Thousands of Syrian refugee families to lose federal financial support
Published Wednesday, November 30, 2016 10:03PM EST
Since last November, more than 22,000 government-supported Syrian refugees have settled in Canada. Promised financial support for a year from the federal government, thousands of families are now about to be cut off, leaving provinces to pick up the tab.
Mohamad Bakhash arrived in Canada a year ago and is still struggling to become independent.
“There was a lot of help we got from the government,” Bakhash told CTV News through an interpreter. “But, as well, we had a lot of things that we were trying to do but we were struggling with.”
Such things include learning English and finding a job. In Syria, Bakhash supported his family of seven as a real estate agent. In Canada, he lacks the language skills to find work, leaving his family to rely on government assistance -- potentially for years to come.
According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, 22,009 government-supported Syrian refugees moved to the country between Nov. 4, 2015 and Nov. 20, 2016.
However, statistics show that only about 10 per cent of refugees find employment in their first year in Canada.
About 800 of the Syrian refugees are now living in Manitoba. Some have found work in restaurants and in the agricultural sector, but it’s expected that most will continue to need financial help into the foreseeable future. For those who have been in Canada for more than a year, that responsibility now falls to the province.
“It comes at a cost -- there’s no two ways about that,” Ian Wishart, Manitoba’s Minister of Education and Training, told CTV News.
Moving into month 13 in Canada means that refugee families who once relied on federal aid will now need to apply for provincial social assistance. For the Bakhash family, that amounts to about $1,700 each month. Provincial government are also responsible for housing costs, likely ballooning their budgets by millions of dollars each year.
“The longer they’re on income assistance, you know, it’s not good from a provincial economics point of view,” Wishart said. “It’s not good for their families either, but they have to be ready to go to the workplace.”
That’s where support from the federal government will continue, Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship John McCallum says.
“The language training goes on, the preparation for jobs goes on,” McCallum told CTV News. “The only thing that is transferred to provincial responsibility is the income support.”
Although many refugee families are still looking forward to becoming independent, they are still thankful for the chance at having a war-free future.
“It’s a really beautiful country,” Bakhash 19-year-old son Basal told CTV news. “I feel safe here.”
With files from CTV’s Manitoba Bureau Chief Jill Macyshon