Syrian refugees being housed at the Vancouver-area Executive Airport Plaza were treated to an unusual show thanks to a so-called “furry” convention also being held at the hotel. The unlikely interactions were quickly reported on social media and by several news outlets.
The Syrian children were particularly enthralled by the new friends attending the fifth annual VancouFur convention.
“They saw people in giant animal costumes,” furry Chris Jantz told the New York Daily News. “To the children they were just cartoons from stuff like ‘Yo Gabba Gabba!,’ etc., and they wanted to say hi. I don’t think they had any concept of the furry fandom.”
Though sometimes associated with sexual fetishism, the furry community is most broadly defined by an interest in dressing up in anthropomorphic animal costumes and often adopting fictional personalities in the process.
To the convention’s credit, attendees were previously informed about the presence of refugees at the hotel.
“A major concern that VancouFur has is ensuring that each and every one of the refugees (and attendees) feels welcome and safe and the fact that this is likely to be a major shock to them,” read a message from the event’s hosts.
Furry enthusiasts were also reminded that some of the refugees at the hotel might have been uninterested in the somewhat bizarre scene.
“Keep in mind that they likely will not want to interact with you and consent is important to everyone,” the message explained.
Fortunately, there were no problematic incidents. To the contrary, the two disparate groups got along quite well.
“The interactions between our attendees and the Syrians were amazing,” VancouFur Vice Chairman Trapa Civet told Mashable via email. “I feel like the moment was just as magical for the performers as it was for the refugees.”
Responses from those participating at the convention seemed to reflect precisely such a positive sentiment.
“One of many highlites [sic] to me was when the new group of Syrian Refugees children came in and got to interact with us,” Mike Schmidt commented on a story published by Vancity Buzz. “To them we were cartoons come to life, to us was a means to display our acting performance to a very appreciative audiance [sic]. Win win all around. The parents interacted too and took photos with us as well, so kewl.”
During the event’s closing ceremonies, furries also watched a video portraying the time they spent with the children.
“I was there!” one furry noted on Twitter. “The refugees loved us, children especially. I’m glad we made their transition to Canada fun.”
— Dray (@LiveitRivet) March 8, 2016
— JayCat (@JayTweet) March 7, 2016
— Furnal Equinox Lynx (@Jinxthelynx) March 8, 2016
Canada began welcoming refugees from Syria in December, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised to accept as many as 25,000 by the end of February. The vast majority of refugees from war-torn countries in the Middle East have been settling in Europe in recent months.
Proposals to bring Syrian refugees to the United States have prompted some measure of controversy, particularly among conservatives who fear that terrorist elements could use the process as cover to infiltrate the country.
The recent refugee crisis has been spurred in large part by the ongoing conflict in Syria. In addition to facing violence inflicted by the so-called Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL), the country has also experienced a substantial insurgency waged by factions that are disaffected with the oppressive regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
Supported by Russia and Iran, Assad’s forces have brutally suppressed political dissent. Between the political violence and fear of the Islamic State, many Syrian families have been forced to leave their homeland in search of more peaceful lives.
Thanks to the hospitality of countries like Canada, many of those refugees are discovering opportunities for new starts. And thanks to the occasional furry convention, some of them are building some special memories along the way.
Check out a quick video of the kids and furries interacting.