Toronto resettlement group requests 5-day halt to refugee arrivals

A leading resettlement agency in Toronto is asking for a five-day pause to receiving refugees, CBC News has learned.

'We need to pause in order to serve the refugees better,' Costi executive director says

Immigration Minisiter John McCallum, centre, poses with Syrian refugees destined for Canada. McCallum says some cities need time to find housing for refugees before accepting more. (Sam McNeil/Associated Press)

A leading resettlement agency in Toronto is asking for a five-day pause to receiving refugees, CBC News has learned. 

Mario J. Calla, the executive director of Costi, an immigrant services group, told CBC Radio's Metro Morning host Matt Galloway on Wednesday that the agency has requested a five-day stoppage of government-assisted newcomers coming to Toronto.

"In the past few weeks, we've been received about 300 refugees a week," Calla said. "We need to pause in order to serve the refugees better."

We have received requests to slow down arrivals in some communities.- CIC spokeswoman Theodora Jean

The executive went on to say that these kinds of pauses are not irregular. 

"We're talking about a five-day pause, we're not talking about stopping. We're talking about we can do this better is what we're saying," Calla continued.

"The families are larger than we had anticipated, which makes the housing availability more challenging to find," he added, stressing the need to re-organize and bring in more staff to help out. 

Immigration Minister John McCallum was questioned about the request in Toronto and other Canadian cities during a news conference Wednesday in Toronto.

"They are finding that they need a little more time to hire more people," McCallum told reporters, referencing individual groups calling for the temporary stoppage. "I am told this will be resolved in a few days, not longer than that."

4 cities seek slowdown

"We want to make sure that people get settled quickly and that's why we're asking for this," Calla said, adding "it's not just us here in Toronto [who need a pause]."

They are finding that they need a little more time to hire more people.- Immigration Minister John McCallum

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has confirmed that the flow of new refugees will be slowed in four Canadian cities including Toronto, Ottawa, Halifax and Vancouver. This move comes at the request of the agencies that serve these cities, including Costi. 

"We have received requests to slow down arrivals in some communities," CIC spokeswoman Theodora Jean said via email. "We are accommodating those requests to ensure that in the end, the refugees are well taken care of."

CBC News has reached out to officials at the city of Toronto who said they did not request the temporary halt.

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