Syrian refugees spark Armstrong response

There will be a town hall meeting on the issue in Armstrong Sept. 29

Parking cars as a volunteer at the Interior Provincial Exhibition, Ron Brinnen had an epiphany.

The retired Armstrong teacher saw a man take his son out of a car seat. He found out the young boy was three years old, and Brinnen asked the child if he was excited to be going to the fair.

“Yes,” said the boy. “I want to see the chickens.”

It was that three-year-old that reminded Brinnen of another three-year-old boy, the drowned Syrian refugee trying to leave the country with his family and make a new life whose lifeless body washed up on shore was captured by a photographer and posted in the media around the world.

“I stood there and thought of that youngster washed up on the beach and thought, ‘we have to do something,’” said Brinnen, who is spearheading a movement to try and bring a Syrian family to Armstrong.

“We can’t do anything as individuals with the hundreds of thousands of people in distress leaving Syria. We have no emotional or physical mechanism for that.

“We can take a family of six – four kids, two adults, it’s a number I pulled out of my head – and we can make a difference for six people, get them safe, get the kids in school and get them into a community that cares and, hopefully, they become Canadian citizens and become part of us.”

Brinnen will host a town hall meeting on the issue in Armstrong Sept. 29 though a venue and time have yet to be determined.

“I hope to end up with a committee structure that is a cross-section of all of Armstrong, and that it be a community initiative,” said Brinnen, who has talked with all clergy members in the city.

Support for the effort comes from Armstrong Mayor Chris Pieper, who attended a meeting in Vernon on the matter Tuesday.

“The motivation (to bring a family to Armstrong) is there to do it,” said Pieper. “The need for these (Syrian) families is great. They’ve sacrificed a lot to get out of their country. In some cases, that we’ve noticed on TV, they’ve paid a pile of money for nothing.

“There’s always risks but the benefits to the majority of people are huge.

“Hopefully something can happen and if all communities our size can help one family, it will have a fantastic impact on our country.”