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John Tory says Toronto is 'ready' for Syrian refugees

Toronto's mayor said his city is prepared to welcome the thousands of Syrian refugees expected to arrive beginning this week as part of the federal government's resettlement plan.

Mayor notes priorities are housing, health care and employment for newcomers

Mayor John Tory joined CBC Radio's Metro Morning Tuesday morning to speak about how officials, sponsors and residents are preparing for Syrian refugees 2:35

Toronto's mayor said his city is prepared to welcome the thousands of Syrian refugees expected to arrive beginning this week as part of the federal government's resettlement plan.

Mayor John Tory joined CBC Radio's Metro Morning Tuesday morning to speak about how officials, sponsors and residents are preparing. On Tuesday night, the city is hosting an information fair for sponsors of Syrian refugees. 

"I think we're as ready as can reasonably be expected," Tory told host Matt Galloway. "I think we're getting readier … everyone is working very hard."

The mayor said Torontonians are happy to help Syrians in need.

"You have signs popping up … saying 'refugees welcome' and the Canadian flag. That's what we're about here and that's why I'm optmistic."

Tory, who is also private sponsoring a refugee family, acknowledged he will be there to explain the process to the 450 people in attendance.

I don't think our enthusiasm or interest is going to wane.- Toronto Mayor John Tory

"The responsibilities are daunting. It's not just about writing a cheque, it's a lot more than that," the mayor said. "They're hungry for information."

Tory noted more than 5,000 Syrians will wind up in Toronto when all is said and done, which is a "big number to absorb," he admitted.

"We're just going to have to keep working and working and working at this."

'Our role is more co-ordinating'

Right now, the mayor said the biggest question is the timeline then housing, health care and employment. 

"Our role is more co-ordinating," Tory said, adding the federal government is assisting with funding. "I think what we've got is some of the basics now." 

As for finances surrounding the newcomers, Tory remarked he is not too worried.

"We all know that while we do have unemployment here, there are also jobs in Toronto," the mayor said.

"There are jobs so it's not that hard. When you have a group of 20 people, it's amazing the degree of which someone around the table, that someone will say 'I have an opportunity.'"

'Look at our past experience'

When asked if he thinks the eagerness to help will be short-lived, the mayor made clear the city he leads is not that way.

"I don't think our enthusiasm or interest is going to wane," he said of private sponsors. "Look at our past experience," Tory added, pointing to the Armenian community for being "fabulous" in their assistance of refugees. 

And there will undoubtedly be challenges for both sponsors and refugees as they grapple with what they will need to do in the coming weeks and months. 

Tory said part of the responsibilities required for sponsors is bringing refugees to Tim Hortons on their second day in the city to allow them to experience Canadian culture.

The adjustment process may take some time but the mayor said he is not shying away from it.

"While yes, there are unanswered questions and there's a lot of sort of doubt about timing, that we're going to do this the right way and we will be, you know, largely successful."

Toronto Mayor John Tory says the federal government is providing some funding to help the city deal with the influx of refugees. (Metro Morning)

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