Refugee quickly took to Canada’s game

Kurdi’s cousin gets unique ex­pe­ri­ence

SundayXtra - - CANADA - By Laura Kane

VAN­COU­VER — Al­most im­me­di­ately af­ter Shergo Kurdi ar­rived in Canada, he picked up a hockey stick.

The 15-year- old is the cousin of Alan Kurdi, the two-year-old boy who be­came a sym­bol of the Syr­ian refugee cri­sis when his life­less body was pho­tographed on a Turk­ish beach last Septem­ber.

Just a few months ago, Shergo was work­ing in a cloth­ing fac­tory in Turkey to help sup­port his fam­ily af­ter they fled the war in Syria. On Satur­day, he met his goalie idol Kirk McLean and watched the St. Louis Blues prac­tise at Rogers Arena.

“My team is Canucks, and I like to play goalie,” said Shergo, clad in a Van­cou­ver Canucks jersey and clutch­ing a signed pho­to­graph of McLean.

The grin­ning teenager was one of 13 refugee youth who toured the arena as part of an event ar­ranged by non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion S.U.C.C.E.S.S. and the Van­cou­ver Canucks, with help from a fed­eral govern­ment grant, to in­tro­duce newly ar­rived Syr­i­ans to Cana­dian cul­ture through hockey.

As Shergo sat in the stands with his father, Mo­ham­mad Kurdi, and brothers and sis­ters, the mo­ment couldn’t have been more dif­fer­ent from his old life. His Metro Van­cou­ver­based aunt, Tima Kurdi, has said while in Turkey he couldn’t go to school and had to work to help his fam­ily.

When the pho­to­graph of lit­tle Alan sur­faced, it sparked in­ter­na­tional out­cry and placed pres­sure on Canada to wel­come more Syr­i­ans. Alan’s father, Ab­dul­lah, at­tempted the treach­er­ous cross­ing from Turkey to Greece af­ter Mo­ham­mad’s refugee ap­pli­ca­tion was re­jected by Cana­dian au­thor­i­ties.

The govern­ment later in­vited Mo­ham­mad to ap­ply again, and the fam­ily of seven ar­rived in Metro Van­cou­ver in late De­cem­ber.

“Since the first day they ar­rived in Canada, I re­mem­ber (Shergo) went out­side and he picked up the hockey stick,” said Tima’s son, Alan Kerim.

“They started play­ing hockey, and since that day, they loved the sport. So now, to get this op­por­tu­nity and to come see this on the ice and meet Kirk McLean, it was a great ex­pe­ri­ence for them.”

Kerim said Shergo had never played be­fore, but has been get­ting “pretty good,” and though he isn’t on a team, he reg­u­larly plays street hockey. Af­ter all his cousins had been through, Kerim, who was born and raised in Canada, said it was great to see.

“Now they just live their nor­mal lives, play­ing hockey, go­ing to school. It’s nice to see.”

Shergo’s sis­ters, 16-year- old Heveen and nineyearold Ranim, both said their favourite play­ers were Hen­rik and Daniel Sedin.

“Very nice day to­day,” said Heveen, wear­ing a toque that read “Canada” and car­ry­ing a hand­drawn “Go Canucks Go” sign. “I like to watch hockey.” Mo­ham­mad has been work­ing with his sis­ter Tima at their sa­lon Kurdi Hair De­sign in Port Co­quit­lam. He is still learn­ing English, but said, with his daugh­ter act­ing as trans­la­tor, he is “very happy.”

Some 23 refugees, in­clud­ing youth and their par­ents, took part in the tour, which was also at­tended by Im­mi­gra­tion Min­is­ter John McCal­lum. The kids met Canucks mas­cot Fin, saw the team’s dress­ing room and were set to watch the game later Satur­day.

“We Cana­di­ans hold deep value in this game,” said Quee­nie Choo, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of S.U.C.C.E.S.S. “It’s a way to learn about Cana­dian cul­ture and Cana­dian liv­ing through a sport.”

DAR­RYL DYCK / THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Syr­ian refugee Shergo Kurdi, 15, watches the St. Louis Blues prac­tise at the Rogers Arena in Van­cou­ver Satur­day prior to watch­ing the Blues face the Canucks.

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