Ontario is prepared to take roughly 4,000 of the 10,000 Syrian refugees set to arrive in Canada by the end of the year and may not need as many resources to accommodate them as previously thought, says the province's health minister.
Since Ontario accounts for about 40 per cent of the country's population, it is prepared to take in that proportion of refugees, Eric Hoskins said Monday.
"It will depend on the flow of refugees coming from those various countries," he said. "I think it's a better approach to understand that we will be receiving our share. We know what that will be roughly and we're prepared within a margin on either side of that to accommodate them."
Hoskins has said Ontario was looking at using recently decommissioned hospitals to house refugees on an interim basis, but now they may not be needed.
"We have sites identified. Some of those sites have taken the extra step of ensuring they are prepared to accommodate the refugees, but we'll see if that type of facility is in fact required," he said.
"It will depend partly on the numbers that arrive. We were thinking maybe 1,000 a day. Now the federal government is thinking somewhat fewer than that and it's over a longer period of time."
Ottawa has said military bases are an option for interim housing. The federal government pushed back the timeline for settling 25,000 people from the end of this year to the end of February, so Hoskins said Ontario may not need to dedicate as many resources.
"In the last week we made a course correction, a good one, as a result of the clarity from the federal plan," he said.
Since the majority of refugees will be privately sponsored and they will all be permanent residents, it's conceivable that many will be met at the airport by their sponsors and taken right to their privately arranged housing, Hoskins said.
Ontario had also thought it would have to medically screen most of the refugees arriving in the province, but that is also no longer the case since they will be screened before they arrive, he said.
The existing framework of settlement agencies and social supports that helps the, on average, 12,000 refugees who come to Ontario each year should be able to handle the additional Syrian refugees coming to the province, Hoskins said.
"This is the business that we're in in Ontario, receiving refugees and welcoming them and supporting them," he said.
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