Refugees deadline pushed to February; emphasis on families, vulnerable women, LGBT
Josh Dehaas, CTVNews.ca
Published Tuesday, November 24, 2015 3:42PM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, November 24, 2015 10:40PM EST
The Trudeau government has revealed that it will not meet its deadline to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada by New Year’s Day.
Instead, the Liberals expect 10,000 to land by Dec. 31, an additional 15,000 in January and February – and at least 10,000 more later in 2016, for a minimum of 35,000.
“Some of you will be asking, why did we delay?” Immigration and Refugees Minister John McCallum told reporters gathered in Ottawa.
“I’ve been saying time and time again, that yes we want to bring them fast, but we also want to do it right,” he said.
“I’ve heard Canadians across this country saying, yes you have to do it right, and if it takes a little bit longer to do it right, then take the extra time.”
Here are some other details revealed Tuesday.
How many are actually coming and what kind of refugees?
There will be 15,000 government sponsored refugees and 10,000 privately sponsored refugees among the initial 25,000 arriving by the end of February.
The government’s campaign promise was to assist 25,000 itself, but McCallum told CTV Power Play “any shortfall in government sponsored refugees, we’ll make up in the latter part of 2016.”
The minister said the government will also encourage more private sponsorship later in 2016, suggesting there will be more than 35,000 arriving in total.
Will single men be allowed?
Canada will prioritize full families, vulnerable women and members of the LGBT community among the 25,000 who are government sponsored.
However, single men who are privately sponsored will not face restrictions.
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair expressed concern on Monday that single men would be unfairly excluded.
Will religious minorities be favoured?
McCallum said Canada will “choose the most vulnerable, whatever their religion might be.”
McCallum said he had heard concerns that Christians avoid refugee camps, but the government is intending to take asylum seekers from outside camps as well, so Christians will be included.
Where will the refugees come from?
The Syrian refugees will come from Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan, the three countries that have taken in more than four million fleeing Syrians.
All of the refugees will be registered with the United Nations or the government of Turkey.
How will the refugees get here?
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said the military is prepared to “support” chartered air flights, if needed, with Royal Air Force flights “every 48 hours.”
McCallum told Power Play he expects most will come on “leased planes – not Air Canada,” but he added “this could change.”
Where will they end up living?
The refugees will land in Toronto and Montreal but are expected to be quickly dispersed to 36 different communities across the country.
Sajjan said 6,000 spaces will be ready on military bases in Ontario and Quebec.
McCallum later told Power Play bases would only be used in the event that enough housing in communities isn’t ready.
“We certainly don’t need military bases to check for health and security because that will already be done,” McCallum added.
Will the refugees be permanent residents?
McCallum said the refugees will be permanent residents, “as soon as they set foot on Canadian soil.”
Some European countries only offer temporary residency to Syrian refugees, including Germany. Sweden is giving some temporary residency and others permanent residency.
How will Canada screen for security threats?
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said that security screening includes “professional, personal interviews of each applicant,” the collection of biometric data checked against Canadian and U.S. databases and the “checking and rechecking of identification” at every step of the process.
“Security screening will be fully completed overseas,” Goodale added. “If there is any doubt about an application,” he said, their application will be put aside and “held for further consideration.”
How will Canadian Forces be assisting on the ground?
Soldiers will be on the ground in the Middle East assisting with security, medical check-ups and logistics.
However, they won’t be carrying guns, as this is a purely humanitarian mission.
How much will it cost and who is going to pay for it?
The government has said the plan will cost up to $678 million over six years – far lower than the $1.2 billion over six years suggested by a leaked document obtained earlier this month by The Canadian Press.
What does the opposition think?
Conservative Immigration and Refugees Critic Michelle Rempel told reporters that the Liberals’ “high-level plan” still leaves many unanswered questions, although she is pleased to hear of the deadline change.
Asked whether it represents a broken promise, Rempel said she, “has a feeling what we’re going to see, over the next few months, is a lot of things that were in that platform document that the Liberals really hadn’t thought through.”
“What’s more concerning to me is the budgetary cost associated with that failure,” she added. “It’s one thing to inspire Canadians. It’s another thing to be accountable to them with accurate plans and accurate costing.”
“It’s more than a smile, it’s more than hope, it’s more than unicorns,” Rempel went on. “You need to have a plan.”
“What Canadians should care about is whether or not the government can put together a plan that both cares for refugees and protects the safety of Canadians.”
Rempel said she would have preferred the Conservatives’ proposal, which was 10,000 additional Syrian refugees over three years, and a larger role in the international coalition fighting ISIS.
With files from Mercedes Stephenson