PETAWAWA, ONT. --
A church group in Petawawa, Ont. has been working since last July to sponsor a Syrian refugee family in Jordan and bring them to the Ottawa Valley.
"It's almost like they've become part of our family here," says Gary Serviss, Petawawa's deputy mayor, of the Jokhadar family.
The Jokhadars are a family of four. Father, Qusai, 26, arrived at the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan when he was 15 years old. During a decade in the makeshift camp, Qusai met his wife Siwar, 21, and had two children, Sahar, 3, and Ward, 1.
Since November, the community of Petawawa has raised over $31,000, with a goal of $36,000 to support the Jokhadars during their first year in Canada.
But there is fear amid the mass exodus of over 2.2-million Ukrainians from their own war torn country that the Jokhadars will be lost in the shuffle and have their departure from the Zaatari refugee camp further delayed.
"Immigration can't really tell us when this family can come to Canada," says Jennifer Neville, another member of St. John's Lutheran Church in Petawawa. "And we're really worried with Afghanistan refugees and refugees from Ukraine, that our family of four might get delayed in coming to Canada."
With the average immigration process taking about a year, Neville was hopeful to have the Jokhadars in Petawawa by late 2022 or early 2023.
"When I was talking to immigration earlier in the year, like January, they thought that this family of four could get here this year," Neville explains to CTV News Ottawa. "Now, talking to them on Friday, they're saying it could be a year and a half or two years."
In a statement, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada says the "processing of refugee cases is not impacted by our special measures for Ukrainians," adding that there are two new programs to accommodate Ukrainians looking to stay temporarily and permanently in Canada.
The statement goes on to say, "Canada remains committed to resettling Syrian refugees and to date we have welcomed more than 80,000."
"We're sympathetic to the plights of all of these families and people in war-torn countries and places with conflict," says Serviss, "and Canada is a very welcoming country and it would be great if we could take everybody in."
But Neville is pointing the finger at the federal government, who she says after conversations with her regional immigration rep, does not have the capabilities to deal with all the paperwork.
"They don't have enough resources," Neville says. "They've told me that they're hiring 500 new employees at immigration, but they have to train all these employees. If the government is promising spots, then immigration has to hire more people so that they can handle all these refugees."
After spending nearly half their lives in the refugee camp, Qusai and Siwar tell Serviss and Neville through translated Zoom calls that they fear for their future and the education of their children if they cannot leave soon.
"Most of their conversations centre around the lack of hope that they have in terms of their future within this refugee camp," says Serviss.
"And that just breaks my heart because we've told the family that we're going to get them here soon, but soon keeps getting longer and longer," adds Neville.