be ready, now that we have secured housing. As you all well know, that was a major struggle! We are thrilled to have found such an ideal home, especially given the timing! Midyan, Rasha and their children Marah, Mohammad, Mais and Taim will be so welcome here. In our correspondence with them, they continue to express their gratitude for the opportunity they are being given – to live in a place that is safe and where their children can go to school – they’re still in disbelief that strangers are willing to take on this project to change the lives of six people from a world away. All of this is because of you folks, so thank you.

Again, we cannot say enough how much we appreciate the unwavering and continuing support. Quite an amazing community we have!

Til next time & thank you as always,

The Steering Committee


Hi folks,

We finally have news of our (relatively) imminent arrival of our family. We are expecting them in March/April. Thus, it is time to get together with folks who are interested in helping us prepare. We are holding a working meeting on Tuesday, February 6 at 7 pm at St. Michael’s Parish Hall in Baddeck. At this meeting, we will be discussing housing and therefore seeking volunteers for cleaning & moving crews, to help us gather household goods and furniture, and to help set up the home for our family. Further details will be discussed at the meeting, and we will be dividing and conquering tasks related to the above, so please, if you are able to help with those items, we very much hope you’re able to attend. The real work is beginning! If those things aren’t your forte, worry not, we will have many other tasks ahead, and will send out emails calling for support as we continue to prepare for the Eshmaeel’s arrival. We are grateful for your ongoing support.


Hello supporters,

We want to let you know that we’re holding a brief meeting on Thursday, November 23, 2017 at 7 p.m. at St. Michael’s Parish Hall on Chebucto Street in Baddeck. Please help us spread the word! Looking forward to seeing you then.

The Steering Committee, Syria to Baddeck



September, 2017

See article on delays with arrival of Syrian Refugee Family.

Click on link below;


May, 2017:

Hello supporters,

Exciting news and progress (finally!). Our application to sponsor a Syrian refugee family of 6, currently living in Jordan, has been approved! The application has been sent on to the Canadian Embassy in Amman, Jordan. There, the family will undergo medical checks and security screens and assuming all goes well, they will be issued permanent residency cards for Canada and will be ready to travel. The timeline is still somewhat up in the air (a familiar tune at this point!), but we are hopeful for a fall arrival. Since we are fortunate enough to be in touch with the family, we will know when they get their medical and security checks, and will keep you posted. We will be working hard in the coming weeks to prepare for their arrival, so you can expect emails with updates as we receive them, and with calls for help when the need arises!

Thanks again for all your patience and support.

The Steering Committee


Islam Understood - Mabou
From: Syria to Baddeck Group <>
Sent: February 16, 2017 9:42 PM
To: Syria to Baddeck Group
Subject: Preparing for Refugees

Dear friends,

At a meeting a few weeks ago, we shared a positive update: Citizenship and Immigration has informed us that the application for “our family” is now being processed! We hope to welcome the family of six to Baddeck sometime around September. The process is far from over, but we are remaining cautiously optimistic and are glad to at least have a time estimate.

Would you like to help? If you already indicated you would like to join one of the committees, you will hear from us soon. If you would like to join a committee, please let us know.

Our committee are:




Community Engagement


Thank you all for you ongoing support.

The Steering Committee


Update on the Syria to Baddeck Refugee sponsorship Project.

Happy 2017! The Steering Committee will be holding a public meeting at St. Michael’s Parish Hall (across from the Needs store in Baddeck) at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, January 24. If a cancellation is required due to weather, the meeting will be held at the same location the next evening, Wednesday, January 25 at 7 p.m. Thanks again for your interest and support.


On  Friday June 10 th the Baddeck Lions Club will hold a Lobster Dinner at the Baddeck Community Centre. All proceeds will go to bring a Syrian Refugee family to Baddeck.

Hosted By the Baddeck Lions Club and the Syria to Baddeck Steering Committee.

Seatings at 5:30 PM  and 6:30 PM.

