Syrian refugee program coming into focus as Ottawa, Victoria bring more resources to table

55e4820575539There was good news on three fronts today as federal Immigration Minister John McCallum swooped into Surrey to meet local MLAs, Metro mayors and a wide range of immigrant-serving organizations to update them on plans to welcome as many as 10,000 Syrian refugees to Canada in the next few months.

The highlights:

  • McCallum, who has been to camps in Jordan and a Governor-General’s conference in Ottawa in the last four days, promised to ensure part of the $700 million federal commitment to the program will support provision of housing for new arrivals, an expense municipalities cannot shoulder;
  • provincial Jobs Minister Shirley Bond announced new provincial resources, including $500,000 to the Immigrant Settlement Services Society of BC and $1.5 million for job training, in addition to five regional co-ordination offices;
  • Sikh community leaders from Surrey, including Balwant Sanghera, confirmed their contribution of free tuition, housing and other resources for new arrivals; and
  • a representative of Ian Gillespie’s Westbank properties confirmed that Gillespie’s company, which has committed 12 transition housing units, has also collected more than 20,000 pounds worth of furniture, houseware and other necessities for new arrivals.

One statistic that McCallum used more than once: the 80,000 refugees now straining Jordan’s resources are the equivalent to 3.5 million refugees in Canada, which does much to put the 35,000 to 50,000 we may eventually welcome into more perspective.