Afghan refugee and student at Western University in need of funds to bring family to Canada

For Mohammad Fayaz Alamyar, an Afghan refugee and student at Western University, family is everything. So when he had to leave them behind while he travelled to the U.S. and Canada to help them financially, he said it was one of the hardest things he’s ever had to do.

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Alamyar, 19, is the oldest of seven siblings and is originally from Afghanistan, where his father owned a small business.

“We were happy with our lives up until we got to know that we face persecution in our country,” he said.

The Taliban sent “shockwaves around the world” in 2021 when they rolled into the country’s capital, Kabul, and took back control of Afghanistan. Thousands were forced to flee their homes, including the Alamyar family.

“It was the end of 2020 when the Taliban extremists started gaining power in our area and their influence there started rising,” Alamyar recalled. “When they got to know that my father has a good income, they started asking him for money, which they call some kind of taxation, but that amount of money would be used for military purposes and it would be used for killing civilians and people.”

After his father refused to pay the requested funds, Alamyar said his family started receiving threatening messages, adding that his family had no choice but to flee their country.

“We secretively left that place and applied for Turkey visas,” he said. “But when we got there, our worst days started.

Alamyar told Global News his parents are unable to work in Turkey due to their refugee status and local schools haven’t accepted his brothers either for the same reason. His 17-year-old sister, a student activist in Afghanistan and Child’s Peace Prize nominee, was able to attend classes and studies but faces racism and discrimination from her peers “on a daily basis.”

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In wanting to help his family, Alamyar sought asylum in Canada and was approved for the Afghan Student Refugee Scholarship offered at Western University.

“Western is committed to supporting students and scholars facing threats in their home countries,” the university wrote in a statement. “As part of our responsibility as a global learning institution, Western offers financial support to students and scholars affected by global crisis to come to Western to pursue their degree or continue their academic studies and research.”

Western acknowledged Alamyar’s personal situation, saying that “we have met with him to offer whatever support we can.”

Mohammad Fayaz Alamyar, 19, an Afghan refugee and student at Western University in London, Ont.

Mohammad Fayaz Alamyar, 19, an Afghan refugee and student at Western University in London, Ont.

(supplied)

“I feel blessed that I got the scholarship, and I’m making my parents proud to study at one of the world’s best universities,” he said. “But it’s been quite challenging for me to hear from my family.

“They’re my own blood, and family is the dearest and the most loved people you have in this world. So when I hear about their problems (and) when they tell me what they’re going through, I’m not able to concentrate on my studies here.”

Reflecting on his midterms, Alamyar said it’s been hard to concentrate on his studies while his family lives in the looming sense of uncertainty, having been away from them for over a year now.

“I can’t continue like this; I need to get back into shape, and the only way to do it is to get my family into good condition and help them get rid of the current situation,” he said. “Winter’s coming and they don’t have enough funds or money to buy some winter clothes.”

Alamyar has dedicated himself to learning about Canada’s sponsorship process.

“The Government of Canada is firm in its commitment to resettle at least 40,000 Afghan nationals by the end of 2023, which remains one of the largest programs in the world,” a spokesperson for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) told Global News. “So far, more than 25,400 Afghan refugees now call Canada home,” according to their latest figures.

Over half of this commitment, the IRCC said, focuses on those who “assisted Canada, including 18,000 spaces for the Special Immigration Measures program (SIMs) for Afghan nationals and their families who closely assisted the Government of Canada, as well as 5,000 spaces for the extended family members of Afghan interpreters who came to Canada under earlier programs.”

“The remainder of the spaces under this commitment focuses on resettlement through the humanitarian stream,” the spokesperson continued. This includes both “government-assisted and privately sponsored refugees, including women leaders, human rights defenders, persecuted religious and ethnic minorities, 2SLGBTQI+ people and journalists.”

For the identified humanitarian stream, individuals must be referred to Canada by the United Nations Refugee Agency, another designated referral organization, or privately sponsored.

Through the IRCC, Alamyar said he was able to contact some Sponsorship Agreement Holders (SAH) —people and/or organizations that are able to help refugees settle in Canada both physically and financially — in the hopes of reuniting his family in London.

“We are doing everything we can to help Afghans inside and outside of Afghanistan, including working with partners in the region, state entities, international and non-profit organizations to implement our plan,” the IRCC spokesperson concluded.

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In learning everything about Canada’s sponsorship process, he was able to find an anonymous local SAH. However, due to the size of his family, the SAH said $50,000 is required to properly support them during their first year in Canada.

