Canadian provinces get ready for Syrian refugee influx
Government officials have said the first Syrian refugees will begin arriving in early December
Within days, the federal Liberal government is expected to publicly unveil its plan to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the year.
And a lack of confirmed details hasn't prevented authorities and stakeholders, from the Canadian Forces to ordinary Canadians, from getting ready to welcome a massive influx of people throughout the country.
In a recent conference call, government officials told resettlement agencies that the first refugees will begin arriving in early December. Here's a look at some of the efforts underway to receive them.
Newfoundland and Labrador
A number of groups in Newfoundland and Labrador are working privately to help bring Syrian refugees to the province, including the Northeast Avalon Refugee Sponsorship Committee and the Association for New Canadians in St. John's.
The association said there are plans in place to bring at least two families of Syrian refugees to the province, but it would like to bring more. The association is also working with eight other organizations to help Syrians fleeing the country.
The Newfoundland and Labrador government has not yet commented on its plans.
Meanwhile, Labrador MP Yvonne Jones has suggested using CFB Goose Bay in Labrador as a site that could help process refugees as they arrive in Canada.
Some settlement agencies have said the province could receive between 600 to 700 refugees.
The province has opened up its general purpose info line to allow people to register their support for refugees, whether it be offers of accommodation, employment or clothes.
Prince Edward Island
Groups across P.E.I. are pooling their resources as they prepare to accept up Syrian refugees. The Catholic Diocese Refugee Committee and P.E.I. Association for Newcomers to Canada are working with organizations across the Island to line up volunteers, housing and donations.
The P.E.I. government has said it can accept 100 families.
The province, which has offered to resettle up to 1,500 refugees, released its own plan last week for how it plans to tackle the task.
It includes assigning provincial health care personnel at the refugee reception centre, and making sure it has enough Arabic and Kurdish speaking volunteers on hand to help in all areas.
The provincial government has said the Gagetown military base would be the main processing centre for refugees in the province.
The province originally pledged to take in 3,600 Syrian refugees, but the federal plan could boost that number to closer to 5,700. The Quebec government also committed $29 million to resettlement efforts.
Some Montreal school boards have been asked to make room for up to 2,400 Syrian children between the ages of four to 17.
The military is planning on providing interim lodging for refugees — largely at bases in Quebec and in Ontario as a priority, but other locations could also be used.
"Some people who are in Valcartier on a temporary basis, such as for training, are being moved to another wing to free up contiguous space for possible refugee accommodation," defence spokeswoman Dominique Tessier said in an email.
The province has pledged to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2016 and spend $10.5 million on those efforts.
To house them, the province is looking at using decommissioned hospitals, while the military is currently looking at which of its bases will need to be adapted to house people in the cold.
"CFB Meaford and Borden are two locations that will require winterization of accommodations and preparation is currently underway," Tessier said.
School boards are also getting ready for an influx of students, including one in the Toronto area that's accepting donations of winter clothing and bedding.
Health officials are also pinpointing specific clinics that can serve as go-to points for refugees, including existing immigrant health care centres and general community health centres.
Premier Greg Selinger has said the province could accept as many as 3,000 Syrians by the end of the year. It has already committed an additional $1.2 million to resettlement services.
Among the projects being funded are mental health support for refugee youth; the potential for many Syrians to arrive with elements of post traumatic stress disorder is something health officials from across the country are preparing for.
The province will establish a refugee settlement centre to co-ordinate the arrival of Syrian refugees into the province, which could number as high as 2,000.
Settlement agencies are looking to house them temporarily in hotels and motels before securing other longer-term accommodation.
On a Facebook page set up by a resident of Moose Jaw, Sask., people are offering to donate baby clothes and other household goods, set up welcome suppers and at least one man has offered his ability to speak Arabic and his background in health care to help new arrivals.
The province's premier says Calgary and Edmonton are expected to take in the bulk of between 2,500 and 3,000 Syrian refugees coming to Alberta, with the remainder spread out over three other cities — Medicine Hat, Lethbridge and Red Deer.
In Red Deer, Alta., the Catholic Services Society is reaching out to the public to see if anyone is interested in providing a home for refugees, seeking such information as whether the space is wheelchair accessible or child-friendly.
Alberta-based rental agency Boardwalk says it will offer discounts on apartments in several Alberta cities, as well as Saskatoon, Regina, London, Ont., and Montreal to help provide housing.
For its part, the military is warning people who were scheduled to stay at barracks in Edmonton early in the new year that they may find themselves in different accommodation.
The province is expecting to receive around 3,000 refugees and has established a $1-million readiness fund to cover some of those costs.
Meanwhile, the Immigration Services Society has asked the federal government for increased funding and staff to deal with the expected expanded workload.
The federal plan is expected to include additional money for settlement services; during the campaign, the Liberals promised an additional $100 million for this program this year alone.
The B.C. Muslim Association is among the groups actively fundraising to support resettlement efforts; they're planning a major dinner in the first week of December with the goal of raising enough money to sponsor several families.
With files from CBC