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

Residents speak out against proposed Parksville affordable housing development

Environment a primary concern; land is largely on a 200-year-old floodplain away from city centre

‘Epic sky palace’: Parksville businesses grant wish for young boy recovering from cancer

Eleven-year-old Kai Hennessey receives treehouse of his dreams

PQB crime report: RCMP on hunt for prowler, counterfeiters, car thieves

Police received 203 complaints the week of Dec. 29 to Jan. 4

Power lines cut as thieves strike Parksville veterinary hospital

‘Thankfully there weren’t any animals or staff in the clinic when this happened’

VIDEO: Nickelback gears up for nostalgia tour

Canadian band joins Stone Temple Pilots for a summer tour that includes just one stop in Canada

Province asks health-care staff to be ‘vigilant’ in screening for possible coronavirus cases

This comes after U.S. health officials confirmed a case of the virus in Washington State

Boy, 13, arrested after alleged assault involving girl at B.C. middle school

Boy alleged to have used ‘inappropriate levels of force’ to injure the girl

B.C. player becomes only second Canadian to enter Hall of Fame of Baseball

Walker received 76.6 percent of the Baseball Writers of America Association vote

PHOTOS: Heavy snowfall breaks window, causing avalanche into B.C. newsroom office

It was a chaotic start to the week for the Kitimat Northern Sentinel

Canadian law firm launches class action on behalf of Iran flight victims

Flight 752 was shot down by Iran shortly after take off

Mission Hill cellarman fired after mistakenly dumping $162K of wine down the drain

The former employee filed a grievance with the West Kelowna winery but was unsuccesful

Most Read