A New Life in Canada

A chef, a builder, a scholar and their families had their lives torn apart by the conflict in Syria. Listen to their stories as they start their new lives in Canada.

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Transcript: “A New Life in Canada”

Video length: 11:56 minutes

A woman wearing a hijab is seated at her dining room table.

AHLAM: We were living in Damascus.

Text displays: “Ahlam Mahmoud Haboo”.

AHLAM: We used to go to school. We had a good life. We were safe.

Her husband comes into frame and stands beside her.

JAMAL: We were very happy. We lived in peace. We were settled.

Text displays: “Jamal Mahmoud Haboo”.

JAMAL: We never cared about each other’s background, whether Kurdish, Alawi, Sunni, or Shiite.

Screen dips to black.

A man standing in his living room turns to camera.

SAMER: I was born in Jasem City, Daraa.

Text displays: “Samer Al Jbawi”.

SAMER: I studied at the University of Damascus for four years. I studied English literature there.

Screen dips to black.

A woman wearing a hijab is standing in her living room.

Text displays: “Badiaa Mohamad”.

BADIAA:  I used to be a nurse at the children’s hospital in Damascus.

Her husband walks into frame and joins her.

Text displays: “Mahmoud Dawoud Alsaghir”.

MAHMOUD: As for me, I worked as a chef.

Screen changes to show a large public square with many people in it in a city in Syria.

BADIAA: At the beginning, it was just minor trouble. There were only demonstrations.

Screen changes to show a demonstration with Syrian flags and placards.

BADIAA: We didn’t expect things to escalate as they did.

We see a montage of buildings damaged with bullet holes, families running, women and children getting on a military truck.

Text displays: “A NEW LIFE IN CANADA: A chef, a builder, a scholar and their families found their lives torn apart as Syria crumbled. This is the story of their journey”.

We see two youths walking and talking outside in winter.

Text displays: “COLD WEATHER, WARM WELCOME (First Impressions)”.

Mahmoud is looking out his window.

MAHMOUD: For sure, I can never forget this day. It was kind of funny, though.

The two youths approach the back gate of a house.

MAHMOUD: When we left Jordan, it was 30 degrees Celsius plus. When we arrived here after 13 hours, it was minus 30 degrees Celsius.

The two youths enter the back garden of a house and knock on the door. Mahmoud opens the door and embraces his children.

Screen changes and Ahlam is with her infant daughter seated at her dining room table.

AHLAM: I found it was a beautiful country where everything is available. It is beautiful but very cold. We arrived in winter. At first, we had trouble coping with the time change. We would wake up and it is still dark. It was odd at the beginning but later we got used to it.

Samer, his Wife, and two children approach a house at night. They are carrying brightly coloured gift bags and we see Christmas lights glowing in the darkness. A young girl opens the door for the family, and they exchange greetings with their hosts.

SAMER: When I arrived here, and started dealing with people, I said that they are welcoming us with an open house and warm hands.

The families exchange gifts.

Samer is sitting in his living room.

SAMER: They are trying to help as much as they can. So what I noticed was that they are really a kind people.

A hand pushes the crosswalk button at an intersection.

Text displays: “NEW ENVIRONMENT, NEW CHALLENGES: When all around you is strange and new, the first tentative steps are often the most difficult”.

Jamal is crossing the street.

JAMAL: My wife gave birth to Shems in Qamishli. She had cerebral palsy. It affected her breathing and her lungs. She was very ill, so I worked hard to provide for her treatment, she didn't have sufficient medical care in Turkey. Day by day, she was becoming weaker.

Jamal is seated in his dining room.

JAMAL: Then we moved to Canada. Thank God. When we came here, we had her tested, but the doctors said that her case was hopeless. They took her to a suite and they told us she wouldn’t live long, and that we should stay with her and take care of her. We had planned to go there and stay for a while. She died the next day, at night, in our arms.

Badiaa approaches and enter a building. It has a sign on it that says “Recreation Centre.”

Text displays: “Learning and Working”.

A woman in a hijab is writing in Arabic on a whiteboard, and teaching a group of women wearing hijabs on a classroom. Badiaa is a student.

BADIAA: I have gone a long way in a short time. When I started going to school, I became part of a new community. I made new friends. I feel I belong to this community. I attended a daycare course.

Badiaa receives a certificate from her teacher in her classroom, and the class applauds her.

BADIAA:  I was given a certificate, and I can now work in that field.

Badiaa is seated with her family at the dining room table and is having supper.

BADIAA:  I want to stand by my husband and children and motivate them… to succeed in their work and studies.

We see a montage of black and white footage showing a group of Syrian families arriving at a UNHCR refugee camp.

BADIAA: Moving from one stage of your life to another, you are bound to be optimistic and hopeful and determined to achieve something in the future. You should not stand still. You should look forward, not look back. The circumstances that we have witnessed should motivate us to do something about it, especially for the sake of our children, who have been greatly affected by the crisis.

Samer is talking with a client at his work.

SAMER: In the first six months, without working as a volunteer, I wouldn’t be engaged in the Canadian community

Samer is sitting in his living room.

SAMER: …because working as a volunteer  gave me the opportunity to be part of the society, to accept people, to let them accept me, to share the ideas, to share the culture, to understand what kind of people I am living in between, so this is the first six months here in Canada.

Samer is in a classroom teaching a computer class to new Canadians.

SAMER: Now I am working as a Settlement Counsellor at the Somali Centre for Family Services. I started working there in July 2016. We are teaching them how to use these laptops, how to use Windows, for example.

