Canada scrambles to prepare for Syrian refugees amid unknowns

Tue Nov 17, 2015 5:24pm EST
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By Mike De Souza

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Operating with a sense of urgency but few details, Canadian officials said on Tuesday they did not know how many Syrian refugees would arrive or when as part of the prime minister's plan to bring 25,000 displaced Syrians to Canada by year end.

"I guess we just have to be ready," said Jennifer Fowler, acting director of multicultural relations for City of Edmonton. She said the five largest municipalities in the western province of Alberta were still waiting for details.

"If we have to handle it, we will. Our service agencies may not have the proper resources, but they definitely have the will to support (the plan)," she added.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, sworn in this month after a landslide victory, has stood firm in his pledge to bring the refugees to Canada, using military transport and housing if necessary, despite criticism from political opponents that his Jan. 1 deadline is too tight to allow for adequate security screening in the wake of the Paris attacks.

The leader of at least one province said this week the plan should be suspended, and another said the deadline was impossible to meet.

But other provincial and municipal leaders as well as resettlement experts said they were gearing up to accept the refugees within weeks although they had no information yet about who was coming or when.

"There are many unknowns at this point including confirmation of resettlement locations, timing and pacing of resettlement, and total numbers of refugees," said Bryan Leblanc, communications director for Ontario Immigration Minister Michael Chan.

Canada's most populous province has previously said it could accommodate 10,000 Syrian refugees before the end of 2016.   Continued...

A crying Syrian refugee child is carried by a volunteer after arriving in a raft at a beach on the Greek island of Lesbos, after crossing a part of the Aegean Sea from the Turkish coast, October 20, 2015.   REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis