Syrian relief fund welcomed by B.C. immigrant group
But organization says the most pressing need is family reunification
A Vancouver-based immigrant services group has tentatively welcomed a $100 million emergency fund announced by Ottawa, predicting Canadians will likely donate in droves.
But Chris Friesen of the Immigrant Services Society of B.C.noted that the fund does not address the most pressing need — that is to reunite refugee families.
"So many Syrians in Canada are asking, 'How can I be reunited with my family?' " Friesen said. "Families that are within Syria, families in the Middle East in refugee camps, as well as in Europe. Canada has the ability to expedite family reunification and that should be the utmost priority of this government."
On Saturday, International Development Minister Christian Paradis announced a $100 million fund to match any eligible Canadian donations toward the crisis.
The money will be distributed to registered charities doing work in the region. Friesen said judging from the reaction he's seen in Vancouver in the last week he's confident Canadians will respond.
Critics say plan is a 'band-aid' solution
Meanwhile, the NDP suggested a donation-matching fund for humanitarian work to Syria last week. And the Liberals have said they would make a $100 million donation to the United Nations High Commission on Refugees.
However, the activist group No One is Illegal dismissed the move as a "band-aid solution."
Sozan Savehilaghi said Canada should redirect the funds it is spending on military intervention in Syria to assist refugees.
"It's interesting to throw a little bit of money at a small program and call it enough," Savehilaghi said. "The only other solution that the government has put forward is to continue to bomb Syria."
Paradis told reporters that the federal fund will assist conflict-affected people in Syria and neighbouring countries. It will be used to provide basic needs such as food, clothing and healthcare.
He said the government will match funds donated to registered Canadian charities, adding that this is "an opportunity to put a vehicle where Canadians will be able to channel their generosity."