With 28 more Syrian refugees expected to arrive in New Brunswick on Monday, Immigration Minister John McCallum says finding homes, jobs and language training will be the top priorities, not a policy that would force them to stay in Atlantic Canada.
McCallum says the idea floated by former New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna last week would not work because refugees, who are permanent residents of Canada, have free mobility rights across the country.
"That goes against the Constitution ... so I think what New Brunswick has to do is to create a welcoming atmosphere — find them a place to live, help them find a job and then they will put down roots here, and I think many of them will choose to stay."
McCallum was in Hampton on the weekend ahead of the federal cabinet retreat in St. Andrews this week.
"There's a huge enthusiasm in Hampton and this is typical across the country. In towns, not necessarily big cities, there's terrific enthusiasm to welcome these refugees."
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He says while getting refugees into Canada has been a challenge, teaching them to speak English or French and finding them jobs will be even bigger hurdles.
"We are hoping and anticipating that our new Syrian friends will quickly settle in and become hard-working, normal Canadians like the rest of us," McCallum said in an interview on Information Morning Saint John on Monday.
If history is a guide they will settle in, they will get jobs, they will become hard working productive Canadian families. - Immigration Minister John McCallum
With New Brunswick welcoming a disproportionately high number of Syrian refugees, McCallum says Premier Brian Gallant has told him personally that he is keen to find them work in fish processing plants.
"A lot of the refugees are not highly educated, and they don't speak English or French," McCallum said.
"They will learn English or French, but they will not have the highest level professional jobs in many cases, so I think some of the jobs like fish processing ... should be a good fit and your premier has specifically singled out this area for refugees, and I think that's very helpful."
New Brunswick 'not for everyone'
Moncton immigration lawyer Nicole Druckman says there are advantages and disadvantages to McKenna's idea of forcing newcomers to stay in Atlantic Canada for a specified period of time, but would prefer to see all levels of government focus on getting them to choose to stay here.
"We have to ensure that there are jobs available so we have to match people that are coming with jobs," Druckman said.
"It's not just about getting people here, it's about getting people to stay here and what gets them to stay here? Jobs, learning the language and community."
Druckman says the provincial government also needs to do a better job of screening immigrants who apply to come here.
"You have to find the right people. It's not for everyone. New Brunswick's not for everyone."
McCallum says with a rapidly aging population, New Brunswick needs more citizens and more workers, and McKenna is right in looking for ways to ensure newcomers stay, however he argues the Maritimes should focus on its advantages compared to big cities.
"Yes the larger communities have a lot of different ethnic communities there already so they are a magnet, I know that's true, but at the same time the housing situation is easier here than it is in downtown Vancouver or downtown Toronto," he said.
McCallum remained confident that Syrian refugees will settle in New Brunswick, without being forced.
"If history is a guide they will settle in, they will get jobs, they will become hard-working productive Canadian families."