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

  • Saskatoon woman wants 'sizeism' added to human rights protections

    Canada News CTV News
    A Saskatoon woman is campaigning to have size and physical appearance added to the Saskatchewan Human Rights Legislation as protected grounds against discrimination. “I don’t want other people to feel held back,” Hayley Roesler told CTV Saskatoon. Source
  • North Korea says Malaysian investigation into Kim Jong Nam's death lacks fairness

    World News CTV News
    SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of -- North Korea says a Malaysian investigation into the death of one of its nationals is full of "holes and contradictions" amid speculation that its agents masterminded the assassination of leader Kim Jong Un's half brother. Source
  • North Korea denies it was behind killing at Malaysia airport

    World News CTV News
    KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- North Korea denied Thursday that its agents masterminded the assassination of the half brother of leader Kim Jong Un, saying a Malaysian investigation into the death of one of its nationals is full of "holes and contradictions. Source
  • Mayor of Ryley, Alta., defends decision to charge senior for house painting

    Canada News CTV News
    The mayor of an Alberta village where an 86-year-old man says he was forced to sell his home after getting a $3,285 bill from the city for painting its “unsightly” exterior is sticking by the decision. Source
  • British man 'will never see a penny' of ex's $24M lottery winnings

    World News Toronto Sun
    There’s bad luck. Then there’s Sean Priestley-level bad luck. Just months after splitting with long-time partner Beverley Doran — he was with her 12 years and fathered her three children — he was stunned to discover she’d won nearly $24 million in the Euromillions lottery. Source
  • ‘If we all stand up it can stop’: Pink Shirt Day marked around the world

    Canada News CTV News
    As messages of hate seem to be ever present, Pink Shirt Day reminds Canadians of the importance of standing up for one another and fighting stereotypes. Pink Shirt Day started in Nova Scotia in 2007 after a male Grade 9 student was bullied for wearing a pink shirt to school. Source
  • 'If we all stand up it can stop': Pink Shirt Day hopes to end bullying

    Canada News CTV News
    As messages of hate seem to be ever present, Pink Shirt Day reminds Canadians of the importance of standing up for one another and fighting stereotypes. Pink Shirt Day started in Nova Scotia in 2007 after a male Grade 9 student was bullied for wearing a pink shirt to school. Source
  • UN: $4.4B needed within weeks to stop hunger 'catastrophe'

    World News CTV News
    The United Nations needs $4.4 billion by the end of March to prevent catastrophic hunger and famine in South Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen, yet just $90 million has been collected so far, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Wednesday. Source
  • Two Kansas men jailed for hate-crime attack on Somalis

    World News Toronto Sun
    WICHITA, Kan. — Two southwest Kansas men were punished Wednesday for their roles in a hate crime attack on three Somali that a federal judge said flies in the face of everything cherished in this country. U.S. Source
  • Quebecer charged in PC Plus breach, collectors urged to fortify password

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    Ottawa police have confirmed that a Laval, Que., man is alleged to be behind a scam that involves stealing shoppers’ PC Plus points from their accounts. Police say 21-year-old Ferradji Manigat was arrested on Jan. Source