Red Cross racing to prep military bases for Syrian reguees

OTTAWA -- Refugee agencies and the Red Cross are racing to line up housing for thousands of Syrians in the coming weeks as the focus of the Liberal government's program shifts from refugees with private sponsors to those assisted by the government alone.

See Full Article

Three military bases in Ontario and Quebec should be ready by the end of next week to provide essential services for government-assisted refugees, said Hossam Elsharkawi, associate vice president, international operations for the Canadian Red Cross.

"We are not able at this stage to quite understand how many weeks they will stay at these centres, but at least these centres will have the capacity of three to four thousand refugees," he said,

"If we need to grow that to larger, we will."

So far, the bases haven't had to be used in part because privately sponsored refugees -- representing about 10,000 of the 25,000 Syrians the Liberals say they will bring to Canada by the end of February -- have groups arranging housing. Those refugees formed the majority of the first wave of resettlement.

But with arrivals set to spool up in the remaining seven weeks of the program, especially those of government-assisted refugees, finding enough temporary housing has become an urgent issue.

Over the course of a normal year, Canada takes in about 7,000 government-assisted refugees, sent to one of the 36 cities with agreements in place to provide support services paid for by the federal government.

In many of these cities, organizations run residences that can handle a few hundred people at most for a few weeks while they search for more permanent housing.

Government-assisted refugees often arrive in clusters, but having 15,000 of them coming in the space of three months is overwhelming.

Regina usually receives about 215 government-assisted refugees a year but is preparing to handle 348 by the end of February.

"It's not too much more, but in the span of two months we are getting almost double what we get in a year, " said Getachew Woldeyesus of the Regina Open Door Society. "The pressure is not the number but it is the time frame."

Still, the extension of the original government deadline to resettle all 25,000 by the end of last year gave the group time to secure 300 apartments, thanks to the generosity of landlords and a lot of leg work.

As of Jan. 6, 6,974 Syrians had arrived in Canada. Currently, the overflow in other cities has been managed by accommodating people in hotels or motels.

Military bases are the option of last resort, said Debbie Douglas, executive director, Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants.

"It's difficult to have folks come from one camp into another military setting," she said.

Since the start of the program, military bases were eyed for housing needs, but neither the Defence Department nor the Immigration Department would elaborate Friday on the plan to use them.

CFB Kingston and CFB Valcartier have always been at the top of the list, followed by Meaford, Petawawa, Trenton and Borden.

"Due to the many factors influencing if and when a refugee will have to go to an (interim lodging site), it is premature to speculate on the scale of possible operations," Faith St. John, a spokesperson for the Immigration Department wrote in an e-mail.

Refugee agencies currently provide daily updates to the government on how many beds they have and some of the resettlement funding already allocated by the Liberals has gone to securing more space to avoid the use of bases.

A national shortage of affordable housing, especially in major cities, will make securing long-term housing for all refugees a challenge.

Several real estate firms have offered apartments, including Calgary-based Mainstreet Equities. It initially said it would provide up to 200 discounted apartments but is now looking at raising that number, said company president Bob Dhillon.

Prior to the end of 2015, there had been little interest in his offer but in recent days his office has been fielding dozens of calls.

"When somebody newly arrives into Canada, you can make their lives by offering a little assistance," he said. "That first home is everything."



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Norway: At least 3 injured in family-related stabbing attack

    World News CTV News
    COPENHAGEN, Denmark - A suspect was arrested in Norway after at least three people were stabbed with a sharp object, leaving one critically injured Friday, police said. Police at first said the attack in the village of Nore as random, but later clarified that there was “a family relationship” between the assailant and at least one of the victims. Source
  • Anti-abortion activist is charged with stalking a California doctor who provides abortions

    World News CTV News
    A Los Angeles man is facing multiple charges after prosecutors allege he was part of a group of anti-abortion activists who targeted a women's health clinic and stalked a doctor who provides abortion services, the San Francisco District Attorney's Office announced Thursday. Source
  • Ukraine updates: 12 killed in Russian attacks in Severodonetsk

    World News CTV News
    What's happening in Ukraine today and how are countries around the world responding? Read live updates on Vladimir Putin and Russia's invasion of Ukraine. KYIV, Ukraine -- Russian forces attacked the cities of Lysychansk and Severodonetsk in Ukraine's eastern region of Luhansk, the region's governor said Friday. Source
  • As Biden visits Asia, China launches South China Sea drills

    World News CTV News
    BEIJING - China is holding military exercises in the disputed South China Sea coinciding with U.S. President Joe Biden's visits to South Korea and Japan that are largely focused on countering the perceived threat from Beijing. Source
  • Sri Lanka closes schools, limits work amid fuel shortage

    World News CTV News
    COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - Sri Lankan authorities closed schools and asked public officials not to come to work in a desperate move to prepare for an acute fuel shortage that is expected to last days amid the nation's worst economic crisis in decades. Source
  • Riding the waves off Nova Scotia, this surfer says she felt cancer-free

    Canada News CBC News
    It could be the most beautiful summer day in Nova Scotia or the harshest day of winter; if there are waves, Amber Spurrell will surf. Even while undergoing six rounds of chemotherapy. "Getting in the ocean allowed me not to have cancer for a few minutes and just be," says Spurrell, 42, who was diagnosed last year with breast cancer. Source
  • Canadian study offers important clue to why some back pain becomes chronic

    Canada News CBC News
    A study conducted by researchers at McGill University and scientists from Italy suggests that blocking inflammation after injury might make that pain chronic — a finding that challenges the standard approach to treating pain. Chronic pain — especially in the lower back — is a common ailment, but scientists don't know why some back injuries resolve themselves while others cause suffering for years. Source
  • With Kenney's exit, the 'resistance' era is over — but something louder might follow

    Canada News CBC News
    Late in 2018, Maclean's magazine put five Conservative leaders on its cover and billed them as "the resistance" — an apparent play on the name of the movement that had emerged to oppose Donald Trump in the United States. Source
  • This Ontario election is about many things. Indigenous issues aren't among them, observers say

    Canada News CBC News
    Over the last three weeks, Ontario election campaign leaders and candidates have addressed a range of issues — including affordability, housing and health care — and offered promises leading up to the vote next month. But there has yet to be substantive conversation about Indigenous people and issues, say several current and former political leaders and analysts who spoke with CBC News. Source
  • 'Great replacement' conspiracy unified white supremacists long before Buffalo, N.Y., shooting

    World News CBC News
    Whether it goes by the "great replacement" or another name, the conspiracy theory embraced by the accused Buffalo, N.Y., gunman has inspired several mass shootings in recent years — in Canada and around the world. Ten people died in the attack at Tops Friendly Market in a predominantly Black neighbourhood of Buffalo on Saturday. Source