As of January 29, 2017, Canada under Justin Trudeau’s government welcomed 40,081 Syrian refugees, of whom 21,876 are Government-Assisted Refugees, 14,274 Privately Sponsored Refugees and 3,931 Blended Visa Office-Referred Refugees.
Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, told the Parliamentary Committee on Citizenship and Immigration that government-assisted Syrian refugees “tend to be more vulnerable” especially when they don’t have proficiency in one of the official languages and because of the fact that only 10 percent of them have found a job.
The following are excerpts from Hussen’s briefing (March 20, 2017):
Our immigration plan for 2017 will maintain the historically high levels from the previous year. At a target of 300,000 new permanent residents, this represents the highest number of projected admissions put forth by the Government of Canada in modern times.
Following Canada’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis, another priority identified in my mandate letter is the important work in resettling the Syrian refugee population. To date, since our initial commitment to resettle these refugees in December 2015, Canada has resettled more than 40,000 Syrian refugees.
Our continued focus is on helping these Syrian refugees integrate and succeed in Canada. The government will continue to work with provinces and territories, service providers, community groups, and partners to help these newcomers improve their official language skills, find employment, build a social network, and establish other vital connections in order to participate in all facets of Canadian life…
The department is also seeking $6.9 million in additional funding to support our increased levels for immigration. This funding will enable us to ramp up our operations here at home and abroad in order to meet the new admissions target of 300,000 immigrants in 2017.
For 2017-18 our department’s main estimates amount of $1.6 billion represents a net decrease of $3.9 million from the previous year. This decrease is mainly due to the sunsetting of several projects as well as program transfers to other departments. For example, as this committee is well aware, Canada’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis was an exceptional circumstance that required a designated level of funding. This resulted in an $80.1-million decrease in our annual budget for 2017-18.
Among other decreases for this year is the funding for the electronic travel authorization. As the eTA was successfully implemented in November 2016, this resulted in another $8.7-million reduction in our annual budget.
With respect to our funding increases for 2017-18, among the largest allocations are the following. We will require $33.5 million in 2017-18 to resettle 10,000 additional government-supported Syrian refugees [who arrived in 2016]. Under the Canada-Quebec accord, the Government of Canada will require $33.2 million for this fiscal year. We will also require $18.1 million to support an increase in the immigration levels plan related to the settlement program…
We have definitely met our target of 25,000 government-assisted refugees, to resettle them in Canada, for the Syrian refugee cohort. In terms of the number of government-assisted refugees who have found employment, it’s 10% for government-assisted refugees. It’s much higher for privately sponsored refugees. That number is about 53%. That is par for the course, because in previous waves of refugees we’ve seen the same trends. But over a number of years, the two actually converge…
As I said earlier, for government-assisted refugees the percentage of employment tends to be lower than privately sponsored refugees. That is because they tend to be more vulnerable…
As a point of clarification, the 10,000 refugees that the honourable member refers to are from 2016. We’re not admitting an additional 10,000 government-assisted Syrian refugees. I just wanted to clarify that for the record…
Previous data suggests that, in comparison, where Syrian refugees are now in terms of their journey of integration is exactly where other refugees were in the same time period in terms of their presence in Canada. If you look at previous waves of refugees, you see that privately sponsored refugees always tend to do better faster than government-assisted refugees, but the data also suggest that at the 10-year mark the two converge and then usually become the same in terms of their access. It’s nothing unusual to find those numbers.
It goes back to the point about settlement services being key to allowing these new refugees and other newcomers to restart their lives in Canada and succeed….
The Syrian refugees who were resettled in Canada are progressing on their journey of integration in the same way other refugees have done. There are always growing pains with respect to starting a new life in Canada, especially when you don’t have proficiency in one of the official languages, but we, on the federal side, are very dedicated to ensuring that people succeed in Canada—all newcomers, including refugees—and that is why we have spent a record amount of money on settlement.
We are spending a record amount of money on settlement for 2017—$664 million outside Quebec, which is $76 million more, with 7,000 new language spaces. When it comes to the provinces, we are not abandoning the provinces. We do provide funding, under the Canada social transfer, in the billions of dollars for those costs. Those are based on populations, including asylum seekers. We have also provided $504 million for housing, which includes shelters.