The plan to re-settle 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the year is being pushed back until the end of February.
The federal government has finally unveiled more details of its plan to resettle Syrian refugees.
The government says it is no longer married to its goal of resettling all 25,000 refugees by the end of the year. Instead, 10,000 will come by year’s end, with a further 15,000 in January and February.
Immigration minister John McCallum says it was a matter of making sure the job wasn’t rushed.
“I have heard Canadians across this country say yes you have to do it right, and if it takes a little bit longer to do it right, then take the extra time.”
The first arrivals will be a mixture of privately sponsored and government assisted refugees, and the full 25,000 will be identified and selected by New Years.
John McCallum says “this is a national project that will involve all Canadians” #cdnpoli
— Shelby Thom (@ShelbyThom980) November 24, 2015
The refugees will come from Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon, and McCallum says Canada is working closely with the governments of those countries to ensure exit visas.
According to Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, all security screening and initial medical screening will be fully completed before the refugees board the planes for Canada.
Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan announced that the Royal Canadian Air Force will be flying Syrians to Canada in waves, every 48 hours.
He says military personnel will help with screening and processing overseas prior to flights to Canada, including biometrics such as fingerprinting and digital photos.
Sajjan also confirmed that 6000 may be temporarily housed on military bases in Ontario and Quebec.
Health Minister Jane Philpott expects the refugees that arrive will thrive in Canada.
“Canadians as you know have a long history of welcoming to our country displaced people from all over the world in need of protection and security, to rebuild their lives. And we have seen how they’ve thrived in Canada as a result of the many services that our country can offer.”
And she says Ottawa could step in if there are housing issues.
“If necessary, the federal government will make interim housing arrangements to refugees while they make their way to more permanent housing.”
Complete families, women at risk, members of sexual minorities and LGBT single men are among those who will be given priority.
The program cost is estimated at $678-million over six years, but doesn’t account for additional funding possibly needed for provinces and territories.
Reaction from the provincial government to today’s news from the feds on Canada’s Syrian refugee intake appears to be supportive.
Jobs minister Shirley Bond says B.C. can take 3,500 Syrian refugees across the province.
Meanwhile Bond says she appreciates what she calls the “clarity” today from the federal government on the new timeline.
“We think that it’s a very prudent approach, and I think it shows the federal government listened to the concerns expressed by Canadians that security had to be a number one consideration and also making sure we have the capacity to welcome refugees to Canada in an appropriate way.”
“But what we don’t have yet are the specific numbers for British Columbia, and we anticipate hearing mroe about that in the next few days.”
Bond says B.C. already welcomes around 1,700 refugees every year, so the expertise to deal with the new arrivals is already here.
Cities weigh in
Vancouver City Councillor Geoff Meggs says the feds were ambitious with their plan, but Vancouver and the region is ready to accept the new Canadians.
“We have a network, it’ll be strained, I think it’ll take a while to get it right up to speed. But our staff have been meeting with their counterparts from other cities in the region for a couple of weeks already. So far what I’m hearing: there’s lots to do, but it’ll get done.”
He expects only about 300 refugees will settle in the city, with the the brunt going to other areas of Metro Vancouver.
Meanwhile, Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner says today’s delay in plans will allow more time to plan and prepare.
“I think that longer term actually plays well into both the security and health concerns. So I was pleased to hear that the federal government wants to do it right.”
Hepner says she’s encouraged to hear that Ottawa is pledging money over a longer, six year period which she says shows they have been listening to municipalities.
But she says there are still lingering questions about ensuring support services, including schooling, housing, counselling, and ESL have enough money.
“As long as we have the adequate funding and the resources in the municiaplities, that will ensure that this is a success for those that are moving to our community. But we certainly need the funds and the resources, not only upon their initial arrival but over the long term.”
Those concerns were echoed earlier this week by Tahzeem Kassam of DiverseCity, which will be providing many of those services.
“We know that we have programs that work, the structures are in place. But we need to look at how we fund those services because they kind of at capacity.”
More to come…