$25.00 per person.lobster 2

Syrian Dinner

Saturday, May 7, 2016

St. Ann’s Bay United Church

Barrachois Bridge, Indian Brook


All proceeds will go to the

Syria-to-Baddeck Refugee Project

Freewill Donation

4 – Course Syrian Dinner

Beef or Vegetarian Option

Order Meat or Vegetarian option by contacting –

Marion 929-2270

Bonnie 929-2317

Murdena 929-2860 

Peggy  929-2665


Dear Friends
As you know, for the last two years Cape Breton University has been championing the cause of immigration to Cape Breton Island, partly based on the clearly expressed hopes of our international students and partly because of the widely recognised economic and social imperative of promoting immigration to the Island.  
We were fortunate in receiving provincial funding for the  Rural-Urban Immigration Pilot which confirmed the interest of international students in immigrating to Cape Breton Island and which has helped establish high levels of support for immigration in communities across Cape Breton Island.   The Immigration Pilot has also been able to produce settlement resources that will be helpful both to communities and immigrants for years to come.
In recent months, thanks to the tireless efforts of Amanda McDougall and Craig Joseph, and with the direct encouragement of the Province, the Immigration Pilot has also been able to provide support and advice to many volunteers and community groups on the Island interested in supporting refugee families affected by the Syrian crisis.  Thanks to the generosity of volunteers such as you, and the efforts of community groups across the Island, we now have six such families settled and a further 17 in train to immigrate to Cape Breton.  It has been a source of great pride to CBU that our students and staff have been very active volunteers in this effort.
Given the clear capacity for immigration to Cape Breton Island – including in our schools and health care systems – and the overwhelming levels of goodwill in our communities, many individuals and groups involved in the Immigration Pilot and Lifeline Syria Cape Breton have advocated for significantly enhanced  Settlement Services for Cape Breton Island, to be supported by both Provincial and Federal levels of government.  
The Nova Scotia Department of Immigration has accepted these arguments, and so I am delighted to share the news that as of April 1st the Province will fund two Settlement Support Officers for Cape Breton Island to be hosted by New Dawn.  New Dawn, with the support of the Province, will also be initiating discussions to apply to the Federal Government for support under the ‘Welcoming Communities’ program.
As this transition is now underway, I want to offer some practical guidance for individual volunteers who have been relying on support from Amanda and Craig for refugee-related advice.  
Please stand by for further updates which will be issued by the Lifeline Syria organisation.   Lifeline Syria is meeting on Tuesday evening of next week at CBU, and you can expect to hear from us very soon after that. 
Please also note – Amanda and Craig will no longer be accessible via their CBU cell phones or email addresses as sadly their CBU contracts come to an end today.
The implications of these changes have only become apparent in recent days, and so I would request your patience as new arrangements come into play.
Finally I would like to recognise the incredible efforts of many hundreds of volunteers, numerous community groups and of course Amanda and Craig, for all the passion and commitment that has been mobilised in making Cape Breton Island a true destination for immigrants and refugees.  We are a proud and generous Island and we will continue to advocate for provincial and federal support to match our level of commitment to these vital priorities for Canada, Nova Scotia and Cape Breton.   Your continued involvement as volunteers in this effort remains very important.
President and Vice Chancellor
Cape Breton University, PO Box 5300, 1250 Grand Lake Road, Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada   B1P 6L2
Administrative Assistant Ramona Lewis T 902-563-1393
Visit for latest program information and news
Skype me at davidatcbu – Follow me on Twitter @drdavidwheeler1


Hello friends and supporters,

We will be holding a public meeting on Tuesday, March 29 at 7 p.m. at the St. Michael’s Parish Hall (across from Needs on Chebucto Street in Baddeck). We have numerous issues to discuss and seek feedback on. Hope to see you then!

The Steering Committee

Syria to Baddeck Group []

Hello friends and supporters of the Syria to Baddeck Project,

As you know, we have reached a point financially where we are able to sponsor a refugee family. At this stage, we need to secure appropriate housing, which has posed very difficult. Without securing housing, we cannot move forward, so we need your help! We are looking for a rental property which fits the following criteria:

– 3 bedroom house/apartment
– winterized
– unfurnished
– within a 10 km radius of the village of Baddeck
– available for a 12 month lease

If you, or someone you know has a place that you think might be suitable and available, please contact us via either this email, or through one of the Steering Committee Members directly at your earliest convenience. We thank you in advance!

Your Steering Committee

Athol Grant: 902-295-8281
Aynsley MacFarlane: 902-295-2407
Jen MacDonald: 902-295-0234
Alison Etter: 902-295-1047 (Alison will be away next week, in case you’re trying to get her)
Chris King (Chris is away for a few weeks, so best to save calling him for another time!)

Thousands Of Syrian Refugees Seek Shelter In Makeshift Camps In Jordan
ZA’ATARI, JORDAN -: Children pose for a picture as Syrian refugees go about their daily business in the Za’atari refugee camp.

