New Brunswick could welcome more Syrian refugees, minister says
Government wants to first review what has worked, what could be improved, says Donald Arseneault
The Gallant government is willing to accept more Syrian refugees, but wants to review how the process has worked with the estimated 1,500 who have already come to the province, says Minister of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour Donald Arseneault.
His comments come on the heels of news that several Syrian families are leaving Saint John for larger cities, such as Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, seeking jobs or to be reunited with relatives and friends.
Arseneault said he's not surprised. "Look, they were in a situation that doesn't happen every day. [It was] very drastic for all these Syrians to have to be pushed out of their country and sent all over the world, including Canada," he said.
"So we're conscious that some of them would like to maybe reconnect with their families that may be elsewhere, or [other] factors that may explain why they want to move."
But Arseneault pointed out 95 per cent of the refugees have chosen to stay and said the government is "working hard" to try to keep the newcomers here by providing opportunities, such as English language training.
'There's more work to be done'
Asked about job opportunities, Arseneault acknowledged "there's more work to be done" and that it's not happening fast enough for some people, with only an estimated 103 Syrian family heads currently employed.
"When it comes to jobs, we're never satisfied. We always want to create more jobs and more jobs," for all New Brunswickers, he said.
"I want 100 per cent employment. Is that feasible? Maybe not, but that's the goal we need to have, we have to give opportunities to everyone.
What can we improve here in New Brunswick to make sure that before we start having too [many] refugees coming in that we're able to give them the proper home that they need and the tools that they need to do that?- Donald Arseneault, minister
"If you want to work and you're willing and able to work, we should do everything we can to provide you with that opportunity."
Arseneault expects English language training will help open up more job opportunities for the refugees once they're better able to communicate with their co-workers or customers or clients.
Former New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna has suggested refugees should have to sign a contract committing to stay for two years.
Arseneault did not offer an opinion on the idea, but said it could come up at a provincial ministers' meeting with federal Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship John McCallum in Winnipeg next month.
"There's no doubt Syrian refugees is going to be on the agenda — what has worked, what has been problematic for provinces. So these are things, we're going to have those discussions," he said.
New Brunswick will also be conducting its own analysis, said Arseneault.
"What has worked? What didn't work? What can we improve here in New Brunswick to make sure that before we start having too [many] refugees coming in that we're able to give them the proper home that they need and the tools that they need to do that?"