Winnipeg church hopes Kingston RCMP investigation won’t deter sponsorship

After learning one of the suspects arrested in Kingston, Ont., was part of a Syrian refugee family sponsored by a local church, one Winnipeg church that takes in Syrian families is speaking out.

Westworth United Church has previously sponsored families and helped them with necessities as they came to Canada.

“We were all newcomers to this country in some way or another,” said the church’s Reverend Loraine MacKenzie Shepard.

“Our only faithful response is to extend that same hospitality that was offered to us and our ancestors.”

RCMP in Kingston conducted several raids in recent days stemming from an investigation that began in December relating to a criminal threat.

“It was a substantiated and credible attack plot” but no target, date, or location was part of the plot, officials said.

They charged one youth with terrorism-related offences Friday morning at two Kingston, Ont., residences. A second adult male was arrested but later released without charge.

One of the houses raided belonged to a refugee family that fled to Canada from Syria. The family, whose adult son was arrested, was sponsored by four churches.

The RCMP said just before 6 p.m. on Friday that he had been released without charge earlier in the day.

Westworth previously sponsored Syrian families and assisted them with housing, clothing, food, and even helped them learn the language.

Shepard hopes Winnipeggers continue to show that generosity if families need help in the future.

“The best way we as Winnipeg, really as Canada, can support refugees from any place is to be determined to offer anything we can to help them feel like this is their country.”

The reverend also hopes the events in Kingston will not result in discrimination towards the families.

“There will be individuals who feel fear that turns into racism, and I guess for those individuals I would plead to try not to generalize, to try and see everyone is an individual worthy of respect.”

-With files from By Rebecca Joseph and Stewart Bell

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