After weeks of debates and preparations, Canada is just hours away from welcoming its first wave of Syrian refugees. A total of 10,000 refugees are expected to arrive into the country by the end of Dec., it is suspected many refugees from the first group are privately sponsored.
The first group of refugees, set to arrive Dec. 10, are expected to arrive in Toronto and Montreal.
“My message to Canadians is this is a great moment for Canada,” said John McCallum, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship in a press conference.
Upon their arrival through designated terminals at Toronto Pearson International, the refugees will receive permanent residency, social insurance number and information on working in Canada, a boxed meal.
McCallum also announced health care will be readily available to the new arrivals.
McCallum also announced the government is increasing funding for resettlement assistance services by $3.6 million to resettlement centres in 36 cities.
The Canadian Armed Forces have been called upon to help both in the assistance of transporting refugees, who will be arriving via charter planes and Air Force planes, and their resettlement.
The following statement was issued by the Department of National Defence, “The Canadian Armed Forces has a strong history of supporting the Government of Canada with humanitarian assistance operations. The Canadian Armed Forces has experience with planning, command and control, logistics and operational support to Whole of Government initiatives.
Our personnel are highly-trained and ready, at short notice, to deploy quickly to conduct operations anywhere in the world. The Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian Armed Forces are ready to do everything they can to contribute to a Whole of Government effort to assist the Syrian refugees.”
Many bases, primarily in Ontario and Quebec, are preparing for housing refugees, should there be a need. These bases include CFB Valcartier, CFB Trenton, CFB Kingston, CFB Borden, Garrison Petawawa and the 4th Division Training Centre in Meaford, ON.
Both Valcartier and Trenton are preparing their cadet camps for housing. The cadet lodgings have been cleaned and winterized, and the military has created common spaces, a place for worship and bed spaces to house hundreds of people. No permanent residents have been moved out of their lodging.
Lt. Col. David Miller of CFB Trenton says he has a team ready to go in case they are asked to house refugees.
“My team is 100 per cent behind this we’re doing everything possible that we can do in advance… we’re doing our due diligence to make sure that if we’re asked to do it, then we’re ready,” said the Op Coordination Centre Commanding Officer.
Miller said they are drawing on their experiences from housing refugees from Kosovo in the late 1990s.
CFB Trenton has been asked to prepare housing for at least three months after the last refugees arrive.
Though no concrete numbers have been confirmed for the new arrivals in Trenton, by some estimates over 900 refugees can come through the city.
Miller asserted that CFB plays a supportive role to government agencies.
“Certainly any part that we play is significant and significant for me. I know we will be doing a good thing for people in need. It’s something I’ve done many times throughout my career…It’s something we have a history of doing in the Canadian Forces we certainly have expertise in command and control, logistics, operational support and we’ll be part of a bigger team. And we are looking forward if and when we are asked to provide interim lodgings for these new Canadians it will be wonderful to be part of it,” said Miller.
The Trenton Military Family Resource Centre is also preparing itself to support both in refugee resettlement and the changing schedules of military members.
“We’re making sure that if families need something that we’re there to provide it,” said Executive Director Tamara Kleinschmidt.
The MFRC has also set up an internal response team to prepare for any support they may need to provide once the refugees arrive.
According to Kleinschmidt, the MFRC has received an outpour of local support, all wanting to help the new Canadians.
“The crux of this whole story is that the outpour of support from all of our community partners. It has just been outstanding. There isn’t a day that I don’t come in and there are email and phone messages, with whole organizations offering support,” noted Kleinschmidt.
This is in line with a recent poll, sited by Minister McCallum, that a majority of Canadians are in support of welcoming Syrian refugees.