Transcript: Syrian Refugees in Northern Ontario | Jan 22, 2020

A clip shows images of a house front.

Subtitles read "Mohamad, you finished? Finish it all?"

[speaking Arabic]

Another clip shows an Arabic family having breakfast.

The narrator says IT'S BEEN NEARLY
3 YEARS SINCE SAMIR AND DINA
ALSALAMAT AND THEIR FAMILY
ARRIVED IN SAULT STE. MARIE.
THE ALSALAMATS ARE STILL
ADJUSTING TO A NEW ROUTINE, BUT
THEIR MORNINGS ARE LIKE ANY
OTHER IN CANADA.
ON THE MENU THIS MORNING: CEREAL
WITH WARM MILK, A QUICK BITE,
AND THE SCHOOL BUS WAITS TO PICK
UP THE FAMILY'S ELDEST KIDS,
WHILE THEIR YOUNGEST SON GETS A
LIFT TO SCHOOL WITH HIS PARENTS
AS THEY HEAD OFF TO WORK.
THEIR ROUTINE WAS MUCH DIFFERENT
JUST A FEW YEARS AGO.
THEY ARRIVED IN SAULT STE. MARIE
IN 2017 AS GOVERNMENT-SPONSORED
REFUGEES.
A LOT HAS CHANGED FOR THE FAMILY
OF SIX.
A NEW HOME, A NEW LANGUAGE, NEW
SCHOOLS, AND A NEW JOB.

Samir walks in his work place.

A workmate says GOOD TO SEE YOU.

Samir says GOOD TO SEE YOU.

The man says YOU WORKING HARD?

Samir says YEAH, HARDLY MORE.

The man says HARDLY WORKING?
[Laughter]

The narrator says SAMIR WORKS AT THE
QUALITY INN AS A PORTER.
THAT MEANS SETTING UP CONFERENCE
ROOMS, FOLDING TOWELS AND
SHEETS, CHECKING IN GUESTS, AND
CLEANING ROOMS.
[Phone ringing]

Samir takes the call and says GO AHEAD.

The caller says CAN YOU GO TO HOUSEKEEPING,
PLEASE?

The narrator says SAMIR HAS BEEN
WORKING HERE SINCE 2018, BUT
THIS HOTEL WAS WHERE HE AND HIS
FAMILY SPENT THEIR FIRST NIGHT
IN SAULT STE. MARIE, A NIGHT HE
FONDLY REMEMBERS.

A caption reads "Samir Alsalamat. Syrian Refugee."

Samir is in his forties, with short wavy brown hair and wears a gingham shirt.

Samir says THEY HAVE SIGN.
THEY WROTE IN ARABIC "WELCOME TO
CANADA."
[Speaking Arabic]
AND THEIR SMILES.
I WILL NEVER FORGET THEIR FACE.

A man at the front desk says CLICK ON "SUBMIT."

Samir says "SUBMIT."

The caption changes to "Sunny Naqvi. Hotel Manager."

Sunny is in his forties, with short straight brown hair and wears a gray suit, a white shirt and a patterned gray tie.

Sunny says I REMEMBER SAMIR COMING IN.
HE WAS A VERY TALL GUY, YOU
KNOW, IT WAS DIFFICULT NOT TO
NOTICE HIM.
ABOUT A YEAR LATER, HE APPLIED
FOR THE JOB FOR PORTER, WHICH IS
PART OF GUEST SERVICES AT THE
HOTEL, AND WE HIRED HIM.
AND I THINK IT WAS ONE OF THE
BEST DECISIONS WE EVER MADE.

Samir says AND EVERY DAY I LEARN
SOMETHING NEW.
YOU KNOW THAT?

The narrator says BUT LEARNING NEW
THINGS MEANT FACING NEW
CHALLENGES.

