Vancouver, Ottawa ask feds for break from taking in Syrian refugees

OTTAWA -- Two cities, Vancouver and Ottawa, are taking a break from accepting any more government-assisted Syrian refugees as agencies in both cities try to work through housing bottlenecks.

See Full Article

A surge of arrivals in the last month filled temporary housing to capacity and the settlement groups responsible say they need time to move people into permanent homes before they can accept any new cases.

The director of settlement for the Immigrant Services Society of B.C. says the pause in Vancouver will last five days, beginning Tuesday. Even though the group added 700 beds to its housing stock, it is still taking time to find permanent homes, Chris Friesen said.

"Nobody is stuck in an airport for a week or something like that," he said. "Overseas, what it means is either they will put them on later flights or they may (send) them to new centres that have current capacity just to keep the flow going," he said.

Friesen said it also took more time than expected for the federal Immigration Department to process the cheques newcomers use to pay for their first homes and other needs.

In Ottawa, officials had been gearing up for large numbers of privately sponsored refugees but what came first was the influx of government-assisted ones, filling the available beds. A delay in accepting new government-assisted refugees could last as long as a week.

"The timing just needs to be spread out a bit, it's just been this huge influx over a two-week period," said Leslie Emory, the executive director of the Ottawa Immigrant Community Services Organization.

The pause only applies to government-assisted refugees, those whose costs are covered entirely by the federal government.

Upon arrival in Canada, they are sent to one of 36 cities that have resettlement agreements with the government. Of the 25,000 Syrians the Liberals plan to bring in by the end of February, about 15,000 are to be part of that category and 5,932 have arrived so far.

An early element of the resettlement plan called for refugees to be housed temporarily at military bases in Ontario and Quebec until permanent homes could be found, but that is now considered an option of last resort. No bases have taken refugees so far.

A spokesperson for the Immigration Department said the size of the refugee resettlement operations brings challenges and the department is working with communities buckling under the strain. The spokesperson did not immediately say whether other communities had requested a pause.

Privately sponsored refugees will continue to arrive in both Vancouver and Ottawa.

Immigration Minister John McCallum said Monday the resettlement challenge is on the government's mind. One thing he said is under consideration is finding a way to get Syrians into more French-speaking communities.

McCallum says more than 90 per cent of refugees that have arrived don't speak either of the official languages, creating what he calls a blank slate for refugees and provinces to teach them either English or French.

But language-training courses are in high demand across the country. Friesen said. While some cities have no wait lists, others see new immigrants wait for over a year.

-- With files from Jordan Press in Saint Andrews, N.B.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Advisory issued as heavy fog hangs over southern Ontario

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- Much of southern Ontario is under a blanket of thick fog that has drastically reduced visibility on roads and highways across much of the region. Environment Canada issued a fog advisory Saturday night that remained in effect Sunday morning. Source
  • $25M winning ticket sold in Quebec for Lotto 649 jackpot

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- Quebec has another big lottery winner. The $25 million jackpot in Saturday night's Lotto 649 draw was claimed by ticket purchased somewhere in the province. And the draw's guaranteed $1 million prize also went to a ticket holder in Quebec. Source
  • La Loche healing a year after shooting, but much work remains

    Canada News CBC News
    Teachers and school staff in the traumatized northern village of La Loche, Sask. all agreed on a New Year's resolution — try to go home by 6 p.m. every night. For those working at La Loche Community School, it's not just about education anymore. Source
  • Homeowners ill-informed about flood compensation, poll suggests

    Canada News CBC News
    Many Canadian homeowners may be misinformed about whether they'll get federal compensation for basements flooded due to severe weather, a newly released survey suggests. The poll — commissioned last summer for Public Safety Canada — found 40 per cent of respondents agreed with the statement: "The government will take care of me and my home if there's major overland flooding. Source
  • Airport screening rules revamped for transgender travellers

    Canada News CBC News
    The federal agency in charge of security at Canadian airports has changed its screening procedures to increase sensitivity and privacy for transgender travellers, but advocates worry the procedures could be problematic if staff aren't properly trained in how to carry them out. Source
  • Liberal cabinet retreat in Calgary well-timed as electoral tests loom

    Canada News CBC News
    Justin Trudeau and his ministers will gather next week for a cabinet retreat in Calgary, site of a Liberal breakthrough in the last election that will soon be put to the test in a pair of byelections. Source
  • 'He wants Americans to love him': Trump biographers on what kind of president he'll be

    World News CBC News
    When pressed for a one-word assessment of the new U.S. president, this is what two of Donald Trump's biographers came up with. "Ego," said Tim O'Brien. "Needy," said Michael D'Antonio. Both authors have spent a lot of time with the real estate mogul who now sits in the Oval Office, trying to chisel away at what D'Antonio describes as a self-created caricature to get at the man behind the public persona. Source
  • A softer side of government: How Larry the cat became a purr-fect political companion on Downing Street

    World News CBC News
    Past the heavily guarded gates of Downing Street in central London, through the famous black door at No. 10, there is a brown-and-white tabby sporting a Union Jack collar that stalks up and down the halls. Source
  • Magnitude 8 quake hits Solomon Islands

    World News Toronto Sun
    CANBERRA, Australia — A powerful magnitude 8 earthquake hit the Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands on Sunday, but no tsunami was reported hours after the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued an alert for nearby islands. The quake struck at a depth of 167 kilometres (103 miles) under Papua New Guinea’s most eastern province of Bougainville, where the two South Pacific countries meet in a continuous archipelago, said Chris McKee, assistant director of Papua New Guinea Geophysical Observatory…
  • 12 bodies recovered after landslide buries hotel in China

    World News CBC News
    Authorities in China say they've recovered the bodies of 12 people killed inside a hotel overrun by a landslide. State media reported Sunday that rescuers were able to pull out everyone trapped underneath rocks and debris after the Friday night landslide in Hunan province. Source