After one year of being in Canada, most of the 11 Syrian families who are living in Kamloops, B.C., are still struggling to find work and childcare.

Kamloops Immigrant Services has been working with most of the refugees to help provide English language classes. Executive director Paul Lagacé has seen the challenges they face trying to get established within the year allocated to them by the federal government.

"If you don't have a job, it's very difficult for you to go looking for work if you have no place for your children to be," he said.

"It has a greater impact on their potential success rate of establishing and settling because they are on a pretty strict timeline."

Refugees face greater challenges​

Lagacé says the newcomers face additional challenges because of the situations they left behind. He says because many are coming from refugee camps, it may not be clear if the children are dealing with significant physical, emotional or developmental issues until they come to Canada. 

"As well, there's separation issues between the children and the parents," Lagacé said. "Children are afraid to leave their parents' side."

Paul Lagace

Executive director of Kamloops Immigrant Services Paul Lagacé says many of the Syrian refugee families in Kamloops are having a difficult time finding work and childcare. (CBC)

Right now, Kamloops Immigrant Services offers child-minding services so parents can attend courses provided by the group, but Lagacé says it doesn't meet the larger need.

"It's not like you just come in and drop your child off and go away. The parent is on site so when the parent does go to work, the unfortunate thing is that we cannot offer daycare for that timeframe."

Wait-lists common

The challenge to find childcare is not unique to refugee families. Janis Arner directs the Childcare Resources and Referral Early Years Centre with the YM/YWCA in Kamloops. She says there is a shortage of spots across the city.

 "It's very typical for families to encounter a lot of wait-lists where they go and it takes time," she said.

She says it will likely take weeks, if not months, to find a space — time that refugees might not have.

"If you're new ... a refugee," she said, "It's just one more big challenge."

Lagacé says he would like to see a national daycare program that could provide affordable childcare options across the country.

Kamloops Immigrant Services is expecting more Syrian families to arrive this month and another family who will arrive in January.

With files from Daybreak Kamloops


​For more stories about Kamloops, like the Daybreak Kamloops Facebook page