Maritime leaders prepare for potential flood of Syrian refugees
Published Thursday, November 12, 2015 7:18PM AST
Last Updated Friday, November 13, 2015 7:32AM AST
Municipal and provincial politicians across the Maritimes are starting to contemplate numbers for a potential influx of Syrian refugees that the Liberals say will be arriving in Canada by the end of the year.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees in Canada by 2016. He admits it will be a challenge, but says the government is committed to the plan.
But there is uncertainty surrounding how many refugees will arrive in the Maritimes and where they will stay.
“For us it's not about number it's about answering the call,” said Nova Scotia Immigration Minister Lena Diab.“Information is critical and it's the information that we need from the federal government in order for us to assess provincially what we also need to do.”
A public meeting was held in Moncton Thursday night to discuss their approach.
“If you look at what normally happens in a year, basically they've got four times that projected to come in from Syria,” said Justin Ryan of the Multicultural Association of Greater Moncton (MAGMA).
MAGMA is leading the effort in Moncton, and expect between 200 and 300 refugees to settle in the Moncton area.
“One of the more reassuring things to one extent is that MAGMA has been resettling refugees into the area for more than 35 years,” said Ryan.
Beth Earle is the CEO of the Annapolis Basin Conference Centre located at the site of the former CFB Cornwallis. She says it can handle more than 1,000 refugees.
“We've really done a fair amount of work so that if somebody said to us tomorrow we want them to come there, we would be prepared to move forward with that,” said Earle.
Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil says the refugees will likely go in low populated communities where they can be handled.
"Potentially there may be some spots where a large cluster comes, goes through the process and then, working with our community partners across the province, we would move them into respective communities that were able to handle them."
Gerry Mills with the Immigration Services of Nova Scotia says everyone is getting ready.
“If we're talking about 25,000 and if we look at the number of refugees that normally come into Nova Scotia, a percentage of the 25,000, we're looking at between six to 700 refugees in the next couple of months,” said Mills.
“We have set a target of bringing 100 families of Syrian refugees to Cape Breton,” said Ian McNeil of Lifeline Syria.
Halifax Mayor Mike Savage, who is also the president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, says there will be certain things Nova Scotia cities will have to do.
“A lot of them are going to come to cities, so things like where are they going to learn the language, where are they going to live. Transit is a big piece. These are all things that the city can do, and the city is prepared to do its part,” said Savage.
Local volunteers will be needed right away. MAGMA says the first several weeks after a refugee lands in a new country are incredibly busy.
“That's where you have to teach them how to function in a Canadian apartment, as opposed to where they're from,” said Ryan. “That's where you teach them, this is a toque and this is a scarf and these are boots.”
Volunteers can help run language and social programs, but people can also volunteer for short-term projects.
“If we're just moving people from temporary accommodations, we found them some permanent accommodations, someone with a truck would be great,” said Ryan.
The Council of Atlantic Baptist Churches has been sponsoring refugees for more than 20 years and is providing information to the public.
“Think about how they can form a group, how they can move ahead and sponsoring refugees,” said Paul Carline with the council.
MAGMA admits there has been some apprehension.
“Not everyone in the community is naturally going to be excited about having such a large influx of refugees,” said Ryan.
Savage says if the government doesn't meet its end of year deadline, that's ok.
“I don't know of anything worthwhile that government does that isn't more easily said than done,” said Savage.
Both Savage and the province are hoping to speak with the federal minister as soon as possible.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Kayla Hounsell and Sarah Ritchie.