Alberta adds $1M to support resettlement of Syrian refugees
Must 'ensure supports like housing, health and education are in place,' minister says
Alberta ramped up its support of the Syrian refugee crisis by adding $1 million to the province's resettlement program on Wednesday.
Jobs Minister Lori Sigurdson made the announcement, saying she has appointed deputy minister Andre Corbould as a provincial refugee coordinator to make sure long-term, critical support is in place.
"The needs of both refugees and our communities will continue to emerge and evolve," Sigurdson told CBC.
"That's why we have developed a comprehensive response plan to ensure supports like housing, health and education are in place for refugees."
She said refugees will settle in Edmonton, Calgary, Red Deer, Medicine Hat and Lethbridge. Alberta is expected to welcome anywhere from 2,500 to 3,000 Syrians from now on until February.
Back in September Alberta committed $250,000 to the refugee crisis.
Agencies given more time to prepare
The province's announcement comes on the heels of the federal government's notification Tuesday that settlement agencies will be given more time to prepare for the arrival of 25,000 Syrian refugees coming to Canada.
Sigurdson stressed Alberta's partnership with the federal government will need to remain supportive, strong and long term. Program costs and timelines are up in the air until Ottawa finalizes the details.
Health Minister Sarah Hoffman, who is handling resettlement housing, is asking Ottawa for an additional $5 million. She says that's the estimate of how much it will cost to provide a year of secured housing and other supports to government-sponsored refugees.
"My estimate at this point for the individuals who are going to be sponsored by the federal government coming as permanent residents is around $5 million, in excess to what the original allocation that's given, which is about $780 per family (monthly) for housing, which of course isn't average market rent," she said. "So I am asking for that additional top-up as I am sure other provincial housing ministers will be doing as well."
Hoffman said she is preparing for about 2,000 to 2,100 refugees who will require some type of support through federal sponsorship.
"There's ways that we can accommodate these families through the current rental market . . . and I expect that my federal counterparts will help step up to cover the cost of those apartment buildings."
Hoffman said about 154,000 new people arrived here in 2014, so she feels confident the province can handle up to 3,000 refugees.
Refugees will get assistance to find work
Corbould said a process will be in place to assist refugees when they start looking for work..
""There will be some work to assess the skills of the refugees that are coming in, and then we can find out and work with chambers of commerce and other (industries) to find out what is compatible," he said.
Sigurdson is heading to Ottawa next week to discuss the number of people coming to Alberta at a meeting with John McCallum, federal minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.
She said as the program evolves she will be calling on Ottawa for more resources.