Rossland refugee group seeks housing for new arrivals

The same-sex couple could arrive in town as soon as mid-September

Rossland’s refugee support group is looking for a place to live for two Caribbean men coming to the community this fall.

“The biggest need we have right now is housing,” says Jan Micklethwaite, the head of West Kootenay Friends of Refugees. “It’s a really challenging time to find accommodation in Rossland, because seasonal workers are arriving, and everyone is competing for the same spaces.”

The two men could arrive in Rossland from Trinidad as soon as mid-September.

While most of us think of Trinidad as an island paradise of beaches and bellinis, the U.N’s Human Rights Commission has accepted the two men, a same-sex couple, as refugees.

“They are living without status there because it’s not safe to be there,” says Micklethwaite. “It shocks me the UN has designated them as refugees.”

WKFoR is not releasing the men’s full names until they arrive safely in Rossland.

An article in Wikipedia notes that a Trinidad and Tobago high court ruling threw out a law criminalizing homosexuality in 2018, but LGBT+ people cannot be married, adopt, immigrate to the country, and face other restrictions.

The couple is still in Trinidad, says Micklethwaite, and could be arriving in 4-10 weeks, the window given to them by the government.

The WKFoR usually picks families to sponsor, but this year there was none appropriate.

“Our priority is usually for young families to come to Rossland,” she says. “But this time there was only one on the list, with nine kids. And that’s a bit more than our group can handle.”

SEE: After fleeing repression, family reunited in Rossland

The WKFoR provides support, both financial and social, to refugees for up to a year. That can include everything from bikes to jobs to language lessons.

Right now, however, Micklethwaite is putting the call out to anyone who might have housing available for the two men for a year.

“The thing we need most is housing. That will be the biggest challenge for Rossland. We’ve done lots of fundraising, so we’re in a fairly good position in terms of finances, and we also received a small grant that supports groups like ours,” she says.

“We’re responsible for the first year of support, so we have to have a minimum amount of money based on a chart we get from Immigration Canada. They tell us on how much they think it would cost to sponsor a couple for a year. And we have that amount of money raised.”

These two men are coming to the community with one advantage — they can speak English.

“That is always a huge challenge for our group. When we brought in our last refugees, they were from Syria. The father learned to speak English quickly, but it still took him a year to get fluent. The wife took a bit longer. But speaking English is a huge asset.”

She says the men — aged 25 and 32 — also need work.

“The older man has been a clinical instructor at the School of Nursing and was an RN for six years previous. He has undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in education and science,” says Micklethwaite. “He’d like to get his Canadian qualifications as soon as possible in order to continue his career.

“His partner has been working as a head teacher for a UNICEF project providing education programming for refugees, asylum seekers and migrant children. He hopes to become a teacher in Canada.”

Micklethwaite is hoping for a warm welcome to the community for the two men, and said she took comfort in recent comments in the Rossland News by a LBGT spokesperson about inclusion in the community.

“I was really encouraged, reading about the painting of the rainbow crosswalk,” she says. “We will be connecting with people from the diverse community in Rossland… from the comments of the young person interviewed, they’ll start off feeling they’re not the only ones here.

“To hear that a small rural community can be so supportive is really, really nice.”

Since it began about eight years ago, the West Kootenay Friends of Refugees has provided new homes and lives for three families, as well as supporting three other private refugee settlements — making a total of 19 refugee men, women and children.

While not all the families have stayed in Rossland, “everyone is pretty much working, supporting and paying taxes,” she says. “So we’ve had pretty good success with the families we’ve sponsored.”

SEE: Castlegar airport sees reunion of Syrian refugee family

Just Posted

Kootenay Boundary firefighters bring life-saving fire safety skills to elementary students

Schools team up with local fire departments for Fire Prevention Week

Rossland chocolatier plans move to cannabis edibles

Council approves zoning change to accomodate processing facility

Three vehicles stolen in Trail area, one linked to shoplifting suspects

Greater Trail police ask vehicle owners to not leave keys in car

Seniors Advocate seeking feedback at Trail meeting

Isobel Mckenzie will be at the Trail Legion for two hours on Friday

GTMHA launches ‘Bring a Friend to Hockey Day’

Greater Trail minor hockey looks for new recruits, register for ‘Bring a Friend to Hockey Day’

Chilliwack woman wins right to medically assisted death after three-year court battle

Julia Lamb has been the lead plaintiff in a legal battle to ease restrictions on Canada’s assisted dying laws

NDP, Liberals promise more spending, while Tories promise spending cuts

Making life more affordable for Canadians a focus in the 2019 election

UPDATE: Police probe third threat against a Kamloops high school in eight days

Police have not released any further details into what the threat includes

Charges dropped against Mountie involved in shooting death of Surrey man

‘I feel like I’ve lost Hudson all over again,’ says mom

B.C. Interior caribou protection area big enough, minister says

Proposals sparked protest in Kootenays, Williams Lake region

Two B.C. women selected to compete on ABC’s The Bachelor

Mykenna Dorn and Alexis Thind will compete for bachelor Peter Weber’s heart

Vaping-related illness confirmed in Ontario believed to be first in Canada

Middlesex-London Health Unit had no further details about the case — believed to be the first confirmed in Canada

Canadian stars Virtue, Moir say in video they’re ‘stepping away’ from ice dancing

The pair thank fans for their support in an emotional message

Woman held at gunpoint during carjacking in UBC parkade

University RCMP say the vehicle is still missing, and two suspects are at large

Most Read