Saint John — Uninformed teenage jocks from all over New Brunswick are banding together with a common message for all levels of government: they want to see more Syrian referees settled in this province as soon as possible, preferably by year-end.
“We know all about the Syrian referee crisis,” said 15-year-old jock Asher Gibson. “My teammates told me all about it in the locker room last week. It’s a terrible thing. There are so many referees from Syrian (sic) that are fleeing the war, and this season almost every day we are having trouble finding someone to ref our games. We need to bring them to New Brunswick now.”
This puzzling plea comes only days after the newly elected Trudeau government promised to keep their election commitment to settle 25,000 Syrians in Canada by the end of 2015. Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship John McCallum confirmed this past week that bringing in 25,000 Syrians to Canada by year’s end remains a “firm objective” of the government.
“The shortage of referees is a worldwide thing,” asserted 17-year-old Harrison MacDonald, referencing something he thought he saw on TSN SportsCentre. “We desperately need referees in New Brunswick for hockey, volleyball, tennis, hockey, football, basketball, lacrosse, not to mention hockey. The government will need to reach out to work with all of the leagues to make this a reality.”
Premier Brian Gallant says New Brunswick’s “doors are open” to help Syrians, and pledged $50,000 to the United Nations to support the Syrian relief. With more than 12 million Syrians affected by the war, many are susceptible to violence, malnutrition and disease. More than 2.1 million school-age children are not attending school and in Syria, thousands of schools have been damaged, destroyed or occupied since 2011.
When told that half of the Syrians presently in camps were children, the jocks were unwavering. “If they can ref a good game, I don’t care how old they are,” said 16-year-old Jesse Holmes, a Grade 11 student at Saint John High School. “And, it’s got to be better than camping in Syria right now. It’s too cold at night for roasting marshmallows and singing campfire songs now, am I right?”