Samir says WHEN I WORK WITH
TRACY, LAUNDRY PERSON, AND SHE
SAID, "SAMIR, UPSIDE DOWN."
"HEY, TRACY WHAT THAT MEAN?
PLEASE TELL ME.
UPSIDE DOWN?
I KNOW SIDE, I KNOW DOWN, BUT
HOW UPSIDE DOWN?"
SHE SAID, "SAMIR, LOOKS LIKE
THIS. UPSIDE."
"OKAY, THANK YOU, TRACY."
I HAVE NICE TEAM.
ALL THE TIME THEY TEACH ME.

The narrator says FOR THE FIRST
TIME IN A LONG TIME, THE FAMILY
FEELS SETTLED.
GETTING TO THIS POINT, THOUGH,
WAS A LONG AND ARDUOUS JOURNEY,
ONE THAT SPANNED OVER 5 YEARS
AND OVER 9,000 KILOMETRES.
SAMIR AND HIS FAMILY GREW UP IN
THE SYRIAN CITY OF DARAA.

Samir says LOTS OF BOMBS, LOTS OF
SHOUTING, LOTS OF TROUBLE.
AND THERE IS NO POWER, NO FOOD.

Images of a devastated city appear.

The narrator says THIS IS A COMMON
SIGHT ACROSS SYRIA SINCE THE
START OF THE CIVIL WAR IN 2011.
BUILDINGS AND ENTIRE TOWNS
DESERTED.
ACCORDING TO THE U.N. HIGH
COMMISSIONER FOR REFUGEES, MORE
THAN 5 MILLION SYRIANS HAVE FLED
THE COUNTRY.
SAMIR AND HIS FAMILY WERE AMONG
THOSE WHO LEFT AND LIVED IN A
REFUGEE CAMP IN NEIGHBOURING
BERUIT, LEBANON.

Samir says IT'S NICE CITY, BUT
BUSY.
BUSY, BUSY CITY.
WE LIVED AROUND 5 YEARS AND
UNITED NATIONS CALLED ME,
"SAMIR, DO YOU WANT TO GO TO
CANADA?"
I DON'T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT
CANADA.
NOTHING.
I KNOW IT'S COLD COUNTRY, BUT I
DIDN'T KNOW THEIR LANGUAGE,
THEIR CULTURE.
NOTHING.

The caption changes to "Dina Alsalamat. Syrian refugee."

Sina is in her thirties and wears a black sweater and a beige headscarf.

Dina says AFTER THE WAR,
EVERYTHING IS DIFFERENT.
THE PEOPLE IS DIFFERENT.
THE PLACE IS DIFFERENT.
NOTHING SAME WHEN I WAS IN MY
COUNTRY.
I MISS MY FAMILY.
I MISS MY RELATIVES.
BUT I CANNOT GO BACK.

Samir says WHEN I ASK MY WIFE,
SHE SAID WE CANNOT GO BACK TO
SYRIA.
IT'S... IT'S BAD.
WE CANNOT GO BACK.
LET'S GO FIND A FUTURE FOR MY
CHILDREN.

The narrator says AFTER 5 YEARS, THE
ALSALAMATS ARRIVED IN A CITY
THEY COULD CALL HOME, A PLACE
THAT BILLS ITSELF AS THE
REGION'S FRIENDLIEST CITY.

Samir says I'M SURPRISED WHEN I
CAME.
ALL PEOPLE NICE.
ALL PEOPLE QUIET.
ALL PEOPLE SMILE.

The narrator says WHILE THE ALSALAMATS
EXPECTED TO LEARN ENGLISH, THEY
WERE IN FOR A FEW OTHER FIRSTS.

Dina says THE FIRST WINTER, IT
WAS HARD FOR US.
LOTS OF SNOW.
IT'S TOO COLD.
WE WENT TO SCHOOL BY BUS.

Clips show images of their kids playing in the snow and in a playground.

The narrator says BUT THEY LEARNED
QUICKLY AND EMBRACED THE NEW
WORLD AROUND THEM.
THEIR KIDS ESPECIALLY ADAPTED TO
THE CHANGE, PARTICULARLY IN
EDUCATION.
SCHOOLING BEING SOMETHING THEY
STRUGGLED WITH WHILE LIVING IN
BERUIT.

