Nfld. & Labrador

'Lack of information' fueling fears about hosting refugees: mayor

The mayor of Happy Valley-Goose Bay says the town supports a proposal to host Syrian refugees at 5 Wing air base, and blames negative Facebook comments on "a lack of information."

Negative comments do not reflect town's view, Jamie Snook says

Happy Valley-Goose Bay mayor Jamie Snook says helping refugees is a "worthy effort." (CBC)

Happy Valley-Goose Bay Mayor Jamie Snook says the town supports a proposal to host Syrian refugees at 5 Wing air base, and blames negative Facebook comments on "a lack of information."

"We can't be on the one hand advocating to have a military base in our community, and on the other hand advocating that it not be used," Snook told Labrador Morning on Friday.

"If it is such that 5 Wing does have a role to play, we would certainly support the wing, and we would support the military members and the families that would be involved in such an effort."

Labrador MP Yvonne Jones has argued that the Goose Bay base could accommodate 1,000 Syrian refugees, as part of Canada's plan to bring in 25,000 refugees by the end of the year.

Negative reaction

Snook was asked about numerous negative comments that were posted on Labrador Morning's Facebook page in reaction to a CBC News report about Jones`s comments.

"Labrador is just getting by," wrote a woman. "Now the people of the province will have to give MORE away and have less because Yvonne wants to be next in line for a cabinet post..... wow."

​"I'm all for helping others but let's start at home first," he wrote. "Can't we just throw some money at them instead?" 

"I've seen a lot of comments like that, but I can certainly assure you that I've received my fair share of positive comments as well, so there's certainly a mix of opinion out there," said Snook.

"I wouldn't want people to think our town is all one way or the other.  I've gotten a range of views on it."

Labrador's MP says the base could accommodate 1,000 refugees. (CBC)

Much of the reaction centered on the lack of housing in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, suggesting that accommodations on the base be used for locals, not refugees.

"I don't think those fears need to be thought so much about, of oh my god what would happen to the community.  I'm sure the wing would be appropriately used," said Snook.

Lack of information

He pointed to past examples where the base was used in emergencies — during September 2011, again when North West River was evacuated because of a forest fire in 2012, and during power outages.

"I don't know if anyone looks back on those events and says I wish we hadn't done that," Snook said.

Syrian refugees cross a cornfield on their way to Europe. (Reuters)

Snook said more information about the country's refugee plan will help dampen fears.

"Our town is very multicultural, always has been...I think most of what is causing some of the comments we're seeing is just a lack of information, and a void and people are going to fill in the blanks," he said.

"We do have the capacity in this country to handle more than one social challenge at a time....It is a worthy thing to be engaged in."  


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