This year, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made international headlines, for a variety of reasons. He holds the reputation of being one of the most handsome politicians to ever hold office (Just ask Vogue magazine—they recently listed him as a contender on their “Sexiest Man Alive” list). But besides being sexy, he has also proven to be a compassionate man who is concerned with international issues.
This concern led to a campaign pledge promising a Canadian home for 25,000 refugees by the end of 2015. Some speculators say that his ideas and solutions on dealing with the crisis helped him get elected. But last, when the details of this plan were announced, Canadians realized that some promises are much more difficult to keep than make.
The Liberal government announced that it had discussed and finalized the details of their Syrian refugee resettlement plan and how it would pan out in Canada.
Only 10,000 of the 25,000 promised refugees will arrive in Canada by Dec. 31. The first 10,000 are set to arrive in just a few days on Dec. 10. Another 15,000 are expected between the beginning of January and the end of February, which means that Trudeau’s plan has been pushed back by two months—a delay that actually works well for some Canadians who criticized and questioned whether his aggressive plan was realistic. Trudeau insists that the expanded timeline will help Canada to “get it right.”
Besides the government’s initiative, there are several private efforts being made to help resettle an expected additional 10,000 refugees.
Families across Canada have banded together to privately sponsor families. Part of the incentive was the Canadian government promising to match the financial contributions of private sponsors. The estimated cost of sponsoring a refugee is difficult to measure. But according to the CBC, one businessman is spending $1.5-million on 50 refugees. That works out to be about $35,000 per individual.
In addition to the cost of sponsorship, the families are also accepting the housing, educational and healthcare responsibilities. Typically, families offer what they can, like transportation or short-term housing, while others offer to take care of things like teaching English and helping families get familiar with their new environment.
With private sponsorships, the public concern virtually disappears. But the government’s plan is open to public scrutiny. And some Canadians haven’t held back in expressing their concern.
Part of the concern is the issue of housing. The extra 10,000 people set to enter into the province of Ontario alone by March raised concerns that there would not be enough places for refugees to stay. However, urban planners have studied the issue and reassured Canadians that getting hung up on numbers is not necessary.
The urban planners urge Canadians to remember that an influx of 10,000 refugees doesn’t necessarily mean an additional 10,000 housing units are required. Instead, many of these refugees will be families and will only require one roof. Breaking down the numbers even further, it is expected that only 2,000 housing units will be needed. Against the backdrop of 1.3 million rental units available throughout Ontario, the change will likely be unnoticeable.
The other opposition is the security issue. Some Canadians worry that the screening process will not be enough to ensure that we are not, in fact, accepting members of ISIS into Canada acting as refugees. This, too, has been addressed by health and public safety ministers Jane Philpott and Ralph Goodale.
Canadians have been promised that 100 percent of all screening will take place prior to the refugees even boarding the plane. This was announced after concerns arose that some screening would be done once the refugees landed in Canada, making it too late to forbid entry to anyone who posed a threat.
The government continues to promise that all security risks will be addressed and dealt with accordingly.
Beyond the delay, the fear, and the context of the crisis itself, it’s truly a heartwarming story of what can be done when people band together. Some families have gone so far as to look at housing in predominantly Muslim areas, where the refugees will have easy access to mosques, halal grocers, and people who speak Arabic.