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

  • Ontario to call public inquiry into Elizabeth Wettlaufer murders

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- The case of a nurse who murdered eight seniors in long-term care homes in Ontario will be examined in a public inquiry. The Ontario government announced Monday it is moving to appoint a commissioner to lead a public inquiry into the circumstances of the deaths. Source
  • Canadian English accent surprisingly uniform coast to coast: researchers

    Canada News CTV News
    VANCOUVER -- Celebrations across Canada this weekend may look different from one community to the next, but for most of the country it will all sound the same. Derek Denis, a post-doctoral researcher of linguistics at the University of Victoria, said more than just the stereotypical "eh?" unites Canadians. Source
  • Arkansas fugitive recaptured after 32 years on the run

    World News Toronto Sun
    LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The mother of an Arkansas prison escapee who had been on the run for more than three decades said she has been in contact with her son since soon after his escape and that he was visiting her when he was arrested. Source
  • Personal chemistry key as Trump meets India PM for first time

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump meets for the first time Monday with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and personal chemistry as much as policy could determine the direction of future relations. The leaders of the world's two largest democracies will convene at the White House. Source
  • Subway digging unearths 'Mini-Pompeii' in Rome

    World News Toronto Sun
    ROME — Digging for Rome’s new subway has unearthed the charred ruins of an early 3rd-century building and the 1,800-year-old skeleton of a crouching dog that apparently perished in the same blaze that collapsed the structure. Archaeologists on Monday said they made the discovery on May 23 while examining a 10-meter (33-foot) -deep hole bored near the ancient Aurelian Walls as part of construction work for the Metro C line. Source
  • Class of one: Nova Scotia teen is the only graduate at his high school

    Canada News CTV News
    He’s already been named valedictorian with the highest grades in his year and he stands a pretty good chance of being crowned king at his school’s prom. In fact, he may just be eligible to win every award at his graduation. Source
  • Trump awaits big meeting with Putin

    World News Toronto Sun
    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is eager to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin with full diplomatic bells and whistles when the two are in Germany for a multinational summit next month. But the idea is exposing deep divisions within the administration on the best way to approach Moscow in the midst of an ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the U.S. Source
  • Girl's actions caused her to fall from NY park ride, police say

    World News CTV News
    QUEENSBURY, N.Y. -- As authorities tried to determine exactly how a 14-year-old Delaware girl managed to fall from a New York amusement park ride, one industry expert said even the strictest safety guidelines won't prevent accidents if customers don't follow the rules. Source
  • Professor who backed black-only Memorial Day celebration on Fox News fired by Essex County College

    World News Toronto Sun
    A mouthy college professor who was fired last week after making a litany of outrageous statements on live TV compared her removal from Essex County College to a “public lynching.” Lisa Durden, a former communications professor at the New Jersey-based institution, was dismissed following a controversial appearance on Fox News' Tucker Carlson Tonight. Source
  • Donald Trump: SCOTUS' travel ban decision 'clear victory' for national security

    World News Toronto Sun
    WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court of the United States is letting a limited version of President Donald Trump’s ban on travel from six mostly Muslim countries take effect, a victory for Trump in the biggest legal controversy of his young presidency. Source