Alamyar said that while the sponsor has already raised $10,000, there is still $40,000 left to go.

But with the help of Rob Stainton, a philosophy professor at Western, the two have launched a GoFundMe campaign to help raise the amount needed for the remaining balance.

“The reason I got involved with Fayez and his family was the urgency,” Stainton told Global News. “The fact that his family is running out of money and may soon find themselves homeless as winter is coming on, really moved me to act. Also, just how vulnerable he seemed to me.

“To be as a teenager in a new country all by himself and here feeling that he has to rescue his family, that was very moving to me as well.”

For the past six years, Stainton has been helping to raise sponsorship funds for incoming refugees from Afghanistan, Syria and Congo. But he said he’s never worked on a case in sponsoring eight people at once.

“I’ve never raised anything like $40,000 before,” he said. “Londoners have been so generous and so kind. But at the same time, I can understand that there’s Afghans, and there’s Syrians, and there’s Ukrainians.

“There’s great warmth and kindness out there,” Stainton continued. “But at the same time, I also noticed that it is getting harder because there’s just so many of these cases.”

Alamyar added that, for him, the process of becoming a permanent resident in Canada has been a positive one, hoping to one day have his family share a similar experience.

“For those people who face persecution back home and can’t go there, Canada has really created a safe space to say that you’re not alone (and) you’re safe here,” he said, referring to London as a “helpful and giving community.”

“I’m really feeling blessed, happy and thankful to be here, and I hope that my family also becomes members of this community one day,” Alamyar said. “My sister tells me that if I can help them reunite with me in Canada and have a brighter and safer future, then that will be the biggest achievement I can ever give them.”

Out of the $50,000 needed to support his family, over $17,000 has been raised through the Alamyar family campaign as well as the fundraising efforts provided by the SAH.

The campaign can be found on the GoFundMe website under “Western Refugee Student Needs Help.”

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Loonies on the Street fundraiser returns Dec. 9 to support Kawartha Food Share in Peterborough

The number of Ontarians using food banks for the first time has soared 64 per cent since before the pandemic, according to Feed Ontario. As Mike Drolet reports, some people are so desperate for food, they're now considering suicide.

The annual Loonies on the Street fundraiser in Peterborough aims to raise $100,000 in support of Kawartha Food Share.

The 23rd year of the fundraiser is scheduled for Dec. 9 from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. in downtown Peterborough with the main setup outside Peterborough Square on the corner of George and Simcoe streets.

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The event’s “bucket brigade” will collect loose change along George Street from pedestrians and motorists. Volunteers with the Lions Club will collect along the Hunter Street bridge.

All funds support Kawartha Food Share, which is the largest food bank in the city and partners with 37-member agency food banks, food cupboards and other food action programs in the city and Peterborough County.

Kawartha Food Share says on average each month it helps supports 7,700 people, with 35 per cent of them children.

“Kawartha Food Share also provides nutritious snacks for area school breakfast programs helping over 17,000 children get a healthy start to their school day,” said general manager Ashlee Aitken.

She says the food bank also partners with community meal programs, such as those provided by Brock Mission, One Roof Diner, the Salvation Army and others “to provide a well-rounded outreach for our hungry neighbours.”

Donations to the Loonies on the Street fundraiser can be made online.

The event will be broadcast live on Freq 90.5 and Oldies 96.7.

Last year’s campaign raised $141,900.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Up to 35 cm of snow forecast for Coquihalla, Okanagan Connector

Environment Canada issued a winter storm warning for parts of B.C. Tuesday, drawing attention to potentially dangerous conditions expected on several mountain passes.

The Coquihalla, from Hope to Merritt, and the Okanagan Connector, from Merritt to Kelowna, will be covered in a thick blanket of snow from Tuesday afternoon to Wednesday.

“Snowfall accumulation between 20 to 35 centimetres could create hazardous driving conditions. Also, blowing snow causing reduced visibility on the Okanagan Connector is expected tonight and early Wednesday,” reads the winter storm warning.

The weather will start with a low-pressure system that will move onto Vancouver Island Tuesday.

“Light snow will begin this afternoon and intensify tonight before ending early Wednesday afternoon,”  the national weather agency said.

“Wind gusts up to 60 kilometres an hour on the Okanagan Connector will give reduced visibility in blowing snow.”

