British Columbia

Syrian refugees need to live in cities, not lodges, says advocate

Some advocates have applauded the offer of accommodation for refugees from a B.C. resort, but others question whether a lodge near Golden is a good place for newcomers.

Some support groups say cities offer critical settlement services for people fleeing Syria

A cabin at Beaverfoot Lodge is shown in a 2007 photo. Manager Raphael Assaf believes the resort could take in 70 refugees when they first come to Canada. (Shazron/Flickr)

Some refugee advocates have applauded a B.C. resort manager's offer of accommodation for incoming refugees, but others are now questioning whether a lodge in Golden is the best place for the newcomers.

Beaverfoot Lodge is located about a half an hour away from Golden, and resort owner Raphael Assaf believes it would be an ideal location for new refugees to live temporarily once they're in Canada.

Marilyn Perry, chair of the Central Okanagan Refugee Committee, disagrees.

"Refugees have already been in refugee camps — they don't need something else temporary. They need to be able to find a group and a house and get located in a city and begin to integrate," said 

Refugee support groups are scrambling to prepare for the 25,000 refugees from Syria and Iraq Justin Trudeau promised his government would accept by the end of the year.

Perry, who's based in Kelowna, thinks the new Canadian government will begin processing applications from people fleeing Syria and Iraq quicker once the logistical challenges of the government hand over are dealt with.

That's when it will become difficult for "isolated situations" like Beaverfoot Lodge to handle the influx of people, she says.

Perry says she appreciates Assaf's generosity, but she believes cities are the best places for refugees, because that's where organizations providing services like English as a Second Language (ESL) programs are located.

"It has to happen in bigger centres where the services that these folks need are available."

Refugee rental housing registry

Finding housing for a large family is one of the biggest challenges for refugees, according to Perry, who has already sponsored a family of seven.

"I was very anxious right up to the last moment that we would find rental housing," she said.

It has to happen in bigger centres where the services that these folks need are available.- Marilyn Perry, chair of the Central Okanagan Refugee Committee

Kelowna Community Resources held a meeting Thursday night to discuss how to house and support refugees when they arrive.

Perry thinks a registry specifically for refugee-suitable rental housing, where people with available suites can sign up, would be the most helpful.

"That's not set up yet, but that would sure make it easier than reading all the ads on the websites and in the paper trying to find housing for people."

Perry says the fears some Canadians have about accepting so many refugees are unfounded.

"When I look at what they're facing versus what we all have, we need to be generous and include them and they'll be wonderful citizens in Kelowna -- they're just amazing people."

To listen to the full audio, click the link labelled Resort not the best place for incoming refugees, says Central Okanagan Refugee Committee.


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