City helps Syrian refugee gain employment experience

Saed faces many barriers to employment in Canada

For the past nine weeks, Osama Saed has been working for the City of Dawson Creek, filling a vacancy at a summer job position after a student left the program early. 

But with that position ending, councillors voted to create a full-time labourer job for Saed Oct. 3 that will last until March 2017. 

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Under a federal program, the city will be subsidized for 75 per cent of his wage.

Saed, his wife Mona Khalef and their sons Yanal and Nebal, were the first of a handful of Syrian refugee families to make Northeast B.C. their new home.

After the bombs started to fly in 2012 and civil war took over, the family spent a year moving from city to city within Syria, fleeing the violence. Eventually they made it across the border to Jordan, where they spent three days in the Zaatari refugee camp — a hot, dusty tent city of nearly 80,000. 

For two years and ten months they remained there in limbo.

Saed's mother made it to Jordan, but the rest of his family remains scattered. 

In January of 2016, Saed, along with his wife and childern were flown out of Jordan to Montreal where they spent 13 hours before boarding a plane to Fort St. John.

Now for the first time since 2012, the family's reailty is approaching something resembling normal. Seven-year-old Yanal has started school and Khalef is now pregnant with their third child — the first in the family to be born Canadian.

The labourer needs approvals from the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), but the city says CUPE has been accommodating him so far.

"We're optimistic," city administrator Jin Chute said.

"There are several barriers to his employment in Canada," Chute added. "One is that he has no driver licence and the second is that he has very minimal English skills… The whole idea of this is to build credentials that are recognized in B.C."

Saed is a trained mason, but his papers in that field are not recognized in Canada.

While working with the city, Saed has been a part of the revitalization project at the Dawson Creek cemetery, raising sunken tombstones.

"He is not papered in Canada, but I can tell you he knows what he is doing with that stuff," Chute said. 

Saed got the job with help from WorkBC's Jackie Thiessen who was also the one to get the ball rolling on the application to the program which grants federal wage subsidies.

"(This) would allow this gentleman to get some experience working with fellow Canadians," Thiessen told council. "It would allow him to increase his skills base in order to get (further) employment here eventually."

When the job ends in March of next year — barring a possible extension of the program — the city is hoping Saed will be qualified enough to be "job ready" in the Canadian marketplace and find a more lucrative position elsewhere.

—With files from Jonny Wakefield

Report a typo.

—follow @mike_carter05 on Twitter.

© Copyright 2018 Dawson Creek Mirror News


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