Rapidly accumulating snow could make travel difficult in some locations. Visibility will be suddenly reduced to near zero at times in heavy snow and blowing snow.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Here's where you can see the CP Holiday Train in the GTA on Tuesday

The CP Holiday Train is making stops in the Toronto area on Tuesday.

For the first time since 2019, the program has returned with its in-person concerts and bright lights and will have several stops in the Greater Toronto Area.

There are two CP Holiday Trains — one that has stops only in Canada and another that has stops in both Canada and the U.S.

At 1:45 p.m., the exclusively-Canadian train will arrive in Bowmanville at the ​Scugog Street railway crossing at Wellington Street, with an event set to be held from 2 p.m. until 2:30 p.m., CP’s website says.

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The train then makes its way to Oshawa with a 3 p.m. arrival and event from 3:15 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. There, it will be at 680 Laval Drive behind the Walmart.

Later Tuesday, the train is set to arrive in Toronto at 8:15 p.m. and hold an event from 8:30 p.m. until 9 p.m. It will be at 750 Runnymede Road at the CP Yard Office parking lot.

On Wednesday, the train will make stops in both Vaughan and Barrie.

Meanwhile, the train that stops in both Canada and the U.S. will be visiting in Milton and Hamilton on Tuesday.

It’s set to arrive at 5234 Kelso Road — the Glen Eden Ski and Snowboard Centre — at 4:45 p.m. with an event from 5 p.m. until 5:30 p.m.

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It then makes its way to 42 Lawrence Road in Hamilton at 7:45 p.m., with an event from 8 p.m. until 8:40 p.m.

The CP Holiday Train program raises money and food for food banks and, according to a statement from CP. Since 1999 it has raised more than $21 million and collected five million pounds of food.

“The CP Holiday Train, now in its 24th year, celebrates family, community and service to one another,” CP president and CEO Keith Creel said.

“We hope the train’s bright lights and music foster celebrations across Canada and the U.S., bringing with those celebrations a reminder of our duty to help those less fortunate this holiday season.”

The full schedule can be found on CP’s website.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Will Smith tearfully explains why he slapped Chris Rock at the Oscars

In his first late-night talk show appearance since “the slap heard around the world,” Will Smith addressed his assault against comedian Chris Rock at the 94th Academy Awards in March.

While a guest on Monday’s episode of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Smith, 54, described the Oscars as a “horrific night.”

“There’s many nuances and complexities to it. But at the end of the day, I just — I lost it,” Smith said in the emotional interview. (NOTE: The broadcasting network — Comedy Central — has not made the video interview available to Canadian audiences.)

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During the Oscars ceremony in March, Rock, 57, made a G.I. Jane joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, who suffers from the skin condition alopecia, which causes hair loss. Smith walked onto the stage from his front-row seat and took a swing at Rock with an open palm, generating a loud smack. Smith returned to his seat and shouted for Rock to “Keep my wife’s name out of your f–-ing mouth!”

That same night, Smith went on to win the best actor award for his role in King Richard. 

Smith later apologized for slapping Rock. He was banned from the Academy Awards for 10 years.

On The Daily Show, Smith said he was “going through something that night.” The actor did not specify what this was but clarified that it did not justify his actions.

“I guess what I would say is that you just never know what somebody’s going through,” he said.

Still, Smith sympathized with the international upset caused by the televised slap.

“I understand how shocking that was for people,” he said. “I was gone. That was a rage that had been bottled for a really long time.”

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Smith also claimed that witnessing domestic violence during his childhood contributed to the attack against Rock.

“It was a lot of things; it was the little boy that watched his father beat up his mother. All of that just bubbled up in that moment,” he said. “That’s not who I want to be.”

In March, shortly before the Oscars, Smith spoke to Gayle King about the alleged domestic abuse. At the time, he claimed that his “suffering” made him into the person he is today.

Smith also released his memoir Will in 2021, which outlined his attempts to accept the alleged domestic violence in his past, including his own self-admitted desire to murder his late father.

Though he remains barred from the Academy Awards, Smith is already in talks as a potential best actor nominee next year for his upcoming portrayal of a real-life enslaved man known as “Whipped Peter” in the drama Emancipation. Widely circulated photos of Peter’s scarred back helped to fuel abolitionist support during the Civil War.

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Though Smith told Noah it was “killing me dead” that people may veto Emancipation as a result of his behaviour at the Oscars, Smith also said he “completely understands.”

