Qualicum Beach may get a family of Syrian refugees.
Chief Administrative Officer Daniel Sailland confirmed at Monday’s council meeting that they are looking at housing a refugee family in a town-owned house on Sunningdale Road, near the museum.
After the refugee crisis hit the news in September council unanimously approved a motion that council “formally confirms its support for efforts to bring a Syrian family or refugee family to Qualicum Beach and to assist the family starting a new life in our community.”
Mayor Teunis Westbroek made the motion after he and Coun. Anne Skipsey happened to attend a meeting about welcoming immigrants, that as he said “not surprisingly, dealt with the refugee crisis and how we can help.”
Sailland later told The NEWS staff he was looking into what efforts were already underway. “It takes a lot of energy to create a channel, it might be best to support existing efforts,” he said in September. This week he told council that while staff was looking into the details and co-ordinating with St. Marks Anglican Church and Tony Davis, the regional refugee co-ordinator for the Anglican Diocese, they realized the house recently vacated by the Family Resource Association (consolidating in Parksville).
“Since September there has been a huge outpouring of support, especially for Syrian refugees,” Davis said, adding he’s aware of at least 15 mid-Island groups looking to sponsor a family, including one through the Church of Ascension in Parksville.
He said the next step for Qualicum Beach is to put in a bid for a specific family, selected from a list, then do paperwork showing they will support them for a year.
He said the cost to the sponsoring group (supported by the town and church) averages $32,000 to $35,000 but housing is the biggest portion and they hope to be included in the “blended” sponsorship category under which the federal government pays half.
He said that while a couple years ago the process took two or three years, “the Liberal election promise” has sped up things dramatically, giving an example of a group who started in early November, applied in early December and had a family arrive this week. “The Liberals have done an excellent job.”
“I believe there are a good number of people in town who are talking about a sponsorship opportunity, or aren’t sure how to get involved,” said Skipsey, proposing a public information meeting on Jan. 25 that was unanimously supported by council.
“We all saw the dire need of what’s happening to the folks in Syria and Iraq,” Westbroek said, “But it’s not something the town can take on as a council or a town staff on our own, so what we’re looking for on the 25th is for people to step up to the plate.”
He said they will be looking for help in all areas including administration, transportation, education and renovating the house, which had once been a prison.
“We’ll want to make it a little more comfortable,” Westbroek said.
“One of the reasons I think probably all of us here ran for office in the first place,” said Coun. Neil Horner, “was to get the ability to do some good and I think this is an opportunity to do just that,” adding that he plans to be “heavily involved.”
Everyone is invited to hear more information, including how they might help, at the town hall meeting Monday, January 25, 4 to 6 p.m. at the Qualicum Beach Civic Centre.