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

Influx of tourists helping to nurse Penticton’s economy back to health

The city has seen visitors multiply tenfold in recent weeks

Two vehicle crash on Highway 97 in Penticton

The crash happened before 3:30 p.m. in front of the Lakeside Inn and Suites

Pooch abandoned at Penticton doggy daycare suffered from oral disease

A fundraiser for Okie held by the BC SPCA surpassed its goal of $1,700

Keremeos Volunteer Fire Department receives $25k grant

Money used on a truck with low volume, high pressure water pump to fight wildfires

Ryga Arts Festival to include virtual and in-person events

Arts festival in Summerland will run from Aug. 15 to 23

B.C. sees 25 new COVID-19 cases, community exposure tracked

One death, outbreaks remain in two long-term care facilities

VIDEO: Vancouver Island cat missing 18 months reunited with family

Blue the cat found at Victoria museum 17 kilometres from home

COVID-19 cases identified in Kelowna, after public gatherings

Those who were downtown or at the waterfront from June 25 to July 6 maybe have been exposed to COVID-19.

VIDEO: Alberta man rescues baby eagle believed to be drowning in East Kootenay lake

Brett Bacon was boating on a lake in Windermere when he spotted the baby eagle struggling in the water

Summerland Blossom Youth Ambassador Program to hold coronation

Event will be held by video as a result of COVID-19 precautions

Vernon shutterbugs capture rainbow

A rain event July 9 made way for a glorious sight

Couple shaken up after homophobic encounter at Kelowna mall

‘We’re not in the States; we’re not in some little hick town; we’re in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. And it still happens’

Summerland to allow in-person attendance at July 13 council meetings

Two meetings will be held at Summerland Arena Banquet Room to accommodate public

Fundraiser kicks off for Lake Country families displaced by house fire

A GoFundMe campaign has been launched to raise $5K for those who lost everything in early morning blaze

Most Read