As U.S. Deliberates Over Syrian Refugees, Canada Prepares For 25,000


Refugee schools

While the United States deliberates about the threat of Syrian refugees, its neighbor to the north, Canada, is following through on a promise to resettle 25,000 refugees before the year ends.

Newly-elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the promise while campaigning in the recent elections with the Liberal Party and the Huffington Post reported on Thursday that the Canadian government will need to resettle 500 people each day to fulfill the promise.

“We’re committed to do this fast, but we’re also committed to do it right, to do it well,” Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship John McCallum told CBC News. “And those involve particularly concerns around security and concerns about health.”

The sheer number of people set for Canada has some worried about the potential conditions refugees will be settled in. Canada normally settles around 13,000 refugees each year.

“We haven’t done that in the past, so that will be a huge challenge for us,” Fariborz Birjandian, the head of the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society (CCIS), told the CBC. “We’ve done it on a smaller scale and it had worked. But there are major challenges, such as housing allowance.”

Refugees in Canada are provided one year’s worth of living allowance. A family of four would receive a stipend of 1,542 Canadian Dollars ($1160.71) each month with 695 Canadian Dollars ($523.15) for rent.

“If they provide enough market rate rent, I think we can do it,” said Birjandian.

Meanwhile, committees in the Canadian capital of Ottawa are planning outreach to help the new residents access health care.

Air Canada has offered to send plans to the Middle East to pick up refugees from cities like Beirut, Lebanon and Istanbul, Turkey. Around 1.7 million Syrian refugees are currently based in Turkey,according to UNHCR, while in Lebanon 1 in 5 people are Syrian refugees. Aid is running out in these countries and as winter approaches, more will try to find their way to Europe by sea or rough the winter cold in camps – some official and some makeshift.

“Canadians are eager to step up to the plate,” Peter Showler, the former Chair of the Immigration and Refugee Board and Director of the Refugee Forum in the University of Ottawa, wrote in the Ottawa Citizen. “It is a Herculean task and we should damn well do it.”


Reprinted with permission from Think Progress, a branch of The Center for American Progress