Hello friends of Syria to Baddeck,
Another update from your steering committee! Firstly, we need to thank you all for your generosity, because we have a bank balance approaching $17,000 as a result of donations! This is incredible! Our “money people” have asked us to continue to remind people that cheques are to be made out to “Greenwood United Church” and “Syria to Baddeck” should be noted on the “Notes” line. They can be mailed to:

Greenwood United Church
P.O. Box 145
Baddeck NS
B0E 1B0

 As you know, there is a silent auction fundraiser this Friday, February 5 at the Gaelic College. Thanks to all who’ve done the organizing (the St. Ann’s Bay crowd!) and to those who’ve volunteered time and items for the event. Just a reminder, doors open at 6:30 and admission is $10. On our facebook page, there is a list of auction items in case you want to check them out in advance.

We are also planning to screen a documentary called “Salam, Neighbour” on Saturday, February 20 at 2 p.m. at the Bell Museum. Here’s the synopsis:

“Seven miles from war, 85,000 Syrians struggle to restart their lives inside Jordan’s Za’atari refugee camp. For the first time in history, two filmmakers fully embed themselves in the camp, providing an intimate look at the world’s most dire humanitarian crisis.  From meeting Um Ali, a woman struggling to overcome personal loss and cultural barriers, to the street smart, 10-year-old Raouf, whose trauma hides just beneath his ever present smile, Zach and Chris uncover inspiring stories of individuals rallying, against all odds, to rebuild their lives and those of their neighbors.”

The screening will be a free event, and all are welcome. We will gladly accept donations at the door should you be inclined and able.
Another exciting note, there will be a fun, family friendly event happening on February 27 – and we will be sending out more information and details on that in the coming days!!
Thank you again for your ongoing support and enthusiasm!

The Steering Committee

the saProgramcropped


From Syria to Baddeck
Silent Auction
January 4, 2016
Residents, business owners, artisans, craftspeople of Victoria County,
SUBJECT: Victoria County Silent Auction: CALL FOR DONATIONS
The Silent Auction is one of several fundraising efforts underway to provide support towards sponsoring a Syrian refugee family to the Baddeck area. We, the members of the Victoria County Silent Auction Committee, are very pleased to announce the upcoming Silent Auction which will be held during the evening of Friday, February 5, 2016 at the Gaelic College. This event will be an exciting evening of music, speakers, fabulous auction items and prizes, all for a great cause!
Please consider donating something for the Auction table or for a door prize. It could be an item (object) or gift certificate (for a service or a food experience, or whatever you think is an appropriate donation). If you have questions about what might be appropriate or any other questions, see contact below.
Hopefully, all the donations for the auction table will be on hand at the College by the end of January (exceptions to this can be handled). Please fill in the tear off portion below and include it with your donation. Process and contact information are also below. A member of the Silent Auction Committee is prepared to pick up your item or gift certificate (contact below). If you wish to deliver yourself, take your item directly to the Gaelic College (drop off at the administration office next to the craft shop).
Thanks for considering a donation to this wonderful fundraising event in support of Syrian Refugee families!
The Victoria County Silent Auction Committee
SILENT AUCTION DONATION (attach this section to your donation):
Donor Name: _______________________________ Phone #: _____________________________
Description of item you are donating: __________________________________________________
Item is for: Auction Table __ OR Door Prize __
If item is for Auction, please indicate the Minimum Opening Bid: _______
Full Value of Item: _____
Silent Auction Committee Contact: Jim Eldridge – 902-294-0842 or



Consider donating to the Syria to Baddeck fund. See information letter below:

