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Canada From sea to sea, Canada’s refugee settlement plan is vast, complex

Clothing donated for an expected influx of Syrian refugees is sorted by volunteers for size and gender at a theatre rehearsal space in Toronto November 24, 2015.

CHRIS HELGREN/Reuters

Negotiations are ongoing across Canada as private sponsors, provincial leaders and the federal government figure out when and where thousands of Syrian refugees set to arrive over the coming five weeks will find new homes.

While the federal government's decision on Tuesday to extend the deadline for processing 25,000 refugees until the end of February was greeted with relief by premiers across Canada, the scale of the operation under way in provincial capitals is vast. A total of 10,000 refugees are expected before the end of the year.

In rural Alberta, school districts have been asked to find spaces for expected Syrian students. Health authorities in British Columbia's Lower Mainland will expand their ranks of Arabic interpreters and Ontario's medical officers are preparing trauma counsellors to help with refugees arriving after long stays in camps.

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The Quebec government says it is ready to help resettle 3,650 Syrian refugees this year and an equal number next year, the vast majority of them in Montreal, where the Syrian community's roots are more than a century old.

Most of the refugees arriving this year will be taken in by private sponsors, continuing a flow that has been under way all year. On Tuesday night, a number of Syrian families landed at Montreal's Trudeau Airport and fell into the arms of loved ones.

The resettlement operation will cost the province $29-million this year and the Quebec government says it has the capacity to accept more as long as Ottawa commits to additional funding.

"We have been working together for weeks to ensure the arrival of refugees is done in an orderly and safe way," Quebec Public Security Minister Pierre Moreau said on Wednesday.

Mr. Moreau qualified the federal security-screening process of the refugees heading to Canada as "one of the strictest and most rigorous in the world."

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley has pledged to take in 2,500 to 3,000 refugees over the next year. While the province has appointed a refugee co-ordinator, officials say they are waiting on the federal government to know exactly when refugees will arrive and how many will go to each of the province's five largest cities.

Ms. Notley's government increased its resettlement fund to $1.25-million Wednesday.

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Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson says his city is preparing to accept as many as 2,200 Syrian refugees over the next year and beyond. With an economic downturn ongoing in Alberta, the province's capital city has a rare supply of affordable apartments and a business community offering deep discounts for refugees. "You put those two things together and we're in good shape," he said.

Nova Scotia is expecting to welcome up to 30 families of refugees through private sponsorship in the first wave of arrivals. The sponsors, mostly church groups, are evenly divided between Halifax and the rest of the province.

Ontario's planning for the arrival of the refugees is still very fluid. With all refugees expected to first arrive in Montreal or Toronto, Premier Kathleen Wynne's government is negotiating with the federal government over how refugees will arrive in Ontario and then move to other places.

An official with the Department of National Defence confirmed Wednesday that CFB Trenton is on notice that it could receive as many as 950 refugees, beginning in early December.

Because all of the screening is being done abroad, refugees will come into Canada as permanent residents. This means they will be issued health cards and can apply for a Social Insurance Number so that they can be eligible to work.

"Now, we understand that all of the refugees coming here will have permanent residency so that in terms of the amount of time required for them to reside in an interim facility, that dramatically reduces that time," said Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins.

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Ms. Wynne has made a commitment to settle 10,000 refugees by the end of 2016.

The Immigrant Services Society of B.C. said on Wednesday that about 400 refugees, half government-assisted and half privately sponsored, are expected to resettle in the province by year's end.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said housing and service providers in his city are "gearing up" for the influx. This includes offers by three prominent developers to provide housing. "It's been great seeing this outpouring of support," he said.

With reports from Andrea Woo in Vancouver, Affan Chowdhry and Eric Andrew-Gee in Toronto

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