Canadian couple cancels wedding to help Syrian refugees

Image source, Jim Martin
Image caption,
The couple, Samantha Jackson (left) and Farzin Yousefian (right), had a small wedding at Toronto's City Hall instead

A Canadian couple has decided to cancel their large wedding so they could help a Syrian refugee family.

Samantha Jackson and Farzin Yousefian had a civil ceremony instead and asked guests to support a Syrian family's bid to live in Canada in lieu of gifts.

The Toronto couple was planning their wedding when they saw a photo of Aylan Kurdi, a young refugee who died on the shores of Turkey.

They realised then their wedding could be an opportunity for fundraising.

Canada plans to release details on its pledge to take in 25,000 refugees from Syria by the end of the year next week.

The pledge is a key component of the new Liberal government under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Image source, Jim Martin
Image caption,
The couple hopes to raise enough to sponsor a Syrian family of four

The couple told the BBC that Ms Jackson had been working on helping Canadians to become private refugee sponsors before deciding to forego their traditional wedding.

"We could not stop thinking about the difficult decisions that many Syrian families are forced to make... [we] immediately began redrawing our plans with the hope of helping a Syrian family start a new life in Toronto," Mr Yousefian said.

Family and friends were supportive of the couple's decision, he said.

They planned their wedding fundraiser in three weeks. The message was clear, said Mr Yousefian - that refugees are welcome in Canada.

The couple has raised C$22,750 (£11,224) so far and hope to raise C$27,000 (£13,300), which is the cost to sponsor a Syrian family of four.

"Our decision is a reflection of the very values that Canadians hold so dear," Mr Yousefian said.

"We are certain that our initiative will inspire others, just as the acts of others have inspired us... We are truly privileged to have had the opportunity to use our wedding for a greater cause than our own."