The process of welcoming thousands of Syrian refugees to Canada has reached a crucial juncture – as the year of resettlement support provided by both federal government and private sponsors comes to an end.
As the anniversary of the arrival of the first Syrians to Canada passes, the honeymoon period is well and truly over as newcomers without jobs start to claim via provincial social benefits channels.
More then 36,000 Syrians have entered Canada since December 10, 2015, when the image of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcoming refugees at Toronto’s Pearson Airport was beamed around the world.
Syrian Refugees Arrived in Canada So Far
|Blended Visa Office-Referred||3,725|
Source: Government of Canada
Now the reality is setting in concerning the difficulties of integrating into a new life and, most importantly, entering the workforce.
“Those of us who were at the airport that day with Prime Minister Trudeau will never forget the moving experience of welcoming Syrian newcomers with warm hearts and winter coats,” said Immigration Minister John McCallum.
“Millions of Canadians were equally moved as they followed media coverage of the event, and over the past year, they have enthusiastically greeted the arrival of resettled Syrian refugees in communities from coast to coast to coast.
“Canadians from all walks of life joined in what was truly a national project to resettle Syrian refugees. Every effort, big and small, from volunteers, service providers, sponsors, corporate Canada and so many others, combined to make an enormous difference.”
The federal government says it came significantly under budget with the amount of money it spent on bringing in Syrians.
The well-publicised drive to welcome 25,000 Syrians by the end of February 2016 and the continued lower-scale effort since cost the taxpayer $385 million against a planned spend of $455 million.
The government put the $70 million saving down to lower costs for transport and overseas processing, an unused contingency fund and temporary accommodation on Canadian Armed Forces bases not being required.
“Over the next five years, the Government of Canada will continue to invest in the settlement of these Syrian refugees to ensure that they integrate into and contribute fully to the Canadian economy and their communities,” a statement said.
The spending was spread across 10 government departments, although Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada ($193.1 million) and Global Affairs Canada ($161.6 million) picked up the majority of the bill.
Breakdown: Government Spending on Syrian Refugees
|Stage in Process||Amount Spent ($ millions)|
|Welcoming in Canada||80.0|
|Settlement and Integration||32.7|
Source: Government of Canada
The Canadian government admitted in October that the number of Syrian refugee children arriving in the last year came as a surprise.
Immigration Minister John McCallum says the large number of children ‘was not completely anticipated’, with schools especially struggling to cope with the influx of new students.
There were also issues with providing the right kind of housing for large families.
Planning issues still exist at federal and provincial level in terms of refugee numbers.
Officials in Manitoba, say they do not know exactly how many Syrians his province will be expected to take in the rest of 2016.
Teachers in New Brunswick were overwhelmed by the sudden influx of Syrian refugee students earlier this year leading to chaos in some classrooms, according to a report.
Schools were not prepared for new students who hadn’t been educated regularly for years, did not speak English and came from war-torn areas of the Middle East.
The result was a whirlwind of poor behaviour, bullying and problems surrounding gender roles as teachers were left to deal with a difficult adjustment phase often without the help of translators.
School staff said they had no idea how many students would be arriving meaning preparation was impossible and all teachers could do was react to the situation as it developed.
Extra funding to hire more staff eventually alleviated the problem.
Meanwhile, thousands of Syrian refugee families are stuck in limbo despite being matched with Canadian private sponsors ready to welcome them here.
In an article for the Toronto Star, two members of a private sponsorship group called on the government to devote resources to getting all those families matched up with sponsors into Canada on a timely basis.
Ian Urquhart and Ross McGregor say they can provide examples of families who were told back in February they would be moving in a few weeks, but are still languishing in camps or wherever they can find shelter.
“On the strength of that undertaking, they sold many of their belongings, paid to get out of their leased premises, and relocated to smaller, more expensive accommodation they could relinquish on very short notice,” Urquhart and McGregor wrote.
“Since then their security clearance process has dragged on and on, without explanation.”
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