Syrian refugees helping repopulate East Coast, but will they stay?

HALIFAX -- As Syrian refugees flow into Atlantic Canada, there's hope they'll help repopulate a struggling region even as the newcomers navigate the challenges of housing shortages and a tight job market.

See Full Article

"You can bring hundreds and thousands and if they don't stay, you have lost, you haven't done anything," Lena Diab, the Nova Scotia minister of Immigration, said in an interview Monday. "Retention is always in my mind."

Approximately 946 Syrian refugees will have landed in Nova Scotia by this week, including a family of seven on Monday, with 1,500 expected by year's end.

That's over half of the number of immigrants the province usually attracts in international immigration in a single year -- and helps the province's push to reverse its projected population decline.

The Ivany commission, a landmark study on the province's economy, has called for Nova Scotia to more than double its annual immigrant figures, to 7,000 a year as a way to cope with depopulation.

Similar calls for increased immigration are being heard in New Brunswick, with warnings issued last year that the province's death rate is not outpacing its births and Premier Brian Gallant petitioning Ottawa for more immigrants.

According to the federal Immigration Department website on refugees, that province is expecting about 1,000 Syrians this year.

In Prince Edward Island, the province is expecting 250 refugees this year, about a quarter of its annual immigration last year. Newfoundland and Labrador has a similar number expected.

Some are bringing valuable skills, and are quickly being linked into private sponsorship groups determined to help them stay.

Ahmad Ayash arrived at the Halifax airport Monday with his wife Fatmeh and five children, saying he hopes to eventually continue his work as a civil engineer in the province.

"It's the greatest feeling," he said with a big smile as a church group welcomed him. "I am grateful and thankful for all the people here in Lunenburg who are helping us and supporting us."

It's the kind of support that Rev. Michael Mitchell of St. John's Anglican Church in Lunenburg, N.S., hopes to provide the new family, with a committee member already planning to look into how to help Ayash recertify.

"We hope because he (the father) is an engineer that he'll have a marketable skill," said the priest.

Diab, who speaks Arabic, said she visited a support centre for the Syrians in person on Monday, and says it helps that she can speak the same language in making people feel welcome.

"People were shocked, they were amazed and ... it's a great start," she said.

Claudette Legault, director of the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia, says she hopes the support of the private sponsors will help overcome the challenges of housing shortages and finding jobs -- two problems that have led to refugees departing the region in the past.

"If they're able to build connections in the first year, that may keep them here," she said.

However, there are challenges in housing and in finding work for the family providers. Meanwhile, as families concentrate in Toronto and other large centres, it tends to create a magnet drawing more refugees.

Two families expected on Monday made last minute switches to change their destination to Ontario, resulting in sponsorship groups suddenly changing their plans to receive them at the Halifax airport.

Jacqueline Derrah of the Atlantic Baptist Convention in Saint John, N.B., said it can be disappointing for the volunteer groups longing for their arrival.

On the other hand, the director of the church's refugee program in the region said she's hearing from Syrian refugees that Atlantic Canada destinations are becoming more desirable in refugee camps because they don't face the same backlogs in processing and assistance as larger cities.

"We pick up government assisted refugees at the airport and help them get settled for six weeks. ... quickly the word has spread in the camps you want to go to Saint John or Halifax," she said.

There are also hopes in the region that the refugees will help inject entrepreneurial drive, as well as providing a workforce for the region's agricultural and fishing industries.

"They are highly motivated to work and we are hearing over and over and over again of job opportunities for these folks long before they arrive here," said Derrah.

- with files from Keith Doucette



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • A Big House for retirement: Ont. man to live in converted N.B. jail

    Canada News CTV News
    DORCHESTER, N.B. - An Ontario garbage worker has decided to retire to the Big House -- a defunct New Brunswick jail with a history of hangings. Bill Steele of Oshawa just bought the former jail in Dorchester -- listed for $159,900 -- which was decommissioned more than 20 years ago and features 15 original cells. Source
  • ACLU, Georgia battle over 'Allah' last name for toddler

    World News CTV News
    ATLANTA -- A civil rights group sued Georgia over the state's refusal to allow a couple to officially name its 22-month-old child "Allah." The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia filed the lawsuit recently in Fulton County Superior Court on behalf of the couple, Elizabeth Handy and Bilal Walk. Source
  • U.S. stocks lower as 'Trump trade' runs out of steam

    World News CBC News
    The three-month rally in stock markets ran out of a little steam on Monday on worries that the Trump White House may not be able to push through as many changes to business regulations as once thought. Source
  • Family pays tribute to American slain in London terror attack

    World News CTV News
    LONDON -- The family of an American slain in last week's terror attack in London expressed gratitude for the kindness of strangers on Monday, offering hope and resolve that some good would result from the tragedy. Source
  • Kushner agrees to speak to Senate panel about Russia

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Donald Trump's son-in-law has volunteered to answer questions before the Senate Intelligence Committee about arranging meetings with the Russian ambassador and other officials, the White House confirmed Monday. Jared Kushner has agreed to speak to the committee, which is conducting an investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election, including whether there are any ties between Trump associates and the Kremlin, the White House said. Source
  • 'No evidence' London attacker associated with ISIS: police

    World News CTV News
    LONDON -- Police have found no evidence that the man who killed four people in London last week was associated with the Islamic State group or al Qaeda, a senior British counterterrorism officer said Monday. Source
  • London attacker wasn't linked to al-Qaeda or ISIS, police say

    World News CBC News
    A senior British counterterrorism officer says police have found "no evidence" Westminster attacker Khalid Masood was associated with ISIS or al-Qaeda. Deputy assistant commissioner Neil Basu said Masood clearly had "an interest in jihad," but police have no evidence he discussed his attack with others. Source
  • U.S. couple accused of trying to sell baby on Craigslist for $3,000

    World News CTV News
    ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. - Authorities say a Tennessee couple is accused of trying to sell a 5-month-old baby online for $3,000. Local news outlets report that the Greene County Sheriff's Office says 37-year-old Deanna Lynn Greer and 26-year-old John David Cain were arrested Friday on charges of aggravated child abuse and aggravated child neglect or endangerment. Source
  • 5 things we learned about the changing nature of news from The National in Conversation

    Canada News CBC News
    Some of CBC's top journalists and personalities from around the country gathered in Charlottetown on Friday for a panel discussion about the changing nature of news. Peter Mansbridge, CBC's chief correspondent, was the moderator. On the panel were senior correspondent Susan Ormiston, Power & Politics host Rosemary Barton, CBC News Now with Ian Hanomansing host Ian Hanomansing, CBC News: Nova Scotia and East Coast correspondent to The National Tom Murphy, columnist Rex Murphy and This Hour Has…
  • Massive $1M gold Canadian coin stolen in Berlin

    World News CBC News
    Berlin police say thieves broke into the German capital's Bode Museum and made off with a massive 100-kilogram gold coin issued by the Royal Canadian Mint that's worth millions. Dubbed the "Big Maple Leaf" and measuring three-centimetres thick with a diameter of 53 centimetres, the coin has a portrait of the Queen on one side and maple leaves on the other. Source