Despite committing itself to welcoming 25,000 Syrian refugees by January 2016, Canada’s government unveiled a slightly less ambitious resettlement program earlier this week.
On the campaign trail in September, Canada’s new Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, promised to expedite the resettlement of 25,000 government-sponsored Syrian refugees by year’s end, and implement a plan to end Canada’s bombing runs in that country (as well as Iraq). Since his election last month, however, a stream of tragic images from Western Europe and polluted discourse from the United States have colored the discussion among Canadians, who are becoming increasingly less supportive of the government’s plans.
While the Trudeau government insists it remains committed to fulfilling both objectives, Liberal ministers have introduced a slightly altered plan to the public, including an updated timeline and increased reliance on private sponsorships. Under the new plan, Canada’s government will increase efforts to resettle 10,000 refugees by December 31, with a promise for another 15,000 by the end of February 2016.
In a second announcement on November 26, the Trudeau government announced an additional $100 million in humanitarian assistance funding to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in order “to help respond to pressing needs, including shelter, protection, education and health for those affected by the Syrian crisis.”
Read more: How Canadians Can Privately Sponsor Refugees
Over the coming weeks, the government will prioritize processing the applications of privately sponsored refugees, under a program that allows Canadian citizens and organizations to sponsor family members or other asylum seekers. Of the 10,000 Syrians expected to arrive in Canada by December 31, 8,000 are to be privately sponsored.
For refugees permitted into Canada under government sponsorship, emphasis will be placed on admitting Syrian women and families currently displaced and living in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, according to Immigration Minister John McCallum. Some restrictions have been placed on single males seeking asylum in Canada, according to a CBC report. As the report suggests, while the government has condemned the recent outburst of domestic Islamophobia, some of its policies may be playing into these same fears toward the Muslim community.
For these applicants, the government will work in cooperation with UN agencies and national governments to process and screen individuals before they board chartered flights to Montreal and Toronto, where they will attain permanent residency and be ferried to host communities. The federal government has identified thirty-six host communities across Canada that are preparing for the arrival of thousands of Syrians in the coming weeks. The military has reserved 6,000 housing units in the event of a shortage. All refugees will have access to a range of health care providers upon arrival, including pharmacare, dental, as well as mental health services.
“When we welcome our newcomer friends, with a smile, a smile alone is not sufficient,” McCallum said, according to The Toronto Star. “We want them to have a roof over their head, we want them to have the right supports, for language training, and for all the other things they need when they come to Canada.”