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Refugees give far more back than they take

Commentary with Geoff deGannes
Commentary with Geoff deGannes

It was just over 14 months ago that the Trudeau Government began welcoming the first of more than 35,700 Syrian refugees to this country.

Not surprisingly, the naysayers and skeptics have taken to social media in recent weeks to bemoan the fact that most of these newcomers to Canada who have been provided with federal assistance cheques or private sponsorship funding are now headed for the provincial welfare rolls.  

Not surprisingly, the naysayers and skeptics have taken to social media in recent weeks to bemoan the fact that most of these newcomers to Canada who have been provided with federal assistance cheques or private sponsorship funding are now headed for the provincial welfare rolls.  

Refugee families were provided with financial support for one year to assist them in resettlement. Obviously, it is a major adjustment in terms of the cultural, social, language, educational and employment barriers they face. Even after one year, most have not been able to make the transition and survive on their own and, as a result, income assistance is their only option at this stage.

As Canada’s former Immigration Minister John MacCallum has pointed out, this country asked specifically for the most vulnerable of refugees and as a result there comes the realization that it is going to take that group much longer to adjust.  

In a recent Maclean’s magazine article writer Michael Friscolanti says for decades, research has shown that resettled refugees often require a period on welfare after their first year in Canada as they continue to learn the language, adjust to unfamiliar surroundings and search for employment.

He adds approximately 1.27 million people in Canada collect provincial or territorial social assistance. “So even if every single newly arrived Syrian refugee ends up on welfare (which they won’t) that would increase the overall caseload by 2.8 per cent. More than a blip, for sure, but hardly enough to overwhelm the system.”

We know that, with each passing day, there are more good news stories emerging about the successful integration of Syrian men, women and children into Canadian society. Despite their struggles with language and the availability of jobs, they have embraced their new homeland and are grateful for the warm welcome they have received from Canadians.

We need only look at Cumberland County as an example of just how well the refugee resettlement process has worked. Through the efforts of the sponsors, other community groups and a progressive employer like Oxford Frozen Foods, five Syrian families are gaining economic independence with five male refugees now employed at the food processing plant in Oxford.  

Canadians should be proud of the fact that as a nation we stretched out a helping hand to thousands whose lives were at stake. History has demonstrated that, over time, refugees have given back far more to this country than they have received in government support. There’s no reason to believe that won’t be the case with the latest influx of new Canadians. With our continued help and support, Syrian families in this region will succeed and prosper and help move our economy forward.

 

Geoff deGannes is the past chairman of the Tantramar Radio Society. His daily commentaries can be heard on 107.9 CFTA.

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