Refugee target for 2017 ‘disappointing’: B.C. advocate

Government-assisted refugees accepted to drop below 2015 levels

Chris Friesen is settlement services director of the Immigrant Services Society of B.C.

Chris Friesen is settlement services director of the Immigrant Services Society of B.C.

A coordinator for refugee settlement in B.C. is criticizing the federal government’s new refugee intake target for next year, which sharply reduces the number of government-assisted refugees.

Chris Friesen, settlement services director of the Immigrant Services Society of B.C., said the Liberal government’s decision would instead rely heavily on private sponsorship for the bulk of the new arrivals.

The number of government-assisted refugees would drop to 7,500 next year, which Friesen noted would be fewer than the 9,411 admitted in 2015 and far below the 19,190 that have arrived so far in 2016.

“That was a surprise,” Friesen said. “Having a reduced target back to 2015 levels is disappointing.”

The overall 2017 refugee target would drop to 40,000 from 55,800 this year after the extraordinary push to bring in Syrian refugees over the past year.

A greater emphasis on private sponsorship puts more reliance on community organizers, faith groups and others to raise funds and help find housing and employment for incoming refugees, at less cost to the government.

“The need continues to grow but the message that’s coming across by the plan is that the numbers in the target for private sponsors is more than double what the government scheme is,” Friesen said.

“I know that there’s been tremendous interest in private sponsorship, but it does raise questions of the government’s commitment.”

The federal government’s overall target for accepting new immigrants is unchanged at 300,000 after Immigration Minister John McCallum rejected a recommendation to raise it to 450,000.

McCallum indicated there could be further increases over time, but called the current level a “foundation” for future growth.

So far, B.C. has taken in 1,956 government-assisted Syrian refugees in 2016, and at least 700 additional privately sponsored refugees.

More than 40 per cent of the government-assisted Syrian refugees have ended up in Surrey, where 811 had settled as of late July, according to statistics from the Immigrant Services Society of B.C.

Almost three-quarters of the incoming government-assisted Syrians have settled in the Lower Mainland, despite efforts to direct more to other parts of the province.

The top destination cities in the Lower Mainland have been Coquitlam (185), Abbotsford (154), Burnaby (122), Vancouver (114), Delta (84) and Langley (79).

The top cities elsewhere in B.C. where government-assisted Syrians have settled are Victoria (123), Nanaimo (72), Duncan (37), Kelowna (29) and Prince George (22).

Friesen said there has been considerable success in placing refugee families in places where they had not tended to settle in the past, such as Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Mission and Langley.

The settlement patterns have been driven heavily by the scarcity of rental housing that refugees can afford on federal income assistance rates, he said.

“This is not just a Metro Vancouver issue,” Friesen said. “It is increasingly an issue in larger centres in the province.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kennedy Nikel, applied marine biologist at Cascadia Seaweed, here seen in late September, shows off bull kelp (in her left hand) and rock weed. The company is spear-heading an annual seaweed festival scheduled for May 13-21, 2021, with Sidney council have signed off in principle. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Cascadia hopes to see Sidney host seaweed festival in May 2021

Council supports the idea in principle following a presentation by Cascadia Seaweed

GIF
’90s rock band resurfaces with songs never properly recorded or released

Underwater Sunshine’s online reunion involves four guys who lost contact for years

Tim Siebert, one half of the partnership behind Citrus & Cane, says opening the Douglas Street cocktail lounge during a pandemic had challenges, but the bar is ready to adapt to whatever comes next. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
New Victoria tropical cocktail lounge designed with COVID-19 safety in mind

Citrus & Cane opens in site of former Copper Owl after eight-month delay

Trevor Davis, base manager of the Western Canada Marine Response Corporation in Sidney, stands in front of the Hecate Sentinal, an oil skimming vessel based at Sidney’s Van Isle Marina. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Oil spill response base taking shape on Saanich Peninsula

Enhanced base with elements in North Saanich and Sidney to be fully operational in fall 2022

Idyllic winter scenes are part of the atmosphere of the holiday season, and are depicted in many seasonal movies. How much do you know about holiday movies? Put your knowledge to the test. (Pixabay.com)
QUIZ: Test your knowledge of holiday movies and television specials

The festive season is a time for relaxing and enjoying some seasonal favourites

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

A man walks by a COVID-19 test pod at the Vancouver airport in this undated handout photo. A study has launched to investigate the safest and most efficient way to rapidly test for COVID-19 in people taking off from the Vancouver airport. The airport authority says the study that got underway Friday at WestJet’s domestic check-in area is the first of its kind in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Vancouver Airport Authority *MANDATORY CREDIT*
COVID-19 rapid test study launches at Vancouver airport for departing passengers

Airport authority says that a positive rapid test result does not constitute a medical diagnosis for COVID-19

A small crash in the water south of Courtenay Saturday afternoon. Two men had to be rescued, but reports indicate there were no serious injuries. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Small plane crash in Comox Valley waters Saturday afternoon

Two rescued from plane that had flipped in water; no serious injuries reported

A photo from 2017, of Nuchatlaht First Nation members outside court after filing a land title case in B.C. ( Submitted photo/Nuchatlaht First Nation).
Vancouver Island First Nation calls on B.C. to honour UNDRIP in historic title case

Nuchatlaht First Nation says Crown counsel continues to stall the case using the ‘distasteful’ argument that the Nation ‘abandoned’ their land

West Vancouver Island’s Ehattesaht First Nation continues lock down after 9 active cases were reported today after a visitor tested positive last week. (Ehattesaht First Nation/Facebook)
Ehattesaht First Nation’s COVID-19 nightmare: nine active cases, a storm and a power outage

The Vancouver Island First Nation in a lockdown since the first case was reported last week

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

The Ahousaht First Nation confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on Nov. 26, 2020. (Westerly file photo)
Ahousaht First Nation on lockdown over COVID-19

“Emotions are high. The anxiety is high. We want our community to pull through.”

Most Read