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Grieving parents at funeral of seven young fire victims receive outpour of support

Caskets of the seven Barho siblings rest on a stage behind Halifax Fire and Police honour guard during the funeral for the Syrian refugees in Halifax on Saturday, February 23, 2019. The siblings, who died in a house fire earlier in the week, are survived by their parents.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese
February 23, 2019 - 1:30 PM

HALIFAX - Hundreds of mourners filled a cavernous hall on the Halifax waterfront Saturday for the public funeral of seven children killed in a house fire, offering an emotional outpouring of support for their grieving parents.

Coffins carrying the seven Barho children's remains arrived in a series of hearses at the Cunard Centre.

The sobbing of their mother, Kawthar Barho, was the only sound in the silent hall as the white coffins, some of them quite small, were brought in by an honour guard.

"I have attended many funerals but nothing like this, so please bear with me," an overwhelmed Sheikh Hamza said as he offered the ceremony's English sermon.

Imam Abdallah Yousri says opening the ceremony up to all who wished to attend allowed Barho, who arrived in 2017 with her family as Syrian refugees, to see the widespread support and sympathy from the community.

Mourner Cindy Samson was among about 2,000 people who attended, with every seat filled and more people standing.

Samson said she doesn't know Kawthar Barho, but she and her family are "our family," and she wanted to be there for them.

Another mourner, Audrey Watson-Darrow, said she attended to let the family know they are loved and supported.

"It was a shock for anyone, not only for Muslim people, but for Christians and other religions, we see people coming to support the deceased children," said mourner Adnan Aboushahla.

"We want to do whatever we can, either give support, money, feelings, this grief..."

Among the speakers were Nova Scotia's lieutenant-governor and deputy premier, and the deputy mayor of Halifax.

"We will not abandon you. We will not leave you alone," Deputy Premier Karen Casey told Barho. "Please accept our love. Please accept our warm embrace."

Halifax MP Andy Fillmore also told Barho the community would be there for her in the hard times to come. But he acknowledged it's family that brings the greatest comfort, and said the federal government is trying to bring her overseas relatives to Canada quickly.

"We are working as hard as we can to get your family here as quickly as possible so they can be by your side," Fillmore said.

Natalie Horne, vice-president of the community group that sponsored the Barhos' refugee claim, said they were grateful to have had a chance to get to know the children.

"Our lives were enriched as a result of our relationship with you and your children," Horne told Barho through tears. "We love them and we love you."

Following the funeral service, there was to be a burial at a Muslim cemetery in Hammonds Plains.

The children's father — Ebraheim Barho — remained in hospital Friday recovering from extensive burns. He was in critical, but stable condition.

Early Tuesday, the Quartz Drive house fire killed all of the Barho children: Ahmad, 14; Rola, 12; Mohamad, 9; Ola, 8; Hala, 3; Rana, 2 and Abdullah, who was born in Canada on Nov. 9.

The cause of the fire remains unclear.

Mourner Tareq Hadhad, a Syrian refugee who founded Peace by Chocolate in Nova Scotia, said it is hard for the parents to handle all the pain by themselves.

"I would say it's the most devastating period that I have ever lived, even though we lost family members back home in Syria, the loss of seven kids at once really has had a very devastating impact on the entire community here, not only the Syrian community, not only the Nova Scotia community but all across the country and the world," he said.

Mourner Mouna Manna praised the outpouring of support, and said the mother's burden is unimaginable.

"I don't even know where to begin to imagine how this would be, to lose not one or two but seven of them all at once, it's a strike, it's a huge huge devastation," she said.

"Coming here I just got goosebumps, you know ... it's tough."

The scale of the tragedy for the young family who arrived in Nova Scotia in September 2017 as refugees has struck a chord with Canadians.

A GoFundMe campaign had raised more than $570,000 by Saturday afternoon, with a $1-million goal.

The Barho family lived in Elmsdale, a 30-minute drive north of Halifax, when they first arrived in Nova Scotia and were embraced by residents there.

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

The family was among 1,795 Syrian refugees who have come to Nova Scotia in recent years. The Trudeau government granted asylum to 40,000 Syrian refugees in 2015-16.

A brutal civil war has raged across Syria since 2011, claiming more than 400,000 lives.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2019
The Canadian Press

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