Syrian refugees straining local food banks
Josh Dehaas, CTVNews.ca
Published Thursday, April 14, 2016 3:49PM EDT
Food bank workers say an influx of Syrian refugees is straining their resources, because taxpayer support for the new arrivals isn’t sufficient.
In Edmonton, the Islamic Family Social Services Association recently said it is having trouble coping with the food needs of more than 200 refugees from Syria.
The Parker Street Food Bank in Halifax also recently put out a call for more help, after an influx of about 300 Arabic-speaking clients over a period of six weeks.
And the Gloucester Emergency Food Cupboard in Ottawa is dealing with a 30 per cent spike in new clients.
Ahamed Hamami is one of them. He said he is very thankful for the help from Canadians, but did not expect to need to use a food bank to feed his family of seven.
Gwen Bouchard, executive director of Gloucester Emergency Food Cupboard, said she doesn’t think the government realized how much pressure their refugees program would put on social services.
Michael Maidment, executive director of the Ottawa Food Bank, said the problem is that provincial social assistance rates are so low, and federally-assisted refugees receive the same amounts.
“They receive not enough money to pay for all their expenses,” he told CTV Ottawa.
A single government-assisted refugee in Ontario receives roughly $2,065 as a one-time start-up allowance upon arrival, plus about $768 per month for up to a year. They are also eligible for provincial and federal child subsidies for each child.
However, the federal government’s much-lauded Canada Child Benefit, which will pay low income families as much as $6,400 annually per child, does not begin until July.
Refugees are eligible for up to $160 per child, monthly, under the current Universal Child Care Benefit program, but application for that program take months to process, leaving a financial gap for families just as they try to learn English or search for jobs.
The federal government had vowed to resettle at least 25,000 government-assisted Syrian refugees. As of Sunday, they have resettled 15,005 government-assisted refugees, 8,999 privately-sponsored refugees and 2,258 others since taking office.
A spokesperson for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said the government “continues to monitor the evolving nature of this issue, and will take further action as appropriate.”
With a report from CTV Ottawa’s Eric Longley