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

 

Just Posted

Updated: Kelowna cops investigate armed robbery at city centre business

Robbery sparks late afternoon manhunt by armed police officers with guns drawn

UPDATED: Oliver wildfire extinguished, B.C. Wildfire mopping up

6-ha. brush fire contained before it could spread farther

As Penticton Indian Band goes dry, lessons from a northern neighbour

The Esk’etemc First Nation, a Secwepemc people near Williams Lake, has been dry since 1972

Peter’s Bros. scores $9M federal contract to repave highway in Jasper

The Penticton-based company is expected to complete the highway repaving project by late-October

Elvis lives again in Penticton

Elvis Festival back this weekend for 17th year

Updated: Kelowna cops investigate armed robbery at city centre business

Robbery sparks late afternoon manhunt by armed police officers with guns drawn

Late goal gives England 2-1 win over Tunisia

At the last World Cup in 2014, England couldn’t even win a game

Canadian military police officer pleads not guilty to sex assault

Sgt. Kevin MacIntyre, 48, entered his plea today at a court martial proceeding in Halifax

Vernon cold case murder suspect bail hearing Tuesday

Paramjit Singh Bogarh will appear in Vernon Law Courts at 10 a.m. June 19

Tigers looking to lock up title

Face Flames tonight in Penticton

Cheers erupt as Federal Court judge approves historic gay purge settlement

Gay military veterans said they were interrogated, harassed and spied on because of their sexuality

Remains of two people found on Vancouver Island

Officials have not said whether or not the remains belong to two missing men, last seen in Ucluelet in mid-May

Helping B.C.’s helpers cope

The MRT has helped almost 7,000 first responders and street workers in 57 communities in B.C.

Most Read