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Canadian mayors, provinces asking to partner with feds to help Syrian refugees

Toronto Mayor John Tory is pictured in Toronto on December 2, 2014. Tory and other Canadian mayors are discussing ways to bring more Syrian refugees to their cities.
Toronto Mayor John Tory is pictured in Toronto on December 2, 2014. Tory and other Canadian mayors are discussing ways to bring more Syrian refugees to their cities. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Many Canadian mayors and provincial officials are ready to help with the Syrian refugee crisis, and they’re asking the federal government to step in and take charge.

Toronto Mayor John Tory said he is personally helping to sponsor a family from Syria and is urging all Torontonians to help.

“Every one of us can be of some help,” he said at a press conference Friday morning. “It’s not going to happen by itself.”

“As mayor of [Canada’s] most multicultural city, I believe we should mobilize to sponsor Syrian refugees. This is who we are as Canadians,” he wrote on Twitter. “It is how we react to situations like this that makes us Canadian – a welcoming and compassionate city and country.”

READ MORE: Refugee crisis – what you can do to help

There is no reason why Canada can’t duplicate the effort undertaken to bring Vietnamese refugees to Canada in the 1970s, he wrote.

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He also said that he has been in contact with several other big-city mayors to discuss creating a grassroots movement to sponsor Syrian refugees.

One of those other big-city mayors, Jim Watson of Ottawa, sent a letter to Citizenship and Immigration minister Chris Alexander on Thursday, asking for guidance on the role that the municipal sector can play. The letter stated,

“The City of Ottawa stands ready to be a collaborative partner in helping the Government of Canada rise to this challenge.”

Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi lashed out at the federal government’s refugee policies on Thursday, calling them “a disgrace,” according to a CBC news report.

And it’s not just mayors offering to help.

The province of Nova Scotia will donate $50,000 to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, to help with the Syrian refugee crisis, Premier Stephen McNeil announced Friday morning.

“Nova Scotians join us in supporting the Syrian people in their time of need and I am proud to offer this support on their behalf.”

On Thursday, deputy premier Diana Whalen said that the province is willing to accept more refugees.

Ontario is also pitching in to help Syrian refugees. Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Eric Hoskins said Friday that the provincial government will give $300,000 to Lifeline Syria, an organization trying to bring 1,000 Syrian refugees to Toronto.

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He is asking the federal government to pledge to bring 5,000 Syrian refugees to Canada by the end of the year.