Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre Tells UN Successful Refugee Resettlement Hinges On Cities

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UNITED NATIONS, United States — Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre addressed the United Nations on Monday and vaunted the leadership role municipalities play in accepting newcomers such as refugees.

"It's at the local level that immigration succeeds or fails," Coderre told an audience at the International Dialogue on Migration 2016 in New York City.

The 25,000th Syrian refugee landed in Canada on Saturday night in Montreal, marking the end of the first phase of the Liberals' massive resettlement program.

But Coderre said the real work is just beginning: dealing with how these newcomers survive by putting food on the table and finding suitable housing and employment.

denis coderre
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited Montreal by the mayor Denis Coderre, on Feb. 12, 2016. (Photo: CLEMENT SABOURIN/AFP/Getty Images)

Municipal leaders, Coderre said, understand the local dynamics of migration.

"Migration is, first of all, a local and urban reality," he told the crowd. "It is foremost the fact of leaving one locale with the hope of putting down roots in some other place."

William Swing, head of the UN's International Organization for Migration, congratulated the Trudeau government on achieving its Syrian refugee goal.

Of the 25,000, Montreal has about 5,000.

Swing said the endeavour required a lot of work — the selection of people by the UN's refugee agency, medical checks, the organization of flights, cultural orientation and accompanying Syrians to their new home.

"But the teamwork was so good you sometimes couldn't tell who was IOM and who was Canadian and I think that's the way the partnership should be," Swing said.

"Migration is, first of all, a local and urban reality. It is foremost the fact of leaving one locale with the hope of putting down roots in some other place."

The only elected official invited to speak Monday, Coderre said cities could benefit from provinces handing over some powers.

"We're not asking for more money, but there could be a devolution of powers, with amounts set aside for integration," he suggested.

The mayor expects the Quebec government will address the matter in an upcoming provincial law dealing with the status of Montreal.

Later on Monday, Coderre was expected to discuss Montreal's anti-radicalization office in the presence of experts and Michael Grant, Canada's deputy ambassador to the UN.

He was also to meet with former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg to talk about environmental issues.

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