HALIFAX — Justin Trudeau says the federal government is taking steps to reunite a Syrian refugee in Halifax with family members living overseas following a devastating house fire that killed the woman's seven children and left her husband badly burned.
"We are looking at what can be done within our system to give this family a little solace in a time of unbelievable tragedy," the prime minister said after a funding announcement in Halifax.
"I can't comment on specific cases, but in heartbreaking cases like this we're certainly looking at doing what we can to bring this family that has suffered such a devastating loss together."
Kawthar Barho and her husband Ebraheim arrived in Nova Scotia with their children as privately sponsored refugees in September 2017.
Early Tuesday, a fast-moving fire killed all seven of their children, prompting a outpouring of grief and support from across the country.
With his wife at his side in a Halifax hospital, Ebraheim Barho remains in a medically induced coma.
A funeral for the children, who range in age from three months to 14 years, is expected either Friday or Saturday.
Trudeau said Halifax MP Andy Fillmore had already contacted Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen about expediting the immigration process for family members.
Kawthar Barho has no other relatives living in Canada.
I think it's absolutely critical that we get those family members here as quickly as we can.Halifax MP Andy Fillmore
"I can tell you that this is a case that the minister is giving personal attention to," said Trudeau, who was among hundreds of people who gathered for a vigil in Halifax's main square Wednesday night in support of the Barhos.
Fillmore said immigration applications were being reviewed Thursday.
"This is an absolute priority to get this done as quickly as possible," he said. "I think it's absolutely critical that we get those family members here as quickly as we can."
The Liberal MP said he had met with Kawthar at the hospital, where she was asked if there was anything federal officials could do to help.
"She made it clear that it was her family," Fillmore said.
At Wednesday's vigil, Ali Duane, a member of Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency, urged all Canadians to pressure Ottawa to bring Kawthar Barho's family members to Nova Scotia.
Refugee claims can take years
Natalie Horne, vice-president of the community group that sponsored the Barhos' refugee claim, said some family members from Syria have already registered with the UN refugee agency, which should help speed up the process.
Typical refugee claims can take several years to complete.
"Once (the Barhos' story) leaves the headlines and people go back to their lives, there's still going to be a wake of tragedy for Kawthar and for Ebraheim," said Horne, vice-president of the Hants East Assisting Refugees Team.
"It will be a long road to recovery ... It's really important for us to get family here who can support them on that journey."
The Barhos had lived in the Halifax suburb of Spryfield for only a few months, having moved to the city from nearby Elmsdale, N.S., to take advantage of language training and other immigrant services. They had planned to return to Elmsdale next month.
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