Mike Wise of North York sold his home to get his mother and younger sister close to Canada. But federal foot-dragging meant they ended up in Sweden.
By: Peter Goodspeed Special to the Star, Published on Fri Sep 19 2014
Mike Wise sold his Toronto home two years ago to rescue his mother in war-torn Syria. He thought he had bought her freedom when she and Wise’s younger sister arrived in Cuba, just a three and a half hour flight from Toronto.
What he didn’t count on was Canada’s reluctance to offer sanctuary to Syrian war refugees.
Despite Wise’s five months of intense lobbying and appeals to senior cabinet ministers, officials refused to expedite his request to have his ailing, widowed mother, Shazia Khail Rashid, 66, and his sister, Sivin, 30, join him and three other brothers in Canada.
Instead, officials with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees had to call on Sweden to rescue Wise’s family.
Now, a once close family is scattered around the world.
In March 2012, Wise, a Syrian Kurd called Mustafa Arab before he legally changed his name last year, was chairman of the GTA branch of the newly formed Syrian Canadian Council. He regularly led protests in Toronto against the blood-stained regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
As similar protests in Syria descended into civil war, Wise regularly telephoned his mother and sister in the country’s largest city, Aleppo, to make sure they were safe.
During one call in April 2012, he knew he had to act quickly to rescue them.
At the time, Cuba had one of the few embassies still functioning in Syria, and Wise managed to find a go-between who arranged to get his mother and sister Cuban tourist visas — for a total of $12,000. Continue reading