48% of Syrian refugees not yet in permanent housing

Immigration Minister says focus on finding permanent housing for Syrian refugees
WATCH ABOVE: Immigration Minister John McCallum said Wednesday that fifty-two per cent have found permanent housing, but increasing that number is one of his primary concerns.

Almost half of Canada’s newly settled Syrian refugees haven’t really settled at all: Immigration Minister John McCallum told a Commons committee Tuesday that 48 per cent still have not found permanent housing.

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As of Sunday, 23,098 Syrian refugees have arrived in Canada since Nov. 4, McCallum told the committee. Fifty-two per cent have found permanent housing.

“It’s safe to say that we are well on track to hit our 25,000 commitment by the end of this month,” he added.

McCallum admits finding housing for the refugees has been a difficult task, calling it an inevitable “hiccup.”

“The major challenge has been not so much to transport the people from there to here as it is to settle them well in Canada,” McCallum said.

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NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan says officials need to get real when it comes to the current refugee housing situation.

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McCallum rejects claim refugee numbers arriving in Canada are misleading
McCallum rejects claim refugee numbers arriving in Canada are misleading

“The resettlement plan is severely deficient. That officials and the ministers believe that refugees are settled within two weeks after they arrive is a break from reality because that’s not what I’m seeing,” Kwan said.

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The Vancouver East MP says she has met with some Syrian refugees still waiting for housing after two months.

Refugees have so far been sent to dozens of communities across Canada, some of which have proven to be more challenging to settle into than others.

READ MORE: Months after arriving in B.C., many Syrian refugees still stuck in hotels

Less than a third of refugees settled in Vancouver have found permanent homes.

“Vancouver does seem to have certain issues that other cities do not have. For Vancouver, the number is 31 per cent,” McCallum said.

Last month Vancouver, along with Toronto and Ottawa, requested a pause in refugees due to a lack of available temporary and permanent housing, while Halifax asked the feds to slow the number of refugees arriving.

McCallum also said plans to expand the number of cities that are settlement communities will be announced soon.

Meanwhile, Kwan says housing is only one of the refugees’ needs not being met.

“There aren’t enough boots on the ground to help them go through the resettlement process,” said Kwan.

She notes health care, trauma counselling and language training as vital to helping the families settle, including within the school systems dealing with an influx of new students with specific needs.

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“If we don’t put that infrastructure in place then you’re going to have problems coming down the pipe.”

With files from Leslie Young