Refugee program begins shifting focus away from logistics and onto integration

OTTAWA -- Thousands of Syrian refugees expected in Canada in the coming days could spend up to two weeks in temporary accommodations -- including military bases -- before being able to settle into more permanent homes.

See Full Article

Those conditions will still be better than what people have left behind in Jordan, Lebanon or Turkey, where nearly all of the Syrian refugees coming to Canada are currently living, said Immigration Minister John McCallum.

"I don't think the need to spend one or two weeks in interim accommodation will be a devastating experience for them, given what they have come from," McCallum told a news conference Wednesday.

"That being said, we'll attempt to make that interim process as quick as possible."

When the current resettlement program was rolled out in November, the government said incoming refugees would spend a couple of nights in hotels near the airport before transiting on to their final destinations. For those with private sponsors, there would likely be homes ready but what would happen with government-assisted refugees -- those whose costs are covered entirely by government -- was always a question mark.

Ordinarily, those refugees are welcomed by settlement agencies that run temporary housing facilities, and they stay there for a few weeks before a permanent home is found.

But those organizations always had concerns that the sheer volume of Syrians would overwhelm those facilities -- a fear that's now become a reality as the Liberals work towards bringing 25,000 people to Canada by the end of February.

The groups are providing daily feedback to the government on the number of beds they have available but at least three military bases are expected to be mobilized in the coming weeks to help house thousands of people.

Though government-organized flights of refugees will continue to land almost daily, the government's focus is now shifting to how to ensure the newly arrived are settling in as well as they can once those permanent homes are found.

"We have now demonstrated an ability to get the machine up and deliver the refugees to Canada," McCallum said. "The next phase -- it won't be easy, it won't always be totally smooth -- is to welcome all of these individuals to Canada."

Along with housing challenges, there is the reality of weaving thousands of new people into their new communities.

Ordinarily, refugees are given extensive pre-departure briefings to orient them to life in Canada, covering everything from the weather to bank machines, but those efforts were jettisoned for this program in order to get people here faster. So all of that needs to be done now.

"The integration phase is ultimately the most important phase, to make sure that these Syrian refugees become well integrated into Canadian culture, that they understand our cultural values and practices and that will be done through a number of mechanisms," said Health Minister Jane Philpott.

The challenge appears to be not just how Syrians are integrated into life in Canada, but also how Canadians adjust to their presence.

Last week, about a dozen people were pepper-sprayed by a man on a bicycle outside a Syrian welcome ceremony in the Vancouver area, an incident McCallum described as isolated. But it speaks to the need to guard against anti-refugee sentiment, he said.

One way to do that would be to make sure Syrians don't get better access to things like social housing than others, McCallum said.

To date, just over 10,000 Syrian refugees are calling Canada home -- a milestone for the Liberals' resettlement program that was reached late Tuesday, about two weeks later than originally promised.

A commitment that the first 10,000 refugees settled would be mostly those with private sponsors didn't materialize. The majority of new arrivals are instead those whose costs are being covered by the federal government alone, or in partnership with private groups.

In addition to the private sponsors, McCallum has appealed to the corporate sector to donate $50 million to help with settlement costs. He said over $20 million has been raised.

The Liberals first committed to a major Syrian refugee program last March, but its size and scope have changed several times. The current pledge is that 25,000 Syrians will be in Canada by the end of February and at least 10,000 more by the end of 2016.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • South Korea raises ferry that sank three years ago

    World News CTV News
    SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of - A 6,800-ton South Korean ferry emerged from the water on Thursday, nearly three years after it capsized and sank into violent seas off the country's southwestern coast, an emotional moment for the country that continues to search for closure to one of its deadliest disasters ever. Source
  • Parents delayed help for wounded boy to scrub evidence, police say

    World News CTV News
    PHOENIX - The parents of a 9-year-old boy who was shot in the head in their Phoenix home put off calling 911 as they cleaned up evidence in multiple rooms of the house, police said Wednesday, calling it a case that "shocks your conscience. Source
  • Afghanistan hoping U.S. sends thousands more troops

    World News CBC News
    Afghanistan wants the United States to send more forces to help meet shortfalls in the battle against the Taliban and the Islamic State group, the nation's top diplomat said Tuesday. Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani welcomed a recent call by U.S. Source
  • Coroner's jury wants better mental health support for Vancouver transit police

    Canada News CTV News
    BURNABY, B.C. - A coroner's jury is recommending that transit police in the Vancouver area work more closely with mental health providers following the death of a man who repeatedly stabbed himself and was shot by an officer at a grocery store more than two years ago. Source
  • Liberal budget offers lots of 'vision' but few new numbers: Aaron Wherry

    Canada News CBC News
    At a dozen points in the budget document, the Liberals interrupt their announcements to explain "What Success Will Look Like." Canada, we are told at one point, "will have one of the most skilled, talented, creative and diverse workforces in the world. Source
  • U.S. veteran randomly targeted black man in fatal stabbing, NYC police allege

    World News CBC News
    A white U.S. Army veteran from Baltimore bent on making a racist attack took a bus to New York, the "media capital of the world," randomly picked out a black man who was collecting bottles on the street and killed him with a sword, police said Wednesday. Source
  • Colin Dexter, author of Inspector Morse detective series, dead at 86

    World News CBC News
    Colin Dexter, the unassuming British writer who created curmudgeonly, music-loving Oxford detective Inspector Morse, has died aged 86. Publisher Pan Macmillan said Dexter died Tuesday at his home in Oxford, southern England. Macmillan publisher Jeremy Trevathan said Dexter "represented the absolute epitome of British crime writing. Source
  • Steady fall in suicides offers glimmer of hope in Japan

    World News CTV News
    TOKYO -- Fewer Japanese are taking their own lives, a positive sign in a country with one of the world's highest suicide rates. The Health Ministry said Thursday that 21,897 people committed suicide in 2016, down from more than 30,000 in 2011 and the lowest number since 1994. Source
  • Terrorism knows no bounds

    World News Toronto Sun
    As the frightening footage unfolds from London, how it brings back grim memories of the terror attack on our own Parliament Hill almost three years ago. A man in uniform attacked and killed by a terrorist determined to breach the heart of our government, to defile the centre of our democracy. Source
  • Take that! Pyongyang lambastes Trump as too much like Obama

    World News CTV News
    TOKYO -- North Korea has a criticism of U.S. President Donald Trump he probably wasn't expecting: He's too much like Barack Obama. North Korea's state media, which regularly vilified Obama in the strongest terms, had been slow to do the same with the Trump administration, possibly so that officials in Pyongyang could figure out what direction Trump will likely take and what new policies he may pursue. Source