Fredericton, Saint John and Moncton prepare for Syrian refugees

People and organizations in Fredericton, Moncton and Saint John are rolling up their sleeves in the effort to welcome Syrian refugees. The three New Brunswick cities are on the list of 36 Canadian communities that will begin receiving the 25,000 refugees from the war-torn country.

Saint John YMCA's Kelly Carline says refugees will not be arriving until the new year

Syrian children in a classroom at a drop-in centre for Syrian refugees in the town of Saad Nayel, in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley (Derek Stoffel/CBC)

People and organizations in Fredericton, Moncton and Saint John are rolling up their sleeves in the effort to welcome Syrian refugees.

The three New Brunswick cities are on the list of 36 Canadian communities that will begin receiving the 25,000 refugees from the war-torn country.  

Kelly Carline is the settlement supervisor with the Saint John YMCA. She says she's been told to expect the new arrivals in the new year and she's happy to have been given the extra time.

"We're excited … it gives us a chance to really welcome them well."

Carline says she was originally told to be ready by Dec. 14, 2015 but that date has changed.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau partially rolled back the promise of bringing in 25,000 refugees by the end of this year.
Kelly Carline is the settlement supervisor at the Saint John YMCA. She's excited to be involved in bringing refugees to her city. (CBC)

The government announced it will identify all 25,000 refugees by its self-imposed deadline of Dec. 31, but only 10,000 will arrive by year's end. The rest will arrive by March 2016.

Carline says the Saint John YMCA has just launched a new tab on its website called YMCA Newcomers for people who want to get involved in the settlement effort.

"We've got a whole array of training and information sessions, cultural competency training — a whole array of volunteer opportunities."

Moncton's multicultural association is organizing efforts in that city, as is the Multicultural Association of Fredericton.

Fredericton Mayor Brad Woodside says the New Brunswick capital will be a better community for stepping up and accepting an influx of Syrian refugees.

"Our doors are open and we are going to welcome these folks and we will be a better community for it," he said on Information Morning Fredericton on Wednesday.

Fredericton Mayor Brad Woodside said the city's "doors" are open to the Syrian refugees. (CBC)
The mayor said he does not know how many Syrians will be coming to the city.

 When the federal government was still expecting 25,000 by the end of 2015, Woodside said it was expected that 1,500 people would be coming to New Brunswick.

Given the new details, Woodside said it's possible that roughly 700 refugees could soon be in Fredericton.

City officials are working with the Multicultural Association of Fredericton and the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce on a plan to help resettle the refugees.

Increased concerns

While community groups continue putting in place a plan to bring the Syrian refugees into the city, there have been increased concerns about security in light of the attacks on Paris.

There have been fears that ISIS extremists have infiltrated the mass human migration out of Syria.

In Canada, a mosque was recently hit by arson, an event that has been called a hate crime, and other assaults have been reported against Muslims. There has also been a backlash on social media and elsewhere.

This has prompted many Canadian Muslims to speak about the problems they face, but also the support they receive in their communities.

Muhammad Rashid, the president of the Fredericton Islamic Association, said this week things are "really not bad" in Fredericton.

On Wednesday, Woodside said he wanted to remind people, expressing concern over welcoming Syrian refugees into Fredericton, that Canada was built by immigrants.

The province's population is dwindling and it could use a jolt from an influx of people looking to create businesses and add to the cultural fabric, he said.

"We have never really gone wrong in accepting people from other places who are down and out on their luck and are looking for a new life and a new chance for them and their families," Woodside said.

"There is no downside to this. We have an abundance of so much in this country that we can share with other people."

To help that integration, the city's multicultural association is looking for people to help the refugees become acquainted with the city once they arrive.

Lisa Bamford De Gante, the executive director of Fredericton's Multicultural Association, said this program is called "First Fredericton Friends."  

The association is also working to line up Arabic interpreters, housing for the refugees and schools for their children.

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