How Canada supports refugees

November 20, 2015

By Tara Carman, Vancouver Sun |

B.C. is about to receive more than three times its yearly quota of refugees in the space of a few weeks. The money to support government-assisted refugees comes from the federal government. How much is it and how does it reach the people who need it? Tara Carman breaks down the numbers.

The federal government is responsible for immigration and funds services for immigrants and refugees from two pots of money.

The Settlement Program funds programs for all immigrants to Canada, including refugees. It pays for language training, information and orientation programs, and employment-related services. In the 2015-16 fiscal year, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada provided $89 million for 94 programs in B.C. Ottawa comes up with this figure based on the share of immigrants each province receives, with additional weight for refugees, given their unique needs. Individual agencies that provide services apply directly to Ottawa for funding. It is through this program that municipalities receive money for immigrant and refugee settlement.

The Resettlement Assistance Program, through which Ottawa provides direct income support to government-assisted refugees for one year at a rate comparable to provincial welfare. The federal government also uses this pot to fund essential services for government-assisted refugees when they arrive in Canada. These include temporary accommodation, help finding a permanent place to live, interpreting services, translation and orientation.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada funds two B.C. organizations to administer programs under the Resettlement Assistance Program:

The Immigrant Services Society of B.C. operates Welcome House, located on Drake Street in downtown Vancouver, but moving to the Commercial Drive area in the spring. It is the first home for all government-assisted refugees who settle in B.C. Refugees typically stay there several weeks learning about how things work in their new country, being referred by settlement workers to services such as medical treatment centres, English-language classes and employment training. They also receive help finding a place to live. Funding for the Immigrant Services Society of B.C. has remained constant for five years at $1.37 million a year.

SUCCESS runs a booth at Vancouver airport to guide newly arrived refugees through the landing process. They also provide information and orientation in multiple languages on the settlement process in Canada, give refugees an idea of what to expect and connect them with services they immediately need upon arrival. In 2015-16, SUCCESS received $370,000 from Ottawa to run this program.

How much extra funding will Ottawa provide to support Syrian refugees?

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada would not comment, saying the government will release a detailed plan including the specifics of the Syrian refugee resettlement process on Tuesday. Internal documents obtained by The Canadian Press suggest the national cost could be $1.2 billion over six years, and require as much as $876 million this year alone.

Privately sponsored refugees

These refugees come to Canada sponsored by community groups, often religiously based, who raise enough money to support a refugee or refugee family for their first year in Canada. For a couple, this is about $20,000. The sponsor is required to provide all the same supports that government-assisted refugees receive, such as arranging for language classes, help locating permanent housing, etc. Such refugees settle in the same community as the group that sponsored them, which means they are more likely to settle outside major cities than government-assisted refugees.

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