Refugees From Syria Among Thousands Who Fled Canadian Fire

A young girl sits on a cot at a makeshift evacuee center in Lac la Biche, Alberta after fleeing forest fires north of Fort McMurray

The New York Times reports: EDMONTON, Alberta — As evacuees from the Fort McMurray wildfire arrive at shelters, hotels and homes of friends here, many say they now have a taste of what a wave of refugees experienced in Syria before they made it to Canada a few months ago.

Wedad Rihani, a 68-year-old lawyer, is well placed to compare the two situations. A Syrian, she arrived in Fort McMurray just 70 days before she became a fire evacuee, one of six members of her family sponsored as refugees by her son, Fahed Labek, a chemist in the oil sands town.

“I left fire back home created by humans to come to the fire here,” Ms. Rihani said, her son providing translation. “Here you can escape; at home there’s no escape. Here you get a smile; there you get no help.”

Ms. Rihani uses a wheelchair and lost her eyeglasses in the rush to evacuate. She said Fort McMurray, even in its current circumstances, was preferable to what she had abandoned. But she said most of the other 25,000 Syrian refugees brought in by the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had arrived with less drama.

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