POLITICS

John McCallum: Government Looking To Settle Refugees In More French Communities

01/18/2016 12:37 EST | Updated 01/18/2016 12:59 EST
Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

SAINT ANDREWS, N.B. — Immigration Minister John McCallum says the federal government is looking to settle newly arrived Syrian refugees in more French-speaking communities across the country.

McCallum says more than 90 per cent of refugees that have arrived in Canada speak neither English or French.

That creates what he calls a blank slate for refugees and provinces to teach newly arrived Syrians either of Canada's two official languages.

McCallum says where refugees end up living will depend on which communities have the resources to resettle the 10,000 that have arrived since November — and 15,000 more that are scheduled to arrive by the end of February.

"The challenge today going forward is to receive [the refugees] well."

The Liberals promised during the election campaign to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada by the end of 2015.

Once in office, they changed that goal, citing the realities of moving all those people in a short period of time, including inclement weather that didn't always make flights possible.

syrian refugees trudeau

Justin Trudeau greets new Syrian refugees Georgina Zires, centre, 16 month-old Madeleine Jamkossian, second right, and her father Kevork Jamkossian at Pearson International airport in Toronto on Dec. 11, 2015. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

The last of the first 10,000 Syrians arrived about a week ago; McCallum says the government will "easily" hit its deadline of bringing a further 15,000 refugees into the country by the end of February.

"We can deliver one, two, three, four, even five flights per day so the challenge is no longer to get the refugees here," McCallum said.

The new issue facing the government is to resettle those Syrians into Canadian communities, he added.

"The challenge today going forward is to receive them well, to help them find a place to live, a job, language training, all of those things and that involves working with provincial governments and municipalities on the settlement side."

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