NEWS
02/25/2019 19:45 EST | Updated 02/25/2019 19:45 EST

Canada Expedites Visas For Members Of Barho Family

Relatives have arrived to support Kawthar Barho and her severely burned husband.

Darren Calabrese/CP
Caskets of the seven Barho siblings rest on a stage during the funeral for the Syrian refugees in Halifax on Feb. 23, 2019.

HALIFAX — Several family members of the mother of seven children who died in a fast-moving house fire were expected to arrive in Halifax Monday to bring support to their grieving relative.

Andy Fillmore, a Halifax MP, said in a news release that "in difficult times, it is family that brings the greatest comfort."

The family members are entering Halifax with visitors' visas to assist Kawthar Barho and her severely burned spouse, Ebraheim Barho.

Kawthar had asked federal officials last week to assist her in bringing family members to Canada to support her, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters during a visit to Halifax that his government was working to expedite the visas.

The Canadian Press
Members of the Barho family are shown upon arrival at the Halifax airport in a handout photo on Sept. 29 2017.

A spokeswoman for the private sponsorship group assisting the family said the names of the family members and their relationship to the mother wouldn't be released at this time.

Fillmore said the arrangements for the families began when he heard the grieving woman's request as he sat by her bedside following last week's tragedy.

"She explained that while she's grateful for her mosque and the wider Halifax community, she needed the support of her family," he said.

The MP said he worked with the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia and Immigration Canada to move the visas through the usual steps more quickly to help five to 10 family members come to Canada.

"It's great news that we have movement on this, and the first group is arriving today, which is wonderful," he said, adding more relatives will arrive in days to come.

Darren Calabrese/CP
More than a thousand family, friends, and members of the community attend the funeral for the seven Syrian refugee Barho siblings in Halifax on Feb. 23, 2019.

Simon Sherry, director of clinical training at Dalhousie University's department of psychology, said severe trauma like that being experienced by the Barho couple may require a long time to treat.

Providing support through family and friends is one aspect of the care, he said, adding, "social support is enormously important in the face of trauma."

"Trauma ... doesn't follow one particular timeline or course, and it's important to let people deal with loss, grief and trauma in their own way rather than pushing a particular approach on them," he said in an interview.

"We should step back and respectfully let people respond in their own way."

The news of the family members' arrival comes after a massive turnout at a funeral for the seven children.

More than 2,000 people attended the service at a waterfront hall on Saturday, which was held in memory of the Barho children who died in the early hours of Feb. 19 when the blaze moved rapidly through their home.

The Barhos arrived in Nova Scotia in September 2017 as refugees from war-torn Syria, among 1,795 Syrian refugees who have come to Nova Scotia in recent years.

The Canadian Press
People gather for the vigil in Halifax on Feb. 20, 2019.

On Saturday, as the seven small caskets were brought on stage, their mother could be heard sobbing.

Many others also cried as the children's names were read: teenager Ahmad; Rola, 12; Mohamad, 9; Ola, 8; Hala, 3; Rana, 2; and Abdullah, who was born in Canada on Nov. 9.

A local imam said the service was made public so the children's mother could see firsthand that the community is standing behind her.

The father continues to recover from extensive burns.

He underwent an operation on Monday but the family and the private support group has decided not to share information about how he fared.

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When they first arrived in Nova Scotia, the Barho family lived in Elmsdale, a 30-minute drive north of Halifax, where they were embraced by the local community.

They later moved to the Halifax suburb of Spryfield to take advantage of language training and other immigrant services, but had planned to return to Elmsdale next month.

The cause of the blaze in their Spryfield home remains unclear.

The response to the tragedy has been swift and impassioned: several businesses have donated their profits to the Barho family, and hundreds of thousands of dollars have been raised to assist the couple.

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