First refugee arrivals planned for Dec. 10: document
Josh Elliott and Sonja Puzic, CTVNews.ca Staff
Published Tuesday, December 1, 2015 10:11AM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, December 1, 2015 10:22PM EST
The first planes carrying Syrian refugees are expected to arrive in Canada on Dec. 10, according to a government document posted online.
The solicitation document posted on the federal government’s buy-and-sell website is seeking “letters of interest” from Canadian aircarriers that are capable of providing aircraft with a minimum of 200 seats for direct flights to Toronto and Montreal, from Turkey and Jordan.
“First day of transportation is planned to be December 10, 2015,” the document says. It notes that the exact schedule for transporting refugees has yet to be confirmed.
The government is asking interested airlines to provide their availability for each month up to the end of March 2016. The solicitation was posted on Tuesday and airlines have until Friday afternoon to respond.
The Trudeau government has promised to bring in 10,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the year, and another 15,000 in early 2016.
In total, Immigration Minister John McCallum said that Canada could take in as many as 50,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2016.
"(It) will likely be in the order of 35,000 to 50,000. That's not yet in the official plan, but based on the discussion we've been having, it's likely in that order," he said.
At a forum on the Syrian refugee crisis Tuesday, Governor General David Johnston called on the country's public and private leaders to rise to the challenge of welcoming the 25,000 refugees, saying it's a "defining moment for Canada."
He added that he hopes Canadians will extend a "warm welcome" to the many Syrian refugees who will be arriving by the end of February, in the middle of the cold Canadian winter.
"Welcoming Syrian refugees is both a challenge and an opportunity for Canada," Johnston said in his opening remarks at the Rideau Hall event. "Great nations are built on great challenges."
Johnston said he hopes the forum will promote open and engaged discussion among the various leaders involved in the resettlement, so the Syrian arrivals can be properly welcomed into Canada.
Immigration Minister John McCallum echoed Johnston's sentiments, calling the resettlement program a "national project" that encompasses all levels of government, as well as many private sector contributors. "We are indeed capable of getting this done fast, and more important, getting this done right," McCallum said. He added that the $700 million earmarked for the resettlement project is a "short-term cost" that will also be a "long-term investment" in Canada's future.
McCallum credited opposition parties for their input on the resettlement process, and praised Johnston for his participation. "This is not a partisan project, as evidenced by the participation of the governor general. This is a Canadian project," McCallum said.
During the forum, McCallum announced the federal government will offer weekly briefings on the resettlement project, beginning on Wednesday. The briefings will involve McCallum, Health Minister Jane Philpott or other officials, he said.
McCallum said the resettlement effort is still looking for private individuals to step forward and help with lodging the refugees, and with finding them jobs in the future.
Businessman Jim Estill, who lives in Guelph, Ont., has already offered to help newcomers settle in Canada.
"It is a humanitarian crisis and I didn't want to stand by and do nothing," he said.
Estill is putting up the cash to bring in 50 Syrian families, a donation that could be worth more than a million dollars.
"I was frustrated things weren't happening fast enough, and that was the limit to many charitable groups who are out doing bake sales and raising money a hundred dollars at a time," he said.
In Johnston's closing remarks, he compared the resettlement effort to the barn-raising tradition practiced in southwestern Ontario, where Mennonite communities often band together to swiftly build a barn for those in need. He then called for Canadians to do the same in building a new home for Syrians coming to this country.
"This is a great nation-building project," Johnston said, adding that the Syrians are a "wonderful gift" for Canada. "What we're doing here is reinforcing our fundamental values," he said.