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

  • Iranian parliament labels entire U.S. military as terrorist

    World News CTV News
    TEHRAN, Iran -- Iranian media say the parliament has approved a bill that labels all U.S. military forces as terrorist. The legislation is a step further after Iranian lawmakers last week approved a bill labelling U.S. Source
  • Preparations underway for Kim-Putin summit in Russia

    World News CTV News
    MOSCOW -- Preparations are underway for a summit between the leader of North Korea and Russia's president, Russian officials and media reported Tuesday. The Kremlin confirmed earlier this month that Kim Jong Un would meet with President Putin before the end of the month but has not named the place or date, citing security concerns. Source
  • Judge to sentence man who killed daughter, 5, to make estranged wife suffer

    Canada News CTV News
    ST. JOHN'S, N.L. -- A Newfoundland man who killed his five-year-old daughter in what the Crown said was a calculated plan to inflict suffering on his estranged wife will be sentenced today. A jury convicted Trent Butt of first-degree murder in March in the death of his daughter Quinn. Source
  • New commemorative loonie marking 'progress' for LGBTQ2 people to be unveiled today

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- The Royal Canadian Mint is unveiling a new commemorative loonie today meant to mark what it calls a key milestone for lesbian, gay, transgender, queer and two-spirited people in the country. The agency says the new one-dollar coin pays tribute to Parliament's passing of legislation that "initiated the decriminalization of homosexuality in Canada. Source
  • Ceremonies, vigils planned in Toronto to honour victims of deadly van attack

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- Ceremonies and vigils are planned today to honour those killed or injured in last year's deadly van attack in north Toronto. The City of Toronto is holding an event at the Mel Lastman Square Amphitheatre at 1:30 p.m. Source
  • Strong voter turnout expected in Prince Edward Island provincial election

    Canada News CTV News
    CHARLOTTETOWN -- It's election day in Prince Edward Island and voter turnout is expected to be strong. More than 36 per cent of eligible voters have already cast their ballots in the advance polls, in a province that traditionally sees voter turnout at more than 80 per cent. Source
  • 'New IRA' admits killing Northern Ireland journalist

    World News CTV News
    LONDON -- An Irish Republican Army splinter group has admitted that one of its "volunteers" killed journalist Lyra McKee, who was shot dead while reporting on rioting in Londonderry. In a statement issued Tuesday to the Irish News, the New IRA offered "full and sincere" apologies to McKee's family and friends. Source
  • Woman arrested in slaying of Northern Ireland journalist: police

    World News CTV News
    LONDON -- The Northern Ireland Police Service said Tuesday they have arrested a woman under the Terrorism Act in connection with the slaying of journalist Lyra McKee. The arrest of the 57-year-old under the Terrorism Act came as an Irish Republican Army splinter group admitted that one of its "volunteers" killed journalist McKee, who was shot dead while reporting on rioting in Londonderry. Source
  • Woman arrested in killing of Northern Ireland reporter

    World News CBC News
    The Northern Ireland Police Service says they have arrested a woman under the Terrorism Act in the slaying of journalist Lyra McKee. The 57-year-old woman was arrested Tuesday under the terrorism act. An Irish Republican Army splinter group earlier admitted that one of its "volunteers" killed McKee, who was shot dead while reporting on rioting in Londonderry. Source
  • P.E.I. heads to the polls today — and it could make history

    Canada News CBC News
    Islanders are voting today in an election campaign unlike any other in P.E.I.'s history. It marks the first three-way race in a province long beholden to a two-party system, and has the Green Party hoping to make an unprecedented breakthrough. Source