New Brunswick could start receiving more Syrian refugees as some larger Canadian cities are struggling to find housing for newcomers, Immigration Minister John McCallum on Wednesday.

Resettlement agencies in Toronto and Halifax have joined agencies in Ottawa and Vancouver in asking for temporary delays in the arrival of government-assisted refugees. The requests are being fuelled by the struggle to find permanent homes for the refugees. 

McCallum, who took part in a question-and-answer session with the Canadian Club of Toronto on Wednesday, said the Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship will work with those agencies.

But the federal minister said he has met with New Brunswick cabinet minister Francine Landry, who is responsible for the Syrian refugee file, and the province is "crying out for refugees."

"So New Brunswick, Quebec ... those are places that really can use the refugees," McCallum said.

As larger cities are running out of housing options for the Syrian refugees, the immigration minister pointed to communities, such as Hampton, where local groups have raised $70,000 and have two open apartments.

Francine Landry

Francine Landry, the minister responsible for the Syrian refugee file, said in November the province could handle 1,500 Syrian refugees. (CBC)

Nearly 600 Syrian refugees were set to arrive in Canada on Wednesday, but some of the 118 originally destined for Ottawa will be sent to other communities because of the shortage of permanent housing for government-assisted refugees.

Some private sponsorship groups are offering to step in to help but other provinces have also offered to help settle the refugees.

In November, Landry said the province could handle roughly 1,500 of the 20,000 government-sponsored refugees from Syria.

A federal government website says so far 256 government-assisted refugees have arrived in New Brunswick since Nov. 4.

  • Saint John: 92
  • Moncton: 68
  • Fredericton: 66
  • St. Andrews: 9
  • Hampton: 8
  • New Maryland: 7
  • Quispamasis: 6

McCallum said he's been told by Premier Brian Gallant that New Brunswick is eager to take a larger share of the refugees.

The immigration minister said provinces, such as New Brunswick, have jobs for the refugees.

"Two of the provinces who are the most keen to receive refugees are Nova Scotia and New Brunswick partly because they are nice people who welcome refugees but also because they desperately need more workers because their population is aging more than the rest of us," he said.

"The premier of New Brunswick has gone out of his way to say not only can New Brunswick welcome them but New Brunswick has jobs for them in areas like fish processing."