Four powerful Vancouverites helping Syrian refugees
The province's most powerful are helping those in need
December 1, 2015
The Immigration Services Society of B.C. (ISSofBC) has forecasted that about 2,490 lawfully-admitted Syrian refugees will arrive in B.C. over the next few months. Of that number, around 300 refugees are expected to settle in Vancouver, with the largest number (900) expected to set up a new life in Surrey. Several of Vancouver magazine’s recently-awarded Power 50 honourees are showing their support for refugees in Vancouver by putting their power to good use. Here’s who (and where they ranked on our Power 50).
IAN GILLESPIE, WESTBANK CORP. (#1)
The Vancouver property giant—and number one on our Power 50 list—has donated a 12-unit apartment building in the West End to ISSofBC for a minimum of four months. The building is lying empty while Westbank Corp. waits for city permits to come through, making it available to temporarily house newly-arrived refugees while permanent accommodation is sourced.
Speaking to CBC News, Gillespie explained: “For me, it started with what I’m best able to do. Some can volunteer time, donate money…. We’re in the property business, so it seemed an obvious place to start.”
FRANK GIUSTRA, FINANCIER AND PHILANTHROPIST (#5)
What does Frank Giustra do in a global crisis? Heads straight to where he can help the most. After setting foot on the Greek island of Lesbos mid-November, Giustra immediately started planning fundraising for a $5-million reception centre on the north coast of the island. Pledging $500,000 of his own money, Giustra’s centre will offer overnight shelter to 1,500 refugees arriving by sea.
Speaking to the Globe and Mail last week, Giustra revealed the centre is scheduled to be completed by the end of December: “[There’s] no ribbon cutting on this one, just get it up.”
CHRISTY CLARK, PREMIER OF B.C. (#10)
Clark was among the first of the provincial officials to voice her support for refugees arriving in Syria, pledging a $1-million settlement fund for refugees heading to B.C. Speaking at a news conference in Vancouver, Clark became teary-eyed referencing Alan Kurdi, the boy whose body washed up on Greece’s shoreline after his family’s attempt to flee the conflict zone.
“We are incredibly lucky and, as Canadians, we have an opportunity and I would argue a uniquely Canadian duty to share the luck that we have as Canadians to live somewhere safe, somewhere just, somewhere democratic, somewhere people can really live out their dreams.”
GREGORY HENRIQUEZ, HENRIQUEZ PARTNERS (#43)
Architect Gregory Henriquez teamed up with Terra Housing to design Vancouver’s refugee Welcome House. The 58,000-sq.-ft. facility will host refugees and immigrants by providing settlement facilities such as a health care clinic, a multilingual trauma support and treatment centre, child-minding spaces, classrooms and a computer lab, a food bank and second-hand clothing options, and a community kitchen.
Henriquez has publicly commended the work of ISSofBC in Vancouver, saying of the agency: “I feel so proud to be working with you, to give you a home to do your work.”
If you would like to volunteer to help refugees arriving in Vancouver, please contact ISSofBC by: