Connecting government refugees with private sponsors makes sense: McCallum

TORONTO -- Connecting Syrian refugees who are still in temporary housing with private sponsors prepared to receive them -- as suggested by the Ontario government -- "definitely makes sense," Immigration Minister John McCallum said Tuesday.

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Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said her government believes the move would help clear a backlog of government-sponsored refugees still waiting for permanent housing.

"The challenge is that there are sponsoring families and groups that are ready to take refugees, but they haven't had refugees identified, they haven't had people identified for them, and there are people sitting in hotels who don't have access to housing and who don't have the supports," she said Tuesday.

"So we need to make that connection. We're on it. We've approached the federal government on this."

McCallum said Ottawa is "actively looking" at Wynne's suggestion.

"At a certain level it definitely makes sense," he said. "There are some other issues involved, but we are looking into that."

The influx of Syrian refugee arrivals has forced agencies in three cities to request a break in the action to hire extra staff and find permanent homes for those who have already arrived before any more are cleared to come to Canada.

The federal government has said the flow will not be slowing down, but refugees who were bound for Vancouver, Toronto and Ottawa will now remain in hotels for a few extra days.

As of Jan. 25, 13,764 Syrians in total have arrived in Canada since Nov. 4, of which 7,926 are government-assisted, 4,985 privately sponsored and 853 a blend of the two programs.

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.


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