In October 2016, a member of the United Syrian Family Support (Belleville) refugee sponsorship group received a letter from the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, intended to be shared with the Ahmad Al Mansour/Maysoun Mansour family:

                                                                                                          October 25, 2016


As Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, one of my most cherished activities has been travelling across this enthralling province and listening to Ontarians from all walks of life. They have shared their hopes, their fears, the challenges that they seek to overcome, and the successes that they themselves have achieved or witnessed in their communities.

A common thread connecting what I have heard is the sense that Ontario’s stories are all too rarely told. And arising from this, and in recognition of the eternal role of stories in expressing the collective soul of a people, is the questioning of Ontario’s identity.

In anticipation of the 150th anniversary of Confederation, and in my role as the province’s “Storyteller-in-Chief”, my office is launching a project to gather and share stories that express Ontario’s identity in Canada. I invite you to contribute one of the 150 stories that will form the basis of this project. All you need to do is respond to the request “Tell a story that, for you, makes Ontario Ontario” in 150 words or fewer.

The 150 stories will be collected in a book, and images reflecting the stories will—in consultation with you—be assembled and exhibited in the Lieutenant Governor’s Suite at Queen’s Park and also online.

Please let my office know if you are able to accept this invitation, have any questions, or wish to request assistance of any form. Please contact my Chief of Staff, Mr. Anthony Hylton.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Elizabeth Dowdeswell

In response to the request from the Lieutenant Governor, Ahmad and Maysoun told the following story, to be found in the 150 stories section entitled “Where we came from. Nos origins” as #32, page 55:

Marhabaan. Kaif Halik? Hello. How are you?

We were born in Damascus. We fled our Syria in 2012 to Lebanon. While our money lasted, we lived in a stable with animals, next a UN refugee camp with tens of thousands of other Syrians. Then, “Naam”(Yes) to Canada.

On December 7th last year, our plane landed in Ottawa. We had 1 suitcase, 1 cardboard box, and uncertainty and nervousness and worry. How would our three boys be? How would we eat? We could not say “Hello”, or “Thank you”, or “Yes, please.”

In Belleville, strangers then but “our family” now, help us with ESL, with healing, to worship; they are there when we remember. In Ontario, we have a second life in a safe world, a future without explosions and danger.

To our Ontario family, to the Canadian government that opened a door, thank you. Shookran. Maa-sha-Allah

The Al Mansour Family

Marhabaan. Kaif halik? Bonjour. Comment allez-vous?

Nous avons fui notre Syrie ntale en 2012 pour aller au Liban. Tant que nous avons eu del’argernt, nous avons vecu dans une etable aven des ani,aux, pres d’un camp de refugies des Nations Unie, ou il y avait des dizaines de milliers d’autre Syriens. Puis, noous avons recu notre <<Naam>>. Notre oui, pur aller au Canada.

Le 7 decembre 2015, notre aion a aterri a Ottawa. Nous avions une seule valise et un boite de carton, mais une tonne d’inquietudes et d’angoisses. Nos trios fils vont-ills etre bien? Comment allons-nous manger? Nous ne savions meme pas comment dire <<Bonjour>> ou <<Merci>>.

A Belleville, notre <<famille>>, qui nous etait alors inconnue, nous a soustenus dans notre apprentissage de l’anglais, mais aussi dans l’adaptation a notre nouvelle vie et la foi en notre avenir. En Ontario, une seconde vie dans un monde sur nous a ete offerte.

A notre famille de l’Ontario et au gouvernement du Canada, nous vous remercions. Shookran. Maa-sha-Allah.

Ahmad Al Mansour, Maysoun Mansour et leurs trois fils terminaient leur premiere annee de vie au Canada en decembre 2016.

In her foreward to 150 stories, the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, writes “We all have stories.

“For distinct individuals, each story recalls an experience that has left an impression- one of happiness or tragedy, of humour or of insight. Collectively these myriad diverse stories give us meaning, through which our personal, family, and community identities are formed. —

“Throughout this year 2017, we will celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation and Ontario’s role as a founding province of Canada. What better time to record and reflect upon who we are?

“It is my hope that by actively listening to our stories we can become more aware of and better understand each other and , in turn, create the communities and country of which we can be proud. May this exercise of thoughtful and peaceful engagement be our gift to the future and perhaps a legacy to the world at large.”

Further information on the Office of the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario and on 150 stories/recits may be found at www.lgontario.ca.

The launch of 150 stories/recits took place in the Office of the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario on 22 February 2017, to which the authors of the stories were invited.  The following image is from that occasion.

The Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, with (left to right), Maysoun Mansour, Firas al Mansour, Ahmad Al Mansour, Her Honour, Layth Al Mansour.