New Brunswick

John McCallum says more Syrian refugees could settle in francophone areas

Immigration Minister John McCallum says the federal government may be willing to direct more Syrian refugees to francophone New Brunswick communities.

'New Brunswick is being super welcoming' to Syrian refugees, says Immigration Minister John McCallum

Immigration Minister John McCallum said New Brunswick has been "super welcoming" to Syrian refugees. (Daniel McHardie/CBC)

Immigration Minister John McCallum says the federal government may be willing to direct more Syrian refugees to francophone New Brunswick communities.

The New Brunswick government has said it would like 30 per cent of the Syrian refugees who settle in the province to be in francophone communities.

McCallum said on the way into a cabinet meeting in the Algonquin Resort in St. Andrews that the federal government is willing to talk to the provincial government about the settlement communities.

"We will look into that. It may be possible to make some adjustments," the immigration minister said.

"It largely depends on which communities are ready to receive them."

The government-sponsored refugees that have arrived in New Brunswick so far have been in Moncton, Fredericton and Saint John.

McCallum said about 90 per cent of the refugees who have arrived in Canada do not speak either English or French. So he said that provides a "blank slate" so they can learn either official language.

"New Brunswick is being super welcoming," McCallum said.

"The fact that the refugees speak neither of the two official languages gives New Brunswick an opportunity to teach them, whichever language they wish between English and French. So I think that is an opportunity for New Brunswick."

Minister McCallum says New Brunswick is well positioned to make the most of the refugee program bringing newcomers to this bilingual province. 12:01

New Brunswick cabinet minister Francine Landry, who has been the province's lead minister on the refugee file, said she was "pleased" that Ottawa would work towards making adjustments to allow for more refugees in francophone communities.

Landry said in a statement the provincial government is working to guarantee the services are ready for refugees when they arrive in New Brunswick.

"Our government, in partnership with the federal government, wants to make sure that communities have the proper settlement services in place to help refugees experience a successful resettlement and integration process," Landry said in an email statement.

"We are committed to working together with all partners to provide the proper supports so newcomers will choose to stay in New Brunswick."

The province's official languages commissioner said in 2014 that the province needs to do more to attract French-speaking immigrants.

McCallum told Information Morning Saint John that 28 more refugees will be coming into New Brunswick on Monday.

So far, the immigration minister said 153 refugees are in New Brunswick of the 10,000 who have arrived in Canada.

The province is expecting about 1,350 more Syrian refugees.

About the Author

Daniel McHardie

Digital senior producer

Daniel McHardie is the digital senior producer for CBC New Brunswick. He joined CBC.ca in 2008. He also co-hosts the CBC political podcast Spin Reduxit.

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