Samir says IT'S BAD EDUCATION.
I PUT THEM IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL,
BUT THEY DIDN'T LEARN ANYTHING.

Dina says THE YOUNGEST BOY IN
LEBANON, HE WAS CRYING EVERY DAY
WHEN HE GO TO SCHOOL.
BUT NOW, "MOM, I WANT TO GO TO
SCHOOL.
I WANT TO GO TO SCHOOL."
EVERY DAY.

The narrator says WHILE HER CHILDREN
ARE AT SCHOOL, DINA HAS FOUND
WORK THAT FITS HER PASSION.
SHE WORKS FULL TIME AT GEORGIE
SHAWARMA, AN AUTHENTIC SYRIAN
RESTAURANT AND ONE OF THE NEWEST
RESTAURANTS TO SET UP SHOP IN
THE DOWNTOWN CORE.
IT'S JUST THE BEGINNING FOR
DINA, WHO PLANS ON OPENING HER
OWN RESTAURANT SOME DAY.

Dina serves dinner and says PASTA WITH CHICKEN.

The narrator says THE ALSALAMATS CAN
SEE THEIR FUTURE IN SAULT STE.
MARIE, A CITY THAT SEEMS TO
APPEAL TO NEWCOMERS.

Sunny says I CAME HERE ABOUT 16 YEARS
AGO AND DIDN'T KNOW HOW LONG I
WAS GOING TO BE STAYING.
BUT THIS CITY GROWS ON YOU.
I THINK OUR PERCENTAGE FOR A
SMALL COMMUNITY OF RETENTION OF
NEWCOMERS IS I THINK ONE OF THE
HIGHEST FOR A SMALL COMMUNITY.

The narrator says IN FACT, A RECENT
REPORT CITED SAULT STE. MARIE AS
HAVING THE HIGHEST RETENTION
RATE AMONGST SMALLER COMMUNITIES
IN ONTARIO. PURCHASING A
NEW HOME IS ONE OF THE MANY
MILESTONES THE ALSALAMATS HAVE
ACHIEVED OVER THE LAST TWO
YEARS. A SIGN PERHAPS THAT
THEY'RE HERE TO STAY.

A bar graph shows the retention rate in Brockville, Greater Sudbury, Owen Sound, Chatham-Kent and Sault Ste. Marie.

Samir says I HAVE SEVEN...
SEVEN... AROUND SEVEN OR EIGHT
COUSINS LIVE AROUND CANADA.
LONDON, BRITISH COLUMBIA,
SASKATCHEWAN, ALBERTA,
MISSISSAUGA, ALL... ALL MY
COUSINS CALLED ME.
"HEY, SAMIR, COME LIVE WITH US."
YOU KNOW, WE LIKE COMMUNITY: SIT
TOGETHER, LIVE TOGETHER.
I TOLD THEM, "NO, I LIKE SAULT
STE. MARIE.
I WANT TO STAY HERE.
IF YOU WANT TO COME AND LIVE
WITH ME, THAT'S OKAY."

Dina says I LIKE THIS CITY.
I DON'T KNOW WHY THIS IS.
NICE PEOPLE.
QUIET.
SMALL CITY.
I KNOW EVERYWHERE IN THIS CITY.
YOU KNOW, I WENT BY BUS.
I KNOW EVERYWHERE IN THE CITY
NOW.
YEAH.
I KNOW MY CHILDREN, WHEN THEY
WANT TO GO, YEAH, I KNOW THE
PLACE WHERE THEY'RE GOING.

Samir says THIS IS MY DREAM, TO
BECOME CANADIAN.
YOU KNOW, CANADIANS GIVE ME NEW
LIFE, NEW FUTURE, NEW
EVERYTHING.

(music plays)

The end credits roll.

Ontario Hubs Field Producer, Jeyan Jeganathan. @JeyanTVO.

Editor, David Erwin.

A slate appears with the caption "Ontario Hubs are made possible by: The Barry and Laurie Green Family Charitable Trust and Goldie Feldman."

Watch: Syrian Refugees in Northern Ontario