Next year’s Academy Awards are slated to take place in March and will be hosted by Jimmy Kimmel.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

City of Edmonton activates extreme weather response

The city activated its extreme weather response at 8 a.m. Tuesday to keep vulnerable Edmontonians safe during this cold snap. It’s expected to remain in place until Thursday, Dec. 8, at 8 a.m.

The response is triggered when the wind chill makes temperatures feel like -20 C for at least three consecutive nights and shelter utilization rates are over 90 per cent.

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The extreme weather response includes transit, expanded overnight shelter, day services and warming buses.

Dedicated overnight Edmonton Transit Service bus routes to take people to shelters between 10 p.m. and 6 p.m. ETS will stop at all bus stops to pick up anyone waiting when the weather is -20 C and below with wind chill.

Al Rashid Mosque (13070-113 Street) is offering 75 overnight spaces to shelter people during the extreme weather response.

“Being caring and compassionate for one’s fellow human beings is a central part of Islam,” said Sadique Pathan, the Al Rashid Mosque Outreach Imam. “The existence of countless homeless citizens in Edmonton points to the need for all of us to step up and lend a helping hand.”

Bissell Centre will operate its community space seven days a week, 10 hours a day (9 a.m. to 7 p.m.), where people can access supports like laundry, showers, meals, Indigenous cultural supports, mental health resources and housing resources.

Boyle Street Community Services will operate its community centre seven days per week, 11 hours a day (8 a.m. to 7 p.m.), where people can access housing supports, Indigenous cultural supports and showers.

The Winter Warming Bus, operated by Boyle Street Community Services, is offering food, winter clothing, blankets and transportation to warming centres and shelters.

The Encampment Response Team will conduct wellness checks.

All Edmonton Public Library locations and recreation facilities will be open to the public for warming purposes during regular operating hours.

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The city will not be opening LRT stations as part of the extreme weather response. “LRT stations are not appropriate shelter space as they lack amenities such as heat, and adequate washroom facilities,” the city said in a news release.

If Edmontonians notice someone suffering from hypothermia (uncontrollable shivering, drowsiness or exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, or slurred speech; or unconscious), they should call 911 for someone in serious distress or in cases of emergency or call 211 and press 3 for 24/7 Crisis Diversion non-emergency support for shelter, intoxication and mental health.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Putin is ‘weaponizing winter’ as Russia bombs Ukraine infrastructure: NATO chief

WATCH - Putin using winter as weapon in war against Ukraine: NATO's Stoltenberg

Russian President Vladimir Putin is “weaponizing winter” as Moscow continues its bombing campaign on Ukrainian energy infrastructure, NATO’s secretary general says.

With winter settling in, Jens Stoltenberg told reporters on Tuesday that it is critical for the military alliance to support Ukraine and help rebuild its energy infrastructure as a wave of Russian attacks have repeatedly knocked out power supplies and heating for millions of Ukrainians.

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“It is extremely important that President Putin is not able to win in Ukraine. That will be a tragedy for Ukraine, but it will also make the world more dangerous and also more vulnerable. It’s in the security interests of allies to support Ukraine,” he said following a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Bucharest, Romania.

“We are all shocked by the indiscriminate attacks on Ukrainian cities, on Ukrainian infrastructure. We see that President Putin is trying to deprive Ukrainians of water, electricity, heating, lights. President Putin is using winter as a weapon. He is weaponizing winter, and that is just making it more important to support Ukraine.”

The two-day meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Bucharest is likely to see the 30-nation alliance make fresh pledges of non-lethal support to Ukraine: fuel, generators, medical supplies and winter equipment, on top of new military support.

Following Tuesday’s meeting, NATO foreign ministers said in a joint statement they will be there to help Ukraine rebuild its infrastructure.

“We will continue and further step up political and practical support to Ukraine as it continues to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity … and will maintain our support for as long as necessary,” it said.

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On Nov. 16, Canada announced it was sending winter gear to Ukrainian troops, including portable heaters, thermal blankets and sleeping bags.

More to come.

— with files from The Associated Press and Reuters

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

'All kinds of things to offer that isn't money': How young Canadians are giving back differently

#GivingTuesday is a global movement unleashing the power of people and organizations to transform their communities and the world. While the movement is global, local action is at the heart of the mission. Centraide of greater Montreal’s philanthropic development VP, Marie-Hélène Laramée, joins Global’s Laura Casella to talk about how your donations fuel a world of possibilities for the city’s most vulnerabl.

Instead of donating money to charity, Noémie Sauvé gives back to her community in a different way.

