Metro Morning

Eric Hoskins says Ontario has will, capacity to resettle Syrian refugees

“We can get this job done,” said Ontario’s health minister about Canada’s ambitious plan to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of this year.

Health minister says it’s possible 10,000 refugees will arrive in this province

Ontario residents are eager to take on the 'once in a generation' challenge of resettling thousands of Syrian refugees, the province's health minister says. (John Moore/Getty)

"We can get this job done," said Ontario's health minister about Canada's ambitious plan to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of this year.

Eric Hoskins, speaking on Metro Morning Friday, said the province has the resources and capacity it needs to deal with the influx of refugees — even though it's still unclear exactly how many Syrians will be coming to this province; though Hoskins did say an estimate of 10,000 sounded plausible.

"We've indicated that we're willing to take our fair share," Hoskins said, adding this is a "once in a generation" challenge for Canada.

Hoskins has worked as a doctor in refugee camps and also helped the federal government resettle 5,000 refugees from Kosovo. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)
The federal government has yet to release detailed plans for the refugees, though some Canadian Forces bases in Ontario and Quebec are being modified to help house some of them. 

Hoskins, who co-chairs the ministers' ad hoc committee on refugees, also said most of the refugees will be arriving from United Nations camps in places like Lebanon.

"We have a pretty good idea of the range of individuals that will be coming," he said.

Hoskins has experience in the area. In 1999, he worked alongside Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy to resettle 5,000 refugees who were fleeing the violence in Kosovo. Before that, he worked as a doctor in refugee camps.

He said many refugees will arrive with complex physical and mental health needs, Some may be victims of torture while others may have seen family members die amid the extreme violence that has marked Syria's ongoing civil war.

Ontarians want to help

There are concerns about where the refugees will live and where they will end up working.

Ontario and Toronto are already struggling to provide affordable housing to thos who need it, Metro Morning host Matt Galloway pointed out. Hoskins said the province hopes to alleviate that by looking for any facilities — including decommissioned hospitals — that might be used for shelter.

There's also the work issue. According to Statistics Canada, some 40 per cent of refugees remain unemployed after two years of being in Canada — compared to the national average of seven per cent.

Hoskins said, for now, he's focused on providing the basics: food, shelter, clothing and security to the refugees.

He also predicted many of the refugees will soon find private sponsors who may be able to help with employment, among other things.

Hoskins praised Ontarians, many of whom he said have approached him seeking ways to help. He said everyone from retired teachers to Arabic speakers to healthcare workers have come forward in recent weeks voicing the same message: "We want to help."


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