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Richmond Hill refugee reunited with family after two years apart

Last Updated Jan 26, 2017 at 5:55 am EST

A Richmond Hill man who fled Iraq two years ago was reunited with his family on Wednesday.

There was nothing Saadi Mado wanted more than to see his family safe again, and far away from a war that’s nowhere near over.

After two years of waiting, he finally got his wish. As Mado stood by the arrivals gate inside Toronto Pearson International Airport on Wednesday night, he got to hug his parents, two brothers, sister-in-law, a niece and nephew.

“It was an exciting moment, I really cried,” he told CityNews as his father Waleed Jasim Mado stood by his side.

“We are all happy, thank God, we thank you and we thank everyone in Canada,” Waleed Jasim Mado said, speaking in Arabic.

The family of Yazidi refugees have been living in a refugee camp in Turkey for the last few years. The Yazidi are a religious minority group living mostly in northern Iraq. They are also one of the biggest targets for ISIS.

Mado, along with his sister and brother, was able to make it to Canada in the summer of 2015, but was forced to leave the rest of the family behind.

“It was a horrible feeling because you don’t know when they’re going to kill or capture your family,” Mado said.

This family of seven is the first to be sponsored by Project Abraham, an initiative that falls under human rights NGO The Mozuud Freedom Foundation. The group raises awareness on the torturous life the Yazidi are faced with living under ISIS.

“These people are targeted, they’ve been massacred,” Debbie Rose, with Project Abraham said. “Women have been enslaved, boys have been kidnapped.”

Although the Mado’s have safely made it to Canada, the family and those who helped them get here call this a small victory. They say little has been done to protect the Yazidi people back home. Hundreds of thousands more are still in Iraq, facing persecution, while the ones who fled are currently stuck, living in refugee camps.

“We have no where to go and ask for help,” said Mirze Ismail, the head of the Yazidi Human Rights Organization-International.

Ismail joined forces with the Mozuud Freedom Foundation, and together reached out to the Canadian government, asking officials to provide aid the same way it had with previous refugees, most recently the thousands of Syrian refugees that arrived to Canada last year and bringing Kosovars to the country during the Balkan wars. The foundation says like Operation Parasol, they are hoping Yazidis at risk would be able to come to Canada without the bureaucratic red tape or private citizen sponsorship.

Ismail has been vocal about the lack of aid extended to the Yazidi people who are currently spread out throughout the Middle East.

In late October, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada committed to help bring vulnerable Yazidis to Canada within 120 days.

“Canada has made a commitment to resettle vulnerable persons who are survivors of Daesh (ISIS) which will include Yazidi, by February 22, 2017. We are working towards meeting that commitment,” the Ministry said in a statement.

CityNews asked the Ministry how many of those vulnerable individuals would be brought over to Canada, but we were told that information would come at the end of February.

Although Mado is lucky enough to have his family with him, he says he hopes the Canadian government honours that commitment.

“My family is going to be safe, but there’s thousands of Yazidas refugees in Turkey, Greece and Syria,” he said. “We want the Canadian government to help Yazidis refugees and protect them from ISIS.”

Rose, of Project Abraham, says that to date, $100,000 has been raised in support of bringing Yazidi refugees to Canada. The organization is hoping to bring six more families, made up of 20 individuals, through private sponsorship in the next 12 months.