Syrian LetterA


Posted Dec 11 2015 from Craig Joseph

Good afternoon,

This message is being sent on behalf of Lifeline Syria Cape Breton to all of you amazing volunteers who have stepped up to the challenge of welcoming Syrian Refugees to Cape Breton Island. I know you are all anxious to help, and we are working on our end to figure out what the best way for you to help actually looks like. But for now we wanted to give you a bit of an update on where things are at right now with this process:
1)      Currently, there are somewhere between 7 and 9 applications in to the government to bring in Syrian refugee families. These applications include fully private funding, and Blended Visa funding (50/50 cost sharing with the federal government). Of these applications, we know that at least 2 of the families will be arriving soon, perhaps as soon as January. We will be reaching out to you again soon looking for settlement support for these families. If you know you want to connect with these families and be a part of their support pods – contact me right away. And also be sure to read number 3 on this list.
2)      It is important to remember that upon their arrival refugees are permanent residents of Canada and Cape Bretoners, and as such are no longer considered ‘refugees’. This and many other sensitivity pieces are going to be discussed in Educational Workshops we will be hosting early in the New Year, dates and more info TBD. Space will be limited. This will be a chance to learn commonly used terms in Arabic, learn about cultural and situation sensitivity, and more. I will email again when I have more information on this.   
3)      If you plan on assisting these new Cape Bretoners DIRECTLY, you are required to obtain a recent police and vulnerable persons check from the Cape Breton Regional Police. The fees are waived for volunteers if you have a letter from your organization and we are happy to provide you with a personal letter. Please email us if you would like to go ahead with this process.  
4)      Sharing information – We are considering the possibility of sharing volunteer information among the community of volunteers so you may organize and connect directly. If you oppose this sharing of information please let me know before January 10th, 2016 so I can keep your information from being shared.
5)      The wonderful folks at Marcato (53 Prince Street in Sydney) are doing a Welcome Home Challenge. They are seeking donations from local businesses and the community. This is just one of many collections that will be taking place. I know that student lead initiatives are taking place all over Sydney, and around the island. There are also church groups forming and I believe there is another clothing drive scheduled for early in the new year, so watch for that one as well. If you are looking to volunteer with any of these efforts, contact me and I can connect you.  
I cannot stress enough how thankful and appreciative we are for your volunteerism. You will be making a real difference for these folks very soon.
And in case we don’t see you until the new year, compliments of the Season from Craig and Amanda!!
Craig Joseph
Program Assistant
Immigration Partnerships
International and Aboriginal Affairs
Cape Breton University
P.O. Box 5300, 1250 Grand Lake Rd.
Sydney, Nova Scotia
Canada B1P 6L2
Office: (902) 563-1282
Cell: (902) 574-1349

Greetings everyone,

Thanks again for the ongoing support. The steering committee, now comprised of Athol Grant, Alison Etter, Chris King, Aynsley MacFarlane & Jen MacDonald, want to let you know what has happened since the last meeting.

Firstly, the proposal we worked on has been submitted to various levels of government and to ISANS. We have yet to have a response in terms of whether or not we will be chosen as a community that will receive government assisted refugees, but we are hopeful we will hear more soon. We have also shared our proposal with other community groups, including Lifeline Syria-Cape Breton so they are aware of what Baddeck has in terms of supports.

Andrew Brooks submitted an article to the current issue of “The Victoria Standard” (thank you, Andrew!), and we are hoping the Standard will be a medium that we can use to keep the community engaged in what we are working on.

In addition to that, a Facebook page was started – if you are on Facebook and haven’t joined already, we would encourage you to do so (and to invite your friends!). It’s definitely worth having a look. Here’s the link:

We are in the early planning stages for some events  (likely to be held at the Baddeck library – thank you Kate Oland! Kate has also set up a display at the library – pop in and have a look!). The library events will focus on topics that may include Syria pre-war, the refugee process and experience, and welcoming newcomers. We’ll keep you posted on particulars, and please feel free to suggest potential topics and speakers .

Offers of in-kind donations, volunteer hours and monetary support have been pouring in. Given the number of generous individuals who have offered monetary support, we have started to accept donations via Greenwood Church. Cheques or money orders can be made out to Greenwood United Church (address to follow), and marked specifically with “Syria to Baddeck”. We will then have access to that money & will use it to either support refugee families that arrive here, or those nearby. Tax receipts will be issued. Again, please feel free to share that information with people who may be asking. Here’s the address:

Greenwood United Church
P.O.Box 145
Baddeck NS

As we learn more about whether or not we will be welcoming fully funded refugee families and while donations begin to roll in, we will continue to consider a blended visa sponsorship option. The basic premise is that a community group provides funding for the family for 6 months, and the government provides funding for the other 6 months. Once community funding is in place, this option can happen quite quickly, as the refugees eligible for this option must already have screening approval to be on the list for consideration. Other communities are already engaged in this process, so we are reaching out to see what that might look like.

Again, we thank you for your ongoing support, and hope to have more information to share with you soon!

Information on the application to bring two Syrian Refugee Families to Baddeck Area.(See below)

Welcoming Syrian Refugees to Baddeck

Citizen and immigration profile re. Syrian Refugees (See below)

EN Syrian Population Profile

Questions and Answers about Syrian Refugee Program