Samer is sitting in his living room.

SAMER: Because I have a job, I have income. I do not need the government’s support.

Samer and his family get into their car, and go for a drive. Samer’s wife is showing flashcards to their young son sitting in a child’s car seat in the back.

SAMER: My income is enough to cover my expenses like rent and daily expenses like any household in Canada, my car and anything else that a person may need here in Canada.

Text displays: “CANADA, MY NEW HOME: When culture is accepted and trusted, the soul can find a place to settle, grow and find a measure of peace”.

AHLAM: When I walk in the street, no one asks me why I am wearing a hijab. No one interferes with other people’s lives at all. You see all sorts of people, but no one interferes with the other’s business. This is one of the best things here.

MAHMOUD: This is our country now. Our country is gone, so this is our country. We are hardworking, active, and have a lot of potential. When given the chance, we are skilled, and we love to work.

SAMER: They respect our cultures and they want us to save and to keep our culture and even our Arabic language. That’s why every Saturday and Sunday there are schools to teach the Arabic language.

Jamal and Ahlam are in their kitchen making coffee and a snack.

AHLAM: When I walk in the street, no one asks me why I am wearing a hijab. No one interferes with other people’s lives at all.

Jamal and Ahlam sit in their living room with a tray of coffee and snacks. A soccer match is on the television.

AHLAM: You see all sorts of people, but no one interferes with the other’s business. This is one of the best things here.

Mahmoud is preparing a number of dishes at the stove in a restaurant kitchen, and when they are ready, puts them on a counter where the restaurant servers pick them up.

MAHMOUD: I work as a chef. I work in food and restaurant business, in both restaurant management and cooking. I can cook all sorts of Arabic food from mezza to main dishes to some kinds of sweets. I was working in the city of Damascus, then I moved to Jordan, after the incidents, and I worked in Amman for around five years. Then we moved here to Canada, and thankfully I am doing the same thing. It is fortunate that I could find a job in this domain, so currently I am working in a restaurant, thank God. This is our country now. Our country is gone, so this is our country. We are hardworking, active, and have a lot of potential. When given the chance, we are skilled, and we love to work.

Samer is at the Mosque reading the Koran.

SAMER: They respect our cultures and they want us to save and to keep our culture and even our Arabic language. That’s why every Saturday and Sunday there are schools to teach the Arabic language.

Jamal is at schools, writing English on the chalkboard. His teacher is asking him questions.

Text displays: “BUILDING FOR THE FUTURE: Confidence grows with acceptance and a sense of progress, giving dreams the chance to be rebuilt”.

Jamal and Ahlam are playing with their baby and smiling.

JAMAL: My newborn baby is the one who changed our lives. She’s the best thing that happened to us here in Canada. She’s a gift from God. When I come home, I see her smiling. It makes me so happy to see how the government cares a lot for children and women.

Jamal is sitting in his living room.

JAMAL: Thank you, thank you, thank you very much in every people in Canada.

Jamal and Ahlam are sitting with their child at the dining room table having dinner.

JAMAL: (I am) very happy in Canada, me and family. Canada is very good for people, for families.

AHLAM: I can have an education. My daughter can have an education. She will have friends, and she will love Canada.

Samer and his family are walking outside.

SAMER: That’s what I like about my job that I’m earning money and at the same time I’m paying taxes so by the end of this six months I think I’ll be paying back what they paid in the first six months.

Samer is accepting a painting at his office from a group of children and their caregiver. The painting is of two trees and flowers and it says “we are flowers from the same garden.” Samer thanks the children.

SAMER: I would like to tell my Canadian brothers and friends a simple message: What encouraged us to come to Canada is, first, the Canadian culture, the culture of inclusion, respect for religious beliefs, despite some of the incidents that have taken place. This has proved the cultural diversity in Canada, which is the secret behind Canada’s strength.

Mahmoud and his son are looking at pictures on the computer in their living room.

MAHMOUD: When I first came here, I had a purpose and a goal that I want to fulfil, which is to rebuild what I have lost in my previous life.

Mahmoud and Badiaa are walking out of a building. They are talking and admiring Badiaa’s certificate. They get into their vehicle.

MAHMOUD: Thank God, we have really gone a long way. They categorized us as one of the successful families in the country. The kids are at school; we are working; we are going to school; we are on the right track. Our goal was and still is to move forward and never go backward. A year ago, things were very different. We are at a much better place right now.

Mahmoud and Badiaa’s two children, Ali and Hediah, with two other children are building a snowman outside. They smile for the camera.

Badiaa: Being in Canada now and a year ago, so many things are different. 99 percent different. There was the language barrier but thank God, my husband and kids have improved a lot in the language, also in so many things, we have adapted now to the weather and the people and life. It feels like home now. It does not feel like we have left home and come here anymore.

Mahmoud is sitting at the kitchen table with Ali and Hediah. They are looking at a book.

ALI: My school is a very nice school. I like it and the teacher and everybody, they teach me very good, and my friends are very nice friends and they like me so much and they are very, very good friends and I like my friends so much.

HEDIAH: You can do everything you want. You can do your goal, like, I want to be a doctor. So, I can do it, I know I can do it – I’m in Canada.

We see a montage of all three families in their homes, posing for the camera and smiling.

Text displays: “These stories are repeated in communities all across Canada as our nation continues to build itself —as we have done for 150 years, with the rich resource of those who seek to build their future here”.

Fade to black.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada corporate signature along with the copyright message: “Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, 2017.” is shown.

Canada wordmark is shown on a black background.

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