Canada's refugee plan: What we know (and don't know) so far
WHAT WE KNOW
What the Liberals promised: The Liberals' election platform called for 25,000 refugees to be brought here by the end of 2015, all government-sponsored.
What they're actually doing: The government announced Tuesday that 15,000 of the refugees will be government-sponsored, and 10,000 would be sponsored privately. Only 10,000 will come in before the end of December; most of the rest will be in Canada by the end of February.
FRED CHARTRAND/THE CANADIAN PRESS
Why they changed their minds: In London, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cited the Paris terrorist attacks, saying they changed Canadians' perceptions of security risks.
WHAT WE DON'T KNOW
How will they be screened?
The government says it is sending 500 Canadian officials to the Middle East to expedite the processing – half of them military and half from other departments. But it is unknown exactly how many of those people are actually on the ground.
Just 12 of the roughly 250 promised military personnel have been deployed. But the government will not provide information about the remainder, citing security concerns.
On Wednesday, Quebec Public Security Minister Pierre Moreau qualified the security screening process of the refugees heading to Canada as "one of the strictest and most rigorous in the world." He says he has received assurances from Ottawa that the refugees will also undergo extensive health checks.
When do they get here?
The government says 10,000 privately sponsored refugees and 15,000 government-sponsored refugees will arrive before the end of February next year, with 40 per cent of those people landing by Dec. 31 – most of them privately sponsored.
An additional 10,000 government-sponsored refugees and an unknown number of privately sponsored refugees will be brought to Canada before the end of 2016. So, the number of arrivals is expected to pick up greatly within the next couple of weeks. But the government is not saying exactly when the first planes will start to land.
How do they get here?
Refugees will be flown to Toronto and Montreal, largely on chartered aircraft, though the military is also on call to provide airlift every 48 hours if necessary. What it would take to engage them in that role is unclear.
The Canadian government has approached Jordan about using the country's airport at Marka as the hub for transporting the refugees to Canada, The Globe and Mail reported Thursday. One option being considered would see Syrian refugees currently scattered around the region flown to Jordan once they are approved for resettlement. They would then travel to Canada via Marka on chartered commercial flights, or even military planes.
MICHELLE SIU/FOR THE GLOBE AND MAIL
Where will they settle?
Refugee organizations say this is the biggest question unanswered.
Planes carrying the refugees will be landing in Toronto and Montreal and, from those two entry points, the Syrians will be dispersed across Canada. In 36 cities, the government has agreements with organizations that are able to provide specialized services for refugees. They include:
- Atlantic Canada: St. John’s, Halifax, Charlottetown, Moncton, Fredericton, Saint John
- Quebec: Quebec City, Trois-Rivières, Victoriaville, Drummondville, Sherbrooke, Montreal, Gatineau, Laval, Saint-Jérôme, Joliette, Saint-Hyacinthe, Brossard, Granby
- Ontario: Windsor, Ottawa, London, Toronto, Kitchener, Hamilton
- Prairies: Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon, Prince Albert, Sask., Moose Jaw, Edmonton, Medicine Hat, Calgary, Red Deer, Alta., Lethbridge, Alta.
- B.C.: British Columbia’s Lower Mainland
Read more here about how individual provinces are responding.
The federal government says it expects the refugees to be sent to those places and other communities that are able to accommodate the new arrivals.
But groups representing refugees warn that, no matter where they are sent initially, the Syrians are likely to migrate to the cities where there are large numbers of people of their own descent – where they have support and community.
Quebec alone is preparing to welcome 3,650 Syrians by year's end and an equal number next year. With such a large Syrian base, refugees sent elsewhere might be compelled to relocate to that province.
LARS HAGBERG/THE CANADIAN PRESS
Who gets to come through?
For government-sponsored refugees, federal officials have put conditions on who to admit, focusing on families, children and members of the LGBT community. Single men will be processed only if they are accompanied by their parents or identify as LGBT. Private sponsors, however, do not have to follow those same priorities. If refugee claimants meet the conditions set by Ottawa's Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, they must be accepted.
The Harper government also tried prioritizing some groups of Syrian refugees
when it sought to fast-track Christians and religious and ethnic groups they
felt were being targeted by Islamic State. The policy attracted controversy at
Who's paying for their arrival?
Ottawa's new deadlines and financial arrangements put additional strain on private sponsorship groups. Ratna Omidvar, a member of the sponsorship group Team Everest and chair of the organization Lifeline Syria, told The Globe that while money is less of an issue for her group, housing presents a significant challenge.
The cost to taxpayers over the next six years will be between $564-million and $678-million, with the bulk of the spending over the first two years.
In addition to the costs of transporting, processing and housing refugees, as well as monthly allowances and special funds for clothing, school and food, newcomers get a standard one-time startup payment:
- Single with no dependents: $950
- Single with one dependent: $1,500
- Single with two dependents: $2,075
- Couple with no dependents: $1,625
- Couple with one dependent: $1,915
- Each additional dependent: $350
Read more about the benefits for government-assisted refugees here.
HOW CANADA COMPARES WITH THE WORLD
Global refugee resettlement is directed by the United Nations High Commissioners for Refugees. In 2013, the agency asked for 130,000 spaces to be made available by 2016, whether through direct refugee resettlement programs or humanitarian admission. Not all countries accept UN refugees for resettlement. And, in addition to what the UNHCR is asking, many European and Middle Eastern countries are also dealing with the impromptu flow of Syrians across their borders as they attempt to find new homes on their own.
United States: The UN has so far submitted 22,427 Syrian refugees to the United States for resettlement consideration. The United States has recently pledged to resettle 10,000 in the next year.
United Kingdom: 216 Syrian refugees have been accepted under a relocation program. In September, the government pledged to expand that program by accepting up to 20,000 Syrians until 2020.
Germany: 20,000 humanitarian admission, 18,500 individual sponsorship.
France: Since 2012, France has provided 1,880 asylum visas for Syrians, which enable them to travel to France for the purpose of applying for asylum. Last week, they announced they will take 30,000.
With reports from Jane Taber, Gloria Galloway, Ingrid Peritz, Campbell Clark, Joe Friesen, Ian Bailey, The Canadian Press and Reuters