Canada officially welcomes first 10,000 Syrian refugees
Emily Chan, CTVNews.ca
Published Wednesday, January 13, 2016 11:31AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, January 13, 2016 5:19PM EST
As Canada welcomes its first 10,000 Syrian refugees, the minister of immigration said Wednesday that the government is working to bring in thousands more and to integrate those who have already arrived.
The Liberal Party promised to bring tens of thousands of refugees to Canada during its fall federal election campaign, but repeated delays have resulted in multiple missed deadlines.
Originally, the government pledged to bring 25,000 refugees in by the end of 2015.
That goal was later adjusted to 10,000 refugees by the end of the year. As that deadline closed in, the government pushed the promise back again, citing problems with poor flying weather as well as other circumstances.
On Jan. 1, 2016, The Canadian Press reported that 6,064 refugees had arrived under the Liberal commitment, in addition to 1,263 who'd been settled under the previous Conservative Government.
Two weeks later, on Wednesday, the government announced it had reached "a significant milestone" in the process.
"Canada has now welcomed more than 10,000 Syrian refugees to our country," a government statement said.
In the press release, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship John McCallum commended the many Canadians who have helped bring over the refugees.
"Many people have worked day and night to bring these refugees to Canada – and Canadians have opened their communities and their hearts to welcome them," McCallum said. "Canada continues to set an international example with its response to the worst refugee crisis of our time."
Since coming to power, the Liberal government has worked closely with the United Nations to help resettle refugees living in settlements in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.
Private sponsors, religious organizations, cultural groups and other ordinary Canadians have also pitched in.
Once the refugees arrive in Canada, the resettlement program is focused on "cultural integration," McCallum and Health Minister Jane Philpott said Wednesday.
Reports of widespread sexual assaults in Germany on New Year's Eve triggered protests and anti-refugee sentiment there, and raised questions about whether western countries could properly integrate mass numbers of newcomers.
But McCallum said Canadians shouldn't worry about similar incidents happening here.
"We're obviously very mindful of the situation in Germany and the problems that Germany has been having," the minister said. "But let me remind you that we are taking in about 25,000 refugees. Germany has accepted more than a million."
Beyond the numbers, McCallum noted that Canada is able to carefully screen refugees and only welcome select newcomers, while Germany has had a more open-door policy towards migrants fleeing through Europe.
Before entering a meeting with the Ad Hoc Cabinet Committee on Refugees, McCallum also answered questions about newcomers living in temporary shelters and on military bases.
McCallum said that some refugees may end up staying in temporary lodgings for "one or two weeks" before more permanent housing is found.
And while he called the use of military bases a last resort, he said he believes "they will be required."
With files from the Canadian Press