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Robert Barron column: We don't know how good we have it

Many just don’t appreciate how good they have it here in Canada.
Robert's column

Many just don’t appreciate how good we have it here in Canada.

Most of us take it for granted when we get up in the morning we’ll return to our homes that evening without worrying about much more than paying bills and getting through our daily chores.

However, in my line of work, I do get to hear some horror stories about the lives people have endured, or are still enduring, in other parts of the world and it makes me glad that I live here.

One such case is Kubra Panahzada from Afghanistan, who arrived in the Cowichan Valley with her husband Murtaza and their 22-month-old son Ali Abbas earlier this year.

Kubra has been in to see me a number of times to ask if there’s any way we could assist her in her ongoing efforts to bring her brother’s family, with three young children, as well as her parents, to the Cowichan Valley as well.

The stories she has been telling about their lives in Afghanistan, and as refugees in neighbouring countries, are chilling.

Kubra, her husband, brother and parents are all professional people who had been working for Afghanistan’s Western-backed government for years before it was brought down by the Taliban in 2021, and then they all fled to India and Pakistan out of fear for their lives.

But she said life in Afghanistan was no picnic, even before the Taliban returned.

“While in Afghanistan, as members of the Hazara Shia minority, every morning goodbye to our family could be our last due to the constant threat of explosions,” Kubra said.

“Explosions happened everywhere: on the way to work, in offices, mosques, wedding ceremonies, schools, and training centres. We lost many family members, friends, and colleagues, but we were lucky to survive.”

Kubra told me that life for her family, who are now in Pakistan, is a continuing nightmare as well.

She said millions of Afghans are refugees in Pakistan, but they are not allowed to work there.

“Some get visas that expire, and some register with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees,” Kubra said. “Despite news reports saying those without visas or UNHCR registration are not deported, the police take any Afghan they see, even searching homes at night. My family cannot return to Afghanistan or stay in Pakistan. They have no income, health services, education, or basic necessities; they are only safe from the Taliban.”

It’s heartbreaking to hear these stories and when she’s telling me about them (with little Ali Abbas in her arms staring at me with his big brown eyes) I can’t help but look through the window at the street outside of my office and wonder how horrible it would be if a car bomb went off out there, killing and mangling everyone around.

Kubra has been working tirelessly since she first arrived in the area to bring the rest of her family here, and she’s asking for assistance from the community to do so.

The Canadian governments require that her parents have $28,000, plus five sponsors, to enter the country as refugees, while her brother’s family need $24,000, plus a job offer from a company.

“In total, we need $52,000, five sponsors, and a job offer to bring my family here,” Kubra said. “My brother has a Master's in Economics from India and his wife has a Bachelor's in Computer Science. My brother and his wife are well-educated with extensive work experience with the previous Afghan government. Please help my family escape these dire circumstances.”

Kubra has set up a GoFundMe page.

If anyone wants to help sponsor the family, or of they can offer jobs to her brother and his wife, they can call her directly at 250-466-6884 or email

Robert Barron

About the Author: Robert Barron

Since 2016, I've had had the pleasure of working with our dedicated staff and community in the Cowichan Valley.
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