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Afghan interpreter with Coast connection relocated to Canada

B.C. sets up $2-million Afghan refugee settlement fund
N.Afghan Interpreters
Kate and Andrew Rusk co-founded Not Left Behind earlier this year.

As the province announced a new fund for Afghan families coming to Canada, a Garden Bay area couple is continuing their efforts to relocate former military interpreters.

Earlier this year, Kate and Andrew Rusk co-founded Not Left Behind, a national campaign supporting the relocation of military interpreters and their families from Afghanistan to Canada – including the interpreter who worked with one of their family members. Kate’s sister, Capt. Nichola Goddard, was killed in action while fighting with Canadian forces against the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2006.

“The interpreter that served with my sister has arrived in Canada, but half of his family remains trapped in Afghanistan along with the majority of Afghans that Canada committed to help,” Kate Rusk wrote in a Nov. 7 email to Coast Reporter.

“There continue to be approximately 10,000 Afghans that supported Canada abandoned in Afghanistan,” Andrew added. Canada’s response to helping those who wanted to leave Afghanistan after the Taliban returned to power in August was “slow, smaller than many of our allies, and has unfortunately left thousands behind,” he said.

Although Canada pledged to resettle 40,000 Afghans, only 3,700 Canadians and Afghan refugees were rescued before Canadian airlifts out of Afghanistan for those fleeing Taliban rule came to an end on Aug. 26, Rusk noted.

Now, the province is preparing to welcome thousands of families and individuals as part of the federal commitment on resettlement of Afghans.

On Nov. 4, the B.C. government announced a $2-million fund to boost local services for families being resettled due to the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. The Refugee Readiness Fund is a one-time investment to ensure that communities are ready to welcome and respond to the needs of the new refugees.

“The Refugee Readiness Fund recognizes the severity of the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and shows that British Columbia is ready to do its part to provide safe, inclusive and welcoming supports for Afghan families,” the Minister of Municipal Affairs, Josie Osborne, said.

The immigration branch of the Ministry will consult with community organizations to determine how the new fund can best be used to support the Afghan refugees. In the press release, Osborne noted that the fund is being modelled after a program that supported the welcoming of 4,595 refugees to the province in 2016 during the Operation in Syria effort.

Sunshine Coast’s Welcoming Communities program spokesperson Juliana Paulsen told Coast Reporter that they are looking into the new provincial initiative. Although no recent Afghan refugees have been settled locally, the Coast-based program has assisted in settling refugees from Syria and Tibet.

The program provides immigrants, new Canadians, and refugees on the Sunshine Coast with support and resources including free English language classes, social and cultural activities, information, and orientation to their new home communities.