Toronto

Ontario looking at decommissioned hospitals for temporary refugee housing

Ontario is considering using recently decommissioned hospitals as one way to temporarily house a large influx of Syrian refugees expected in the province before the end of the year.

But some Toronto city councillors are questioning whether the city is ready to receive the influx

Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins says the province is considering using recently decommissioned hospitals as one way to temporarily house a large influx of Syrian refugees expected in the province before the end of the year. (Chris Young/ Canadian Press)

Ontario is considering using recently decommissioned hospitals as one way to temporarily house a large influx of Syrian refugees expected in the province before the end of the year.

While the federal government has pledged to take in 25,000 refugees by the end of December, Ontario has committed to taking in 10,000 refugees by the end of next year.

Health Minister Eric Hoskins says Ontario doesn't yet know how many Ottawa will ask the province to take before the end of the year, but Ontario is prepared to receive its "fair share."

Hoskins says Ontario may also need to take in and support some refugees on an interim basis before they move to other provinces or territories.

He and Immigration Minister Michael Chan held an ad hoc cabinet committee meeting on Syrian refugees Tuesday during which housing, education, health and social services needs were discussed.

Hoskins says while the federal government looks at housing options such as military bases, the provincial government is looking at recently decommissioned hospitals as one option — some of them in the GTA.

"We have a new Humber River Hospital, for example, that moved from three sites into one and the new Oakville Hospital will be moving out of their existing premises," Hoskins told CBC News. "I'm not saying that is what will necessarily result in one of the places for accommodation but those are the opportunities I think we need to look at."

The federal government says that military bases may provide temporary accommodations until permanent homes are secured in new communities across Canada.

Questions about resettling refugees remain

There are, however, many unanswered questions about how thousands of refugees will be accommodated in Toronto.

"I haven't seen any analysis in terms of how they are going to be absorbed in the city of Toronto." Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong told CBC News . "One would hope that if the federal government is going to accept these families into Toronto they would provide the financial means and resources so they can settle in this city."

Minnan-Wong said the city "has to get its arms around the idea of what we need to do and understand how we're going to do it, what our commitment is, and what resources are going to be required."

Coun. Joe Cressy said Toronto is ready to take in the refugees but said the "housing question is a critical question."

"Housing of refugees is traditionally not what the city has done," Cressy said. "What we have done is ensured that when the refugees are here, the services we provide are coordinated."

Speaking to the financial impact they will have on the city, Cressy said "refugees are often the quickest to settle in and integrate precisely because they're looking for certainty so there's every reason for us to understand they make our city stronger."

With files from CBC's Mike Crawley

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