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.

federal election 2019

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

Just Posted

Affordable seniors housing complex pitched for Nanaimo’s hospital district

Seafield Crescent complex would include two five-storey buildings

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Blockades violating people’s rights to move freely

Too many protesters clearly believe their rights supersede other citizens’ rights, says letter writer

Quarterway, Cilaire have the right touch in football playoffs

Nanaimo Elementary Teachers’ Physical Education Association organized leagues this past fall

Students projected to be in new wing of École Hammond Bay in two years

Project to expand north-end French immersion school to add 13 classrooms

Crimson Coast Dance Society salutes African dance during Black History Month

Dancers from Mozambique, Rwanda and Cameroon to give demonstrations and lessons

VIDEO: Ottawa wants quick, peaceful resolution to pipeline protests, Trudeau says

The protests have manifested themselves as blockades on different rail lines across the country

Canucks acquire forward Tyler Toffoli from Kings in push for playoffs

Vancouver sends Schaller, Madden, pick to L.A.

Nanaimo a capital city in the beard business – Wildman Beard Co.

Wildman Beard Co. gained early success with Nanaimo mill workers

Nanaimo a capital city in the beard business – Big City Beards

Big City Beards inspired by an itch that had to be scratched

New highway proposed between Alberta and B.C.

The route would connect Red Deer to Kamloops

Wet’suwet’en and B.C. government have been talking Aboriginal title for a year

Coastal GasLink says it has agreements with all 20 elected First Nations councils along the 670-kilometre route

Trudeau tightlipped on plan to end protests ‘quickly and peacefully’

The prime minister, who cancelled a two-day trip to Barbados this week to deal with the crisis at home

B.C. budget expected to stay the course as economic growth moderates

Finance minister said ICBC costs have affected budget

Captain says nothing beats VIU volleyball program

Graduating player Andrea Cankovic has three national titles and isn’t quite done yet

Most Read