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

Jeyan stands in the studio. He's is in his thirties, with short black hair and a trimmed beard. He's wearing a blue suit, white shirt, and burgundy tie.

A caption on screen reads "Ontario Hubs: From Syria to the Sault. Jeyan Jeganathan. @JeyanTVO. @theagenda."

Jeyan says IN 2017, THE ALSALAMAT
FAMILY FLED CIVIL WAR IN SYRIA,
ARRIVING IN SAULT STE. MARIE AS
REFUGEES.
THERE HAS BEEN A LOT OF CHANGE
IN THEIR LIFE SINCE.
A NEW LANGUAGE, NEW SCHOOLS,
NEW JOBS AND NEARLY 3 YEARS
LATER, THE FAMILY COULDN'T
IMAGINE LIVING ANYWHERE ELSE.

An animated slate reads "Ontario Hubs."

Then, music plays and a short clip shows a detached two-storey house from outside.

[speaking Arabic]

Subtitles: Mohamad, you finished? Finished it all?

Inside a kitchen, a woman and a young man clear dishes.

Jeyan 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.

Two children hop onto a school bus. Then, another child gets in a car. The car drives off. Then fast clips show a deck by the lake.

Jeyan continues 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 greets a man wearing a black cap, who says GOOD TO SEE YOU.

Samir, in his thirties, clean-shaven, with short black hair, says GOOD TO SEE YOU.

The man says YOU WORKING HARD?

Samir says YEAH, HARDLY MORE.

The man says HARDLY WORKING?

[Laughter]

Jeyan 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.

Very fast clips illustrate all the activities mentioned by Jeyan.

[Ringing]

Samir speaks into a walkie-talkie and says GO AHEAD.

A female voice says CAN YOU GO TO HOUSEKEEPING, PLEASE?

As clips show Samir tidying cloths and glasses, Jeyan 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 appears on screen. It reads "Samir Alsalamat. Syrian Refugee."

Samir says THEY HAVE SIGN.
THEY WROTE IN ARABIC "WELCOME TO
CANADA."

[Speaking Arabic]

Samir says AND THEIR SMILES.
I WILL NEVER FORGET THEIR FACE.

At the front desk, a man says CLICK ON "SUBMIT."

Samir says "SUBMIT."

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

Sunny, in his fifties, clean-shaven, with short black hair, 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?

Jeyan says BUT LEARNING NEW
THINGS MEANT FACING NEW
CHALLENGES.

A clip shows Samir folding sheets with another person.

As he sits in a living room 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.

Jeyan 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.

A satellite view of the Middle East homes in on Syria, then on the city of Daraa, close to the border with Jordan, to the south.

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

An aerial view shows a completely ravaged city.

Jeyan 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
BEIRUT, LEBANON.

A satellite view shows the location of Beirut, Lebanon, to the west.

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.

A caption reads "Dina Alsalamat. Syrian Refugee."

Dina, in her thirties, wearing a beige hijab, 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.

Jeyan 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.

A clip shows traffic passing under a large sign that reads "Sault Ste. Marie. Algoma's friendliest city."

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

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

A short clip shows the Alsalamat family having dinner at home.

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 the Alsalamat children playing in the snow and in a playground.

Jeyan 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
BEIRUT.

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.

She smiles.

Jeyan 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.

As she serves a large bowl at home, Dina says PASTA WITH CHICKEN.

Jeyan 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.

Jeyan says IN FACT, A RECENT
REPORT CITED SAULT STE. MARIE AS
HAVING THE HIGHEST RETENTION
RATE AMONGST SMALLER COMMUNITIES
IN ONTARIO.

A slate appears on screen, with the title "Retention rate: Immigrants. 2007-2011."

A bar chart shows that Sault Ste. Marie boasts the highest retention rate, over 73 percent, compared to Chatham-Kent with over 67 percent and Owen Sound with 60 percent.

Jeyan continues 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.

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 smiles and 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.

(Tranquil music plays)

A clip shows the Alsalamat family eating dinner at home.

The caption changes to "Ontario Hubs Field Producer, Jeyan Jeganathan, @JeyanTVO. Editor, David Erwin."

An animated slate reads "Ontario Hubs. Ontario Hubs are made possible by The Barry and Laurie Green Family Charitable Trust and Goldie Feldman."

Watch: Syrian Refugees in Northern Ontario