Feds slow pace of Syrian refugee rescue to ‘do it right’

Canada now aims to accept 10,000 refugees by end of December, remainder of 25,000 in January, February

Immigration and Refugees Minister John McCallum.

The federal Liberal government has retreated from its campaign promise to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the year, announcing Tuesday it has pushed that target back two months.

The aim now is to have 10,000 of the refugees in Canada by the end of December, with the rest arriving in January and February.

“Yes, we want to bring them fast, but we also want to do it right,” Immigration Minister John McCallum said, adding that was the clear message he heard from Canadians.

“There are a lot of moving parts here. So we are happy to take a little more time because that allows us to be more prepared.”

McCallum said it’s important not just to welcome incoming Syrian refugees “with a smile” but to also equip them properly.

“We want them to have a roof over their heads, we want them to have the right support for language training and all the other things that they need to begin their new life here in Canada.”

All refugees will be processed overseas and undergo biometric data collection, detailed interviews and rigorous screening checks against multiple security databases, said Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale.

Any concern, discomfort or doubt will prompt screeners to move on to candidates without red flags, he said.

Women, children and families are to get priority ahead of single men, unless they identify as LGBT or are part of a family unit.

The government isn’t setting any religious preference.

“We choose the most vulnerable whatever their religion might be,” McCallum said.

He predicted Syrians coming to Canada will include significant numbers of Christians living in Lebanon or Jordan but outside refugee camps, acknowledging concerns that Christians avoid the camps.

The refugees will arrive mainly via commercial flights, but military planes are also on standby if needed.

They’ll initially land in Toronto or Montreal before going to various cities across the country.

Up to 3,500 of the Syrian refugees are expected to come to B.C., with many of them settling in Metro Vancouver.

“If they are transferred to Vancouver, they could end up in Surrey,” McCallum said.

He added Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps is “very keen to receive refugees, not just for Victoria but for other places on Vancouver Island.”

McCallum said his vision is to distribute refugees relatively evenly across the country, if possible.

Although the government won’t have control over where refugees ultimately stay, it will avoid sending one family by itself to a community, instead dispatching them in clusters of perhaps 10 if there are no existing family links.

“So they will have some people in their own community as they go to this new place,” McCallum explained.

He said “many” privately sponsored Syrian refugees could also come to Canada in 2016 over and above the federal target of 25,000 primarily government-sponsored refugees.

“I would not be surprised if that number was large,” he said, crediting tremendous interest by Canadians to help.

B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong said Tuesday the costs to B.C. of refugee resettlement are primarily a federal responsibility, but the province has added $1 million to the $4 million it spends annually to support the federal immigrant resettlement program. He also expects significant costs to the B.C. school system.

“There are going to be, we’re told, a lot of children,” de Jong said. “A lot of traumatized children.”

– with files from Tom Fletcher

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

North Coast BC NDP MLA Incumbent is seen with her wife Andrea Wilmot and their son Lua, as well as their dog Duncan. Preliminary results on election night Oct. 24 show Rice is in for a third term. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Jennifer Rice is North Coast MLA for third term

Preliminary election results show NDP Majority government

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

John Horgan has been re-elected the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. (File-Black Press)
Horgan trounces challengers to be re-elected in his Vancouver Island riding

MLA has represented constituency of Langford-Juan de Fuca and its predecessors since 2005

Poppy donation boxes have been delivered to restaurants, cafes, stores and places of businesses in Prince Rupert by the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 127 for the 2020 National Poppy Campaign. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
National poppy campaign restricted by COVID-19

Prince Rupert Royal Canadian legion expects less donations to offer vital assistance to local vets

(Image by Ulrike Leone from Pixabay)
QUIZ: A celebration of colour

Fall in British Columbia is a time to enjoy a spectrum of vivid colours

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Chastity Davis-Alphonse took the time to vote on Oct. 21. B.C’s general Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. (Chastity Davis-Alphonse Facebook photo)
B.C. reconciliation advocate encourages Indigenous women to vote in provincial election

Through the power of voice and education Chastity Davis-Alphonse is hopeful for change

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

Most Read