DND spent $6.4M renovating buildings for refugee housing that went unused

The federal government spent $6.4 million renovating accommodations on five military bases to provide temporary living arrangements for Syrian refugees, but none of the facilities have been used.

Cost of preparing military bases to accommodate refugees was more than $1,000 per bed

An employee from Wing Central Construction works on lights in one of the barracks that were made ready to house Syrian refugees at CFB Trenton in Ontario, on Dec. 1, 2015. (Lars Hagberg/Canadian Press)

The federal government spent $6.4 million renovating accommodations on five military bases to provide temporary living arrangements for Syrian refugees, but none of the facilities have been used.

The upgrades to military buildings created enough lodging for 6,159 refugees, at a cost of a little more than $1,000 per bed, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said in response to a written question by Conservative MP James Bezan.

​The biggest investment took place at CFB Valcartier, where $2.82 million was spent on electrical upgrades, winterizing 10 buildings and constructing 31 additional units to house up to 2,139 refugees. 

Another $2.64 million was spent at CFB Borden to insulate 236 Weatherhaven shelters, install heaters, enhance security, rent heaters and tents and upgrade existing buildings for 1,500 refugees. 

The buildings prepared to house Syrian refugees at CFB Trenton are normally used during the summer for cadets. Soldiers and civilian contractors installed heating units to make them suitable for winter living. (James Murray/CBC)

At CFB Kingston, in order to house 693 refugees, $400,000 was spent to install a new ventilation system in the kitchen, while $275,000 was spent at CFB Trenton to replace furnaces, install hot water storage tanks, replace smoke and fire alarms and install heaters, in order to house 992 refugees.

At CFB Meaford, $255,000 was spent to install a large shelter for social, recreational and or cultural or religious worship to make room for 335 refugees.

As of Feb. 29, none of the facilities had been used.

In preparing for the refugee arrival, Immigration Minister John McCallum said that he only planned to use the military bases for accommodation as "a last resort."

Personnel relocated

To make room for the new arrivals the Department of National Defence relocated 370 military personnel from CFB Kingston and another 10 from CFB Valcartier. 

Had the bases been used, the Defence Department had a plan to post almost 1,000 military personnel to the five bases and CFB Petawawa in order to facilitate the refugee resettlement and provide services for the Syrians housed there. 

The written answer from Sajjan also explains that the cost of the renovations would be absorbed by the Defence Department's existing budget and that the spending would not affect "current operations or current capabilities."

It also revealed that as of Feb. 28, all of the Canadian Forces personnel deployed to facilitate and screen refugees have returned home: three who were deployed to Turkey, 144 to Lebanon and 84 to Jordan. 

Watch this video, shot in November 2015, showing CFB Trenton's preparations for refugees that never came: 

CFB Trenton prepares for Syrian refugees

7 years ago
Duration 2:01
CBC's James Murray takes us through the facilities


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