According to the provincial government, 217 Syrian refugees are expected to arrive in B.C. before the end of the year.
Although B.C. jobs minister Shirley Bond said the province is prepared to take up to 3500 refugees, the number of refugees expected to arrive in B.C. between January and February is still unclear.
As millions of Syrians continue to be displaced due to conflict in their home country, the federal government has committed to bringing 25,000 refugees to Canada – 10,000 refugees will arrive by the end of the year and the remaining 15,000 will arrive by the end of February 2016.
The first wave of refugees arriving in B.C. will be privately sponsored. Although the vast majority will reside within the Lower Mainland, some refugees are headed to other areas of the province including Prince George. These are the communities that will welcome privately sponsored refugees within the next few weeks: • Burnaby, 31; • Coquitlam, 20; • Delta, six; • Kelowna, nine; • Langley, less than five; • New Westminster, 49; • North Vancouver Less, than five; • Prince George, five; • Richmond, 10; • Surrey, 20; • Vancouver, 54; • Victoria, 10.
Premier says refugees will receive “warmer welcome” in Northern B.C.
Last month premier Christy Clark suggested that Syrian refugees would find it easier to settle in Northern B.C. communities.
“It’s my hope that we can help settle those refugees in communities where they’re going to get the best start,” she said. “Some should be up in the northeast, where they’ve got almost zero unemployment and the cost of housing a lot lower.”
Besides employment opportunities, Clark said refugees would receive a “warmer welcome” in northern communities.
“Sometimes settling in a smaller community is a much warmer welcome,” she said. “So let’s encourage them to go to communities where they will have the best chance of success, the warmest welcome, and the best chance of making sure that they can find work and afford a home.”
A day after the premier’s comments, Fort St. John resident Bailie Hambrook launched an online petition demanding a referendum on B.C.’s refugee plan.
According to Hambrook, Northeast B.C. is going through an “economic downfall” due to a slump in the oil and gas industry.
“Many people in the northeast are uncomfortable with the idea of losing more jobs and welcoming refugees that have not gone through a screening process into our small communities,” says the petition’s website. “Lack of employment shows that refugees located in the area may not get their best start here; the communities deserve to make a vote on this.”
As of Dec. 3, the petition had 1548 supporters.
Regarding the backlash, jobs minister Shirley Bond, who oversees the Syrian refugee settlement plan in B.C., said on CBC’s Early Edition show that, as a “proud Northerner” who lives in Prince George, she understands people’s concerns.
“I certainly heard both sides of the argument,” she said. “Much of the concerns being expressed are a result of people’s uncertainty about welcoming refugees; a lot of that is a result of the images we saw in Paris.”
According to Bond, welcoming refugees is not a new thing for British Columbia. The province already welcomes an average of 1500 refugees a year.
“It’s something we do; it’s part of the history of this province,” she said. “We want to make sure, however, that there are appropriate security and robust processes in place as we bring [Syrian] refugees to B.C.”
According to a new Vancity Credit Union report, refugees will not simply be draining resources from Canada.
The report says immigrants tend to strengthen economies within their new communities since they often purchase goods and services within their local community networks.
According to the report, Syrian refugees arriving in B.C. between now and the end of February 2016 will generate at least $563 million in local economic activity over the next 20 years.