December 2, 2015 2:58 pm
Updated: December 2, 2015 5:41 pm

Federal government stresses need for housing for Syrian refugees

WATCH ABOVE: Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Federal Immigration and Refugees Minister John McCallum announced more plans to resettle Syrian refugees in Calgary. As Global’s Jenna Freeman reports, housing is the biggest topic.


CALGARY – The federal government said Wednesday that housing remains its top priority when it comes to the settlement of Syrian refugees coming to Canada.

Immigration and Refugees Minister John McCallum made the comment while speaking at a news conference in Calgary Wednesday, during which he stressed just how important it is for the private sector to step up and help house refugees.

WATCH: John McCallum stresses three priorities for incoming refugees: Housing, Housing, and Housing

Two Canadian housing companies were on hand to detail their plans to help aid Syrian families; Mainstreet Equity Corp. announced it would offer at least 200 apartment units with 90 days of free rent or discounted rent on 12 month lease to refugees.  In addition, Boardwalk Rental Communities said it would offer at least 350 units with a discount of $150/month.

McCallum said he hoped the example the two companies were setting would encourage others to step up with similar offers “so that we can welcome refugees not just with a smile, but with a roof over their heads.”

WATCH: Minister McCallum hoping for increased private sector contribution to refugee housing issue

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McCallum travelled to Alberta to meet with Calgary Mayor Nenshi and Alberta’s Minister of Advanced Education Lori Sigurdson, and to honour the contributions of Canadians who he said are “really stepping up to the plate to help out on this national project.”

Sigurdson, meanwhile, said the Alberta government has been working with settlement agencies across the province to ensure they’re prepared.

“We have a cross-ministerial team that is working on making sure the people coming will have access to good public education, healthcare, housing,” said Sigurdson.

Alberta’s NDP government anticipates 850 Syrian refugees will be welcomed to Alberta by the end of the year.

READ MORE: How Alberta is preparing for up to 3,000 refugees

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, meanwhile, had previously suggested Calgary was well-equipped to welcome somewhere between 1,000 and 1,300 Syrian refugees.

On Wednesday, Nenshi reminded Calgarians that the city “regularly welcomes 1,000 refugees a year” and said it’s “in our DNA to welcome people.”

WATCH: Mayor Nenshi stresses long history of refugee acceptance in Calgary community

He echoed McCallum’s call for people to step up and help out with housing.

“It’s really, really important we make sure that people have stable, decent roofs over their head upon arrival,” said Nenshi. “We’ve got a great plan. We still need a little more funding to make that plan work, but I think that we can handle that.”

Nenshi said he was “very satisfied” with the work of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) in terms of screening of security.

“We know how to do this better, pretty much, than anyone in the world.”

WATCH: Mayor Nenshi says he is satisfied with screening process for new refugees

The federal government said during the election campaign that it wants to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees across Canada by the end of the year. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau later revised that number to 10,000 by Jan. 1, with the rest being resettled through 2016.

READ MORE: From coast to coast: how Canadians can help Syrian refugees

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