“As young people, we don’t necessarily have the funds to give monthly donations but we’re more prone to giving our time,” the 23-year-old medical student said.

Sauvé has been involved with Helping Hands, a McGill University student-led initiative that provides sanitary products to women in need around Montreal, for the past four years. She is now president of the organization.

Despite having an inconsistent income and dealing with the rising cost of living, younger Canadians still want to feel as though they are making an impact, said Wen-Chih O’Connell, executive director of the PayPal Giving Fund.

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O’Connell said this desire has changed the way generation Z and millennials are giving back compared with older generations.

She said that older generations “tend to give regularly through recurring donations” and younger generations are more likely to make a one-time donation to a popular cause, typically online.

Platforms such as GoFundMe, Facebook fundraisers, charity websites or live streams are all popular choices for young people making financial donations, said O’Connell.

O’Connell added that another benefit of donating is the accompanying tax receipt, however, this is not a priority for young people.

Hunter Cubitt-Cooke, a staff member at Le Frigo Vert, a community space in downtown Montreal, said rather than relying on a charity model, some younger people prefer to put forth time or talent towards a cause instead of donating money.

“People have all kinds of things to offer that isn’t money,” said Cubitt-Cooke.

Recent mutual aid initiatives at Le Frigo Vert involve creating care packages from donated items for local shelters in Montreal.

“We do a lot of our fundraising for really grassroots and marginalized people who aren’t part of those larger systemic organizations,” said Cubitt-Cooke.

Cubitt-Cooke said the community space looks to use a give-and-take method to lift one another up, such as providing free meals in exchange for time and donations.

“What we try to do is to get everybody to understand their own well-being is dependent on everybody else’s well-being.”

A significant part of the mutual support is education through events where a cause can be discussed face-to-face, said Cubitt-Cooke, noting that social media also plays a significant role in posting information about cases, promoting events and sharing lists of items local shelters require.

O’Connell echoed the sentiment that young people looking to give back to their communities may be moved to donate to certain organizations based on influencers and popular social causes online.

But, those donating through online platforms should do their best to ensure their funds are going to end up in the intended pockets.

“There’s a lot of money that’s wasted on all the paperwork and all the administration of a big organization, versus when we give directly through a smaller organization like Helping Hands, where basically no one has a salary, all the money goes directly to the community,” said Sauvé.

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© 2022 The Canadian Press

Investigation launched into 'suspicious death,' Woodstock, Ont. police say

Police in Woodstock, Ont., say they are investigating a “suspicious death” in the city early Tuesday morning.

Officers were called to the area of Fyfe Avenue in south Woodstock around 2:20 a.m. for a reported dispute, police said in a statement.

“A suspicious death investigation has been initiated in relation to this report,” police said.

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Few other details have been released by police, who say they “do not perceive” there to be any risk to public safety.

A heavy police presence is expected through the morning and into the afternoon for the investigation, they said.

Anyone with information is asked to contact police or Crime Stoppers.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Saskatoon morning news rewind: Tuesday, Nov. 29

WATCH: Bundle up, it’s about to get colder — Chantal Wagner with your Tuesday, Nov. 29, morning SkyTracker forecast.

Saskatoon city council budget debate, supporting the Movember campaign, and the naughty and nice list for staying healthy with naturopathic doctor Jacqui Fleury.

Here’s your morning rewind for the Tuesday, Nov. 29, edition of Global News Morning Saskatoon.

Coun. Cynthia Block discusses budget talks at Saskatoon city council

Three days of budget deliberations got underway at Saskatoon city council on Nov. 29.

The starting point is a property tax increase higher than anticipated and council is looking to cut roughly $2.9 million to keep the increase at 3.53 per cent.

Ward 6 Coun. Cynthia Block has an update on deliberations and what cuts council may consider to hold the line on any property tax increase.

Movember campaign continues beyond November

The Movember initiative sees people across the continent raise awareness about men’s health issues.

Shane DeMerchant with Movember Canada says the campaign runs all year, not just in November when it is highlighted.

He talks about the goals of the campaign, research and how people can contribute.

Natural ways support your health during cold and flu season

Naturopathic doctor Jacqui Fleury is looking at natural ways to support your health during cold and flu season.

She has a naughty and nice list when it comes to food and lifestyle that might or might not be helpful during cold and flu season.

Saskatoon’s top headlines: Tuesday, Nov. 29

Chris Carr with Saskatoon’s top headlines for Tuesday, Nov. 29.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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