Refugees struggle because Canada ill-prepared for them, MP says

A Winnipeg-born Conservative MP says Canada has moved too fast to bring in refugees.
Conservative MP Michelle Rempel said the Liberal government should have planned better for the influx of refugees. (CBC)

A Winnipeg-born Conservative MP says Canada has moved too fast to bring in refugees.

"Food bank usage is one symptom of this [as is] access to affordable housing and access to language training, which helps people find jobs — these are all things that we know are lacking," said Michelle Rempel, the Conservative critic for immigration, refugees and citizenship, who now lives in Alberta and is the MP for Calgary Nose Hill.

"It's incumbent upon the government to come up with a plan to deal with this."

Many newly-arrived refugees are having to turn to food banks, saying they can't make ends meet, even with the financial support they're getting from the federal government and sponsors. And a CBC report earlier this year noted wait lists can be one to 16 months for federally funded language courses for newcomers to Canada.

Rempel said Ottawa should have planned better, especially since it had made it a goal to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2015. The government then had two more months to prepare as the Liberals pushed that deadline to February 2016.

In comparison, U.S. President Barack Obama's administration set its goal at 10,000 Syrian refugees.

"There was such a focus on getting so many people here in such a short period of time that I worry the government's being caught flat-footed in that they don't have a long-term plan for social inclusion and integration," said Rempel.

"Now we're sort of missing an opportunity to really see the full potential of Syrian refugees come to fruition here in Canada," she added.

"I think that we should be doing everything possible to equip refugees with the abilities and the skills to enter our workforce so they can become self-sustainable. I don't think anybody wants to be on social assistance long term."

A new food bank in Winnipeg, the Halal Food Pantry, recently opened in the Canadian Muslim Women's Institute, in the city's Centennial area, to help Syrian refugees.

Almost all the clients are government-assisted refugees, Yasmin Ali, president of Canadian Muslim Women's Institute, said.

There is also another new food bank in the south end of the city, helping newcomers settling in that part of Winnipeg.