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Refugee family claims Canadian tax dollars are being wasted on overpriced temporary home


As Taliban militants moved into Kabul, Abdul Basir Talash and his family were among the fortunate, able to flee. They arrived in Canada 10 months ago with simple, honest expectations.

“We are here to work hard and pay taxes as every other taxpayer in this country, to make this country part of our family,” says the father of six.

Recently, CTV National News shared how the Talash family has been living in a refugee hotel west of Toronto, without access to hotel amenities. They’re also banned from sitting in the dining room with other paying hotel guests.

With their refugee forms still not approved by the Canadian Government, they’re unable to work, rent a home or go to school.

The visibly frustrated father tells CTV National News: “The whole world is pressuring Afghanistan to let girls go to school and let them study, my kids in Canada aren’t able to go to school for the last 10 months. What kind of rules, what kind of system is this?”

After CTV National News took their story public, the Talash family were told they'd be moved to a temporary home as they wait on word about their refugee claim from the federal government.

An organization hired by the federal government, called Polycultural, is paid to help resettle refugees. The Talash family were shown a semi-detached house in Mississauga. Polycultural would sign for the rental at a cost of $4,500 a month in taxpayer dollars.

CTV National News found other semi-detached homes in the same area renting for $1,500 less. To the Talash family, the home appeared rundown and overpriced.

Talash and his family of eight found several larger, detached homes in the same area for $1,000 cheaper than the smaller semi-detached.

“I told them they don’t need to rent that for my family, they can rent me a house that is a lower house,” says Talash. He says he showed Polycultural multiple listings that would save taxpayers at least $12,000 a year.

He recalls Polycultural staff telling him: “You stay in the hotel or you’re going to stay at the house we offered you.” The Talash family refused to move into the home and they’re back at the hotel, which is not where they want to be.

A refugee advocate is raising the question: why would a company using taxpayer money refuse to lease a cheaper home more suitable for a family who has been waiting nearly a year for clarity on their refugee status?

“It raises red flags,” says refugee advocate Mona Elshayal.

Polycultural's executive director Marwan Ismail told CTV National News over the phone that the organization “applied” to rent the less expensive homes that the Talash family found on their own, but they’d been “refused by the landlords because they don’t have any income.”

However, Elshayal believes the organizations claim doesn’t make sense.

“The family’s income shouldn’t even be a factor, since Polycultural is the one signing and paying for the rental property with government money,” says the long-time refugee worker.

CTV National News also spoke with two real estate agents who are renting out some of the cheaper listings the Talash family say they presented as options to Polycultural. The agents said they don’t recall ever receiving a call from Polycultural or one of the organization's agents.

Elshayal believes, “Taxpaying Canadians should raise their eyebrows, because it appears that funds are being wasted.”

Over multiple days this week, CTV National News requested an interview with federal Immigration Minister Sean Fraser. His office said he was unavailable for a 10-minute interview because he was travelling. The minister's social media pages place him at the Calgary Stampede, where multiple photos were posted of the minister with Canadian immigrants.

CTV National News asked Fraser's office why PolyCultural is renting semi-detached homes for $4,500 a month when clearly there’s larger detached homes in the same area on the market for $3500 dollars?

A spokesperson responded, but didn’t answer our question directly, saying in part, “Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) does not deny any rental opportunity that is presented to any family, IRCC encourages families to search for the most affordable option to meet their needs.”

According to the Talash family, the opposite is happening. CTV National News also asked Fraser's office if any government oversight of refugee organizations are taking place.

Minister Fraser's spokesperson responded, writing, “IRCC staff conduct regular on-site activity and financial monitoring of all resettlement service providers. This is done to ensure taxpayer dollars are being used efficiently and effectively while welcoming newcomers and refugees to Canada.”

Though Talash, who’s been living in a hotel where PolyCultural staff provide care to refugees, believes government accountability is falling short and refugees, as well as taxpayers across the country, aren’t getting the whole story.

“The taxpayer should ask the government, if the money that goes from your pockets to these (organizations) is it being properly spent?” says Talash.

Suspected Taliban militants on the streets of Kabul killed one of Abdul Basir Talash’s daughters. He believes it was a targeted attack because one of his other daughters was working as a journalist in Kabul. He believes his family is now being punished for speaking to the media here in Canada.

“One hundred per cent I’ve been punished for the last 10 months because I’ve been talking with the media. I was told if I keep talking to the media my documents will be delayed even more.”

The Talash family signed a consent form, allowing the federal government to share with CTV National News an update on their refugee status, though the government has declined to provide any details.

The Talash family will soon be entering their 11th month stranded in a hotel. As for the puzzling price tag on that $4,500 semi-detached home west of Toronto, a real estate agent says it was rented out by Polycultural. Top Stories


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