Ottawa

Federal government urges corporate Canada to do its part for Syrian refugees

As Syrian refugees begin to arrive in Canada, the federal government is calling on businesses to help foot the bill for housing.

CN pledges $5M for refugee housing, more businesses asked to follow suit

Luc Jobin (at podium), an executive vice president with CN, says the company felt there was a 'humantarian need' for it to make the $5-million donation to Syrian refugees. (CBC News)

Canada's business community needs to step up to help fund the resettlement of 25,000 Syrian refugees, said John McCallum, the minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship, at an announcement in Ottawa Friday morning. 

CN pledged $5 million toward finding affordable, stable housing for refugees, a gesture McCallum called "the platinum standard" for corporate donations.

"I am reaching out to the Canadian business community to show a similar generosity," said McCallum. 

He said he plans to speak with business leaders across the country in the hopes of securing similar multimillion-dollar donations.

Situation 'urgent'

"I have said from the start that this is not just a government project. Certainly the federal government has put up close to $700 million. Certainly every provincial government has signed on with enthusiasm," he said. 

"It goes beyond government to include every single Canadian to come forward and contribute according to your means."

For corporations, McCallum said that means money, and lots of it.
'This is not a government project,' said John McCallum, minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship, at an announcement about corporate funding to help Canada resettle Syrian Refugees. (CBC News)

CN executives agreed with that sentiment, saying the company felt a humanitarian responsibility to support those who are in need.

"Canada has a long and deep history of helping refugees and immigrants," said Luc Jobin, the executive vice president and chief financial officer at CN.

"With the first wave of refugees entering Canada this week, the situation is urgent." 

Top priorities 'housing, housing and housing'

Both McCallum and Health Minister Jane Philpott, who also attended the announcement, were at Toronto's Pearson International Airport yesterday evening when the first government aircraft carrying Syrian refugees landed. 

She says the emotional welcome underscores how important donations will be.

"I urge other corporations across Canada to open their hearts," said Philpott. "Financial contributions and donations in kind will be a big part of how we provide the support that these refugees and their families need."
Jane Philpott, minister of health, and John McCallum (far right), minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship, are calling on Canada's business community to provide funding to help resettle Syrian refugees. (CBC News)

Philpott said refugees "need our help in so many ways," including finding long-term, affordable housing.

"Our top priorities in terms of funding from the business community are housing, housing and housing," said McCallum.

The funds will likely go to national organizations to be distributed among communities across the country, said McCallum, although the details have not yet been ironed out. 

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