B.C. to deploy refugee settlement team

December 2, 2015

By Tara Carman, Vancouver Sun |

What was expected to be several thousand Syrian refugees arriving in B.C. by year’s end is now down to just over 200, and it is still unclear how many more will be coming to the province, or when.

Federal Immigration Minister John McCallum and B.C. Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training Minister Shirley Bond held a joint news conference in Surrey on Wednesday to provide an update on the province’s plans to accommodate its share of the 25,000 Syrian refugees the Trudeau government has committed to bringing to Canada by the end of February. But neither minister could say how many would settle in B.C.

“The only number that I can give you today that I have had confirmed is that we will receive 217 privately sponsored refugees by the end of the year. … You have to remember, they’re still processing people in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon, so this is very fluid, very complicated,” Bond said in an interview.

While it is possible that “a few” government-assisted refugees will arrive in B.C. this year, Bond said, the majority are expected in January in February, when Ottawa expects to bring 15,000 to Canada.

McCallum could not say how many of those would come to B.C.

“One of the things we talked about today with Minister McCallum … obviously we can better serve refugees if we know when they’re coming and who’s coming,” Bond said.

McCallum was in Surrey, the city the most refugees in B.C. call home, to work with provincial and municipal officials on refugee settlement plans and recognize the contributions of two Lower Mainland groups who have “stepped up to help” — the Lower Mainland’s Sikh community and developer Ian Gillespie of Westbank Projects.

Tony Singh, owner of the Fruiticana grocery chain, has offered free groceries to Syrian refugees for three months, and the Khalsa school in Surrey has offered free tuition to $1,000 Syrian refugee students. More than 20 Sikh temples throughout Metro Vancouver are collecting blankets, clothing, cash and other supplies for the incoming refugees and some offer free meals as well.

Gillespie offered 12 fully furnished apartment units to Syrian refugees over the next four months, and Westbank will also provide groceries during that time, spokeswoman Rhiannon Mabberley said, adding that they expect the first families to arrive as early as Monday.

Bond announced at the event that the B.C. government’s $1-million refugee fund will pay for teams of support workers to prepare for Syrian arrivals in five areas of the province and help the Immigrant Services Society of B.C. coordinate the services they will need.

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