The City of Montreal says it is ramping down the response put in place to welcome Syrian refugees — instead, setting up a long-term office with a mandate to welcome all new arrivals to Montreal.
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In November, the federal government announced it would welcome a total of 25,000 refugees to Canada by 2016. The numbers were then revised to 10,000 by 2016 and 15,000 before the end of February 2016.
Based on that announcement, Montreal prepared itself for the arrival of 4,300 state-sponsored refugees by 2016.
In reality, none arrived by the end of 2015 and only 19 state-sponsored Syrian refugees settled in Montreal in 2016.
Co-ordinator hired for $1,800 a day
In response to the expected influx, the city had put in place a number of committees and services to help the integration of refugees. A former federal deputy immigration minister, Michel Dorais, was also hired as Montreal's refugee co-ordinator for a three-month period, collecting $1,800 per day for his services.
Now those committees and services will be either shut down or folded into the new office.
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said he doesn't think the effort is wasted.
"It's money well spent because Montreal is about diversity, Montreal is about new arrivals. We're all sons or daughters of immigrants ourselves," he said.
Of the $2 million set aside by Montreal to help Syrian refugees, $1 million will go towards the long-term office.
Coderre said Dorais, whose appointment originally drew criticism for his salary, has fulfilled his duties and is now moving on to other projects.
"I think to have a former deputy minister of immigration who lived those experiences .... [is] an added value for us," Coderre said.
The exact services that the new office will offer have not yet been determined but Coderre said that about a dozen people will work to help integrate newcomers into Montreal society through assistance in finding housing, jobs or getting access to schooling.