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

  • Winter's approach sets clock ticking for Ukraine, Russia

    World News CTV News
    KYIV, Ukraine - The onset of autumnal weather, with rains making fields too muddy for tanks, is beginning to cloud Ukraine's efforts to take back more Russian-held territory before winter freezes the battlefields, a Washington-based think tank said Sunday. Source
  • Age and immigration: 'Very difficult' for applicants once they turn 40

    Canada News CTV News
    Canada is credited for having one of the world’s most immigrant-friendly policies, ranking fourth internationally in the Migrant Integration Policy Index. But the criteria used to prioritize applicants based on age leaves many at a disadvantage, even though they might have the qualifications Canada is looking for. Source
  • Polls open in Italy, where voters could bring far-right to power

    World News CBC News
    Italians were voting on Sunday in an election that could move the country's politics sharply toward the right during a critical time for Europe, with war in Ukraine fuelling skyrocketing energy bills and testing the West's resolve to stand united against Russian aggression. Source
  • South Korea says North Korea test-fired missile toward sea

    World News CTV News
    SEOUL, South Korea - South Korea's military says North Korea has fired at least one unidentified ballistic missile toward its eastern sea. South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff on Sunday did not immediately say what type of missile it was or how far it flew. Source
  • Homecoming at Western University closes main roads in London, Ont., as police try to contain parties

    Canada News CBC News
    Western University's homecoming celebrations kicked off early Saturday with mobs of students blocking traffic and police from multiple jurisdictions preparing for a long night. Emergency crews were on scene as an estimated 20,000 young people dressed in school colours spilled out of houses onto Richmond Street and other roads in the university neighbourhoods. Source
  • Biden administration launches environmental justice office

    World News CTV News
    WARRENTON, N.C. - Forty years after a predominantly Black community in Warren County, North Carolina, rallied against hosting a hazardous waste landfill, President Biden's top environment official visited what is widely considered the birthplace of the environmental justice movement Saturday to unveil a national office that will distribute $3 billion USD in block grants to underserved communities burdened by pollution. Source
  • Reaction to destruction caused by post-tropical storm Fiona across the East Coast

    Canada News CTV News
    HALIFAX - Post-tropical storm Fiona knocked out power to more than 500,000 customers in the Maritimes and forced towns in Cape Breton and on Newfoundland's southwestern coast to declare states of emergency on Saturday. Officials in Port aux Basques, N.L. Source
  • Mali prime minister lashes out at France, UN, saying country had been 'stabbed in the back'

    World News CTV News
    Mali's prime minister lashed out Saturday at former colonizer France, the UN. secretary-general and many people in between, saying that the tumultuous country had been "stabbed in the back" by the French military withdrawal. In the same remarks, Abdoulaye Maiga praised the "exemplary and fruitful cooperation between Mali and Russia. Source
  • China on Taiwan: 'External interference' won't be tolerated

    World News CTV News
    UNITED NATIONS - China underscored its commitment Saturday to its claim to Taiwan, telling world leaders that anyone who gets in the way of its determination to reunify with the self-governing island would be "crushed by the wheels of history. Source
  • Pharoah Sanders, influential saxophonist revered in jazz world, dead at 81

    World News CBC News
    Pharoah Sanders, the influential tenor saxophonist revered in the jazz world for the spirituality of his work, has died, his record label announced. He was 81. Sanders, also known for his extensive work alongside John Coltrane in the 1960s, died in Los Angeles early Saturday, said the post on Twitter from Luaka Bop, the label that released his 2021 album, Promises. Source