Up to 50,000 Syrian refugees may enter Canada by the end of next year

December 1, 2015

By Steven Chase and Daniel Leblanc, Globe and Mail |

As many as 50,000 refugees – at least 70 per cent from Syria – could arrive in Canada by the end of next year, Immigration Minister John McCallum says, adding the federal government is anxious to prevent a backlash from Canadians against this massive influx of newcomers.

This rate of intake would be the greatest since 1979-1980 when 60,000 Indochinese boat people found a new home in Canada.

Asked Tuesday what he considered the biggest challenge on the Syrian refugee file, Mr. McCallum said it was “keeping Canadians with us” and taking pains to communicate each step of the way.

The minister, speaking after a meeting with provincial and territorial counterparts in Ottawa, outlined the number of newcomers expected from the time the Liberals took office until the end of 2016.

His forecast includes as many as 35,000 Syrian refugees, 10,000 of which are expected to arrive before Christmas. Most of these are privately sponsored cases where private citizens cover the first-year living costs for the newcomers.

It also includes 15,000 more Syrians expected by the end of February, most of them sponsored by the federal government, as well as another 10,000 government-assisted Syrian refugees that Ottawa says it will bring in by the end of 2016.

Finally, the forecast also encompasses Canada’s refugee intake commitments from other countries, as well as an estimate of how many more Syrian refugees might be sponsored privately by Canadians.

The pace of refugee arrival far outstrips the average annual intake of sponsored refugees. In 2014, for instance, the government and private individuals sponsored more than 12,000 refugees to come to Canada.

Mr. McCallum said the federal and provincial governments and municipalities need to step carefully in how they treat Syrians so that Canadians don’t resent the new arrivals.

He cited housing as an example of where Canadians shouldn’t take a back seat to the Syrians.

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