A voter walks past a sign directing voters to a polling station for the Canadian federal election in Cremona, Alta., Monday, Oct. 19, 2015. Canada’s chief electoral officer says voting day this fall should not be moved. Election day can be no later than Oct. 21 under federal law, which this year falls on the Jewish holiday known as Shemini Atzeret, meaning Orthodox Jews are not permitted to work, vote or campaign. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Refugees in 2015, Syrians now citizens in time for 2019 federal election

Roughly 897 Syrian-born applicants became Canadian citizens during the first four months of 2019

Ahmad Almahmoud has dedicated time every day to follow the news, wanting to be an informed citizen for this fall’s federal election.

He is one of 25,000 Syrian refugees that were resettled in Canada between the October 2015 federal election and February 2016. More Syrian refugees have landed in the country since then, with Statistics Canada numbers showing almost 60,000 being resettled as of this past February.

Now, he is on the verge earning his citizenship as others have done so he can do something on Oct. 21 he wasn’t able to do in Syria — vote in a free and fair election.

The Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party has held power in Syria since 1963, including almost 20 years under Bashar al-Assad following three decades of his father’s rule. The party has survived multiple uprisings, including the Arab Spring demonstrations in 2011 that led to the ongoing civil war.

Fleeing a war-torn country to exercise democracy in Canada has been a huge shift for Almahmoud and other Syrians.

“The democracy, the elections, the transfer of power peacefully and seamlessly — it’s all new to us,” Almahmoud said.

“You feel better when you see (these things).”

ALSO READ: Syrians gradually integrating into Canadian society, latest report finds

Alahmoud and his family fled Syria for neighbouring Jordan in 2012. There, he worked as a barber in the city of Mafraq — just south of the Syrian border — until the United Nations said Canada was willing to resettle him, his wife and their two children.

“Anyone would look for a better future for his kids,” he said. “We travelled all the way to Canada looking for safety.”

The family landed in Canada in February 2016.

A third child, a son, was born in 2017, meaning the toddler already has Canadian citizenship.

Soon after arriving, Alahmoud opened a barbershop that has since grown to include three other barbers, one of whom is also a Syrian newcomer.

Immediately bringing over 25,000 Syrian refugees was a key foreign policy promise the Liberals made in the last election, fueled by the horrifying image of three-year-old Alan Kurdi’s lifeless body on a Turkish beach.

Almahmoud said the success of the refugee initiative was not due to one party, but because of the help and support Canadians provided for the waves of new arrivals.

In March, Almahmoud, 32, filed his citizenship application. While he awaits a date to write his citizenship test, he said he hopes he’ll be able to take the oath in time to vote on Oct. 21.

“It’s great (to become a Canadian citizen,)” Almahmoud said. “We are proud to be part of Canada.”

To apply for citizenship, residents have to provide proof that they can speak and write in either English or French, that they have lived in Canada as a permanent resident for at least 1,095 days — equivalent to a period of three years — over the preceding five years, and that they filed taxes in at least three of the previous five years.

Federal figures show that 897 Syrian-born applicants became Canadian citizens during the first four months of 2019. They joined 1,597 Syrians who had become citizens in 2018, and 587 from 2017.

Research also suggests that more recent immigrants are getting out to the polls in federal votes. A 2016 Statistics Canada report noted that between the 2011 and 2015 elections, the gap in voting turnout narrowed between recent arrivals and those who have been in the country for at least 10 years.

Almahmoud said voting in the upcoming election will be an obligation if he is a Canadian citizen by then, and that he would cast his ballot for “the best person or who you think is the best.”

To figure out how he will vote, Almahmoud said he keeps an eye on the television while he works in his barbershop, or listens to the news on the radio.

“I spend most of my time at my salon, so either the TV or the radio is on,” he said.

Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Trail council reviewing handicap parking designations

Access improvements coming to park washrooms, Sk8Park

Donation to Trail music therapy program

Money will be used for Music Heals program at Columbia View Lodge

Gathering for Global Day of Action in Castlegar

80 people met at Castlegar United Church, urging all federal leaders to avoid a catastrophic war

Success rates up at Castlegar’s airport

2019 was a good year for the West Kootenay Regional Airport

Column: Slocan Valley environmentalist deserves thanks for tenacity

Marilyn Burgoon stepped in when no one else would to ensure justice in the Lemon Creek fuel spill

Feds preparing plane to fly Canadians out of Wuhan, once China gives OK

160 Canadians have asked for help to leave province at centre of coronavirus outbreak

60% of Canadian workers would take a pay cut for better mental health support: survey

Survey found 77% of workers would leave for better wellness initiatives

Runaway rail car reported on same B.C. train line as fatal 2019 derailment

CP Rail confirmed the incident happened on Jan. 14.

Southern resident orca L41 considered missing and feared dead

The orca was last spotted in August 2019 when photographed in western Strait of Juan de Fuca

‘I am so sorry’: Stolen Baby Bear statue reunited with Mama, Papa Bear in B.C. town

Culprit left it near the Henry Road roundabout in Chemainus with a note attached

‘Critically low’ caribou population prompts wolf cull in the Chilcotin

Itcha-Ilgachuz herd numbers down to 385, from 2,800 in 2003

Off-duty B.C. Mountie takes down would-be ice cream thief

Suspect attempted to steal Dilly Bars from Dairy Queen location on Sunday

RCMP to review fatal B.C. train derailment investigation after evidence points to ‘cover up’

The derailment, which occurred on Feb. 4, 2019, killed three men from Calgary

Most Read