December 11, 2016 11:00 am
Updated: December 11, 2016 9:22 pm

Half of adult Syrian refugees unemployed 1 year later: Liberals

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Immigration Arif Virani and Conservative critic Michelle Rempel join Tom Clark for a discussion on Syrian refugee resettlement, and concerns with low employment and language training.

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One year after the first of 35,000 Syrian refugees landed in Canada, only half of all adults — approximately 9,000 individuals — have found work.

For the past year, the federal government has been providing funds to new arrivals as they attempt to build new lives in a new country with new circumstances and different customs. After 365 days though, federal funding runs out, leaving those still requiring assistance to turn to provincial governments for social aid.

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A months-in-the-making study from the Senate released last week found language training is proving to be a major obstacle for Syrian refugees. But the Liberal government insists it is pumping in enough funds.

READ MORE: Childcare, language training lacking, but ‘key’ to Syrian integration: Senate report

In 2016-17, $900 million was dedicated to language training for all newcomers, with $30 million set aside specifically for the influx of Syrian refugees, said parliamentary secretary to the immigration minister, Arif Virani.

Last month, Ottawa added another $18 million and 7,000 seats for language training in an effort to help the Syrians in Canada get a leg up.

WATCH: Syrian refugees still looking for work in Canada. Reid Fiest reports.

Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel, however, said it shouldn’t just be about the money.

READ MORE: Edmonton agencies nearing 1 year anniversary of helping Syrian refugees

“I really hate that the government is using money as a metric on success here,” she said.

“For me, It’s how many people have found employment … and because the government was so focused on numbers, I think they did lack a plan in terms of successful integration.”

Although thousands of Syrians who arrived one year ago are still hunting for work, the numbers are par for the course with new arrivals, said Virani – who came to Canada as part of the Ugandan-Asian wave of refugees in 1972.

“It’s about commensurate with other refugee populations,” he said in an appearance on The West Block with Tom Clark. “When you look at all those cohorts, it usually takes a number of years before people are retaining at the same level as other Canadians who have been here multiple generations.”

READ MORE: Syrian refugees give back and say thanks to their Vancouver community

A report from the Immigrant Services Society of B.C. published recently suggested Syrian refugees who settled in British Columbia over the last year are actively looking for work, but are sometimes in a fragile emotional state that makes it harder to integrate into their new surroundings.

In B.C., 2,100 government-assisted and 424 privately sponsored Syrian refugees have settled in more than fifty communities throughout the province.

READ MORE: B.C. pilot project looks to find jobs for Syrian refugees

The report found that 17 per cent of the Syrian refugees who are now calling B.C. home are employed on a full-time or part-time basis.

Most of the jobs are in manufacturing, construction and trade industries, but also in food, retail and hospitality.

Sixty four per cent of those who are not working are actively looking for work, and 76 per cent of Syrian government-assisted refugees are currently attending a federally-funded adult English language class.

While Canada prepares to welcome another 300,000 immigrants, including 40,000 refugees, in the upcoming year, Rempel is demanding a clear plan from the government.

“I think the government needs to put forward a plan to Canadians that’s fully costed, that shows how those people are going to become employed, under what time period, and what the cost to the Canadian taxpayer is going to be,” she said.

READ MORE: Bilingual teddy bear helps Syrian refugee families integrate into Canada 

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