Refugees 'better able to thrive' when families join them, says Justin Trudeau
'There are limits' to what government can do for refugees and their families, says PM
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is acknowledging that refugees "are better able to thrive" when their families join them in the country they settle in, and said the government can help new arrivals to Canada "facilitate" reunions for those who were forced to leave loved ones behind.
Nasim Misrabi arrived in Canada in February as a government-assisted refugee. He left his family scattered: his father in Syria, his mother in Turkey and his brother in Germany.
Within two months, the 25-year-old had landed a job in marketing at a mobile company. But he feels lost without his family and has already started the process to try to bring his mother to Canada.
During a roundtable discussion with CBC's Metro Morning late last week, Misrabi asked Trudeau if the government planned to bring family members to Canada as government-sponsored refugees.
Trudeau noted that newcomers can apply to bring family members over via a federal government program, adding that the government is "always having to balance" bringing more refugees to Canada with trying to help those that are already here.
Misrabi asked more pointedly what he must do to help his family stuck thousands of miles away.
"I'm here, great. I live with great people, I am safe, I can do anything I want. But each time I see the news of what's happening in Turkey or in Syria, you know the bad situation there, do like each hour I have to call them to see if they're alive," he said.
"I live here completely satisfied. I have safety, I have great people, I have work, I have everything. But my family is there."
Trudeau said the government has "left space in our system" to bring family members over.
"There's a process that has to be gone through, but it's part of our thinking, and as we know it's one of the things that's always distinguished Canada's immigration system, in general, is that we know that people are better able to thrive when they are able to bring over their family," Trudeau said.
Trudeau's Liberal government is marking one year since the first wave of new arrivals landed in Toronto as part of its pledge to bring 25,000 refugees by last February. The latest figures from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada shows that as of Nov. 27, 35,735 Syrian refugees have arrived in Canada since Nov. 4, 2015.
Looking at the specific refugee categories:
- 18,863 were government-assisted.
- 3,622 were blended visa office-referred.
- 13,260 were privately sponsored.
'It's breaking their hearts'
Sponsor Piali Roy has a similar story, but from a different perspective. She sponsored a family of six, but one member was left behind, a single male.
The man's parents, his sister and her family were able to come to Canada, while he had to remain behind in Beirut "and it's breaking their heart that they are here, they are ready to move on with their lives and get started and they have to phone or WhatsApp back home and find out if he's OK," Roy told Trudeau.
"They don't know if they have enough money to be able to support him, whether he'll have enough money, they just don't know. And it's something that's really hurting them badly."
She asked the prime minister what the government plans to do to reunite such families.
"Everyone has a different story and everyone has people that they want to see here. We cannot forget that for every one person who comes over there are brothers, sisters, in many cases that aren't able to come over. And what we need to do is be able to do is facilitate how they come over through a process," Trudeau said.
"At the same time, hearing these stories is heartbreaking and is a recognition of the difficult, sometimes impossible choices that had to be made on the ground about who's coming over, who's not coming over as we were trying to do this."
Galloway asked if Trudeau was saying that there are limits to what the government can do in these situations.
"There are limits," Trudeau acknowledged. "But obviously we know that there is a greater chance of success for someone when they come over and there are friends, there are families, there's already even a small piece of a support system in place, you're creating a better opportunity for success than if we were to bring someone over with no support network."
With files from Metro Morning