‘ What should we do?’

Vic­to­ria County group still hop­ing to wel­come first Syr­ian fam­ily


A com­mu­nity group look­ing to bring a Syr­ian refugee fam­ily to Vic­to­ria County is seek­ing ad­vice on how to pro­ceed now that three tem­po­rary Cana­dian re­set­tle­ment of­fices in the Mid­dle East have now closed.

The Syria-to-Baddeck group held a meet­ing Tues­day to fig­ure out where to go from here. They have been able to raise nearly $30,000 through fundrais­ers over the past five months.

Athol Grant, a Vic­to­ria County coun­cil­lor and a vol­un­teer with the com­mu­nity group, said no ac­tive fundrais­ing will take place un­til it can fig­ure out how long the pa­per­work will take to get a Syr­ian fam­ily to Baddeck.

They have been wait­ing to wel­come a fam­ily through the Blended Visa Of­fice-Re­ferred pro­gram, which matches refugees iden­ti­fied for re­set­tle­ment by the United Na­tions Refugee Agency with pri­vate spon­sors in Canada.

“We’re look­ing for di­rec­tion from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and the prov­ince. What should we do? We have this money; we’re ready to take in a fam­ily.

What are our chances un­der (Blended Visa Of­fice-Re­ferred)? We’d kind of like some­body to tell us that,” Grant said.

Un­der the pro­gram the gov­ern­ment matches the fund­ing raised by the com­mu­nity group.

If gov­ern­ment spon­sor­ship will take too long, the Syria-to-Baddeck group is open to a pri­vate spon­sor­ship of a fam­ily where it would be ex­pected to pick up all of the costs as­so­ci­ated with it.

He said there are caps on the num­ber of pri­vately spon­sored refugees al­lowed into the coun­try as well.

Since the fed­eral gov­ern­ment reached its Feb. 29 goal of re­set­tling 25,000 refugees from the on­go­ing civil war in Syria, tem­po­rary of­fices overseas have now shut down.

The lat­est fig­ures from Im­mi­gra­tion and Cit­i­zen­ship Canada show 26,207 Syr­ian refugees have moved to Canada since De­cem­ber.

At a high-level meet­ing in Geneva on the Syr­ian refugee cri­sis, Im­mi­gra­tion, Refugees and Cit­i­zen­ship Min­is­ter John Mc­Cal­lum said Wed­nes­day that he sup­ported the UN Refugee Agency’s ef­forts to se­cure par­tic­i­pa­tion from other mem­ber coun­tries.

He also said Canada will con­tinue to re­set­tle gov­ern­ment- spon­sored and pri­vately spon­sored refugees through 2016.

“Our plan this year calls for us to re­set­tle up to 44,800 refugees, the ma­jor­ity of them be­ing Syr­ian,” the depart­ment said in a state­ment Wed­nes­day.

Amanda McDougall, the man­ager of im­mi­gra­tion part­ner­ships at Cape Bre­ton Univer­sity, said refugee re­set­tle­ment work­ers have been work­ing “flat out” over the past six months to meet the gov­ern­ment-im­posed dead­line of 25,000 refugees.

She said those work­ers must re­turn to their jobs to help refugees in other parts of the world.

“It’s never go­ing to stop (re­set­tle­ment of refugees). It’s just get­ting back to a more man­age­able pace now,” McDougall said.

Un­like other or­ga­ni­za­tions in the prov­ince look­ing to wel­come a Syr­ian fam­ily, Grant said the Syria-to-Baddeck group hasn’t rented an apart­ment wait­ing for a fam­ily to ar­rive.

He said they did ini­tially look for a rental prop­erty as re­cently as a few weeks ago but have since stopped un­til more is known about how long it’ll take to wel­come the first Syr­ian fam­ily to Vic­to­ria County.


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