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

  • Charity calls on government to help resettle 300 LGBTQ2S+ Afghans trying to escape to Canada

    Canada News CTV News
    A charity that rescues LGBTQ2S+ refugees facing violence and discrimination internationally is calling on the Canadian government to partner with them to facilitate a way out for the hundreds of Afghans who have reached out to them in desperation. Source
  • N. Korea's low death count questioned amid COVID-19 outbreak

    World News CTV News
    SEOUL, South Korea - North Korea said Friday that nearly 10 per cent of its 26 million people have fallen ill and 65 people have died amid its first COVID-19 outbreak, as outside experts question the validity of its reported fatalities and worry about a possible humanitarian crisis. Source
  • Maud Lewis painting, once traded for grilled cheese sandwiches, sells for $350K

    Canada News CTV News
    NEW HAMBURG, Ont. - Hungry for some uplifting news, a man from western Canada stumbled across a story about a painting up for auction. The work by acclaimed Nova Scotia folk artist Maud Lewis had been traded in the 1970s for some grilled cheese sandwiches. Source
  • Rep. Ocasio-Cortez says she's engaged to longtime partner

    World News CTV News
    NEW YORK - U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said Thursday she's engaged to her longtime partner Riley Roberts, a marketing professional she met over a decade ago while they were undergraduates at Boston University. The pair got engaged last month in her family's hometown in Puerto Rico, the Democratic congresswoman confirmed to Insider and later on social media. Source
  • Taliban orders all female TV presenters to cover their faces while on air

    World News CBC News
    Afghanistan's Taliban rulers ordered all female presenters on TV channels to cover their faces on air, the country's biggest media outlet said Thursday. The order came in a statement from the Taliban's Virtue and Vice Ministry, tasked with enforcing the group's rulings, as well as from the Information and Culture Ministry, the TOLOnews channel said in a tweet. Source
  • Flood fight ramps up in Minnedosa, Man., amid heavy rainfall

    Canada News CBC News
    The flood fight continues in parts of western Manitoba. And with a rainfall warning in place due to a weather system expected to bring 30 to 40 millimetres by Friday morning, people in the southwestern town of Minnedosa were frantically sandbagging and pumping water throughout a downpour Thursday, as the Little Saskatchewan River inched higher. Source
  • Alberta premiership in flux as UCP MLAs meet in Calgary to plot next steps

    Canada News CBC News
    United Conservative Party MLAs are meeting in Calgary today to plot next steps after Premier Jason Kenney announced his intention to resign as party leader. On Wednesday night, Kenney said he'd asked the party to call a leadership race after he earned a sliver more than a majority of votes in a party leadership review. Source
  • Jason Kenney to remain as premier, party leader until new UCP leader is chosen

    Canada News CBC News
    Alberta Premier Jason Kenney will remain at the helm of the United Conservative Party until a new leader is chosen, the UCP caucus said on Thursday. "We have affirmed Premier Jason Kenney's continued leadership of our caucus and government until such time as a new leader is chosen, the timing of which will be determined by the United Conservative Party," caucus chair Nathan Neudorf said in a statement released late Thursday afternoon. Source
  • This Ontario woman is selling thousands of caterpillars as raise-and-release butterflies

    Canada News CBC News
    For a few days this month, Jessica Watson's kitchen table in Hagersville, Ont., was covered with thousands of spiny, black caterpillars. It's not an infestation, or as icky as it might sound at first, because the wriggling, worm-like creatures are destined to become painted ladies. Source
  • No more fines for U.K. PM Boris Johnson after police wrap 'partygate' probe

    World News CBC News
    Britain's Metropolitan Police told Prime Minister Boris Johnson he faced no further action over lockdown-breaching gatherings at his official residence and other government sites, after the force said Thursday it has concluded its investigation into politicians' parties that violated the country's coronavirus restrictions. Source